Preparing for a New Offensive
The German Defenses
The Germans had closed the gateway to the Liri valley with formidable defenses along two lines, or, more properly, zones, that they had constructed across the peninsula from Ortona on the Adriatic to the mouth of the Garigliano River on the Tyrrhenian Sea. One of these two lines the Germans had named Gustav.1 Crossing Italy at its narrowest, the line incorporated some of the best defensive terrain on the peninsula. It extended almost a hundred miles northward to the Adriatic coast, which it reached at a point some two miles northwest of Ortona.2
The most heavily fortified part of the Gustav Line was the central sector, opposite the Eighth Army. Anchored on Monte Cairo, the 5,415-foot summit of the mountain massif forming the Liri valley's northern wall, this sector of the Gustav Line followed the high ground southeast to Monte Cassino, then ran south along the west banks of the Rapido and Gari Rivers across the entrance to the Liri valley and a terminus on the southern slopes of Monte Majo.3 From Monte Majo's eastern foothills the line continued south of the village of Castelforte, where it turned southwestward along high ground north of Minturno and thence on to the sea.
With steep banks and swift-flowing current the Rapido was a formidable obstacle, and the Germans had supplemented this river barrier with numerous fieldworks. Along the river's west bank stretched a thick and continuous network of wire, minefields, pillboxes, and concrete emplacements. Between the Rapido and the Cassino-Sant'Angelo road, the Germans had dug many slit trenches, some designed to accommodate no more than a machine gun and its crew, others to take a section or even a platoon.
The entire fortified zone was covered by German artillery and mortar fire, given deadly accuracy by observers located on the mountainsides north and south of the Liri valley. Allied forward observers and intelligence officers estimated that there were about 400 enemy guns and rocket launchers located
north of Highway 6 in the vicinity of the villages of Atina and Belmonte, respectively, nine and six miles north of Cassino. Of these the British believed that about 230 could fire into the Cassino sector, and about 150 could fire in support of the defenders of Monte Cassino and Cassino town.
Opposite the Fifth Army sector, however, only a small portion of the Gustav Line was still a part of the defensive positions that the Germans had selected in the autumn of 1943, for south of the Liri valley the front followed a line where the British 10 Corps had established a bridgehead beyond the Garigliano during the winter fighting. This meant that in some areas facing the Fifth Army the Germans were holding a defensive line not of their own choosing and that in some sectors (the French, for example) the Allies rather than the Germans possessed high ground overlooking the enemy positions.4
The Gustav Line was a zone of mutually supporting firing positions--a string of pearls, Kesselring called them. While those sectors of the line located in the Liri valley and along the coastal corridor were relatively deep defensive zones, ranging from 100 to 3,000 yards in depth, those in the mountains were much thinner, partly because the rocky terrain made it extremely difficult to dig or build heavier defenses, but mainly because the local German commanders doubted that the Allies, unable to use armor and artillery there, would choose to attack through such forbidding terrain. In any event, an attack over the mountains, they believed, would be relatively easy to stop.5
Except for barbed wire, railroad ties, and steel rails, the materials used in constructing the Gustav Line positions were readily obtainable on the site. Whenever possible the Germans utilized the numerous stone houses of the region as shelters or firing positions. Locating machine guns or an antitank gun in the cellar, enemy troops piled crushed stone and rubble on the ground floor to provide overhead protection. If bombs or shells destroyed the upper part of the house, the additional rubble would simply reinforce this cover. Allied troops would frequently fail to detect these cellar positions, sometimes not until hours after a position had been overrun and the Germans had opened fire on the rear and flanks of the assaulting troops.
Firing positions for infantry weapons were mostly open but usually connected by trenches to covered personnel shelters. The shelters ranged from simple dugouts covered with a layer of logs and earth to elaborate rooms hewn out of solid rock, the latter often used as command posts or signal installations. Invariably well camouflaged, most infantry shelters were covered with rocks, earth, logs, railway ties, or steel rails.
Behind the Gustav Line the Germans had constructed the other defensive zone--the Fuehrer Riegel, or the Hitler
Line.6 This line lay from five to ten miles behind the Gustav Line. Beginning on the Tyrrhenian coast near Terracina, twenty-six miles northwest of the mouth of the Garigliano and the southern gateway to the Anzio beachhead, the Hitler Line crossed the mountains overlooking the coastal highway and the Itri-Pico road from the northwest and west, and thence the Liri valley via Pontecorvo and Aquino to anchor at Piedimonte San Germano on the southern slope of the Monte Cairo massif. Although essentially a switch position, as its name implied, the line was made up of fieldworks similar to those in the Gustav Line and was, at least in the Liri valley sector, as strong as or, in some instances, even stronger than the latter.
Manning the German defense system on the southern front was the equivalent of about nine divisions. One of these was in reserve; the remainder were divided among two regular and one provisional corps headquarters. All were under the command of the Tenth Army. The XIV Panzer Corps, commanded by Generalleutnant Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin, held a sector of the Gustav Line extending from the Tyrrhenian coast across the Aurunci Mountains to the Liri and a junction with General der Gebirgstruppen (General of Mountain Troops) Valentin Feuerstein's LI Mountain Corps. Along the panzer corps' front were the 94th Infantry Division in the coastal sector, and the 71st Infantry Division in the Petrella massif. A composite Kampfgruppe made up of a regimental group detached from the 305th Infantry Division and a regiment from the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division lay between the 71st Division and the Liri River. The remainder of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division was in corps reserve and watching the coast.7
In the LI Mountain Corps sector the 44th Infantry (H u. D) Division8 manned the valley positions, and the elite 1st Parachute Division continued to hold the Monte Cassino sector, including the town of Cassino. In the mountains north of the Monte Cairo massif the 5th Mountain Division and the 144th Jaeger Division held the corps' left wing to a junction with Generalleutnant Friedrich Wilhelm Hauck's provisional corps, Group Hauck. The latter held a quiet sector about eight miles southeast of the Pescara River on the Adriatic coast with the 305th and the 334th Infantry Divisions and the 114th Jaeger Division in reserve. In front of the Allied beachhead at Anzio lay the Fourteenth Army with its five divisions divided between the I Parachute Corps and the LXXVI Panzer Corps. One of these five divisions was located along the coast northwest of Rome as a precaution against an Allied amphibious landing attempt.
As a mobile strategic reserve under Army Group C's control, Kesselring held
the 3d and 90th Panzer Grenadier Divisions and the 26th Panzer Division in the vicinity of Rome, and, some thirty miles to the north near Viterbo, the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division. In northern Italy, serving mainly as a coast defense force, was Army Group von Zangen, consisting of the 162d (Turkomen) Infantry Division, the 356th Infantry Division, the 278th Infantry Division, and the 188th Mountain Division, none of which were first-rate units. Except for von Zangen's group, all of the reserve divisions were first-rate and could, if committed soon enough, have an important influence on the outcome of the fighting. Yet their dispositions, partly determined by Kesselring's reaction to Allied deception plans, made it unlikely that they could, or would, be able to reach the southern front in time to influence the tide of battle. For the most part, however, Kesselring's veteran divisions were located in defensive zones well sited in relation to terrain that favored the defense. If properly manned, the Gustav and Hitler Lines well merited Kesselring's confidence that the gateway to the Liri valley and to Rome was reasonably secure.
To open the gateway, Alexander laid before his army and corps commanders, on 22 February 1944, guidelines for a co-ordinated attack by the British Eighth and the U.S. Fifth Armies. In the first battle for Rome, which had lasted from January to March, the American Fifth Army had carried the burden of the main effort at Monte Cassino and along the Garigliano River. This time General Alexander had decided that it would be the Eighth Army's responsibility to accomplish what the Fifth had failed to do, break through the enemy's defenses into the Liri valley and lead a drive to the line Civitavecchia-Viterbo-Terni north of Rome.
