Pursuit North of Rome
General Alexander's order of 5 May which had set the drive on Rome in motion had also designated the broad objectives for the next phase of the campaign. General Clark's Fifth Army was to pursue the enemy northwest of Rome to capture the Viterbo airfields and the port of Civitavecchia, thereafter to advance on Leghorn. General Leese's Eighth Army was to pursue the enemy in a northerly and northeasterly direction along the general axis Terni-Perugia, thereafter to advance on Florence and the Adriatic port of Ancona.
On 7 June Alexander further refined these instructions. Both armies were to continue their advance "with all possible speed"--the Fifth Army to advance toward the western half of the Northern Apennines, comprising a triangle connecting the cities of Pisa, Lucca, and Pistoia, and the Eighth Army toward an area enclosed by a triangle connecting the cities of Florence, Arezzo, and Bibbiena. Both armies were to maintain close contact on their inner flanks, but not to wait for one another, and were to bypass strongpoints in hope of maintaining the momentum that had carried them to Rome and beyond. For Alexander, privy to Kesselring's situation and intentions, believed that if his armies could sustain that momentum they might have a second chance to outflank and destroy Vietinghoff's Tenth Army and breach the Gothic Line before the Germans had an opportunity to occupy it.1
Although traditional military wisdom at this point called for a headlong pursuit of the enemy to keep him from regrouping and re-forming his lines, Allied commanders for the next two weeks spent considerable time in shuffling units back and forth across the front. One reason is that plans for Operation ANVIL called for the Fifth Army to give up two of its four corps-the U.S. VI and the French Expeditionary Corps. Other reasons were growing logistical problems and difficult terrain. Perhaps for these reasons General Clark chose not to base his planning upon the intelligence provided by the ULTRA interception and decipherment of radio traffic between OKW and Kesselring's headquarters.
This decision at this point was unfortunate. Heavy losses in both men and matériel had rendered at least three of the Fourteenth Army's divisions ineffective and reduced the remainder to half strength. Also, a wide gap had opened up between the Tenth and Fourteenth Armies. As his armies withdrew north of Rome, Kesselring intended to shift sufficient forces from the Tenth to the Fourteenth Army in an attempt to reinforce the latter and thereby close the
Pursuit From Rome to the Trasimeno Line
5-20 June 1944
gap. An aggressive Allied pursuit, however, would have doomed these measures.
Because he was to lose Truscott's and Juin's corps within a few weeks, Clark decided to use them in the early phase of the pursuit beyond Rome even though both corps were exhausted. The FEC, which had been covering the Army's right flank, prepared to take over from the II Corps. After a period of rest, the latter was to relieve the French in time for their withdrawal from the Army. The VI Corps, meanwhile, was to continue in line until relieved by the IV Corps.
Throughout the first day following Rome's capture, reconnaissance units ranged widely across the army's front to determine the extent of the enemy's withdrawal. Meanwhile, the 1st Armored and the 34th and 36th Infantry Divisions assembled in a bridgehead west of the Tiber. To maintain contact with the rapidly retreating Germans, Clark directed his corps commanders to form small, highly mobile task forces.2
After clearing Rome by nightfall on 5 June, the Fifth Army continued to advance at first on a two-corps front in the same order in which it had entered Rome: on the left, Truscott's VI Corps moving in two columns, one along the axis of Highway 1 (the coastal highway running northwestward toward Civitavecchia) and a second initially along the axis of Highway 2, roughly paralleling the coastal road some ten miles inland; on the right, Keyes' II Corps advancing to take over Highway 2 about seven miles north of Rome and continuing east of Lake Bracciano north to Viterbo. The II Corps' right boundary was also the interarmy boundary and ran almost due north from a point four miles east of Rome, through Civita Castellana, thence to a point just west of Orte, forty miles north of Rome on the Tiber. (Map VIII)
The farther the Fifth Army moved beyond Rome, ever lengthening supply lines wreaked an inevitable burden on the hardworking trucks and drivers and exacerbated gasoline shortages at the front that could be alleviated only by opening the port of Civitavecchia. Narrow, winding secondary roads and frequent demolition of culverts and bridges by the retreating enemy contributed to delays and limited the number of troops that might advance along the axis of a single road.
Early on 6 June, General Harmon's 1st Armored Division, with Allen's CCB accompanying the 34th Division along the coastal highway toward Civitavecchia and CCA the 36th Division along Highway 2, took up the pursuit toward Viterbo. The 45th Division remained in corps reserve, while the British 1 and 5 Divisions withdrew into AAI reserve as soon as the bulk of the Fifth Army moved beyond Rome.3 Each combat command formed a mobile task force composed of a medium tank battalion, a motorized infantry battalion, and attached engineer and reconnaissance units, as well as a battalion of self-propelled artillery. Because of difficulties involved in maneuvering and protecting the armor during the hours of darkness, motorized infantry led the way at night, armored units by day.
