The Test at Anzio
16 February-3 March 1944
The Major German Attack
Ever since he had recaptured Aprilia, the Fourteenth Army commander, Mackensen, had been preparing for his decisive attack to push the Allied forces from the Anzio beachhead. The prospect of success seemed good, for reinforcements had arrived. The veteran 29th Panzer Grenadier Division came from the Tenth Army front, the 114th Division from Yugoslavia, the 362d Division from northern Italy, and a special demonstration unit from Germany, the Berlin-Spandau Infantry Lehr Regiment, used to show troops in training how to execute an assault. The Lehr Regiment was Hitler's contribution to the attack.
Believing that destruction of the beachhead would compel the Allies to postpone their invasion of northwest Europe, which he expected sometime during the spring or summer of 1944, Hitler gave his close attention to the Anzio planning. He instructed Kesselring to have Mackensen attack on a very narrow front. He wanted a creeping barrage "reminiscent of those used in World War I." And he "categorically ordered" the Lehr Regiment, "which he valued particularly highly," Mackensen later recalled, to be used to make the main effort despite its lack of combat experience.1 (Map VI)
Kesselring and Mackensen were far from happy with Hitler's orders. Massed forces on a narrow front presented a good target for Allied guns and planes, whereas an attack on a broader front would pin down greater numbers of Allied troops, increase the power of the German thrust at the vital point, and give the Germans a better chance of coming to grips with the main Allied defenses. But the commanders in the field felt unable to take issue with the Fuehrer. Nor could they object to employing the Infantry Lehr. The creeping barrage, however, was impossible; they simply lacked enough ammunition for this kind of artillery expenditure.
Setting D-day for 16 February, Mackensen directed the I Parachute Corps, with the 4th Parachute and 65th Divisions, to make the secondary effort west of the Albano-Anzio road. The LXXVI Panzer Corps headquarters, which had been pulled out of the Adriatic front a week earlier, with the Infantry Lehr Regiment and parts of the 3d Panzer Grenadier, 114th, and 715th Divisions in the first wave, was to make the breakthrough just east of the Albano-Anzio road; the 29th Panzer Grenadier and 26th Panzer Divisions in the second wave would exploit the penetration and drive to the coast. Weakening his other sectors, Mackensen ordered continual small-scale assaults along the entire front to conceal the point of his major blow.
The Fourteenth Army now controlled about 125,000 troops at Anzio as compared to the 100,000 under VI Corps. In a ringing order of the day to the German forces, Hitler exhorted them to remove the beachhead "abscess" from the Italian coast. He thought they could do it in three days.2
On the morning of 16 February, the Hermann Goering Division launched a feint attack in the Cisterna area against the 3d Division, which turned back the assault, largely with artillery fire. Against the British, the diversionary attack of the 4th Parachute Division had greater success, breaking through the 56th Division front and plunging forward for nearly two miles until it was stopped by British reserves. The main attack, opening with heavy artillery preparations on both sides of the Albano-Anzio road, struck the 45th Division, which had all three regiments together along a 6-mile front in the center of the beachhead perimeter. The first infantry blow came directly down the road, which marked the boundary between the 157th and 179th Infantry regiments, and both units gave way. Commitment of the reserve battalions stopped the German advance.3
Fierce fighting in the vicinity of the road continued throughout the day, but the German troops made no further gains.4 The German infantrymen, who had counted on the firepower and shock effect of supporting tanks, found themselves deprived almost at once of this close support. A frost during the previous night had hardened the ground and permitted tanks to move to battle stations, but a rise in temperature during the morning made the Anzio plain soft and sticky. Tank maneuver off the roads became impossible.
