The Fall of Rome
The German High Command realized only too well that the fall of Rome would have repercussions far beyond the Italian theater of war, and that Allied propaganda would take full advantage of the capture of the first of the Axis capitals. From the Allied point of view, a better prelude to the imminent invasion of France could scarcely have been desired. The Germans had only two choices: to evacuate Rome or to defend it street by street and house by house. The latter course would gain Kesselring a little time but would leave the city in ruins and invoke the certain condemnation of all Christendom.1
Since October 1943 the OKW planning staff had been considering alternately the possibility of either declaring Rome an open city, in the event of an Allied landing near the mouth of the Tiber, or of withdrawing the front to the environs of the city and thereby risking its destruction. On instructions from the OKW chief of staff, the subject had been placed in abeyance that winter, since Hitler had ordered the Bernhard Line in southern Italy held under all circumstances. In any case, the High Command believed that if the Allies landed near Rome, the local commanders would have to be governed by military necessity.
As for the concept of Rome as an open city, the only concession OKW was then prepared to make was to order that all monuments of historical or artistic value, as well as occupied hospitals, be spared destruction. Simultaneously, the High Command agreed to respect the Vatican's sovereignty and to place its territory off limits to all German military personnel.
When the Allies landed at Anzio in January 1944 the question of Rome's status, should the front approach the city, again became urgent. On 4 February Field Marshal Kesselring submitted to the OKW a list of measures to be accomplished in the event he had to give up the city. The army group commander recommended demolition of all bridges across the Tiber, all major electrical installations (except those required by the Vatican City), and all industrial and rail facilities outside the city (except those having no military role and serving only the civilian population). Within the city, Kesselring proposed demolition only of those industrial installations whose destruction could be accomplished without damage to neighboring structures. After clearing the matter with the German Foreign Minister, OKW approved Kesselring's recommendations, but with Hitler's own proviso forbidding destruction of the Tiber bridges within the city, for many of them had considerable historical and artistic merit.
On 11 March in a note verbale for
the German Ambassador to the Holy See, the Vatican reminded the Germans of their earlier assurances to spare from the ravages of war the Vatican City and Rome's famed monuments. The immediate effect of these representations was a 13 March order by the Fourteenth Army, in whose zone of responsibility Rome lay, directing all military personnel, except medical detachments and quartermaster, butcher, and bakery units, to leave the city. German soldiers could enter Rome only with special passes, and the Vatican City, including St. Peter's Church, was placed off limits. All military convoys were forthwith to be detoured around Rome. The German command hoped by these measures to remove all legitimate military targets from Rome and thereby give it the status of an open city within the meaning of the Hague Convention.
The next move came from the Allied side with a public statement by President Roosevelt on 19 April, in response to a message from President de Valera of neutral Ireland, requesting an Allied guarantee for the protection of the city of Rome. Roosevelt shrewdly observed in his reply that only the fact that Rome was in German hands had caused the question to be raised in the first place. Once the Germans had left Rome there would be no problem, for the Allies could easily guarantee its safety. The fate of Rome, Roosevelt concluded, therefore lay in German, not in Allied, hands. This equivocal reply left Rome's status still in doubt and the Allies free to take whatever action the military situation demanded.2
There the matter rested until after the Allied offensive had begun in mid-May. On 15 May the U.S. Department of State queried General Wilson, Allied Forces Commander, Mediterranean, on whether to declare Rome an open city, subject to reservation of transit rights for both belligerents.3 Wilson replied with a firm negative. The Allied commander, echoing Roosevelt's earlier statement, pointed out that at this stage of the war, when German airpower was waning, such a declaration could be of advantage only to the enemy, since only the Allies were in a position to attack Rome. After they had captured the city they would have adequate means of defending it. Rome offered facilities essential to the continuation of the campaign beyond the Tiber, and Wilson was determined not to allow his hands to be tied by any declaration respecting the use of these facilities. The British chiefs of staff agreed with Wilson's position and added that military necessity alone must govern Allied policy toward Rome. If the Germans chose to defend the city, the Allies would "take appropriate measures to eject them."4
Although unwilling to commit themselves, the Allies had frequently assured Vatican authorities that the City State would "be accorded the normal rights of a neutral and [would] be treated as an independent neutral state."5 Vatican property outside the city state would be given the same diplomatic immunity
accorded to Vatican authorities. Yet the Allied note contained an important qualification: during the forthcoming drive on Rome the diplomatic immunity of Vatican property would "not be allowed to interfere with military operations," a principle that had governed Allied operations at Monte Cassino, with ruinous consequences for the ancient monastery. The Holy See could take slight comfort in these assurances.6
Since these instructions, however, closely paralleled those that OKW had already given Kesselring, the Vatican City at least had statements from both sides that its neutrality would be respected, if at all possible. How effective these assurances would be if all Rome were to become a battleground continued to trouble Vatican authorities, for as long as Rome's status depended upon "military necessity" there was little real security for the Vatican itself.
Not until 3 June, when advance detachments of the U.S. Fifth Army drew within sight of Rome, did OKW authorize Kesselring to approach the Allies through the Vatican in an effort to obtain a joint agreement on declaring Rome an open city. This was in response to the field marshal's recommendations that, except for necessary services, there were under no circumstances to be military installations, troop billets, or troop movements within the city. There would be no demolitions, and electricity and water supply facilities would be maintained intact after the surrender of those still in German hands. Vatican authorities would be responsible for seeing that these measures were carried out and for arranging direct contacts between officers of the two belligerents to work out the final details for declaring Rome an open city. If the Allies failed to respond to German overtures, Kesselring was free to act according to military necessity.
