Rome to the Arno

The energy thrown into the first stage of the pursuit chiefly determines the value of the victory.


Chapter XII
Interlude in Rome

The View From the Capitoline Hill

As the U.S. Fifth Army moved through Rome, General Clark on the morning of 5 June summoned his corps commanders and senior staff officers to a conference in the city hall atop the Capitoline Hill.1 Starting from the Excelsior Hotel where Clark had established his temporary command post, a procession of jeeps bearing the largest assemblage of high military rank that the Romans had seen in many months, wound its way through jubilant throngs to the city hall, at that point occupied by only a handful of anxious functionaries.2

The senior commanders gathered that morning on the historic hill with mixed emotions. Relief that the long drive on Rome had at last reached its goal and confidence that the enemy was at last on the run were somewhat overshadowed by an awareness that demands of other campaigns in other lands would soon obscure the Italian venture now so favorably underway. For it was the eve of OVERLORD, and news of the Allied landing in Normandy would soon crowd Rome and the Italian campaign off the front pages of the world press and, most importantly, the campaign would drop to second place in Allied strategic planning for the Mediterranean.

On 22 May General Alexander had received assurance from General Wilson, the Mediterranean theater commander, that the Allied armies in Italy would be given "overriding priority in the allocation of resources" until the capture of Rome, but thereafter emphasis within the theater would shift to preparations for an amphibious operation to be undertaken no later than mid-September.3

This operation was to be either in close support of ground operations in Italy or against the coast of southern France. The force required for the latter enterprise would probably include "three United States infantry divisions and all the French divisions at present in Allied armies Italy." After the capture of Rome, one U.S. division was to be relieved by 17 June, a French division by the 24th, and three days later a second U.S. division; thereafter, the remaining formations at longer intervals. Also an "experienced U.S. Corps headquarters" was to be relieved as soon as possible. These instructions with


their uncertainties for the continued primacy of the Italian campaign in the Mediterranean took some of the edge off the victory celebrations in the several Allied headquarters, from Wilson's to Clark's, and influenced planning for operations beyond Rome.

Three days after the Fifth Army's entry into Rome, General Wilson informed his superiors in London that the success of Operation DIADEM would permit him "to mount an amphibious operation on the scale of ANVIL with a target date of 15 August." A week later Wilson directed Alexander to withdraw the U.S. VI Corps headquarters and the 45th Division immediately, the 3d Division by 17 June, and the 36th Division by the 27th. The French were to begin withdrawing one division on the 24th and a second in early July.

At the same time, Alexander also received instructions from the Combined Chiefs in London to complete destruction of the German forces in Italy south of the Pisa-Rimini Line, that is to say, south of the Arno River, with the forces remaining under his command. Until this had been done "there should be no withdrawal from the battle of any Allied forces that are necessary for this purpose." These contradictory instructions reflected the conflicting influences at work at Headquarters, Allied Armies Italy and at Allied Force Headquarters, Mediterranean. Alexander generally acted as a spokesman for Churchill's strategic views. General Wilson's headquarters, on the other hand, was dominated by the views of its largely American staff, headed by the deputy theater commander, General Devers, generally a spokesman for General Marshall's strategic views in that headquarters. Against this background of differing strategies and uncertainty the Allied commanders in Italy would undertake the pursuit of the German armies north of Rome.4

Planning the Pursuit

With the capture of Rome a wide gap had been opened in that part of Army Group C extending from Tivoli, fifteen miles east of Rome, southwest to the mouth of the Tiber. Scattered remnants of four German divisions were in the area but were too concerned with mere survival to even attempt to close the gap. General Alexander determined to exploit the situation by sending the U.S. Fifth and British Eighth Armies as quickly as possible through the gap in the hope they would reach the Northern Apennines, some 170 miles northwest of Rome, before Kesselring could once again establish his armies in terrain even more favorable for the defense than that of the Gustav Line.5

In planning his pursuit of the German armies north of Rome, Alexander decided to continue the classical "oblique order" in which his own armies had approached the city following the junction of the southern front with the beachhead. The oblique order now, as then, found the Allied left wing, composed of the Fifth Army and one


corps of the Eighth Army, advanced, in Alexander's words, "en potence." His right wing, made up of a second corps of Eighth Army and the 5 Corps, the latter under AAI control on the Adriatic coast, was held back. A third corps was in reserve. He expected thereby to execute a pursuit of the enemy forces by a holding attack against the still relatively strong Tenth Army in Kesselring's center and an all-out attack against the weakened Fourteenth Army. Alexander counted on this move to complete that army's destruction and enable the U.S. Fifth Army to outflank the German Tenth Army west of the Tiber and possibly cut off its retreat. This had been Alexander's basic strategic concept south of Rome, and it had fallen short of realization. It remained to be seen whether it would succeed north of Rome.6