The performance of the Infantry Lehr Regiment was disappointing. Mackensen remarked that the regiment was made up of excellent human material, but the men had never before been in combat. Meeting strong opposition, taking heavy casualties, and losing many officers, the inexperienced troops broke and fled, robbing the assault of momentum. According to Kesselring, who later accepted the blame for having committed an untried unit in a major assignment, the regiment had performed "disgracefully."5
More important than the small advance achieved or even the high losses incurred, the German attack had failed to compel the Allies to commit the 1st Armored Division, the considerable troops General Lucas held in reserve. To force this commitment would be Mackensen's prime purpose on the second day of the attack. The uncommitted units of his first wave constituted a strong force, and his second wave was entirely intact.
That evening, 16 February, Mackensen emphasized the importance of allowing the Allied troops no rest during the night. He wanted strong assault parties
to exert pressure, supported wherever possible by tanks, all along the front.
The night operations attained a measure of success, one attack in particular. About half a battalion of the 715th Division worked around both flanks of Company E, 157th Infantry, astride the Albano-Anzio road, while the other half struck directly at the company positions. The Germans wiped out the American forward defenses and forced the remainder of the company into a tight perimeter around the command post. Although three tanks of the 191st Tank Battalion helped the company hold out, only fourteen riflemen were left at dawn. As four German tanks closed in for the kill, the company commander finally received permission to withdraw. The men fought their way to safety, but a dangerous gap was opened between two of the 45th Division's regiments, the 157th and the 179th.
Soon after 0740, 17 February, when about thirty-five German planes bombed and strafed the 45th Division area, troops from the 715th, 65th, and 114th Divisions, supported by about sixty tanks, struck through the gap and hit the 2d Battalion, 179th Infantry. The German attack quickly destroyed one rifle company and forced the other battalion units to fall back about a mile to positions barely in front of General Lucas' final beachhead line.
At 1040, when about forty-five German planes bombed and strafed 45th Division positions again, one bomb fell on the command post of the 3d Battalion, 179th, and knocked out all communications. German infantry and tanks again drove into the gap, spreading and deepening the penetration. By noon, German troops had driven a wedge two miles wide and more than a mile deep into the center of the 45th Division front.6
To shorten his front and tie in his flanks, the regimental commander of the 179th Infantry pulled his two forward battalions back 1,000 yards. The withdrawal was made in daylight and in full view of the Germans, who took advantage of the targets of opportunity and tore the battalions to shreds. Small groups of men scattered and made their way back to the final beachhead line as best they could.7
With the final beachhead line hardly manned in that sector, General Lucas put additional resources at the disposal of General Eagles and the 45th Division. He quickly moved artillery and tanks, as well as four batteries of 90-mm. antiaircraft guns, into direct support positions. He secured the fires of two cruisers offshore. And he requested that all available planes be sent to blast the attacking formations. As all types of Allied bombers flew more than 700 sorties over the threatened area, General Lucas brought the 1st British Division out of reserve and into positions backing the final beachhead line between the 56th British and 45th U.S. Divisions. He also made available to the defenders a tank battalion of the 1st Armored Division.
Mackensen broadened his attack that afternoon, the 17th, by committing the reserves of his first assault wave into the salient the morning attack had created.
M7 SELF-PROPELLED 1O5-MM. HOWITZERS IN THE 45TH DIVISION AREA
As fourteen battalions of infantry and tanks tried to widen the gap that separated the 157th and 179th regiments and split open the Allied defenses, Mackensen awaited the moment for sending the exploiting forces of his second wave to ram home the attack and destroy the beachhead.
The defenders refused to break. The line was dangerously stretched and the defenses were close to disintegration, but a great expenditure of artillery, tank, tank destroyer, and mortar ammunition helped the infantry to hold. At the end of the day, General Lucas' final beachhead line was still unbroken.
On the evening of the second day of attack, Mackensen debated whether to cancel the offensive or to commit his second wave. The first wave had taken serious losses--the average number of men in most infantry battalions was somewhere between 120 and 150. Yet if the Germans were on the verge of winning the battle, "it would be folly," as Mackensen's chief of staff said, "to break off now."8
Hoping that the third day would be decisive, Mackensen instructed the weary first wave forces to fight throughout the night while both divisions of the second wave moved into position to jump off at 0400, 18 February. He had hoped to use the two fresh divisions to exploit a breakthrough. But now he had to commit them to gain a penetration.
