Breakthrough on the Eighth Army Front
In the East
The first of the two preliminary operations scheduled for each of the coastal flanks began on the night of 1 April when a flotilla of LTV's carrying the British 2d Commando Brigade set out across the Comacchio Lagoon's shallow waters on the Eighth Army's Adriatic flank. That operation was to be the first of a series of three designed to give the British forces advance positions from which to cover an amphibious right hook against Argenta.
The lagoon's waters were indeed shallow--too shallow, for shortly after launching, all of the LTV's mired down in a muddy bottom. Only after the troops transferred to storm boats were the lightened vehicles pulled free. The assault then continued in the boats against the spit of land separating the lagoon from the sea.1 Despite a shallower draft, many of those craft ran aground as well, some as far as a thousand yards from the landing site; but all troops were able to wade ashore, albeit in some instances through knee-deep mud.
Surprisingly, those mishaps failed to arouse the small garrison of Turkomenian troops on the spit. Catching the enemy completely by surprise, the brigade by 4 April had pressed over five miles north to clear the spit as far as Porto Garibaldi, a small fishing village off the lagoon's northeastern corner, yielding some 800 prisoners. The next day a squadron of the Special Boat Service, a small amphibious force, completed the second action by quickly capturing a group of small islands in the center of the lagoon.
In the meantime, the 2d Commando Brigade and its newly acquired sector passed under the control of the British 56th Division. On 6 April that division launched the third and last of the actions near the mouth of the Reno to capture the wedge of ground at the Comacchio Lagoon's southwestern corner, appropriately designated "the Wedge." In spite of strong opposition, the division by nightfall of the second day had cleared that area and captured another 700 prisoners. That time the LVT's performed perfectly, easily crossing the flooded fields and putting to rest concern raised by the earlier groundings in the operation against the Spit. In no great force, British troops were nevertheless established on the north bank of the Reno.
In the West
Meanwhile, some 120 miles to the west on the Fifth Army's Ligurian
flank, the 92d Division jumped off on 5 April in a second preliminary operation. Appropriately named Operation SECOND WIND, it was aimed at the capture of Massa, on the south bank of the Frigido River, five miles northwest of the division front and the last enemy-held strongpoint of the old Gothic Line.
Since the ill-starred Operation FOURTH TERM of the previous winter, the 92d Division had been reorganized. Two of its former regiments (the 365th and 371st) had been detached to cover the long left flank of the IV Corps. By shifts within the division, Almond had gathered together the best men of the three original regiments into the 370th Infantry, commanded by Col. Raymond G. Sherman. To take the place of the detached regiments, Truscott attached the Japanese-American 442d Regimental Combat Team, under the command of Lt. Col. Virgil R. Miller, and Col. William P. Yarborough's 473d Infantry, the unit made up of former antiaircraft artillerymen. Thus the 92d Division at that point was a vastly different unit from the one which had performed so unfortunately during the previous winter.2
This time Almond decided to risk no repetition of the abortive operation across the Cinquale Canal on the coastal plain. Rather would the division's main effort be made across the high ground overlooking the plain from the east. The 370th Infantry was to cross the flanks of the Strettoia Hills to the east while the 442d Infantry operated on the right over the higher summits just below the jagged peaks of the Apuan Alps, where the 371st had fought in February. The 473d Infantry was at first to remain in the Serchio valley on the division's right flank. By gaining control of the high ground as far as Massa, Almond expected to force the enemy to yield the objective without a costly frontal attack. The question yet to be answered was how would the reconstituted 370th Infantry perform over the same terrain that had been the scene of the regiment's debacle in Operation FOURTH TERM.
