End of the Campaign in Central Italy
In pursuing the essential task of capturing the major port of Leghorn, the commander of the IV Corps, General Crittenberger, was determined not to repeat the tactics employed in the battle for Cecina, which had dissipated the corps strength in a frontal attack with only a belated and relatively weak attempt to outflank the objective. By intervening early in the planning stage of the operation against Leghorn, the IV Corps commander expected to coordinate the frontal and flanking operations more closely. As at Cecina, Ryder's 34th Infantry Division was to carry the main burden.1
To give Ryder's division additional fire power, Crittenberger reinforced it with the 442d Regimental Combat Team, the 804th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and the 363d Regimental Combat Team, the second of the 91st Division's units to be assigned to the Fifth Army to gain combat experience. To the 363d Regimental Combat Team Crittenberger gave the mission of outflanking Leghorn on the east and of threatening the enemy's route of withdrawal. That maneuver, he believed, would cause the enemy garrison, when the 34th Division approached the port from the south and east, to abandon the objective rather than attempt a last-ditch stand.2
The Terrain and the Plan
Before Crittenberger could execute these plans his corps, from positions in the hills some six miles north of the Cecina River, had first to cross a 20 mile stretch of terrain far more convoluted than that south of Cecina. This was infantry country and the infantry, supported by artillery, would have to do most of the fighting. From the line of the Cecina three natural routes of approach led toward Leghorn and the Arno valley. Four miles beyond Cecina, Highway 1 returned to the coast, and from that point wound along the edge of cliffs dropping abruptly to the sea. Before reaching Leghorn the highway connected several small coastal towns, the largest of which was Rosignano Solvay, seven miles north of Cecina and the site of a large chemical works. A secondary road, Route 206, led northward from the junction of Highway 1 and lateral Route 68 through a valley flanked on the left by the coastal range and on the right by a high ridge line. That road linked numerous villages and towns and passed through the largest community, Colle Salvetti, eighteen miles away on the southern edge of the Arno valley. A third, unnumbered
The Advance on Leghorn
2-19 July 1944
route paralleled that road about five miles to the east on the eastern side of the ridge line. The unnumbered route led northward from a junction with lateral Route 68 via Riparbella, six miles northeast of Cecina, to a junction with Route 206 at Torretta, three miles south of Colle Salvetti. Crittenberger planned to send the bulk of the 34th Division along the latter two roads while the 804th Tank Destroyer Battalion and the 34th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop held to the narrow coastal highway.3 (Map 7)
To the 34th Division's right, the 88th Division (and later also the 91st Division) was to move forward along the west bank of the Era River valley, which paralleled the coast seventeen miles inland. After the 91st Division arrived, the 88th Division was to cross the Era and proceed up its east bank toward the Arno. Thirteen miles east of the Era the French Expeditionary Corps was to continue its drive on the Fifth Army's right flank through the Elsa valley until relieved just short of the Arno by the II Corps, which General Clark for several weeks had been holding in reserve.
The terrain over which these several routes led favored the defense. Ridge lines on the flanks of the main routes of approach rose to peaks of over 1,500 feet on the left and over 2,000 feet on the right, offering the Germans vantage points from which they might rake the advancing columns with flanking fire. Seven miles north of Cecina and lateral Route 68 the reinforced 19th Luftwaffe Division prepared to make a stand just north of a lateral road which connected the coastal highway with Route 206, the westernmost of the 34th Division's two main routes of approach.
The town of Rosignano Marittimo, on a hilltop two and a half miles northeast of the junction of the lateral road with the coastal highway and the factory town of Rosignano Solvay, afforded the enemy a commanding view of the terrain almost as far as Cecina. On the summit of the hill in the center of the town stood a massive stone castle whose thick walls had withstood besieging armies in centuries past. The location of the town and its buildings had prompted the Germans to make it the major strongpoint of their defenses south of Leghorn.
