To the Alps
The Fifth Army's immediate goal beyond the Po, 27 miles away, was the fabled city of Verona astride the Adige River on the main road to Trento, the Alps, and the Brenner Pass. The swiftly flowing Adige River was at this point 300 to 500 feet wide, potentially a formidable obstacle. Even so, the possibility of a sturdy German defense here or elsewhere gave Allied commanders little pause, for the enemy's final collapse was obviously imminent.
As the 10th Mountain Division led the IV Corps and the Fifth Army across the Po on 23 April, Truscott assigned his two corps commanders missions that aimed at reaching the Alps and clearing northern Italy of the enemy. General Keyes' II Corps, after crossing the Po at Ostiglia, was to continue as the Fifth Army's right wing along the axis of Highway 12 to occupy the south bank of the Adige between Verona and Legnano, 20 miles to the southeast. General Crittenberger's assignment was more complex. He was to send three divisions of the IV Corps northward along the axis San Benedetto-Mantua-Verona, with Verona and its airfield in the suburb of Villafranca, ten miles to the southwest, as initial objectives. At the same time, the IV Corps commander was to round up the enemy forces in northwestern Italy. That job he was to accomplish by sending tank-infantry task forces to the Po Valley's northern edge, thence northwestward along the base of the Alpine foothills to block exits from the Po Valley leading to the Italian lakes region and the Swiss frontier. General Crittenberger was also to send the Brazilian Expeditionary Force and the 34th Division northwestward astride Highway 9 along the southern reaches of the valley to seal the LI Mountain Corps and its three divisions in the Apennines.1
In that assignment the BEF and the 34th Division were to be assisted by the 92d Division on the Fifth Army's left flank unit, which by 23 April had passed through the last of the Gothic Line defenses along the Ligurian coast and sent columns northwestward and northeastward. One consisting of two infantry regiments raced along the coastal highway toward the port of Genoa 35 miles away, while the other composed of one regiment moved along Highways 62 and 63 on the heels of the 148th Infantry and the Italia Bersaglieri Divisions as they withdrew from the mountains toward Highway 9 and into the trap to be formed by the Brazilians and the 34th Division.
For the main drive to the Adige, General Crittenberger again called on General Hays' mountain division to lead the way. Screened on the left by the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron, the 10th Mountain Division was to bypass Mantua and cut the highway connecting Verona with Lake Garda. On the right
General Coulter's 85th Division was to strike directly for Verona. To provide armored support for the drive, the 1st Armored Division's CCA was to cross the Po at San Benedetto, while the rest of the armored division turned to the northwest to support the thrust toward Milan and other populated centers of the upper Po Valley.
Race for Verona
As before, General Hays decided on a mobile task force to lead the mountain division's advance. By chance he obtained for it a new commander to replace the wounded General Duff. An old friend of General Hays, Col. William O. Darby, who earlier had commanded a Ranger unit in Italy but had since been reassigned to a staff job in Washington, appeared at Hays' command post in mid-April as an escort officer for several War Department dignitaries. Much to Darby's pleasure, General Hays persuaded Generals Truscott and Clark to request Darby's assignment as assistant division commander. When the War Department acquiesced, Task Force Darby came into being.2
The task force consisted of the 86th Mountain Infantry, the 13th Tank Battalion from the 1st Armored Division's CCA, a company each of light tanks and tank destroyers, three battalions of field artillery, and small engineer and medical units. The tank battalion was to spearhead the column, while light tanks and tank destroyers were dispersed along its length to provide protection or to fall out along the way to establish
roadblocks on the flanks. Hays motorized his own command post to bring up the rear of the task force, followed in turn by the 85th and 87th Mountain Infantry Regiments to mop up bypassed enemy troops.3
When the task force could move depended on getting a bridge over the Po to enable tanks, tank destroyers, and artillery to cross. That was not to be available until the afternoon of the 25th. Meanwhile, beginning on the 24th, the 85th Mountain Infantry probed the northern limits of the division's bridgehead without making contact with the enemy. Concluding that the Germans had withdrawn, General Hays, not waiting for Col. Darby's task force, sent the regiment off in pursuit.
