The focus of the American and British war effort in 1943 was on the ancient lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea where in May victory came at last in Tunisia and where in July Allied armies began a five-week campaign to conquer Sicily. The invasion of Italy in September sharpened that focus as Allied troops for the first time since 1940 confronted the German Army in a sustained campaign on the mainland of Europe.
The fighting that followed over the next eight months was replete with controversial actions and decisions. These included apparent American peril during the early hours in the Salerno beachhead; a British advance from the toe of the peninsula that failed to ease the pressure at Salerno; the fight to cross a flooded Rapido River; the bombing of the Benedictine abbey on Monte Cassino; and the stalemated landings at Anzio. The author addresses these subjects objectively and candidly as he sets in perspective the campaign in Italy and its accomplishments.
It was a grueling struggle for Allied and German soldier alike, a war of small units and individuals dictated in large measure by inhospitable terrain and wet and cold that soon immersed the battlefield. The methods commanders and men employed to defeat the terrain and a resourceful enemy are instructive now and will continue to be in the future, for the harsh conditions that were prevalent in Italy know no boundary in time. Nor do the problems and accomplishments of Allied command and co-ordination anywhere stand out in greater relief than in the campaign in Italy.
The role of United States forces in earlier operations in the Mediterranean has been told in previously published volumes of this series: Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West and Sicily and the Surrender of Italy. A volume in preparation, Cassino to the Alps, will carry the operational story through the last year of the fighting. The strategic setting is described in detail in Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944.
15 June 1967
HAL C. PATTISON
Brigadier General, USA
Chief of Military History.
Martin Blumenson, a graduate of Bucknell University, received M.A. degrees in History from Bucknell in 1940 and from Harvard University in 1949. Commissioned in the Army of the United States, he served as a historical officer of the Third and Seventh Armies in the European theater during World War II. After the war he taught history at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point) and at Hofstra College. Recalled to active duty with the U.S. Army in 1950, he commanded a historical detachment in Korea, served with the Office of the Chief of Military History, and was the Historian of Joint Task Force SEVEN. From 1957 to 1967, he was a civilian historian in the Office of the Chief of Military History. He is now engaged in independent research and writing. His published works include Breakout and Pursuit (Washington, 1961) in the series UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II, The Duel for France (Boston, 1963), Anzio: The Gamble That Failed (New York, 1963), Kasserine Pass (Boston, 1967), two essays in Command Decisions (Washington, 1959), and numerous articles in military and historical journals. Several of his works have been published as well in London and Paris editions. A lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, he is Visiting Professor of Military and Strategic Studies at Acadia University, Nova Scotia, for the academic year 1969-70.
Salerno to Cassino tells the story of the first eight months of the Italian campaign, from the Allied invasion of the Italian mainland in September 1943, through the battles of the autumn and winter of 1943-44, to the eve of the Allied spring offensive launched in May 1944. The period was grim, not only for the Allies but also for the Germans, for difficult terrain, bad weather, and chronic shortages of resources hampered both opponents. What the Allies had hoped would be a swift advance from Naples to Rome and beyond became a war of position, static warfare at its worst, which led directly to the risky amphibious operation at Anzio and to the climactic struggle in the shadow of Monte Cassino.
The focus of the account is tactical, specifically on the operations of the Fifth U.S. Army, though a strategic framework has been provided to give meaning to the battlefield. The German point of view has also been presented, and the activities of the Allied ground forces and of the naval and air forces have been sketched in where pertinent to the narrative.
Many persons have helped in preparing this book, and my thanks go to them. Those whose assistance transcended the normal bounds of duty include Mr. Ralph S. Mavrogordato, who gave me the benefit of his research in the German records; Miss Mary Ann Bacon, Chief of the Editorial Branch, and Mrs. Loretto C. Stevens and Mrs. Marion P. Grimes, who edited the book; Mr. Elliot Dunay, who drew the maps; Mrs. Lois Aldridge of the Federal Records Center, who helped provide the documents; Mrs. Constance B. Parham and Miss Barbara J. Harris, who typed the manuscript; and, most of all, Mr. Charles B. MacDonald, Chief of the General History Branch during the research and writing of this project, whose generous assistance at every stage in the development of the project was a major source of inspiration.
For all errors of fact and interpretation, I alone am responsible.
15 June 1967
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