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Full text of "Cassino to the Alps"

UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 

The Mediterranean Theater of 
Operations 

CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



by 
Ernest F. Fisher, Jr. 




CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY 
UNITED STATES ARMY 

^OStOI. J:'^-!-^ ^■^'^'^ 

WASHINGTON, D.C., 1977 e^p.,intendent of Docum2nD 



This volume, one of the series UNITED STATES ARMY IX WORLD WAR 
II, is the fourth to be published in the subseries THE MEDITERRANEAN 
THEATER OF OPERATIONS. The volumes in the over-all series are closely 
related and present a comprehensive account of the activities of the Militan 
Establishment during World War II. A list is appended at the end of this 
volume. 



Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 

Fisher, Ernest F 1918- 
Cassino to the Alps. 

(United States Army in World War II: The Mediterra- 
nean theater of operations; 4) 

Bibliography: p. 

Includes index. 

1. World War, I939-I945— Campaigns— Italv. 2. It- 
aly — History — Cierman occupation, 1943-1945. I. Ti- 
tle. II. Series: United States. Dept. of the Armv. 
Office of Military History. United States Army in 
World War II. D769.A533 vol. 11. pt. 4 [D763.I8] 
94().54T2'73()8s 

[94().54'21] 7tV43097 



First Printing 



For .sale by the Snperiutendent of Documents, U.S. Goveriunent Priutins Office 

Washington, D.C. 20402 - Price $17 

Stock Number 008-029-0009r)-4 



UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
Maurice Matloff, General Editor 

Advisory Committee 

(As of 1 March 1976) 



Otis A. Singletary 
University of Kentucky 

Edward M. Coffman 
University of Wisconsin 

Harry L. Coles 
Ohio State University 

Frank Freidel, Jr. 
Harvard University 



Peter Paret 
Stanford University 



Russell F. Weigley 
Temple University 

Maj. Gen. Robert C. Hixon 

United States Army Training and 

Doctrine Command 

Brig. Gen. Edward B. Atkeson 
United States Army War College 

Brig. Gen. William C. Louisell, Jr. 

United States Army Command and 

General Staff College 

Col. Thomas E. Griess 
United States Military Academy 



Center of Military History 
Brig. Gen. James L. Collins, Jr., Chief of Military History 
Chief Historian Maurice Matloff 

Chief, Historical Services Division Col. Walter L. McMahon 

Chief, Histories Division <^'>'- J^mt^s F. Ransone, Jr. 

Editor in Chief J<'s<^ph ^ Friedman 



111 



History of 
THE MEDITERRANEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS 



Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West 
Sicily and the Surrender of Italy 
Salerno to Cassino 
Cassino to the Alps 



IV 



. . . to Those Who Served 



Foreword 



From September 1943, when Allied troops came ashore near Salerno, 
until German surrender in May 1945, 312,000 Allied soldiers were killed, 
wounded, or missing in Italy. Was a campaign that from the first faced the 
bleak prospect of coming to a dead end against the forbidding escarpment 
of the Alps worth that cost? Was the objective of tying down German 
troops to avoid their commitment in northwestern Europe all that the 
campaign might have accomplished? 

The answers to those questions have long been sought but, as is the 
nature of history, must forever remain conjecture. What is established fact, 
as this volume makes clear, is the tenacity and intrepidity displayed by 
American and Allied soldiers in the face of a determined and resourceful 
enemy, harsh weather, sharply convoluted terrain, limited numbers, and 
indefinite goals in what many of them must have looked upon as a 
backwater of the war. 

This volume relates the story of the last year of their struggle. Three 
volumes previously published tell of the campaign in northwest Africa, the 
conquest of Sicily and covert politico-military negotiations leading to 
surrender of the Italian armed forces, and the campaign from the Allied 
landings on the mainland through the bitter disappointment of the 
amphibious assault at Anzio. This volume is thus the capstone of a four- 
volume series dealing with American military operations in the western 
Mediterranean. 

Washington, D.C. JAMES L. COLLINS, JR. 

1 April 1976 Brigadier General, USA 

Chief of Military History 



Vll 



The Author 



Ernest F. Fisher, Jr., graduated from Boston University in 1941 and in 
World War II served in Europe with the 501st Parachute Infantry, 101st 
Airborne Division. He returned to Boston University and received an M.A. 
degree in 1947 and in 1952 a Ph.D. degree in History from the University 
of Wisconsin. From 1954 to 1959 Dr. Fisher was a historian with 
Headquarters, U.S. Army, Europe. Since 1960 he has been a member of 
the staff of the Center of Military History. He is a colonel in the U.S. 
Armv Reserve and has taught history at the Northern Regional Center of 
the University of Virginia at Falls Church, Virginia. 



viu 



Preface 



"Wars should be fought," an American corps commander noted in his 
diary during the campaign in Italy, "in better country than this."' It was 
indeed an incredibly difficult place to fight a war. The Italian peninsula is 
only some 150 miles wide, much of it dominated by some of the world's 
most precipitous mountains. Nor was the weather much help. It seemed to 
those involved that it was always either unendurably hot or bone-chilling 
cold. 

Yet American troops fought with remarkable courage and tenacity, and 
in company with a veritable melange of Allied troops: Belgians, Brazilians, 
British, Canadians, Cypriots, French (including superb mountain troops 
ft'om Algeria and Morocco), Palestinian Jews, Indians, Italians, Nepalese, 
New Zealanders, Poles, South Africans, Syro-Lebanese, and Yugoslavians. 
The combatants also included the United States Army's only specialized 
mountain division, one of its last two segi egated all-Negro divisions, and a 
regimental combat team composed of Americans of Japanese descent. 

Despite the forbidding terrain, Allied commanders several times turned 
it to their advantage, achieving penetrations or breakthroughs over some 
of the most rugged mountains in the peninsula. To bypass mountainous 
terrain, the Allies at times resorted to amphibious landings, notably at 
Anzio. Thereafter German commanders, forced to reckon with the 
possibility of other such operations, had to hold back forces to protect their 
long coastal flanks. 

The campaign involved one ponderous attack after another against 
fortified positions: the Winter Line, the Gustav Line, the Gothic Line. It 
called for ingenuity in employing tanks and tank destroyers over terrain 
that to the armored soldier seemed to be one vast antitank ditch. It took 
another kind of ingenuity in devising methods to get at the enemy in 
flooded lowlands along the Adriatic coast. 

It was also a campaign replete with controversy, as might have been 
expected in a theater where the presence of various nationalities and two 
fairly equal partners imposed considerable strain on the process of 
coalition command. Most troublesome of the questions that caused 
controversy were: Did the American commander, Mark Clark, err in 
focusing on the capture of Rome rather than conforming with the wishes 
of his British superior to try to trap retreating German forces? Did Allied 



' Martin Blumenson, Salerno to Casstno, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
(Washington, 1969), p. 234, quoting Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas. 

ix 



commanders conduct the pursuit north of Rome with sufficient vigor? 
hideed, should the campaign have been pursued all the way to the Alps 
when the Allies might have halted at some readily defensible line and 
awaited the outcome of the decisive campaign in northwestern Europe? 