The 85th Mountain Infantry's 1st
Battalion started out early on the 25th for the Villafranca airport some 20 miles away. Because there were innumerable mines to clear from roads, culverts, and bridges, it took the head of the column an hour to move the first five miles, but from that point the pace quickened. Around 0900 the column entered Mantua, found Italian partisans already in control, and passing quickly through continued heading for the airport. With no more mines to clear, the column covered the 15 miles in less than an hour. Quickly dispersing a small German rear guard detachment, the battalion set up a defensive perimeter to await the tanks and artillery of Task Force Darby.
On the mountain infantry's right, General Coulter's 85th Division, after crossing the Po early on the 24th, also set out in the direction of Verona at about the same time. Proceeding warily, two forward regiments reached the vicinity of the Villafranca airport around dusk, there to bivouac for the night. At dawn the division continued to move cautiously in a column of regiments for Verona, seven miles away. This, however, proved unnecessary because the troops soon discovered that other Americans, men of the 88th Division, were already in control of the city.
Unlike the 85th Division's cautious approach in its belated assault on Verona, the 88th had won the race by a headlong pursuit. Its commander, General Sloan, had instructed his troops not to wait for heavy equipment to cross the Po but to strike out boldly for the city. Early on the 25th the 351st Infantry, its 2d Battalion leading the way along Highway 12, left the Po bridgehead at Ostiglia. Using any transportation they could lay hands on--captured trucks, jeeps, even bicycles--the men raced pell mell, undeterred either by rear guards or mines, for Verona, about 30 miles away. Late that afternoon five light tanks and seven tank destroyers, the first to cross on a newly completed ponton bridge, caught up with the forward troops to form a small tank-infantry assault force to lead the way into Verona. Although resistance was spotty, some squads and platoons occasionally had to engage in sharp fire fights until enemy delaying detachments could salve their consciences with a show of resistance before surrendering.
The worst setback ironically came not from the enemy but from Allied aircraft. As the column paused on the outskirts of Verona, two Allied planes attacked, apparently in the belief that a small force so distant from other Allied units had to be German. Despite identification panels prominently displayed and frantic efforts by a radio operator to reach air-ground control, the aircraft strafed the column repeatedly with cannon and machine guns. Before the aircraft finally flew away, five men of a radio crew were killed and several jeeps destroyed.4
The 2d Battalion's task force entered Verona at 2210, 16 hours after leaving the Po bridgehead. Within the hour the remainder of the regiment arrived to help clear the city. Only from contingents of the 4th Parachute Division holed up in Verona's ruined railroad station was there any real defense attempted,
91ST RECONNAISSANCE SQUADRON MOVES THROUGH VERONA RAILROAD STATION
and by daylight on 26 April that was at an end.
Clearing the Po Valley
As troops of the 88th Division cleared Verona, Colonel Darby's task force came forward after crossing the Po, passed west of the city, and turned toward Lake Garda to begin an advance along its eastern shore toward Trento and the Brenner Pass. At the same time, General Crittenberger detached the 1st Armored Division's CCA from the task force and sent the combat command northwestward in the direction of Brescia, Bergamo, and Como to close along the way the remaining escape routes from the Lombardy Plain to the Swiss frontier. At the same time the 85th Division passed through Verona to clear hills beyond the Adige before continuing toward the Alpine foothills. To the east the 88th and 91st Divisions of the II Corps, with the 6th South African Armoured Division screening on the right, closed up to the Adige between Verona and Legnano and that afternoon the two infantry divisions crossed without opposition. Beyond the river a brigade of the
South African armoured division screened their flank while the rest of the armor remained south of the river until the bridgehead could be expanded.
Elsewhere the 34th Division, the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, and the 1st Armored Division's CCB, all under IV Corps control, rounded up those Germans still south of the Po in northwestern Italy. The 34th Division, with the Brazilians on the left, continued along the axis of Highway 9. Two of the 92d Division's regiments, the 371st and the 365th, attached to corps and army respectively, had other tasks: the first to advance northward on Modena along the axis of Highway 12, the second to guard the swelling numbers of prisoners streaming into stockades in the rear.
