The Mediterranean Theater of Operations

This four-volume subseries begins with American troops, part of the Allied Expeditionary Force, wading through the surf on the beaches of Northwest Africa on 8 November 1942 and ends in the Italian Alps some 31 months later with the German surrender in May 1945. With supply lines always stretched to the breaking point, American and Allied soldiers faced a determined and resourceful enemy, harsh weather, inhospitable terrain, and indefinite goals in what many would later consider as little more than a sideshow to the "real" war in northern Europe.

Nevertheless, as these volumes trace the slow but steady advance of the Allies from North Africa, through Sicily, and up the Italian boot, the role that these campaigns played in wearing down the Axis powers and contributing to the final victory becomes evident. The authors also devote considerable attention to the politico-military negotiations leading to the surrender of the Italian Army, where military men were required to double as diplomats.

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NORTHWEST AFRICA: SEIZING THE INITIATIVE IN THE WEST. By George F. Howe. (1957, 1985, 1991; 748 pages, 11 tables, 2 charts, 34 maps, 89 illustrations, note on sources, glossaries, index, CMH Pub 6-1.)

This volume is the history of the campaigns in World War II in which U. S. Army forces were first extensively engaged. It covers Operation TORCH, a massive amphibious, surprise assault in November 1942, after which the Allies speedily gained control of French Morocco and Algeria and obtained a toehold in Tunisia. It then describes the campaign in Tunisia which, beginning with stalemate in December 1942, involved broadening fronts, a buildup on both sides, concentration in Tunisia of Allied and Axis forces previously engaged in western Egypt and Libya, seesawing combat, and finally constriction of all Axis forces within northeastern Tunisia, where they surrendered en masse on 13 May 1943.

Other volumes of the United States Army in World War II also discuss TORCH. Its broader strategic connections are treated in Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare: 1941-1942, and its effects on the logistical planning, resources, and capabilities of the Allies are taken up in Global Logistics and Strategy: 1940-1943. But it is here that the reader will find TORCH and the Tunisia Campaign described in their immediate political and military context. The author has drawn on abundant German sources to illuminate the strategy and tactics of the enemy and produce a two-sided picture. Although primarily concerned with the role of U.S. ground forces, the narrative relates their efforts to the operations of sea and air forces of the several nations in both coalitions and takes into account the plans and operations by which the Allies wrested air superiority from the Axis.

The inexperienced ground forces of the United States were assigned holding or diversionary missions throughout the campaign in Tunisia. But they learned from experience, and in the final Allied drive in the spring of 1943 General Bradley's II Corps broke out of the mountains and occupied Bizerte at the same time that the British took Tunis.

Northwest Africa is a study of the trial-and-error process that characterized America's first large-scale campaign. It has unique interest as the narrative of the first invasion in World War II of territory held by a friendly nation, in which one objective of the Allies was to revive the military resistance of the French to the Axis conquerors. The planning and execution of TORCH were deeply conditioned by political considerations, and throughout both of the campaigns recounted in this volume the Allied command was ceaselessly confronted by difficult political issues along with those of a more strictly military nature.

    Key topics:
  1. Allied and Axis command structures compared (Chs. XIX, XXIV, XXV).
  2. Tactical planning of joint task forces (Ch. III).
  3. Problems of a successful command occupying colonial territory of a friendly nation (Chs. IX, XII, XIV).
  4. Large-scale amphibious surprise assault on lightly defended shores (Chs. VI, VII, VIII, XI, XIII).
  5. Offensive and defensive tactics along a broad front (Chs. XX-XXIV).
  6. Establishing an integrated coalition headquarters (Ch. III).
  7. Organized cooperation with the French on a clandestine basis (Chs. IV, X).
  8. Defense of a mountain pass (Ch. XXIII).
  9. Uncoordinated attacks and piecemeal commitment of forces (Chs. XXV-XXVII).
  10. Rearmament of the French (Chs. XIV, XVIII, XXV).

SICILY AND THE SURRENDER OF ITALY. By Albert N. Garland and Howard McGaw Smyth. (1965, 1986, 1991; 609 pages, 17 maps, 113 illustrations, 4 appendixes, bibliographical note, glossary, index, CMH Pub 6-2.)

