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A tribute to all the Allied Soldiers that made Italy free from the German occupation...
Thanks to all the veterans and all the guys that they gave their life on the Anzio's beach... for our freedom!
22 January-24 May 1944
During the early morning hours of 22 January 1944, troops of the Fifth Army swarmed ashore on a fifteen-mile stretch of Italian beach near the prewar resort towns of Anzio and Nettuno. The landings were carried out so flawlessly and German resistance was so light that British and American units gained their first day's objectives by noon, moving three to four miles inland by nightfall. The ease of the landing and the swift advance were noted by one paratrooper of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division, who recalled that D-day at Anzio was sunny and warm, making it very hard to believe that a war was going on and that he was in the middle of it.
The location of the Allied landings, thirty miles south of Rome and fifty-five miles northwest of the main line of resistance running from Minturno on the Tyrrhenian Sea to Ortona on the Adriatic, surprised local German commanders, who had been assured by their superiors that an amphibious assault would not take place during January or February. Thus when the landing occurred the Germans were unprepared to react offensively. Within a week, however, as Allied troops consolidated their positions and prepared to break out of the beachhead, the Germans gathered troops to eliminate what Adolf Hitler called the "Anzio abscess." The next four months would see some of the most savage fighting of World War II.
Following the successful Allied landings at Calabria, Taranto, and Salerno in early September 1943 and the unconditional surrender of Italy that same month, German forces had quickly disarmed their former allies and begun a slow, fighting withdrawal to the north. Defending two hastily prepared, fortified belts stretching from coast to coast, the Germans significantly slowed the Allied advance before settling into the Gustav Line, a third, more formidable and sophisticated defensive belt of interlocking positions on the high ground along the peninsula's narrowest point. The Germans intended to fight for every portion of this line, set in
the rugged Apennine Mountains overlooking scores of rain-soaked valleys, marshes, and rivers. The terrain favored the defense and, as elsewhere in Italy, was not conducive to armored warfare. Luftwaffe Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, whom Hitler had appointed as commander of all German forces in Italy on 6 November 1943, promised to hold the Gustav Line for at least six months. As long as the line was maintained it prevented the Fifth Army from advancing into the Liri valley, the most logical and direct route to the major Allied objective of Rome. The validity of Kesselring's strategy was demonstrated repeatedly between October 1943 and January 1944 as the Allies launched numerous costly attacks against well-entrenched enemy forces.
The idea for an amphibious operation near Rome had originated in late October 1943 when it became obvious that the Germans were going to fight for the entire peninsula rather than withdraw to northern Italy. The Allied advance following the Salerno invasion was proving so arduous, due to poor weather, rough terrain, and stiffening resistance, that General Dwight D. Eisenhower pessimistically told the Anglo-American Combined Chiefs of Staff that there would be very hard and bitter fighting before the Allies could hope to reach Rome. As a result, Allied planners were looking for ways to break out of the costly struggle for each ridge and valley, which was consuming enormous numbers of men and scarce supplies.
When the British conducted a successful amphibious operation at Termoli on 2-3 October, landing behind German positions on the Adriatic front, hopes were raised that a similar, larger assault south of Rome could outflank the Gustav Line. Such an operation could facilitate a breakthrough along the main line of resistance in the south and cut German lines of retreat, supply, and communications. On 8 November British General Sir Harold R. L. G. Alexander, commander of the 15th Army Group (consisting of the Fifth and Eighth Armies under Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark and General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery, respectively), passed down orders to Clark from the Combined Chiefs of Staff. They directed him to formulate a plan for landing a single division at Anzio (code-named Operation SHINGLE) on 20 December 1943 as part of a projected three-pronged Allied offensive. The subsequent lack of progress, however, and a chronic shortage of troops and shipping due to the ongoing buildup for the cross-Channel invasion of France (OVERLORD), soon made the initial landing date impractical.
The entire Anzio operation was shelved on 18 December. But changes in the Mediterranean theater command structure would soon lead to its resuscitation.
General Eisenhower formally relinquished command of Allied forces in the Mediterranean to General Sir Henry M. Wilson in early January 1944. Previously, Mediterranean strategy had been driven largely by U.S. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, the leading spokesman in the Combined Chiefs of Staff, who had frequently communicated directly with his American subordinate. When Eisenhower left to prepare for Operation OVERLORD, however, Marshall lost this ability to influence Mediterranean events as planning responsibility passed to Britain's Sir Alan Brooke and the British Chiefs of Staff. General Wilson's largely British command resurrected the Anzio plan with his superior's approval. Heavily influenced by Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, the British Chiefs of Staff continued to advocate a large Mediterranean effort as part of the "soft underbelly" or "peripheral" approach to defeating Nazi Germany. To Churchill the quick liberation of Rome offered the key to the success of this strategy and the rapid capture of Rome implicitly required a landing at Anzio. Churchill prevailed upon the Americans in early January 1944 to delay further transfers of amphibious shipping from the Mediterranean to England so that a landing could take place in Italy by the end of the month.