On the Ligurian flank the attached 473d Infantry led the 92d Division's continued thrust along the coastal highway toward Genoa. Encountering only scattered opposition along the way, the regiment entered the city early on the 27th. There was no resistance, for Genoa's 4,000-man garrison had surrendered to partisans the day before. Only a small detachment of German marines, dug in on a hill top overlooking the harbor, held out until the Americans arrived, when the marines too laid down their arms. By 0930 on 27 April the ancient port city was in American hands.
Like the advance of most of the Fifth Army's units to the Adige, that of the Eighth Army resembled less a combat operation than a tactical march. Aside from the fact that the Eighth Army was moving into the gap between the I Parachute Corps and the LXXVI Panzer Corps,
CROSSING THE ADIGE
the surrender of the panzer corps commander, General von Schwerin, and his order to his troops to abandon their equipment and swim for their lives further insured that there would be no real fight north of the Po.
Having crossed the Po without opposition during the night of 24 April, two divisions of the 13 Corps on the Eighth Army's left pushed somewhat cautiously toward the Adige, 10 miles away. The 2d New Zealand Division made it in late afternoon of the 26th, followed shortly by the 6th South African Armoured Division. Some 250 Italian volunteers dropped by parachute in small groups throughout the Eighth Army's zone in an effort to add to German confusion.
Having crossed the Po without opposition the night of the 24th, the 8th Indian Division of the 5 Corps also
headed toward the Adige, assisted by the 56th Division, after brushing aside a brief flurry of resistance in crossing just before noon on the 25th. By early evening of the 26th both divisions were on the Adige: the night before, the Italian Cremona Combat Group had crossed the Po on the Eighth Army's right and with the aid of partisans had cleared the countryside near the coast.
When, on the 27th, units of both the 5 and 13 Corps crossed the Adige with no difficulty, the last major river barrier in both army zones in northern Italy lay behind. All that now remained, Allied commanders believed, was to receive the surrender of a defeated enemy, but that was not how it was to be. The fighting yet to be done would in no way affect the outcome of the long campaign, but it continued nonetheless to exact a bitter toll of dead and wounded men. The fighting was all the more frustrating and the casualties all the more tragic because they came at a time when the end was clearly in sight.
Army Group C's Situation
East of Lake Garda the enemy had only two routes of escape: one, opposite the Eighth Army, led northeastward toward southeastern Germany and Yugoslavia; the other, opposite the Fifth Army, led northward along the shore of Lake Garda and the axis of Highway 12 toward the Brenner and Reschen passes into Austria. What was left of General Herr's Tenth Army, following the surrender of von Schwerin's LXXVI Panzer Corps, would in the next few days attempt to retreat along the first route, which was the objective of Marshal Tito's partisans; and von Senger's XIV Panzer Corps--all that was left of Lemelsen's Fourteenth Army east of Lake Garda--would withdraw along the second toward the rugged terrain of the Austrian Arlberg, which was the objective of the U.S. Seventh and the French First Armies driving through southern Germany. The German situation thus was utterly desperate.
Yet for the German commander, General von Vietinghoff, and his army group headquarters, a choice--however dismal--still remained: he could fall back through the zone of the Tenth Army or of the Fourteenth. Vietinghoff chose the latter and the zone of the XIV Panzer Corps, for only there existed the slightest chance of maintaining for a few days longer at least some semblance of resistance. Moreover, the French and Americans coming in the back door of that route were somewhat more predictable adversaries than the Yugoslav partisans and their Red Army allies. Through the last week of April the Army Group C command post would relocate successively along the axis of Highway 12.5
On 24 April General von Senger and his panzer corps staff had set out in search of the peripatetic army headquarters for new orders. Coming upon General Lemelsen at Ala, some 23 miles north of Verona, Senger learned that the Fourteenth Army commander wanted the XIV Panzer Corps to defend the sector between Lake Garda and Highway 12. The next day von Senger established his own headquarters at Ala after Lemelsen moved on to the north.
