The Spring Offensive

War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.

SUN TZU, The Art of War

Chapter I
Spring in Italy--1944

An hour before midnight on 11 May 1944, 1,660 guns opened fire. Shells crashed along a 25-mile front from the slopes of Monte Cassino to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The crash and roar of artillery turned high ground beyond the Rapido and Garigliano Rivers into an inferno of flame and steel. The Allied Armies in Italy (AAI) with this preparatory fire had launched Operation DIADEM, a full-scale offensive that was destined to carry the U.S. Fifth and the British Eighth Armies from southern Italy to the Alps, where the Germans would at last lay down their arms.

Spring in 1944 came early to Italy. On the reverse slopes of a hundred hills overlooking the valleys of the Rapido and the Garigliano Rivers, as Allied and German infantrymen emerged from their dugouts to stretch and bask in the warm sunshine, they could look back on several months of some of the hardest fighting yet experienced in World War II.

The campaign in southern Italy had grown out of the Allied capture of Sicily, which had helped to bring about the overthrow of the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, and contributed to the surrender of Italy. Early in September 1943, first elements of the British Eighth Army had come ashore near Reggio in Calabria on the southernmost tip of the Italian mainland. Six days later additional British forces landed in Taranto from warships. On the same day the U.S. Fifth Army hit the beaches of Salerno and soon engaged in a bitter struggle against a tenacious enemy.1

In southern Italy, the Allies found awaiting them not demoralized Italians but a well-equipped and determined German foe. Fighting alone at that point, the Germans had moved swiftly to occupy Rome, liberate an imprisoned Mussolini, disarm the Italian military forces, and occupy the entire country.

For the next seven months the British and American armies advanced slowly northward from their respective beachheads against a stubborn enemy fighting skillfully in mountainous terrain. Battles at the Volturno River and at the historic Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino together with an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Rapido River exacted a heavy toll on both opponents.

By the end of March 1944, the German armies between the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas below Rome had fought the Allies to a virtual stalemate. They were also containing a beachhead at Anzio, some thirty miles south of Rome, where Anglo-American troops under the U.S. VI Corps had come ashore in January 1944. With this


Map I
11 May 1944

beachhead and a modest bridgehead beyond the Garigliano River in hand, as well as a tenuous toehold on the slopes of Monte Cassino, Allied leaders believed they held the key that would open the way to Rome and central Italy.

The main Allied front stretched a hundred miles--from the Gulf of Gaeta on the Tyrrhenian Sea northeastward across the Apennines to the Adriatic. (Map I) The Central Apennines had thus far confined the campaign largely to the coastal flanks. In the wild, mountainous region in the center lies the Abruzzi National Park, a desolate wilderness with few roads and trails, defended only by weak and scattered German outposts. There small Allied detachments harassed the enemy and maintained contact between the widely separated main forces on the flanks.

Monte Cassino, keystone of the German defenses in the Liri valley, towered above the Rapido River at the threshold of the relatively broad valley of the Liri River, which led enticingly toward Rome. From mid-January to mid-March the U.S. Fifth Army had fought unsuccessfully to drive German paratroopers and infantrymen from the ruins of Cassino and from the rocky slopes of Monte Cassino itself. Near the Tyrrhenian coast the British 10 Corps had crossed the Garigliano River to establish an 8-mile bridgehead near Minturno.

In the Anzio beachhead the Allied troops in early March had brought the last German counterattacks to a halt along a front approximately thirty miles long--from the coast about twelve miles northeast of Anzio southward as far as the bank of the Mussolini Canal. The beachhead enclosed by that front extended at its deepest about fifteen miles from Anzio northeastward toward the German strongpoint of Cisterna, the distance along the coast being approximately twenty-two miles. Thus there were two fronts in Italy in the spring of 1944, and Rome, the objective that had eluded the Allies for seven hard months, seemed still beyond reach.