On the Eighth Army's left, between the Liri River and the Tyrrhenian coast, the Fifth Army was to attack through the Aurunci Mountains and along the coast. That part of the Fifth Army in the Anzio beachhead was to burst forth from the confines of the beachhead and push back the German Fourteenth Army in order to cut off and destroy the right wing of the German Tenth Army as it fell back from the main attack along the southern front.9
Behind this concept lay General Alexander's conviction, based upon unusually good intelligence of the enemy's strength and dispositions, that the Liri valley, at the foot of the western margin of the Central Apennines, and the Anzio beachhead on the western coastal plain provided the only satisfactory areas for major offensive operations wherein he could effectively utilize Allied air and armored superiority. The central sector facing the Liri valley, which until March had been held by General Clark's Fifth Army, was now assigned to General Leese's Eighth Army, while Clark's Army was shifted to a relatively narrow sector between the Liri valley and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Clark also retained command of the Anzio beachhead.
The source of the extraordinarily good intelligence that supported General Alexander's conviction arose from a fortuitous circumstance that had led eventually to the breaking of the Germans' major operational code. Since early 1940 the British had been deciphering and reading the Germans' Enigma Code--the code by which all major command radio traffic was sent. The advantages this gave the Allies in the North African campaign moved General Alexander to remark in 1943 that "the knowledge not only of the enemy's precise strength and disposition but also how, when, and where he intends to carry out his operations has brought a new dimension into the prosecution of the war." Planning for the spring offensive, therefore, would take place under the most favorable circumstances for the Allied command. Unknown to the Germans, every major radio message to and from the OKW and OKH to Kesselring's army group and his two field armies was deciphered within minutes of its transmission and then relayed via special liaison units, attached to army groups and field armies, to the commanders and the relatively few officers on their staffs privy to the secret.10
After the failure of an Allied assault on Monte Cassino in February, General Alexander had concluded that he would have to develop a local superiority of at least three to one in infantry in order to have a reasonable chance of breaking through the enemy's defenses. To achieve this superiority in the critical Liri valley sector, he had ordered major regrouping of Allied forces on 5 March. For ease in administration and supply, all British-equipped divisions, which included Dominion, Indian, and Polish units, would be brought into the Eighth Army, and all American-equipped divisions would remain in the Fifth Army. Thinning out the eastern sector of the front from the Central Apennines to the Adriatic, Alexander gave responsibility for the entire Adriatic sector to the British 5 Corps, under direct command of Headquarters, AAI.11
While these changes were being made, the Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force (MATAF) began, on 19 March, a large-scale interdiction operation against German rail, road, and sea communications throughout an area from the so-called Pisa-Rimini Line to the southern battlefront. Appropriately designated STRANGLE, the operation was designed to choke off the enemy's supplies during the period preceding the spring offensive. By the end of March all rail lines from Rome to the southern front were cut off. North of Rome rail traffic was generally unable to approach closer than within 125 miles of the capital. This program of interdiction was to be continued
through the first day of DIADEM, the code name of the Allied offensive.12
A Cover Plan
To conceal the large-scale shifting of divisions behind the Allied front, the AAI staff devised a cover and deception plan designated NUNTON. Its purpose was to confuse the enemy on the location of the forthcoming Allied offensive--to come either from the Anzio beachhead or from the southern front--in the hope that Kesselring in his uncertainty would be led to hold his reserves well back from the main front when the attack came.13
When in late March it became apparent that the efforts of the New Zealand corps at Cassino had already tipped off the Germans on the importance the Allies attached to the sector west of the Apennines, AAI modified its deception
plan somewhat. Henceforth the plan would attempt to convince the enemy that the Allies intended to launch another amphibious operation, this time in the vicinity of Civitavecchia, some forty miles north of Rome. The surprise achieved by the Anzio operation suggested that the Germans would be specially alert for any sign of a similar operation, and therefore more likely to be taken in by this deception than by indications of a major offensive from the beachhead area. The Germans, the Allied planners hoped, would therefore view the opening of the spring offensive along the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers as a strong demonstration designed to draw their attention from the coastal flank.14 The scenario for the cover plan called for the two divisions of the 1st Canadian Corps, then in Eighth Army reserve, and the 36th Infantry Division, in Fifth Army reserve, to simulate heavy radio traffic and take other measures to create the impression that they were engaged in amphibious training in the Naples-Salerno area.
Disposition of the Allied Armies
Foul weather and the normal delays attending the shifting of large numbers of troops in mountainous terrain had deferred completion of the regroupment of the two armies until the end of March. At the beginning of April the Eighth Army's sector extended 75 miles northeastward from the southernmost edge of the Liri valley, along a line from the highest peak of the Maiella, over the summit of the Gran Sasso massif of the Central Apennines, thence to the slopes of the hills overlooking the eastern coastal plain held by the British 5 Corps. General Leese's striking force, the British 13 Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. Sidney C. Kirkman, held the left of this line astride the Liri valley with four divisions. In army reserve, prepared either to pass through or to enter the corps front, was Maj. Gen. E. L. M. Burns' I Canadian Corps with two infantry divisions and an armored brigade. To the 13th Corps' right and assembled for what was expected to be the final assault against Monte Cassino, was Lt. Gen. Wladyslaw Anders' 2 Polish Corps, also controlling two infantry divisions and an armored brigade--but with this difference, the Polish divisions contained only two brigades. The armored brigade was to support either division. The British 10 Corps, with the equivalent of two divisions, was next in line.
Holding a quiet front across the wild and desolate Central Apennines on the Eighth Army's right wing, Lt. Gen. Sir R. L. McCreery's 10 Corps included a miscellaneous group of units representing the equivalent of four independent brigades, an infantry and an armored division. On the Adriatic flank were veterans of the Tunisian Campaign, the British 5 Corps with two infantry divisions and an armored brigade. This corps was to serve as a containing force and be prepared to follow up any enemy withdrawal.15
The U.S. Fifth Army held a relatively narrow front extending 12 miles from a
point just east of the village of Scauri on the Tyrrhenian coast. Curving northward as far as Tremensuoli, the front then ran eastward along a range of hills north of the Garigliano River as far as the town of Minturno. From there the front line continued east through the village of Rufo, northeast across the Ausente valley to a point just southwest of Castelforte about six miles northeast of Minturno, thence east of the Monte Majo massif and across the forward slopes of Monti Turlitto, Juga, and Ornito to the Garigliano. It followed that river's east bank to the interarmy boundary along the southern edge of the Liri valley.
On the left of this front was the U.S. II Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes, a cavalryman who had gained considerable experience in armor as deputy to Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., in North Africa. Keyes had assumed command of the II Corps in Sicily. During April Keyes' corps consisted of two newly arrived infantry divisions--the 85th and 88th, commanded respectively by Maj. Gens. John B. Coulter and John E. Sloan. The arrival of these divisions in Italy was, as General George C. Marshall remarked after the war, "the great psychological turning-point in the building of a battleworthy army."16 These were the first U.S. divisions to enter combat consisting largely of wartime draftees, making the coming offensive, at least the II Corps' part of it, the first real test of the U.S. Army's wartime training and replacement system. It was particularly fitting that this test be made under General Clark's command, for as G-3 and later as Chief of Staff of the Army Ground Forces in 1942 he had played an important role in the creation of the system. Beginning on 10 April two regiments of the 85th Division assumed responsibility for the left half
of the Minturno bridgehead, while one regiment of the 88th Division covered the remainder of the corps front to the left boundary of the French-held Monte Juga bridgehead north of the Garigliano.