Early on 5 April planes bombarded enemy positions, including the naval guns at Punta Bianca, followed by a 10 minute artillery preparation aided by British destroyers offshore. The two regiments on the left wing attacked from a line of departure five miles southeast of Massa astride the coastal highway. Getting off to a good start, the 370th Infantry's leading company covered more than two miles to occupy a height halfway to the objective of Massa, but when the enemy counterattacked, as was his custom, the company and its supporting armor yielded most of the gain. Undaunted, the regimental commander, Colonel Sherman, reorganized and attacked again; but to no avail, for mediocre leadership and endemic straggling persisted. For the next few days the 370th Infantry continued to lag behind the 442d on the right.3
The 370th's lagging at first had little effect on the progress of the 442d Infantry. After passing through the 371st Infantry's lines on Monte Cauala, three miles northeast of the mouth of the Cinquale Canal, the 442d led by the 100th Battalion pushed forward about a mile and a half in a wide flanking attack against 2,800-foot Monte Fragolita, three miles southeast of Massa. By nightfall on the 5th, the Japanese-Americans had driven the enemy not only from Monte Fragolita but also from several surrounding heights.4 For the next two days the regiment pursued a retreating enemy over narrow mountain trails made even more treacherous by rain and fog and captured 3,000-foot Monte Belvedere, two miles northeast of Massa.
As the Japanese-Americans pressed forward, Almond relieved the lagging 370th Infantry with the 473d, which he brought from the Serchio valley. The 370th then took up positions to protect the division's right flank. The 442d Infantry having outflanked Massa from the east, Almond believed he needed a more aggressive unit to team with that regiment and make a frontal assault on the town, for the enemy showed no inclination to yield it without a fight. The antiaircraft artillerymen turned infantrymen would not disappoint him: they pushed steadily northward astride Highway 1 through extensive mine fields, artillery, and mortar fire to reach the outskirts of Massa by midday on the 9th. Supported by tanks of the 758th and 760th Tank Battalions, the 473d Infantry prepared to assault the town the next morning; but the enemy, already outflanked, at last chose to slip away during the night. The Americans occupied the town on the morning of the 10th. The same day, northeast of Massa, the 442d Infantry forded the Frigido River to capture Monte Bruguana, two and a half miles north of Massa, then continued another two miles early on the 11th to occupy the famed marble quarry of Carrara.
By that time increasing difficulties in supplying the forward troops as well as growing enemy resistance, including long-range harassing fire, especially against the 473d Infantry in the coastal corridor from the Italian coastal batteries at Punta Bianca, near the naval base of La Spezia, indicated that the relatively swift advances would soon come to an end. For the next week, until 19 April, the 92d Division would be brought to a virtual standstill by enemy forces well dug-in just behind the Carrione Creek, seven miles north of Carrara.
Operation SECOND WIND had nevertheless served its purpose, for in order to check the division's advance beyond
Carrara, the enemy had been forced to dip into his main reserves. In spite of harassment from Allied aircraft and severe fuel shortages, a regiment of the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division managed to move in sufficient strength from its reserve position in the vicinity of Modena to the Ligurian flank to help bring the 92d Division's advance to a halt. Yet that meant that General Vietinghoff had committed an irreplaceable part of his reserves against what was only a diversionary effort. He had taken the risk because he considered himself still bound by the long-standing OKW order to yield no part of the Winter Line.5
Well-designed Allied deception plans and the two preliminary attacks had succeeded in drawing off at least a part of the German reserves. Anticipating an Anzio-type amphibious operation somewhere along the Adriatic coast north of the mouth of the Po, Vietinghoff had earlier shifted half of his army group reserve, the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division, to watch that flank, separated by several river lines from what was soon to become the main battle area. Then he had sent a regiment of the remaining half of his army group reserve, the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division, to shore up his Ligurian flank. Thus when the Eighth Army attacked on 9 April in the first of two blows against Vietinghoff's Army Group C, a major part of the enemy's reserve would be ill-positioned to reinforce the main arena.
Shortly before the Eighth Army opened its offensive against the Tenth Army, General Herr, whose troops had been on alert since the beginning of April, recommended to General Vietinghoff the adoption of a tactic employed by both the Germans and the French on the western front in World War I. Known to the Germans as the "false front maneuver," the tactic called for withdrawal under the cover of an artillery barrage as close as possible to the actual beginning of the attack by the opposing side. If the Tenth Army withdrew from the Senio to the Santerno in that manner, the Eighth Army's attack would strike thin air, and quite likely be thrown off balance, which was exactly what Clark and McCreery feared might happen. If it did, the Eighth Army would be forced to pause to reorganize. Because the Fifth Army's entry into the battle was tied to the Eighth Army's advance, the entire Allied plan might be jeopardized.