This volume describes the events surrounding the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and the subsequent surrender of the Italian government. The book is divided into three sections. The first part sets the strategic stage by describing the debate between American and British strategists over the course of Allied operations in the Mediterranean theater during 1943. In recounting how the Allies came to agree upon the invasion of Sicily at the Casablanca Conference, the authors illustrate the difficulties of crafting grand strategy in coalition warfare. Additional aspects of the decision to invade Sicily and the interplay of Mediterranean operations with the proposed cross-Channel invasion of France can be found in Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare: 1943-1944, Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West, and the two volumes on Global Logistics and Strategy. The problems of coalition warfare were not limited to the Allied side, however, and the book relates the difficulties the Axis experienced in formulating strategic plans and in defining command relationships. Part One of Sicily and the Surrender of Italy concludes with an analysis of Allied plans for the invasion of Sicily, code-named Operation HUSKY, and Axis defensive measures. In doing so, the volume highlights the challenges Allied planners faced in designing what was at that time the largest amphibious landing of World War II.

The second section of the present volume describes the invasion and conquest of Sicily-a rugged island bastion whose mountainous terrain greatly assisted the Axis defenders. The narrative fully examines the key Allied operational decisions of the campaign, including General Sir Harold Alexander's decision to shift the direction of the U.S. Seventh Army's advance, General George Patton's sweep to Palermo, and Anglo-American rivalry in the race for Messina. Axis actions on the island are also well documented. The book focuses, however, on the operations of the American Seventh Army. The combat narrative is written largely at the division and regimental level but occasionally dips down to individual companies in key combat actions. The type of operations described in the book include airborne and amphibious assaults, establishment and defense of a beachhead, mountain combat, and German rear guard tactics. Part Two of the volume culminates in the final Allied drive to Messina and the evacuation of Axis forces to Italy.

The invasion of Sicily sent shock waves through war-weary Italy and set in motion a movement that eventually toppled Mussolini from power. Part Three of Sicily and the Surrender of Italy returns to the strategic level, detailing the secret negotiations that eventually led to Italy's capitulation to the Allies, as well as Germany's countermeasures to seize control of the country. A discussion of the Allied decision to exploit the demise of fascism in Italy serves as a prologue for the next volume in The Mediterranean Theater of Operations subseries, Salerno to Cassino.

    Key topics:
  1. Strategic planning in coalition warfare, including the debate between the advocates of a "peripheral" strategy and a cross-Channel attack; the decision to invade Sicily; the Casablanca, TRIDENT, and Quebec conferences; and the question of how to exploit the collapse of Italy (Chs. I, XIV, XXI).
  2. The erosion and ultimate dissolution of the Rome-Berlin Axis (Chs. II, XIV, XV, XXIV-XXIX).
  3. Planning and organizing a large-scale, joint and combined invasion against a defended coast (Operation HUSKY) (Chs. III, V).
  4. Negotiations for the surrender of Italy (Chs. XXII-XXIX).
  5. Evolution of invasion plans (Chs. III, V).
  6. The first major Allied airborne operation of World War II (Chs. VI, VII, IX, XXI).
  7. Allied amphibious operations (Chs. VI, VII, XVIII, XX, XXI).
  8. Modifying a campaign plan during the course of operations (Chs. XI, XII, XIII).
  9. Challenges posed to U.S. forces by mountain warfare and German defensive techniques (Chs. XVI, XVII, XVIII).
  10. The successful Axis evacuation of Sicily (Chs. XIX, XXI).
  11. Difficulties in strategic and tactical surface-air coordination (Chs. V, IX, XXI).
  12. Efforts to deceive the Axis about Allied invasion plans (Chs. III, IV).
  13. Patton and the slapping incident (Ch. XXI).

SALERNO TO CASSINO. By Martin Blumenson. (1969, 1988; 491 pages, 16 maps, 94 illustrations, 2 appendixes, bibliographical note, glossary, index, CMH Pub 6-3.)

In September 1943 a combined British and American amphibious force finally made the first Allied landing on the continent of Europe. After campaigns which began with amphibious assaults in both Africa and Sicily, the Allies were hoping that the invasion of Italy would be an equally successful endeavor. Although the Italian capitulation on the eve of the invasion filled the troops with confidence that enemy resistance would rapidly collapse, the Allied campaign in Italy was as tough as any fought in World War II; if anything, the Italian surrender hardened German resistance. Salerno to Cassino begins the story of the Allied effort to wrest control of Italy from its German occupiers, while Cassino to the Alps provides the conclusion.

The confrontation in Italy was the first time Allied armies faced the German Army in a sustained campaign on the European mainland. During the first eight months covered by this volume the fighting was brutal and the situation on both sides was anything but optimistic. The opponents faced the same difficult terrain and bad weather and shared similar supply problems. The Germans, defending in the south, had their long supply lines subjected to the ever-increasing Allied air power, and the Allies had a chronic shortage of practically all types of shipping.

