The Church of Anzio, almost destroyed during the combats between allied forces and the germans... 22 January 1944
In spite of the disaster that befell the Rangers, the 7th and 15th Infantry regiments continued their attacks toward Cisterna, one soldier recalling that the defenders clung stubbornly to their entrenched positions while launching locally heavy counterattacks. Sgt. Truman O. Olson, a light machine gunner with Company B. 7th Infantry, took part in one sixteen-hour assault on entrenched enemy positions in which one-third of his company became casualties. Having seized a toehold, the survivors dug in while Sergeant Olson and his crew took their one available machine gun and placed it forward of the line to bear the brunt of an expected enemy counterattack. Although he had been firing without respite all day, Olson stuck grimly to his post throughout the night while his gun crew was killed, one by one, by accurate and overwhelming enemy fire. Weary from over twenty-four hours of continuous battle and suffering from an arm wound, Olson manned his gun alone, meeting the full force of a 200-man enemy dawn assault supported by mortars and machine guns. After thirty minutes of fighting, Olson was severely wounded, but he refused evacuation. For an hour and a half after receiving a second and subsequently fatal wound, he continued to fire his machine gun, killing at least twenty of the enemy, wounding many more, and ultimately forcing the attackers to withdraw. For his actions Sergeant Olson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
While some progress was made by 3d Division units in the face of noticeably stronger enemy resistance, by nightfall on 31 January the Americans were still one mile from the village, battling stubbornly forward but unable to break through. On the following day fighting was equally inconclusive, and by noon it had become obvious, after three days of costly attacks and counterattacks, that the Americans could not capture Cisterna, still 1,500 yards away. Heeding intelligence reports delivered on 2 February, which indicated the arrival of new German units in the Anzio area and an imminent enemy counterattack, Truscott, on the orders of Clark and Lucas, again told his command to dig in.
The other prong of the Allied attack launched by the British 1st Division and CCA, 1st Armored Division, toward Campoleone and the Alban Hills initially fared little better. Rain-soaked terrain, fierce enemy fire, and ubiquitous minefields slowed CCA's advance, and by nightfall on 30 January the unit was still struggling to reach its line of departure. The British succeeded in advancing two miles the first day, but they also failed to breach the German defenses. General Lucas changed plans for the second day of the attack and ordered the British to breach the enemy line along the Albano Road at Campoleone for exploitation by CCA. During the next two days the Allies reached Campoleone, penetrated the German main line, and opened a two-mile-wide gap. But the exhausted Allied troops were unable to exploit their success, and the drive ground to a halt.
The failure of the Allied breakout attempt, stymied by stiff resistance, convinced Alexander, Clark, and Lucas that an enemy counterattack must be in the offing. Reinforcements were rushed to Anzio, including 1,800 men of the American-Canadian 1st Special Service Force, elements of the British 56th Division, and additional antiaircraft and artillery units, raising the total number of Allied soldiers in the beachhead to 100,000.
Despite these additions, the Fourteenth Army outnumbered the Allies at Anzio by 4 February. But the German force was a hodgepodge of rapidly thrown together units. All were critically short of ammunition, training, qualified leaders, and reserves. Allied air attacks had disrupted communications, hampered troop and supply movements, and caused morale problems. From the outset Mackensen had doubted the available force could eliminate the Anzio beachhead, but he prepared a forceful counterattack nonetheless. The 4th Parachute and 65th infantry Divisions of the I Parachute Corps were to pinch off the Campoleone salient and recapture the Factory at Aprilia. The same units would then break through to the sea along the Albano Road. Elsewhere the LXXVI Panzer Corps, consisting of the 3d Panzer Grenadier, 715th Motorized Infantry, 71st Infantry, Hermann Goering, and 26th Panzer Divisions would attack south of Cisterna along the Mussolini Canal and attempt to breach the Allied perimeter and advance on Nettuno and Anzio.