Because of the terrain and the routes of approach, General Ryder planned to advance with three regiments abreast--the 135th Infantry on the left, the attached 442d Infantry in the center, and the 168th on the right. The 133d Infantry, which had borne the brunt of the battle for Cecina, would remain in reserve. On his left flank, the 804th Tank Destroyer Battalion, screened by the 34th Reconnaissance Troop, was to advance along the narrow, cliff-hanging coastal highway. On his right flank, Ryder would deploy the reconnaissance company of the 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion to screen the 168th Infantry's flank and to maintain contact with the 91st Division after it entered the line between the 34th and 88th Divisions. By evening of 2 July all units had reached their assigned assembly positions and were prepared to launch the drive to Leghorn early the next morning.4
Deployed on the high ground opposite the IV Corps front two enemy divisions of varying quality awaited the attack. On the Fourteenth Army's right flank, General von Senger's XIV Panzer Corps was controlling the 19th Luftwaffe and 26th Panzer Divisions, both of which had given such good account of themselves in the defense of the Cecina sector, but in so doing had suffered considerable losses. To the left and holding a comparatively narrow front was the 20th Luftwaffe Field Division.5
Advance Toward Leghorn
At dawn on 3 July, the 135th and 168th Infantry Regiments of the 34th Division began to advance across the flanking ridges; at the same time in the valley below the 442d Infantry attacked across a broader front. By early evening the lead company of the 135th Infantry's 3d Battalion had reached Rosignano Marittimo's southern outskirts. A few hours later the rest of the battalion arrived, but was halted just short of the town by mortar and artillery fire, including some 170-mm. rounds from enemy guns located behind a ridge northeast of Rosignano. Since it was too dark to continue the assault, the battalion organized three company-sized strongpoints and settled down for the night. Early the next morning the battalion began the difficult task of establishing a foothold in the town. For several hours the men inched forward through streets made gauntlets by the enemy's firing small arms and hurling grenades from upper stories of the compact stone buildings lining the streets. After beating off a strong tank-supported infantry counterattack, the 3d Battalion by late afternoon had at last gained a foothold in the southern third of the town. Despite reinforcement by the rest of the parent 135th Infantry, it took three more days for the men to advance house by house through the rest of the town. It was late on 7 July before the men reached the northern edge of the town, there to confront a stubborn rear guard holding scattered strongpoints in isolated houses along the fringe.6
The remaining regiments under 34th Division control found the fighting equally difficult. The 442d Regimental Combat Team, astride the valley road in the center, and the 168th Infantry, along the eastern ridge overlooking the valley road, advanced in echelon to the right rear of the 135th Infantry. Although on 4 July the corps commander attached the 363d Infantry to the 34th Division for use on the 168th's right, the 442d and the 168th could do little more than consolidate their gains across a four-mile front. They accomplished that only after beating off several small-scale counterattacks by Germans infiltrating a proliferation of ravines and gullies. So painstaking was the advance that the 168th Infantry required four days to reach and clear the village of Castellino Marittimo, five miles due east of Rosignano Marittimo.7
For all the difficulties, capture of Rosignano Marittimo and Castellina Marittimo meant that the infantrymen had driven the enemy from the last favorable defensive terrain south of
Leghorn. That left the 135th Infantry free to move directly on the port while to the right the 34th Division's remaining regiments and attached units were to envelop the city from the east before turning west toward the coast and north toward the Arno River and Pisa, site of the famous leaning tower. They would have help from Maj. Gen. William G. Livesay's 91st Division, committed for the first time as an entire unit between Ryder's 34th and Sloan's 88th Divisions. At the same time attachment of the 363d Infantry to the 34th Division and the 361st Infantry to the 1st Armored Division terminated.
