The Last Offensive

Thus a victorious army wins its victories before seeking battle; an army destined to defeat fights in the hope of winning.

SUN TZU, The Art of War

The commander in war must work in a medium which his eyes cannot see; which his best deductive powers cannot always fathom; and with which because of constant changes he can rarely become completely familiar.


Chapter XXV
Strategies and Plans

German Strategic Problems

Except for the setback dealt the U.S. 92d Division on the westernmost sector of the Italian front, the German command could take little comfort from the last winter of the campaign except in that the front was still intact. At a superficial glance, the overall military situation of the Germans in the west, including Italy, did not appear hopeless. There had been, to be sure, a threatening penetration of the western front in the vicinity of Aachen in the Rhineland, but elsewhere the German armies still held the Allies at bay from the North Sea to Switzerland. In northern Italy, except for the newly won positions of the U.S. IV Corps on the high ground west of the upper Reno River, Army Group C still maintained an unbroken defensive line from the Romagna Plain to the Tyrrhenian Sea. Yet in fact Germany's military situation was deteriorating rapidly. In late August 1944 Rumania had capitulated to the Russians, and in early September of the same year Bulgaria had followed. Only German arms prevented a third ally--Hungary--from collapsing before the Red Army.

After mid-January 1945 the time had passed when divisions from the Italian front could be used to influence decisively the course of the war on other fronts. Although in January and February Kesselring had moved four divisions out of Italy to other fronts, by March the railroads leading out of the peninsula were in such poor condition that it would have taken months to move additional divisions, even if they had been available. For the Germans the time had long since passed for a strategic withdrawal from Italy.1

On 8 March Hitler summoned Kesselring to Berlin to tell him that he was to leave Italy to command the Western Front where, following the failure of the Ardennes counteroffensive in December 1944, Allied armies under General Eisenhower were pressing the Germans back into the Reich itself. When asked whom he would recommend as his successor in Italy, Kesselring named Vietinghoff. When Hitler readily agreed, Vietinghoff, since January in command of Army Group Kurland on the Baltic front, returned to Italy--and the command of Army Group C.

Kesselring was less successful in obtaining the Fuehrer's agreement to giving the new army group commander more flexibility in the conduct of operations when the Allies resumed their offensive in the spring. That lack of flexibility had long acerbated relations


between Army Group C and OKW and was to hang like a heavy cloud over the army group headquarters as Vietinghoff prepared plans for defensive measures to be taken when the Allied armies resumed the offensive.2

In early February OKW had informed Kesselring that under no circumstances was he to abandon major portions of his front voluntarily. To that directive he replied that, while he had no such intention, he would like to be free to pull back in certain sectors even in advance of an Allied attack when an attack appeared imminent, for he lacked the manpower to hold every sector of the front in its present location against heavy Allied pressure. Kesselring observed that had he been given that kind of freedom prior to the U.S. 10th Mountain Division's recent attack at Monte Belvedere, he might have been spared the necessity of committing the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division from his army group reserve. Yet the most OKW would grant was permission to fall back only in those sectors against which a large-scale Allied operation was already under way.3

That concession hardly afforded the field marshal or his successor much strategic flexibility. If the Allied spring offensive forced Kesselring to abandon his positions in the Apennines, he saw no alternative to fighting a series of delaying actions along each of the many river lines as he withdrew into the Alps.

Although the German high command at first frowned on the plan, Kesselring remained convinced that as long as he was commander-in-chief in Italy, he could, as he so frequently had done in the past, obtain the Fuehrer's approval to disengage before the situation became catastrophic. While Army Group C's commander had no intention of ordering an immediate large-scale withdrawal, neither did he intend to fight the decisive battle for northern Italy along the river lines south of the Reno, since to do that would stake the future of the entire campaign on one card, a card that offered him little chance of saving his armies from destruction. Regardless of the high command's views, Kesselring believed his only choice to be the plan he had developed: withdrawal under pressure of an Allied offensive while fighting delaying actions along a succession of favorable defensive positions based on those river lines. That defensive strategy had worked well in the past and could, if followed, make the last offensive costly for the Allied armies.

On 22 February, however, a directive from the Fuehrer dashed Kesselring's hopes for even that much freedom of action. Hitler acknowledged that although Army Group C's over-all strength was admittedly weak, the solution lay not in Kesselring's plan but rather in deployment in greater depth in the sector facing the greatest threat. While Hitler would raise no objection to planned withdrawals to stronger positions in the face of a large-scale Allied offensive, he would never consent to voluntary withdrawals by means of a series of delaying actions. That, Hitler believed, would destroy the morale of the troops. On the eve of the Allied


offensive Hitler was destined to reiterate his antipathy to voluntary withdrawals when he refused to authorize Army Group C to implement Operation HERBSTNEBEL, a long-standing plan for large-scale withdrawal to prepared defensive positions along the line of the Ticino and Po Rivers. That refusal, observed the Fourteenth Army's chief of staff, was tantamount to a death sentence for the army group in Italy.4

Those differences failed to dampen either Vietinghoff's or Kesselring's optimism and obvious loyalty to their Fuehrer. Yet there were senior officers within the German command structure in northern Italy who took quite a different view of the Reich's military situation and agreed with the judgment of the Fourteenth Army's chief of staff. As exchanges between the OKW and Army Group C over strategic and tactical plans for meeting the anticipated Allied offensive gradually assumed an air of unreality, several senior SS officers in Italy took advantage of their unique position within the Reich's military hierarchy to establish covert contacts with Allied agents. On 21 February, the day before the Fuehrer's directive binding the German armies in Italy to a stultified strategy was received at Kesselring's headquarters, an Italian businessman, Baron Luigi Parrilli, an intimate of SS General Karl Wolff, senior SS officer in command of the security forces, arrived in Zurich to make contact with American intelligence agents.

Within the German forces in northern Italy perhaps no one group had a better picture of military and civilian morale than did the SS police and security units. It was thus natural that they had a more pessimistic and yet more realistic picture of the over-all situation than did many of their counterparts in the Army whose eyes were focused more specifically on the battlefronts. Yet in the weeks to come what amounted to their incipient treason would have no influence on the course of battle. Most commanders and the rank and file of the German armies in Italy would remain steadfastly at their posts until ordered to withdraw or until the tide of battle overwhelmed them.

The German armies in Italy faced a more immediate problem: a rapidly deteriorating transportation system without which a modern field army cannot operate. A general shortage of vehicles of all types and a shortage of motor fuel, complicated by a wide-ranging Allied aerial interdiction of road and rail traffic, was largely responsible.