The French Expeditionary Corps (FEC) on the II Corps' right had been formed in Italy during the previous winter. Armed and equipped in North Africa by the U.S. Army, the FEC was under the command of General Alphonse Juin, Algerian-born graduate of St. Cyr, the French national military academy.17 During the winter fighting the French corps had incurred 7,836 casualties in an attempt to envelop Monte Cassino from the north. Although the maneuver had failed to bring about the capture of that key position, French mountain troops had amply demonstrated their skill and worth with the capture of Monte Belvedere and Monte Abate. Allied commanders could expect that they would do equally well when faced once again with similar mountainous terrain.
For the first half of April the 4th Moroccan Mountain Division, recently arrived from Corsica, held the entire corps front, while the 2d Moroccan Infantry and 3d Algerian Infantry Divisions rested or engaged in mountain training in the vicinity of Salerno. In the middle of the month the 2d Moroccan Division returned to the front to take over a part of the bridgehead from the 4th Moroccan Division. In the second half of April, Juin's corps also received the French 1st Motorized Infantry Division, which included many early Free French recruits, who after the fall of France had rallied to the banner of General Charles de Gaulle.
During April three groups of Tabors, totaling about 12,000 men, arrived in Italy from North Africa. The Tabors--units somewhat larger than battalion strength and made up of goums, or companies--were recruited from the mountain tribes of French North Africa. Usually referred to as goumiers, the men were professional soldiers and skilled in mountain warfare.18
To control the Tabors, the First Goum Headquarters was attached to FEC on 13 April. By the beginning of May Juin's corps numbered 99,000 officers and men--a formidable organization. Among the reinforcements were sufficient engineers to permit the release of American units previously attached to the FEC. After April only U.S. armor and artillery units, the latter under the command of the 13th Field Artillery Brigade, would still be used in significant numbers in support of Juin's corps.19
In preparation for the coming offensive, the Fifth Army also received some small but important reinforcements for mountain warfare. Two battalions of U.S. pack artillery (75-mm. pack howitzers) and two additional Italian pack mule companies were assigned to the army. The veteran 36th Infantry Division lay in army reserve, recuperating from the bloody battles of the past winter.
Since February, the U.S. VI Corps at Anzio had been commanded by Maj. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., former commander of the 3d Infantry Division. Truscott's corps held the beachhead with five and one-half divisions: the British 1st and 5th, the U.S. 3d, 34th, and 45th Infantry Divisions, and Combat Command A (CCA) of the U.S. 1st Armored Division. In addition to these, Truscott had the 36th Engineer Combat Regiment and the 1st Special Service Force, the latter an elite Canadian-American regiment-sized combat command composed of men trained as parachutists, rangers, and commandos. Truscott had four of his infantry divisions in line and one in reserve along with the armored combat command.
Lt. Gen. Willis D. Crittenberger, commander of the newly arrived IV Corps headquarters, was like his fellow U.S. corps commanders in Italy a former cavalryman. An outstanding instructor at the U.S. Army Command and
General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Crittenberger had also served as chief of staff of the 1st Armored Division, commanding general of the 2d Armored Division, and later commanding general of the II Armored Corps.
Crittenberger brought the IV Corps headquarters to Italy on 26 March, where for the next seven weeks it would remain in command of the coastal sector near Naples. Because of the relatively narrow army sector Clark would not commit the corps until June, when the VI Corps was withdrawn to take part in the Seventh Army's operation in southern France.
Both Allied armies were multinational in their make-up. The U.S. Fifth Army reflected the wartime coalition of the United States, Britain, and France. The British Eighth Army was even more of a polyglot assemblage. Serving under General Leese's command were soldiers of such diverse nationalities as Polish, Nepalese, Belgian, Greek, Syro-Lebanese, and Yugoslav. Added to this variety were troops from the United Kingdom and the other widespread members of the British Commonwealth--Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland, India, and Ceylon. There were also men from Basutoland, Swaziland, Bechuanastan, as well as from the Seychelles, Mauritius, Rodriques, and West Indian Islands. As a recently announced cobelligerent, Italy also provided a few miscellaneous units.20
The manpower strength of the British Eighth Army, including the 5 Corps, totaled some 265,371 officers and men. This was considerably smaller than the 350,276 making up the U.S. Fifth Army and would help account for the somewhat different approaches to tactical problems on the part of the two army commanders.21
Planning the Offensive
The code name DIADEM given to the coming offensive of the AAI staff implied that it was expected to be the crowning touch to months of frustrating campaigning by the Fifth and Eighth Armies, respectively, from Salerno and Calabria to the banks of the Rapido and the Sangro. Although the capture of Rome, the first of the two axis capitals, was one of DIADEM's obvious strategic goals, the offensive's real purpose was to keep as many German divisions as possible engaged in Italy as the Mediterranean theater's contribution to OVERLORD--the forthcoming invasion of northwestern France. Just before the spring offensive began, Alexander, in his order of the day, would hint at this connection with the words: "To us in Italy has been given the honor to strike the first blow."22
General Alexander, with a record of distinguished service on the western front in World War I, shared the determination of all British authorities, from the Prime Minister on down, to avoid, if at all possible, "the costly
frontal assaults which had characterized the campaigns of 1915-1918."23 It was logical for the Allied armies commander in Italy to opt for a strategy that would eschew the concentration of all his forces at one point for one massive onslaught against the enemy's lines. Instead the coming offensive was conceived of in terms of the campaign in North Africa. Drawing upon a boxing analogy which he would frequently employ in the months to come, General Alexander described the coming offensive in terms of a one-two punch, with the Eight and Fifth armies throwing the first punch on the southern front and the Fifth Army's VI Corps following up with the second punch--a left hook from the Anzio beachhead. On the southern front the Eighth Army was to play the major role with a breakthrough into the Liri valley, followed by an advance along the axis of Highway 6 to Valmontone twenty miles southeast of Rome and a junction with the U.S. VI Corps attacking out of the beachhead. From his reading of the Ultra messages Alexander knew that the Valmontone area was a potentially weak point in the Germans' defenses. The Fifth Army was, meanwhile, to turn the southern flank of the enemy's defenses opposite the Eighth Army by securing the Ausonia defile, five miles northwest of Castelforte, extending northward about three miles to the Liri valley, and then advancing four miles to the northwest, via Esperia, to the southern edge of the valley.24
General Alexander evidently intended for Valmontone rather than Rome to be the major tactical focal point of the spring offensive, as had been the case in the first battle for Rome in January. Converging on Valmontone, the two Allied armies, Alexander believed, would trap and possibly destroy a major portion of the German Tenth Army. His plan to use the Fifth Army reserve, the 36th Infantry Division, either to reinforce the southern front or, on short notice, to move to the beachhead suggests the importance he attached to his "one-two punch" concept.25
Planning for Operations in the Liri Valley
For some time it had been apparent, not only to Alexander but also the Eighth Army's staff, that the Liri valley offered the only terrain in the Allied sector where that Army's superiority in artillery, armor, and aircraft could be exploited to best advantage. Moreover the valley offered the shortest and best road to central Italy and to Rome. Along the valley's southern edge runs the river which gives the valley its name. A tributary, the Gari, flows due south for nine miles across the valley's entrance to join the Liri about a mile north of Sant'Ambrogio. A neck of land enclosed by these two rivers, shortly before they join some six miles south of Cassino to form the Garigliano, was called the Liri "appendix" by Allied staff officers. From the tip of the
appendix to the road junction of Ceprano, near the junction of the Liri and Sacco Rivers, the valley is about twenty miles in length. Forming a rather broad and open plain opposite the Eighth Army's front, the valley gradually narrows to the northwest, becoming undulating and well-wooded toward Ceprano. In the spring of 1944 the valley's fertile soil supported abundant crops, especially vineyards, their vegetation the more luxuriant because they were untended.
Except for Highway 6, the Roman-built Via Casilina, which hugs the valley's northern wall, there were in 1944 few roads in the valley suitable for modern military traffic. Communications were further hampered by the ability of the enemy in the flanking hills to observe all movement in the valley below. Numerous transverse gullies, the most important of which was the Forme d'Aquino, cut across the valley and would create additional problems as the Eighth Army advanced.