With two regiments forward--the 362d on the right and the 363d on the left--the 91st Division launched its first attack as a division early on the 12th from assembly areas three miles south of a four-mile-wide sector between Chianni and Laiatico and about ten miles northeast of Rosignano Marittimo.8 On the 91st Division's right the 88th Division resumed its drive astride Route 439 near the Era River. Both divisions were heading for the Arno near the small industrial town of Pontedera, seventeen miles northeast of Leghorn.9
It would be only a matter of time before General Lemelsen's Fourteenth Army would have to begin a general withdrawal to the Arno. Hard pressed on the right wing, General von Senger's XIV Panzer Corps fell back toward Leghorn. The panzer corps' left wing experienced an equally serious reverse with the loss of Volterra on 8 July to the 88th Division, which opened a wide gap in a sector occupied by the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division. With no available reserves to close the gap, General von Senger had no alternative but to withdraw across his entire corps front. That move forced General Lemelsen to pull back the neighboring I Parachute Corps front as well. Even as the 91st Division during the night of 12 July prepared to attack, the Fourteenth Army broke contact across its entire front and fell back on the Arno.10
General Lemelsen was concerned not only with the persistent American ground advance but also with stepped-up Allied naval activity. For a week the Germans had been observing Allied naval units engaged in mine-clearing operations in the waters west of Leghorn and the mouth of the Arno, west of Pisa. That activity rekindled both Kesselring's and Lemelsen's chronic apprehension of an amphibious operation aimed at envelopment of the Fourteenth Army's western, or Ligurian, flank. Lemelsen, accordingly, alerted Senger to the possibility of a landing between Leghorn and Pisa. Thus concerned, however unrealistic the threat, it was unlikely that the Germans would attempt a protracted defense of Leghorn.11
Over the next few days as General Crittenberger's IV Corps advanced
across its entire front, the corps commander's attention was focused upon the columns operating southeast of Leghorn. The 168th Infantry and a newly recommitted 133d Infantry made up the force attempting to envelop Leghorn from that direction. The going for the 133rd Infantry was relatively easy, the regiment emerging from hills overlooking the Arno on 17 July; but the 168th Infantry had to fight harder for comparable gains. As the regiment on the 17th reached the outskirts of the village of Fauglia, about ten miles due east of Leghorn, the Germans in their determination to cover their main forces in a difficult withdrawal behind a bridgeless Arno mustered their remaining mortars and artillery and in the afternoon even managed a battalion-sized counterattack supported by seven Tiger tanks. It took help from all available divisional artillery for the 168th to beat off the enemy forces, but then the regiment entered Fauglia and moved on five miles beyond to Colle Salvetti, the last major town in the regimental zone of operations south of the Arno valley. Early the next morning a battalion of the 442d Regimental Combat Team to the 168th's left entered the village of Torretta, two miles west of Fauglia; and by evening of the 18th all three regiments were sending patrols deep into the Arno valley in a vain effort to regain contact with the retreating Germans.
The Capture of Leghorn
As the enveloping maneuver against Leghorn proceeded, General Crittenberger became concerned about having only one regiment, the 135th Infantry,to assault the city frontally. That circumstance prompted him again to attach the 91st Division's 363d Infantry to the 34th Division. In concert with the 135th Infantry, approaching Leghorn from the southeast, the 363d was to attack the city from the east.12
Both regiments found the going easy. They readily brushed aside a weak rear guard to enter Leghorn before daylight on the 19th. Within the city they met no resistance, for the enemy garrison, concerned, as the American commander had hoped, with the columns investing the city from the east, had slipped away during the night. Meanwhile, to the south of Leghorn, the reconnaissance and tank destroyer force driving along the coastal highway had to contend with nothing more serious than destroyed culverts and widely scattered mines, and it entered the city soon after daylight. Close behind came the 442d Regimental Combat Team's 100th Battalion to take up garrison duty.13
Although the Germans had been forced to yield Leghorn earlier than they had planned, they managed to destroy the city's port facilities and partially block the harbor with sunken ships. All quay walls were demolished and the masonry toppled into the water. A number of ships were scuttled alongside piers and the harbor sown with mines. Allied bombing had earlier cut all rail lines and created ruins that blocked the streets in the port area. In their turn the Germans had sown the ruins indiscriminately with thousands of
AERIAL VIEW OF LEGHORN
mines and booby traps. Hundreds of American soldiers fell victim to these devices in the early weeks following the fall of Leghorn.14
However monumental the task of putting the port of Leghorn in operation, it had to be done before the Fifth Army could launch major operations beyond the Arno. Surveys of the damaged harbor by Army and Navy engineers indicated that at least three weeks would be needed to provide just two berths for Liberty ships. Barring unforeseen circumstances the engineers estimated that it would take two months before Leghorn could meet all the needs of the Fifth Army north of Rome. The first Liberty ships carrying engineering equipment and stevedoring gear arrived at Leghorn on 20 August but had to be unloaded by lighters. Drawing upon earlier experience in rehabilitating the port of Naples, Army engineers soon bridged over the vessels sunk alongside the piers and extended the quays so that all hatches of cargo ships could be worked without reversing
the vessel. By such expedients two Liberty ships were able to dock on 26 August only five weeks after the city's capture.15
The Capture of Ancona and Arezzo
Just as Leghorn, on the opposite coast, was vital for the Americans, so Ancona on the Adriatic coast remained a prerequisite for continued large-scale operations by the British Eighth Army. Having been halted early in July by firm resistance eight miles south of Ancona, General Anders' 2 Polish Corps prepared on 16 July to resume the drive for that port.