Allied Strategy

On 26 May 1943 the Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS), composed of the Chiefs of Staff of the British and the American military services, had instructed General Dwight D. Eisenhower, then Allied commander in the Mediterranean, to launch the major Allied assault against the Germans in northwestern France early in 1944. That strategic concept would dominate the over-all conduct of the Italian campaign from its Sicilian beginnings in July 1943 until the end of the war. Even before the Allies landed in Sicily, the Italian campaign had been allotted a secondary role. Diversion of enemy strength from the Russian front as well as from the expected decisive area of operations--the Channel coast--was the basic goal of Allied strategy in the Mediterranean. The campaign in Italy was envisioned mainly as a great holding action, although engaging and destroying German divisions as well as seizing air bases near Foggia in southern Italy for Allied use in bombing


Germany were important considerations.2

Few Allied strategists held any brief that the war could be won solely by a drive either through the length of Italy or into the Balkan peninsula. Yet some British leaders, notably Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill and General Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, sought to invest the Italian campaign with a larger role than did most of the Americans. Churchill envisioned an eventual Allied thrust into the mid-Danube basin, where centuries before his distinguished ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, had won lasting fame at Blenheim. A determined man, Churchill would long cling to this theory even when the weight of strategic argument and events moved against him.

From its inception, therefore, the Italian campaign played a larger role in the strategic and political aspects of British war planning than it did with American planning. Until the Allied landings in northwestern France in June 1944 much of British strategic thinking would be focused on Italy, the scene from September 1943 to June 1944 of the only active land campaign in western Europe. There was, moreover, an emotional factor involved with the British, a factor not shared by the Americans because it stemmed from Britain's immediate and distant past. When the British came ashore in southern Italy in September 1943, it was for them only partial compensation for their forced withdrawal from the Continent at Dunkerque more than three years before. Not since the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th century had British arms been driven so ingloriously from the mainland of Europe. For Americans only General Douglas MacArthur's flight from and ultimate return to the Philippines would have anywhere near a comparable emotional meaning.

During a top-level Anglo-American planning conference at Quebec in August 1943 (QUADRANT), the CCS had drawn up a blueprint for an Italian campaign. Operations in Italy were to be divided into three phases. The first was expected to culminate in the surrender of Italy and the establishment of Allied air bases in the vicinity of Rome. The second phase would be the capture of Sardinia and Corsica. The third called for the Allied armies to maintain pressure against the Germans in northern Italy to help create conditions favorable for both the cross-Channel invasion (OVERLORD) and the entry of Allied forces into southern France (later designated ANVIL, and still later DRAGOON).

During the months that the Allied armies battled their way to the line marked by the Garigliano, Rapido, and Sangro Rivers, British and American planning staffs in London and Washington continued a debate that would prove to be among their most acrimonious during the war and would affect


all planning for operations in Italy until late 1944. The basic issue was whether exploiting the Italian campaign to the Alps and possibly beyond (essentially the British position) or landing on the southern coast of France with a subsequent advance up the Rhone Valley (basically the American position) would best assist the main Allied enterprise: the cross-Channel invasion of northwestern France.

The question was debated at the SEXTANT-EUREKA Conference in Cairo and Teheran in November-December 1943. Although the conference yielded a victory for the American view that OVERLORD and ANVIL were to be the main Allied tasks for 1944, the British left Cairo convinced that the Americans had also agreed to turn Operation ANVIL into something more elastic that would not seriously affect the campaign under way in Italy.3

To the Americans the decisions made at Cairo and Teheran meant that, in addition to remaining a secondary operation (or even tertiary, considering ANVIL), the Italian campaign would also be governed by a limited objective strategy--attainment of the so-called Pisa-Rimini Line, a position considerably short of the Po Valley and the towering Julian and Karawanken Alps, toward which the British continued to direct their gaze and their hopes. The American view reflected a long-held conviction that the Allies should concentrate on driving along the most direct route into the heart of the Third Reich rather than on nibbling away at enemy forces with a series of peripheral operations of indeterminate length that could deflect Allied strength from the main thrust.