Just as the campaign began on a note of covert politico-military 
maneuvering to achieve surrender of Italian forces, so it ended with 
intrigue and secret negotiations for a separate surrender of the Germans 
in Italv. 

This volume is chronologically the final work in the Mediterranean 
theater subseries of the UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
series. It follows Salerno to Cassino, previously published. 

The present work was originall projected as two volumes in the series. 
The first, entitled The Drive on Rome, was to cover the period from the 
fall of Cassino and the Anzio breakout to the Arno River north of Rome, a 
campaign that lasted from early May to late July 1944. The second, 
entitled The Arno to the Alps, was to carry the story through to the end 
of the war. 

Dr. Sidney T. Mathews, first to be designated to write The Drive on 
Rome, left the Center of Military History after preparing several chapters 
that proved valuable guides to research. Ultimately, the present author 
received the assignment and worked for many months on that volume 
under the original concept. Thereafter, the decision was made to combine 
what was to have been two separate narratives into a single volume. 

An entirely new approach thus had to be devised, one that involved 
considerable further research. The result is the present publication, which 
covers one of the lengthiest and most agonizing periods of combat in. 
World War II. 

As with other volumes in this series, many able individuals have helped 
bring this work to completion. Foremost among these has been the former 
head of the European and Mediterranean Sections of the Center of 
Military History, Charles B. MacDonald. His superlative skill in developing 
a lucid narrative of military operations and his patience with my efforts to 
acquire a modicum of that skill have been pillars of strength during the 
preparation of this volume. To Mr. Robert Ross Smith, Chief of the 
General Histories Branch, goes a generous share of the credit for refining 
and clarifying many aspects of the combat narrative. A very special thanks 
is also due Dr. Stetson Conn, former Chief Historian, who designated me 
for this task and encouraged me along the way. The arduous assignment 
of typing and retyping many versions of the manuscript with skill and 
patience fell largely to Mrs. Edna Salsbury. The final version was typed bv 
Mrs. Robert L. Dean. 

The excellent maps accompanying the volume are the work of se\eral 
able cartographers and draftsmen: Mr. Arthur S. Hardyman and Mr. 
Wayne Hefner performed the difficult and tedious task of devising the 
layouts, and Mr. Grant Pierson, Mr. Howell Brewer, and Mr. Roger 
Clinton demonstrated professional skill in the drafting. Mrs. Lois Aldridge, 



formerly of the World War II Records Division of the National Archives 
and Records Service, helped me find my way through the wealth of source 
material. Ecjually valuable was the assistance rendered by Mr. Detmar 
Finke and Miss Hannah Zeidlik of the General Reference Branch of the 
Center of Military History. The author is also grateful for the comments of 
the distinguished panel that read and reviewed the manuscript. The panel 
included General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, former Deputy Chief of Staff to 
the Allied commander in Italy; Dr. Robert Coakley, Deputy Chief 
Historian; Col. John E. Jessup, jr., Chief, Histories Divisicm; and Martin 
Blumenson and Dr. Jeffrey Clarke, fellow historians. To General Mark 
Wayne Clark I owe a special debt of gratitude for generously allowing me 
to use his diarv in the preparation of this volume and for making helpful 
comments on the finished manuscript. The final editing and preparation 
of the volume for publication was the work of Mr. David Jaffe, assisted by 
Mr. Duncan Miller. Finally, a very special note of thanks to my wife. Else, 
who throughout has been a close, steadfast, and patient source of 
encouragement. 

The author's debt to all those without whose guidance and support this 
\olume would never have come to completion does not diminish in the 
least his sole responsibility for all errors of fact and interpretation. 

Washington, D.C. ERNEST ¥. FISHER, JR. 

1 April 1976 



XI 



Contents 



PART ONE 

The Spring Offensive 

Chapter Page 

I. SPRING IN ITALY— 1944 3 

Allied Strategy 

German Strategy " 

AUied Command and Organization 8 

The Germans ' 