To keep essential military traffic moving, the Germans had commandeered hundreds of civilian passenger cars, trucks, and buses. For several months even oxen had been employed to move heavy equipment, including artillery. In many motor convoys every third truck was employed to tow two others. Substitute fuels such as methane gas, fairly abundant in many areas of the Po Valley, were inadequate for combat vehicles, but were widely used to power administrative vehicles. Such fuels as alcohol and benzol were mixed with gasoline and diesel oil on a one-to-three ratio in order to stretch limited fuel supplies. A few small oil wells in northern Italy, some producing as little



as 1,000 gallons a day, contributed small amounts of fuel.5

Even winter failed to give the Germans the respite from Allied aerial harassment they so sorely needed. Although snow secured the Army Group C flank in the western Alps and hampered military operations in the Apennines, it failed to halt air attacks against the German lines of communications. In December alone there were 900 major breaks in those lines, only fifty of which had not been repaired by the beginning of the year. Only through careful organization of motor transport and husbanding of dwindling resources had the Germans in Italy been able to keep their logistical system from collapsing before the end of 1944.6

Up until the end of the year, 50,000 tons of supplies per month, mostly coal shipments, arrived in Italy from Germany, but after January 1945 all coal shipments came to a halt. That impelled the Germans to make intensive efforts to achieve complete self-sufficiency for their armies in northern Italy. Those efforts, in turn, placed the economy of the region under severe inflationary pressures and caused increased unrest among the population. Food shortages and widespread unemployment inflicted considerable hardship.

A shortage--almost a dearth--of reconnaissance aircraft had long made it difficult for the Germans to obtain intelligence on Allied intentions. For almost a year the Germans had been unable to make anywhere near adequate aerial reconnaissance, which contributed to making it difficult to see through Allied deception plans.7

Late in March Allied intelligence learned through the Enigma Code that those plans were apparently succeeding, for it seemed that the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division had been moved from the Bologna sector, where it had been in army group reserve, to overwatch the Adriatic coast northeast of Venice. Aware that enemy fuel stocks were low, the Allies believed that only a conviction on the part of the German command that an actual threat existed on the Adriatic flank could have prompted such a move.8

From the German point of view there seemed to be considerable grounds for giving credence to numerous indications of a forthcoming Allied amphibious operation north of the


mouth of the Po. By early April Tito's partisans had reached Senj, only thirty miles southeast of Fiume, a major Italian port on the northeastern corner of the Istrian peninsula. To the Germans it seemed logical that to take advantage of this development the Allies might land somewhere to the west of the peninsula and thrust overland to effect a junction with the Yugoslavs and together advance via Ljubljana toward Vienna. Inasmuch as the Red Army also threatened that city, that course of action seemed an even more likely possibility.9

In an effort to counter the threat, the German high command in early April extended Army Group C's long eastern flank northward to include the Austrian provinces of Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Salzburg, and the western half of Styria and Carinthia. Because of that added responsibility, Army Group C's eastern boundary was withdrawn westward an average of twenty miles from the prewar Italo-Yugoslav frontier to the line of the Isonzo River, which flows southward through the easternmost Italian province of Gorizia to enter the gulf of Trieste some twelve miles west of that city. Since the partisans under Tito's leadership had long claimed the Isonzo as the legitimate postwar frontier between the countries--it had been the pre-World War I boundary between the Austrian Empire and Italy--the German action had, perhaps deliberately, cast an apple of discord into the midst of Allied councils. As a result of the boundary shift between Vietinghoff's Army Group C and von Weich's Army Group E, the XCVII Corps with two divisions passed to command of Army Group E.10

On the eve of the Allied offensive Vietinghoff's command included 26 divisions of all types, of which 21 were German and five Italian. Sixteen were actually deployed across the front from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The remainder were either in reserve or on coastal defense or rear area security duty. The Tenth Army, since February commanded by General Herr, continued to hold the army group's left wing with two corps: the LXXVI Panzer Corps with four divisions and the I Parachute Corps, also with four.11

Two of the best of the divisions of the I Parachute Corps, the 4th Parachute and the 26th Panzer, were astride Highway 9, which the Germans still considered to be the most likely approach to Bologna from the southeast. The sector in the Apennines foothills was held by the 1st Parachute Division opposite the 13 Corps Monte Grande sector, and the 278th Division opposed the 10 Corps. Defending the Tenth Army's front that would eventually bear the brunt of the Eighth Army's offensive, the LXXVI Panzer Corps employed the 42d Jaeger (Light Infantry), the 362d Infantry Division, defender of Cisterna at Anzio the previous spring, and the 98th Volksgrenadier Divisions. Since those divisions occupied positions on which they had been working since January, they could expect to be fairly well sheltered from all but direct hits by artillery fire or aerial bombs. All, however, had incurred heavy losses during the fighting


of the previous autumn and winter in the mountains and were still considerably understrength, as, indeed, were all German combat divisions in the last months of the war. A fourth division, the 162d Turkomen, was deployed along the Comacchio Lagoon's northeastern edge and on a spit separating the lagoon from the sea.12

The front opposite the Fifth Army was held by Lemelsen's Fourteenth Army, with two corps deployed across a front extending approximately 50 miles southwestward from the Idice valley southeast of Bologna to the Serchio valley. The LI Mountain Corps held the western half with the 232d Reserve Division, made up largely of older men and convalescents; the 714th (114th) Jaeger Division, composed largely of ethnic Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Alsace; and the 334th Infantry Division, which had taken heavy casualties while bearing the brunt of the Fifth Army's drive through the Futa Pass in October. Senger und Etterlin's XIV Panzer Corps, long a familiar antagonist of the Fifth Army, held the remainder with the 94th Division, since the fighting south of Rome a frequent, if somewhat battered, opponent of the Fifth Army; the 8th Mountain Division; and the 65th Division, also long engaged on the Italian front. Since the beginning of April the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division had been assembled in army reserve behind the panzer corps sector and northwest of Bologna.

Except for the 8th Mountain Division, which had over 3,000 combat infantrymen, all divisions were understrength in front-line soldiers. The 714th [114th] Jaeger Division was in the worst condition with only 984 combat infantry as of the end of March 1945; the other divisions were in somewhat better condition with strength ranging from 1,766 to 2,542.

From those figures it is evident that Lemelsen had concentrated his strength south of Bologna on the XIV Panzer Corps sector and opposite the U.S. II Corps rather than the U.S. IV Corps. The Italo-German Ligurian Army, under the command of Marshal Graziani, composed mostly of fortress and coastal defense units, was deployed along the gulf of Genoa as far as the Franco-Italian frontier.13

The German Defenses

The German front line from sea to sea simply represented the line along which the Allied offensive had ground to a halt during the winter. Only on the western coastal plain did it still embrace portions of the Gothic Line.

Opposite the Eighth Army German defenses were in considerable depth to protect Bologna from an attack coming from the southeast. They were based upon a series of river lines, beginning with the Senio, then the Santerno, the Sillaro, a switch position along the Sellustra, and, finally, the so-called Genghis Khan Line, based on the Idice River and anchored in the east in the flooded plain west of the Comacchio Lagoon. At their northern extremities those river lines were linked to another line of defense based on a stretch of the Reno River that flowed eastward from


a great bend twelve miles southwest of Ferrara. The latter line gave some depth to the defenses of the line of the lower Po and was an essential element of the German defensive system. The Germans saw it as the pivot upon which the central and western sectors of their front had to swing toward the lines of the Po and the Adige Rivers and the northeastern passes leading into Germany.

