Liberation of Rome: Anzio Invasion (January-March, 1944)

Anzio invasion
Figure 1.--While his friends giggle, a boy named Charleto in Anzio is tended to by an American soldier. Notice the artillery shells littering the street.

As the Allied drive north bogged down at the Gustav Line, the logic of an anphibious flanking invasion surfaced. Fifth Army Commander Mark Clark ordered a plan be prepard for a single division operation centered on Anzio (November 1943). Anzio was selected as the best site. It was only 30 miles south of Rome, but still within range of Naples-based Allied aircraft allowing vital air support. British commanders were enthusiastic about the plan, but the Americans less so, believing that the planned invasion force were insufficient for the task of overwhelming the Germans fotce in the area. The Anzio plan was temporarily shelved as fighting continued incomclusively on the Gustav Line. General Eisenhower was given command of the Overlord planning (January 1944). The command of Allied forces in the Mediterranean went to to General Sir Henry M. Wilson. The Anzio invasion was soon back on the table. At the same time Prime Minister Winston Churchill personally to hold shipping and landing craft in the Mediterranean for one more invasion before the final Overlord buildup. The Anzio invasion plan became Operation Shingle. An Anglo-American ground, naval and air force units assembled in Naples, under the command of Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas, commander of the U.S. Fifth Army's VI Corps. The Allie launched heavvy attavks on the Gustav Line (January 12). The attacks focused on Cassino. This successfully focused the Germans on the Casino area. The invasion armada managed to depart Naples without alerting the Germans (January 21). The Americans landed at Anzio behind the Gustav line (January 22, 1944. The initial landing was a success and surprised the Germans. The Americans began moving off the beach and tentatively pushing toward Rome. Many historians fault the American commander, Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas, for not acting decisively by attacking the Germans more ggressively. Lucas decided to build up and consolidate his units before moving inland in force. This enabled the the Germans in hold on and reinforce the vital high-ground. Kesselring assembledcavailable reinforcements. [Atkinson] A minority opinion maintains that Lucas was wise in building up beach defensives. The Germans launched a whitering attack with artillery and Panzers. American and British units manage to repulse repeated German attacks. It looked for a time that after a month of heavy fighing the Germans might destroy the American beachead (February 17). The American defense supported by invaluable naval artillery support managed to hold off the Germans. The German counterattacks continued for two more weeks, but were was finally haulted (March 2). The Anzio landings failed to envelop the Gustav Line, but it did force the Germans to further stretch their lines and commit their last reaining reserves. This in the end weakened the Gustav Line allowing the Allies to finally break through. The Allies executed numerous anphibious landings during World War II. None failed, but several came very close to failing, including the two main Itakian landings (Salerno and Anzio). The allies learned from their experiences, the Germans failed to adapt their strategic and tactical doctrine. The Allies learned that it was vital to land in force. The Germans,at keast von Rundstedt, failed to learn that the first few days were vital. Once theAllies had consolidated a bridgehead, given their aircand sea resources, it would be virtually impossible to dislodge them.


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Created: 9:28 AM 6/2/2012
Last updated: 9:28 AM 6/2/2012