The tactic appealed to Vietinghoff, who readily gave his assent, despite the fact that a voluntary withdrawal ran counter to OKW's directive to stand fast and fall back only under overwhelming pressure. Because of the directive, he first had to obtain authorization from OKW. Although Hitler had considered employing the same tactic a year earlier on the eve of the U.S. VI Corps breakout from the Anzio beachhead, he refused to permit his commander in Italy to use it.6
Deprived of the one opportunity that might have provided an extended lease on life, the German armies in northern Italy had no choice but to brace themselves to meet the Allied onslaught in place. Herr nevertheless ordered a covering
barrage fired during the night of 6 April to conceal a thinning of the sectors held by the 98th Division of the LXXVI Panzer Corps and the 26th Panzer Division of the I Parachute Corps along the line of the Senio. Anticipating that the Eighth Army's main attack would fall upon the intercorps boundary, Herr believed that the Allies might be checked briefly at the Santerno if the main resistance were encountered between the two rivers instead of along the line of the Senio. In spite of OKW's orders, he decided to employ an attenuated version of the false front tactic. What he had not reckoned on was that his maneuver would result in exposing the shifting German troops to the massive carpet bombing attack that was to precede the Eighth Army's offensive.7
The Eighth Army Attack
Shortly after midday on the 9th General Clark and his chief of staff, General Gruenther, left 15th Army Group headquarters near Florence on a short flight to an airfield at Forli, on Highway 9 southeast of Faenza. From there the American officers motored to Faenza, where the Eighth Army commander joined them, then continued a few miles west of the town to an observation post in a farmhouse with a fine view of the front some 2,000 yards away. Assembled were the commanding generals of the MASAF, the Twelfth Air Force, the XXII TAC, and the DAF, come to witness the first mighty blow in the fruition of weeks of planning by their respective staffs--the most impressive aerial bombardment of a campaign already marked by such awesome spectacles as the destruction from the air of the Abbey of Monte Cassino.8
Meanwhile, several formations of heavy bombers had taken off from airfields in central Italy and flown northward parallel to the Adriatic coast, as if pursuing a normal long-range mission north of the Alps. Reaching the latitude of Cesenatico, seventeen miles east of Forli, they turned westward over the Italian mainland. Passing relentlessly and in seemingly endless procession over the enemy's main defensive zone parallel to the Senio River, the heavy bombers began releasing their bombs. For the next two days 1,673 heavy bombers completely carpeted specific target areas between the Senio and the Santerno. During the same period some 624 medium bombers, in close co-ordination with the heavy bombers, first attacked enemy defenses and troop concentrations along both sides of Highway 9, between the two rivers, then turned to the area opposite the 5 Corps, astride Highway 16 northwest of Ravenna. After the heavy aircraft completed their tasks on the 9th, fighter-bombers of the DAF and XXII TAC launched their planned close-support missions, while the ground troops, supported by over a thousand pieces of artillery and hundreds of tanks, began moving toward the banks of the Senio just as the sun disappeared below the western horizon.9
H-hour had been set for 1930 to spare the tank gunners the ordeal of a setting sun in their gun sights and to give the infantrymen the advantage of the concealment of dusk, heightened by
Breakthrough Into the Po Valley
IV and II Corps
14-21 April 1945
billowing clouds of dust raised by the bombers. The dust also had the effect of making it difficult for the tactical aircraft to find many of their close-support targets. Just before the infantrymen began to advance from assembly areas 200 yards east of the Senio, several flights of fighter-bombers roared across the army front in dummy runs in an effort to convince the enemy to remain under cover while infantry and armor moved toward the crossing sites along the east bank of the river.