The AAI headquarters not only ignored these overtures but via Allied radio called upon Romans to rise and join the battle to drive the Germans from Rome. By this time the call was both pointless and rash, since within the city only isolated German units were desperately trying to reach the far bank of the Tiber before the Americans. Any attempt on the part of the civilian population to interfere might have led to destructive street fighting.7
On the heels of this radio appeal General Clark sent a message to his commanders repeating earlier Allied statements that if the Germans did not attempt to defend Rome there would be no combat within the city. The Fifth Army commander also declared that it was his "most urgent desire that Fifth Army troops protect both public and private property in the city of Rome." While every effort was to be made to prevent Allied troops from firing into the city, "the deciding factor would be the enemy's dispositions and actions." If the Germans opposed "our advance by dispositions and fires that necessitate Fifth Army troops firing into the city of Rome, battalion commanders, and all higher commanders [were] authorized to take appropriate action without delay to defeat the opposing enemy elements by fire and movement."8
It was now the Germans' turn to make a unilateral declaration, as had the Belgian and French authorities four years earlier when the battlefronts threatened to overwhelm their capitals, that Rome was an open city within the meaning of the first category implied in the Hague Convention. The Allied command had left them little choice--either fight or get out. Since Rome lay within the zone of military operations, such a declaration amounted, as in the case of Brussels and Paris, to an "anticipatory surrender" of the city. Therefore, on the afternoon of 3 June the OKW instructed Kesselring to hold his front south and southeast of Rome only long enough to permit evacuation of the city's environs and withdrawal of the Fourteenth Army beyond the Tiber, which flows through Rome from north to south. Thereafter, he was authorized to withdraw the army north of Rome and west of the Tiber to the next favorable defense line.9 That night Army Group C headquarters issued orders for the evacuation of Rome and the re-establishment of a new line north of the city and extending east and west astride the valley of the Tiber.
The Race for Rome
By daybreak on 3 June, both the II and the VI Corps were on the move. During the day the II Corps' left wing, made up of the 85th Division, with the 337th Infantry on the right and the 339th on the left, crossed the northeastern flanks of the Alban Hills toward Frascati, Kesselring's former headquarters. The 337th Infantry led the way, passing north of Rocca Priora and taking first Monte Compatri, shortly thereafter, Monte Porzio Catone. After a brief skirmish on the slopes of Monte Compatri, the regiment counted thirty-eight prisoners who had been pressed into combat duty from the German Army cooks and bakers school near Rome. Darkness found the regiment descending the northern slopes of the Alban Hills into Frascati, and the prisoners heading toward the army's cages at Anzio.
In the corps' center, Company A of the 81st Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, followed by tanks of Howze's task force, led the 88th Division's advance along Highway 6 at a five- to seven-mile-an-hour pace. Hard-pressed to keep up, the infantry pulled abreast of the armor only after well-concealed enemy antitank guns opened fire on the tanks just beyond Colonna, a railway station about three miles west of San Cesareo. The tanks huddled in defilade until the infantry deployed and joined them in a co-ordinated assault on the enemy's hastily occupied positions. In the face of the American tank-infantry attack the Germans soon abandoned their guns and fell back along the highway toward the suburbs of Rome. Throughout the afternoon the 88th Division encountered gradually increasing opposition from similar rear guard detachments covering the enemy withdrawal.10
By the end of the day the II Corps' two leading divisions had scored impressive gains: south of Highway 6 the 85th Division had pushed back the
enemy rear guard five miles to the line of Monte Compatri-Colonna, while to the north of the highway the 88th Division, after brushing aside a small delaying force south of Zagarolo, located on a secondary road just west of Palestrina, had advanced halfway to the village of Pallavincini, seven miles west of Palestrina.
This setback in the vicinity of Zagarolo was especially worrisome to Field Marshal Kesselring, for, although he had already reconciled himself to the loss of Rome, he was still intent on extricating his forces located southeast of the city. The crossings of the Aniene River between Rome and Tivoli, rather than the city of Rome, was their best escape route, and to control these crossings he needed to delay the Allied forces between Palestrina and Zagarolo long enough to enable his forces to reach the Aniene first. To this end Kesselring diverted an assault gun battalion that Mackensen had ordered to Colonna on Highway 6 and sent it instead northward toward the vicinity of Zagarolo.11
During the day Allied aerial reconnaissance had reported considerable traffic streaming out of the Alban Hills in a northerly direction, apparently toward the crossings of the Aniene. The night before, the Fourteenth Army commander had ordered General Schlemm, commander of the I Parachute Corps, to withdraw the 11th Parachute Regiment and the main body of the 4th Parachute Division's artillery from the army's right wing to the left where they were to cover the withdrawal to the Aniene. By 0920 on 3 June one battalion of the parachute regiment had reached a road junction on the Via Tuscolana three miles northwest of Frascati, and a second took up positions at Due Torri, five miles west of a planned blocking point at Osteria Finocchio, until then held only by a detachment from the 29th Field Replacement Battalion and sixty men from the 715th Division. But this force was all that Mackensen had with which to cover that sector. Three additional reserve battalions were too far away to be of much help: one, a battalion of the 334th Division, lay thirteen miles north of Tivoli; a second, a long delayed battalion of the Hermann Goering Division, still lay at Sutri, twenty miles north of Rome; and a third, the 26th Panzer Division's replacement battalion, was equally far to the rear. Nor was the Tenth Army in a position to send reinforcements to Mackensen's aid. Its 90th Panzer Grenadier Division, with which Kesselring had expected to shore up the Fourteenth Army's left wing, had been thrown off balance by Allied artillery fire after the division's arrival in the vicinity of Genazzano, five miles northeast of Valmontone. The division had, therefore, no choice but to remain on the defensive where it was and to concentrate on delaying the French corps' attack southeast of Cave. To make matters worse, Tenth Army had lost all contact with the division that afternoon and had only the vaguest details concerning the situation on its own right flank between Palestrina and Genazzano.