As night fell on the 6th, CCB had
AERIAL VIEW OF CIVITAVECCHIA
reached a point about seventeen miles southwest of Civitavecchia. Progress had been so rapid and resistance so light that Clark abandoned a plan to use the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion to block Highway 1 behind the retreating enemy. Meanwhile, the 34th Division's 168th Infantry, mounted on trucks, consolidated gains and rounded up enemy stragglers bypassed by the tanks. Demolished bridges and culverts bore witness to the enemy's passage, but there was little physical contact with the foe. Throughout the night a motorized battalion of the 168th Infantry led the way, and by dawn on the 7th reached a point within three miles of Civitavecchia. Entering the port, the infantry cleared it by noon.4
In the meantime, the 34th Division commander, General Ryder, ordered Col. William Schildroth's 133d Infantry to take up the advance in trucks along the coast toward Tarquinia, about ten miles northwest of Civitavecchia. Allen's CCB, meanwhile, turned eastward to rejoin the rest of the 1st Armored Division south of Viterbo. Against little
opposition, the 133d Infantry, as night fell, came within five miles of Tarquinia, but the next morning, 8 June, in hilly country just south of Tarquinia the regiment encountered the first elements of the 20th Luftwaffe Field Division, a unit that Kesselring had sent south from Orvieto to reinforce the Fourteenth Army. The enemy infantrymen had established themselves on the sides of a ravine overlooking the highway. Backed by mortars and artillery, they held until shortly before dark, when the Americans, using newly issued 57-mm. antitank guns as direct-fire weapons, blasted the positions. Instead of sending the 133d Infantry into Tarquinia that night, Ryder relieved it with an attached unit, Col. Rudolph W. Broedlow's 361st Regimental Combat Team, the first contingent of the 91st Division to arrive in Italy.
Early the next morning, the 9th, Truscott shifted the 36th Division, which had been advancing along the axis of Highway 2, from the VI Corps' right wing to relieve the weary 34th Division and take over the advance along the coastal highway. The 36th Division's place was taken by the 85th Division on the II Corps' left flank, which Clark had moved westward to include Highway 2. Ryder's division then retired into corps reserve in the vicinity of Civitavecchia. Two days later Crittenberger's IV Corps was to relieve the VI Corps and take command of the 36th Division and the advance along the coastal flank.
On the VI Corps' right wing Colonel Daniel's CCA, in the meantime, had advanced seven miles along Highway 2, then turned onto a good secondary road running through the corps zone west of Lake Bracciano before rejoining the main highway north of the lake. Daniel divided his unit into three small task forces, each built around an infantry and a medium tank company. Leapfrogging the task forces, Daniel, by nightfall on the 7th, had pushed his column to within fourteen miles of Viterbo. Resuming the advance the next morning, CCA headed for the point where the secondary road rejoined Highway 2. There the Germans had assembled a relatively strong rear guard from the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division, which managed to delay Daniel's task force for three hours, long enough for the enemy to evacuate the adjacent town of Vetralla. From Vetralla, Viterbo lay only a tempting seven miles away but within the adjacent II Corps zone of operations. Not one to be overly respectful of corps' boundaries when opportunity beckoned, General Harmon, the 1st Armored Division commander, told Daniel to go on into Viterbo. Task Force C continued until halted by enemy rear guards at midnight a mile and a half south of the town. Later that night, when it became evident that the enemy had withdrawn, the task force dashed unhindered into Viterbo.
Since the beginning of the pursuit on the 6th, the II Corps front had been echeloned somewhat to the right rear of its neighbor, which was why Task Force C found no II Corps troops at Viterbo. After leaving the 3d Division behind to garrison Rome, Keyes selected the 85th and 88th Divisions to lead the II Corps along the axis of Highway 2 to the corps' objective, the road line Viterbo-Soriano-Orte. The VI Corps' units, which had been using the
same highway for the first hours of their advance north of Rome, had already turned off onto a secondary road that would carry them west of Lake Bracciano. The II Corps, advancing along the axis of Highway 2, would pass east of Lake Bracciano.5
Early on 6 June, the 85th Division, in a column of regiments with the 339th Infantry leading and elements of the 117th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron screening the front and flanks, led the II Corps up Highway 2 to take over the advance on Viterbo from the 36th Division. A tank battalion and a tank destroyer battalion, attached from Task Force Howze, accompanied the lead regiment. Leapfrogging his regiments and alternating his forward elements between motorized and dismounted infantry, the division commander, General Coulter, kept his columns moving so rapidly that by dark on 8 June they had advanced to within six miles of Viterbo. There Coulter learned that the 1st Armored Division's CCA was already advancing on the town, which the army commander, General Clark, reacting to a fait accompli, shifted into the VI Corps' zone.
On Coulter's right, Sloan's 88th Division set out from Rome about the same time as its neighbor. Limited to secondary roads east of Highway 2, General Sloan deployed all three of his regiments. Their advance over these roads was more of a tactical march than an actual pursuit. Both to the front and on the right flank, a task force consisting of the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron with a battalion each of tanks and tank destroyers screened the advance while the regiments followed. After the task force passed through Civita Castellana, 45 miles north of Rome, which the 6th South African Armoured Division of the British 13 Corps had captured two days before, the continued advance of the South Africans pinched out the task force.
At dawn on 9 June the French Expeditionary Corps began relieving the II Corps, whose zone of operations had been greatly reduced by the presence of the South African armor on Highway 3, temporarily assigned to use of the Eighth Army. By midmorning the 3d Algerian Infantry Division on the left and the 1st Motorized Division on the right completed relief of the 85th Division. Meanwhile, the 88th Division, pinched out by the South Africans, had also pulled out of the line.