The counterattack opened with an artillery barrage on 3-4 February, followed by armored and infantry assaults which smashed into the partially prepared British 1st Division defenses in the Campoleone salient. The British held, despite suffering 1,400 casualties, but their dangerously exposed position prompted Lucas to order their withdrawal to one mile north of the Factory and Carroceto on the night of 4-5 February, a retreat of about 2.5 miles. Although the salient was eliminated, the Germans failed to break the Allied line or retake the Factory. The undulating and soggy Albano Road area was just as inhospitable to German armor and infantry as it had been to Allied forces the week before. However, the critical situation the Germans created in the Allied center convinced Lucas to form a beachhead defense line running from the Moletta River in the north, through the fields of the central sector, to the Mussolini Canal in the south. He issued orders to all Allied troops that this was the final line of resistance to be held at all costs—the shallow beachhead precluded any further retreat.
The Germans renewed their attacks on 7 February in the weakened British 1st Division sector and, in two days of bitter fighting, pushed the British troops from the Factory and Carroceto. Although battered and exhausted, they managed to maintain a coherent line and were reinforced on 10 February by the 1st Armored Regiment, CCA, 1st Armored Division (itself at 50 percent strength), the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 179th and 157th regiments of the U.S. 45th Infantry Division. Ordered to counterattack and retake Aprilia on 11 February, the 179th Infantry and 191st Tank Battalion began a two-pronged attack seeking to outflank the Germans holding the Factory. In two days of costly, hand-to-hand fighting, the Americans failed to retake the lost ground, but inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. Lucas still expected further attacks in the weakened central sector and removed the British 1st Division from the line, replacing it with the British 56th and U.S. 45th Infantry Divisions. As an added precaution, VI Corps artillery was strengthened and Allied tactical air attacks were stepped up.
Spurred by the elimination of the Campoleone salient, the Germans continued their counterattack on 16 February by moving down the Anzio-Albano Road on a four-mile front. The brunt of the assault hit the 45th Division sectors held by the 157th and 179th Infantry regiments. The initial attacks by the 3d Panzer Grenadier and 715th Motorized Infantry Divisions were beaten back with heavy losses, allowing only minor penetrations, while the 180th Infantry rebuffed lighter attacks. Just before midnight, however, enemy persistence paid off. A gap was created between the 179th and 157th Infantry, which was promptly exploited by three German regiments supported by sixty tanks. By dawn the Germans had driven a two-by-one-mile wedge in the center of the 45th Division and were poised to break the Allied line, threatening the entire beachhead. Compounding the already critical situation, the 179th Infantry attempted to withdraw in full view of the enemy the following afternoon and suffered heavy casualties. All through 16-17 February the Allies scrambled to plug the gap with hastily redeployed 90-mm. antiaircraft guns, naval gunfire, and units of the 1st Armored Division. The XII Tactical Air Command flew 730 ground support sorties and later claimed that the total weight of bombs dropped and the number of bombers employed was the greatest ever allotted up to that date in direct support of ground forces.
The Germans launched a more intense assault against the 45th Division at dawn on 18 February and destroyed one battalion of the 179th Infantry before pushing the remainder of the unit back a half mile farther to Lucas' final defensive line by midmorning. Fearing that the 179th Infantry was in danger of giving way, Lucas ordered Col. William O. Darby to take command of the unit and allow no further retreat. The regiment held, later counting 500 dead Germans in front of its positions. Elsewhere, the 180th and 157th regiments also held their positions in spite of heavy losses during three days of German attacks. By midday, Allied air and artillery superiority had turned the tide. When the Germans launched a final afternoon assault against the 180th and 179th regiments, it was halted by air strikes and massed mortar, machine gun, artillery, and tank fire. Subsequent enemy attacks on 19 and 20 February were noticeably weaker and were broken up by the same combination of Allied arms before ground contact was made The crisis had passed, and while harassing attacks continued until 22 February, VI Corps went over to the offensive locally and succeeded in retaking some lost ground.