II. PREPARING FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 16 

The German Defenses ^^ 

Alexander's Concept *^ 

A Cover Plan 21 

Disposition of the Allied Armies 22 

Planning the Offensive ^^ 

Planning far Operations in the Lin Valley 27 

Developing the Fifth Army Plan 29 

German Preparations -^^ 

III. DIADEM'S FIRST DAY— 1 1 MAY 42 

Behind the German Front 42 

Mcmte Cassino and the Rapido 43 

Santa Mana Infante and the S-Ridge 45 

The Capture of Monte Map 56 

IV. COLLAPSE OF THE GUSTAV LINE 63 

German Countermeasures "4 

The II Carps' Attack Renewed 65 

The Gennans Fall Back on the Right 69 

The Fall of Santa Maria Infante 71 

Attack on Castellonorato '4 

The Germans Prepare To Withdraw 75 

Keyes Reinforces His Left 76 

Progress in the Liri Valley 77 

The German Reaction 79 



xiu 



Chapter 



BREAKTHROUGH ON THE SOUTHERN FRONT . . 81 

The Eighth Army s Advance to the Hitler Line 81 

The Fifth Army's Advance to the Hitler Line 83 

Breakthrough of the Hitler Line 90 

Junction With the Beachhead 93 

Tlie Tenth Army Withdraws 97 



PART TWO 

Breakout From the Beachhead 

VI. THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 103 

Italian Lands vs. German Blood 103 

German Plans 107 

The Terrain 108 

The Opposing Forces 1 1 

Allied Preparations Ill 

Final Moves 117 

VII. THE FIRST DAY 120 

A General Hazard 120 

Harmon's Plan 121 

The Attack Begins 122 

The Attack on Cisterna 128 

Action on the Corps' Flanks 137 

VIII. BREAKOUT FROM THE BEACHHEAD 142 

Action on the Flanks 149 

The German Reaction 150 

The Third Day 152 

The Enemy Situation 153 

The Attack on Cori 154 

The Capture of Cisterna 1 54 

German Countermoves 156 

PART THREE 
Drive to Rome 

IX. STALEMATE ALONG THE CAESAR LINE 163 

Clark's Decision 163 

Buffalo Buried — Almost 167 

xiv 



Chapter Page 

"The most direct route to Rome" 1 73 

Truscott Commits His Armor 175 

The German Situation 177 

Infantry Against Lanuvio 177 

The 1st Armored Division's Attack Reinforced 1 80 

X. BREAKING THE STALEMATE 184 

Stratagem on Monte Artemisio 185 

The German Reaction 189 

Exploiting the Penetration 190 

Preliminary Moves 192 

Keyes' Plan 193 

The II Corps Begins To Move 194 

The VI Corps Begins To Move 199 

XI. THE FALL OF ROME 203 

The RcLce for Rome 206 

Entry Into Rome 211 



PART FOUR 

Rome to the Arno 

XII. INTERLUDE IN ROME 227 

The View From the Capitoline Hill 227 

Planning the Pursuit 228 

The German Situation 231 

Rome in Allied Hands 233 

XIII. PURSUIT NORTH OF ROME 236 

Eighth Army Joins the Pursuit 240 

Kesselring Outlines His Strategy 241 

To the Trasimeno Line 243 

The French Advance to the Orcia 248 

The British Sector 249 

Kesselring Reinforces His Right Wing 250 

The Eighth Army Closes With the Frieda Line 252 

XIV. THE PURSUIT ENDS 255 

Strategic Priorities: France or Italy 255 

Breaking the Frieda Line 259 

The Capture of Volterra and Siena 265 

The Eighth Army 267 

Strategic Decisions 269 

XV 



Chapter Page 

XV. END OF THE CAMPAIGN IN CENTRAL ITALY ... 271 

Mission ^'* 

The Terrain and the Plan 271 

Advance Toward Leghorn 274 

The Capture of Leghorn 276 

The Capture of Ancona and Arezzo 278 

Pause at the Arno 280 

XVI. ALONG THE ARNO 285 

The Eighth Army 288 

The German Situation 291 

Evacuation of Florence 292 

The Ligurian Flank 29:J 

The Cost 294 



PART FIVE 
The Gothic Line Offensive 

XVII. PLANNING FOR THE OFFENSIVE 297 

The Terrain 297 

The Gothic Line 299 

German Dispositions 302 

Changes in Allied Strategy 303 

Preliminary Moves 305 

Conference With Clark 306 

The Allied Plan 308 

Allied Regrouping 309 

Doubts on Both Fronts 310 

XVIII. THE GOTHIC LINE OFFENSIVE BEGINS 312 

Preliminary Operations 313 

Lease's Plan 313 

German Preparations 314 

The Offensive Begins 314 

German Countermeasures 315 

The Assault 315 

The Germans Reinforce Their Line 316 

The Coriano Ridge 316 

The Fifth Army — Plans and Regrouping . . . . • • 318 

IV Corps Crosses the Arno 319 

The German Situation 321 

xvi 



Chapter Page 

XIX. BATTLE FOR THE PASS 323 

The Approach 323 

Plans and Terrain 323 

First Contacts 325 

The Attack on the Monticelli Ridge 326 

XX. A DIVERSIONARY OPERATION 338 

Leese's Plan 339 

Resuming the Offensive 340 

The Capture of Rimini 342 

Toward Imola 343 

Battle for the Mountains 345 

The Germans Reinforce 346 

The Defense of Battle Mountain 349 

The Imola Drive Abandoned 351 

The Germans Take Stock 353 

Shift Ba£k to Highway 65 353 



PART SIX 
In the Northern Apennines 

XXI. FROM RIDGE TO RIDGE 357 

Keyes Plan 362 

// Corps Resumes Its Advance 364 

The Livergnano Escarpment 366 

Action on the Flanks 371 

The Personnel Problem 372 

Unrealistic Strategies . ' 374 

XXII. TOWARD A WINTER STALEMATE 376 

The Eighth Army Advance to the Ronco 376 

The II Carps Plan 378 

The II Corps' Attack Renewed 379 

German Countermeasures 381 

New Plans for II Corps 382 

Kesselring Hospitalized 387 

The Attack Continues 387 

Operations on the IV Corps Front 390 

The Offensive Is Halted 391 



XVII 



Chapter Page 

XXIII. STALEMATE IN THE MOUNTAINS AND ON THE 
PLAIN 393 

Alexander Develops His Strategy 393 

The Capture of Forli 394 

Reorganization and Planning on the Fifth Army's Front . . 397 

Outside Influences on Strategy 398 

Command Changes 399 

Alexander's Orders 

An Allied Directive 400 

The Eighth Army's Advance Continues 401 

German Reactions 403 

Attack on Faenza Resumed 403 

The Fifth Army Plans and Waits 405 

A German Counterattack 408 

The Stalemate 410 

XXIV. THROUGH THE WINTER 414 

Sustaining the Armies 414 

Strengthening the Army 415 

Regrouping the Army 417 

Eliminating Enemy Bridgeheads on the Eighth Army Front . 418 

German Dispositions 419 

Operation Fourth Term 420 

A Forecast of Spring 424 

Into the Mountains 428 

The Second Phase 432 

Truscott Halts the Attack 433 



PART SEVEN 
The Last Offensive 

XXV. STRATEGIES AND PLANS 437 

German Strategic Problems 437 

The German Defenses 442 

Allied Strategy and Plans 443 

The 1 5th Army Group Operations Plan 448 

The Eighth Army's Plan 450 

Developing the Fifth Army's Plan 453 

The Plan 455 

Allied Preponderance in Material and Manpower .... 457 



xvni 



chapter 



Page 



XXVI. BREAKTHROUGH ON THE EIGHTH ARMY FRONT . 459 

In the East 459 

In the West 459 

German Indecision 462 

Tfie Eighth Army Attack 463 

Breakthrough at the Argenta Gap 465 

XXVII. BREAKTHROUGH ON THE FIFTH ARMY'S FRONT . 470 

Armor Joins the Battle 476 

The II Corps Attacks 477 

Breakthrough to the Plain 479 

Progress on the Flanks 482 

Hitler's Strategic Decisions 484 



PART EIGHT 

Pursuit to the Alps 

XXVIII. RACE FOR THE PO 489 

The Pursuit 492 

Crossing the Po 495 

XXIX. TO THE ALPS 499 

Race for Verona 500 

Clearing the Po Valley 502 

Army Group C's Situation 504 

Victory on the Flanks 505 

The Last Engagements 507 

The Eighth Army Crosses the Adige 511 

XXX. THE CAPITULATION 513 

The Widening Circle 514 

German Reservations 515 

Preparations for a Cease-Fire 517 

Tlie Surrender at Caserta 521 

Army Group C's Last Hours 525 

XXXI. AN ASSESSMENT 535 

German Strategy 539 

The Commanders 540 

Allied Tactics 542 

The Surrender Negotiations 543 



XIX 



Al>p,ud,x ^«^^ 

A. TABLE OF EQUIVALENT RANKS 547 

NOTE ON SOURCES 548 

GLOSSARY 553 

CODE NAMES 556 

BASIC MILITARY MAP SYMBOLS 557 

INDEX 563 



Maps 



No. 