The continual assaults that Mackensen tried to get from the tired and depleted troops of the first wave amounted
only to night infiltration by small parties too weak to do more than harass the front lines.
The thrust at dawn by the divisions in the second wave was something else. Troops of the 29th Panzer Grenadier and 26th Panzer Divisions virtually destroyed a battalion of the 179th Infantry before noon, made a serious penetration of the front, and were on the point of pushing forward across the final few miles to Anzio.
The 179th Infantry was almost finished--one battalion was seriously understrength, another was at less than half strength and exhausted, and the third was shattered; almost no communications linked the regimental headquarters and the battalions; and the regimental commander was about to collapse from overwork and lack of sleep. General Lucas sent Colonel Darby, who had commanded the now virtually extinct Ranger Force, to General Eagles, the 45th Division commander. Darby was to take command of the 179th Infantry on the final beachhead line.
Darby arrived at the regimental command post early in the afternoon and found the headquarters personnel dispirited. His contagious confidence, energy, and enthusiasm invigorated the headquarters.9 But the reduced numbers of the regiment and the fractional effectiveness of the battalions led him to request permission to withdraw from the final beachhead line into the concealment of the nearby Padiglione woods.
General Eagles refused. There would be no withdrawal. The final beachhead line was to be held at all costs.
While Darby did what he could, the Germans, for some inexplicable reason, shifted their attack to the right. They struck the relatively untouched 180th Infantry, which gave as good as it got. During a confused and desperate four hours of fighting, the Allied troops held the threatened line. When the noise ceased and the smoke lifted, it was obvious that the Germans had failed to achieve their breakthrough.10
Allied riflemen, machine gunners, mortarmen, and tankers had fought at close range and refused to budge from their positions. Artillery forward observers had brought crashing volleys of shells on enemy units. Artillery observers in small Cub planes had directed heavy punishment on targets of opportunity--an observer in one instance massed the shells of more than 200 British and American pieces on a target of German infantry and a column of tanks twelve minutes after they were detected.
By evening Kesselring and Mackensen had to conclude that the attack to eliminate the beachhead had failed. Small German thrusts on the following day, 19 February, tried to consolidate the gains of the previous days' action, but Allied counterattacks launched that afternoon drove the German units back a mile from the final beachhead line and gathered in 400 prisoners. A final German effort on 20 February had no effect whatsoever.
The 5-day attack that had pushed the Allied forces to their final defensive positions had failed to break them. But the Germans had inflicted heavy casualties,
SMOKE SCREEN AND OBSERVATION PLANE NEAR AMMUNITION DUMP, ANZIO
approximately 5,000 men. The 45th Division alone suffered 400 killed, 2,000 wounded, and 1,000 missing; and 2,500 additional troops had sustained nonbattle injuries from exposure, exhaustion, and trench foot--the result of living through freezing nights in foxholes half-filled with slush and water. Total German casualties were about the same, 5,000 men, most of them wounded by shell fragments. According to the report of one prisoner and the translation of his interrogator, artillery had been the worst "demoralizive agent." The salient that Mackensen had driven into the 45th Division had become a deathtrap for his own tanks and infantry.
After the first month of battle at the beachhead, German and Allied casualties each numbered almost 19,000 men--for the Allied forces, 2000 killed, 8,500 wounded, and 8,500 missing. Losses totaling almost 40,000 casualties from forces numbering 200,000 men meant that the combat units on both sides of the front were close to impotence. A temporary stalemate had been reached.