General Anders had two Polish divisions--the 3d Carpathian along the coast and the 5th Kresowa in the center--with the brigade-sized Italian Corps of Liberation on the left. Like General Crittenberger, General Anders hoped to envelop his objective rather than attack frontally. By simulated concentrations and movements of armor and other heavy equipment in the area of coastal Highway 16, the 3d Carpathian Division was to try to draw enemy attention away from the area of actual attack. the sector of the 5th Kresowa Division. With help of the 2d Armoured Brigade, the 5th was to attack along the axis Osimo-Agugliano in hope of turning the German defenses from the west, then to exploit eastward as far as the coastal highway above Ancona. In the meantime, an attack northward by the Italian corps was to cover the division's left flank. The Desert Air Force (DAF), the Eighth Army's long-time air arm, was to fly in general support.16
During the night of 16 July four Polish infantry battalions and four armored regiments, the latter containing approximately 240 tanks, faced a front defended by an estimated three infantry battalions of the 278th Division, plus some units of the 71st Division that had been reconstituted after heavy losses in May during the defense of the Gustav Line south of Rome. Because the Poles planned to rely on accurate close air support, they attacked at daylight on 17 July behind the fire of approximately 300 artillery pieces and aerial bombardment by the DAF.
Early in the day some anxiety developed at Polish headquarters over the security of the left flank because of hesitation and local withdrawals by the Italians. Yet that concern was short-lived as the overwhelming weight of Allied firepower propelled the 5th Kresowa Division forward expeditiously in the center. By the end of the day the division and the tanks of the armored brigade had gained approximately four miles. The next day the Poles drove the Germans beyond the Esino River, ten miles northwest of Osimo, and on the 18th pursued the enemy beyond the river, completing the envelopment of Ancona. As the Carpathian Lancers of the 3d Carpathian Division pushed along the coastal highway to enter the city in early afternoon, they were virtually unopposed.
Over the next week the Polish corps
forced the enemy steadily northward to place the port of Ancona well beyond the range of German artillery and to give the Eighth Army a major forward supply base. No longer would British truck convoys have to make the long overland haul from Bari, over 260 miles to the south. Fortunately for the Allies, the Germans at Ancona had been unable to demolish the port as thoroughly as their confreres at Leghorn. On 23 July, only five days after the fall of Ancona, a British supply convoy steamed into the port.17
Meanwhile, far to the west beyond the Apennines, a major part of the British Eighth Army prepared to renew the drive against the communications center of Arezzo, a prerequisite to continuing on to Florence. Opposite the 13 Corps, which for several weeks had carried the main burden of the Eighth Army's offensive, were the same four German divisions that had earlier defended the Frieda or Trasimeno Line: the 15th Panzer Grenadier, the 334th Infantry, the 1st Parachute, and the Hermann Goering Divisions--all under the command of General Herr's LXXVI Panzer Corps.18 They were deployed along dominating heights between Monte Castiglione Maggiore and Castello di Brolio, the latter twenty miles west of Arezzo. Everywhere they enjoyed the advantage of observation and fields of fire. Only in the center, where infantrymen of the 4th Division had captured the isolated hill Poggio al'Omo, had the Germans given ground.19
Checked on the left by enemy fire on 5 July, the 13 Corps at the outset failed to appreciate the strength of the German positions. Several days were lost while the leading brigades continued to probe in the belief that the positions could be penetrated through continued pressure without the necessity of a full-scale, set-piece attack. The fact that the 6th Armoured Division on the right and the 4th Infantry Division in the center continued to make some progress supported that belief until on the 7th those divisions too encountered the full strength of the German defensive fires. On the corps right flank the tanks of the 26th Armoured Brigade, 6th Armoured Division, reached a point about a mile south of the junction of Highways 71 and 73 where they had to halt, three miles short of Arezzo. On the left the 6th South African Armoured Division also ground to a halt.