During the next two days small
groups of officers and enlisted men straggled into von Senger's headquarters, among them elements of a signal battalion with critically needed communications equipment and wire. By the evening of 26 April, XIV Panzer Corps headquarters was again operational, but all that it controlled were three Kampfgruppen, made up of the consolidated remnants of four divisions, all together not more than 2,000 men. This small force was to hold a 20-mile sector extending from the Pasubio pass, southeast of Ala on Highway 46, westward to Lake Garda. Since the pre-World War I Austro-Italian frontier had run approximately along that line, some of the old border fortifications could be used. Assigning Group Klotz to the right, Group Steinmetz to the center, and Group Schricker to the left, General von Senger prepared to fight his last battle. As General von Vietinghoff outlined it, the objective was to gain time so that the capitulation of Army Group C would coincide as closely as possible with that of Army Group G north of the Alps and Army Group E withdrawing through Croatia to the Julian Alps.6
The plan was Vietinghoff's, the strategy Kesselring's. Since 27 April the former commander of German forces in Italy had been commander-in-chief of all German forces in southwestern Europe, including Army Groups C, G, and E. Kesselring meant for all three army groups to fall back on the Alpine massif, there to hold out long enough to allow those forces retreating before the Russians to reach the American and British armies and surrender not to the dreaded Russians but to the Western Allies.7
Victory on the Flanks
As German forces retreated toward the Alps, Allied headquarters issued a call for a general uprising throughout northern Italy. In most towns and cities of Lombardy neo-Fascist authority had all but ceased to exist, in any case. Town after town fell under partisan control, often days before the arrival of the Allied forces. In many places the Allied advance involved much less fighting than it did a series of enthusiastic civic receptions.
The 88th Division on 28 April entered Vicenza, northeast of Verona, to find that city already held by partisans. Passing quickly through crowded streets, the division continued its march toward the valleys of the Brenta and Piave Rivers, flowing southward from the Alps to enter the Adriatic near Venice. On the 30th, Truscott shifted the 85th Division from the IV to the II Corps where it deployed alongside the 88th, which was to advance up the Brenta while the 85th moved up the Piave to an eventual junction on 4 May with the U.S. Seventh Army. The two divisions thus would end the campaign in Italy as they had begun it twelve months before, moving forward side by side.
To the right of those two divisions in the corps center the 91st Division advanced
AMERICAN INFANTRY ENTER VICENZA
astride Highway 53 to cross the Brenta on the 29th and the next day to race 25 miles eastward to Treviso, just north of Venice. The 6th South African Armoured Division stayed roughly abreast on the corps right flank. As April came to an end, both divisions had reached the limits of their assigned zones. While the 91st Division rounded up scattered enemy units, the South Africans assembled southwest of Treviso in preparation for a move far to the west to garrison the city of Milan.
In the southern reaches of the Po Valley, units of the IV Corps continued their assignment of rounding up a beaten enemy. In capturing in succession the cities of Parma, Fidenza, and Piacenza, the 34th Division cut off the line of withdrawal to the northeast of a major part of Marshal Graziani's Ligurian Army. Only the 232d Grenadier Division managed to slip past. Assembling in a bend of the Po south of Cremona, the grenadiers defended their bridgehead long enough to allow some troops to cross the river, but most opted for surrender.8
Marshal Graziani himself took refuge in an SS-held strongpoint near Cernobbio on Lake Como, some 27 miles north of Milan, while his headquarters personnel, left under Graziani's German deputy, Generalmajor Max Pemsel, fought through converging partisan units to reach Lecco on Lake Como's southeastern arm. Surrounded there by partisans but unwilling to surrender to irregulars, Pemsel held out until 28 April, when the U.S. 1st Armored Division's CCA arrived.9
The next day tanks of the American armored division entered Milan, already in the trigger-happy hands of excited partisans. Anxious to be clear of the turbulent city, General Prichard quickly hustled his troops through to assume positions to the north and east and block all routes to the Alpine frontier. On the same day, General Truscott shifted the 34th Division and the Italian Combat Group Legnano northward to Brescia, midway between Milan and Verona, to strengthen control of the northern exits from the Po Valley. Meanwhile, to the west, the 442d Infantry, operating under the command of the 92d Division, raced some 40 miles across the Lombard plain to capture Alessandria and a 3,000-man garrison. Two days later the Japanese-Americans took Turin, 50 miles farther west. The
473d Infantry went forward along the coastal highway twenty miles beyond Genoa and made contact with elements of the French 1st March Infantry Division, Army Detachment of the Alps, at Savona, over 60 miles east of the Franco-Italian frontier crossing at Monaco. That penetration by French troops was matched 65 miles to the northwest when on 1 May troops of the French 27th Alpine Division made contact with the 442d Infantry at Turin. At that point the commander of the 6th Army Group, General Devers, under whose command the French divisions operated, ordered the French to cease all offensive operations in northwestern Italy. General Devers may possibly have been unaware of the extent of French territorial claims in the region dating back to the military campaigns of the 18th century.
