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"Flame Throwers (Italian)" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   Report on Italian portable and tank-mounted flamethrowers, from the U.S. Intelligence Bulletin, December 1942.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. In most cases, more accurate data is available in postwar publications.]




The Italians have developed two types of flame thrower, but neither of them has been used to any considerable extent except in certain phases of the Russian campaign. Like flame throwers developed by other powers, the Italian weapons have a very limited use on the battlefield. Their practical value is confined to close combat, such as assaults on pillboxes, trenches, boulder areas, caves, or other enclosed spaces. Even under these conditions, the crew operating a flame thrower is very vulnerable to many types of fire and grenades. Flame throwers used in tanks have much greater protection than those carried by hand. The Italians have a portable type and one which is mounted in a tank.


This weapon, known as Model 35, has been used in several instances by the Italian infantry as a supporting weapon in Russia. Very little use of it has been made in the North African operations.

The flame thrower is capable of throwing a flame about 22 yards and making untenable a zone 38 yards long and 17 yards wide. Fuel for only 20 seconds of continuous flame is carried in the fuel container. The operator is taught not to maintain the flame continuously but to produce 10 jets of flame, each of which should last for about 2 seconds. Approximately 20 minutes is required to refuel and recharge the weapon so that it can operate again.

Two men, comprising a team, are required for each flame thrower. No. 1 carries the weapon on his back and operates it, and No. 2 carries on his back all the necessary supplies. No. 1 wears noninflammable clothing and a respirator.

It is not considered good tactics to use flame throwers in units smaller than a group. The latter consists of one leader, an assistant leader, and six squads. Each squad has two of the weapons—two teams.

The flame thrower consists of two cylinders, a length of reinforced and flexible tubing, and a jet or flame tube, to which is attached the trigger and the ignition arrangement. The cylinders are identical, and each contains the same type and amount of fuel. The fuel usually is ignited at the base of the jet, by a coil and spark gap—with a wick at the gap. The electrical current is produced by a dry-cell battery. Some are said to be ignited by means of a friction tube and a wick, which burns for 2 minutes.

Each of the cylinders contains nitrogen under pressure and fuel oil. The oil ordinarily used is believed to be a mixture of benzine and light motor oil. Some of the fuel captured was a mixture of kerosene and lubricating oil, or fuel oil.


The flame-thrower tank, technically known as L3.33 L.F., is a light tank which weighs 3 1/2 tons. One was captured in the North Africa operations and has been examined in the British Isles.

The flame-thrower projector is mounted at the front of the tank, replacing one of the two 8-mm machine guns in the turret. It throws a flame 40 to 45 yards. At a continuous rate, the flame will burn for 2 minutes and 15 seconds. It can be cut off and on at will, and generally is operated only a few seconds at a time.

The tank has a fuel trailer, which consists of a two-wheeled chassis with a tow bar connecting with the tank. Fitted to the bar is an armor-plated shell which houses a rectangular light steel fuel tank. At the rear end of the tank, under a hinged cover, is mounted a semirotary hand pump with necessary connections for refueling, defueling, and mixing the substances which form the fuel.

A second and larger pump, to force the fuel from the trailer to the flame projector, is located in the rear part of the tank, immediately behind the engine fan. The pump, operated by power from the engine, is connected to the projector by two pipes—one to deliver fuel and the other to return any not used.

An electric ignition system is used to start and stop the functioning of the flame thrower. The current is generated by power from the tank engine.

See Also: Portable Flame Throwers (German), Flame-Throwing Pz. Kw. 3, Tactics of Personnel Carriers Mounting Flame Throwers
Keywords: Flamethrower, L3 Lf, L 3/33, L 3/35 Lf, Carro Lancia, Flamme, Fiamme

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