Throughout the winter months over 5,000 German engineer troops and additional thousands of civilian laborers toiled at preparing field works along the Po and the Adige Rivers. The line along the Adige was reinforced with naval gun batteries from the Ligurian coast, while the line of the Po was continued westward along the Ticino River to cover the withdrawal of Marshal Graziani's Ligurian Army on the German western flank.

Behind those two defensive lines--the Po and the Adige--the Germans developed yet another line, a so-called Voralpenstellung (the forward position of the Alps). Extending east and west of Lake Garda, that line represented an outwork of the almost impregnable bastion of the Alps. In a manner somewhat similar to the way the river lines southeast of Bologna were tied in with the Reno, the river lines of the Brenta, Piave, Tagliamento, and Isonzo, all flowing from the Alps in a generally southerly direction toward the Adriatic, were tied in with the Voralpenstellung. Those lines were intended to cover a possible withdrawal by the German forces northeastward toward the Ljubljana Gap.14

Allied Strategy and Plans

As Field Marshal Alexander and his staff studied the situation map at the Mediterranean theater headquarters showing those defenses and, thanks to decipherment of the German code, an accurate picture of the enemy's troop dispositions, they considered the possibility that the Germans might ignore those lines and withdraw from northern Italy directly into a so-called "National Redoubt." That consideration arose from an idea that earlier had gained some acceptance within SHAEF and among some Allied commanders. The idea rested upon an assumption that Hitler and the survivors of his legions might fall back into an Alpine defense zone extending from Salzburg and Klagenfurt in the east to the Swiss frontier in the west and including the cities of Innsbruck, Bolzano, Landeck, and Bregenz. There the fanatical remnants of the Third Reich might attempt a last-ditch stand of indefinite duration. Although British intelligence circles, to which Alexander was privy, remained skeptical of the redoubt's existence, no commander could afford to ignore the possibility.

There were some within the Allied command in Italy who believed that Marshal Kesselring had no alternative, other than outright surrender, to retreat into the Alps. There the Germans might find refuge in former Austrian fortifications that had survived World War I. Constructed along the former Austro-Italian frontier, many had been left intact by the Italians and could prove quite formidable if manned.15


As planning proceeded for the spring offensive, the same divergent strategies that underlay the Anglo-American controversy over ANVIL again came to the surface. As they had since the beginning of the Italian campaign, the British continued to look upon the peninsula as a promising road into eastern Europe and the mid-Danube basin. The Americans, for their part, still regarded the Italian campaign as a sideshow to the main drama moving to a denouement on the plains of northwestern Europe. For the closing months of the Italian campaign, the Americans would continue to think, as their President had once reminded Churchill during the ANVIL debates, in terms of the shortest distance between two points--in short, a drive aimed directly at the Alps. A direct thrust northward via Bologna, Verona, and Lake Garda to the Brenner Pass would trap those still considerable enemy forces left in northwestern Italy and afford entry to the National Redoubt before the enemy had an opportunity to get set there.

Thinking in terms of the post-war balance of power in Europe, the British continued to focus much of their attention on northeastern Italy. Even if there should be no drive into the mid-Danube basin, a thrust to the northeast still might thwart long-held Yugoslav ambitions to acquire territory along Italy's northeastern frontier. The Italian ports of Trieste, Fiume, and Pola lay within the region coveted by Marshal Tito and his communist-oriented partisans, and the British were determined to keep the ports out of communist hands lest they become naval bases from which a Soviet fleet might dominate the Adriatic. For several months the British had been intervening actively in the civil war in Greece in an effort to keep that strategic Mediterranean land from falling into communist hands, and loss of Trieste and control of the Adriatic would jeopardize that effort. Furthermore, the British would need the port of Trieste to support the occupation forces they eventually expected to deploy in Austria. The requirements of British strategy in the Mediterranean area in general, and the Italian theater in particular, were, as they had been since the beginning of the war, considerably more comprehensive and complicated than those of the Americans.

Inter-Allied differences were further complicated when early in the planning for the spring offensive it became evident that changes in command had also altered attitudes and relationships among command and staff at the three major Allied headquarters in Italy. Formerly, Alexander and his Eighth Army commander had tended to think along similar lines in developing their operational concepts, especially during planning for the offensive south of Rome and for the Gothic Line, while Clark as Fifth Army commander sometimes found himself a lone dissenter in the triumvirate. When Clark moved up to become the 15th Army Group commander in mid-December, that close identity of views that had so long characterized relation's between that headquarters and the Eighth Army soon came to an end. Clark and the staff that accompanied him from the Fifth Army continued to see their former command as the dominant partner in the Italian enterprise and to view the Fifth Army's role in the forthcoming offensive as essentially a continuation of


that played during the long quiescent Bologna offensive.

Yet Truscott, Clark's successor in command of the Fifth Army, would soon demonstrate that he too was as determined to develop his own operational concepts independently of Clark as the latter had been vis à vis Alexander. Thus Clark would, as before, frequently find himself holding a minority viewpoint--although, as army group commander, the prevailing one--in Allied planning councils. As planning progressed at the several headquarters, he would on occasion be forced to compromise long-held views to make allowance for the particular operational concepts being developed at his two army headquarters. The plan that would eventually emerge from the 15th Army Group headquarters would represent a rather loosely worded compromise allowing the two army commanders to carry out cherished operational concepts that Clark had initially opposed.

Indications that that would happen surfaced even as Field Marshal Alexander and his staff turned to the task of laying out characteristically broad operational guidelines for the coming offensive. As Alexander and his staff considered the zone of operations that lay between them and the distant Alps, they concluded that by occupying the historic "Venetian Quadrilateral"--Mantua, Peschiera, Verona, and Legnano--the Allies had a good chance of destroying many of the German forces in northern Italy and of quickly reaching the northeastern frontier and the Alps.16

Thirty miles southeast of the Quadrilateral and defending the approaches to it, the northward-flowing Reno River made a sharp bend to the east and, passing southeast of Ferrara, entered the sea south of the Comacchio Lagoon. It was along the northward flowing tributaries of that section of the Reno that the Germans had constructed their defensive positions east of Bologna. If the Allies could cross the Reno near its mouth, those successive lines might be turned with relative ease by an advance northwestward along the Reno's northern bank. That would afford a good chance of trapping a major part of the Tenth Army south of the Reno as it flowed to the southeast and of preventing the Germans from using the Reno as another defensive line to cover a withdrawal to the Po and the Quadrilateral.