\. The Battle for Monte Cassino, 12 May 1944 42 

2. EEC Capture of Monte Majo, 11-13 May 1944 58 

3. EEC Drive, 13-15 May 1944 70 

4. II and VI Corps Link-Up, 22-25 May 1944 98 

5. Stratagem on Monte Artemisio, 30 May-1 June 1944 187 

6. Eifth Army in Rome, 4 June 1944 213 

7. The Advance on Leghorn, 2-19 July 1944 272 

8. Capture of Altuzzo and Monticelli, 16-18 September 1944 . . . 327 

9. Operation Eourth Term, 8-11 February 1945 421 

10. Operation Encore, 19 February-5 March 1945 425 

11. The Last Battle, 10th Mountain Division Takes Lake Garda, 

27 April-1 May 1945 509 



Maps I-XVI Are In Inverse Order Inside Back Cover 

I. Jump-Off, 11 May 1944 

II. Attack on Santa Maria Infante, 351st Infantry, 11-12 May 1944 

III. Collapse of the Gustav Line, II Corps, 13-15 Mav 1944 

IV. Approach and Breakthrough, the Hitler Line, 15-23 May 1944 
V. Capture of Cistema, 2S-25 May 1944 

VI. Shifting the Attack, 25-26 May 1944 
VII. The Drive for Rome, 31 May-4 June 1944 
VIII. Pursuit From Rome to the Trasimeno Line, 5-20 June 1944 
IX. From the Trasimeno Line to the Arno River, 21 June-5 August 

1944 
X. The Approach to the Gothic Line: Concept of Operation Olive, 25 

August 1944 
XI. II Corps Attack on the Gothic Line, 10-18 September 1944 



XII. Thrust Towards Imola, 88th Division, 24 September- 1 October 1944 

XIII. II Corps Attack on the Livergnano Escarpment, 1-15 October 1944 

XIV. The Winter Line, 31 January 1945 

XV. The Spring Offensive, 9 April-2 May 1945 

XVI. Breakthrough Into the Po Valley, IV and II Corps, 14-21 April 
1945 



Illustrations 

Page 

Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring ' 

General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson 9 

Lt. C^en. Sir Oliver Leese, General Sir Harold Alexander, and Lt. C^en. 

Mark W. Clark 10 

Maj. Gen. Alfred W. Gruenther 11 

Liri Valley 21 

Maj. Gen. John B. Coulter 23 

Maj. Gen. John E. Sloan 23 

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes 25 

Lt. Gen. Willis D. Crittenberger 25 

Brig. Gen. Donald W. Brann and General Clark 31 

Monte Cassino 43 

Terrain Facing the U.S. II Corps 45 

Terrain in French Corps Sector 5' 

American Troops Entering the Ruins of Santa Maria Infante .... 72 

Monte Cassino Monastery Shortly After Its Capture 78 

View of Itri 85 

U.S. Infantry Approaching Itri 87 

German Prisoners Captured at Itri 88 

Aerial View of Terracina 96 

Maj. Gen. Lucian Truscott, Jr 106 

Maj Gen. Ernest N. Harmon 112 

Brig. Gen. John W. O'Daniel 113 

Isola Bella 131 

General O'Daniel's Battle Sleds 132 

Patrol Moving Through Cisterna 148 

Disarming German Prisoners at Cisterna 155 

Aerial View of Valmontone and Highway 6 164 

Tanks of 1st Armored Division Assembling for Attack Near Lanuvio . . 176 

3d Division Infantrv' Entering Valmontane 197 

American Infantrymen Advancing Along Highway 6 Toward Rome . . 198 

Cienerals Clark, Keves, and Brig. (ien. Robert T. Frederick Pause 

211 
Durmg Drive on Rome 

xxi 



Page 

German Troops Withdrawing From Rome 212 

Entering the Gates of Rome 214 

American Infantrymen Pass Burning German Tank in Rome . . 217 

Romans Line the Street as American Armor Rolls by the Coliseum . . 220 

Aerial V' iew of Civitavecchia 238 

Grosseto and Terrain to the East 243 

General Crittenberger and Brig. Gen. J. B. Mascarenhas de Moraes ■ • 251 

Lt. Gen. Wladvslav Anders With General L^ese 253 

Aerial View of Cecina 264 

General Alphonse Juin With General Clark at Siena 266 

Aerial View of Leghorn 277 

American Patrol Entering Pisa 287 

Aerial View of Florence 290 

II Giogo Pass 324 

Artillen Batter)' in Action 328 

Carrying Supplies to Mountain Positions 331 

Captured German Positions in Gothic Line 333 

85th Division Troops on Mt. Verruca 334 

Looking North From Futa Pass 336 

Generals Clark and Keyes Study II Corps Situation Map 343 

German Prisoners Captured Near Castel del Rio 347 

Monte Battaglia 348 

Men, Mules, Mud 350 

Indian Infantry in Northern Apennines 372 

6th South African Armoured Division Tanks Assembled for Attack . . 373 

Truck Crossing Treadway Bridge 388 

Italian Mule Train Transpordng Supplies to the Front 412 

General Clark Visits British 13 Corps Sector With General Kirkman . . 413 

Motor Transport in Northern Apennines 416 

Sfjldiers Relaxing During Lull m Battle 417 

Area North of Cinquale Canal, 92d Division Zone 423 

Ski Patrol, 10th Mountain Division 426 

Apennines, IV Corps Sector 427 

Artillery Ammunition Being Brought Forward, 1 0th Mountain Division 

Zone 428 

Monte Belvedere Massif From Lizzano, 10th Mountain Division Sector . 430 

Evacuadng Casualties Over Mountain Trail 431 

SS General Wolff 440 

The Last Heights Before Bologna 447 

Mountain Infantry in Tole Area 473 

German Prisoners Captured by 10th Mountain Division 475 

Infantr)men Entering the Po Valley 480 

34th Division Infantrymen Pause in Bologna 481 

Aerial View of Po River Crossing 490 



xxu 



Page 

(ierman Ecjuipmcnt Destroyed Along Po 491 

Anierican Troops Storm Ashore After Assault Crossing ol the Po River . , 496 

American Ponton Bridge Across Po 497 

Col. William O. Darbv 500 

91st Reconnaissance S(|uadr()n Moves Through Verona 

Railroad Station I . . . 502 

Crossing the Adige 503 

American Infantry Enter Vicenza 506 

Partisans Before the Cathedral of Milan 507 

Engineers Repairing Approach to Tunnel, Lake Garda 508 

General der Panzertruppen Heinrich von Vietinghoff gennant Scheel . 515 

German Representatives Sign Surrender Document 522 

General Morgan Receives German Representatives 524 

Generalleutnant Joachim Lemelsen and Oberstleutnant Victor von 

Schueinitz 527 

Cieneral der Panzertruppen Traugott Herr Leaves Bolzano tor 

Surrender 528 

Generalleutnant Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin Surrenders to 

Cieneral Clark at Fifteenth Army (iroup Head(|uarters 530 

German Representatives Receive Instructions From General Gruenther . 531 

Prisoners of War Assemble at Foot of Alps 532 

88th Division Column in Alpine Pass 533 

Illustrations are from Department of Defense files, with the exception of the 
photograph on page 212, which is from Yank Magazine, and that on page 348, 
which was supplied by Capt. William (i. Bell of the Center of Military History. 



xxiu 



PART ONE 
THE SPRING OFFENSIVE 



War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or 
death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly 
studied. 

Sun Tzu, The Art of War 



CHAPTER I 



Spring in Italy — 1944 



An hour before midnight on 1 1 May 
1944, 1,660 guns opened fire. Shells 
crashed along a 25-mile front from the 
slopes of Monte Cassino to the Tyr- 
rhenian Sea. The crash and roar of 
artillery turned high ground beyond 
the Rapido and Garigliano Rivers into 
an inferno of flame and steel. The 
Allied Armies in Italy (AAI) with this 
preparator)' fire had launched Opera- 
tion Diadem, a full-scale offensive that 
was destined to cairy the U.S. Fifth and 
the British Eighth Armies from south- 
ern Italy to the Alps, where the Ger- 
mans would at last lay down their arms. 