Allied commanders had long agreed that the flanking high ground must first be seized before any large-scale operations could be undertaken in the Liri valley. In a move General Clark had tried during the winter, General Leese decided to send an attack into the foothills of the Monte Cairo massif, of which Monte Cassino is the most prominent and best known feature, simultaneously with an attack across the Rapido to isolate and capture the town of Cassino. The Monte Majo massif, the high ground south of the valley, was to be dealt with by the FEC, the Fifth Army's right flank corps. In keeping with British practice, Leese issued no operation order. Instead on 11 April he simply gave his corps commanders a short directive, then elaborated his plan verbally in a series of command conferences between that date and D-day.26
Leese divided his attack into two phases, the first aimed at the Gustav Line and the second aimed at the Hitler Line. During the opening phase, the Polish corps was to isolate Monte Cassino from the north and northwest and thereby dominate Highway 6 to facilitate the advance of the 13 Corps, fighting its way south of the highway from the Rapido. Only after the latter corps had gained control of the highway were the Poles to attempt to storm and capture the monastery itself. While the Polish corps cut off the Germans defending Monte Cassino, the 13 Corps was to establish a bridgehead across the Rapido River just south of Cassino. Moving out from the bridgehead, the corps was to isolate the town at the foot of Monastery Hill by cutting the highway and joining up with the Polish troops southwest of Cassino. Finally, 13 Corps was to clear the town and open up the highway from the front to the point of contact with the Polish corps, before advancing on the Hitler Line, the enemy's second line of defense in the Liri valley.27
In the attack's second phase the Polish corps was to advance four miles westward across the flanks of the
mountains north of the highway to the town of Piedimonte San Germano, the Hitler Line's northern anchor. The 10 Corps was meanwhile to cover the Poles' right flank and to feint in the direction of Atina, a road junction in the mountains about ten miles north of Cassino. The 10 Corps was also to be prepared to provide reinforcements to other units as the battle progressed.
When the offensive began, the I Canadian Corps was to be prepared either to reinforce the attack if necessary or to pass through the 13 Corps to exploit a breakthrough of the enemy's defenses. The 6th South African Armoured Division, its motor brigade detailed temporarily to the 2d New Zealand Division in 10 Corps, was also in army reserve.
To accomplish its tasks the 13 Corps had an armored and three infantry divisions; the 2 Polish Corps, two infantry divisions and one armored brigade; and the 10 Corps, an infantry division, an Italian battle group (Gruppo Combattimento) equivalent to about a regiment, an infantry brigade, and two armored car regiments. The Eighth Army had, therefore, an attack force with the strength equivalent to about seven infantry and three armored divisions as opposed to the four divisions (a parachute, a mountain, and two infantry divisions) that the Tenth Army had opposite the Eighth Army's front. This ratio was approximately the superiority which Alexander believed was necessary.
To support its thrust into the Liri valley the Eighth Army had assembled 1,060 guns of all types. About 300 of these were to fire in support of the 2 Polish Corps in its assault on Monte Cassino. The remainder were sited in support of the 13 Corps sector. By way of comparison, the Germans were believed to have no more than 400 guns and rocket launchers supporting the units manning the Gustav Line in the valley.
As the army's attack developed, artillery reconnaissance aircraft were to carry out a daily average of twelve missions to provide almost continuous surveillance of the battle area. Once the offensive got under way the main air effort during daylight was to be directed against enemy artillery and mortar positions in the valley and in the Atina area north of Cassino; by night the aircraft were to concentrate on the enemy line of communications. On the first day of the offensive fighter-bombers were to attack enemy command posts and all traffic observed behind the German lines.
To direct this air support Eighth Army had established three miles southeast of Cassino on Monte Trocchio, overlooking the front, a static forward air control post known as Rover David. Fighter-bombers circling the general area were to call in at stated intervals and be assigned targets of opportunity, thus reducing to a minimum the time lag between a request for help and the response. Within the army the 13 Corps and the 2 Polish Corps were to have first priority on air support. This support would be shifted to the 1st Canadian Corps when it began its exploitation role following the expected breakthrough of the enemy's first line of defense in the Liri valley.
Developing the Fifth Army Plan
A chain of steep rugged peaks rising to heights from 3,000 to 5,000 feet, the
Aurunci Mountains facing the Fifth Army extended in a northwestwardly direction toward Rome and averaged fifteen miles in width. One side of the mountain chain is bounded by a narrow coastal corridor along the Tyrrhenian Sea, the other by the relatively broad Liri valley. At the towns of Gaeta and Terracina, respectively ten and twenty-six miles from the mouth of the Garigliano River, the coastal corridor narrows to little more than the width of a road as the mountains drop abruptly to the sea. Elsewhere the high ground recedes more gradually and yields either to the flat, waterlogged Fondi and Pontine plains or to a fruitful coastal strip between Formia and Minturno. Inland are such formidable peaks as Monte Petrella and its surrounding massif, whose steep sides tower hundreds of feet above the low-lying coastal plain. Yet even in these hills are to be seen fertile farms offering a welcome contrast to the bare rock that abounds elsewhere.
Along the Fifth Army's far left flank ran Highway 7, the Via Appia, the only really good road in the army's zone and its vital supply artery. Crossing the Garigliano below Minturno, the highway parallels the coast for about ten miles as far as Formia before turning northwestward into the mountains to Itri and Fondi, respectively six and eighteen miles from Formia. After skirting the coastal marshes to a bottleneck at Terracina--a town straddling Highway 7 as it passes between the mountains and the sea--the highway breaks out of the mountains onto the level Pontine plain and continues thirty-one miles to the town of Cisterna, major strongpoint of the German forces opposing the Anzio beachhead. From there the road begins a gradual ascent of the southwestern flanks of the Alban Hills and thence to Rome.
Within the Aurunci Mountains the wild, roadless Petrella massif presented the most formidable terrain of all. Only a few trails, created by generations of charcoal makers and shepherds, run along its steep slopes and through its narrow valleys. From the south and east access to the region by large military formations is virtually impossible. The coastal plain rises gradually past isolated Monte Campese to the foot of the massif, which in turn rises sharply from the plain. East of the massif a steep escarpment overhangs the Ausonia corridor, through which ran a road from the coastal highway northward to the Liri valley. At the village of Spigno, on a shoulder of the escarpment, a trail ascended to the northwest with a 51 percent grade for the steepest quarter-mile and then curved north and west of Monte Petrella for about seven miles to a mountain basin called the Fraile.
The massif's northern and western slopes are more accessible. A good mule trail led southwest from Esperia, four miles northwest of Ausonia, to the Fraile, approximately six miles away; and from the Itri-Pico road, a three-mile trail, which the Germans had been improving, ran as far as the Piano del Campo, a level upland plain about four miles north of Itri. While men and mules could penetrate to the key peak of the massif from several directions, motor movement was out of the question. A poor road cut northwest from the town of Castelforte to the town of Ausonia, north of which it joined a second-class road that followed Ausente
GENERALS BRANN (left) AND CLARK
Creek from Sant'Ambrogio through Esperia to Pico and San Giovanni Incarico. From Pico there are two routes, one running northwest through Pastena and Ceccano and the other southwest through Lenola, Valle Corsa, and Amaseno.
The German rear areas were well served by two lateral roads, one branching off the coastal highway west of Minturno and following the Ausonia corridor northward some eighteen miles through the towns of Ausonia and San Giorgio a Liri to Cassino; the other, Highway 82, running northward from Itri twelve miles to Pico and on to the Liri valley.