The Fifth Army front on 11 June thus described a wide arc extending westward from Viterbo to Tuscania, thence southwest to a point just north of Tarquinia on Highway 1. Thus far casualties had been exceptionally light, each division seldom exceeding a daily average of ten in all categories.6
Eighth Army Joins the Pursuit
East of Rome, the Eighth Army on 6 June crossed the Tiber and its tributary, the Aniene, on a two-corps front, the 13th Corps on the left, the 10th Corps on the right. The former had the 6th South African and the 6th British Armoured Divisions, split at first by the
southward-flowing Tiber; the latter had the 8th Indian and the 2d New Zealand Divisions. Under army group control, the 5 Corps was to follow a German withdrawal on the Adriatic flank. Operations there were to remain in low key in the hope that the Eighth Army's advance would prompt the Germans to yield the Adriatic port of Ancona without a fight. Failing that, General Alexander planned to use the 2 Polish Corps to take the port, 130 miles northeast of Rome.7
As with the Americans, shuffling of units helped delay the Eighth Army's advance, particularly on the left in the sector of the 13 Corps. Yet the necessity for the shifts was early demonstrated by the problems faced by the 6th South African Armoured Division, advancing, in effect, astride the Tiber River. Because the bridge to be used in the jump-off along Highway 3 was demolished, the division early on 6 June had to detour through the U.S. II Corps sector, losing several hours in the process. Reaching Civita Castellana, 25 miles to the north, as nightfall approached, the division faced the necessity of again crossing the river if progress was to continue along Highway 3 to Terni. The Tiber was as much of a barrier to intracorps movement in the attack as it was to the Germans on the defense. Furthermore, if the South Africans along Highway 3 and the 6th British Armoured Division east of the Tiber along Highway 4 continued to follow those routes, they would be moving away from their objective, the Florence-Arezzo-Bibbiena triangle.
The 13 Corps commander, General Kirkman, accordingly obtained approval to put his entire corps west of the Tiber, avoiding the necessity to cross and recross the river while at the same time orienting the corps more directly toward the objective by use of Highway 71. The shift also avoided splitting the corps by another prominent terrain feature, Lake Trasimeno, which Highway 71 bypasses on the west.
The shift left the 10 Corps alone in pursuit of the stronger German force, the Tenth Army, east of the Tiber. The goal of that corps would be to keep enough pressure on the Tenth Army to forestall Field Marshal Kesselring from transferring units to reinforce the Fourteenth Army west of the Tiber.
Kesselring Outlines His Strategy
Even as the U.S. Fifth Army passed through Civitaveccia and Viterbo, and the British Eighth Army closed in on Orte, Narni, Terni, and Rieti, Field Marshal Kesselring began to prepare his superiors for the eventual loss of all central Italy between Rome and the Arno. On 8 June he informed the OKW that he might be able to delay the Allied armies forward of the Gothic Line for only three more weeks, and for that long only if the Allies made no attempt to turn Army Group C's front with an amphibious landing on either the Tyrrhenian or Adriatic coasts, which Kesselring saw as a possibility at any time.
Both the Tenth and Fourteenth Armies were to fight delaying actions while bringing reserves from the rear and flanks, closing newly opened gaps, and establishing firm contact along the inner wings of the two armies. Loss of
terrain was less important to Kesselring than overcoming the manpower losses suffered in the defeat south of Rome by rehabilitating severely mauled divisions.8
Compared with several delaying lines south of the Arno, the Gothic Line appeared on the map to offer a secure refuge for the German armies in the mountain fastness of the Northern Apennines, but in reality the line was far from complete. Construction of fortified positions in the relatively impregnable western sector, toward which the U.S. Fifth Army was advancing, had progressed satisfactorily, but little had been accomplished in the more vital and vulnerable central and eastern sectors, where the British Eighth Army's objectives lay. Although OKW had sent Field Marshal Kesselring additional engineer, fortification construction, and mountain battalions in order to complete the line before Army Group C withdrew beyond the Arno, the High Command was unable to afford him what he most needed--time. Kesselring could gain that only with his own skill and the steadfastness of his troops. While he was determined to hold the Allies as far south of the Arno as possible, unremitting pressure, especially against the Fourteenth Army on his right wing, delays in the arrival of reinforcements, and increasing difficulties in maintaining contact between his two armies across the barrier of the Tiber would, in Kesselring's opinion, leave little alternative to a fighting withdrawal.
Hitler disagreed. Even as Kesselring prepared on 9 June to issue new strategic guidelines to his army commanders, Hitler ordered him to stand and fight. Three days later the Fuehrer's written instructions pointed out that since another seven months were needed to complete the Gothic Line, the army group commander, if forced from his first defensive position, the Dora Line, had to be prepared to stabilize his front on the Frieda Line, forty miles farther north. Hitler also insisted that Kesselring should quickly disabuse his troops of any notion of the existence of a secure haven in the Northern Apennines into which they might eventually withdraw. The Gothic Line offered no advantages, Hitler added, for combat conditions there were less favorable than those south of the Arno. Furthermore, the hazards of flanking amphibious operations by the Allies were even greater. As if further to downgrade the importance of the Gothic Line in the eyes of both friend and foe, Hitler ordered the name of the line, with its historic connotations, changed. He reasoned that if the Allies managed to break through they would seize upon the more pretentious name as ground for magnifying their victory claims. Kesselring renamed it the Green Line.9
Essentially, despite Hitler's insistence on a stand and fight strategy, it developed rather that under Kesselring's command the German armies in Italy adopted a 20th-century variation of the delaying strategy associated with the
GROSSETO AND TERRAIN TO THE EAST
name of the Roman general Quintus Fabius Cunctator, who, during the Punic War of the 3d century, B.C., had worn down the Carthaginian armies by a series of delaying actions. How effective was the German adaptation of that strategy twenty-one centuries later remained to be seen.