In the Fifth Army zone of operations immediate goals were the capture of the small seaport of Civitavecchia, forty miles northwest of Rome, and Viterbo, site of an airfield complex forty miles north-northwest of Rome and thirty miles inland.7 Possession of Viterbo would give the Allies forward bases from which aircraft of the MATAF could fly in close support of the advance to the Arno and MASAF bombers could attack cities in southern Germany. The swift capture and restoration of the port facilities at Civitavecchia were of even greater importance for ground operations, for with each passing day the Allied armies left their supply dumps farther to the rear, while gasoline consumption rates increased in direct proportion to the distance of the armies from those dumps. For the Eighth Army the possession of the Adriatic port of Ancona, 130 miles northeast of Rome, was of equal importance.

Although in May the Peninsula Base Section (PBS), the U.S. logistics command, had launched several ambitious pipeline construction projects, the pipelines were, by 5 June, still far from Rome. The 696th Engineer Company had extended a six-inch pipeline along Highway 6 at the rate of two miles per day, and had reached a dispensing point at Ceprano, fifty-four miles southeast of Rome. Another month would pass before the pipeline would reach Rome. Along Highway 7 on the Tyrrhenian coast a four-inch pipeline under construction by the 785th Engineer Petroleum Distribution Company would not be open at its distribution point at Terracina until 9 June.8

Civitavecchia's eventual importance to the Allies as a petroleum distribution point lay in its role as the first port north of Naples, which since 1943 had been the Fifth Army's main supply base, capable of receiving small tankers. For some time Allied logisticians had planned to open a 100,000-barrel terminal at Civitavecchia, and construction units were poised close behind the advancing front to begin work as soon as the port was captured. In the meantime, both Allied armies would depend upon growing numbers of trucks to


haul the vital gasoline to support their lengthening lines of communications. This increased requisition of motor transport would, in turn, reduce the number of trucks available to the engineers to haul pipeline construction material, thus delaying pipelines and completing a vicious circle which only the opening of additional ports along both the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic flanks could eliminate.9

Dependence upon motor transport became heavier through lack of alternative means of transport. Coastal shipping from Naples to Anzio had been practical as long as the front remained south of Rome, but with the advance to and beyond Rome the port of Anzio quickly lost its importance. Railroads offered little promise of resolving the problem since they had been systematically destroyed by the Germans and Allied bombers. The long winter stalemate along the Gustav Line and on the Anzio beachhead had given the Germans plenty of time to demolish the two main rail lines between Naples and Rome--one passing through the Liri valley and the other running along the Tyrrhenian coast. In addition to ripping up the ties, German demolition crews had also destroyed bridges, culverts, overpasses, and tunnels. Because of a shortage of manpower and construction materials railroad repairs took considerable time. Not until early June did the engineers, using captured German material, complete a 237-foot railway bridge over the Garigliano at Minturno. Clearing the Monte Orso tunnel through the Ausoni Mountains just south of the former Anzio beachhead was so difficult that this rail line was not opened as far as Cisterna station until 20 July. Consequently, when Rome fell on 4 June, the Allies, especially the Eighth Army, were still dependent upon a railhead at Mignano, a hundred miles southeast of Rome, and on the dumps at the former Anzio beachhead supplied by coastal shipping from Naples.10

The ability of the engineers rapidly to repair highways, bridges, and culverts thus had a considerable influence on the speed of the Allied pursuit. Along Highway 1, running through the Fifth Army zone, bridges and culverts averaged about one per mile and all had been systematically destroyed by the retreating Germans. Before the end of June the 1108th Engineer Combat Group, supporting first the II and VI Corps, later the IV Corps, had repaired thirty-eight culverts and graded 176 miles of roads. Fortunately, throughout Italy there was usually plenty of local material for road construction and repair.11

Until additional ports were opened on both coastal flanks, Alexander could hardly support more than nine divisions in the field against Kesselring's army group. Thus a race for ports, especially in the Fifth Army zone, would soon become the strategic and tactical leitmotif of the Allied advance to the Arno.