Spring in 1944 came early to Italy. 
On the reverse slopes of a hundred 
hills overlooking the valleys of the Rap- 
ido and the Garigliano Rivers, as Allied 
and German infantrymen emerged 
from their dugouts to stretch and bask 
in the warm sunshine, they could look 
back on several months of some of the 
hardest fighting yet experienced in 
World War II. 

The campaign in southern Italy had 
grown out of the Allied capture of 
Sicily, which had helped to bring about 
the overthrow of the Italian dictator, 
Benito Mussolini, and contributed to 
the surrender of Italy. Early in Septem- 
ber 1943, first elements of the British 
Eighth Army had come ashore near 
Reggio in Galabria on the southernmost 
tip of the Italian mainland. Six days 
later additional British forces landed in 
Taranto from warships. On the same 



day the U.S. Fifth Army hit the beaches 
of Salerno and soon engaged in a bitter 
struggle against a tenacious enemy. ' 

In southern Italy, the Allies found 
awaiting them not demoralized Italians 
but a well-equipped and determined 
German foe. Fighting alone at that 
point, the Germans had moved swiftly 
to occupy Rome, liberate an imprisoned 
Mussolini, disarm the Italian military 
forces, and occupy the entire country. 

For the next seven months the Brit- 
ish and American armies advanced 
slowly northward from their respectixe 
beachheads against a stubborn enemy 
fighting skillfully in mountainous ter- 
rain. Battles at the Volturno Ri\'er and 
at the historic Benedictine abbey of 
Monte Cassino together with an unsuc- 
cessful attempt to cross the Rapido 
River exacted a heavy toll on both 
opponents. 

By the end of March 1944, the 
German armies between the Adriatic 
and Tyrrhenian Seas below Rome had 
fought the Allies to a virtual stalemate. 
They were also containing a beachhead 
at Anzio, some thirty miles south of 
Rome, where Anglo-American troops 
under the U.S. VI Corps had come 
ashore in January 1944. W^ith this 



' For details concerning this and the following 
periods see Albert N. Garland and Howard M. 
Smyth, Sicily and the Surrender of Italy (Washington, 
1965), and Martin Blumenson, Salerno to Cassino 
(Washington, 1968). both volumes in the UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II series. 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



IxMthlicad and a modest bridgehead 
Ixnond the Garigliano River in hand, as 
well as a tenuous tix?hold on the slopes 
ot Monte Cassino, Allied leaders be- 
lieved thev held the key that would 
open the wav to Rome and central 
Italv. 

The main Allied front stretched a 
hundred miles — from the Gulf of Gaeta 
on the Tvrrhenian Sea northeastward 
across the Apennines to the Adriatic. 
(Map I)* The Central Apennines had 
thus far confined the cainpaign largely 
to the coastal flanks. In the wild, moun- 
tainous region in the center lies the 
Abruzzi National Park, a desolate wil- 
derness with few roads and trails, de- 
fended only by weak and scattered 
German outposts. There small Allied 
detachments harassed the enemy and 
maintained contact between the widely 
separated main forces on the flanks. 

Monte Cassino, keystone of the Ger- 
man defenses in the Liri valley, towered 
abo\e the Rapido River at the threshold 
of the relatively broad valley of the Liri 
River, which led enticingly toward 
Rome. From mid-January to mid- 
March the U.S. Fifth Army had fought 
unsuccessfully to drive German para- 
troopers and infantrymen from the 
ruins of Cassino and from the rocky 
slopes of Monte Cassino itself. Near the 
Tvrrhenian coast the British 10 Corps 
had crossed the Garigliano River to 
establish an 8-mile bridgehead near 
Minturno. 

In the Anzio beachhead the Allied 
trfxjps in early March had brought the 
last German counterattacks to a halt 



* Maps I-XVI are in inverse order inside back 
cover. 



along a front approximately thirty miles 
long — from the coast about twelve miles 
northeast of Anzio southward as far as 
the bank of the Mussolini Canal. The 
beachhead enclosed by that front ex- 
tended at its deepest about fifteen miles 
from Anzio northeastward toward the 
German strongpoint of Cisterna, the 
distance along the coast being approxi- 
mately twenty-two miles. Thus there 
were two fronts in Italy in the spring of 
1944, and Rome, the objective that had 
eluded the Allies for seven hard 
months, seemed still beyond reach. 

Allied Strategy 

On 26 May 1943 the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff (CCS), composed of the 
Chiefs of Staff of the British and the 
American military services, had in- 
structed General Dwight D. Eisen- 
hower, then Allied commander in the 
Mediterranean, to launch the major 
Allied assault against the Germans in 
northwestern France early in 1944. 
That strategic concept would dominate 
the over-all conduct of the Italian cam- 
paign from its Sicilian beginnings in 
July 1943 until the end of the war. 
Even before the Allies landed in Sicily, 
the Italian campaign had been allotted 
a secondary role. Diversion of enemy 
strength from the Russian front as well 
as from the expected decisive area of 
operations — the Channel coast — was the 
basic goal of Allied strategy in the 
Mediterranean. The campaign in Italy 
was envisioned mainly as a great hold- 
ing action, although engaging and de- 
stroying German divisions as well as 
seizing air bases near Foggia in south- 
ern Italy for Allied use in bombing 



SPRINC; IN ITALY— 1944 



5 



Germany were important considera- 
tions. - 

Few Allied strategists held any brief 
that the war could be won solely by a 
drive either through the length of Italy 
or into the Balkan peninsula. Yet some 
British leaders, notably Prime Minister 
Winston S. Churchill and General Sir 
Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial 
General Staff, sought to invest the 
Italian campaign with a larger role than 
did most of the Americans. Churchill 
envisioned an eventual Allied thrust 
into the mid-Danube basin, where cen- 
turies before his distinguished ancestor, 
the Duke of Marlborough, had won 
lasting fame at Blenheim. A determined 
man, Churchill would long cling to this 
theory even when the weight of stra- 
tegic argument and events moved 
against him. 