Yet, as is so often the case, the fortunes of battle would force modification of the carefully contrived international agreements. For when it appeared in late March that the Allied armies could not reach Rome before early June, the British and American high commands agreed that an ANVIL concurrent with OVERLORD was impracticable. The American Joint Chiefs of Staff reluctantly acknowledged that to open a new front--ANVIL--in the Mediterranean before the issue in Italy had been decided would be risky, difficult, and perhaps impossible. They also recognized the advantages of a strengthened OVERLORD. Those could be realized only at the expense of ANVIL. Bowing to the inevitable, the JCS on 24 March agreed to postpone ANVIL and to transfer from the Mediterranean to OVERLORD all the amphibious means beyond that required for a one-division lift. But the specter of ANVIL had not been effectively exorcized and would continue to haunt the planning staffs of the Allied armies' headquarters in Italy for months to come.

German Strategy

Controversy over strategy also afflicted the German High Command. A lengthy debate over whether to defend the Italian peninsula south of Rome along its narrowest part or along a more extended line in the Northern Apennines had finally been resolved by the German head of state, Adolf Hitler, in favor of the advocate of the first proposition, Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, a former General der


Flieger who had been promoted to the rank of field marshal in 1940 immediately after the armistice with France. Although Kesselring harbored no illusions about holding the Allies indefinitely below Rome, he reasoned that an Allied breakthrough south of Rome would be less disastrous than one in the Northern Apennines into the Po Valley and the agricultural and industrial heartland of Italy.4 Furthermore, strong German forces in Central Italy might discourage or thwart an Allied amphibious operation across the Adriatic and into the Balkans, from which the Germans drew critical supplies of raw materials for their industry. These forces would also keep Allied air bases in Italy farther away from Germany.

The Germans would adhere to the decision to hold the front south of Rome as long as militarily possible. Not even the establishment of the Anzio beachhead and the failure of the Germans to drive the Allies back into the sea prompted Hitler or Kesselring to change this strategy, even though the beachhead seriously threatened the Germans' defensive lines across the waist of the peninsula farther south.

As the first signs of spring came to Italy in 1944, few on the German side could deny that the high tide of German arms had already started to ebb, but Adolf Hitler refused to read the portents.


Still in possession of most of the European continent, he firmly resolved to defend it, even though he knew that the Allies had yet to commit the bulk of their forces. German armies were not only to defend the interior of Fortress Europe, but also all its outlying peninsulas and islands.

Given Hitler's resolve, the Armed Forces Operation Staff (Wehrmachtfuehrungsstab, WFSt) had little choice but to accept the German situation early in 1944 as one of strategic defense along interior lines but without the advantages that normally stem from interior lines. The numerous unengaged Allied forces in the Mediterranean, the Near and Far East, Africa, the United Kingdom, Iceland, and the United States could be, the Germans believed, committed at any time against the periphery


of Europe and forced the Germans to keep reserves spread thinly over the entire Continent.5

Competition for reinforcements among the various theaters of operations, particularly from the German Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH) for new divisions to stem the advance of the Red Army on the Eastern Front, came to a head about 1 April 1944. Hitler reacted by directing the Armed Forces High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, OKW) to prepare a study showing the location, strength, mobility, organization, and composition of all German military forces. The study disclosed that the western theaters had a total of twenty-one divisions sufficiently trained and equipped to fight in the east. Of these, twenty were already committed on the various defensive fronts and twenty-one were being held in general reserve behind the invasion-threatened northwest coastal regions of Europe. No economy of force could be achieved by a general retirement elsewhere or by evacuating offshore positions, since such movements would involve establishing long and more vulnerable land fronts that would require even larger defensive forces.6

The Germans clearly had no alternative to a wholly defensive strategy throughout 1944. Only by practicing the utmost economy could the German command manage to husband forces that could be shifted from one theater to another in case of unexpected emergencies. The Wehrmachtfuehrungsstab (WFSt) realized that Germany had to pin its hopes on the accomplishment of a more formidable objective: "While stubbornly defending every foot of ground in the East, we must beat off the impending invasion in the West as well as all possible secondary landings in other theaters. Then, with the forces released by this victory, we can recover the initiative and force a decision in the war."7 This was a rational strategy but given Hitler's decision to attempt to defend Italy south of Rome, a strategy unlikely to succeed.

Allied Command and Organization

When General Dwight D. Eisenhower left the Mediterranean Theater in December 1943 to become Allied commander in northwestern Europe, General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson assumed command of Allied Forces in the theater. Experience in the diplomatic and military fields as Middle East commander made Wilson an excellent choice for a theater with troops of many nationalities and where delicate relationships with several neutral nations were involved. For example, the British Chiefs of Staff had hopes of eventually bringing Turkey into the war, but it was important to keep Axis-oriented Spain out of it. There were


also partisan movements to be sustained in the Balkans.

