With her sister Littorio, the Vittorio Veneto formed the spearhead of the Italian navy at the outbreak of World War II, having been completed in April and May 1940 respectively. Both formed the 9th Division at Taranto, where it was hoped they would deter the British Mediterranean Fleet by virtue of their high speed and heavy armament.
Both ships put to sea several times in response to British operations, but they missed the Battle of Calabria on 9 July 1940. The Vittorio Veneto was lucky not to be damaged during the Fleet air raid on Taranto in November 1940, but she was the direct cause of the next disaster which overtook the Italian navy, the Battle of Matapan, On 28 March 1941 while taking part in a sweep against the British convoys evacuating troops from Greece to Alexandria and Crete, the Vittorio Veneto was hit by a torpedo dropped by one of HMS Formidable's Fairey Albacores. The 457-mm (18-in) torpedo hit abaft T turret on the port side at 15.21. Serious flooding followed and power was lost on the port outer propeller shaft, but she could still steam, and limped away to the north west.
More British attacks followed at dusk, missing the battleship but hitting one of her escorting cruisers, the Pola. The engineers and damage control parties worked hard to stem the flooding, and by 20.34 the Vittorio Veneto's speed had increased to 19 kts, and she was able to make her way back to Taranto for repairs, leaving the Pola and two sisters to be destroyed by the British Mediterranean fleet during the night.
In December 1941 the Vittorio Veneto was hit by a torpedo from the British submarine HMS Urge, and needed another three months in dock. She joined the Littorio for an operation against a British convoy in mid-June 1942, but the Italians were losing the initiative, and thereafter she spent most of her time in La Spezia as Taranto was under constant air attack. On 5 June 1943 she was damaged by Allied bombers, and the following September she joined the melancholy line which steamed to Malta to surrender to the British.
The Vittorio Veneto was interned at Alexandria while the Allies debated the future of all Italian warships. There was talk of 'tropicalizing' the three 'Littorio' class battleships as fast carrier escorts for the Pacific but they lacked endurance, and although they returned to Italy in 1946 they were not permitted to be incorporated into the post-war Italian Navy, being sold for scrap in 1951.
Specification Vittorio Veneto Displacement: 41,700 tons standard, 45,460 tons full load Dimensions: 237.8 m (780 ft) overall; beam32.9 m (108 ft); draught 10.5 m (34 ft 5 in) Machinery: 4-shaft geared steam turbines delivering 128,000 shp (95450 kW) Speed: 30 kts Armour: belt 60-345 mm (2.4-13.6 in); decks 165 mm (6.4 in); turrets and barbettes 200-280 mm (7.9-11 in) Armament: nine 381 -mm (15-in), 12 152-mm(6-in), 1290-mm(3.5-in)AA, 20 37-mm AA and 16 20-mm AA guns Aircraft: three floatplanes Complement: 1,872 officers and men