Although General Leese assumed that the 13 Corps would have to be reinforced if a breakthrough to Arezzo was to be achieved, reinforcements were less readily obtainable than they had been in June. The 10 Corps, which had earlier provided additional units for its neighbor on the left, had only one division and an armored brigade to employ against the equivalent of two or three German divisions deployed, as were those opposite the 13 Corps, on good defensive terrain; and thus the 10 Corps had first claim on reinforcements. General Leese met the claim by
ordering forward the 4th Indian Division, which had been undergoing three weeks of training in mountain warfare. By 10 July the Indians had taken their place in line to the left of their countrymen in the 10th Indian Division.
Reinforcements for the 13 Corps had to come from theater reserves which Alexander had earlier earmarked for participation in the offensive against the Gothic Line. That development meant that the 2d New Zealand Division, resting and training south of Rome, had to be committed earlier than planned. It took until 14 July for that division to enter the line east of the Chiana Canal between the 4th Indian Infantry and the British 6th Armoured Divisions.
With the division's arrival, the 13 Corps commander, Kirkman, planned to attack at 0100 on the 15th with the 4th Infantry and 6th South African Armoured Divisions demonstrating actively on the left to conceal the main effort to be made by the New Zealanders and the British 6th Armoured Division on the right in an effort to take Arezzo from the west. The attack went slowly at first, the Germans even managing some local counterattacks while slowly yielding ground. Yet that night the Germans broke contact and withdrew. Early on 16 July the British 6th Armoured Division's 26th Armoured Brigade descended into the upper Chiana valley west of Arezzo and rapidly closed on the city and crossings of the Arno some four miles to the north. During the remainder of the day the New Zealanders and the British armor sped forward along the roads west and northwest of the objective. By evening they had crossed the Arno where it flows westward for a short distance before turning northwestward toward Florence, 25 miles away. By dark on 16 July the battle for Arezzo had ended and the advance on Florence was about to begin.
The extended defense of Arezzo had given Field Marshal Kesselring about all the time he could hope for--an additional ten days--for improving the Gothic Line and resting and reorganizing his forces. That the respite came at a relatively low cost could be inferred from the fact that the 13 Corps counted only 165 prisoners during the ten-day flight.
Despite the heavy operational demands of the Arezzo battle, the Eighth Army continued with its administrative preparations for the Gothic Line offensive. In the vicinity of Orte and Castellana at the end of the first week of July the army opened its first railheads north of Rome. Arezzo was soon to serve as the army's main communications center and roadhead for operations in the Northern Apennines. Once that roadhead was open, the Eighth Army staff estimated, a force of thirteen and a half divisions, nine of which might be operationally employed, could be maintained north of Florence.
Pause at the Arno
As the U.S. Fifth Army drew up to the Arno west of Florence, General Clark decided against crossing the river immediately in favor of a pause to rest and reorganize his troops and assemble supplies. One of the divisions most deserving of a rest was the 34th, in action with few respites since fighting in North Africa in 1943. The 45-mile
advance from Piombino to Leghorn had only been the last of a grueling battle experience that brought all ranks close to exhaustion. Even the division commander, General Ryder, was mentally and physically near exhaustion, so that on the 21st General Clark replaced him with a younger man, Maj. Gen. Charles Bolte. It was a relief without prejudice, General Ryder going on to a corps command in the United States.20
For French units, meanwhile, time was to run out before they could reach the Arno. Acting under orders from the Allied command, General Clark directed that all French units be relieved and assembled near Naples before the end of July. As specified by General Alexander, the British 13 Corps upon departure of the French was to shift its left flank westward to embrace the former FEC sector, thus extending the interarmy boundary to a line generally paralleling the Elsa River. As the relief neared, the French front stabilized roughly ten miles short of the Arno. The FEC's zone passed to the British on 22 July, considerably narrowing the Fifth Army's sector.