Change of Command
General Alexander had visited the beachhead on 14 February, two days before the major German attack. His attitude struck General Lucas as being close to nonchalant, almost patronizing. How in the midst of so desperate a situation could anyone in Alexander's position appear to be so unconcerned?11 There was something else about Alexander that troubled the corps commander. Almost
intuitively Lucas wrote in his diary on the following day:
I am afraid the top side is not completely satisfied with my work . . . . They are naturally disappointed that I failed to chase the Hun out of Italy but there was no military reason why I should have been able to do so. In fact, there is no military reason for SHINGLE.12
He could not have known that General Alexander, at almost that precise moment, was sending a message to London--to General Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff--about Lucas' leadership. Alexander was disappointed, he informed Brooke, by the negative quality of command in the beachhead and the absence of drive and enthusiasm. The VI Corps commander lacked initiative, and the staff was depressed. The problem, Alexander believed, required discussion, and he had requested Generals Wilson, Devers, and Clark to meet with him to see if they could get someone at the beachhead who was "a thruster like George Patton."13
Part of Alexander's dissatisfaction with the command at Anzio, a feeling shared by Clark, was undoubtedly the result of Alexander's disappointment over the failure that day of the bombardment of Monte Cassino to break the Gustav Line. When the two commanders conferred on 16 February, they freely exchanged views. According to Clark's notations, General Alexander first expressed
his disappointment in the way Lucas was handling the Corps Commander's job in the Anzio bridgehead. I knew this was coming, for he had discussed it with me previously and, to be perfectly frank, I am not 100% satisfied with the hold Lucas has taken on that situation. When Alex told me he was dissatisfied, I asked him to tell me why, and from what sources he obtained his information. He told me that Lucas was older than his age, he was old physically and mentally, was tired, had no flash and was not at all familiar with the details of the situation. I had found Lucas, on my many trips there, unfamiliar with many details, and I had urged him to send out members of his staff and to go out himself and satisfy himself with conditions as they were.
General Clark agreed that he
did believe that a change in Lucas would be advisable but under no circumstances would I hurt Lucas, for he had performed well . . . . He lacked some aggressiveness after the landing, although allegations that he could have gone to his objective or to Rome were ridiculous, for had he done so with any force he would have been cut off from his bridgehead.
As a result of the discussion, the commanders decided to appoint two deputy corps commanders at the beachhead, an American, who would eventually take over the corps command, and a British officer to help direct the British components of the beachhead forces.14
On the same day, 16 February, General Devers was visiting Anzio. His recollection was of General Lucas' logistical arrangements, which he found impressive--Lucas said he could unload forty vessels a day and could more than adequately support the 498 guns and 35 tanks he had in the beachhead.15
GERMAN PRISONERS MARCHING TO THE REAR
General Lucas remembered General Devers' implication that Lucas should have gone as fast as possible to the Alban Hills in order to disrupt the German communications in the Rome area. "Had I done so," Lucas wrote, "I would have lost my Corps and nothing would have been accomplished except to raise the prestige and morale of the enemy. Besides," he added, "my orders didn't read that way."16
Returning to General Clark's headquarters on 17 February, General Devers had a long conversation with the army commander on several matters, among them, what to do about General Lucas. As Clark recorded the conversation, Devers
feels as Alex does--that General Lucas should be relieved. His estimate of Lucas is that he is extremely tired, mentally and physically, and should be taken out . . . . I will assign Lucas as my Deputy, but Devers will attempt to have him returned to the United States without in any way hurting him.