As unlikely and uninviting a picture as this terrain presented to the Fifth Army commanders and staff, to bold and innovative minds it would offer tactical and strategic opportunities as alluring as those more apparent ones in the Liri valley. This favorable development, when combined with the known German troop dispositions and the strong initiative shown by the Fifth Army commander within the Allied command structure in Italy, would have a far-reaching effect on the course of
the forthcoming spring offensive.
As was British custom, Alexander's staff had drawn up the general order for Operation DIADEM in nothing like the minute detail usually found in American field orders. The British practice was to provide only broad operational guidelines for subordinate commanders. For American staffs and commanders such broad directives created problems. So much freedom of action did the British practice afford subordinate commanders that they sometimes carried out an operational plan quite at variance with the senior commander's original intent. Clark, his staff, and his corps commanders enjoyed the same latitude in preparing Fifth Army's part in Operation DIADEM. While following in principle the guidelines laid down in Alexander's order, the plan drawn up at the end of March by the Fifth Army operations officer, Brig. Gen. Donald W. Brann, provided room for significant deviations from the original concept.28
In accordance with this concept Leese's Eighth Army was to make the main attack across the Rapido River to capture Cassino town and Monte Cassino and open up the Liri valley. The Fifth Army was to concentrate on an envelopment of the Cassino-Rapido line from the left through the Aurunci Mountains to help the Eighth Army accomplish its mission. Yet the Fifth Army staff saw in the envelopment maneuver an opportunity to greatly enhance the army's role in the offensive. Monte Majo, rather than Monte Cassino, might well become the key to a breakthrough into the Liri valley. Clark, convinced that his neighbor on the right lacked sufficient aggressiveness to lead the Allied offensive up the Liri valley where the German defenses were strongest, was determined that Fifth Army should lead the way.29
Instead of repeating the past winter's practice of costly frontal attacks, one that had cost the Fifth Army heavy casualties, Brann believed that the Germans' defenses in the Liri valley could best be unhinged by a flanking attack led by the FEC through the Aurunci Mountains south of the Liri. Thus far Brann's concept differed little from Alexander's. If as Brann envisioned, the U.S. II Corps, after first blocking the Formia corridor, would pass through the FEC and continue the attack on a narrow front toward Monte d'Oro, some seventeen miles northwest of Monte Majo, the possibility loomed large that the Fifth Army and not the Eighth Army would, as Clark expected, lead the way toward Rome. It seemed to Brann that the Eighth Army's primary role should be to maintain sufficient pressure against the defenses at the mouth of the Liri valley to prevent the enemy from reinforcing the mountain sector opposite the Fifth Army's right wing.30
At Fifth Army headquarters the G-3 planning subsection, headed by Lt. Col.
Abraham M. Lazar, worked out the details of Brann's plan. Lazar and his staff recognized that the main objective in the first phase of the attack should be Monte Majo, the dominating feature opposite the army's right wing and the southernmost of the two anchors of the German defenses across the Liri valley. After Monte Majo, the next objective on that wing would be Monte d'Oro, whose summit would provide observation over the second line of German defenses in the Liri valley.31
There were several advantages in concentrating on Monte Majo first, not the least of which was that German defenses there appeared to be less than formidable. Although the terrain was forbidding, it was just the type the 4th Moroccan Mountain Division of the FEC had been trained to operate in. Once the French had occupied Monte Majo, they could exploit the excellent observation from its summit over the Liri valley and the enemy's first line of defenses there. The one major drawback in the plan was obvious: a dearth of roads, which posed serious problems in supply and artillery support. The planners, however, believed that mule pack trains and jeeps might suffice until roads and trails could be improved.32
Generals Juin and Keyes agreed in commenting on the draft plan that the army's main effort should be made along the Monte Majo-Monte d'Oro axis to outflank the enemy's Liri valley positions. Yet both objected to the failure to provide for an advance over the central part of the Aurunci Mountains, the Petrella massif, and to the proposal that, once the Formia corridor had been sealed off, the II Corps should pass through the FEC to continue the attack. Juin and Keyes both wanted to broaden the base of the Army's offensive to include a thrust across the Petrella massif either to open the coastal road (Highway 7) or to assist the French corps' advance toward Monte d'Oro.33
Juin's chief of staff, General Marcel Carpentier, conveyed this dissent to Brann, pointing out that the projected route of advance from Monte Majo to Monte d'Oro, one to two miles wide and served by a single road, was too narrow to accommodate two corps, that a wider envelopment, including an attack through the Petrella massif as far as the Itri-Pico road, was necessary to outflank the enemy's deep defensive zones in the Liri valley. General Carpentier proposed, instead, that the FEC move through the Aurunci Mountains, while the U.S. II Corps broke through the enemy's coastal defenses, to open Highway 7.34 This modification would further enhance the role played by the Fifth Army in the coming offensive at the expense of Alexander's concept of subordinating everything to expediting the Eighth Army's thrust up the Liri valley.
These proposals reflected Juin's conclusions after he reviewed the winter operations at Cassino. Only an outflanking maneuver through the mountains south of the Liri--an envelopment far
wider than that contemplated by either Alexander or Clark--would, Juin believed, force a German withdrawal in the Liri valley. The longer Juin studied the area in front of his corps the more convinced he became that the decisive objective for the first phase of the Fifth Army's offensive should be the enemy's second lateral route of communications, the Itri-Pico road connecting the coastal highway near Formia with the Liri valley. By controlling this route the FEC would be able in the second phase to strike northward against the deep flank and rear of the enemy forces in the valley, an envelopment so deep that the Germans would be forced to withdraw completely from the Liri valley to avoid being trapped there.35
With this objective in mind Juin recommended to Clark a double envelopment by the two Allied armies--the Fifth Army from the south by way of the Aurunci Mountains and Pico and the Eighth Army from the north by way of Atina, an important road junction nine miles north of Cassino.36 This approach was quite different from that originally outlined by General Alexander. To achieve the envelopment from the south, Juin wanted to send his corps along the Monte Juga-Pico axis, first breaking through the enemy positions at Monte Majo, then quickly exploiting along several ridges running northwest from Monte Majo before clearing the area between Ausonia and Coreno to the north and the Colle di Teto to the south. The II Corps, meanwhile, would be clearing the lower Garigliano and opening the approach roads and assembly areas required for an exploitation through the Petrella massif.
The FEC commander further cautioned against concentrating the Fifth Army's efforts on frontal attacks astride the two available roads in the army zone--the narrow Ausonia-Pontecorvo-Pico road and the coastal highway--for they were under enemy observation and covered by strong defenses. An advance along the roads to take the towns of Esperia and Formia would, he warned, involve heavy fighting and "put us at the mercy of the enemy" regardless of Allied strength. Juin instead urged upon Clark a rapid push by two corps through the lightly defended mountain sectors. This push would cut enemy communications and bypass defenses along the roads, thereby preparing the way for later advances along them.
To make the exploitation phase of the offensive across the roadless mountains, Juin expected to form a provisional mountain corps consisting of the 4th Moroccan Mountain Division and the Tabors. This force was to advance northwest ten miles from Castelforte to establish a strong base in the vicinity of Monte d'Oro four miles south of Pontecorvo in the Liri valley. From there the force could either attack the enemy's second line of defense or, if the II Corps required help, turn south toward Itri and Highway 7. After Esperia had been cleared, the 4th Moroccan Mountain Division, in company with another division, would attack the enemy's second line of defense in the vicinity of
Pico. General Juin thus anticipated a wide envelopment of objectives, combined with pressure along the Esperia road.
Once established around Pico, the FEC could attack either toward Ceprano or Frosinone, important road junctions on Highway 6 and seventeen and twenty-eight miles, respectively, west-northwest of Cassino. In Juin's opinion, his corps, if reinforced by a fourth division and relieved on the right by the Eighth Army's advance in the Liri valley, would be able to continue in the direction of Frosinone instead of yielding its zone to the II Corps as Brann had originally proposed. Unalterably opposed to the single axis concept, Juin pointed to the confusion and lost time that would result if the II Corps attempted to relieve the FEC after it had reached the enemy's second line of defense.