First came flamethrowing Churchills, searing the far bank with fiery jets of napalm, then the assault infantry bearing assault boats and kapok bridges to provide men and equipment a way across the river. (Map XV) In spite of the massive aerial bombardment and flaming napalm, some German automatic weapons opened fire from positions along the western floodbank of the Senio, but supporting artillery and mortars silenced the enemy gunners and enabled the Allied infantrymen to launch their small boats and push their assault bridges into place.10
After eight hours of almost continuous bombardment from the air and the ground, that the enemy could resist at all was a tribute to the courage and discipline of the German infantryman. Yet resist he did from well-prepared positions worked on throughout the winter. As was often the case, heavy Allied bombardment did less damage to front-line positions than to communications to the rear, though that forced the Germans to fight independent and unco-ordinated small unit actions all along the front. Under those conditions resistance could only be short-lived. More than 1,300 prisoners rounded up by the 5 Corps during the first twenty-four hours reflected, in part, the degree of disorganization among the enemy units caused in large measure by disruption of their communications.
The main assault on the Eighth Army's right wing, made by the 2d New Zealand and the 8th Indian Divisions of the 5 Corps, established bridgeheads beyond the Senio during the night. Dawn on the 10th found contingents of both divisions firmly established in their new bridgeheads, and by evening the New Zealanders had pushed three miles beyond the Senio to gain the east bank of the Santerno. Encountering somewhat greater resistance, the Indians came within a mile of the Santerno in their sector.
Although the attack by the 2 Polish Corps between Highways 9 and 16 began about the same time as that of the 5 Corps, the Polish units ran into considerably stronger resistance, for opposite them lay the relatively fresh battalions of the crack 26th Panzer Division. It took two brigades of the 3d Carpathian Division until the morning of the 10th to establish a bridgehead beyond the Senio. Yet the attack gathered momentum during the day, and by evening a strongpoint at Solarolo on the Lugo Canal, two and a half miles west of the Senio and five miles northwest of Faenza, had fallen, although the Santerno still lay three miles to the west.
During the first twenty-four hours of the offensive the enemy's 98th and 362d Divisions bore the full brunt of the
attack. The 362d Division did manage a counterattack south of Lugo against the Allied right wing; but the purpose appeared to be only to enable the division to extricate itself from positions at the bend of the Senio, southeast of Lugo, before abandoning Lugo itself later in the day. By evening of the 10th, across a three and a half-mile front, both German divisions had withdrawn to the Santerno. The next day continued pressure finally forced them back across the river, uncovering the left flank of the 26th Panzer Division, which also withdrew behind the Santerno. South of Highway 9 in the foothills of the Apennines the 4th Parachute Division of the I Parachute Corps also began withdrawing to conform to the retrograde movements on its left.11
By morning of 12 April, both the British 5 Corps and the 2 Polish Corps had established shallow bridgeheads beyond the Santerno. That afternoon the 2d New Zealand Division burst from its beachhead and advanced two miles beyond the river to capture the town of Massa Lombarda, while on the flanks of that thrust the Indians and the Poles continued to strengthen and deepen their bridgeheads.
While that encouraging progress developed, the British 56th Division on the Eighth Army's right wing launched the first of a series of amphibious attacks from the "Wedge," won during the preliminary operation, to expand positions north of the mouth of the Reno. Carried by a flotilla of Fantails, an infantry brigade landed near the hamlet of Menate, three miles beyond the mouth of the Reno and seven miles northeast of the Bastia Bridge. Not expecting an attack from that direction, the enemy was taken by surprise. Within a few hours both Menate and Longastrino, three miles to its south, were in British hands. Simultaneously, a second brigade pushed westward along the north bank of the Reno to link up with the first. The two brigades soon joined to open a route over which armor and artillery could advance along dikes paralleling the Reno's northern bank to lend additional weight to the attack. Yet at the same time resistance stiffened as the defending 42d Jaeger Division--threatened also by envelopment on the right by Allied advances beyond Massa Lombarda--fought desperately to withdraw from a salient created by the 56th Division's thrust at Alfonsine, near where Highway 16 crossed the Senio ten miles southeast of the Bastia Bridge.