But they would wait to remove Lucas from command until after the battle that was then raging at the beachhead came to an end.17
On the same day General Lucas learned of the appointment of the two
deputy corps commanders. He wrote in his diary:
I think this means my relief . . . . I hope I am not to be relieved from command. I knew when I came in here that I was jeopardizing my career because I knew the Germans would not fold up because of two divisions landing on their flank . . . . I do not feel that I should have sacrificed my command, [by driving to the Alban Hills].18
Clark visited the beachhead on 18 February. He found Lucas "tired--very tired."19 As a result of his visit, he told General Wilson on the following day he believed it was futile to try to take the Alban Hills. The Germans had too much strength massed against the beachhead for the Allied command to have any hope of overcoming the resistance.20
Three days later, on 22 February, General Clark again went to the beachhead. At that time, one month to the day after the amphibious landing, he relieved General Lucas from command of the VI Corps. He told Lucas he was doing so not because Lucas had failed to take the Alban Hills but because Alexander thought him defeated, Devers believed him tired, and Clark saw him as worn out.21 Explaining that he "could no longer resist the pressure . . . from Alexander and Devers," Clark removed Lucas without prejudice. He had not lost confidence in Lucas, for he felt that Lucas had done all that could reasonably have been expected. Though shocked, Lucas was not entirely surprised. What bothered him most of all, "I thought I was winning something of a victory."22
Clark thought so too. He felt that Lucas could have taken the Alban Hills but could not have held them. Moving at once to the high ground would have so extended the corps that the Germans could have annihilated his forces. That was why he had given Lucas his so carefully phrased and ambiguous original order--to keep VI Corps from embarking on a "foolhardy mission."23 He had always believed that the relatively few forces sent to Anzio had given the operation little chance of complete success. Several years later, General Clark concluded he might have done better by keeping his forces concentrated at the Gustav Line rather than splitting off part of them on a "dangerous and unorganized beachhead," where a powerful German counterattack might have wrecked the entire Allied campaign in Italy. If Lucas had made a serious error, Clark felt, it was his failure to capture Cisterna and Campoleone at once, before the Germans were able to concentrate. A secure hold on these key places could have given VI Corps so firm an anchor on the beachhead that the Germans might have decided not to contest the landing.24
Almost everyone felt much the same way about Lucas' chances of getting to the Alban Hills. General Marshall believed that Lucas could have got there but had acted wisely in refraining from doing so. "For every mile of advance," Marshall later said, "there were seven
or more miles added to the perimeter," and Lucas did not have enough strength to get to the high ground, hold it, and make secure the beachhead and the port.25
What General Alexander had expected was, as Clark had specified, an advance toward the Alban Hills not a helter-skelter rush to the heights. For to Alexander the Anzio landing had had validity by virtue of the threat it posed. That threat, together with the strong attacks being launched against the Gustav Line, he thought, might prompt the Germans to withdraw. What inclined Alexander toward relieving Lucas was his feeling that Lucas had become unequal to the physical demands of the job. He believed that Lucas, "harried looking and under tremendous strain, would not be able to stand up physically to the hard, long struggle which by that time it was clear the Anzio operation would involve."26
Lucas' opportunity to exploit the surprise he had gained in the landing vanished after the first few days. Consequently, from that point on, he no longer had a choice. And that was how he finally saw the situation.
The only thing that ever really disturbed me at Anzio, except, of course, my inability to make speedier headway against the weight opposing me, was the necessity to safeguard the port. At any cost this must be preserved as, without it, the swift destruction of the Corps was inevitable . . . . My orders were, to me, very clear and did not include any rash, piece-meal effort. These orders were never changed although the Army and the Army Group Commanders were constantly on the ground and could have changed them had they seen fit to do so.27
Yet the thought came back to nag him: he might have sent a small force on a sudden raid to the Alban Hills. But he would thereby have courted disaster. "As it turned out," Lucas wrote, "the proper decision was made and we were able to reach and establish ourselves in positions from which the enemy was unable to drive us in spite of his great advantage in strength."28
What was wrong, Lucas kept insisting, was the whole idea of the Anzio operation. The Allies lacked sufficient forces for a bold push out from the beachhead. According to his own interpretation of his mission, he had to take the port and sufficient ground to protect it.