To the Trasimeno Line
As both the Fifth and Eighth Armies completed their regrouping on 11 June, the Allied front extended from a point on the Tyrrhenian coast about 20 miles northwest of Tarquinia, northeastward some thirty miles to the vicinity of Fontanile Montefiascone, thence in a southeasterly direction to Narni and Rieti, passing south of L'Aquila on the southern edge of the Gran Sasso, and on to Chieti and the Adriatic coast about seven miles south of Pescara. The Allied armies at that point were in contact with the first of the enemy's delaying lines north of Rome.
On the Fifth Army's left, Crittenberger's
IV Corps held a 30-mile front between the coast and the hills overlooking it from the east and, on the right, the FEC's front stretched across twenty miles of the Umbrian highlands dominating the Tiber valley from the west. The intercorps boundary extended in a northwesterly direction from Tuscania.10
General Crittenberger planned for the 36th Division to make the main effort along the axis of the coastal Highway 1. To give Walker's division more punch, Crittenberger reinforced it with Broedlow's 361st Regimental Combat Team and the 753d Tank and 636th Tank Destroyer Battalions. The 117th Reconnaissance Squadron was to screen the corps front, with corps artillery to follow in general support. Two combat engineer regiments, the 36th and 39th, were also available. For the time being, the 34th Division was to remain in army reserve near Tarquinia.11
On the corps' right wing in the vicinity of Canino, eight miles southwest of Valentano, Crittenberger created a task force under the command of Brig. Gen. Rufus S. Ramey, with the mission of screening that flank and maintaining contact with the French Expeditionary Corps. The 1st Armored Group headquarters and headquarters company formed the command group for Ramey's task force, which included the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron, the 3d Battalion of the 141st Infantry, the 59th Field Artillery Battalion, an engineer battalion, and a medical company.12
The 36th Division's immediate objective was Grosseto, a provincial center approximately sixty miles northwest of Civitavecchia. Situated just north of the Ombrone River near the junction of Highways 1 and 73, Grosseto lies in the middle of a broad, flat valley formed by the Ombrone as it nears the sea. Almost fifteen miles wide, the valley is scored by a gridiron of small drainage ditches and canals.
Six miles beyond the 36th Division's front and twenty-three miles south of Grosseto lay the town of Orbetello, located at the mainland end of a causeway linking the rocky peninsula of Monte Argentario and the port of San Stefano with the mainland. San Stefano was the first of a series of small ports beyond Civitavecchia dotting the Tyrrhenian coast as far as Leghorn. The Allied command, especially the Fifth Army, hoped that with San Stefano's large liquid storage facilities in Allied hands, it would help solve the growing fuel supply problems. The gasoline shortage had been aggravated a week earlier when fire in the Fifth Army dumps near Rome destroyed large quantities of fuel.13
The tactical problems to be solved by the 36th Division resembled those which had been faced by the 85th along the coastal highway south of Terracina during the drive to link up the southern front with the Anzio beachhead. Between Orbetello and Grosseto the Umbrian hills stretch almost to the coast and just east of Orbetello form a defile through which Highway 1 passes.
Since the defile had been incorporated into the enemy's Dora Line, the Germans could be expected to put up a stiff fight for the feature.
Although the 361st Infantry had been held up for most of 10 June by fire from near the defile carrying Highway 1 through the Umbrian Hills, the 141st Infantry--its 1st Battalion leading, followed by the 2d--encountered no opposition as it began moving up the highway shortly before dawn on the 11th. Yet just as the Americans had begun to suspect that the enemy had withdrawn from the defile, out of the half-light of early morning heavy automatic weapons and artillery fire stabbed at the head of the column. The lead battalion quickly deployed off the road to set up a base of fire, while the next battalion in line turned off the main road to scale the high ground flanking the roadblock to the east.
Full daylight found the 1st Battalion astride the highway, and the 2d Battalion well up the 700-foot Poggio Capalbiaccio, commanding the enemy's defenses; but during the morning two companies of German infantry, infiltrating through wheat fields east of the feature, outflanked and overran the 2d Battalion's leading company and forced the Americans to fall back to the base of the hill. Not until the afternoon, and with the help of division artillery, was the battalion on Poggio Capalbiaccio able to restore its lines. That evening, reinforced with a battalion from the 361st Infantry, the 2d Battalion once again started up the high ground. Throughout the night, fighting flared across the hillside, but dawn of the 12th found the 2d Battalion on top of Poggio Capalbiaccio and overlooking the enemy roadblock along the coastal highway.
This feat, in conjunction with a resumption of the 1st Battalion's attack along the highway during the afternoon of the 12th, was sufficient to force the Germans to yield the Orbetello defile and fall back toward Grosetto. At that point General Walker relieved the 141st Infantry with the 143d, which had been in reserve east of Nunziatella. The 141st Infantry then shifted to the right to join Task Force Ramey and the regiment's 3d Battalion on that flank of the corps.