Breakthrough at the Argenta Gap
The crossing of the Santerno in the west and the outflanking of the line of the Reno to the east marked completion of the first phase of the Eighth Army's offensive. General McCreery believed nevertheless that the situation had yet to develop sufficiently to enable him to decide whether to concentrate on a westerly thrust toward Budrio or on a northerly drive toward Argenta. Deciding to force the issue, McCreery brought forward the British 78th Division. Passing through the 8th Indian Division's bridgehead, the 78th Division moved northward along the Santerno's west bank in the general direction of the Bastia Bridge, while the 56th Division
prepared to move on Bastia from the east. The 78th Division's left flank was to be covered by the 2d Commando Brigade, advancing in Fantails across flooded fields south of Argenta. To the right of the 56th Division the 24th Guards Brigade prepared to launch yet another Fantail-borne assault, setting out across the flooded lowlands toward the Chiesa del Bante, three miles northeast of Argenta.
One Allied division advancing frontally on the Bastia Bridge and another outflanking it from the east over flooded areas hitherto regarded impassable convinced both Vietinghoff and Herr that the Eighth Army no longer intended a major amphibious operation north of the mouth of the Po. That prompted the army group commander to relieve the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division from its pointless vigil and commit it to defense of the Argenta Gap.12
After only a brief check at the village of Conselice, five miles north of Massa Lombarda, the 78th Division reached the Reno River and captured the Bastia Bridge early on the 14th before the retreating 42d Jaeger Division could demolish it. Yet when the British attempted to expand their bridgehead, they found the Jaegers well-entrenched within the village of Bastia. Southeast of the Bastia sector the Jaegers also checked the 56th Division's second amphibious operation, launched on the morning of the 13th, short of its goal.
Despite those local defensive successes, it was obvious from the loss of the Bastia Bridge that the check would be brief. Once more General Vietinghoff recommended to OKW limited withdrawals in less threatened sectors in order to obtain reinforcements to prevent a breakthrough on Herr's left wing. After pointing to the courage and steadfastness of the embattled troops attempting to hold the Argenta Gap, Vietinghoff called the Supreme Command's attention to the imminent threat of an Allied breakthrough into the Po Valley, which if successful would endanger the "entire east flank of the [Army Group C] front. . . If we do not succeed in stopping the enemy at the northwestern corner of Lake Comacchio (the Comacchio Lagoon)," the army group commander continued, "a breakthrough into the Po Valley will be inevitable. All necessary forces to stop this move must be available at once. They can only be taken from the I Parachute Corps sector and only if the salient [at Imola] is reduced by a fighting withdrawal." Any other solution, Vietinghoff went on, could bring only temporary relief and raised the specter of entrapment.13
As for the Genghis Khan positions along the Idice River, the last before Bologna, Vietinghoff observed that they "will likewise not be defended for any length of time, since, as far as can be judged by this headquarters, neither new units nor replacements of personnel and matériel, particularly gasoline, can be supplied in sufficient quantities." Even that estimate was optimistic, for the Eighth Army had already penetrated the line several days before.
Despite OKW's earlier rejection of a large-scale withdrawal to the Po, Vietinghoff again returned to the theme, stating:
If the Supreme Command of the Army Forces continue to maintain its intention of keeping the Anglo-Americans as far and as long as possible from the borders of the Reich, its aim can only be achieved if we defeat the known intentions of our enemies, the annihilation of the German armies. This can be done only if we avoid decisive battles by retreating, if necessary, to our prepared Ticino-Po defense positions. This decision must be made soon in order to allow for the necessary and difficult moves from the western Alps and from the Ligurian coast. As these moves will require at least two weeks, we must act quickly in order to prevent the enemy from reaching the Po on our eastern flank. This means that Tenth Army would have to hold its sector at least two weeks after the commencement of our withdrawal from the western and alpine sectors of the army group's front. This is considered the only way in which the north Italian areas, so important to our war industry, can be preserved for the German Army until the day of our decisive battle.
Without waiting for OKW's reply, Vietinghoff risked Hitler's opprobrium by withdrawing the I Parachute Corps from the Imola salient and pulling it back into the Genghis Khan Line. Meanwhile, he continued to reinforce the Argenta Gap as best he could.