Although the French stopped short of the Arno, their contribution to the drive north of Rome was considerable. The Algerian and Moroccan divisions, for example, had captured 2,080 prisoners. The French themselves incurred 6,680 casualties, including 1,342 killed.
As the 13 Corps relieved the French, the U.S. IV Corps prepared to clear the last enemy remaining south of the Arno between Leghorn and Pisa. That task could still pose problems. A battalion of the 363d Infantry, still attached to the 34th Division, ran into considerable resistance while fighting through much of the night to enter Marina di Pisa at the river's mouth before daylight on the 23d. And the 442d Regimental Combat Team and the 168th Infantry were delayed by the numerous canals scoring the broad valley. Engineers subject to harassing fire from north of the Arno had to construct numerous bridges, including one over the 100-foot-wide gap of the Canale Navigable, connecting the Arno with the port of Leghorn.
During the afternoon of 23 July, two battalions of the 363d Infantry occupied that part of Pisa lying south of the Arno. Finding all bridges destroyed, the men dug in along the south bank of the river while enemy guns and mortars poured in heavy fire. Since Pisa's famed Renaissance monuments, the Baptistry of St. John with its Campenile--the leaning tower--were north of the river, they were unaffected. From somewhere north of the Arno 280-mm. guns opened fire on Leghorn. Yet by evening the 34th Division and its attached units had occupied the entire south bank of the Arno from the sea to a point about ten miles east of Pisa. During the next two days the 91st and 88th Divisions pulled up to the south bank on the IV Corps center and right flank, respectively.
The Arno River flows through a broad valley at the foot of the Northern Apennines. From Arezzo, about forty miles southeast of Florence, it flows northward, where the Sieve River joins ten miles east of Florence. Thus enlarged, the Arno proceeds westward through Florence and Pisa for 65 miles
before entering the Ligurian Sea at Marina di Pisa. The largest river in the Fifth Army's zone of operations, the Arno varied in width from 60 to 600 feet, with an average of from 200 to 250 feet. The depth also varied greatly, ranging from only a few feet in periods of drought to over thirty feet at flood stage. In late summer, before the autumn rains began, the river could be easily forded almost anywhere by foot troops and at numerous points by vehicles. Because of seasonal flooding in spring and late autumn, levees from 20 to 40 feet in height and 50 to 100 feet wide flanked the river for much of its length. Between Pisa and the coast the banks were about ten feet high, rising to forty feet east of Pisa, then falling off to twenty feet near Florence. As the river enters the coastal plain near Pisa, its valley widens to fifteen miles.