Instead Juin suggested that Keyes' corps cut the Ausonia-Formia road and take Spigno on the eastern edge of the Petrella massif. If Keyes used Spigno as a base for a thrust across the mountains, his corps could, in Juin's opinion, better assist the FEC advance toward the Germans' second line of defense. In the coastal area the II Corps should, Juin believed, follow up the attack from Spigno by occupying and clearing Highway 7 and thereby opening up a supply route to support further advances in the mountains.
Agreeing in principle with Juin's proposals, Keyes indicated that he would use the 88th Division to make the main effort on his right. He would make a secondary effort with the 85th Division in the coastal sector on the corps' left flank.
Clark approved Juin's and Keyes' recommendations. To Brann's plan for a breakthrough by the FEC over Monte Majo and the sealing off of the Formia corridor by the II Corps, Clark added Juin's proposals to broaden the base of the army's offensive by making a two-corps attack across the Petrella massif to cut the Itri-Pico road, the Germans' main lateral supply route, and to make a wider envelopment of their defenses in the Liri valley.37
While still embodying Alexander's concept of an envelopment of the Germans' Liri valley defenses, the Fifth Army operations plan, as eventually published, gave Clark's army a far more significant role than Alexander's guidelines had originally suggested. If Clark's forces broke through the mountain sector south of the Liri on a two-corps front, as Juin and Keyes believed they would, a real possibility existed that the Fifth rather than the Eighth Army might lead the way to central Italy and Rome.
This objective was of particular importance to General Clark whose Fifth Army had lost an opportunity to lead the way to Rome in January when a combination of weather, terrain, and German resistance had halted the Allies in the first battle for that city. Eighth Army was to play the role Fifth Army had played then, but Clark was determined that his army would succeed this time, for the Eighth faced obstacles that had stalled the first drive on Rome, while Fifth Army was now concentrated on what had seemed to be the enemy's most vulnerable sector.
Artillery and air plans in support of the Fifth Army called for isolating the battle area by interdicting roads and trails and destroying bridges with artillery and air bombardment.38 Artillery fires were to remain normal until H-hour, when a 40-minute concentration, including counterbattery fire, was to be placed on known enemy positions and artillery. Fire missions for 240-mm. howitzers were to be carried out under corps' direction. The 240-mm. howitzers were to join medium 155-mm. guns in interdicting critical road junctions in the Itri and Pico areas.
Besides the field artillery support, the Fifth Army would have reinforcing fires from the 8-inch guns of an American cruiser lying just offshore. These guns were to direct their fire against those targets in the coastal sector beyond the range of corps artillery. In the offensive's early phases the Navy was to fire interdiction missions in the Terracina area and against suitable targets such as the towns of Itri and Sperlonga, depots along the Itri-Pico road, 170-mm. gun positions near Itri, and the highway between Itri and Formia. The naval guns were to be available on call at least until D plus 5 and were to fire a minimum of five missions of about 100 rounds each on suitable firing days.
Clark's modification of Alexander's operational concepts was manifested in yet another way--by an effort to revise air support priorities that Alexander had set up for the two armies. Since the AAI commander deemed Leese's Eighth Army to be making the main effort, Alexander had divided the available air support between the two armies on a 70-30 ratio in favor of the Eighth Army. After the Eighth Army had initiated the second phase of the offensive by breaking through the enemy's defenses in the Liri valley, air support priority was to be shifted to the Fifth Army's VI Corps on the Anzio beachhead. Within the Allied armies, air control sections were to designate all targets. In co-ordination with the XII Tactical Air Command (TAC), the air sections were to determine the priority targets within each army's zone of operations. Convinced the major role in the eventual breakthrough on the southern front would be the Fifth rather than the Eighth Army's, Clark sought to persuade Alexander to split the available air support equally between the two armies. At a final meeting of army commanders on 1 May at Alexander's headquarters at Caserta--a meeting marked by bickering and mounting tension--Clark argued his point in vain.39 Alexander refused to alter the arrangement, insisting that there would be adequate air support for both armies. He even declined a mollifying suggestion from General Cannon, American commander of the XII TAC, that the zones of the two armies be treated as one front with aircraft free to attack targets in both zones during the same mission. He would retain for himself, Alexander said, the decision to change the air support priorities. In any case he would allot air support in keeping with the developing situation.40
On one point there was general agreement: the offensive should begin at night in order to conceal movement of the French beyond the Garigliano and the British beyond the Rapido. Accordingly, H-hour was set for 2300, since the moon, four days from its last quarter, would not rise until 2331. This would allow for half an hour of preparatory artillery fire before the infantry began to move. In order to assure adequate moonlight for French and British troop movements, Alexander had first selected 10 May as D-day, for it fell within the period of the rising moon. But when the Eighth Army reported that it would not be ready on that day, Alexander postponed D-day twenty-four hours.41
At the 1 May conference, Alexander and his army commanders also agreed that the attack should be postponed in the event or threat of heavy rain. Any postponement, however, would be for only twenty-four hours at a time, and, to make allowance for any adjustments a delay would entail, would have to be decided by 1000 on D-day.42
Because Alexander decided not to designate an army group reserve, he restricted Clark's use of the 36th Division, the Fifth Army reserve. Clark was to commit the 36th only with Alexander's permission.43
Both the decision on committing the 36th Division and the timing of the Anzio attack, Alexander believed, should depend on the degree of progress the offensive had made on the southern front. In any case, the 36th Division was not to be sent to Anzio nor was the beachhead breakout attack to be launched until the two Allied armies had penetrated the enemy's first line of defense on the southern front--the Gustav Line--and had demonstrated that they would need no additional strength for an assault against the second line of defense, the Hitler Line.44
Another factor in the timing of the breakout from the beachhead was the status and disposition of Kesselring's reserve. Only after Allied intelligence had evidence that Kesselring had shifted his army group reserve to the support of the southern front was Truscott to strike. The attack from the beachhead was, in Alexander's view, "his most important weapon of opportunity, to be launched when the situation was fluid."45 If this operation went according to plan, Alexander expected that the VI Corps' attack from the beachhead toward Valmontone on Highway 6 would possibly block the route of withdrawal for a large percentage of the German forces on the southern front and result in the destruction of the Tenth Army's right wing.46
Alexander was aware during the last weeks before the offensive that Clark's strategic views differed sharply from his own. Nevertheless, the Allied commander and his staff remained convinced
that Leese's Eighth Army, after breaking through the German defenses in the Liri valley, would lead the way up Highway 6 toward Rome. The AAI commander believed furthermore that at best the FEC's projected attack over the Aurunci Mountains would be a secondary and supporting effort, keeping pressure against the Germans in that area and preventing them from shifting troops to the point of main effort, the Liri valley. He did not count on the French colonial troops to break through readily on Monte Majo or for the II Corps to advance rapidly across the Petrella massif.47
Alexander's final operation order as published on 5 May still assigned to the Eighth Army the major role in the offensive and sketched the Fifth Army's mission in only general terms. This gave Clark and his commanders the flexibility they wanted in order to enhance their army's role as much as they wished. Concerning the unspoken yet real question in everyone's mind, namely, which army would take Rome, the order remained silent. Yet it was hard to see how it would be possible for any but the Fifth Army to be first in Rome, and it was Clark's understanding that Alexander expected that the prize would fall to the Americans.48 On the direction the breakout was to take, however, Alexander's order was quite clear. Attacking from the beachhead, the VI Corps was to cut Highway 6 in the vicinity of Valmontone, thereby blocking the supply or withdrawal of the enemy's Tenth Army on the southern front. After the two portions of the Fifth Army linked up, the entire army was presumably to continue northwestward alongside the Eighth Army; for the order outlining Operation DIADEM read that the Fifth Army was to drive the enemy north of Rome, capture the Viterbo airfields forty miles to the north and the port of Civitavecchia, then continue northwestward up the narrow coastal plain.49
With the prospect of capturing Rome looming large in his mind, Clark displayed no inclination on the eve of DIADEM to worry about the availability of forces beyond the Tiber, something that American emphasis on France, rather than Italy, would eventually call into question. As far as he was concerned, the important thing was that for the first time in the Italian campaign the full resources of both Allied armies were to be used in a co-ordinated effort. With an over-all Allied strength of twenty-five divisions as opposed to nineteen enemy divisions, superiority in artillery, overwhelming domination of the air, sufficient reserves, and the troops rested and ready, the Allied commanders could view the prospects of the coming offensive with confidence.50
In making preparations to meet an expected Allied offensive, the German armies in Italy were left largely to their own resources. Since the increasing pressures against the front in Russia and the growing danger of a cross-Channel invasion precluded any significant reinforcement of Kesselring's command above the normal replacement flow, support from Hitler and the OKW was limited for the most part to exhortations to stand firm. The best the OKW could do for Kesselring was to postpone indefinitely the scheduled transfer from Italy to France of the Parachute Panzer Division "Hermann Goering," a unit of the OKW reserve located near Leghorn, well over 200 miles away from the southern front.51
Nevertheless, from March through April 1944, in spite of the efforts of the Allied air forces through Operation STRANGLE to prevent German reinforcements from reaching the front, German troop strength and matériel in Italy had increased, though modestly. Although no major units had moved into the theater, the flow of replacements and recovered wounded exceeded a casualty rate reduced by the April lull in the fighting, and the assigned strength of the German army units rose from 330,572 on 1 March to 365,616 on 1 May 1944.52
In addition to assigned strength, the Tenth and Fourteenth Armies on 1 May 1944 also had approximately 27,000 men attached from the Luftwaffe and the Waffen-SS. One division and miscellaneous small Luftwaffe ground units in von Zangen's group accounted for an estimated 20,000 more. Thus, on 1 May 1944 the total German ground strength, including army, SS, and Luftwaffe ground units, assigned to the Italian theater numbered approximately 412,000 men. But this force was scattered from the fronts south of Rome to the Alpine passes far to the north.