That night engineers accompanied the infantry across the causeway to San Stefano, where the Americans found to their delight that the fuel storage facilities were still intact, thanks to Italian engineers who had failed to carry out German orders to destroy them. An Italian diver provided information concerning the location of underwater mines placed in deep moats surrounding the tanks.
At San Stefano the Americans also discovered underground storage facilities for an additional 281,000 barrels of gasoline.14 Yet before the first tanker could enter, the harbor had to be cleared of sunken ships and the docks repaired. That was difficult work under wartime conditions, so that not until 1 July was the first tanker to dock, but the port soon became the main POL terminal for the Fifth Army.15
While the 143d Infantry cleared Orbetello
and occupied San Stefano, the 42d Infantry, accompanied by tanks, crossed the hills on the division's right wing toward the village of Capalbio. The regiment brushed aside a weak counterattack by elements of the 162d Turkomen Division to occupy the village before noon on the 11th. That afternoon and throughout the next day the troops continued to advance--the infantry across the hills and the tanks through the narrow valleys--northwest to high ground just south of lateral Route 74.16
By the evening of 12 June, Walker's 36th Division was within sight of the Albegna River, which parallels Route 74 and enters the Tyrrhenian Sea five miles northwest of Orbetello. The general had planned crossings of the river that night, but it turned out that all bridges were destroyed and that the water was too deep for fording. Postponing the attack until morning, he put his engineers to work constructing footbridges in the darkness. Shortly before dawn on the 13th, the 142d Infantry, followed by the 143d on the left, began to cross.
The 143d Infantry encountered little opposition until reaching the village of Bengodi on the banks of the smaller but deeper Osa River, three to four miles north of the Albegna.17 Not so with the 142d Infantry on the right. As that regiment neared the village of Magliano, five miles north of the Albegna, heavy fire from that village and the hills to the north brought the men to a halt. They attempted to outflank the village to the east, but resistance was firm there as well. Nevertheless, by 1500 the 2d Battalion, supported by tank and heavy artillery fire directed against the enemy in the hills to the north, managed to win a foothold in the outskirts of Magliano. During the rest of the afternoon and throughout the night the infantry inched into the village house by house and street by street. The village's fall opened a road along which the division could outflank Grosseto from the southeast, as it had done earlier at Orbetello. Throughout the afternoon the 142d Infantry continued to move up until its leading battalions occupied high ground flanking the Magliano-Grosseto road. That night the 361st Infantry came forward to spell the 142d.18
Meanwhile, throughout the 14th, the 143d Infantry continued to forge ahead astride the coastal highway. Attacking at dawn, the 2d and 3d Battalions required five hours to drive the enemy from the flanking high ground north of Bengodi, in the process capturing fifty prisoners and five artillery pieces. For the rest of the afternoon the two battalions advanced against slackening opposition, as the Germans, having lost Magliano, fell back across the corps front toward Grosseto. By dark the regiment had come within twelve miles of Grosseto and the Ombrone River.19
Moving before dawn on the 15th, a battalion on each side of the highway, the 143d Infantry encountered no resistance in occupying the high ground
overlooking the Ombrone and in flanking the highway near Collecchio, a village six miles south of the river. As the men descended into the river valley and worked their way across the network of small streams and drainage ditches scoring the valley floor, sporadic machine gun and mortar fire picked at them, but there were few casualties. Locating a ford a mile east of the main road, the troops waited until dark before attempting to cross the river. Thereupon one battalion proceeded quickly into Grosseto. The Germans had already left.20
To the right of the 143d, the 361st Infantry operating south and west of Istia d'Ombrone, four miles northeast of Grosseto, had more trouble in crossing the river. Unable to locate a ford, engineers toiled through the night to construct a footbridge. When the men began crossing at daylight on the 16th, enemy artillery inflicted a number of casualties. It was early afternoon before all three battalions were across the river and astride high ground overlooking the valley from the northeast.21
On the division's right flank Task Force Ramey had been held up since early on the 14th by resolute defenders south of Triana, a small, walled town at a road junction twenty-two miles east of Grosseto. Instead of a direct confrontation, General Ramey concentrated on clearing the neighboring villages of Santa Caterina, Vallerona, and Roccalbegna. That so threatened the enemy's line of communications to the strongpoint at Triana that the town's garrison soon withdrew.
On the morning of the 16th Ramey's men entered Triana. The fall first of Grosseto on the night of the 15th and then of Triana meant that the VI Corps was well past the Dora Line and two-thirds of the way to the Frieda Line.
Early next day, 17 June, a 9,700-man French amphibious landing force attacked the island of Elba, seven miles off the coast. Composed of two regimental combat teams from the 9th Colonial Division and a commando battalion with a group of goumiers attached, all supported by an American air task force, with a British naval task force in general support, the French approached the island over a calm, fog-shrouded sea from a base in nearby Corsica. Despite some early resistance by a 2,500-man enemy garrison, 550 of whom were Italian Fascist troops and the rest Germans, the French quickly established two secure beachheads. The next day virtually all resistance ceased. Other than to boost French morale, the capture of Elba had little immediate significance for the Allies, yet for the Germans the operation again raised the specter of an Allied amphibious operation to the German rear and made Kesselring pause before committing his reserve, the 16th SS Panzer Grenadier Division.22
The IV Corps, meanwhile, continued to move northwestward, paralleling the coast beyond Grosseto. On the left wing along the coast, the 36th Division advanced on a 15-mile front to clear all
the high ground southeast of Route 73. On the right wing, Task Force Ramey, with the 141st Infantry attached, cut Route 73 below the town of Roccastrada, ten miles north of the coastal highway, there to await relief by the 1st Armored Division.