Wilson's deputy was Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, the senior American officer who also served as Commanding General, North African Theater of Operations, U.S. Army (NATOUSA), later changed to Mediterranean Theater (MTOUSA). Maj. Gen. Thomas B. Larkin was Commander of Services of Supply, MTOUSA, and responsible for the logistical services to the U.S. Army elements in the theater, while logistical support of the British forces in Italy was the responsibility of Allied Armies in Italy (AAI) headquarters. British logistical functions in rear areas were exercised by Headquarters, North African District. Both Allied logistical systems furnished support for the various national contingents under Allied command in the theater.

In over-all command of the Allied ground forces in Italy was General Sir Harold R. L. G. Alexander, whose conduct of the British retreat in Burma had led Prime Minister Churchill, after Alexander's return from the Far East, to make him Commander in Chief of the British forces in the Near East. During the Allied campaign in Tunisia, in 1943, Alexander had become Eisenhower's deputy.8

The British contingent of the AAI, the Eighth Army, was commanded by Lt. Gen. Sir Oliver Leese, who early in World War II served with distinction as head of the British 30 Corps in the


North African campaign. In sharp contrast to General Leese's outwardly casual manner was the vigor and intensity of Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark, who since January 1943 had led the American contingent, the U.S. Fifth Army. Clark enjoyed the unique opportunity of having organized and trained the army he commanded through many months of combat. A former instructor at the Army War College, Clark had served as Chief of Staff of the Army Ground Forces. In June 1942 he went to England to command the U.S. II Corps, and the next month he took command of the U.S. Army Ground Forces in the European Theater of Operations. He left that post in October to become Deputy Commander, Allied Forces in North Africa, under Eisenhower.

General Clark's chief of staff Maj. Gen. Alfred M. Gruenther, had come to London in August 1942 as deputy to Eisenhower's own chief of staff, Maj.



Gen. Walter Bedell Smith. Gruenther continued to hold that position when Eisenhower moved to North Africa. In January 1943 at Clark's request he was assigned to head the Fifth Army staff. As his operations officer, Clark had picked a close friend and long-time associate, Col. Donald W. Brann, formerly


chief of staff of the 95th Infantry Division.

Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, a former commander of the Eighth U.S. Air Force in the United Kingdom, was Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (MAAF). British Air Marshal Sir John Slessor was his deputy and commander of all British air formations in the theater.9

For operations, Eaker's forces were divided into three Anglo-American commands: the Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Forces (MATAF), under Maj. Gen. John K. Cannon, who also commanded the U.S. Twelfth Air Force; the Mediterranean Allied Coastal Air Force (MACAF), under Air Vice Marshal Sir Hugh P. Lloyd; and the Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air Force (MASAF), under Maj. Gen. Nathan F. Twining, who also commanded the U.S. Fifteenth Air Force. General Cannon's tactical command comprised the U.S. Twelfth Air Force (less elements assigned to the MACAF) and the British Desert Air Force (DAF). Eaker's operational control of the MASAF was limited in that Twining's primary operational responsibility lay with the U.S. Strategic Air Force, based in England under the command of Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz. Allied naval forces in the Mediterranean theater remained throughout the campaign under the command of Admiral Sir John Cunningham with the senior American naval officer being Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, also the commander of the U.S. Eighth Fleet.

Once primary American attention and resources shifted to the cross-Channel attack, and the Mediterranean theater


came under a British commander in January 1944, the CCS placed the theater under the executive direction of the British Chiefs of Staff. Thus General Wilson was responsible to the Combined Chiefs through the British Chiefs of Staff, an arrangement that would give the British Prime Minister greater opportunity to intervene in the shaping of strategy for the theater.