Part of Lucas' preoccupation with the Anzio port came from naval advice. "No reliance," naval planners had made perfectly clear, "can be placed on maintenance over beaches, owing to the probability of unfavorable weather."29 As for the idea of taking Rome, Clark had told him frankly, "you can forget this goddam Rome business."30
Yet according to early Fifth Army estimates, made as far back as November 1943, a landing at Anzio had to be followed by immediate capture of the port and by early occupation of the Alban Hills.31 And according to Westphal,
Kesselring's chief of staff, "The road to Rome was open, and an audacious flying column could have penetrated to the city . . . . The enemy remained astonishingly passive."32
Perhaps then a bluff carried out with imagination and daring might have worked. A "thruster like George Patton," as Alexander had said, might have produced a decisive result.33
General Lucas served as General Clark's deputy for three weeks before leaving Italy to command an army in the United States. On his way home, he stopped in England, where he called on General Eisenhower. When he talked about Anzio, he criticized neither his superiors, Alexander and Clark, nor their conduct of the campaign, though he told Eisenhower that he had frequently not been informed of their intentions. He pictured himself as "simply a soldier" who had carried out orders with which he had not been in sympathy.34
General Truscott, the 3d Division commander, replaced General Lucas as commander of VI Corps. He had led his division in the campaigns of North Africa, Sicily, and southern Italy, and everywhere he had earned the admiration of his subordinates and superiors. Like General Lucas, everyone had "the greatest regard" for him, his British colleagues respecting him for his balance and judgment.35
Taking the reins of the corps at a
time of crisis, General Truscott set about altering the intangible feeling of depression, even of desperation, that pervaded the beachhead.36 He moved the corps command post out of the gloomy wine cellars and tunnels under Nettuno and above ground. He made positive contributions to coordinating all the weapons, particularly the artillery, at the beachhead. And he frequently visited the troops. All in all he somehow gave the impression that the situation would now improve.
The command change was beneficial, how beneficial would soon become obvious when the Germans struck again.
The Last German Attack
The German forces had to strike again, if for no other reason than that
WINE CELLAR THAT SERVED AS VI CORPS HEADQUARTERS
Hitler attached great political and propaganda value to the elimination of the beachhead. Thus, on 22 February Mackensen proposed another attack, this time on the other side of the beachhead, to drive from Cisterna to Nettuno and on a considerably wider front than the last effort. He would employ the Hermann Goering, 26th Panzer, and 362d Divisions in the first wave and hold the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division in reserve to exploit and mop up. He would simulate attack preparations near the Albano road, place dummy tanks there, stage widespread raids, and make conspicuous vehicular movements to deceive the Allied command. Although he wished to start his attack at once in order to gain surprise and give the Allied forces little chance to recover from the previous offensive, he needed time to regroup his units and to stock ammunition. (See Map VI.)
With Kesselring's approval, Mackensen set his attack for daylight, 28 February. Twenty-four hours before, he requested a postponement of one day. His troops were not quite ready. But the main reason for delaying the attack was bad weather, which prevented tanks and self-propelled guns from getting off the roads and up forward close to the line of departure.
Kesselring agreed to the postponement.
A torrential rain fell on 28 February, the day before the jump-off, and he and Mackensen both believed that it would help the Germans attain local surprise and deny the Allied forces the benefits of tank, air, and naval support.
During the afternoon of 28 February, a smoke screen along the 3d Division front in the Cisterna area concealed last-minute troop movements. Around midnight, German artillery shifted fire from the British sector and laid down preparatory volleys in the 3d Division area.
The 3d Division, exhausted and depleted by six weeks of fighting, had developed a forward line of defense into a well-integrated barrier of strongpoints. Suspecting the imminence of an attack in the early hours of 29 February, General O'Daniel, who had assumed command of the division on 17 February, had a heavy volume of artillery fire placed on the logical avenues of German approach.
The shelling failed to disrupt the German attack. On the 3d Division left, German troops overran a company of the 509th Parachute Battalion. A single officer and twenty-two men managed to make their way 700 yards to the rear to the battalion main line of resistance. There a backup company of ninety-six men, supported by an abundance of mortar and artillery fire, stopped the German thrust. In the main effort, the 362d Division, reinforced by tanks of the 26th Panzer and Hermann Goering Divisions, struck the 3d Division frontally. The impact dented the American forward defenses but failed to break them. To the east, the 715th Division and two battalions of the 16th SS Panzer Grenadier Division drove against the 504th Parachute Infantry and made a small penetration that was quickly sealed and contained. A German task force striking the 1st Special Service Force positioned along the Mussolini Canal made no progress at all.