The Last Engagements
With the Po Valley's northern exits closed, enemy forces west of Lake Garda had no alternative but surrender, which they began to do on a large scale on 29 April. That was pretty much the case in northeastern Italy as well but not on a narrow sector east of Lake Garda where the 10th Mountain Division's Task Force Darby moved along the lake's eastern shore toward final defensive positions of the Fourteenth Army's XIV Panzer Corps.
Because there had been little fighting in the Fifth Army zone since 18 April, men of the 10th Mountain Division started out on the 28th with little doubt that the enemy would merely continue his withdrawal. That was figuring without knowledge of the three Kampfgruppen
PARTISANS BEFORE THE CATHEDRAL OF MILAN
still left in the XIV Panzer Corps and the line they had established running from Highway 46 in the east across Highway 12 to a western anchor at the town of Riva at the northern end of the lake.
General Hays did anticipate that as a delaying tactic the enemy might attempt to block the eastern shore road where it passed through several tunnels. With that threat in mind, he arranged for several companies of DUKW's to cruise on the lake slightly to the rear of his infantry, ready to transport infantry in attempts to outflank and bypass enemy roadblocks. It was a wise precaution, for on the first afternoon the 86th Mountain Infantry, the lead element in Task Force Darby's column, ran head-on into heavy automatic weapons fire at the
ENGINEERS REPAIRING APPROACH TO TUNNEL, LAKE GARDA
first of a series of tunnels located about five miles south of Torbole.10 (Map 11)
In spite of the enemy fire, the lead battalion of the column with fire support from accompanying tanks cautiously worked toward the tunnel. As the Americans approached, the Germans set off demolitions, collapsing the entrance to the tunnel and effectively blocking the road. To continue the assault along the road was out of the question. Early that afternoon a rifle company clambered into the DUKW's and moved out onto a lake whipped by strong winds. From the far shore enemy guns opened fire, killing two men aboard the craft and wounding several others. Although the enemy gunners persisted, the DUKW's scurried along the shore to outflank the demolished tunnel with no further losses.
As General Hays expected, the outflanking maneuver forced enemy withdrawal, but as the Germans fell back, they demolished bridges and blocked other tunnels. By midafternoon the 2d
The Last Battle
10th Mountain Division Takes Lake Garda
27 April-1 May 1945
Battalion had bypassed four tunnels and was about to attack a fifth when a demolition charge exploded prematurely, killing about fifteen of the enemy detachment defending the tunnel. Taking advantage of the resulting confusion, the American infantrymen rushed forward to capture the position. As one tunnel after another was outflanked and captured, engineers cleared them of debris to open the road to vehicular traffic.
As the 86th Mountain Infantry advanced along the east shore, General Hays sent the 85th Mountain Infantry across the lake in DUKW's to occupy the town of Gargnano, reputed hiding place of ranking Italian officials. Finding neither Italian officials nor German soldiers, the regiment continued along the western side of the lake toward Riva and eventual junction with Task Force Darby. Hays meanwhile sent his third regiment, the 87th Mountain Infantry, over a narrow mountain road five miles east of the lake to outflank the enemy's main positions from the east.