Uninterrupted by large water courses and endowed with an excellent road system, the plain north of the Reno also offered the Eighth Army favorable terrain for maneuver. Since the key to the area lay not in the Fifth Army's zone of operations south of Bologna but in the Eighth Army's, Alexander and his staff no longer focused attention on Bologna. In the Allied theater commander's words, ". . . we were . . . no longer thinking merely of the capture of Bologna, nor, indeed, of any objective on the ground, but of more wide-sweeping movements which would encircle as many of the Germans as possible between the converging blows of the two armies." Drawing


frequently upon earlier experience on the arid plains of North Africa, General Alexander had never lost his enthusiasm for the "wide-sweeping movement" and the "double-fisted" blow.17

Since the U.S. Fifth Army's IV Corps occupied favorable positions west of the Reno as it flows northeast toward the great bend southwest of Ferrara, the Fifth Army might serve as the left fist of the maneuver. The Americans might advance along the axis of Highway 64 and, remaining west of the highway and river, debouch into the Lombard plain west of Bologna, thereby avoiding the defenses south of the city. Once in the valley the Fifth Army could fulfill the goal of cutting off enemy forces in the northwest by driving directly toward the Alps along the Ostiglia-Verona axis (Highway 12). As for the right fist, the Eighth Army after crossing the Reno as close to its mouth as possible could advance along the axis of Highway 16 to Padua, thence via Highway 14 into northeastern Italy and the frontier, as well as join with the Americans to cut off those enemy forces defending Bologna to the east and the area south of the Po.18

A prerequisite to the success of Allied plans was that the Germans continue to defend in place. Yet both Alexander and Clark were aware of the possibility that the Germans might at any time break contact and fall back beyond the Po into their suspected Alpine redoubt. That remained a source of nagging concern with Clark throughout the planning period, for such a maneuver would adversely affect American strategic goals more than those of the British. Alexander, at least, was confident that wide-ranging Allied aerial reconnaissance and partisan informers would provide sufficient early warning of any withdrawal. Thus Allied planning proceeded on the assumption that the Germans would continue to fall back only under overwhelming pressure.19

That Alexander's broad operational concepts were somewhat different from those taking form in General Clark's mind would become apparent when in early January the army group commander began a series of planning conferences with his two army commanders. The first took place on 8 January when McCreery met with Clark at the latter's headquarters in Florence. McCreery arrived convinced that, inasmuch as the integrity of the northeast Italian frontiers vis à vis communist ambitions was as significant a challenge as defeating the German armies in Italy, the Eighth Army should be the vehicle for the main Allied effort and as such have first claim on Allied resources in the theater. Moreover, despite a chronic shortage of replacements and transfer of troops to Greece, the Eighth Army in January was still the larger of the two Allied armies. In spite of McCreery's arguments, which Clark agreed had some merit, the army group commander maintained long-held private reservations about the Eighth Army. Long convinced that the British could not be depended upon "to carry the ball," he was determined not to yield to McCreery as Clark believed Alexander



had done in the case of Leese on the eve of the Gothic Line offensive in August.20

On 12 February Clark presented to his commanders his own operational concept for the offensive with instructions to prepare plans for its implementation. The army group commander's plan essentially followed the same pattern that Alexander had outlined for the fall offensive. The main axis of the 15th Army Group's offensive would be along a line extending from Bologna to Verona in order to cut in two the German forces north of the Apennines. The offensive was to be divided into three phases: the first to capture the area in and around Bologna; the second to advance to the Po and prepare a set-piece attack against that enemy line; and the third to cross the Po and advance on Verona, the capture of which was expected to seal the main escape route out of Italy to the northeast for those enemy forces still in northwestern Italy. At the same time, a so-called Venetian Line along the Adige River was to be attacked. If the enemy


failed to defend that line, both armies were to cross the Adige and continue without pause--the Fifth to the Alps and northwestern Italy, the Eighth to Trieste and the northeastern frontier.21 Inherent in Clark's concept was that the Fifth Army would at first throw its main effort against the formidable enemy defenses astride Highway 65 south of Bologna and take the city while the Eighth Army resumed its methodical advance northwestward astride Highway 9 toward Bologna.

The 15th Army Group Operations Plan

Taking into account the differing views of the two army commanders, the army group commander's staff prepared a detailed three-phase plan that General Clark presented at a conference at his headquarters on 18 March. During the first phase, the Eighth Army in a secondary role was to cross the Senio and push on to establish bridgeheads beyond the Santerno. Until the Santerno was crossed, all available air support, including heavy bombers, was to be allotted the Eighth Army. Thereafter priority would shift to the Fifth Army, which was to make the main effort by advancing into the Po Valley either to capture or isolate Bologna. The wording would leave Truscott free to bypass the city, if he wished, and downgraded the earlier priorities that Clark had placed on its capture. Emphasis in the second phase was to be placed, as both Alexander and McCreery had argued, on encircling major enemy forces south of the Po, rather than on Clark's earlier emphasis on a rapid thrust through the enemy's center to divide the enemy and develop the line first of the Po and then of the Adige.22

If the major goals of the first two phases were realized, those of the third would be relatively easy: to cross the Po, capture Verona, and develop the line of the Adige, which, if major enemy forces were destroyed south of the Po, probably would be lightly defended. As Clark saw it, the Eighth Army's role in the third phase was primarily to assist the Fifth Army in trapping the enemy south of the Po. Following establishment of bridgeheads over the Santerno, the Eighth Army was to continue to advance in two columns, one in the direction of the Bastia Bridge and the other toward Budrio. The former, a crossing of the Reno, lay three miles south of Argenta, while Budrio was located nine miles northeast of Bologna. Clark expected Budrio to draw McCreery northwestward in the direction most advantageous to the Fifth Army. Only if he appeared to be making good progress in that direction was he to launch an amphibious operation across the Comacchio Lagoon. If thereby he managed to outflank the Argenta Gap, which Clark doubted he would be able to do, the two commanders would then decide whether to redirect the army's main effort in a more northerly direction toward Ferrara, as McCreery had originally planned and desired. Only then would Budrio and the entrapment of major enemy forces between Budrio and Bologna be relegated to the status of secondary objectives. In short, if all


went well along the Santerno, McCreery would be given an opportunity to make his right hook against the Argenta Gap, which the British envisioned as the first major step on the road to Trieste.23

In the matter of the selection of D-day for the offensive, General Clark insisted, despite objections from McCreery, on 10 April. Clark's meteorologists had assured him that by mid-April the ground in the Po Valley would be firm enough for tracked and wheeled vehicles; and even though the winter had been bitterly cold, there had been less snow than usual at higher elevations, thus lessening the danger of flooding in lower reaches of the rivers during April. Clark was also concerned lest the Red Army marching up the Danube and the U.S. Seventh Army advancing through southern Germany should reach Austria's alpine frontier before the 15th Army Group should get there. After the long, arduous advance northward from Cassino, Clark was determined to be in on the kill when the war ended and not be left bogged down either in the northern Apennines or in the Po Valley.24

General McCreery objected to the April date because LVT's (Landing Vehicle, Tracked, called by the British "Fantails" or "Buffaloes") that he hoped use in an amphibious right hook over the Comacchio Lagoon had yet to arrive, and he doubted whether enough vehicles would be on hand and crews trained to operate them before May. When in mid-March it appeared that enough vehicles and crews would be available in early April to lift at least one infantry brigade, he agreed to the 10 April date.25

The 15th Army Group Commander's operational guidelines left General Truscott somewhat greater freedom to realize his own operational concepts than they had General McCreery. For example, Clark had downgraded the isolation or capture of Bologna to a secondary mission. Truscott was to debouch into the Po Valley, presumably west of Bologna. Once in the valley, the army was to exploit rapidly toward the Po as well as toward a junction with the Eighth Army in the vicinity of Bondeno to complete the encirclement of enemy forces in the central sector. Clark's failure to insist upon the axis of Highway 65 represented a significant concession to Truscott's views that the sector west of Highway 64 "was most promising for breaking through the German positions and into the Po valley." The Fifth Army commander was determined, he recalled later, to retain that concept in his plans and "did not want Clark, because of his predilection for PIANORO (Highway 65), to interpose a restriction which would make it impossible. I had not forgotten the change of direction in the breakout from Anzio."26

Truscott also drew the assignment of launching a preliminary attack. Before the Fifth Army moved, the 92d Division was to capture Massa and exploit via Carrara toward the naval base at La Spezia. That, Truscott expected, would draw some enemy strength from the central front toward the west, thereby easing the task of the IV and II Corps.