Heavy fighting continued throughout the day. Dense clouds and frequent rain squalls grounded Allied planes during the morning, but in the afternoon 247 fighter-bombers and 24 light bombers carried out close-support attacks, hitting German tanks and infantry. At the end of the day, despite its heavy losses, the 3d Division launched a counterattack and regained the few hundred yards earlier relinquished.
Although Mackensen's assault units had incurred high casualties in men and tanks, he continued his attack on 1 March. The effort was noticeably weaker, and no progress was made. That evening, as Mackensen admitted his inability to eradicate the beachhead, Kesselring instructed him to bring his offensive operations to a halt and restrict his activity to local counterattacks.37
The weather suddenly turned clear on 2 March and Allied planes came out in earnest--241 B-24's and 100 B-17's, escorted by 113 P-38's and 63 P-47's, dropped tons of bombs immediately behind the German line; medium, light, and fighter bombers struck at German tanks, gun positions, and troop assembly areas. This impressive display of air power came at the end of the German attack, which had cost the Germans more than 3,000 casualties and at least thirty tanks, and which would be the last major German offensive against the beachhead. Hurried preparations, confused orders, faulty communications,
poor tank and artillery support, as well as a firm Allied defense, were the reasons for German failure. The slight gains, as one Allied report stated, were "hardly worth an outlay which had included [loss of] 500 prisoners of war."38 Another report concluded: "The enemy's efforts to win a victory which would bolster flagging morale at home and restore the reputation of the German Army abroad . . . had brought him only a further depletion of his already strained resources in equipment and manpower."39
As Kesselring viewed the situation early in March, he concluded that a lull of some duration would probably take place, for both sides had sustained heavy casualties. During this time of respite, Kesselring would have to assemble substantial reserves to withstand an impending attack, for the Allied command was sure to try again to link up the forces still fighting at Cassino with those at the beachhead.
To make sure that Hitler understood his situation, Kesselring sent his chief of staff, Westphal, to explain in person how limited were the alternatives in southern Italy. The fighting at Anzio had clearly ended in a draw. Since the political and strategic problems remained unchanged, Kesselring could do little more than husband his resources in order to be ready to meet the Allied offensive that had to be anticipated in the spring.
Westphal's mission was successful. He convinced Hitler that another major German attack at Anzio was out of the question for the time being. He returned to Rome on 8 March, "elated with the praise received and the understanding reached."40
Kesselring had counted on Hitler's understanding. For already he had ordered a new defensive line constructed across the Italian peninsula--from the mouth of the Tiber River through Cisterna, Valmontone, and Avezzano to Pescara--a series of positions called the "C" or Caesar Line. Should the beachhead forces somehow break out of their containment, they would force the Tenth Army, fighting at Cassino, to withdraw from the Gustav Line. Kesselring would then try to have the Tenth and Fourteenth Armies fight side by side along the Caesar Line to delay, possibly prevent, the fall of Rome. Even if he lost Rome, he would try to preserve the integrity of his forces by retiring to the north. Somewhere in northern Italy, Kesselring could halt the Allies again. Even if he lost Rome, he could, he promised Hitler, continue to make possible the prosecution of the war in Italy for at least another year.41
The situation at the Anzio beachhead became relatively quiet in March. But at Cassino, an explosive event took place in the middle of the month.
1. MS # C-061 (Mackensen), OCMH. See also Hauser in MS # T-1a (Westphal et al.), OCMH.
2. Churchill, Closing the Ring, pp. 489-90.
3. See Maj James H. Cook, Jr., The Operations of Company L, 179th Infantry (45th Division) in the Vicinity of the Factory, Anzio Beachhead, 16-18 February 1944, Advanced Infantry Officers Course, Ft. Benning, Ga., 1949-50.