Although most German units in 1944 were plagued by a shortage of well-trained junior officers and noncommissioned officers, units in Italy had yet to suffer seriously from a growing manpower shortage afflicting German forces elsewhere. Several expedients, such as the "combing out" of overhead units and using foreign auxiliaries for housekeeping and labor duties, enabled the Germans to meet their manpower requirements. For these reasons, in early 1944 OB Suedwest commanded forces superior in quality to the average German unit in other OKW theaters of operation.53
Nineteen of the 23 divisions in Kesselring's Army Group C as of 1 May 1944 were considered suitable for the defensive missions they might be required to accomplish. The German commanders deemed only two of these divisions
qualified for any offensive mission, 11 for limited attacks, 6 for sustained defensive action, and 4 for small-scale defensive action. Thus approximately half of the divisions, an unusually high proportion at that stage of the war, were rated capable of some offensive action.54
The relative quiet on the battlefronts in April had enabled Kesselring to disengage several of his better divisions--among them the 26th Panzer and the 29th and 90th Panzer Grenadier Divisions--for movement to the rear for rest and rehabilitation. Together with the Hermann Goering Division and several other divisions of lesser quality that were training, fighting partisans, or guarding the coasts, these disengaged formations made up the general and theater reserves available to Kesselring.55
In the disposition of his general reserves Kesselring had to consider three important factors. First, the existence of two fronts south of Rome made it desirable to place reserves so that they could be quickly shifted to either front. Second, thanks to the Allied deception plan, so vulnerable did he regard the coastal sectors north as well as south of the Anzio beachhead that he believed a number of powerful and highly mobile units were necessary to back up the weak forces guarding that area of the coast. Finally, the possibility that the Allies might try to cut the few roads between Rome and the southern front by means of an airborne landing in the vicinity of Frosinone, some fifty miles southeast of Rome, required a division in that area. Although Kesselring made strenuous efforts to satisfy all three requirements, whatever success he achieved was bought at the cost of dividing some of his best divisions among two or more widely separated groups.56
The Germans clearly had been taken in by the Allied deception plan. In the area selected by the Allies for their main effort--the Liri valley--the enemy had underestimated Allied strength by seven divisions. For example, opposite the XIV Panzer Corps in the Allied bridgehead beyond the Garigliano General Juin had managed to assemble four times the number of troops his adversaries had estimated to be under his command. On the other hand, German intelligence credited the Allies with much larger reserves than they actually had and believed that three divisions were in the Salerno-Naples area engaged in landing exercises preparatory for another amphibious operation. Kesselring had disposed his forces on that assumption. A minimum number of troops was in line and several reserve divisions were positioned along the coast to counter expected landings. That was to prove a vital factor in the early battles of the coming offensive.
While some ground combat troops in Italy belonged to the Luftwaffe, as, for example, the Hermann Goering Division,
actual German air strength was negligible. Compared with the approximately 4,000 operational aircraft the Allies could muster in Italy and on the nearby islands, the Luftwaffe had only 700 operational aircraft in the central Mediterranean area. Of this number less than half were based in Italy.57 Of these only a small percentage would ever rise to challenge the overwhelming Allied air forces or to harass Allied ground movements. German air commanders were carefully husbanding their few aircraft for those occasions that might give some promise of success against a new Allied amphibious landing or, in conjunction with the greater air strength in Germany and France, against the expected Allied invasion attempt in northwestern Europe.58
1. Phonetic designation for the letter "G" in German alphabet.
2. MS # T-1a (Westphal et al.), CMH; Situation map, 7-10 May 44, AOK 10, KTB, Lagekarten, 4-20.V.44.
3. Considerable confusion appears to have existed during these and earlier operations as to which stream was the Rapido and which the Gari. Based upon a 1:25,000 map of Italy, the Gari, beginning just south of Cassino town, meets the Rapido flowing from Sant'Elia through Villa, making a bend to the east of Cassino about a mile north of Sant'Angelo. It is doubtful whether the map is accurate, since a stream flows through Cassino town. Therefore, since "rapido" could approximately be applied to either stream and the current of both is extremely fast, the author has chosen the name Rapido to designate the major river in the area.
4. Situation map, 7-10 May 44, AOK 10, KTB, Lagekarten, 4-20. V. 44.
5. C-064 (Kesselring); MS # C-071 (Vietinghoff et al.). Unless otherwise cited the following section is based upon these references. See also Engr Rpt w/atchd map, 13 Apr 44, in files, XIV Panzer Corps, 1a/Nr. 211/44 g.Kdos, KTB, Anlagen 1.IV-30.IV.44.
6. Colloquially, the German word Riegel means the bar of a door; in military parlance it is generally used in the combination Riegelstellung which is best translated as "switch position." When the Allied threat to the Fuehrer Riegel increased, the Germans renamed it the Senger Riegel after General Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin, commander of the XIV Panzer Corps, through whose sector a major portion of the line ran.
7. As the 15th Panzer Division, this unit had been destroyed in Tunisia. It had been reconstituted as the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division in Sicily.
8. The designation H u. D refers to an honorary title given the division: Reichsgrenadierdivision "Hoch und Deutschmeister."
9. Memo, Alexander to Wilson, 22 Feb 44, Future Operations in Italy, AFHQ microfilm, Job 10-A, reel 1-c, G-3 Plans/20, Italy Opns Policy; ACMP Appreciation No. 1, 22 Feb 44, AFHQ film, Job 47B, reel 156-G, Ph/9, Post Husky Administration & Maintenance; Opn. Order #1, Hqs. AAI, 5 May 1944. See also W. G. F. Jackson, The Battle for Italy (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), p. 223.