As darkness fell on 3 June, Field Marshal Kesselring, after studying the reports from his army commanders,
decided that only bold measures could save the Fourteenth Army's left wing from a collapse that would open up the way to the Aniene River crossings between Rome and Tivoli. The army group commander, therefore, directed the Tenth Army's acting commander, General Wentzell, to turn his reserve division (the 15th Panzer Grenadier) over to General Mackensen for use on the LXXVI Panzer Corps' sector. Kesselring hoped thereby to keep that wing strong enough to cover the corps' withdrawal northward from the Alban Hills to the Aniene and to prevent envelopment of the Tenth Army's right flank.12
Actually, because of General Clark's concentration on the capture of Rome Field Marshal Kesselring's fears were groundless. In contrast with his earlier concern for the enemy-occupied high ground overlooking his left flank as the VI Corps advanced toward Valmontone, this time the Fifth Army commander chose to ignore temporarily the Germans in the hills north of Highway 6 as the II Corps moved along the highway toward Rome. To be sure, as quickly as possible Clark would move the French Corps up onto the II Corps' right flank as the latter wheeled left astride the axis of Highway 6 after capturing Palestrina and Zagarolo. Therefore, Juin's troops would provide a covering force to Keyes' long right flank as it passed south of the Aniene River.
Consequently, during the night of 3 June, with the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division providing a shield, General Mackensen managed to extricate Herr's LXXVI Panzer Corps as well as much of Schlemm's I Parachute Corps from entrapment southeast of Rome. The battered 362d Infantry Division, meanwhile, by means of a series of hard-fought rear-guard actions, covered the withdrawal of the remainder of the Fourteenth Army through the Alban Hills and beyond the Tiber.
While the II Corps' sweep astride Highway 6 north of the Alban Hills seemed to Clark's eyes most promising and to Kesselring's most threatening, the VI Corps had also begun to move directly into the Alban Hills. The 36th Infantry Division and the 1st Armored Division were to lead the way toward Rome itself. Early on 3 June Harmon's armor assembled along the Via Anziate behind the 45th Division and prepared to pass through its ranks when the infantry division should reach the vicinity of Albano that evening. The 36th Division, on the corps' right, had moved beyond Velletri by noon to take first the village of Nemi and then to advance to the northwest as far as a road junction just east of Lake Albano. Nightfall found both the 1st Armored and the 36th Infantry Divisions bivouacked close by Albano and prepared to continue their advance toward Rome the following morning--the armored division along Highway 7 and the infantry division along the Via Tuscolano by way of Frascati. Meanwhile, the 34th Division, in the corps' center, had moved along a secondary road south of and parallel to Highway 7 beyond Lanuvio to a sector south of Albano, where the division would remain until after the fall of Rome. On the corps' far left flank the British 1st and 5th Divisions followed up the enemy withdrawal west of Ardea with instructions
to advance only as far as the near bank of the Tiber southwest of Rome.13
Echeloned considerably to the Fifth Army's right in the upper reaches of the Sacco-Liri valley, the British Eighth Army prepared early on 3 June to launch a final attack aimed at driving the enemy beyond the Aniene and into the Umbrian highlands east of the Tiber. That this could be quickly accomplished seemed reasonable, for between Highway 6 and the Subiaco road all that stood in the path of the army's 1st Canadian and British 13 Corps were the 26th Panzer and 305th Infantry Divisions. These divisions, considerably understrength, held the XIV Panzer Corps' center and left along an east-west line extending from a point four miles west of Acuto along the Trivigliano-Genazzano road to a point one mile beyond the Subiaco road--actually the area between Highway 6 and the Subiaco road. Yet two days would pass before the Eighth Army would reach the Aniene east of Rome and pull abreast of its neighbor on the left. Caution and traffic congestion caused by the presence of two armored divisions and their numerous trains of vehicles, as well as a skillfully executed retreat on the part of General von Senger and Etterlin's XIV Panzer Corps, accounted for much of the delay.14
Even as the U.S. Fifth Army's II and VI Corps began to close in on Rome, the Eighth Army's 1st Canadian Corps, after replacing the 1st Canadian Infantry Division with the 6th South African Armoured Division, attacked the 26th Panzer Division's positions between Paliano and Acuto. But the Germans managed to delay the armored division behind a screen of well-placed mines and demolitions long enough to break contact and slip away in the darkness. And the British 13 Corps on the Canadian's right did no better in closing with and overwhelming the enemy. In that corps too an armored division--the British 6th Armoured--had been moved into the van to begin a pursuit, since the Germans were believed to be on the point of breaking and running for it. With two brigades--the 1st Guards and the 61st--forward, the British 6th Armoured Division advanced north and west of Alatri, forcing back the enemy's outpost line. But here too enemy rear guards and demolitions caused frequent delays which allowed the Germans to escape through the mountains to the northwest. The next morning 4 June--the British 13 Corps entered Trivigliano unopposed. At the same time, the 10th Rifle Brigade cleared Monte Justo, about half a mile to the east, while the 6th Armoured Division advanced four miles northwest of Alatri without making contact with the Germans.