From its inception, therefore, the 
Italian campaign played a larger role in 
the strategic and political aspects of 
British war planning than it did with 
American planning. Until the Allied 
landings in northwestern France in 
June 1944 much of British strategic 
thinking would be focused on Italy, the 
scene from September 1943 to June 
1944 of the only active land campaign 
in western Europe. There was, more- 



^ Unless otherwise indicated, the discussion on 
Allied strategy is based upon the following publica- 
tions: Field Marshal, the Viscount Alexander of 
Tunis, Di'spalfh, 19 Apr 47, published as "The 
Allied Armies in Italy from 3 September 1943, to 
12 December 1944," in the Supplt'menl to The 
London Gazette of 6 June 1950 (hereafter cited as 
Alexander Despatch); Maurice Matloff, Strategic 
Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943^4, UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 
1959); and John Ehrman, "History of the Second 
World War, United Kingdom Series," Vols. V and 
VI, Grand Strategy (London: Her Majesty's Station- 
ery Office, 1956).' 



over, an emotional factor involved with 
the British, a factor not shared by the 
Americans because it stemmed from 
Britain's immediate and distant past. 
When the British came ashore in south- 
ern Italy in September 1943, it was for 
them only partial compensation for 
their forced withdrawal from the Conti- 
nent at Dunkerque more than three 
years before. Not since the Napoleonic 
wars in the early 19th century had 
British arms been driven so ingloriously 
from the mainland of Europe. For 
Americans only General Douglas Mac- 
Arthur's flight from and ultimate re- 
turn to the Philippines would have 
anywhere near a comparable emotional 
meaning. 

During a top-level Anglo-American 
planning conference at Quebec in Au- 
gust 1943 (Quadrant), the CCS had 
drawn up a blueprint for an Italian 
campaign. Operations in Italy were to 
be divided into three phases. The first 
was expected to culminate in the sur- 
render of Italy and the establishment of 
Allied air bases in the vicinity of Rome. 
The second phase would be the capture 
of Sardinia and Corsica. The third 
called for the Allied armies to maintain 
pressure against the Germans in north- 
ern Italy to help create conditions fa- 
vorable for both the cross-Channel inva- 
sion (Overlord) and the entry of Allied 
forces into southern France (later desig- 
nated Anvil, and still later Dragoon). 

During the months that the Allied 
armies battled their way to the line 
marked by the Garigliano, Rapido, and 
Sangro Rivers, British and American 
planning staffs in London and Wash- 
ington continued a debate that would 
prove to be among their most acrimon- 
ious during the war and would affect 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



all planning for operations in Italy until 
late 1944. The basic issue was whether 
exploiting the Italian campaign to the 
Alps and possibly beyond (essentially 
the British position) or landing on the 
southern coast of France with a subse- 
ciueni advance up the Rhone Valley 
(basically the American position) would 
best assist the main Allied enterprise: 
the cross-Channel invasion of north- 
western France. 

The question was debated at the 
Sextant-Eureka Conference in Cairo 
and Teheran in November-December 
1943. Although the conference yielded 
a victory for the American view that 
OvTERLORD and Anvil were to be the 
main Allied tasks for 1944, the British 
left Cairo convinced that the Americans 
had also agreed to turn Operation 
Anvil into something more elastic that 
would not seriously affect the campaign 
under way in Italy .-^ 

To the Americans the decisions made 
at Cairo and Teheran meant that, in 
addition to remaining a secondary op- 
eration (or even tertiary, considering 
Anvil), the Italian campaign would also 
be governed by a limited objective strat- 
egy — attainment of the so-called Pisa- 
Rimini Line, a position considerably 
short of the Po Valley and the towering 
Julian and Karawanken Alps, toward 
which the British continued to direct 
their gaze and their hopes. The Ameri- 
can view reflected a long-held convic- 
tion that the Allies should concentrate 
on driving along the most direct route 
into the heart of the Third Reich rather 
than on nibbling away at enemy forces 



^ Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 
1943^4, pp. 378-387. See also Arthur Bryant, 
Triumph in the West (New York: Doubleday, 1959), 
p. 77. 



with a series of peripheral operations of 
indeterminate length that could deflect 
Allied strength from the main thrust. 

Yet, as is so often the case, the 
fortunes of battle would force modifica- 
tion of the carefully contrived interna- 
tional agreements. For when it ap- 
peared in late March that the Allied 
armies could not reach Rome before 
early June, the British and American 
high commands agreed than an Anvil 
concurrent with Overlord was imprac- 
ticable. The American Joint Chiefs of 
Staff reluctantly acknowledged that to 
open a new front — Anvil — in the Med- 
iterranean before the issue in Italy had 
been decided would be risky, difficult, 
and perhaps impossible. They also rec- 
ognized the advantages of a strength- 
ened Overlord. Those could be real- 
ized only at the expense of Anvil. 
Bowing to the inevitable, the JCS on 24 
March agieed to postpone Anvil and 
to transfer from the Mediterranean to 
Overlord all the amphibious means 
beyond that required for a one-division 
lift. But the specter of Anvil had not 
been effectively exorcized and would 
continue to haunt the planning staffs of 
the Allied armies' headtjuarters in Italy 
for months to come. 

German Strategy 

Controversy over strategy also af- 
flicted the German High Command. A 
lengthy debate over whether to defend 
the Italian peninsula south of Rome 
along its narrowest part or along a 
more extended line in the Northern 
Apennines had finally been resolved by 
the German head of state, Adolf Hider, 
in favor of the advocate of the first 
proposition, Generalfeldmarschall Al- 
bert Kesselring, a former General der 



SPRINC; IN ITALY— 1944 



Flieger who had been promoted to the 
rank of field marshal in 1940 immedi- 
ately after the armistice with France. 
Although Kesselring harbored no illu- 
sions about holding the Allies indefi- 
nitely below Rome, he reasoned that an 
Allied breakthrough south of Rome 
would be less disastrous than one in the 
Northern Apennines into the Po Valley 
and the agricultural and industrial 
heartland of Italy. ^ Furthermore, 
strong German forces in Central Italy 
might discourage or thwart an Allied 
amphibious operation across the Ad- 
riatic and into the Balkans, from which 
the Germans drew critical supplies of 
raw materials for their industry. These 
forces would also keep Allied air bases 
in Italy farther away from Germany. 

The Germans would adhere to the 
decision to hold the front south of 
Rome as long as militarily possible. Not 
even the establishment of the Anzio 
beachhead and the failure of the Ger- 
mans to drive the Allies back into the 
sea prompted Hitler or Kesselring to 
change this strategy, even though the 
beachhead seriously threatened the 
Germans' defensive lines across the 
waist of the peninsula farther south. 

As the first signs of spring came to 
Italy in 1944, few on the German side 
could deny that the high tide of Ger- 
man arms had already started to ebb, 
but Adolf Hitler refused to read the 



'' Italian industry, centered largely in the north, 
in mid-June 1944 accounted for about 15 percent 
of the total German-controlled armaments output. 
See the following Foreign Military Studies, pre- 
pared by former German officers from 1945-54: 
Production after September 1943, MS # D-003; 
Activities of German Chief of Military Economy in 
Italy, 1941^5, MS # D-029; German Use of Italian 
Munitions Industry, MS # D-015. Filed in Modern 
Military Branch, National Archives and Records 
Service. 




Field Marshal Kesselring 



portents. Still in possession of most of 
the European continent, he firmly re- 
solved to defend it, even though he 
knew that the Allies had yet to commit 
the bulk of their forces. German armies 
were not only to defend the interior of 
Fortress Europe, but also all its oudying 
peninsulas and islands. 

