The situation in Rome was very complicated as the Allies approached. There were Fascists, but they had been largely descredited by thecWar and the German occupation. The Vatican was split into two wings. Church people were hiding Jews all over Italy. One wing in the Vatican favored this. Another wanted to expel the Jews, afraid of the possible NAZI reaction. Some in the Vatican feared the Communists would seize control of Rome and invade the Vatican. Pope Pius XII dithered, unsure of what approach to take. German authorities in Rome were confused. Some had fallen in love with the city. Some had even resisted NAZI efforts to roundup and deport the city's Jews, primarily because they did not want to embarass the Pope. Some of the Germans who had been in Rome for some time did not fully comprehend the NAZI commitment to killing Jews. Finally Hitler himself had to send the orders. The Americans and British both wanted to enter the city first. American commander Mark Clark was intent on achieving this honor. He wanted to be the second general in history to conquer Rome from the south. (The first was the Byzantine General Byzarius.) Clark was less interested in cutting off the retreating Germans. The British unable to enter Rome first made an unsuccessful effort to cut off the fleeing Germans. Rome was finally liberated by the Americans (June 4). The scenes in Rome were that of a liberated nation. Italy had been one of the Axis countries but since the Italian capitulation (September 1943) had been occupied by the Germans and experienced their share of natural brutality. The Italians had, howver, a very high regard fir Americans because of the extensive Italian emmigration during the late-19th and early 20th century. The Romans celebrated with the entrance of the Americans. The Allied failed to trap sizeable German units and as a result would face another costly winter campaign. The world's focus 2-days latter turned on July 6 to the coast of France and the D-Day invasion.
Italy was one of the three major Axis countries. Mussolini had made Italy Fascist, but unlike the NAZIs and the Japanese militarists, he was unable to drum up much animosity toward the Allies or enthusiam for the War. While the Italian people had no strong feelings one way or another toward the British, there was a broad feeling of warmth and friendship toward the Americans. Large numbers of Italians had worked in America and come back with their savings. Even more Italians had family that had emograted and stayed in America. No amountof Fascist war propaganda was able to change this wide-spread feeling. And Italians both before and during the War did not warm to Hitler and the NAZIs. And more than 2 years of War did not change Italian attitudes toward the Germans. Than came the Italian surrender and German occupation of Italy (September 1943). The Italians experienced first hand the brutality of the Germans and what Axis occupation had meant throughout Europe. The Germans interned the Italian Army and transported them to the Reich. In the process the Whermavht shot thousands of Italian soldiers. The Gestapo arrested Italians known to be sympsthetic tothe Allies and began the roundup of Jews. Thus in a short time a generalized disapproval of the Germans turned into active loathing on the part of most Italians. Thus the Allied move on Rome is generally referred to as the 'liberation' of Rome. This is in sdharp contrast to the Soviet and American seizues of Berlin. The people of Rome jubilantly received the advaning Allied soldiers, especially the Americans, as if Italy had never been an Axis power.
As the Allied drive north bogged down at the Gustav Line, the logic of an anphibious flanking invasion surfaced. Fifth rmy 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.
The Allies launched their long-awaited spring offensive (May 11). A massive artillery barrage by 1,660 artillery pieces opened up on the Germans from Cassino to the sea. Alexander than threw 25 Allied divisions atthe Germans. The British 13 Corps successfully crossed the Rapido River at two points, finally establishing a bridgehead. The Polish Corps assault on Monte Cassino still heavily defended by the Germans failed. The Poles were some of the most fierce fighters in Alexander's army. More than than 50 percent of the Poles were casualties. To the west in the American II Corps area the U.S. 88th Infantry Division made some progress against stiff German resistance. The 4th Moroccan Mountain Division of the French Expeditionary Force (FEC) were able to take Monte Majo (May 13). This proved to be the turning point. This gave the Allies high ground overlooking the Liri valley. It exposed the left flank of the XIV Panzer Corps and finally the German position at Cassino. The Americans attacked at this weak point in the Gusrav Line. The 85th and 88th Divisions were committed. The result was a series of savage engagements and the German fill back, further wudeningvthe gap in the German defenses.
The German lost an estimated 40 percent of their combat strength in the first 3 days of the llied offensive and it was now obvious they no longer had the forces to hold the Gustav Line. Other Allied units moved forward addingvto the presure.