The German Situation

The fighting south of Rome had damaged the Fourteenth Army more severely than it had the Tenth and consequently it was more hard pressed as it withdrew beyond Rome before the U.S. Fifth Army than was the Tenth Army, which had managed to escape virtually intact into the mountains and across the Aniene before the British Eighth Army. Aware that the Allied command would attempt to exploit this situation by pursuing the Fourteenth Army so vigorously as to force it to expose the Tenth Army's right flank, Field Marshal Kesselring decided to cover that flank with the Tiber River, which north of Rome flows generally in a southerly direction out of the Umbrian highlands. At the same time, he also needed to reinforce the battered Fourteenth Army so as to delay the Fifth Army's pursuit and thereby expose as little as possible of the Tenth Army's right flank. This would be almost impossible until Orvieto was reached. Between Rome and Orvieto, a Tiber crossing some sixty miles north of Rome, all bridges across the river had been destroyed either by Allied aircraft or by German engineers, acting with premature zeal. Thus for the first sixty miles beyond Rome the Allied armies would be pursuing an enemy whose main battle strength lay east rather than west of the Tiber. That this would favor the U.S. Fifth Army rather than the British Eighth Army was as evident to Kesselring in his command post near Monte Soratte on Highway 3 some twenty-two miles north of Rome as it was to Allied commanders at their 5 June conference on the Capitoline Hill.12

Further adding to Kesselring's woes, for the first hundred miles north of Rome the terrain offered few defensive advantages. The peninsula broadens rapidly for some eighty-five miles, until at the latitude of Lake Trasimeno it attains a width of about 140 miles. In this area the Central Apennines, after first curving eastward, begin a wide swing to the northwest to reach the sea north of Leghorn and the Arno River and become the Northern Apennines. In them Field Marshal Kesselring planned to establish a new winter line, the Gotenstellung, or Gothic Line, along which he expected to make another stand as he had in the winter of 1943 before Cassino and along the Rapido. The name of the line would evoke the presence of the Gothic kingdoms established in Italy by Germanic tribes in the 6th century A.D.13

If the German command in Italy could delay the Allied advance to the Arno and the Northern Apennines until autumn rains hampered cross-country movement, Kesselring might have a chance to turn the Gothic Line into another Gustav Line. This, then, became Kesselring's main tactical problem beyond Rome--to rebuild the shattered Fourteenth Army while at the same time checking the Allied pursuit and turning it once again into a slow, grinding advance as it had been from Salerno to Cassino and the Winter Line, and then to bring it to a halt for the winter along the Gothic Line.

The Fourteenth Army on 6 June received a new commander as Generalleutnant Joachim Lemelsen replaced General von Mackensen. Lemelsen


found his command in bad shape indeed. Since the major part of the LXXVI Panzer Corps had escaped destruction southeast of Rome by retreating northeastward over the Aniene in the vicinity of Tivoli into the Tenth Army's zone, there was left to General Lemelsen only the I Parachute Corps and a provisional corps. Holding the Fourteenth Army's left wing, its flank resting on the Tiber, was the parachute corps. Consisting only of two battleworthy divisions, the 4th Parachute and 3d Panzer Grenadier Divisions, it was but a shadow of the corps that had held the Caesar Line so stubbornly in May. On the corps' right, or coastal, flank were remnants of the 65th and 92d Divisions, the latter a training unit originally engaged in coast-watching duties near the mouth of the Tiber. These two units had been grouped together under a provisional corps headquarters known as Group Goerlitz. The Hermann Goering, 362d, and 715th Divisions had either experienced such severe losses as to necessitate withdrawal from action for rest and reorganization or were with Herr's LXXVI Panzer Corps east of the Tiber and under Tenth Army control.14

The Tenth Army at that point commanded three army corps--the XIV and LXXVI Panzer and the LI Mountain Corps. In turn, these corps controlled among them the best divisions remaining in Army Group C. These included the 29th and 90th Panzer Grenadier Divisions and the 1st Parachute, 5th Mountain, and 44th and 278th Infantry Divisions. On the Adriatic flank another provisional corps, Group Hauck, controlled the 114th Jaeger and 305th Infantry Divisions. Not yet hard pressed in that sector, these divisions could be expected eventually to provide reinforcements to the sectors west of the Tiber. In army group reserve near Orvieto were the 26th Panzer and 20th Luftwaffe Field Divisions and the 162d Turkomen and 356th Infantry Divisions. The Luftwaffe division had recently arrived from occupation duty in Denmark, and the 162d and 356th Divisions had been employed on coastal defense and antipartisan duties in northern Italy. The Turkomen division, of doubtful loyalty, was composed of former Russian prisoners of war from Soviet Turkestan led by German officers and noncommissioned officers.15