The landing was scheduled tentatively for late January 1944. Anzio was selected because it was considered the best site within striking distance of Rome but still within range of Allied aircraft operating from Naples. The initial beachhead was to be fifteen miles wide by seven miles deep. The terrain at Anzio consisted of rolling, often wooded farm country on a narrow coastal plain extending north from the town of Terracina to across the Tiber River. The entire region was part of an elaborate reclamation and resettlement project that had been undertaken by Mussolini to showcase Fascist agricultural improvements and was studded with pumping stations and farmhouses and crisscrossed by irrigation ditches and canals.
Twenty miles inland from Anzio on the approach to Rome were the Alban Hills, around whose southwest side ran Highway 7, a major north-south route. To the southeast of the Alban Hills was the Velletri Gap leading inland to another main north-south route, Highway 6, at Valmontone. East of the Velletri Gap were the Lepini
Mountains along whose southeastern edge ran the Pontine Marshes extending to Terracina. The proposed beachhead was bounded in the north by the Moletta and Incastro Rivers, in the center by open fields leading to the villages of Padiglione and Aprilia along the Anzio-Albano Road, and in the south by the villages of Cisterna and Littoria, a provincial capital, and the Mussolini Canal.
The operations at Anzio were to be supported by a general 15th Army Group offensive. One week before the Anzio assault, the Fifth Army, consisting of the U.S. II Corps, the British 10 Corps, and the French Expeditionary Corps, would launch a massive offensive on the Gustav Line, cross the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers, strike the German Tenth Army under Lt. Gen. Heinrich van Vietinghoff in the area of Cassino, breach the enemy line there, push up the Liri valley, and link up with the forces at Anzio for the drive on Rome. Meanwhile, Allied, British, and Commonwealth forces of the Eighth Army were ordered to break through on the Adriatic front or at least tie down German forces to prevent their transfer to the Anzio area.
General Clark designated Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas, U.S. Army, commander of the Fifth Army's VI Corps, to lead the invasion and gave him two missions. First, Lucas was to divert enemy strength from the south and, in anticipation of a swift and violent enemy reaction, to prepare defensive positions. The vague second portion of his orders directed him to move toward the Alban Hills and points east for the link-up with the remainder of the Fifth Army on D-day plus 7. In what became a source of continued controversy, neither American interpreted these orders as specifically charging VI Corps with the immediate capture of the Alban Hills. That attitude reflected Clark's and Lucas' skepticism regarding the largely British plan and the feasibility of the overall Anzio operation. Clark in particular had been enthusiastic about the Anzio plan in its early stages, but he became increasingly pessimistic after learning that only two divisions were available for the operation. Both men expected that the assault troops would have to fight their way ashore against fierce resistance. They strongly doubted whether the small force could survive even the initial German counterattacks anticipated on D-day, let alone establish a viable beachhead. The notion that these troops could also take and hold the Alban Hills soon after landing, as implied by the British, seemed overly optimistic. Under the circumstances Clark wanted to remain flexible, and he
encouraged Lucas to do the same, leaving the decision about how far and how fast to advance to the VI Corps commander.
By the time the plans for Operation SHINGLE were finalized on 8 January, with D-day scheduled for 22 January 1944, the landing had evolved from a small, subsidiary attack into a major offensive operation behind enemy lines. For the initial assault Clark selected a combined Anglo-American force then gathering in Naples. Since the Allies wanted to land the largest possible contingent that available amphibious assault shipping allowed, the invasion force consisted of the U.S. 3d Infantry Division; the British 1st Infantry Division and 46th Royal Tank Regiment; the U.S. 751st Tank Battalion, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82d Airborne Division, and the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion; two British Commando battalions; and three battalions of U.S. Army Rangers. The U.S. 45th Infantry Division and Combat Command A (CCA), a regimental-size unit of the U.S. 1st Armored Division, were directed to land as reinforcements once the beachhead was established.
The XII Tactical Air Command, the British Desert Air Force, the Coastal Air Force, and the Tactical Bomber Force, units which were supporting Allied operations throughout the entire Mediterranean theater, were directed to conduct major air assaults in support of the Anzio landings. The approximately 2,600 available Allied aircraft were to gain air superiority over the beach, provide close air support for the invading forces, and destroy enemy airfields and hinder communications. The 64th Fighter Wing was charged with protecting the battle area during the actual landings from some 2,000 German aircraft believed to be stationed in Italy and the Balkans.
To move, protect, and assist the assault forces, the Allies assembled a naval flotilla comprising vessels from six nations. Task Force 81, commanded by U.S. Rear Adm. Frank J. Lowry, contained over 250 combat-loaded vessels and amphibious assault craft of all sizes and descriptions. Admiral Lowry also commanded the 74 vessels of Task Force X-Ray, assigned to see American forces safely ashore and to support their beachhead operations, while Admiral Thomas H. Troubridge, Royal Navy, commanded the 52 ships of Task Force Peter, which was to carry, land, and support the British contingents. To obtain surprise, the Allies decided to dispense with a long preliminary naval bombardment, planning instead on a short and intense ten-minute barrage by two British assault vessels equipped with 1,500 5-inch rockets.