4. See Capt Ralph L. Niffenegger, The Operations of the 3d Platoon, Company G, 157th Infantry (45th Division), 15-16 February 1944, Advanced Infantry Officers Course, Ft. Benning, Ga., 1949-50.
5. MS # T-1a K1 (Kesselring), OCMH. See also MS # C-061 (Mackensen), OCMH.
6. See Maj Robert A. Guenthner, The Operations of Company F, 180th Infantry (45th Division), 16-20 February 1941, Advanced Infantry Officers Course, Ft. Benning, Ga., 1948-49.
7. See CSDIC/CMF/M296, Detailed Interrogation Rpt of Thirteen German Intel Officers, n.d. (about Aug 45), Intel Activities, AG 383.4.
8. Hauser in MS #T-1a (Westphal et al.), OCMH.
9. See Cook, Opns of Co L, 179th Inf (45th Div).
10. For extraordinary heroism and gallantry in the defense, Pfc. William J. Johnston and 1st Lt. Jack C. Montgomery, both of the 45th Division, were later awarded the Medal of Honor.
11. Lucas Diary, 14 Feb 44.
12. Ibid., 15 Feb 44.
13. Clark Diary, 16 Feb 44; Eisenhower to Marshall, W-11279, 16 Feb 44; Eisenhower Diary, 17 Feb 44; Ltr, Eisenhower to Marshall, 20 Feb 44, in Eisenhower Diary.
14. Clark Diary, 16 Feb 44; Intervs, Mathews with Alexander, 10-15 Jan 49, OCMH.
15. Devers Diary, 16 Feb 44.
16. Lucas Diary, 16 Feb 44.
17. Devers Diary, 17 Feb 44; Clark Diary, 17, 18 Feb 44.
18. Lucas Diary, 17 Feb 44.
19. Clark Diary, 18 Feb 44.
20. Ibid., 19 Feb 44.
21. Interv, Mathews with Gen Saltzman, 26 Mar 48, OCMH.
22. Lucas Diary, 22 Feb 44. See also Intervs, Mathews with Alexander, 10-15 Jan 49, OCMH.
23. Interv, Mathews with Clark, 20 May 48, OCMH.
24. Ibid. Quote is from Mathews interview. See also Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 296.
25. Interv, Mathews, Lamson, Hamilton, and Smyth with Marshall, 25 Jul 49, OCMH.
26. Interv, Mathews with Lemnitzer, 16 Jan 48, OCMH.
27. Lucas Diary, later addition to entry of 27 Jan 44.
28. Ibid., later addition to entry of 29 Jan 44.
29. Directive, Adm John Cunningham to Adm Lowry, SHINGLE, 29 Dec 43, SHINGLE Corresp File.
30. Interv, Mathews with Lucas, 24 May 48, OCMH.
31. Fifth Army Tactical Study of the Terrain, 17 Nov 43, Fifth Army G-2 Estimate, Appendix 1 to Annex 1 to Outline Plan SHINGLE, 22 Nov 43.
32. Westphal, German Army in the West, p. 158. See also CSDIC/CMF/M296, Detailed Interrogation Rpt of Thirteen German Intel Officers, n.d. (about Aug 45), Intel Activities, AG 383.4.
33. Intervs, Mathews with Alexander, 10-15 Jan 49, OCMH.
34. Eisenhower Diary, 21 Mar 44.
35. Quote is from Lucas Diary, 12 Jun 43.
36. See letter from Walker to author, August 1957, on the similar effect that Truscott's arrival at Salerno had had on the beachhead forces there. OCMH.
37. Hauser in MS # T-1a (Westphal et al.), OCMH.
38. Fifth Army G-2 History, Mar 44.
39. Anzio Beachhead, p. 104.
40. Hauser, Chapter 12, and Westphal, Comments on Chapter 12, in MS #T-1a (Westphal et al.); Steiger MS.
41. Fifth Army G-2 History, Mar 44.