Vietinghoff had little time to lose, for Keightley's 5 Corps was closing in on the gap and McCreery, deciding to strengthen his center, started shifting the British 13 Corps with its 10th Indian Division from the army right wing to a sector between the 2 Polish Corps and the British 5 Corps. Unaware of that decision but anticipating it as likely, General Herr ordered the entire 29th Panzer Grenadier Division to the defense of Argenta and the 278th Volksgrenadier Division from the I Parachute Corps to the LXXVI Panzer Corps, where the volksgrenadier division was to relieve the 98th Division, reduced by casualties to the size of a battle group. He then pulled the 26th Panzer Division from the line opposite the 2 Polish Corps to provide a mobile reserve for the Reno line.14
By 15 April the 278th Division had taken over from the 98th Division the sector astride the Medicina-Massa Lombarda railroad; but the change came too late to do more than momentarily check the momentum of the New Zealanders' thrust from their bridgehead over the Sillaro. South of that sector the 4th Parachute Division also briefly held up those elements of the Polish corps advancing astride Highway 9. Brief though it was, that rear guard action nevertheless enabled the I Parachute Corps to withdraw those forces still in the Imola salient to the temporary--but as it turned out, illusory--security of the Genghis Khan Line.
Confronted by elements of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division instead of battered survivors of the 42d Jaeger and 362d Divisions, General Keightley decided to throw in everything that the relatively narrow Argenta sector could accommodate. All three of his separate infantry brigades were to continue their efforts to outflank Argenta: the first to drive northeastward toward Portomaggiore, a second to pass directly east of Argenta, and a third to assist the 78th Division in reducing the strongpoint at Bastia village. The 2d Commando Brigade
was at the same time to continue its advance southwest of Argenta.
General der Panzertruppen Gerhard Graf von Schwerin, new commander of the LXXVI Panzer Corps, had in the meantime pressed deployment of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division in the Argenta Gap; but it was too late. Because the northward advance of the British 78th Division was threatening collapse of the central sector, held by the 362d Division, which would uncover the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division's right flank, von Schwerin formed survivors of the 42d Jaeger and 362d Divisions into two battle groups with orders to hold until early on the 16th. Although forced to yield Bastia village on the 15th, the 42d Jaeger by its stubborn defense gave the 29th Panzer Grenadiers some time to dig in north of the Marina Canal, about a mile and a half south of Argenta. To enable von Schwerin to extricate remaining units of his LXXVI Panzer Corps still south of the Reno, the panzer grenadiers had to hold that line for at least twenty-four hours, for once Allied forces took the Argenta Gap, they would be in a position to move rapidly northwestward along the Reno's north bank, turn successive river lines, and expedite the advance of those divisions attacking astride Highway 9.
By the evening of 16 April the British 78th Division struck the line of the Marina Canal on the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division's right flank. Although the panzer grenadiers fought gamely, the leading British battalion managed early on the 17th to secure a small bridgehead. The Marina Canal line had not held quite as long as von Schwerin had hoped it would, but the rear guard action nevertheless enabled him to straighten out his front south of the Reno preparatory to withdrawing to the Reno itself.
While supporting artillery guided by wide-ranging observation aircraft pinned down those troops still deployed along the Marina Canal line, tactical aircraft of the DAF again took to the air at dawn on the 17th to strike at anything that dared move north of Argenta. During the morning the 78th Division burst out of the bridgehead and passed east of Argenta, while a brigade of the British 56th Division, mounted in Fantails, moved up on the right across the flooded lowlands to the near bank of the Marina Canal southeast of Argenta. To the 78th Division's left the 2d Commando Brigade, also in Fantails, crossed a flooded area west of the Reno to pull abreast of the center. Those advances so stretched the enemy's defenses that two fresh battalions of the 78th Division reached Argenta without difficulty, one bypassing it on the right, the other moving directly into the town. While the lead battalion cleared the last German from Argenta, a second brigade of the 78th Division came forward, and early afternoon of the 18th found two of the division's brigades advancing northwest of Argenta along Highway 16. As Vietinghoff had warned OKW four days earlier, a breakthrough of the Argenta Gap threatened to turn the line of the Reno.