Because of the difficulties of shifting units from east to west of the Tiber south of Orvieto, Kesselring, at least for the first week following the loss of Rome, would have no recourse but to reinforce his right wing (Fourteenth Army) with those troops already located west of the Tiber and within marching distance of the front. These were the divisions in army group reserve near Orvieto. Kesselring decided to leave the 26th Panzer Division at Orvieto to defend that important crossing and to send first the 20th Luftwaffe Field Division and then the 162d Turkomen Division southward to reinforce the Fourteenth Army. He hoped thereby to slow up the Allied armies enough to permit him to regroup his forces in such a way as to permit the establishment of a series of temporary delaying positions south of the Arno River. For the next


two weeks this would become the dominant tactical theme within Army Group C; for in Kesselring's words, "On this everything depended."16

Two of the most important of these defensive lines he designated Dora and Frieda. The former began in the vicinity of Orbetello, located on coastal Highway 1 seventy miles northwest of Rome; from Orbetello it extended eastward, skirting Lake Bolsena's southern shore, thence to Narni on Highway 3 forty miles north of Rome; it then extended twenty miles southeast to Rieti on Highway 4, eastward for thirty miles to L'Azuila, then skirted the southern edge of the wild and desolate Gran Sasso d'Italia, from which the Germans had earlier rescued a captive Mussolini, and finally extended eastward to the Adriatic coast. The Frieda Line, beginning near Piombino, thirty miles northwest of Grosseto, extended about thirty-five miles northeastward to Radicondoli, thence to Lake Trasimeno, on to Perugia, an important road junction ten miles east of the lake, then twenty miles southeast to Foligno on Highway 3, and thence sixty miles eastward across the Apennines to reach the coast near Porto Civitanova.17 For the next two weeks Allied operations north of Rome would be concerned largely with reaching and breaking through these two lines.

Rome in Allied Hands

The capture of Rome marked not only the zenith of the Italian Campaign thus far but also an important turning point in the relatively brief history of the Kingdom of Italy.18 Not since September 1943, when the Germans had occupied Rome, had King Victor Emmanuel III, who had fled with his government to Bari in southern Italy, set foot in his former capital.19 Several months before the Allies entered Rome, the King, his long association with Fascism having made him unacceptable either to the Allies or to the major Italian political factions, had yielded to Allied pressure and agreed to abdicate as soon as the Germans were driven from the city. Thereupon, with the approval of the Allied Control Commission (ACC), Marshal Pietro Badoglio's government had intended for the transfer of power to Crown Prince Humberto, as the Lieutenant General of the Realm. The old soldier Badoglio was then to resign, in anticipation of the Crown Prince's formation of a new government, which was to include the leaders of the Roman Committee of National Liberation (Comitati di Liberazione Nazionale, CLN).

As soon as the U.S. Fifth Army drew near Rome, however, the King began to have second thoughts and insisted that he should personally once again enter Rome as king. The Allied Control Commission (ACC), justifiably concerned about Rome's reception of the


now discredited monarch, prevailed upon him to adhere to his original agreement. On 5 June, still far away in Bari, he signed the instrument transferring the royal powers to Crown Prince Humberto.

While successful in disposing of the Italian King, the Allies were less so in fulfilling the second part of their plan--forming a new government under Badoglio. Many key Italian political leaders, it developed, refused to serve under Badoglio. All factions, including the Committee of National Liberation (CLN), agreed, however, to accept the 73-year-old Ivanoe Bonomi, President of the Committee of National Liberation and a prime minister in the pre-Fascist years. In spite of the urgings by both the ACC and Bonomi, Marshal Badoglio refused to serve in this new government.

When the Fifth Army's civil affairs officer, Brig. Gen. Edgar E. Hume, arrived in the city on 5 June to become military governor, he found the city controlled by a well-organized arm of the CLN. It was led by General Roberto Bencivengo, who promptly relinquished to the Allied representative the authority the committee had exercised since the Germans had begun to evacuate the city. It was not long, however, before the first warm glow of joyous cooperation with the Allied authorities, which had accompanied the liberation of Rome, gave way to bitter recriminations as the ACC attempted to bring some order to the chaotic food and housing situations.

After formation of the new civil government, the Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ), for military and administrative reasons, refused to authorize Bonomi's government to move to Rome from Bari for well over a month following the city's capture. Even after the return of the Italian Government to Rome a lack of effective civil administration would continue to plague Allied authorities for the remainder of the campaign.

