The Littorio class, also known as the Vittorio Veneto class, was a class of battleship of the Regia Marina, the Italian navy. The class was composed of four ships: Littorio, Vittorio Veneto, Roma, and Impero. Only the first three ships of the class were completed, however. Built between 1934 and 1942, they were the most modern battleships used by Italy during World War II. The Littorio-class ships were developed in response to the French Dunkerque-class battleships, and were armed with nine 381-millimeter (15.0 in) guns and had a top speed of 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph). The design was considered by the Spanish Navy, but the outbreak of World War II interrupted construction plans.
The first two ships, Littorio and Vittorio Veneto, were operational by the early months of Italy's participation in World War II. They formed the backbone of the Italian fleet, and conducted several sorties into the Mediterranean to intercept British convoys, enjoying limited success however. The two ships were repeatedly torpedoed throughout their careers: Littorio was hit by a torpedo during the attack on Taranto in November 1940 and again in June 1942 and Vittorio Veneto was torpedoed during the Battle of Cape Matapan in March 1941 and while escorting a convoy to North Africa in September 1941. Roma joined the fleet in June 1942, though all three ships remained inactive in La Spezia until June 1943, when all three were damaged in a series of Allied air attacks on the harbor; in July 1943 when the Fascist regime was toppled Littorio was renamed Italia.
In September 1943, Italy capitulated and signed an Armistice with the Allies. The three active battleships were transferred to Malta before they were to be interned in Alexandria. While en route to Malta, German bombers attacked the fleet with Fritz X radio-guided bombs, damaging Italia and sinking Roma. Nevertheless, Italia and Vittorio Veneto reached Malta and were interned. The incomplete Impero was seized by the Germans but they had no use for her, so she was abandoned until she was sunk by American bombers in 1945. Italia and Vittorio Veneto were awarded to the United States and Britain, respectively, as war prizes, but they were instead left to Italy under obligation of scrapping, which was duly done between 1952 and 1954.
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