The Eighth Army's Plan

As General McCreery and his staff studied the situation after the Eighth Army had closed to the line of the Senio in January, they realized that they had a choice of one or two axes for that army's main effort. The first, along Highway 9, fitted in well with General Clark's strategic concepts and led directly to Bologna. The second led 13 miles northwestward along Highway 16, to Argenta. If the main effort were made along the Argenta axis it would avoid the numerous defended river lines that lay east of Bologna and would enable the army to outflank the east-west stretch of the Reno upon which those lines were anchored, but there was a major disadvantage to that axis: much of it lay under water. The Germans had blown the dykes and dismantled numerous pumping stations, thereby flooding all but a narrow, readily-defended corridor (the Argenta Gap) through which ran Highway 16, and the immediate vicinity of Argenta itself.

The disadvantage called for extraordinary measures and saw the genesis of the British plan to use LVT's to outflank the corridor by moving across the Comacchio Lagoon and its adjacent flooded lowlands. That idea had long appealed to Eighth Army engineers, but for long they had lacked the necessary topographic data, such as the depth of the water and soil conditions of the bottom and shore line. The information, it developed, could be supplied by friendly Italian fishermen slipping through British lines.27

For such an operation to succeed the enemy had to be kept ignorant of the presence of the LTV's and induced to commit his reserves to another sector before the amphibious move began. To do that, the Eighth Army devised a cover plan designed to suggest to the Germans that the main Allied effort would again be made along the axis of Highway 9, while a secondary operation, an amphibious landing, would be launched north of the Po in the gulf of Venice in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the Anzio landing south of Rome. Concealing the presence of the LTV's from the enemy presented few immediate difficulties since only a few had arrived in Italy, and their crews would be trained on Lake Trasimeno far to the south.

After the withdrawal in February of the Canadian corps and its two divisions to northern Europe, General McCreery had extended the right flank of the 5 Corps to take over responsibility for the former Canadian sector on the Adriatic flank. With one armored and five infantry divisions, Maj. Gen. C. F. Keightley's corps was by far the largest of the army's four corps and thus a logical choice for the assignment. Manning the sector from right to left from Highway 9 were the British 56th Division, with the 24th Guards, the 9th Armoured, the 2d Commando, and the Italian 28th Garibaldi Brigades attached. Next in line were the Italian Cremona Battle Group, the 8th Indian, the 78th British, and the 2d New Zealand Divisions. The 21st Tank, 4th New Zealand, and 2d Armoured Brigades were in corps reserve awaiting an opportunity for armored exploitation. The units had recently been reinforced with several


items of new equipment, including modified flame-throwing Churchill tanks (Crocodiles), armored infantry carriers (Kangaroos), and regular medium tanks modified for use in stream crossings.28

The 2 Polish Corps, with two infantry divisions--the 3d Carpathian and 5th Kresowa--and the equivalent of one armored division--the 2d Polish Armoured and 7th Armoured Brigades and the 43d Lorried Gurkha Brigade--held the sector astride Highway 9 near Faenza. For a brief period at Eighth Army headquarters after it got news of the Yalta agreements that determined the future of Poland, there had been some concern that the Polish forces in their despair might decide to sit out the last offensive. For a time General Anders considered giving up his command and requesting that the western Allies accept him and his corps as prisoners of war rather than accept the Yalta decision. How to replace the Polish corps was for a time of serious concern to Clark. Only after consulting with the Polish government in exile in London did Anders finally decide to stick it out until victory.29

The Eighth Army's two remaining corps, 10 and 13, controlled between them the equivalent of only two divisions and held that part of the army front still in the mountains south of Highway 9. Along a sector extending from the upper Senio to south of Imola, the 10 Corps, recently returned from Greece, had only the Jewish Hebron Brigade and Italian Friuli Battle Group. The 13 Corps held the remainder of the Eighth Army front to the Monte Grande sector with the 10th Indian Division and the Italian Folgore Battle Group.

Salient features of McCreery's battle plan included a two-pronged attack toward the north and northwest. The first and main attack was to be made by the 5 Corps in the direction of Lugo, two miles west of the Senio and nine miles north of Faenza on Highway 9. With Lugo in hand, the corps was to drive on Massa Lombarda, four miles to the west, before turning northward toward the Bastia Bridge and Argenta. The former was the key to the Argenta Gap. Spanning the lower Reno thirteen miles west of the Comacchio Lagoon, the Bastia Bridge represented the most desirable crossing point of the Reno opposite the 5 Corps right wing. Once a crossing had been made there the line of the lower Reno would be turned, thereby permitting the 5 Corps to move along the river's north bank to turn the successive enemy river lines anchored on that stretch of the Reno.

Preceding the 5 Corps attack, the 56th Division was to launch a series of preliminary operations to gain control of a wedge of flooded lowland at the southeastern corner of the Comacchio Lagoon and several small islands in the middle of the lagoon, as well as to clear the enemy from a spit of land separating the Lagoon from the sea. If those operations succeeded, the corps would gain control of the lagoon and of favorable sites along its western shore from which to mount attacks against the seaward flank of the Argenta Gap. The enemy's attention might thereby be


drawn away from the main sector opposite Lugo and the Bastia Bridge.

In preparation for the main attack, McCreery planned to concentrate six divisions behind his center, from a bend of the Senio near Lugo where the river turns toward the northeast to, but exclusive of, Highway 9. The sector had the advantage of several good crossing sites, and the highway along which the Germans had concentrated at least two of their best divisions, the 4th Parachute and 26th Panzer, might be avoided. Once the attacking divisions had crossed the Santerno, about five miles beyond the Senio, they were to turn in a more northerly direction toward Argenta. By holding the enemy in place and drawing units away from the coastal flank, the maneuver was expected to assist those forces making an amphibious right hook against the Argenta Gap.