The Allies were now in a position to encircle Casino. The Germns began to withdraw north, but staging rearguard operations to slow the Allies. The American II Corps and the FEC broke through the German defenses. The Canadians crossed the Rapido in force. The British 78th Division cut Highway 6. The Polish Corps, supported by the 78th Division, launched another attack on Monte Cassino (May 17). A day of fierce cimbat ensued wuth heavy losses on both sudes. The German position at Casino could no longer be maintained. That night the surviving Germans withdrew. The Poles in the morning reached the summit unopposed (May 18). With the Allies in possesion of Casino and consolidating their positin of Anzio, the Gustav KLine was fataly compromosed. The overstreached Germans at long last had to abandon Rome and retreat north.
The Allies wanted to closely pursue the retreating Germans to prevent them from establishing new defensive positions. The Germand hoped to restablish what they rerred to as the Hitler Line. The British 8th Army move up the Liri Valley (May 18-19) encountered stiff German resistance from fortified positions.
The result was another series of frontal assaults and heavy casualties. The German were less successful to the wEst in the American Fifth Army sector. The Germans were withdrawing from the coast to keep from being cut off. General Clark thus decided to attack in force to effectva link up with the Anzio bridgehead. Alexander had ordered him to support the 8th Army's left flank. Instead he ordered the Fifth Army to attack north toward Fondi and Terracina where they could link up with the Anzio bridgehead and begin the drive on Rome. He ordered the FEC to continue its attack on the Fifth Army's right. This appears to have diverted the German's attention from II Corps. Clark ordered the 85th and 88th Divisions to take
Terracina. The Allies made progress all along the front (May 23-25). The FEC and II Corps penetrated the still poorly prepared Hitler Line in several spots. The Eighth Army attempting to move up the Liri valley had less success.
Now it was time for the Anzio breakout. Maj. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., commanding the 90,000 man VI Corps attacked toward Cisterna (May 23). His objective was Highway 6 at Valmontone. The result was 3 days of hard fighting. VI Corps (3rd and 45th Infantry Divisions, the 1st Armored Division, and the 1st Special Service Force) drove out of the Anzio beachhead.
THis threatened to separate the German Tenth and Fourteenth Armies. Finally advance units of the 85th Division met a patrol of VI Corps engineers moving south from Anzio effecting a link up with the Anzio beachhead. The Germans hastily withdrew to the Caesar Line, an incomplete line of srong ponts between Anzio and Rome to a point two miles south of Valmontone. The Germans faced several problem. The terraine south of Rome was not as favorable as that utilized for the Gustaf line and their forces had been depleted. The attacking Allied forced also made it difficult to establish a coherent defensuve line.
Alexander was the overall commander in Italy. He had envisioned the planned VI Corps breakout to be part of an the second thrust aimed at curring off German forces south of Rome. Clark, nominally Alexander's subordinte, had never accepted Alexander's vision, especially the primacy of cutting off German forces. Clark was especially interested in the liberation of Rome. So much so that he was sometimes called Marcus Aurelius Clarkus. Clark thought that the German were too strong to cut off at Valmontone as Alexander planned. He also feared that the Ceasar Line would prove too strong for VI Corps. Inteligence reports suggested that the Germans were pulling back from the area north of Anzio. This opened the road to Rome and Clark thus ordered VI Corps to begin the drive on the capital. He rejected Truscott's protests abd Alexabder's instructions. He ordered the 3rd Division and 1st Special Service Force to continue toward Valmontone, but he directed the bulk of his forces, including the 1st Armored and the 34th, 36th, and 45th Infantry Divisions to join the northern advance led by the 85th and 88th Divisions. Some historians have shrply criticized Clark's leadership, arguing that he was grand standing so he woild have the glory of liberating Rome. American commander Mark Clark was intent on achieving this honor. He wanted to be the second general in history to conquer Rome from the south. (The first was the Byzantine General Byzarius.) Historians argue that shifting the direction of the American offensive allowed the bulk of the German firces to evade encirclement at Valmontoneand and escape north where they suceeded in establishing anither strong defensive line.
There were Fascists, but they had been largely descredited by the War and the German occupation. Mussolini had been rescued by SS commandos (September 1944). Even so, he did not resume power in Rome. He established, under close German supervision, a Fascist puppet regime in northern Italy.
The Vatican was split into two wings. Church people were hiding Jews all over Italy. One wing in the Vatican favored this. Another wanted to expel the Jews, afraid of the possible NAZI reaction. Some in the Vatican feared the Communists would seize control of Rome and invade the Vatican. Pope Pius XII dithered, unsure of what approach to take.
German authorities in Rome were confused. Some had fallen in love with the city. Some had even resisted NAZI efforts to roundup and deport the city's Jews, primarily because they did not want to embarass the Pope. Some of the Germans who had been in Rome for some time did not fully comprehend the NAZI commitment to killing Jews. Finally Hitler himself had to send the orders.