Early on the 29th, as the 86th Mountain Infantry, continuing as Task Force Darby's lead element, approached the last of the tunnels and the anchor of the German defenses at the northern end of the lake, resistance stiffened. Just as the mountain infantry started to pass through the tunnel, German guns began firing from the vicinity of Riva. One round exploded just inside the northern end of the tunnel, killing four Americans and wounding fifty. The regiment quickly took to the DUKW's to bypass the tunnel, and soon after midday patrols entered the town of Torbole. Along with Riva at the northern end of the lake, that and the adjacent town of Nago constituted the main strongpoints of the enemy's last defensive position.
Signs of German determination became increasingly evident when German tanks and self-propelled artillery, located northeast of Torbole, forced the 86th Mountain Infantry to pull its forward battalions out of that town. Darby's men then had no choice but to wait for supporting artillery before attempting to retake it. When the artillery arrived two hours later to silence the enemy guns, the 3d Battalion pushed back into the town and by midnight reported it cleared of Germans.
Still the Germans refused to cede the town. Shortly after midnight they counterattacked with the support of tanks. Seeing no need to take heavy losses with the end of the war obviously at hand, General Hays ordered his troops again to withdraw. Only after the regimental and battalion commanders assured him the men could hold without appreciable risk did he rescind the order.
Having bypassed Torbole on the right, the 1st Battalion after 14 hours of painstaking slipping and sliding over rain-swept shale slopes, scaling cliffs, and threading through narrow ravines, had come to within a mile of Nago, close enough to launch an assault against it. Because the assault would have to be made through a narrow ravine whose northern exit lay under German guns, the battalion commander delayed until darkness.
At dusk, passing in single file through the ravine, men of Company B had moved to within 200 yards of Nago without attracting enemy fire when an attack came suddenly from an unexpected
direction: the air. A single aircraft--its nationality was never determined--dropped eight antipersonnel bombs, killing nine men and wounding several others. Shocked by the incident, the company commander withdrew his men into the hills to spend the rest of the night on a cold, wet, windswept ridge overlooking the objective.
As it turned out, no fight had to be made for Nago. Ammunition virtually exhausted, the German garrison during the night of 29 April withdrew. The next morning when Company B returned cautiously to the narrow ravine, patrols pushing ahead reported the town abandoned. That afternoon the 86th Mountain Infantry's reserve battalion occupied Riva without a fight. The Germans had abandoned the entire line.
Other than to send patrols to determine the extent of the enemy withdrawal, Colonel Darby chose to hold his troops in place for the rest of the day. During the afternoon he and Lt. Col. Robert L. Cook, who had recently assumed command of the 86th Mountain Infantry, strolled to a broad promenade along Lake Garda to discuss plans for taking up the pursuit the next day. While they talked, a single artillery shell, presumably the enemy's parting shot from somewhere north of Riva, burst in the air above them. Cook and another officer standing nearby were wounded, an enlisted man was killed, and Colonel Darby fell mortally wounded. Carried into his command post, he died forty-five minutes later.
The stubborn and futile last-ditch defense of Torbole and Nago and the round that killed Darby and one of his men were the enemy's last defiant gestures. By last light on 30 April all survivors were fleeing toward Trento, Bolzano, and the Alpine frontier.
The Eighth Army Crosses the Adige
Task Force Darby's experience was in marked contrast to that on the Eighth Army front, where, as already noted, the 5 and 13 Corps had crossed the Adige. Because of long lines of communication and shortage of transport, the Eighth Army could maintain no more than two divisions beyond the river, but that turned out to be enough. As the 56th Division of the 5 Corps and the 2d New Zealand Division of the 13 Corps crossed the river, resistance was almost nonexistent. As one division set out for Venice, some thirty-five miles to the northeast, and the other for Mestre, Venice's mainland neighbor, and thereafter for the port of Trieste at the head of the Adriatic, they only encountered small groups of enemy soldiers who appeared only too willing to surrender. On the 29th the 56th Division entered Venice and the 2d New Zealand Division captured Padua.11
General Clark had originally decided that the Eighth Army alone would occupy all of northeastern Italy, but the army's logistical difficulties and the need for a large force in case of friction with the Yugoslavs in the disputed territory of Trieste and Venezia Giulia prompted him to change his mind. To make room for an additional division within the Eighth Army's zone, he
shifted the interarmy boundary westward and on 1 May altered his long-standing practice of not placing American units under British command. Attaching the U.S. 91st Division to the Eighth Army, while leaving responsibility for the division's support with the Fifth Army, he strengthened the sector while imposing no additional logistical burden upon the Eighth Army.