The Allies had long since taken the position that the capture of Rome would be of greater political than military significance, and their occupation policies were therefore similar to those of the Germans. Although Rome's traditional position as the hub of the peninsula's transportation and communications network was to remain an important factor in operations, the AAI command decided not to establish advance base installations within the city. Military installations were limited to hospitals, transit camps, and a few military leave hotels. Moreover, the Vatican's neutrality was to be respected, with enemy nationals who had taken refuge there not to be disturbed. Rome was to remain, as it had been under the Germans, essentially an open city.20

There were other similarities too. The Allies were soon to complain bitterly, as had the German military authorities before them, that the Romans seemed indifferent to the great struggle being waged in their country, that they appeared more concerned about their own immediate interests than about the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Italy.21


As General Clark moved through the streets to the plaudits of the Romans on the morning of 5 June, he might well have meditated momentarily upon the fickleness of a populace which had submitted so often to conquerors only eventually to turn against them.

The city, with its agriculturally inadequate environs, was now cut off by the Allied victory from its traditional sources of food supply--still in German hands. Furthermore, lack of transportation facilities would greatly limit the amount of food that could be brought from the few agricultural areas in the south. The Allied cornucopia thus failed to produce the flood of food and clothing that the inhabitants had long expected. That only served to make the Romans even more restless and resentful over what they considered to be their ill-deserved misfortune. Over the coming months they would show their disappointment in a sullen hostility to the Allied military authorities and in an unconcealed and virtually uncontrollable black market, flourishing with the tacit consent of the civil authorities who refused to prosecute violators even after denunciations were made to them by the Allied Black Market Control Division.22 In the over-all conduct of the phase of the campaign that was about to begin, the Romans would prove to be as much of a burden to the Allies as they had been to the Germans.

The capture of Rome had been the focus of Allied hopes and plans for so long that for many, ranging from private to general, the operations in the months following would appear to be a postscript to the Italian campaign. In a strategic sense perhaps they were, for after Rome and the Allied landings in northwestern France, the campaign sank to the level of a vast holding operation. But operationally considered, the eleven months between the fall of Rome and the surrender of the German armies were anything but a postscript. In terms of ground gained, of battles fought and won, and casualties incurred, the second half of the Italian campaign must be considered as equal in importance to the first half.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (11) * Next Chapter (13)


1. Clark, Calculated Risk, pp. 365-66.

2. General Clark, accompanied by his chief of staff, General Gruenther, Brigadier Georges Beucler, chief of the French Mission with the Fifth Army, and Colonel Britten of the British increment, Fifth Army, Maj. Gen. Harry H. Johnson, commander of the Rome Garrison, and Brigadier E. E. Hume, Chief of Allied Military Government, entered Rome at approximately 8 a.m. on Monday, 5 June.

3. Alexander Despatch, pp. 51-52.

4. Robert W. Coakley and Richard M. Leighton, Global Logistics and Strategy: 1943-45, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1968), ch. XV; Msg. MEDCOS 125 AFHQ, Wilson to COS, 7 June 44, CCS 565/5 in ABC 384 Eur, Sec. 9-A; Ehrman, Grand Strategy, vol. V, pp. 345-67.

5. Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. D; Alexander Despatch, p. 50.

6. Alexander Despatch, p. 48.

7. See Hq, AAI OI No. 1, 5 May 44.

8. Lida Mayo, The Corps of Engineers: Operations in the War Against Germany, a volume in preparation for the UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II series, MS ch. 12 (hereafter cited as Mayo MS), CMH.

9. Joseph Bykofsky and Harold Larson, The Transportation Corps: Operations Overseas, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1957), pp. 211-32.

10. Ibid.; Mayo MS, ch. XV; Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. D.

11. Mayo MS, ch. XII.

12. MS # C-064 (Kesselring).

13. Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(1), pp. 513-15.

14. AOK 14, 1a KTB Anl. 3, 7 Jun 44, AOK 14, Doc. 59091/1; MS # C-064 (Kesselring).

15. Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(1), pp. 514-15.

16. Ibid., pp. 513-15; Albert Kesselring, A Soldier's Record (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1954), p. 247.

17. Kesselring, A Soldier's Record, p. 247.

18. The modern Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861, prior to the annexation of Venetia and Rome.

19. Harry L. Coles and Albert K. Weinberg, Civil Affairs: Soldiers Become Governors, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1964), pp. 454-61. Unless otherwise cited the following is based upon this source. See also Charles F. Delzell, Mussolini's Enemies: The, Anti-Fascist Resistance Parties (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961).

20. The city of Rome was to be garrisoned by the U.S. 3d Infantry Division with attached Allied units, including a battalion of British troops and a mixed battalion of French, with one company from each of the four divisions making up the French Expeditionary Corps. See Le Goyet, La Participation Française à la Campagne d'Italie, p. 129.

21. Hq ACC Rpt for Jun 44, cited in Coles and Weinberg, p. 461.

22. Ibid.; Harold B. Lipsius, Chief, Rome Black Market Control Division, ACC Rpt for Nov 44, ACC files 10400/153/79.

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