The 5 Corps operation against Lugo was to be made by two divisions: the 8th Indian, passing to the right, and the 2d New Zealand, to the left of the town. By D plus 2 both divisions were expected to have established a large bridgehead beyond the Santerno near Massa Lombarda. At that point the 78th Division, having moved beyond Lugo, was to relieve the Indian division, then continue the attack toward the Bastia Bridge. While that was in progress, a brigade of the 56th Division, transported in LTV's, was to cross the flooded plain as far as the Menate pumping station, on the Comacchio Lagoon's shore eleven miles east of the Bastia Bridge. The New Zealand division, meanwhile, was either to cover the 78th Division's left or, in co-operation with the Polish corps, to advance westward toward Budrio, seventeen miles northwest of Massa Lombarda, depending upon the success of the thrust in the direction of the Bastia Bridge. The 8th Indian Division and the Cremona Battle Group were to round up bypassed enemy forces before passing into 5 Corps reserve.

The 2 Polish Corps to the left of the 5 Corps was to form the second prong of the Eighth Army's offensive. First Polish objectives beyond the Santerno were the towns of Medicina, eighteen miles northwest of Faenza, and Castel San Pietro, a similar distance from the Polish front on Highway 9. Eventually the Polish corps was expected to coordinate closely with the U.S. Fifth Army's II Corps in the capture or isolation of Bologna, and in the event the 5 Corps failed to break through the Argenta Gap, to keep open General McCreery's option for switching the axis of his main effort toward Budrio.

If McCreery's plans succeeded, he intended to continue his offensive in two separate battles: the first, a battle of annihilation against the enemy south of the Po, the second an exploitation as far as Ferrara. Both were to be followed by pursuits, the first beyond the Po and the Adige and the second along the south bank of the Po to prevent enemy forces still south of the river from reaching it.

On the other hand, if the 5 Corps had difficulty in forcing the Argenta Gap, the 13 Corps headquarters was to come around from the army's left flank to take control of those divisions fighting the first of the two battles in the direction of Budrio. That would leave the 5 Corps free to concentrate on the Argenta sector. Once the corps broke


through there, the 10 Corps headquarters was to come around from the left to take control of a special engineer task force. Passing through the gap in the wake of the 5 Corps, the 10 Corps was to move up on the right to prepare for the first crossings of the Po.30

Developing the Fifth Army's Plan

By the end of March, Truscott had just about completed regrouping his forces for the spring offensive. The British 13 Corps having been returned earlier to Eighth Army control, the Fifth Army was left with a somewhat narrower front. Crittenberger's IV Corps continued to hold the widest segment, 50 miles from the Reno to the sea. Within the IV Corps, Crittenberger extended the sector of the 92d Division and its attached units, the 473d and 442d Regiments, as far as the Cutigliano valley, where the 365th Infantry, detached from the division, held an independent command in the former sector of Task Force 45. East of the 365th Infantry lay the 1st Brazilian Division (BEF), occupying a mountainous sector stretching northeastward from the Riva Ridge past Monte Belvedere to the U.S. 10th Mountain Division's left boundary west of Pietra Colora. With the exception of a narrow sector held by the 81st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron on the corps right flank south of Vergato, Hays' mountain division held the remainder of the IV Corps front.

Dispositions within the II Corps reflected Keyes' plan again to use the 85th and 88th Divisions to spearhead the renewed drive to Bologna and the Po Valley. The 1st Armored Division, with the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron attached, held a five-mile sector on the left wing just east of the Reno River. The 34th Division lay astride Highway 65 in the center. On the right wing the 91st Division and attached Legnano Battle Group occupied positions in the Idice valley and on Monte Belmonte. Three divisions--the 6th South African Armoured and 85th and 88th Infantry--were assembled in rear areas for rest and training.

In contrast to Clark, Truscott had long ceased to focus his attention on Bologna. He intended instead to concentrate the Fifth Army's main effort in the IV Corps sector west of Highway 64 between the Samoggia and the Reno Rivers. An advance on that axis by the IV Corps would, he expected, outflank from the west the admittedly strong defenses south of Bologna. When the IV Corps debouched into the valley, the II Corps west of Bologna would sidestep to the left from the axis of Highway 65 to that of Highway 64. Once out of the mountains, the two corps would advance abreast from Modena northward toward the Po, the IV Corps capturing Ostiglia, where Highway 12 crossed the river, and the II Corps, Bondeno, eighteen miles to the southeast near where the Panaro joins the Po. There contact was to be made with the Eighth Army advancing from Ferrara, thus completing the encirclement of German forces still within the bend of the Reno.

After crossing the Po at Ostiglia, the IV Corps was to advance as far as Verona and then to Lake Garda, and, if things went well, cut off those enemy


forces still in northwest Italy. In cooperation with the Eighth Army's drive to the northeast, the II Corps was to cross the Po and advance to the Adige. Meanwhile, the 92d Division on the army's left flank, operating directly under the Fifth Army, was to continue its advance along the Ligurian coast to Genoa, Italy's major seaport, and thence northwestward to an eventual link-up with French forces along the Franco-Italian frontier.31

The Fifth Army's Operation was designed to create the illusion that the II Corps was moving eastward to join the Eighth Army in making the main Allied effort along the Adriatic flank and that the IV Corps would take over the Fifth Army's entire front. Dummy radio nets were established for some units, and radio silence imposed upon others. While most of the movement was simulated, some units, their divisional markings removed from personnel and equipment, actually shifted but only within the army sector.32

To avoid having to divide air support equally between the two armies, Clark instructed Truscott to delay his phase of the offensive until about D plus 3 when the Eighth Army would have crossed the Santerno River. Thus the full weight of the tactical and strategic air forces could be thrown in support first of the Eighth Army on the right, then of the Fifth Army on the left.

Truscott developed a similar scheme for allotting air support between his two corps. Attacking first, Crittenberger's IV Corps would at first receive the Fifth Army's entire allotment of airpower, then 36 hours later all air support was to be shifted to support of Keyes' II Corps. Staggering the army's attack in that manner also had the advantage of placing greater firepower alternately behind each of the two army corps rather than dividing it between them as McCreery had done with the Eighth Army. While assigning one of the Fifth Army's two armored divisions to each corps, Truscott nevertheless managed to assure a concentrated armored thrust by positioning both divisions side by side on the interior wings of the corps: the U.S. 1st Armored Division on the IV Corps' right and the South African 6th Armoured on the II Corps' left.33

Within the Fifth Army's main zone of operations opposite the IV and II Corps only two highways, 64 and 65, led through the 12-mile belt of remaining mountainous terrain between the front and the Po Valley. Long favored by Clark, Highway 65 offered the most direct approach. Except for two rugged peaks, Monte Sole and Monte Adone, rising above north-south running ridge lines bordering the Setta valley between Highway 65 and the Reno River to the west, the terrain was favorable and permitted movement and support of up to five divisions. The main disadvantage of Highway 65 lay in that the Germans had concentrated their strongest positions astride it in defense of the southern approaches to Bologna. A major offensive along that route might involve


a repeat of the costly experience of the previous winter.34

Highway 64, on the other hand, held out the possibility of enveloping Bologna from the southwest instead of assaulting the defenses frontally. That route too would permit passage of up to five divisions. Following the course of the Reno River, the highway was defiladed from the west for much of its length through the mountains by a 15 mile ridge paralleling the highway from Monte Belvedere to Monte Pigna, four miles northwest of Vergato, a heavily fortified road junction just north of American lines. An advance along Highway 64 would require a simultaneous effort to clear the remainder of that ridge line as well as Monte Sole, which overlooked the highway some five miles to the northeast of Vergato.