The Germans

In May 1944 all German-occupied territory in central Italy was nominally under the control of Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring. His appointment as Commander in Chief, Southwest (Oberbefehlshaber, Suedwest), had been an attempt to create a joint command


similar to those in other theaters controlled by the Armed Forces High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, OKW). Kesselring was responsible to the OKW through the Armed Forces Operation Staff (Wehrmachtfuehrungsstab, WFSt) for operations and nominally had full tactical authority over all units of the Army, Navy, Luftwaffe, and Waffen-SS in Italy. The Naval Command, Italy and the Luftflotte II, senior naval and air commands in the theater, were not, however, unequivocally under Kesselring's command and remained directly subordinate to their service chiefs in Germany. Only in the event of "imminent danger" to the strategic situation would Kesselring's orders be binding on these two commands, and in such an event Kesselring was to keep the naval and Luftwaffe headquarters in Germany constantly informed of his actions.10 Actually, Kesselring's prestige as the senior Luftwaffe officer in Italy and his close personal relations with the naval commander, Vice Adm. Wilhelm Meendsen-Bohlken, enabled the field marshal to secure the full support of both headquarters without ever having to invoke his powers under the "imminent danger" clause.11

Kesselring's other title, commander of Army Group C, provided him with command over a conventional entity in the administration, training, and supply hierarchy of the German Army. In this capacity he reported directly to the Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH).12

In the spring of 1944 Kesselring had under his over-all command the Tenth Army, at the main front, led by Generaloberst Heinrich Gottfried von Vietinghoff, genannt Scheel, and at Anzio the Fourteenth Army under Generaloberst Eberhard von Mackensen, and the provisional Armee Abteilung von Zangen, a rear-area catchall organization in northern Italy built around the LXXVII Corps headquarters and named for its commander, General der Infanterie Gustav von Zangen. Its unconventional composition sprang from a dual function as a reservoir for replacements and theater reserves and as the responsible agency in its sector for coast-watching, construction of rear area defenses, and antipartisan warfare.

As with any drama, whether historical or theatrical, the setting is one of the key elements in its development. For over two millennia Italy's boot-shaped peninsula has provided a colorful and challenging stage for historical drama. The peninsula's uniqueness lies partly in the variety and challenging


nature of terrain surpassing anything the Allied armies would encounter in northwestern Europe during World War II.

When staff officers at Allied Mediterranean headquarters studied the maps of Italy, they noted, as had other commanders since Hannibal's day, that the peninsula's most striking geographic feature is the high, rugged Apennine mountain chain which divides the country into three rather clearly defined compartments--the eastern coastal plain, the central mountain region, and the western coastal plain.

The eastern coastal region is a narrow, largely treeless plain bordering the Adriatic Sea and extending northward approximately 200 miles from the Gargano peninsula, the spur of the Italian boot, to the Po Valley. In the summer the entire region is dry and dusty, and in winter frequent rains turn much of it into a vast quagmire. The coast is generally low and sandy, fringed by lagoons and backed by the narrow plains from which rise deeply scarred hills. Along the plain run only one main highway and one railroad, as well as a negligible number of fair secondary roads. From the plain a series of flat-top ridges extend westward into the Central Apennines. These ridges are separated by numerous streams flowing through narrow, steep-sided alluvial valleys that cut across the Allies' projected axis of advance. This configuration would make large-scale deployment of tracked and wheeled vehicles off the roads almost impossible, and was only one of several drawbacks that had eliminated the east coast from consideration by Allied planners as the major area of effort for the spring offensive.

The Central Appenines, which by their size and sharply folded structure largely determine the shape and form the backbone of the peninsula, consist of numerous parallel ridges alternating with flat-bottomed valleys, all running in a northwest-southeasterly direction. The upper courses of the Tiber and Arno Rivers flow through the broad, alluvial valleys parallel to these ridges before cutting narrow canyons through the mountains and turning westward to the sea. The ridges are not continuous but are interrupted by deep transverse water gaps and by prominent saddles several thousand feet below crest elevation. In the Central Apennines the highest point is the Gran Sasso d'Italia (9,583 feet high). Southward the peaks gradually decrease to approximately 3,000 feet in the vicinity of Benevento, about thirty miles northeast of Naples. The lower slopes of the mountains are usually terraced and planted with vineyards and with citrus and olive groves, while the upper slopes generally support a thin cover of evergreen or scrub oak.