Rome was finally liberated by the Americans. The retreating Germans declared Rome an open city. The Allies were nor entirely sure how the Romans would react. The Allies dropped propaganda leaflets on Rome early in the morning. The commander of the Allied 15th Army Group, General Sir Harold R. L. G. Alexander urged the people of Rome in the leaflets "to stand shoulder-to-shoulder to protect the city from destruction and to defeat our common enemies." The leaflets went on to say, "... this is not the time for demonstrations. Obey these directions and go on with your regular work. Rome is yours! Your job is to save the city, ours is to destroy the enemy." The first units to reach Rome were elements of the U.S. 3d, 85th, and 88th Infantry Divisions and the 1st Special Service Force. Tgey encountered only scattered German resistance. The people of Rome for the most part remained indoors as instructed in the leaflets, fearing that the Germans might still be present and that fighting might ensue.
The next day was anything but quit. Large numbers of ecstatic Italians poured out into the streets to welcome the Americans. By this time the the principal elements of the Fifth Army were moving moved north through the city in pursuit of the Germans.
The scenes in Rome were that of a liberated nation. Italy had been one of the Axis countries but since the Italian capitulation (September 1943) had been occupied by the Germans and experienced their share of natural brutality. The Italians had, howver, a very high regard for Americans because of the extensive Italian emmigration during the late-19th and early 20th century. Many Italians remained in America, but unlike other immigrant groups, large numbers of Italians after earming a little momey, eturned to Italy and bought small farms or shops. Most had vert fond memories of their time in America. Many other Italians had relatives in America. The Romans celebrated with the entrance of the Americans. Few Itlalians had wanted war and certinly not with the Americans. The people of Rome crowded into the streets to welcome the Americans. A huge city-wide celebration began. Shops were closed and crowds took to the streets, cheering, waving, tossing flowers, and climbing on American vehicles.
Pope Pius appeared on the balcony of St Peter's and spoke to the thousands of Italians who had gathered in St. Peter's Square.
He said: "In recent days we trembled for the fate of the city. Today we rejoiced because, thanks to the joint goodwill of both sides, Rome has been saved from the horrors of war." President Roosevelt in an American radio brodcast welcomed the fall of Rome, saying, "One up, two to go." He cautioned the American people, howeever, that Germany had not yet suffered enough losses to cause her to collapse. The Fifth Army combat units did not linger long in Rome itself.
The German Tenth and Fourteenth Armies for the most part retreated in good order. The Allied failed to trap sizeable German units and as a result would face another costly winter campaign. The German troops continued to hold northern Italy. They resisted there and resisted the Allies and Italian resistance forces tenaciously until they surrendered (May 2, 1945).
The world's focus quickly turned on July 6 to the coast of France and announcement that the Allies were landing on the coast of France--the long awaited cross-Channel invasion. The hard-won accomplishments of the Allied forces in Italy, finally liberating Rome quickly disappeared from the headlines. The Normandy D-Day landings (Operation Overlord) overshdowed the Italian campaign. The original plan for Overlord was a simultaneous invasion of southern France (Operation Anvil/Dragoon). The German success in holding the Gutav Line centered on Casino diveted men and supplies from the prepartions for Operation Anvil. The result was the landings were delayed. The landings were finally made (August 15).
The impact on the Italian campaign was not just a matter of press headlines. The liberation of France and de=rive on Germany became the first Allied priority. This appears to have been a sound strategic decesion. The narrow Italian peninsula was an advantage fir a defending forceas as it resrictedthe movement of alarge army, nuteven more importantly the relatively upobstructed northern European plain was a much easier route to the Reich than the southern route from Italy which required crossing the Alps. This meant that men and material to support the Italian campaign and the drive north became even more difficult to obtain. Even worse from the point of view of the Italian effort, units were even withdrawn frim Italy for redeployment in southern France. The FEC, the VI Corps headquarters, the U.S. 3d, 36th, and 45th Infantry Divisions were all assigned to the new Seventh Army preparing for Anvil. This meant that the Eighth and Fifth Armies would have only 14 divisions attack the 9 divisions of the German Fourteenth Army in the west and the 8 divisions of the German Tenth Army in the east.
After the liberation of Rome, Allied air forces could move into Italiam basses around Rome. From these more northely bases they could reach targets in the Reich as well an targets in eastern Europe, such as the synthetic fuel and rubber plants at Auschwitz-Monowitz in occupied Poland (Silesia).
Atkinson, Rick. The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (Henry Holt: 2007), 791p.
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