The Plan

By mid-March all but a few of the minor details of a greatly modified Operation PIANORO, newly designated Operation CRAFTSMAN, had been completed. CRAFTSMAN outlined an attack with two corps abreast; the IV Corps attacking first on D plus 3 and the II Corps on army command on 24-hour notice. From a line just south of Vergato, Crittenberger's corps was to advance northeasterly on a 10-mile front, bounded by the Samoggia River in the west and the Reno in the east. The IV Corps was expected to debouch into the Po Valley in the vicinity of Bazzano, some thirteen miles west of Bologna. Deployed essentially along the same line where the winter offensive had come to a halt, Keyes' II Corps was to advance at first directly toward Bologna along the axis of Highway 65, but after the IV Corps had captured the road junction of Praduro, on Highway 64 some fifteen miles north of Vergato, most of the II Corps was to shift westward to the axis of Highway 64, so that the two corps would debouch abreast into the Po Valley west of Bologna. Only a minor effort was to be made frontally against Bologna, mainly to hold the enemy there in place.35

For purposes of control, Truscott designated three phase lines--Green, Brown, and Black. During the Green phase, Crittenberger was to send the 10th Mountain Division toward Monte Pigna and Monte Mantino, two miles northeast of Monte Pigna, and the 1st Armored Division along the axis of Highway 64 against Vergato and Monte Pero, a mile northwest of town. The IV Corps left flank was to be covered by the Brazilian Expeditionary Force and the 365th and 371st Regiments, detached from the 92d Division. Those units were to follow up any enemy withdrawal along the axis of Highway 12, roughly paralleling Highway 64 some fifteen miles to the west. The order for the II Corps to attack was to be given when the IV Corps reached the Green Line.

Once the offensive was under way, Truscott planned to form a mobile reserve of his armored divisions with which to exploit the most promising opportunities. When his troops reached the Po Valley, he intended to create,


from the mobile reserve, infantry-armor task forces to lead the dash first for the Panaro, then the Po.

In the Brown phase the two corps were to advance abreast: the IV Corps continuing in a northeasterly direction west of Highway 64, the II Corps capturing Monte Sole, Monterumici, and Monte Adone, the high ground between Highways 64 and 65. Truscott believed that his counterpart, General Lemelsen, would have to weaken these otherwise formidable positions to deal with the IV Corps advance west of Highway 64. On the II Corps right flank, the Italian Combat Group Legnano was to patrol aggressively and maintain contact with the British 13 Corps on the Eighth Army's left.

At the beginning of the Black phase, the 85th Division from the Army reserve was to pass through the 1st Armored Division and come under II Corps control. That would be made possible by a shift in the corps boundary from just east of Highway 64 to four miles west of the highway south of Praduro. During that phase the armored exploitation force was to begin assembling: the 1st Armored Division just west of Vergato and the South African armored division to the southeast of the town. Truscott planned to employ both divisions to exploit an expected breakthrough west of the highway, thrusting into the Po Valley as far as the Panaro River 22 miles northwest of Bologna. The American armored division was to operate in the direction of Modena, on Highway 9, 22 miles northwest of Bologna, and the South African northeastward in the direction of the Eighth Army's left flank and Bondeno, on the Panaro River 27 miles north of Bologna. It was expected that the Fifth and Eighth Armies would link up at Bondeno.

There was to be no artillery preparation, in hope of surprise. Instead, the army was to fire a 20-day program of gradually increasing intensity, building to a crescendo during the final week preceding D-day, a procedure bearing some similarities to the Anzio breakout offensive. To support the program Truscott authorized an increase of 328,090 rounds over the basic rate for the 20-day period preceding the offensive. Stocks assembled in depots during the winter and early spring were more than adequate.

To support an exploitation beyond the Po, Truscott's G-4 planned on building up a 15-day stock of all classes of supply in the Bologna area as soon as the city had been captured. Reserve rations, sufficient to feed 400,000 prisoners for thirty days, were also stocked in anticipation of large-scale enemy surrenders, although captured enemy stocks were to be used first.

As the time for the beginning of the spring offensive drew near, Allied commanders could look with considerable satisfaction on their overwhelming domination of the skies, both over the battlefront and the enemy-occupied regions north to the Alps. In no other arm did the Allied armies have such complete superiority, for the once powerful Luftwaffe had all but vanished from the skies of Europe. Except for scattered concentrations of antiaircraft batteries defending a few vital targets, the Germans in the spring of 1945 had virtually nothing with which to fend off Allied aircraft. As a result, the XXII TAC, which during March had concentrated


on communications targets, had by the end of the month virtually run out of suitable targets in northern Italy. At the same time, the heavy bombers of the Strategic Air Force (MASAF) had also run out of targets outside of Italy. This meant that, in addition to the aircraft of the XXII TAC, the B-17's and B-24's of the MASAF would be free for close support of the spring offensive, as Clark had long insisted.36

The staggered nature of the ground attack meant that the Eighth Army offensive would be supported by a greater mass of airpower than ever before in the Italian campaign. On the afternoon of D-day 800 heavy bombers employing 175,000 20-pound fragmentation bombs were to lay a lethal carpet on enemy artillery and reserve positions in front of each of the two assaulting corps. More specifically, from 1350 to 1420 the bombers were to attack a two-square-mile L-shaped area in front of the 5 Corps and west of Lugo. At the same time, 120 medium day bombers were to attack three gun areas opposite the Polish sector, and an additional 48 medium bombers a gun area opposite the 5 Corps. That assignment completed, 500 fighter-bombers of the DAF and 200 of the XXII TAC, normally flying in support of the U.S. Fifth Army, were between 1520 and 1930 to attack a total of 56 hostile batteries and 64 strongpoints, mortar positions, and command posts across the enemy front. Any traffic on roads into the battle area was to be strafed. During the same period, on the 5 Corps front, there was to be a series of five 42-minute "false-alarm" bombardments by artillery and mortars. Between each there was to be a 10-minute interval during which fighter-bombers were to attack close-in targets along the western floodbanks of the Senio. At H-hour, after the final artillery bombardment, the aircraft were to fly a dummy run along the floodbanks. From 1830 to 1930 the fighter-bombers would also attack the floodbanks in front of the Polish corps. Even H-hour and darkness would bring the enemy no respite, for from 2030 to 0400 on D-day and D plus 1, counterbattery fires were to be integrated with attacks by 100 light night bombers, while 100 heavy night bombers were to attack Santerno defenses identified by artillery night marker shells. On D plus 1, from 1100 to 1230, 800 heavy bombers were to saturate with fragmentation bombs a 10½-mile-square target area just beyond the Santerno.