Although the author focuses on the tactical activities of the Allies with special emphasis on the U.S. Fifth Army, he also provides the strategic framework within which those activities took place. The account includes the German point of view and sketches of air and naval activities pertinent to understanding the ground situation. Highlights of the volume include the problems faced by American forces in the initial landings at Salerno, the difficulties encountered while attempting to force a crossing of the flooded Rapido River, the controversial decision to bomb the historical Benedictine abbey on Monte Cassino, and the stalemate at the Anzio beachhead.

    Key topics:
  1. Amphibious assaults (Chs. III, IV, VI, VII, VIII, XX).
  2. River crossings (Chs. XII, XIII, XVIII, XIX).
  3. Assaulting fortified towns (Chs. X, XVI, XXI, XXV).
  4. Mountain warfare (Chs. XII, XIII).
  5. Small-unit tactics (Chs. X, XII, XIII, XVI, XVIII, XIX, XXI, XXIV).
  6. Use of air power (Chs. XIV, XXIII, XXIV).
  7. German command problems (Chs. V, XI, XIV, XX, XXIV).
  8. Strategic decision making in coalition warfare (Chs. I, X, XI, XIV, XVII, XXVI).
  9. German defensive tactics (Chs. XIII, XV).
  10. Use of airborne troops (Ch. VIII).
  11. Coalition command considerations (Chs. IX, XXIV).

CASSINO TO THE ALPS. By Ernest F. Fisher, Jr. (1977, 1989; 584 pages, 27 maps, 92 illustrations, appendix, bibliographical note, glossary, index, CMH Pub 6-4.)

This volume continues the story of the Italian campaign with the Allied spring offensive in May 1944 which carried two Allied armies-the U.S. Fifth and the British Eighth-to Rome by 4 June and to the final German capitulation in May 1945. Represented in these armies were Americans, Belgians, Brazilians, British, Canadians, Cypriots, French (including mountain troops from Algeria and Morocco), Palestinian Jews, East Indians, Italians, Nepalese, New Zealanders, Poles, South Africans, Syro-Lebanese, and Yugoslavians. The Fifth Army also included the U.S. Army's only specialized mountain division, one of its two segregated all-black divisions, and a regimental combat team composed solely of Americans of Japanese descent.

The campaign involved one ponderous attack after another against fortified positions: the Winter Line, the Gustav Line (including Monte Cassino), and the Gothic Line. It called for ingenuity in employing tanks and tank destroyers over terrain that severely restricted the use of mobile forces. In addition the Allied attackers constantly had to devise new methods to supply forces fighting through dangerous mountain terrain in central Italy or those fighting in flooded lowlands along the Adriatic coast.

It was also a campaign replete with controversy, as might have been expected in a theater where the presence of many nationalities and two fairly equal partners imposed considerable strain on the process of coalition command. Among the most troublesome questions was the judgment of American commander, Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, to focus on the capture of Rome rather than conforming with the wishes of his British superior who was more concerned with trapping the retreating German forces. Other issues have proved equally controversial. Did Allied commanders conduct the pursuit north of Rome with sufficient vigor? Indeed, should the campaign have been pursued all the way to the Alps when the Allies might have halted at some readily defensible line and awaited the outcome of the decisive campaign in northwestern Europe?

Just as the campaign began on a note of covert politico-military maneuvering to achieve the surrender of the Italian forces, so it ended in intrigue and secret negotiations for a separate surrender of the Germans in Italy. Nevertheless, the 570 days which the Allies battled in Italy made it the longest sustained Allied campaign of World War II. The narrative ranges from detailed descriptions of company-level tactics up through division, corps, and army with considerable tactical detail at each level of command.

    Key topics:
  1. Grand strategy from both Allied and German points of view, including opposing command structures, and operational planning at army, corps, and division level, both Allied and German (Chs. I, II).
  2. Corps operations in mountainous terrain (Chs. III, IV).
  3. Planning for and breakout from a beachhead under enemy observation (Chs. VI, VII, VIII).
  4. Mountain warfare, including classic stratagem for breaking through mountain defenses, the use of trained mountain infantry in a flanking maneuver, and the penetration of mountain passes (Chs. X, XXIV, XXVI).
  5. Pursuit operations on a two-army front (Ch. XIII).
  6. Armor in rugged terrain (Chs. XIII, XIV).
  7. River crossings on a broad front (Ch. XXVIII).
  8. Surrender negotiations (Ch. XXX).
  9. Artillery support (see Index: "Artillery").
  10. Operations in adverse conditions of weather and soil (mud, cold, rain, and floods) (see Index: "Floods; Mud; Terrain; Weather").

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