The Central Apennines against which both Churchill and Alexander had hoped to pin the German Tenth Army, or at least a large part of it, were, in fact, not the seemingly impenetrable barriers they appeared to be on the map. Actually, through these mountains ran numerous roads and tracks over which an army could readily move and, at the same time, easily block with
modest rearguards. When combined with the Eighth Army's cautious advance, this geographic fact and the Germans' skillfull exploitation of it enabled the XIV Panzer Corps, on the Tenth Army's right wing to elude entrapment in the upper Liri-Sacco valley. During the past five days the corps' engineers had kept the Subiaco road open, despite efforts of Allied bombers to close it. Allied aircraft had forced the Germans to limit their activities, including road marches, to the hours of darkness, yet the entire XIV Panzer Corps had managed to break contact and reach the Aniene River in the vicinity of Tivoli well ahead of the British Eighth Army.15
Earlier, on 3 June, many miles of winding mountain roads and an elusive enemy still separated the British Eighth Army from its goal; on the other hand, the U.S. Fifth Army was almost within sight of its objective. With every passing hour the troops encountered a growing number of signs indicating that the city of Rome was not far away. During the day familiar characteristics of a large metropolitan area--a growing density of housing and an urban road and rail network--had greeted the advancing Americans, and from occasional high points the troops could see a hazy panorama that they guessed was the city of Rome itself. All of these signs and sights fueled a mounting anticipation. When the reconnaissance patrols from the 88th Division caught their first glimpse of the Roman skyline, a wave of excitement soon pervaded the entire Fifth Army. That afternoon General Gruenther observed:
The CP has gone to hell. No one is doing any work here this afternoon. All semblance of discipline has broken down. Although the G-3 War Room purposely shows only a moderately conservative picture, every pilot, everyone in fact who has come from Anzio since 1000 this morning, has brought back a pair of pants full of ants with the result that this unsuppressible wave of optimism and expectancy has swept through the headquarters.16
Perhaps because of Ultra's decipherment of messages between OKW and Kesselring's headquarters that Rome would not be defended, Clark realized that its fall was now only hours away. Concerned that the Germans might demolish the Tiber bridges, General Clark saw his major tactical problem as that of securing these bridges intact to enable his army to pass through Rome without pause in pursuit of the enemy. The Fifth Army commander therefore ordered the II and VI Corps commanders to form mobile task forces to make the dash into the city to secure the river crossings before the enemy had an opportunity to destroy them.17
Clark's concern for the bridges was groundless, for a few hours earlier Hitler had instructed Kesselring to leave the bridges intact as the Germans withdrew north of the city. Even as small detachments of Germans fought on in the southern suburbs, the Fuehrer had declared that Rome " . . . because of its status as a place of culture must not become the scene of combat operations."18
GENERALS KEYES (left), CLARK, AND FREDERICK PAUSE DURING DRIVE ON ROME
Entry Into Rome
The tactical progress of the Fifth Army's many spearheads during the last few hours before the army entered Rome formed confusing patterns as the small, highly mobile armor-infantry task forces leading the two corps toward the city darted back and forth through the multitude of roads and alleys veining the Roman suburbs. Accompanying infantrymen and engineers generally rode in trucks or on the decks of tanks or tank destroyers. Then came the main body of the assault divisions, some truck-borne, some on foot. The latter were to remain on the outskirts of the city until the mobile task forces had secured the Tiber bridges.19 (Map 6)
Leading the II Corps' advance to Rome along Highway 6 and the Via Prenestina were two columns under the command of the 1st Special Service Force's General Frederick. Task Force Howze made up the first column, the 1st Special Service Force the second. To each column was attached a battalion
GERMAN TROOPS WITHDRAWING FROM ROME
from the 88th Division's 350th and 351st Infantry Regiments. On the-left of the corps' sector another task force, built upon the 338th Infantry, led the 85th Division across the northern slope of the Alban Hills. On the corps' right the FEC had begun relief of the 3d Division's 15th Infantry in the vicinity of Palestrina. That regiment then rapidly leapfrogged the 7th, 30th, and 349th Infantry Regiments to reach positions from which it could screen Frederick's right flank as his combined force passed south of Tivoli on the way to Rome. As successive French units relieved the 7th and 30th Infantry Regiments these too moved forward to join the 15th Infantry. By the morning of 4 June the entire 3d Division was deployed across the II Corps' right flank south of the Aniene River, while the FEC deployed north of the Via Prenestina and northwest of Palestrina.20
At the same time two companies of the 1st Special Service Force, mounted in eight armored cars of the 81st Armored Reconnaissance Battalion of Howze's task force, began moving along Highway 6 toward the suburb of Centocelle, three miles east of Rome. When
Fifth Army in Rome
4 June 1944
ENTERING THE GATES OF ROME
the Americans attempted to advance beyond Centocelle, fire from a German parachute detachment, supported by self-propelled 150-mm. guns, brought them to a halt. The enemy guns, located in a series of strongpoints on a low ridge overlooking the town from the southwest, knocked out two of the American tanks, as the column deployed and prepared to attack with a combined tank-infantry force.21
While this action was taking place, the 88th Division's 88th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop bypassed the developing fire fight to the north and sped along the Via Prenestina toward Rome. A patrol from this unit entered Rome at daybreak, but quickly withdrew to await the arrival of reinforcements before pressing on into the city to seize the bridges in the corps zone.22 Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion of the 350th Infantry, supported by a battery of 105-mm. self-propelled howitzers of the 338th Field Artillery Battalion, a company of tanks from the 752d Tank Battalion, and a company from the 313th Engineer Battalion, had moved along Highway 6 toward Torrenova, two miles east of Centocelle. When the
battalion commander learned of the fire fight at Centocelle he too bypassed the town to reach a point overlooking the left flank of the Germans holding up Frederick's force. As the flanking force approached the enemy positions, it too was brought to a halt by heavy fire. Company C, in the lead, quickly detrucked and deployed as the rest of the battalion, accompanied by trucks, worked its way around the left flank. Only after losing three additional tanks to enemy guns did the Americans finally force the Germans to withdraw by late afternoon.23
While a major part of Frederick's command fought on at Centocelle, at 0615 Col. Alfred C. Marshall, Jr.'s 1st Regiment (1st Special Service Force) attacked cross-country toward the Roman suburb of Tor Pignatara, about three miles southwest of Centocelle. Clinging to the decks of the tanks of Colonel Cairn's 3d Battalion, 13th Armored Regiment, the men of Company H led the way. Colonel Marshall followed in Colonel Cairn's tank. General Frederick's command half-track brought up the rear of the command group with Companies I and C following. Until this column reached the outskirts of Rome the main obstacle was a crowd of newspaper correspondents and an American field artillery battery in convoy.24
An hour later and one mile southeast of Tor Pignatara the column crossed the city limits of Rome. No sooner had the tanks leading the column passed the line than a well-concealed enemy antitank gun opened fire. The tank-riding infantrymen quickly threw themselves to the ground, and the cavalcade of newsmen, led by a British correspondent wearing a smart-looking trench coat, disappeared to the rear. As for the artillery convoy, it simply pulled off to the side of the road as the men took cover.25
The enemy gun destroyed two of Cairn's leading tanks before vanishing into the maze of streets and alleys. Moving on, the column met some civilians who warned them of mines and a German tank and infantry force lurking on the road ahead. Thus forewarned, Frederick sent Companies G and I to reconnoiter a bypass. Just as Frederick dispatched the two companies, Generals Clark and Keyes arrived.