The magnitude of the planned air support is apparent from the total numbers of bombs--148,556--and over-all tonnages--16,924.37 Similar tonnages were planned for the Fifth Army's attack, but because of the mountainous terrain there was to be no carpet pattern to the bombing.

Allied Preponderance in Material and Manpower

Not only were the Allied armies to possess overwhelming air support but also a two-to-one preponderance over the enemy in artillery, including towed antitank guns, enemy infantry cannon, and Nebelwerfers. A similar ratio existed in combat infantrymen, and an even greater ratio--three-to-one--in armor,


including self-propelled antitank assault guns. The Eighth Army, for example, had 1,017 artillery pieces in support of the two assault corps and an additional 256 pieces in support of the two holding corps, for a total of 1,273 pieces. Compared with the 187 field and medium guns and 36 Nebelwerfers that the Germans had deployed in positions from which they might engage the Eighth Army's attack, the advantage was almost as impressive as that enjoyed in the air. Similar ratios also existed in the Fifth Army.38

Although both Allied armies contained a similar number of divisions, the Fifth Army's divisions had much larger assigned overstrengths and far larger replacement pools from which to draw than the Eighth Army's. Of the nine divisions and the equivalent of a tenth in the Fifth Army, there were six American infantry divisions, one Brazilian infantry division, two armored divisions (one South African and one American), and miscellaneous American and Italian units to the equivalent of a division. As advancements on future replacements, more than 7,000 officers and enlisted men had been assigned as overages to those divisions to enable the men to receive some training and experience before the offensive began. In addition, there awaited in replacement depots in Italy 21,000 white officers and enlisted men, 2,000 black replacements for the 92d Division, 5,000 replacements for the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, and 1,200 Nisei for the Japanese-American 442d Infantry Regiment.39

Not only did the Germans face an overwhelming force at the front, but behind German lines there lurked in northwestern and northeastern Italy, as well as in the Apennines, approximately 50,000 partisans, organized into companies, battalions, and brigades, poised and ready to strike at the enemy's rear areas whenever the Allied command gave the word. Allied support of the Italian resistance movement had begun shortly after its spontaneous inception in September 1943, following the Italian surrender and the Allied landings in southern Italy. Since then a total of about 2,400 tons of military supplies had reached partisan bands either by air drop or by covert landings along the coasts. Five hundred tons had been delivered during March alone. When the autumn offensive had begun in August 1944, a combination of stepped-up Allied assistance and a wave of enthusiasm, caused by an ill-founded anticipation of early liberation, had prompted an estimated 130,000 men to flock to the guerrilla standards, but during the long winter months, after the Allied offensive bogged down, discouragement and vigorous enemy counteraction reduced the number of partisans to approximately 50,000 by spring of 1945. Those men, however, represented a hard core, or cadre, capable of rapid expansion should the Germans be forced into a large-scale retreat. At the time of the spring offensive there were some 200 Allied personnel divided into sixty mission teams in contact with and assisting the partisan formations behind the enemy lines.40


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (24) * Next Chapter (26)


1. Yet in late March 1945 Stalin was to complain bitterly to his western allies that covert negotiations between the Americans and Germans in Switzerland were a smoke screen to permit German troop movements to take place. See Herbert Feis, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin: The War They Waged and the Peace They Sought (Princeton, 1957), pp. 588-89.

2. Greiner and Schramm, ed., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(2), 1394-99; MS # C-064 (Kesselring), pp. 123-30; Jodl Diary, 9 Mar 45.

3. Greiner and Schramm, ed., OKW/WFSt, IV(2), p. 1394. Unless otherwise cited the following is from this source.

4. MS # T-1b (Westphal et al.), Feldzug in Italien, II Teil, Kapitel IIa (Die Abwehr kampfe der 14. Armee im u. noerdlich des Apennin im Fruejahr 1945 (Wolf-Rudiger Haüer, Gen Maj a.D.).

5. T-1b (Westphal et al.), Part II, Feldzug in Italien; Fifth Army History, IX, 12-13.

6. MS # C-064 (Kesselring).

7. Ibid.

8. Alexander, Report to the CCS, The Italian Campaign, pp. 37-41.

9. T-1b (Westphal et al.), vol. 2, part II.

10. Ibid. Unless otherwise indicated the following section is based upon this source.

11. Greiner and Schramm, ed., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(2), 1400.

12. Heinz Greiner, GLT, a.D., Kampf um Rom, Inferno am Po, pp. 150-58.

13. Records of German Field Commands, Army Groups, Heeresgruppe C, Microfilm Roll T-311, National Archives, Captured Records Division.

14. Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(2), 1389-1400.

15. For details on the National Redoubt, see Rodney G. Minott, The Fortress That Never Was, the Myth of Hitler's Bavarian Stronghold (Toronto & New York: Rinehart & Winston, 1964).

16. The Venetian Quadrilateral comprising those four fortress cities had been until 1866 the key to Austrian military control of northern Italy. It was in a sense an outwork of a bastion formed by the mountains of the Tyrol and divided northern Italy strategically into two parts, east and west.

17. Alexander's Report to the CCS, The Italian Campaign, p. 32. Nicolson, Alex, p. 277.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.; Intervs, Sidney T. Mathews w/Gen Clark, 10-21 May 48, Pt. I.

20. Clark Diary, 19 Jan 45.

21. 15th AGp, Opns Instr. No. 3, 12 Feb 45, ann. A; Truscott, Command Missions, p. 480.

22. Hq 15th AGp, Opns Instr. No. 4, 24 Mar 45, in Fifth Army History, Part IX, ann. B.

23. Ibid.

24. Clark Diary, 2 Mar 45.

25. Ibid.

26. Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 478-79.

27. Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part IV, Campaign in Lombardy.

28. Ibid, Sec. B, The Final Offensive. Unless otherwise indicated the following sections are based upon this reference.

29. Clark, Calculated Risk, pp. 421-22.

30. W. G. F. Jackson, The Battle for Italy (New York, 1967), pp. 303-04.

31. Hq, U.S. Fifth Army, Opns Instr. No. 7, 1 Apr 45, in Fifth Army History, Part IX, ann. E.; Truscott, Command Decisions, pp. 478-79.

32. Ibid., IX, 26.

33. Opns Instr. No. 7, 1 Apr 45, Hq Fifth Army, in Fifth Army History, Part IX, ann. E. Unless otherwise indicated the following sections are based upon this source.

34. Fifth Army History, IX, 21-22; Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 477-78.

35. Operation CRAFTSMAN, Fifth Army Opns. Instr. #7, 1 April 1945. See also Truscott, Command Missions, p. 482. Unless otherwise indicated the following sections are based on these references.

36. Craven and Cate, eds. AAF III, 482-83; Truscott, p. 483.

37. Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, IV, Sec, B, Eighth Army--the Final Offensive.

38. Ibid.

39. Fifth Army History, IX, 4.

40. AFHQ G-3 Memo to COS, 24 Jan 45, sub: Appreciation by G-3 of Future Support and Employment of Italian Resistance, in AFHQ Records file, Microfilm Reel 38A, Federal Records Center; Fifth Army History, IX, 12.

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