Since the Arno in the midsummer of 1944 represented no formidable military obstacle, General Clark's superiors both in Caserta and in Washington favored an immediate continuation of the advance beyond the river. General Alexander, in particular, was anxious to place the port of Leghorn beyond the range of enemy artillery as soon as possible. He urged the Fifth Army commander, if he found the line of the Arno weakly held, to push on immediately to seize the heights of the Monte Pisano hill mass, 14 miles northeast of Leghorn and probable haven for many of the guns harassing Leghorn. Extending from the Arno northwestward for twelve miles to the banks of the Serchio River, the hill mass might also serve as a springboard for an advance on Pistoia, 20 miles to the northeast. Since the configuration of the terrain made the sector from the city of Prato (ten miles northwest of Florence) westward to the Ligurian coast a single tactical entity, Alexander assigned Clark's Fifth Army responsibility for all of it. After crossing the Arno, the Fifth Army would have as its objectives, after the Monte Pisano hill mass, the cities of Pistoia and Lucca, the latter about ten miles northwest of Pisa.21
If the Germans elected to hold along the coastal reaches of the Arno, Alexander suggested that Clark attempt instead to force a passage somewhere to the east between Pontedera, 17 miles northeast of Leghorn, and Empoli, 16 miles farther east, and from there develop two thrusts, one on Pistoia and the other on Lucca. With those cities in hand, the Fifth Army would control a four-lane autostrada running westward from Florence to the coastal highway, ten miles west of Lucca. That situation would give the Fifth Army an excellent lateral route over which troops might be shifted rapidly from one sector to another.22
Although General Alexander was aware that many of the Fifth Army's divisions needed rest and reorganization, he was also conscious that the Germans were in more serious straits and thus were unlikely to launch a major counteroffensive at any point along the river. This circumstance should enable Clark, Alexander believed, to assume the defensive on his left wing between Pontedera and the sea, thereby resting some of his divisions, while at the same time concentrating
his fittest units on his right between Pontedera and Empoli for the thrusts Pistoia and Lucca. It was of "supreme importance," Alexander concluded, to go "all-out" to capture those two cities before Kesselring's armies could recover from the attrition of the past few weeks.23
Despite this attrition, Field Marshal Kesselring had actually achieved something of a defensive success in holding the Allied armies for so long south of the Arno. Yet there was another reason for Allied delays, not of Kesslering's making: the shift of ground and air resources during July from Alexander's armies to those forces preparing for southern France. That shift had forestalled any swift advance to and through the Northern Apennines, across the Po Valley, and into northeastern Italy.
A swift advance across the Po thus obviated, no longer was it necessary to spare the bridges of the Po. In an effort to isolate the enemy in the Northern Apennines, Alexander decided to concentrate on disrupting the enemy's lines of communication across the Po. Thus Operation MALLORY MAJOR, which aimed at destruction of all bridges across the Po, in some respects reflected less the bright hopes of early summer than an admission of frustrated expectations attributable to the events and command decisions of late June or early July.24
Planning for MALLORY MAJOR had begun in early June shortly after the fall of Rome, after Allied intelligence had concluded that the destruction of bridges would cause greater disruption of enemy lines of communication than the repeated bombing of railroad marshalling yards. The plan was to concentrate bombers on the destruction of the six rail bridges across the Po and one across the Trebbia, a northward flowing tributary entering the Po at Piacenza, some 34 miles southeast of Milan. The operations were to be supplemented by destruction of either the Recco or the Zoaglia viaducts on the coastal highway a few miles east of Genoa, Italy's major commercial port, about 100 miles northwest of Leghorn. The plan was later modified to include all bridges across the Po. Yet in the first weeks after the capture of Rome, expectations that Allied armies would reach the Po Valley by later summer had prompted Alexander to shelve the plans.25
With the decision for Operation ANVIL, Alexander still hoped that his armies would be able to force a passage of the Northern Apennines before winter; but after Wilson's directive of 5 July, he had abandoned all hope that they would be able to do so without pause. The AAI commander therefore focused his thoughts on bringing the enemy to a decisive battle between the Apennines and a bridgeless river--thus a revived Operation MALLORY MAJOR. On 11 July Allied Force Headquarters issued orders for the operation to begin the next day.
Beginning on 12 July hundreds of medium bombers attacked the nineteen bridges from Piacenza eastward to the Adriatic, then turned westward to bomb the bridges as far west as Torre Beretti, 50 miles west of Piacenza. By the 27th all bridges between Torre Beretti and the Adriatic were destroyed, virtually cutting off Kesselring's armies from their supply bases in northern Italy.