General Frederick quickly explained to his visitors his plan of maneuver, which Clark approved, although emphasizing that he wanted the column to seize the Tiber bridges as quickly as possible. Accordingly, General Keyes ordered Cairn to take a platoon of tanks and move immediately into the city without waiting for Companies G and I to complete their reconnaissance. Before starting out, Cairn wisely sent word to the two companies to continue their efforts. He then led five tanks down the highway directly into the city. No sooner had Cairn's two leading tanks, one of them his own, rounded a bend in the road, about 100 yards from where he had halted, than enemy antitank guns--apparently the ambush of which the Italians had warned--opened fire. The two tanks burst into flames. Hastily escaping their burning vehicles,
Cairn and the surviving crew members returned to their starting point. There Cairn requested permission to abandon the frontal attack and to continue his efforts to outflank the enemy. Keyes raised no objection.26
Company G of the maneuvering force had in the meantime outflanked the enemy and opened fire on the self-propelled guns that had stopped Cairn. Caught completely off guard, their guns still pointed down the road toward the American lines, the Germans lost nine armored vehicles before the surviving vehicles turned and fled into the city.27
Company I then joined Company H and marched northward cross-country to the suburb of Acque Bollicante on the Via Prenestina. There they found Company G, which had arrived about an hour ago, just in time to see an enemy force of armored vehicles, apparently part of the force that had earlier defended Centocelle, withdrawing toward Rome. Company G's lead platoon had quickly set up an ambush on a high bank overlooking the road just as eight German tanks pulled out onto the Via Prenestina not fifty yards away. Excitedly the Americans swung their guns toward the targets, only to find that the guns would not depress far enough to hit the enemy vehicles. Nor, because of the steep bank, could the Germans elevate their own guns sufficiently to fire at Cairn's tanks. While Company G's tankers watched in dismay, the German tanks rolled right by them into the city. Company G, however, did manage to get off a few rounds at the rear of the enemy column as it disappeared around a curve in the road.28
As soon as the enemy vanished, a column under the command of Colonel Howze, including his own task force as well as the 1st Special Service Force's 2d Regiment and a battalion from the 3d Regiment, arrived at Company G's position.29 Leaving most of his infantrymen in reserve, Howze prepared to send a small tank-infantry column into the city to capture the Tiber bridges in his zone. He set H-hour at 1500 but postponed it for thirty minutes to await the arrival of a battalion from the 1st Special Service Force's 3d Regiment. At 1530 Howze's column began to move, led by numerous tank-infantry patrols, each equipped with instructions in the Italian language calling upon Romans to lead his men to the Tiber bridges.30
Meanwhile, on Highway 6 Colonel Marshall and a battalion of his 1st Regiment had also arrived at the Tor Pignatara. Concerned about one of the companies that had fallen behind, Colonel Marshall turned his command over to his executive officer, Major McFadden, and, accompanied by an enlisted man, set out on foot in search of the missing company. The two men had gone only about one hundred yards when enemy fire cut them down. Unaware of what had happened, McFadden and Maj. Edmund Mueller, the battalion commander, entered the city through the Tor Pignatara quarter. Close behind came a rifle company
88TH DIVISION INFANTRY RIFLEMEN PASS BURNING TANK IN ROME
commanded by Lt. William G. Sheldon. What followed appears to have been rather typical of the experiences of many of the small company-sized patrols infiltrating Rome that day. No sooner had Lieutenant Sheldon's men entered the city than they found a Mark IV tank blocking their way. Local partisans led them around the roadblock by passing through a nearby convent. A few moments later the company emerged onto a street behind the roadblock only to find another enemy tank blocking the way. This time Sheldon led his men through a store and out the rear door onto the street behind the second tank.31
Sheldon and his men advanced along a street leading further into the center of Rome until halted by machine gun fire from a high building overlooking an intersection. Leaving most of his men huddled in sheltering doorways, Sheldon and Mueller led a squad into the building opposite the machine gun position. Finding the elevator in order, the men rode it to the top floor, where the occupants of an apartment overlooking
the enemy position offered them a vantage point from their bedroom windows. Sheldon and his men quickly silenced the gun with a burst of fire, then paused to enjoy cool drinks and sausage proffered by their hosts. After a profuse exchange of thanks and farewells the men rode the elevator down to the street and rejoined the rest of the company.32
Moving on to a point near the railroad yards, Sheldon's company encountered a detachment of German infantry and two self-propelled guns. Major McFadden, deciding that the company was no match for this enemy force, withdrew with his men to the Tor Pignatara to await the arrival of the rest of the battalion. Major Mueller and his battalion command detachment, in the off chance that one of his companies had already entered the city by another street, continued on toward the Tiber. Waiting in the shelter of a house until twilight, Mueller and his small party slipped by the enemy in the darkness and made their way through the dark streets to the river. There, sure enough, they found a company from the 1st Special Service Force's 3d Regiment already in possession of one of the bridges. Major Mueller and his command group remained there until noon the following day and then rejoined his battalion, which, in the meantime, had started moving through the city to meet him.33