In ten days the IV Corps had progressed but twenty-two miles on a 20-mile front, a rate imposed by persistent German delaying action and one hardly characteristic of a rapid pursuit. Yet it then appeared that even firmer German resistance might be in the offing, possibly sufficient even to halt the pursuit; for as the corps prepared to cross Route 73, intelligence officers identified prisoners from the 16th SS Panzer Grenadier Division.23
The French Advance to the Orcia
A similar threat was developing on the Fifth Army's right wing, where General Juin's French Expeditionary Corps, since relieving the U.S. II Corps on 10 June, had encountered steadily increasing resistance. In the meantime, the French had learned that they would soon be withdrawn from the front to prepare for the invasion of southern France. During the weeks to come, that knowledge would exercise, especially among the French officers of the North African legions, a strong psychological restraint over operations. Why die with the liberation of France close at hand? The dash and spontaneity that had characterized FEC operations in the mountains south of Rome thus was missing.24
Finding his corps again operating over the worst terrain in the army sector, General Juin formed an ad hoc pursuit corps headquarters to direct field operations. He placed Lt. Gen. Edgard R. M. de Larminat in command of a force that included Maj. Gen. Diego Brosset's 1st Motorized (March) Division and Maj. Gen. de Goisland de Monsabert's 3d Algerian division, all still supported by the 13th U.S. Field Artillery Brigade and its attached battalions.25
The first objective was Route 74, the lateral road connecting Highways 1 and 2 running east-west just north of Lake Bolsena, some nineteen miles north of the jump-off positions. Attacking on 11 June, even as the neighboring IV Corps began to head toward Orbetello and Grosseto, the French gained Lake Bolsena on the 12th. It took another two days to come up to either side of the lake and to get beyond it, at the same time that the neighboring task force cleared Route 74 between Lake Bolsena and the sea.
On the same day General Clark extended the FEC western boundary to close a developing gap between the two corps. To cover the wider front, General de Larminat reinforced General de Monsabert's Algerian division with a task force that, in proceeding diagonally to the northwest and roughly parallel to the line of the coast, soon pinched out Task Force Ramey.
By nightfall on 17 June the French had gained positions some fifteen miles beyond Lake Bolsena but for the next three days a combination of enemy resistance and worsening weather restricted
progress to another ten miles. By the 20th the corps was nevertheless within striking distance of the Orcia River, a westward flowing tributary of the Ombrone. As the FEC prepared to assault the obstacle, Brosset's 1st Motorized Division began to withdraw in anticipation of the invasion of southern France, while Maj. Gen Andre W. Dody's 2d Moroccan Infantry Division moved from corps reserve to take its place in line.
The British Sector
General Clark's concern that the British Eighth Army, facing a more capable German force and more difficult terrain, would be unable to keep pace with the Fifth Army proved needless, for General Leese's troops had maintained a momentum developed during the first week of the pursuit beyond Rome. The Eighth Army continued to advance northward on a two-corps front, the 13 Corps to the west of Lake Trasimeno via Highway 71, and the 10 Corps to the east of the lake.26
After some delay due to the need to squeeze through Viterbo's narrow streets at the same time the U.S. II Corps was trying to withdraw from the area, the 13 Corps by the evening of 13 June had drawn to within four miles of Orvieto, its first objective. A few days before, that move would have threatened to block the Germans' lateral communications from Terni and Todi through Orvieto to the sectors west of the Tiber; but Kesselring, too, having completed the regrouping, strengthened the Fourteenth Army's front and no longer needed that lateral route.
The regrouping had begun on the 12th with the transfer of Senger's XIV Panzer Corps headquarters from the Tenth to the Fourteenth Army sector, where the panzer corps took command of the 19th and 20th Luftwaffe Field Divisions on the coastal flank, pending the arrival of its former divisions--the 26th Panzer and the 29th and 90th Panzer Grenadier Divisions from the Tenth Army zone. Since 13 June the panzer and the two panzer grenadier divisions had been located west of the Tiber, where they had been steadily braking the Fifth Army's forward movement. Whether the Tenth Army, shorn of those units, could continue to do the same to General Leese's Eighth Army, was a question about to be answered as the Eighth Army, like the Fifth, prepared to close with the Frieda Line.
Orvieto no longer having meaning, the Germans, as the 13 Corps approached, began withdrawing into hills commanding the Paglia valley north of the town. By noon on 14 June the 6th South African Armoured Division had cleared the town of the last of the German rear guards.
East of the Tiber the 10 Corps shifted its axis slightly westward from Rieti to Terni, for enemy movements, observed by reconnaissance aircraft, had indicated that Terni had become the focus of the regrouping of General Feuerstein's LI Mountain Corps. For several days Feuerstein had received help in that task by terrain that had so canalized the 10 Corps' advance as to require the British 6th Armoured Division to take five days to cover the thirty miles between Passo Corese and Terni
on Highway 4. As on the Fifth Army front, the British armor led the way during the day and the infantry at night, and, similarly, demolitions covered by artillery and mortar fire caused most of the delays. The British armor did not reach the southern outskirts of Terni until 13 June, there to be held up for two days by a demolished bridge across a deep gorge just outside the town. The gorge at last bridged, the tankers found the enemy gone from Terni.