Within this central mountain region rugged heights and deep ravines severely restrict cross-country movement. As with the east coast corridor, only one railroad and one highway run through the area, thus presenting a formidable obstacle to east-west movement of any military significance. South of a line running from Rome northeast to Pescara, four good roads enter the mountains from the east, but only two continue on to the western half of the country. Furthermore, all roads are flanked by high, rugged terrain and can easily be blocked by demolitions or defended by small forces. Narrow and


tortuous with very steep gradients, the roads are frequently blocked by landslides during the rainy season and in winter by snow. North of the Rome-Pescara line, roads crossing the Apennines are more frequent, but they cross even higher passes and from mid-December to mid-March are often blocked by heavy snows. Military operations in this region would require units well trained in mountain warfare, which were in short supply among the Allied forces in Italy.

The grim logic of the inhospitable terrain left Allied commanders little choice in their selection of sites for major military operations--the peninsula's western half, including the Liri valley and the coastal plain. Although the western coastal plain shares many of the disadvantages of the other regions, from the Allied point of view it was the most favorable of the three, for its long, exposed left flank could easily be turned by Allied sea power. The plain extends northwestward 100 miles from the mouth of the Garigliano River to San Severo, a small port about twenty miles west of Rome. Less than a mile wide at its northern and southern extremities, the plain broadens to a maximum of eight miles along the lower Tiber. At the foot of the Alban Hills just south of Rome lie the Pontine Marshes. Crisscrossed with drainage ditches and irrigation canals, the region, although seeming to offer a favorable maneuver area for military forces, was actually quite unfavorable for the deployment of wheeled or tracked vehicles on a wide front. South of the marshes to the lower reaches of the Garigliano River, the coastal plain resembles the 20-mile stretch northwest of Rome in that it offers more favorable terrain for the deployment of armored formations than do the Pontine Marshes.

Another major geographic feature of the region west of the Central Apennines is the Liri valley, which also offers a favorable route into central Italy and Rome. The gateway to this valley, leading through the mountains southeast of Rome, lies at the junction of the Liri and the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers. In 1944 the Germans had closed this gateway with a series of formidable defensive positions across the Liri valley and anchored on both flanks by two great mountain bastions, Monte Majo and Monte Cassino. Located south of the valley, Monte Majo rises to approximately 3,000 feet and sends steep-sided spurs into the Liri valley. To the north the vast bulk of the Monte Cairo massif, southernmost peak of a great spur of the Central Apennines, towers to a height of 5,000 feet. From the summit of this mountain a ridge thrusts southwestward, terminating abruptly in Monte Cassino. The Allied commander in Italy, General Alexander, had long believed Monte Cassino to be the key to the gateway leading into the Liri valley. Before this gateway, like a moat beneath a castle wall, flows the Rapido. Throughout the winter of 1943-44 the U.S. Fifth Army had tried in vain to blast open this gate. Now once again Alexander turned his attention toward a new strategic concept which this time he hoped would lead the Allies into the Liri valley and place them irresistibly on the road to Rome.

Rome, the immediate objective of the Allied armies in Italy, lies in a gap carved through a range of hills that


separate the upper Tiber basin from the sea. North of the city rise the Sabatini Mountains; south of it, the Alban Hills. This was the region of Latium, cradle of the ancient Roman republic.

The western half of the peninsula is also well served by a network of good roads, particularly in the vicinity of Rome, to which, for many centuries, all roads in Italy have led. In the coastal corridor the roads cross numerous stream beds, many of which are either dry or easily forded during the summer, but in winter and early spring often become raging torrents. Elsewhere the roads frequently pass through narrow defiles, providing ideal sites for demolitions and mines, something at which the Germans were particularly adept.

In this region numerous villages nestled in the valleys, sprawled along the main roads, or perched like miniature fortresses on the hilltops. Solidly built of native stone, the latter villages provided excellent observation points as well as cover for troops.