The company Mueller had found on the bridge was part of Howze's column that had entered Rome at 1015. Moving to the center of the city, Howze's men had reached the Central Railroad Station at 2000. On the way, one company had turned off from the main column into the Piazza Venezia, where the troops overtook some enemy stragglers. Individual companies fanned out to occupy two of the four Tiber bridges north of the Ponte Margherita which crosses the river just west of the Piazza del Popolo. Echeloned to the right of Howze's column, a battalion of the 351st Infantry passed through the dark streets of the city to seize a bridge already occupied by a detachment from the 1st Special Service Force. Mistaking one another for enemy in the darkness, the two units engaged in a brief fire fight. Before the error was discovered one man had been killed and several wounded, among the latter General Frederick, who had just arrived at the bridge. Following this incident, the battalion turned northward to occupy the last vehicular bridge in the corps zone, the historic Ponte Milvio. Meanwhile, a battalion of the 350th Infantry had occupied the Ponte del Duca d'Aosta, the next bridge downstream from the Ponte Milvio.34
As the task forces from the 88th Division, the 1st Special Service Force, and Task Force Howze led the II Corps into Rome, the 3d and 85th Divisions advanced along the corps' right and left flanks, respectively. On the left flank the 85th Division's 338th Infantry, after having taken Frascati early in the day, continued toward Rome along the Via Tuscolana well in advance of the VI Corps' 36th Division. A small motorized task force from the
338th Infantry reached the city by 0830.35 On corps' order, General Coulter sent the 337th Infantry, on the division's right flank, southwest toward Highway 7 with the intention of cutting off those enemy opposing the neighboring VI Corps. The regiment reached the highway at 1700 only to find the 1st Armored Division blocking its way. The resulting traffic jam delayed both units for at least an hour. Meanwhile, a small task force from the 338th Infantry, after brushing aside an enemy rear guard on the outskirts of Rome, had entered the city to occupy the Ponte Cavour, the next bridge downstream from the Ponte Margherita. On the corps' right flank the 3d Division's 30th Infantry sent patrols through the northeastern quarters of the city to seize the railway bridge over the Aniene. By 2300, 4 June, all bridges in the II Corps zone had been secured.36
In contrast with the helter-skelter entry of the II Corps' ad hoc task forces into Rome, the VI Corps' approach and entry was more systematic, less confused, but somewhat slower. This methodical approach can most likely be attributed to a widespread caution and weariness throughout Truscott's corps, fostered by the bitter combat since 26 May along the Caesar Line south of the Alban Hills. To dispel this mood and to spur a sense of competition within the corps, General Carleton, Truscott's chief of staff, sped the spearheads on their way with a challenging report that Keyes' corps, advancing in three separate columns, had already moved to within three to five miles of Rome. "The II Corps' left flank has just crossed around us and will be in there before daylight undoubtedly," he announced.37 Nevertheless, a weary caution prevailed on the VI Corps sector as an advance party of the 1st Armored Division's CCA, which had spent the night on the outskirts of Albano, moved slowly into the town at dawn. As the rest of the command followed two hours later, Carleton again called Harmon's command post, saying: "This is an all-out pursuit, the enemy is running away from us--put on all steam."38 This Harmon proceeded to do. The resulting pell-mell dash by the entire armored division so crowded the roads in its zone of operations that by late afternoon a series of traffic jams had caused more delays than the scattered enemy resistance. By 1800 CCA's point moving along the Via Appia Nuova, the extension of Highway 7, had passed through the Porta San Giovanni, hard by St. John Lateran, into the inner city.
Echeloned to the left, CCB met more resistance as it advanced five miles beyond Albano. During the morning the command's spearhead encountered strong enemy rear guards whose tactics of fire and run repeatedly forced the tanks and armored infantry to deploy and fight. But by 1330 Company A, 13th Armored Regiment, finally managed to break free and, accompanied by a platoon of tank destroyers, advanced rapidly to the outskirts of Rome. The 6th Armored Infantry's 2d Battalion followed in half-tracks. Entering Rome from Highway 7 late that
ROMANS LINE STREETS AS U.S. TANK DESTROYERS ROLL BY COLISEUM
afternoon, the battalion moved rapidly through the city to seize the Ponte Palatino. The rest of the combat command skirted the city to the south to capture two major crossings of the Tiber just outside Rome. That night the 1st Armored Division secured all bridges in its sector and by daylight on the 5th had reached Rome's western limits. "Push on to Genoa, if you want to," Truscott exultantly radioed Harmon.39
The 36th Division, which throughout the day had advanced toward Rome along the Via Tuscolana, also entered the city that night. But because VI Corps had given Harmon's armor priority on the roads, the infantry division was delayed while the armored division entered Rome. Shortly before midnight Walker's division too began moving through the darkened maze of Roman streets. Although street and other lights were out, moonlight helped the troops pick their way through the unfamiliar city to those Tiber bridges already in the hands of Harmon's division. "As we moved along the dark streets," Walker observed, "we could hear the people at all the windows of the high buildings clapping their hands." There was no other sound but the tramp of marching feet, and the low whine of truck motors. It was still dark when the procession crossed the Tiber.