Kesselring Reinforces His Right Wing
From the German viewpoint, despite the successive loss of Grosseto, Orvieto, and Terni, chances of restoring an intact front had improved considerably by mid-June. In addition to returning Senger's XIV Panzer Corps to the Fourteenth Army, Field Marshal Kesselring also brought the Hermann Goering Panzer Grenadier Parachute Division back into action, this time on the Tenth Army's right flank north of Orvieto opposite the British 13 Corps.
Undoubtedly, Field Marshal Kesselring's most significant accomplishment during the first ten days after the loss of Rome had been to prevent a breakthrough along the interarmy boundary and to reinforce the Fourteenth Army west of the Tiber. By mid-June the Fourteenth Army commander, General Lemelsen, could muster nine divisions, with two others having been withdrawn for rest and reorganization. Although three of the nine critically needed relief, five of the remaining six were first-rate panzer and panzer grenadier divisions.
Opposite those divisions the U.S. Fifth Army had, by mid-June, six divisions and part of a seventh (the 91st). On the Eighth Army left wing the British 13 Corps controlled three divisions, making a total of about nine and a half divisions against the Fourteenth Army's nine. Even allowing for the fact that three of the nine were understrength, the ratio of nine and a half to nine scarcely afforded a promise of a continued rapid Allied advance.27 Opposite the equivalent of five divisions in the 10 Corps, on the Eighth Army right wing, the German situation was no more encouraging, for there General Vietinghoff's Tenth Army mustered eight divisions, divided between Herr's LXXVI Panzer Corps and Feuerstein's LI Mountain Corps.
The ability of the Germans, despite harassment by a daily average of 1,000 Allied air sorties, to shift major units from one sector to another and to bring important reinforcements from northern Italy to man the several delaying lines north of Rome had been largely responsible for the failure of the two Allied armies to cut off and destroy significant parts of either of the two German armies. By maintaining maneuverability, the Germans were able to re-form along new lines even in the face of Allied pressure and penetration, forcing upon the Allies a form of pursuit that had come to characterize Russian operations against the Germans on the Eastern Front. In the opinion of General von Senger und Etterlin, only if the Allies had, as at Anzio, taken advantage of the Germans' long and vulnerable seaward flanks to launch amphibious landings could that pattern have been broken. Unknown to the
GENERALS BRANN, CRITTENBERGER, AND MASCARENHAS
Germans at the time, the shortage of landing craft prevented such operations.28
Both the specter of Allied amphibious landings and the very real fact of partisan operations against German lines of communications bedeviled German commanders. The farther north the Germans retreated the more active became Italian partisan bands, many led by former Italian Army officers. As early as 13 June, Lemelsen's chief of staff had obtained army group authority to punish acts of sabotage against the German armed forces and to take ten-for-one reprisals against military-age members of the civilian population for every German soldier killed or wounded by partisans. By mid-June sabotage of the German lines of communications had nevertheless reached such proportions as to disrupt not only long-distance telephone cables, upon which the Germans had increasingly come to rely for their communications because of Allied air attacks on military signal facilities, but also to immobilize even local telephone networks. In the vicinity of Siena, some 115 miles north of Rome, partisans also cut a vital lateral supply route leading from Grosseto
to Siena. Stung by these actions, the Germans were to take stern countermeasures in the weeks to come.29
The Eighth Army Closes With the Frieda Line
As the British 10 Corps resumed its advance early on 15 June, the improved stance of German units soon became apparent. The British 6th Armoured Division, leading the way, did manage to cross the Nera River over bridges recently completed at Terni and Narni during the last leg of an advance aimed at Perugia, ten miles east of Lake Trasimeno. However, Vietinghoff, the Tenth Army commander, had selected Perugia, a major German supply base, as the hinge of his forward defensive zone east of the lake. Although the British armor was able to go twenty miles beyond the Nera with little difficulty, unexpectedly strong resistance developed on the 16th southeast of Todi, midway between Terni and Perugia. To bypass it, the corps commander ordered the Tiber bridged about three miles northwest of Todi so that progress could continue along the west bank over terrain more favorable for armor. The bridge completed early on the 17th, the 6th Armoured Division resumed its advance along both sides of the Tiber. Moving rapidly once again, the British by nightfall drew within six miles of Perugia,30 the goal assigned by General Leese in the first week of June; but as was soon evident, the corps had also closed with outposts of the Frieda Line. It took another three days to conquer Perugia. After yielding the city, the Germans withdrew into their main defensive zone in hills north and northwest of the city. The next day, the 20th, in the face of the staunchest resistance since the fall of Rome, the advance ground to a halt just beyond Perugia.
In the 13 Corps sector the 6th South African Armoured Division also ran into strong defenses along that part of the Frieda Line west of Lake Trasimeno. By the 16th several fresh enemy units, taking advantage of a range of hills southwest of Lake Trasimeno, held the armor at Chiusi, on Highway 71 twenty-two miles north of Orvieto. Intelligence gleaned from prisoners indicated that the 334th Infantry Division lay west of the highway, the 1st Parachute Division astride the road, and the 356th Infantry Division to the east.