That same day the 2d New Zealand Division sped along the coastal road leading to Trieste to make contact in the afternoon with Yugoslav partisans 17 miles northwest of the city. Pausing for the night, the New Zealanders entered Trieste in the afternoon of 2 May to accept the surrender of a German garrison that had refused earlier demands for capitulation by the Yugoslav partisans. Meanwhile, with the port of Venice available, General McCreery felt free to commit additional forces. He sent the British 6th Armoured Division in two columns into the foothills of the Dolomites, one toward Udine and the other toward Belluno.
Since the beginning of the spring offensive, the two Allied armies in Italy had taken 145,000 prisoners from the Tenth and Fourteenth Armies. Their scattered survivors were either surrendering en masse or withdrawing in small groups toward the only exits still open to the German forces in Italy, the Brenner and Reschen passes. Graziani's Italo-German Ligurian Army had surrendered to Crittenberger's IV Corps, and the Italian marshal, Mussolini's last defense minister, was himself in Fifth Army custody.
Only in the western Alps, in the Aosta and Susa valleys, and along the Gulf of Genoa, where French forces by their thrust into Italian territory gave signs of having designs on it, and at Trieste in the Venezia Giulia region of northeastern Italy, where Yugoslav partisans seemed bent on a similar enterprise, were there clouds on an otherwise bright horizon on 1 May. On a personal note, the day was also General Clark's forty-ninth birthday.12
Next day company-size patrols from the 86th Mountain Infantry moved five miles along the Riva-Trento road through a landscape bright with blossoming orchards and greening vineyards to occupy the town of Arco in midmorning, then continued northward to occupy by noon a succession of villages a few miles closer to Trento. No enemy were to be seen. Meanwhile, patrols from the 85th Mountain Infantry fanned out in search of enemy stragglers in hills overlooking Riva from the west. Only a few were found, each pathetically eager to surrender to regular military formations rather than to Italian partisans.
Late that afternoon radios of the 10th Mountain Division picked up a signal from the BBC announcing unconditional surrender of the German armies in Italy. That gave substance to rumors of an enemy capitulation that for over a week had been in the air.
1. Fifth Army History, Part IX, pp. 108-22; II Corps AAR, Apr-May 1945. Unless otherwise indicated the following is based upon these references.
2. Truscott, Command Missions, p. 493; Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 435.
3. 10th Mountain Division AAR, Apr-May 1945.
4. John P. Delaney, The Blue Devils in Italy, A History of the 88th Infantry Division in World War II (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1947), pp. 211-12.
5. MS # C-95e (Senger), CMH; MS # T-1b (Westphal et al.).
6. MS # T-1b (Westphal et al.).
7. Kesselring, A Soldier's Record, p. 87. Although Kesselring's strategy had nothing to do with a so-called National Redoubt, it tends to lend credence to that myth among Allied commanders. For a discussion of the National Redoubt and final operations in Germany and Austria see MacDonald, The Last Offensive.
8. MS # T-1b (Westphal et al.).
9. AFHQ Cable, Nicholson to Bern for 110, 30 Apr 45, in AFHQ SAC Negotiations, Vol. II, 0100/4.
10. 86th Mtn. Inf. AAR, Apr-May 45. Unless otherwise cited the following is based upon this document.
11. Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italy, Part IV, Sec. B. Unless otherwise cited the following is based upon this reference.
12. Clark Diary, 1 May 45.