The following morning Romans emerged from their dwellings in large numbers to give the long columns of troops still passing through their city the tumultuous, almost hysterical welcome so familiar to newsreel viewers of that time. But men who had actually captured Rome had passed through in darkness and near silence.40
By the morning of 5 June most of the Fifth Army had drawn up to the line of the Tiber along a 20-mile front from the river's mouth southwest of Rome to its junction with the Aniene northeast of the city. The British 1st and 5th Divisions were on the left, the U.S. VI and II Corps in the center, and on the right the FEC. Recently pinched out of line by the II Corps, the FEC covered the army's right rear, pending the arrival of the British Eighth Army on the line of the Aniene east of Rome. On the VI Corps' sector southwest of Rome the 34th and 45th Divisions faced a bridgeless Tiber. In the southern
half of the city the 1st Armored and 36th Infantry Divisions had crossed the river and advanced to the city's western outskirts. In the northeastern quarters of Rome the II Corps' 85th and 88th Divisions had also crossed the Tiber and moved to the edge of the city. The 1st Special Service Force continued to guard the bridges, and the 3d Division lay along the Aniene, prepared to enter Rome as the garrison force. Moving up on the U.S. II Corps' right, Juin's corps, after clearing Cave and Palestrina, advanced toward the Tiber east of Rome. The 1st Motorized Infantry Division and the 3d Algerian Infantry Division mopped up the area east of Rome, preparatory to relief by the British 13 Corps.41
The Eighth Army's I Canadian and British 13 and 10 Corps were echeloned some distance to the southeast facing north toward the Prenestini and Simbruini ranges of the Apennines. The dispositions of General Leese's forces were as follows: on the left, the I Canadian Corps with the 6th South African Armoured Division along the Anagni-Baliano road; in the center, the 13 Corps with the British 6th Armoured Division along the Alatri-Fiuggi road and the 8th Indian Division along the Alatri-Guarcino road; and, on the right, the 10 Corps with the 2d New Zealand Division forward, strung out along the Sora-Avezzano and Atina-Opi roads. On the Adriatic sector the 5 Corps came to life, as the Germans began shifting forces from that sector to the area west of the Apennines.42
General Clark and his Fifth Army had captured Rome two days before the Allied landings in Normandy. But contrary to Churchill's and Alexander's expectations, the German Tenth and a good part of the Fourteenth Army had escaped destruction. Ever since that first week of June 1944 the question has been debated whether the glittering prize of Rome was an acceptable alternative to the destruction of the enemy's forces in the field--the conventional object in battle.
Because Alexander in planning Operation DIADEM had the texts of all radio messages passing between Kesselring's headquarters and OKW shortly after their transmission, thanks to the code breakers in Britain, he had considerable grounds for believing that his armies would achieve that object.43 Clark, on the other hand, believed that destruction of the enemy forces south of Rome was an impossible objective. The fact that the Tenth Army did indeed escape destruction without using Highway 6 tends to support Clark's position. Furthermore, when Clark recommended to Alexander that Juin's corps be allowed to move on Ferentino in the Sacco valley, there to cut off the Germans, as Alexander had hoped that Truscott's corps would do at Valmontone, the Allied commander had refused to do so. Yet Alexander still reported to Churchill on 4 June that there was not much doubt "that we have got a fair cop."44
On the other hand, Alexander was to observe later that "If he (Clark) had succeeded in carrying out my plan the disaster to the enemy would have been
much greater; indeed, most of the German forces would have been destroyed. True, the battle ended in a decisive victory for us, but it was not as complete as might have been . . . . I can only assume that the immediate lure of Rome for its publicity value persuaded Mark Clark to switch the direction of his advance."45
Other explanations have been offered to account for the failure of the Allied armies to destroy more of the enemy's forces south of Rome. If the four Allied armored divisions in the theater had been equipped as mountain divisions like those of the French, it has been contended, they would have been able to follow the Germans more closely through the mountains. In the Liri valley the Canadian and British armored divisions, with their vast columns of supporting vehicles, did more to slow down the Eighth Army's pursuit than the enemy.46 Yet the difficulties encountered by the French mountain divisions after their breakthrough of the Gustav Line would indicate that divisions similarly organized and equipped would have had an equally difficult time pursuing the retreating enemy over narrow, easily blocked roads in the Apennines.
In any case the drive for Rome, which, in a sense, had begun in September 1943, had finally come to an end. Rome had been essentially an Allied victory, though only Americans savored the flavor of a triumphal entry into the ancient capital. Yet it seemed not altogether unjust that this was so, for the Fifth Army had paid for that prize with the longest casualty lists of any of the Allied forces. Since the beginning of Operation DIADEM on 11 May, 3,145 Americans had been killed in action, 13,704 wounded, and 1,082 missing--a total of 17,931 casualties. During the twenty-four days of the May offensive, the Fifth Army had incurred one-third of its total losses in Italy since D-day at Salerno in the previous September. Yet on 4 June, thanks to a well-functioning replacement system, the Fifth Army's strength was at a peak that it had not reached before, nor would again--an effective strength of 369,356, which included 231,306 Americans, 95,142 French (mostly Algerians and Moroccans), and 42,908 British.
The French and British elements of Clark's army had also incurred relatively heavy losses during the drive on Rome. During the period from 1 April to 4 June, 520 British soldiers had been killed in action, 2,385 wounded, and 450 missing. In proportion to their total strength, the French had suffered most heavily: 1,751 of the FEC had been killed in action, 7,912 wounded, and 972 missing, for a total of 10,635 casualties.47
Although Operation DIADEM had given the Eighth Army the major role and the wider front, that army's casualties had been somewhat less than the U.S. Fifth Army's--11,639 as compared with 17,931. If, however, the losses of the attached French and British units are added to the Fifth Army totals, the disproportion becomes greater--28,566--for the entire army, for the casualty figures for the Eighth Army included Dominion and Polish forces as
well as British. With the Eighth Army British contingents constituting the largest national elements, they quite logically had suffered the heaviest casualties--1,068 killed in action, 3,506 wounded, and 208 missing. Dominion forces listed some 910 killed in action, 3,063 wounded, and 118 missing. For the Polish corps the figure was 629 killed in action, 2,044 wounded, and 93 missing. Total Allied losses, therefore, amounted to 40,205 of all categories.48
For approximately the same period (10 May to 10 June) the two defending German armies had incurred a total of 38,024 casualties. Of these the Tenth Army lost 8,672, as compared with the Fourteenth Army's 7,012. Of these 2, 127 were listed as killed in action for both German armies. In addition to the casualties of the armies, Armee Abteilung von Zangen, opposing the British 5 Corps along the Adriatic, and Army Group C's headquarters listed a total of 391 casualties of all types. The fact that within the Wehrmacht casualties were reported through two different channels, Personnel and Field Surgeon, probably accounts for a discrepancy between the totals given through the latter, 31,759, and the total of 38,024, given by the OKW War Diary.49
An even more significant discrepancy exists between the 15,606 prisoners of war the Allies claim to have captured during the period 1 April to 4 June 1944 and the 6,122 listed by the Germans as missing in action. The difference of 9,484 between Allied claims of enemy captured and German records of men listed as missing in action can possibly be explained as follows. The German military command generally did not record losses among non-German personnel attached to the armed forces. Many of these men were Russian and Polish prisoners of war who, to escape the rigors of life in a prison camp, had volunteered to serve as auxiliaries with the German armed forces. Known as Hilfswillige, or, more familiarly, as HiWi's among the soldiers whom they supported, these men were usually dependable when on duty in rear areas but readily deserted when caught in difficult combat situations, as was frequently the case in the defense of Rome. Dressed in German uniform, the HiWi's were classified as POW's by the Allies.50
The feelings of many on the Allied side were perhaps best summed up in the following words of a British war correspondent. "Now, at last the victory had arrived. It was good that it should come, for it had been bravely contested and in the end brilliantly achieved. But it had been a long journey, and everyone was very weary. And too many had died."51
1. Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV, pp. 499-504. Unless otherwise indicated the following is based upon this source.