Thus were signs increasing across the entire Eighth Army front that the enemy was determined to give battle along a line flanking Lake Trasimeno to the east and west. To add to the attacker's woes, heavy rains began falling on the evening of the 17th, transforming the countryside into a quagmire. By the 20th it was clear that the Germans could be dislodged only by a full-scale set-piece attack. With the 13 Corps bogged down southwest of Lake Trasimeno and the 10 Corps unable to penetrate the hills north and west of Perugia, the Eighth Army's pursuit, like that of the Fifth Army appeared to be at an end.
Conscious that the tempo of the advance west of the Apennines was
GENERALS LEESE (left) AND ANDERS
insufficient to induce the Germans to yield the port city of Ancona on the Adriatic coast without a fight, General Alexander accordingly decided to step up operations in the Adriatic sector. On 15 June he ordered General Anders' 2 Polish Corps back into line to relieve the British 5 Corps, which since the fall of Rome had limited its operations to proceeding on the heels of the enemy withdrawal. The next day the Poles, with a brigade-size Italian Corps of Liberation attached on the left, began to move toward Ancona, 70 miles to the northwest. Over the next five days the advance carried 45 miles to and beyond the Chienti River and within 25 miles of the goal of Ancona.
The week's rapid progress had been made possible largely by an earlier German decision to fall back on the defenses of Ancona, which constituted that part of the Frieda Line east of the Apennines. Trying to renew the advance on the 22d, the Poles too were checked. Only with sizable reinforcements, General Anders concluded, would he be able to break the enemy's hold south of Ancona. Generals Alexander and Leese approved a two-week
pause to enable him to effect the buildup.31
The pursuit everywhere was nearing an end. At the time it had begun, General Alexander had assured General Wilson, the Mediterranean theater commander, that barring substantial German reinforcements, the Allies by the end of June would have reached a line extending from Grosseto to Perugia. Even though three additional enemy divisions had entered the line, Alexander had achieved that goal and a little more.
1. Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret, pp. 159-60: SAC Despatch, The Italian Campaign, 10 May-12 Aug 1944, typescript in CMH.
2. Hqs Fifth Army OI 28, 6 Jun 1944.
3. Ibid.; Fifth Army History, Part VI, pp. 20-21.
4. VI Corps Opns Rpt, Jun 44, 34th Div G-3 Jnl, 5-7, 8-16 Jun 44. Unless otherwise indicated the following is based upon these sources.
5. Fifth Army History, Part VI, pp. 25-30. Unless otherwise cited the following is based upon this source.
6. 9th MRU, Fifth Army Battle Casualties, 19 Jun 45, CMH.
7. Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. D.
8. Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV (1), pp. 513-23. Kesselring's comments on Der Feldzug in Italien, Part II, in CMH files. Unless otherwise indicated the following section is based upon these references.
9. Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(1), pp. 520-23. Since the Allies never adopted the new name, the text will continue to use the designation Gothic Line.
10. IV Corps AAR, Jun-Jul 44.
11. Fifth Army History, Part VI, pp. 32-35; IV Corps AAR, Jun 44.
12. IV Corps AAR, Jun 44.
13. Interv, Mathews with Lt Col Charles S. d'Orsa, 10 May 48, CMH. Colonel d'Orsa was executive officer, Fifth Army G-4, during the campaign.
14. Mayo MS, ch. XIV.
15. Leo J. Meyer, MS, Strategy and Logistical History: MTO, ch. XXXIX, "Extension of Communications North of Rome" (hereafter cited as Meyer MS), CMH; Interv, Mathews with d'Orsa, 10 May 48.
16. IV Corps AAR, Jun 44; 36th Div Hist Rpt, Jun 44.
17. 36th Div Hist Rpt, Jun 44.
18. Ibid. During the battle for Magliano, S. Sgt. Homer L. Wise's fearless and skillful leadership of his rifle platoon enabled the 2d Battalion to seize its objective. For this action Sergeant Wise was awarded the Medal of Honor.
19. IV Corps AAR, Jun 44.
21. Ibid.; Fifth Army History, Part VI, pp. 37-40.
22. The Allied intelligence officers had grossly overestimated the number of Italian troops on Elba; allied sources estimated 5,000 Italian soldiers to be on the island. See SAC Despatch, 10 May-12 Aug 44, pp. 37-40, and Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(1), pp. 524-25.
23. Fifth Army History, Part VI, pp. 38-41.
24. Interv, Mathews with Gen Clark, 1948, CMH.
25. Fifth Army History, Part VI, pp. 41-46.
26. Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. D. Unless otherwise indicated this section is based upon this source.
27. Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(1), pp. 520-21.
28. See Special Investigations and Interrogation Report, Operation Lightening USDIC/SII R 30/36, 15 Mar 1947, CMH files, and Senger, Neither Hope nor Fear, pp. 257-58. See also Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(1), p. 519.
29. AOK 14, Ia KTB Anl. 3, 13 Jun 44, AOK 14, Doc. 59091/1; Ltr, R. R. Wadleigh, 2d Lt FA, 142d Inf, 16 Jul 44, to Lt Col H. E. Helsten, 2660 Hq Co Mics (reel 41-A, G-3 Div, Sp Opns files, AFHQ microfilm).
30. Five miles southeast of Orvieto the Tiber makes a sharp bend to the northeast as far as Todi; from there it turns again northward to Perugia.
31. Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. A.