10. Quoted in F. W. Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1974), p. 187.
11. Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, 3 September 1943 to 2 May 1945, Part II, The Campaign in Central Italy, 26 March to 10 August 1944, Sec. B, Eighth Army Advance to Rome, British Historical Section, Central Mediterranean, copy in Military History Research Collection, Carlisle, Pa.; Fifth Army History, Part V, The Drive to Rome (Florence, Italy: L'Impronta Press, 1945), p. 2.
12. See Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., "Army Air Forces in World War II," vol. III, Europe: Argument to V-E Day (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951), p. 387 (hereafter cited as Craven and Cate, eds., AAF III).
13. Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. B.
14. For text of plan, see AAI Opns Plan 53, 18 Apr 44, in Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. A, Allied Strategy, App C-2.
15. Alexander Despatch, p. 47.
16. General Marshall Intervs, 25 Jul 49, in CMH files.
17. See Marcel Vigneras, Rearming the French, THE UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1957), for the background of the FEC.
18. A group of Tabors was the equivalent of a battalion; a goum the equivalent of a company. A goumier was a Moroccan irregular soldier, usually recruited from the Berber tribesmen of the Atlas mountains and under the command of French officers and noncommissioned officers. A Tabor usually included a headquarters, one heavy weapons goum, and three goums with a total strength of about 65 officers and NCO's and 859 native NCO's and men, with 247 horses and mules. A group was composed of a headquarters and three Tabors with a total strength of about 3,100. In February 1944 the Goums Moroccains, under the command of Brig. Gen. Augustine Guillaume, was composed of the 1st, 3d, and 4th Groups of Tabors, in all about 10,000 men.
19. Operating as the French Expeditionary Corps' artillery as long as the corps remained in Italy, the 13th Field Artillery Brigade, under the command of Brig. Gen. Carl C. Banks, eventually moved with the French units when they left Italy for southern France, during Operation DRAGOON. From the Mediterranean to the Rhine, the brigade would function as the I French Corps' artillery with both French and American units under its control.
20. Alexander Despatch p. 42 and App. E.
21. Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part V, Sec. III; Fifth Army History, Part V, App. B. Exact over-all, (present for duty) strength figures at any given time are difficult to determine. The figures given are therefore necessarily approximate and give only a basis for comparison with enemy strength figures which are also approximate.
22. Alexander, Order of the Day, AAI, May 1944.
23. John Ehrman, "Lloyd George and Churchill as War Ministers," pp. 101-15, in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Fifth Series, vol. II (London, 1961).
24. See General Alexander's notes for the conference held at AAI headquarters on 2 April 1944, in Operations of British, Indian and Dominion Forces in Italy, 3 Sep 43 to 2 May 45, Part I, The Conquest of Southern Italy, App. B-1.
26. Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, The Campaign in Central Italy. Unless otherwise indicated the following section is based upon this reference.
27. The 2 Polish Corps had its origin in the 1st Carpathian Infantry Brigade which had served with distinction during 1941-42 in North Africa. Lt. Gen. Wladyslaw Anders, the corps' commander, had formed the Polish Army of the East after the Soviet Union had allowed the Poles to emigrate to Iran.
28. Memo, Gen Brann for Gen Clark, 24 Mar 44, Truscott Papers.
29. At the time of the original attempt to break into the Liri valley during the winter campaign, General Keyes had urged that the mountain mass above Sant'Angelo and south of the valley be taken before an attempt was made to cross the Rapido. At that time the suggestion was not accepted by General McCreery, the British 10 Corps commander. See Blumenson, Salerno to Cassino, p. 326.
30. Memo, Brann for Clark, 24 Mar 44, Truscott Papers.
31. Fifth Army G-3 Planning Study, 26 Mar 44.
33. Marechal Alphonse Juin, La Campagne d'Italie (Paris: Editions Grey Victor, 1962), pp. 91-100.
34. Marcel Carpentier, "Le corps expeditionnaire francais en Italie," Revue de Defense Nationale, new series (November 1, 1945), p. 579; Juin, La Campagne d'Italie, pp. 91-100.
35. Juin, La Campagne d'Italie, pp. 91-100.
36. Mémoire du General Juin en date du 4 Avril 1944 sur les futures operations du C.E.F. dans les monts Aurunci, piéce Nr. 116, in FEC Journal de Marche (annexes), 1 April-22 July 1944, vol. I, roll No. 10. Unless otherwise indicated, the following section is based upon this document.
37. Interv, Mathews with Clark, 10-21 May 49, CMH.
38. II Corps AAR, May-Jun 44; Fifth Army History, Part V, pp. 27-31. The following section is based upon these references unless otherwise indicated.
39. Clark Diary, 30 Apr 44; Interv, Mathews with Clark, 13 May 49, CMH; AAI Plan for Operation DIADEM, FO 1, 5 May 44.
40. Interv, Mathews with Alexander, 10-15 Jan 49, CMH: AAI FO 1, 5 May 44.
41. Conf min, 1 May 44, AAI files. See also Fifth Army History, Part V, p. 23. Standard Army Time (from 0200, 2 April 1944) was B Time, two hours ahead of Greenwich Standard Time (Z).
42. Conf min, 1 May 44, AAI files.
43. AAI FO 1, 5 May 44; Lt Gen John Harding, AAI COS, Remarks at Fifth Army Commanders Conference, 5 May 44, Army Records Center, St. Louis, Mo.
44. Interv, Mathews with Alexander, 10-15 Jan 49, CMH.
45. Harding, Remarks at Fifth Army Commanders Conf, 5 May 44.
46. Interv, Mathews with Alexander, 10-15 Jan 49, CMH.
48. AAI Opns O No. 1, 5 May 44, in Fifth Army History, Part V, App. 1.
50. Of the 25 Allied divisions under Alexander's control, 17 were deployed on the main southern front, and opposing them on the same front the Germans had 6 divisions. The U.S. VI Corps controlled six divisions on the Anzio beachhead, and were opposed there by eight German divisions. On the Adriatic sector, east of the Central Apennines, the British had two divisions and the Germans three. The Germans had one division in strategic reserve and one in army reserve. Some writers point out that while the Allies had twenty-five divisions, the Germans had twenty-three, but reach the latter figure by adding in the four divisions in Army Group von Zangen in northern Italy, units that were not available for the defense of the southern front.
51. Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, pp. 478-80. This division hereafter will be referred to as the Hermann Goering Division.
52. Strength Rpt, Staerke des Feldheeres, 25 May 44, OKW/Generalstab des Heeres/Organizationabteilung (hereafter cited as OKW/Org. Abt.), KTB Anlagen, 5 May 44-9 May 45. A study of Tenth and Fourteenth Armies' war diaries disclosed that the 1 April figures shown in the documents cited actually apply to 1 May, and they are so quoted. All of the figures used in this paragraph refer to "assigned strength" and are therefore somewhat higher than "present for duty" figures.
53. For a contemporary comparison between Tenth Army divisions and those of other German theaters, see Trip Rpt, 7 Apr 44, Fahrbemerkungen des Heeres OB Armeekommando 10 (hereafter referred to as AOK 10, KTB 6, Anlagen 1.10-14.44).
54. Status Rpt for 1 May 44, Zustandsberichte des OB Suedwest, 1 Jun 44, OKW/Org.Abt. KTB 1944.
55. Since the location of these general reserves seemed to point to their commitment on the southern front, some confusion arose later as to whether they were army or army group reserves. But since in most cases Kesselring's or OKW's permission was required for the commitment even of units in corps reserve, the distinction is unimportant.
56. Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, II(I), pp. 478-81: MS # T-1b (Westphal et al.), CMH.
57. British Air Ministry Pamphlet 248, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, 1933-45 (London: Air Ministry [A.C.AS. 1], 1948, pp. 265-71.