OKW's reply to Vietinghoff's message of the 14th warning of that threat arrived at Army Group C headquarters on the 17th even as the threat became a reality. Although the reply bore Generaloberst Alfred Jodl's signature, the order was Hitler's:
All further proposals for a change in the present war strategy will be discontinued. I wish to point out particularly that under no circumstances must troops or commanders be allowed to waver or to adopt a defeatist attitude as a result of such ideas apparently held by your headquarters. Where any such danger is likely, the sharpest countermeasures must be employed. The Fuehrer expects now, as before, the utmost steadfastness in the fulfillment of your present mission, to defend every inch of the north Italian areas entrusted to your command. I desire to point out the serious consequences for all those higher commanders, unit commanders, or staff officers, who do not carry out the Fuehrer's orders to the last word.15
More than draconian orders and thinly veiled threats were needed to check the momentum of the Eighth Army's offensive. While the 78th and 56th Divisions pushed through the Argenta Gap on the right, in the center and on the army's left the 2d New Zealand Division of the 5 Corps, the 10th Indian Division of the 13 Corps, and the Carpathian and Kresowa Divisions of the 2 Polish Corps advanced along the Medicina-Budrio axis and Highway 9. The main burden of defense there fell upon the 4th Parachute Division, for the 278th Division had been steadily falling back before the New Zealanders ever since arriving in the sector on the 15th. The parachutists gradually fell back to the line of the Gaiano Canal, about midway between Medicina and Budrio and a mile and a half beyond Castel San Pietro on Highway 9. By the 18th, the 2 Polish and British 13 Corps had closed up to the canal, some five miles east of the Idice River, which formed the Genghis Khan Line in that sector. Although the Tenth Army commander hoped to delay the Eighth Army's advance there long enough to allow his forces to reach the line of the Po in good order, the end of the battles south of the Po was by 18 April in sight. Meanwhile, just four days before, the U.S. Fifth Army had launched its phase of the spring offensive.
1. The assault boats were light-weight, shallow-draft craft powered by outboard motors, used primarily for river crossings.
2. Fifth Army History, Part IX, pp. 35-43; Goodman Monograph, pp. 129-46; Thomas D. Murphy, Ambassadors in Arms (Honolulu, 1954), pp. 263-67. Unless otherwise indicated the following sections are based upon those sources.
3. Truscott, Command Missions, p. 485. In the reorganization of the 370th Infantry Regiment, white officers replaced all black company commanders, in spite of the fact that there were in the division a number of black officers with superior ratings. The effect upon the blacks, officers and men alike, was to create an impression of a continuing lack of confidence in the fighting qualities of blacks. That helped explain the continued poor performance of the 370th Infantry. (See Notes on Interview with Truman K. Gibson, Civilian aide to Sec. War, by Bell I. Wiley, 30 May 1945, DA CMH files.)
4. The sacrifice and teamwork inherent in this bold and successful maneuver was exemplified by Pfc. Sadao S. Munemori, who, after his squad leader had been wounded, took command. Leading the squad in several assaults against troublesome machine gun positions and silencing two with hand grenades, Private Munemori sought shelter in a shell crater already occupied by two of his men. Just as Munemori reached the crater an enemy grenade struck his helmet and bounced unexploded to the ground. Without hesitation he threw himself on the missile, taking its full blast with his body, thereby losing his life but saving the lives of his comrades. Munemori posthumously received the Medal of Honor. See Medal of Honor, p. 359.
5. MS # T-1b (Westphal et al.), CMH; Truscott, Command Missions, p. 485.
6. MS # T-1b (Westphal et al.), Feldzug in Italien.
8. Clark Diary, 9 April 45; See also Blumenson, Salerno to Cassino, p. 411n.
9. Craven and Cate, eds., AAF III, pp. 484-85.
10. Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part IV, Sec. B. Unless otherwise indicated the following sections are based upon that reference.
11. MS # T-1b (Westphal et al.); Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(1), pp. 160-65.
12. MS # T-1b (Westphal et al.).
13. Cable, OB Army Group C to OKW, 14 Apr 45, quoted in Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part IV, Sec. G, Ann. F. Unless otherwise indicated the following section is based on that source.
14. MS # T-1b (Westphal et al.).
15. Cable No. 2, 17 Apr 45, OKW to OB Army Group C, in Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part IV, Sec. G, Ann. F.