The mountainous terrain, the narrow, twisting roads, the intensively cultivated plains and valleys all combined to compartmentalize the countryside and relegate armor largely to the role of self-propelled artillery in support of the infantry. Already in the advance to the banks of the Sangro and Rapido Rivers the Allies had experienced, but not yet fully mastered, the difficulties peculiar to fighting over this kind of terrain. The greatest problem was searching out a skillfully camouflaged enemy, who frequently withheld his fire until the last moment. Whereas the attacker might readily ascertain that an orange grove or vineyard harbored enemy troops, it was generally impossible to determine their exact location and strength without actually entering the area and risking heavy losses. After several costly encounters, the Allies had adopted the tactic of backing off and battering the suspected area with artillery or mortar fire before moving in to mop up, yet this was slow and costly in terms of matériel. Since deployment off the roads was often difficult and frequently impossible, and since the enemy used demolitions, mines, and ambush cunningly, the tactical problem of keeping losses to a minimum while advancing along the roads would be one of the most difficult and persistent encountered by the Allied forces throughout the entire campaign.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (Foreword/Preface) * Next Chapter (2)


1. For details concerning this and the following periods see Albert N. Garland and Howard M. Smyth, Sicily and the Surrender of Italy (Washington, 1965), and Martin Blumenson, Salerno to Cassino (Washington, 1968), both volumes in the UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II series.

2. Unless otherwise indicated, the discussion on Allied strategy is based upon the following publications: Field Marshal, the Viscount Alexander of Tunis, Despatch, 19 Apr 47, published as "The Allied Armies in Italy from 3 September 1943, to 12 December 1944," in the Supplement to The London Gazette of 6 June 1950 (hereafter cited as Alexander Despatch); Maurice Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-44, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1959); and John Ehrman, "History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Series," Vols. V and VI, Grand Strategy (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1956).

3. Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-44, pp. 378-387. See also Arthur Bryant, Triumph in the West (New York: Doubleday, 1959), p. 77.

4. Italian industry, centered largely in the north, in mid-June 1944 accounted for about 15 percent of the total German-controlled armaments output. See the following Foreign Military Studies, prepared by former German officers from 1945-54: Production after September 1943, MS # D-003; Activities of German Chief of Military Economy in Italy, 1941-45, MS # D-029; German Use of Italian Munitions Industry, MS # D-015. Filed in Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Service.

5. Information in this section, unless otherwise noted, is based upon Oberkommando der Wehrmachtfuehrungsstab, Kriegstagebuch (OKW/WFSt, KTB), Ausarbeitung, die OKW-Kriegsschauplaetze im Rahrnen der Gesamtkriegsfuehrung, 1.I-31.III.44, vols. IV(1), IV(2), edited by Helmuth Greiner and Percy Ernst Schramm (Frankfurt a/Main: Bernard and Graefe, 1961), (hereafter cited as Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB).

6. Ibid., pp. 56-57. According to General Walter Warlimont, deputy chief of the OKW operations staff, distribution of this study was canceled for security reasons.

7. Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, pp. 56-57.

8. Alexander had commanded the British 18th Army Group in North Africa, 18 Feb 43-15 May 43. On Sicily and in Italy his headquarters was known as 15th Army Group, 10 Jul 43-11 Jan 44; Allied Forces in Italy, 11-18 Jan 44; Allied Central Mediterranean Force, 18 Jan-9 Mar 44; and Allied Armies in Italy (AAI), 9 Mar-12 Dec 44.

9. History AFHQ, Part III, pp. 652-53.

10. The order containing Kesselring's appointment as Commander in Chief, Southwest, and the delineation of his authority, dated 6 November 1943, may be found in English translation in ONI. Fueher Directives, 1943-45, p. 103.

11. MS # C-064 (Kesselring), p. 35.

12. OKW was, in certain respects, nominally superior to the three branch high commands: Army, Luftwaffe, and Navy. The OKW was responsible through its chief, Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel, to Adolf Hitler in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the German Armed Forces. During the period covered by this volume, however, Hitler also held the position of Commander in Chief of the Army. Staff functions affecting military operations were, moreover, divided horizontally and geographically between the OKW and the nominally lower-level OKH. Concerning Italy, for example, the chief of the WFSt of OKW, rather than the chief of staff of OKH, was Hitler's chief adviser for operations. See MSS #'s T-101 (Winter et al.), The German Armed Forces High Command, and T-111 (Halder et al.), The German High Command, both in CMH.

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