That would appear to have been the logical time for General Clark to have crossed the Arno River, drive on Pistoia and Lucca, and force the Germans back into the Gothic Line west of Florence. Instead, the Fifth Army for almost a month after the completion of MALLORY MAJOR remained south of the river.26 Except for a quick thrust in early August to seize Florence, so did the Eighth Army. Thus Kesselring gained more time for strengthening his defenses in the Northern Apennines and, even more important, to restore his sorely damaged lines of communication across the Po. Using pontoon bridges, ferries, pneumatic lines, and overhead cable lines, German engineers managed to keep enough supplies moving across the Po to maintain, though not to increase, existing levels. The Germans also organized an adequate ferry service across the Po to supply Ferrara, their main communications hub behind the army group's left wing. By the end of July nineteen ferries were in service, ten of them capable of carrying twenty-four tons of cargo each.27
On 3 August traffic started moving again across several repaired bridges that had been knocked out in July by Allied aircraft. By 6 August the Brenner railroad line was also back in operation. Four days later the main line from the Austrian Alps to the Ligurian coast--from Brenner, via Bologna, to Genoa--was again open and the rail line to Turin, seventy-five miles northwest of Genoa, restored. On the following day the rail line from Genoa into southern France was also passable. While Operation MALLORY MAJOR was a marked success in terms of bridges destroyed, failure to co-ordinate it closely with an Allied offensive against the Gothic Line meant that in the long run it had no more than a temporary harassing effect.
1. IV Corps AAR, Jul 44; Interv, Mathews with Ladue, 17 Jun 48, CMH.
2. IV Corps AAR, Jul 44.
4. 34th Div Opns Rpt, Jun-Jul 44.
5. Lagekarten, Anlagen 14 AOK, Jul 44.
6. IV Corps AAR, Jul 44; Fifth Army G-3 Jnl and file, 15-16 Jul 44, 105-3-2, Federal Records Center, Suitland, Md.
7. IV Corps AAR, Jul 44.
8. On that date in severe fighting near Casaglia six miles south of the division's assembly areas, Sgt. Roy W. Harmon, Company C, 362d Infantry, so distinguished himself in combat while his battalion led the regiment toward the Chianni-Laiatico line that he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
9. Fifth Army History, Part VI, pp. 85-90; IV Corps AAR, Jul 44.
10. AOK 14, Ia KTB Nr. 4, 8-12 Jul 44, AOK 14, Doc. 62241/1.
11. Opns Orders. A0K 14, Ia Nr. 3015/44 g. Kdos, 1930 hrs, 13 Jul 44, to Hqs, LXXVI Pz Corps in AOK 14, Ia KTB Nr. 4, Anl. 713, AOK 14, Doc. 62241/14, Nr. 62241/14.
12. Fifth Army History, Part VI, p. 83.
13. Fifth Army History, Part VI, pp. 83-84; Hist Rcd, 34th Cav Rcn Trp, Jul 44; 804th TD Bn AAR, Jul 44.
14. Meyer MS, ch XXIX; Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 185.
15. Meyer MS.
16. Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. F, 2 Polish Corps Operations. Unless otherwise indicated the following is based upon this reference.
17. Alexander Despatch, pp. 60-61.
18. On 11 July, the 715th Infantry Division began the relief of the Hermann Goering Division. See 10th Army KTB Nr. 10, 11 Jul 44, AOK Doc. 52991/1.
19. Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. D. Unless otherwise cited the following is based upon this reference.
20. Interv, Mathews with Ladue, 17 Jun 48, CMH; 34th Div AAR, Jul 44; Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 384.
21. Ltr, Marshall to Devers, 17 Jul 44, CCS 603/4, in ABC 384, Eur Sec 9-A; Ltr, Alexander to Clark, 19 Jul 44, Sub: Future Opns Hqs AAI, MA/A/470.
22. Ltr, Alexander to Clark, 19 Jul 44.
24. Blockade: The Isolation of Italy from the Reich by the Mediterranean Tactical Air Force, 29 Aug 44-1 May 45, Hqs MATAF, July 1945, The Albert F. Simpson Historical Research Center, USAF Maxwell AFS, Ala.
25. Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. A, Allied Strategy; Alexander Despatch, pp. 64-65. Unless otherwise indicated the following is based upon these references.
26. See ch. XVI, pp. 285-86, for explanation of Clark's decision to halt along the Arno.
27. Craven and Cate, eds., AAF III, pp. 404-17; Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(1), pp. 542-43.