On 14 January 1943 the 6th Soviet army attacked the Alpini divisions of the Italian Mountain Corps. These units had been placed on the left flank of the Italian army and were until then still relatively unaffected by the battle. However, the Alpini position had turned critical after the collapse of the Italian centre, the collapse of the Italian right flank, and the simultaneous collapse of the Hungarian troops to the left of the Alpini. The Julia Division and Cuneense were destroyed. Members of the 1 Alpini Cuneense, part of Cuneese Division, burned the regimental flags to keep them from being captured. Part of the Tridentina Division and other withdrawing troops managed to escape the encirclement.
On 26 January, after heavy fighting which resulted in the Battle of Nikolajewka, the Alpini remnants breached the encirclement and reached new defensive positions set up to the west by the Germans. But, by this time, the only operational fighting unit was the Tridentina Division and even it was not fully operational. The Tridentina Division had led the final breakout assault at Nikolajewka. Many of the troops who managed to escape were frostbitten, critically ill, and deeply demoralized.
Overall, about 130,000 Italians had been surrounded by the Soviet offensive. According to Italian sources, about 20,800 soldiers died in the fighting, 64,000 were captured, and 45,000 were able to withdraw. When the surviving Italian troops were eventually evacuated to Italy, the Fascist regime tried to hide them from the populace, so appalling was their appearance after surviving the Russian Front.
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