2. Msg OZ 2571, 15 May 44, AMSSO to AFHQ SHAEF SGS 370.2/2, vol. II.
4. Msg B 12688, AFHQ Adv CP to B/COS, 0100/4/28, 19 May 44, SACS; Msg 2770, Air Ministry to AFHQ SACS, Cable Log 26, ser. 28a.
5. Ltr, Hq AAI, 27 May 44, Sub: Occupation and Preservation of Vatican and Other Religious Properties, AAI Plans Sec, 0300/7c/19.
6. Ibid., 0300/4a/28.
7. MS # T-1b (Westphal et al.).
8. II Corps G-3 Jnl, Jun 44, Fifth Army Msg from Clark, 3 Jun 44.
9. Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV, pp. 505-06; MS # T-1b (Westphal et al.).
10. 13th Armd Regt AAR, Jun 44; 1st Armd Div G-3 Jnl, Jun 44.
11. MSS #'s T-1a, T-1b (Westphal et al.) and C-064 (Kesselring). Unless otherwise cited the following is based upon these references.
12. Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(1), p. 500.
13. VI Corps AAR, June 44; Fifth Army History, Part V, pp. 153-54.
14. Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec B. Unless otherwise cited the following is based upon this source. See also, G. A. Shepperd, The Italian Campaign 1943-45, A Political and Military Re-Assessment (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1968), p. 243.
15. Jackson, The Battle for Italy, pp. 243-44; Senger, Neither Hope nor Fear, p. 252.
16. Clark Diary, 3 June 44.
17. Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret, pp. 117-18; Fifth Army OI 26, 4 Jun 44.
18. Ltr, C/S Suedwest to German Forces in Italy, 4 Jun 44. Heeres Gruppe C, Ia Nr. 287/44. G.Kdos, in AOK 10, Ia KTB Nr. 7, Chefsachen, Anlage, 12, AOK 10, Doc. Nr. 53271/2.
19. II Corps Opns Rpt, Jun 44; VI Corps AAR, Jun 44.
20. II Corps Opns Rpt, Jun 44.
22. 88th Div G-3 Jnl, 4 Jun 44.
23. 350th Inf Hist, Jun 44; 351st Inf Jnl, 4 Jun 44; FSSF S-3 Jnl, 4 Jun 44.
24. FSSF S-3 Jnl, 4 Jun 44.
26. Interv, Mathews with Col Cairn, 24 Apr 50, CMH.
28. Ibid; Howze MS.
29. Fifth Army History, Part V, p. 159.
30. Howze MS.
31. Interv, Mathews with Mueller, 8 May 50, CMH.
34. FSSF AAR, Jun 44; 351st Inf AAR, Jun 44; FSSF and 350th and 351st Inf S-3 Jnls, 5 Jun 44; Howze MS.
35. 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 4-5 Jun 44; FSSF G-3 Jnl, 4 Jun 44.
36. 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 4 Jun 44; FSSF G-3 Jnl, 4 Jun 44.
37. VI Corps G-3 Jnl, 040045B Jun 44, Tel, Carleton to Harmon.
38. Ibid., 040700B Jun 44.
39. Ibid., 050630B Jun 44.
40. Walker Diary, 4 Jun 44, pp. 40-42.
41. Pierre Le Goyet, La Participation Française à la Campagne d'Italie 1943-44 (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1969), p. 129.
42. Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. D.
43. Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret, p. 118.
44. Nicholson, Alex, p. 254.
45. John North, ed., Memoir, Field Marshal Alexander Of Tunis, 1939-45 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962).
46. Shepperd, The Italian Campaign, p. 43.
47. Fifth Army History, Part V, pp. 166-67.
48. Ibid.; Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part V; Nicholson, The Canadians in Italy, p. 452; Robin Kay, Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45, vol. II, Italy, From Cassino to Trieste (Wellington, N.Z.: Historical Publications Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1967), p. 86.
49. Verluste der Wehrmacht bis 1944, Organization des Verlustmeldewesens, HI/176a Monatsmeldungen ab. 1.11.43, photocopy in CMH; Ltr, Bundesarchiv (Militararchiv), 18.3.1970. Az.6992/Jessup to George Blau, CMH; Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(1), p. 514.
50. In addition to the personnel losses, the German armies reported as of 28 May, a large quantity of equipment lost or destroyed in battle. This included 500 heavy and 1,600 light machine guns, 300 artillery pieces, 60 rocket launchers, and 200 to 250 tanks of all types (approximately half of the armor on hand in the Tenth and Fourteenth Armies). See Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(1), p. 514.
51. Christopher Buckley, Road to Rome (London: Hadder-Stoughton, 1945).