Given Hitler's resolve, the Armed 
Forces Operation Staff {Wehrmaihtjueh- 
rungsstab, WFSt) had little choice but to 
accept the German situation early in 
1944 as one of strategic defense along 
interior lines but without the advan- 
tages that normally stem from interior 
lines. The numerous unengaged Allied 
forces in the Mediterranean, the Near 
and Far East, Africa, the United King- 
dom, Iceland, and the United States 
could be, the Germans believed, com- 
mitted at any time against the periph- 



8 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



en of Europe and forced the Germans 
to keep reserves spread thinly over the 
entire Continent.^ 

Competition for reinforcement*; 
among the \arious theaters of opera- 
tions, particularly from the German 
Armv High Command {Oberkommando 
des Heeres, OKH) for new divisions to 
stem the advance of the Red Army on 
the Eastern Front, came to a head 
about 1 April 1944. Hitler reacted by 
directing the Armed Forces High Com- 
mand {Obfrkommandu der Wchrmacht, 
OKW) to prepare a study showing the 
location, strength, mobility, organiza- 
tion, and composition of all German 
militarv forces. The study disclosed that 
the western theaters had a total of 
forty-one divisions sufficiently trained 
and equipped to fight in the east. Of 
these, twenty were already committed 
on the various defensive fronts and 
twentv-one were being held in general 
reserve behind the invasion-threatened 
northwest coastal regions of Europe. 
\o economy of force could be achieved 
by a general retirement elsewhere or by 
evacuating offshore positions, since such 
movements would involve establishing 
long and more vulnerable land fronts 
that would retjuire even larger defen- 
sive forces. ^ 



^ Information in this section, unless otherwise 
noted, is based upon Oberkommando der Wehrmacht- 
fuehrungsstab, Kriegstagebuch (OKW/WFSt, KTB), Au- 
sarbeitung, die OKW-Kriegsschauplaetze im Rahmen der 
Gesamtkriegsfuehrung, 1 .1-31 .111.44, vols. IV(1), 
IV'(2), edited by Helmuth Greiner and Percy Ernst 
Schramm (Frankfurt a/Main: Bernard and Graefe, 
1961), (hereafter cited as Greiner and Schramm, 
eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB). 

'^Ibid., pp. 56-57. According to General Walter 
Warlimont, deputy chief of the OKW operations 
staff, distribution of this study was canceled for 
security reasons. 



The Germans clearly had no alterna- 
tive to a wholly defensive strategy 
throughout 1944. Only by practicing 
the utmost economy could the German 
command manage to husband forces 
that could be shifted from one theater 
to another in case of unexpected emer- 
gencies. The Wrhrma( htfuehrungsstab 
(WFSt) realized that Germany had to 
pin its hopes on the accomplishment 
of a more formidabl - objective: "While 
stubbornly defending every foot of 
ground in the East, we must beat off 
the impending invasion in the West as 
well as all possible secondary landings 
in other theaters. Then, with the forces 
released by this victory, we can recover 
the initiative and force a decision in the 
war." '' This was a rational strategy but 
given Hitler's decision to attempt to 
defend Italy south of Rome, a strategy 
unlikely to succeed. 

Allied Command and Organization 

When General Dwight D. Eisenhower 
left the Mediterranean Theater in De- 
cember 1943 to become Allied com- 
mander in northwestern Europe, Gen- 
eral Sir Henry Maitland Wilson as- 
sumed command of Allied Forces in 
the theater. Experience in the diplo- 
matic and military fields as Middle East 
commander made Wilson an excellent 
choice for a theater with troops of 
many nationalities and where delicate 
relationships with several neutral na- 
tions were involved. For example, the 
British Chiefs of Staff had hopes of 
eventually bringing Turkev into the 
war, but it was important to keep Axis- 
oriented Spain out of it. There were 



" Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, 

pp. 56-57. 



SPRINC; IN ITALY— 1944 



also partisan movements to be sustained 
in the Balkans. 

Wilson's deputy was Lt. Gen. Jacob L. 
Devers, the senior American officer 
who also served as Commanding Gen- 
eral, North African Theater of Opera- 
tions, U.S. Army (NATOUSA), later 
changed to Mediterranean Theater 
(MTOUSA). Maj. Gen. Thomas B. Lar- 
kin was Commpnder of Services of 
Supply, MTOUSA, and responsible for 
the logistical services to the U.S. Army 
elements in the theater, while logistical 
support of the British forces in Italy 
was the responsibility of Allied Armies 
in Italy (AAI) headcjuarters. British lo- 
gistical functions in rear areas were 
exercised by Headquarters, North Afri- 
can District. Both Allied logistical sys- 
tems furnished support for the various 
national contingents under Allied com- 
mand in the theater. 

In over-all command of the Allied 
ground forces in Italy was General Sir 
Harold R. L. G. Alexander, whose 
conduct of the British retreat in Burma 
had led Prime Minister Churchill, after 
Alexander's return from the Far East, 
to make him Commander in Chief of 
the British forces in the Near East. 
During the Allied campaign in Tunisia, 
in 1943, Alexander had become Eisen- 
hower's deputy. * 

The British contingent of the AAI, 
the Eighth Army, was commanded by 
Lt. Gen. Sir Oliver Leese, who early in 
World War II served with distinction as 
head of the British 30 Corps in the 




"Alexander had commanded the British 18th 
Army Group in North Africa, 18 Feb 43-15 May 
43. On Sicily and in Italy his headquarters was 
known as 15th Army Group, 10 Jul 43-11 Jan 44; 
Allied Forces in Italy, 11-18 Jan 44; Allied Central 
Mediterranean Force, 18 Jan-9 Mar 44; and Allied 
Armies in Italy (AAI), 9 Mar-12 Dec 44. 



General Wilson 



North African campaign. In sharp con- 
trast to General Leese's outwardly cas- 
ual manner was the vigor and intensity 
of Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark, who since 
January 1943 had led the American 
contingent, the U.S. Fifth Army. Clark 
enjoyed the unique opportunity of hav- 
ing organized and trained the army he 
commanded through many months of 
combat. A former instructor at the 
Army War College, Clark had served as 
Chief of Staff of the Army Ground 
Forces. In June 1942 he went to Eng- 
land to command the U.S. II Corps, 
and the next month he took command 
of the U.S. Army Ground Forces in the 
European Theater of Operations. He 
left that pc:)st in October to become 
Deputy Commander, Allied Forces in 
North Africa, under Eisenhower. 

General Clark's chief of staff, Maj. 
Gen. Alfred M. (iruenther, had come to 
London in August 1942 as deputy to 
Eisenhower's own chief of staff, Maj. 



10 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Generals Leese, Alexander, and Clark 



Gen. Walter Bedell Smith. Gruenther 
continued to hold that position when 
Eisenhower moved to North Africa. In 
January 1943 at Clark's request he was 



assigned to head the Fifth Arm\ staff. 
As his operations officer, Clark had 
picked a close friend and long-tmie 
associate. Col. Donald W. Brann, for- 



SPRINC; IN ITALY— 1944 



I 1 



meiiy chief of staff of the 95th Infantry 
Division. 

Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, a former 
commander of the Eighth U.S. Air 
Force in the United Kingdom, was 
Commander in Chief of the Mediterra- 
nean Allied Air Forces (MAAF). British 
Air Marshal Sir John Slessor was his 
deputy and commander of all British 
air formations in the theater. •* 

For operations, Eaker's forces were 
divided into three Anglo-American 
commands: the Mediterranean Allied 
Tactical Air Forces (MATAF), under 
Maj. Gen. John K. Cannon, who also 
commanded the U.S. Twelfth Air 
Force; the Mediterranean Allied Coastal 
Air Force (MACAF), under Air Vice 
Marshal Sir Hugh P. Lloyd; and the 
Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air 
Force (MASAF), under Maj. Gen. Na- 
than F. Twining, who also commanded 
the U.S. Fifteenth Air Force. General 
Cannon's tactical command comprised 
the U.S. Twelfth Air Force (less ele- 
ments assigned to the MACAF) and the 
British Desert Air Force (DAE). Eaker's 
operational control of the MASAF was 
limited in that Twining's primary oper- 
ational responsibility lay with the U.S. 
Strategic Air Force, based in England 
under the command of Lt. Gen. Carl 
Spaatz. Allied naval forces in the Medi- 
terranean theater remained throughout 
the campaign under the command of 
Admiral Sir John Cunningham with the 
senior American naval officer being 
Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, also the com- 
mander of the U.S. Eighth Fleet. 

Once primary American attention 
and resources shifted to the cross-Chan- 
nel attack, and the Mediterranean thea- 




History AFHQ, Part III, pp. 652-53. 



General Gruenther 

ter came under a British commander in 
January 1944, the CCS placed the 
theater under the executive direction of 
the British Chiefs of Staff Thus Gen- 
eral Wilson was res|X)nsible to the Com- 
bined Chiefs through the British Chiefs 
of Staff, an arrangement that would 
give the British Prime Minister greater 
opportunity to intervene in the shaping 
of strateg)' for the theater. 

Tlie Germans 

In May 1944 all German-occupied 
territory in central Italy was nominally 
under the control of General f eld mar- 
schall Albert Kesselring. His appoint- 
ment as Commander in Chief, South- 
west {Oberbefehlshaber, Suedwest), had 
been an attempt to create a joint com- 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



niaiid similar to those in other theaters 
controlled by the Armed Forces High 
Command (Oberkommando der Wehr- 
macht, OKVV). Kesselring was responsi- 
ble to the OKW through the Armed 
Forces Operation Staff (Wehrmachtfueh- 
nmgsstah, WFSt) for operations and 
nominally had full tactical authority 
over all units of the Army, Navy, 
Luftwaffe, and Wafjen-SS in Italy. The 
Naval Command, Italy and the Luftfhtte 
II, senior naval and air commands in 
the theater, were not, however, unequi- 
vocally under Kesselring's command 
and remained directly subordinate to 
their service chiefs in Germany. Only in 
the event of "imminent danger" to the 
strategic situation would Kesselring's or- 
ders be binding on these two com- 
mands, and in such an event Kesselring 
was to keep the naval and Luftwaffe 
headquarters in Germany constantly in- 
formed of his actions. '" Actually, Kes- 
selring's prestige as the senior Luftwaffe 
officer in Italy and his close personal 
relations with the naval commander. 
Vice Adm. Wilhelm Meendsen- 
Bohlken, enabled the field marshal to 
secure the full support of both head- 
quarters without ever having to invoke 
his powers under the "imminent dan- 
ger" clause. ' ' 

Kesselring's other title, commander 
of Army Group C, provided him with 
command over a conventional entity in 
the administration, training, and supply 
hierarchy of the German Army. In this 
capacity he reported directly to the 



Army High Command (Oberkommando 
des Heeres, OKH). '^ 

In the spring of 1944 Kesselring had 
under his over-all command the Tenth 
Army, at the main front, led by Gener- 
aloberst Heinrich Gottfried von Vie- 
tinghoff, genannt Scheel, and at Anzio 
the Fourteenth Army under Generaloberst 
Eberhard von Mackensen, and the pro- 
visional Armee Abteilung von Zangen, a 
rear-area catchall organization in north- 
ern Italy built around the LXXVII Corps 
headquarters and named for its com- 
mander. General der Infanterie Gustav 
von Zangen. Its unconventional compo^ 
sition sprang from a dual function as a 
reservoir for replacements and theater 
reserves and as the responsible agency 
in its sector for coast-watching, con- 
struction of rear area defenses, and 
antipartisan warfare. 

As with any drama, whether histori- 
cal or theatrical, the setting is one of 
the key elements in its development. 
For over two millennia Italy's boot- 
shaped peninsula has provided a color- 
ful and challenging stage for historical 
drama. The peninsula's uniqueness lies 
partly in the variety and challenging 



'"The order containing Kesselring's appointment 
as Commander in Chief, Southwest, and the deline- 
ation of his authority, dated 6 November 1943, may 
be found in English translation in ONI. Fueher 
Directives, 1943-45, p. 103. 

" MS# C-064 (Kesselring), p. 35. 



'^ OKW was, in certain respects, nominally supe- 
rior to the three branch high commands: Army, 
Luftwaffe, and Navy. The OKW was responsible 
through its chief, Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm 
Keitel, to Adolf Hitler in his capacitv as Com- 
mander in Chief of the German Armed Forces. 
During the period covered by this volume, however, 
Hitler also held the position of Commander in 
Chief of the Army. Staff functions affecting military 
operations were, moreover, divided horizontally 
and geographically between the OKVV and the 
nominallv lower-level OKH. Concerning Italy, for 
example, the chief of the WFSt of OKW, rather 
than the chief of staff of OKH, was Hitlers chief 
adviser for operations. See MSS #'s T-101 (Winter 
et ai). The German Armed Forces High Command, 
and T-111 (Haider et al.). The German High 
Command, both in CMH. 



SPRINC; IN ITALY— 1944 



13 



nature of terrain surpassing anything 
the Allied armies would encounter in 
northwestern Europe during World 
War II. 

When staff officers at Allied Mediter- 
ranean headquarters studied the maps 
of Italy, they noted, as had other 
commanders since Hannibal's day, that 
the peninsula's most striking geographic 
feature is the high, rugged Apennine 
mountain chain which divides the coun- 
try into three rather clearly defined 
compartments — the eastern coastal 
plain, the central mountain region, and 
the western coastal plain. 

The eastern coastal region is a nar- 
row, largely treeless plain bordering the 
Adriatic Sea and extending northward 
approximately 200 miles from the Gar- 
gano peninsula, the spur of the Italian 
boot, to the Po Valley. In the summer 
the entire region is dry and dusty, and 
in winter frequent rains turn much of it 
into a vast quagmire. The coast is 
generally low and sandy, fringed by 
lagoons and backed by the narrow 
plains from which rise deeply scarred 
hills. Along the plain run only one 
main highway and one railroad, as well 
as a negligible number of fair second- 
ary roads. From the plain a series of 
flat-top ridges extend westward into the 
Central Apennines. These ridges are 
separated by numerous streams flowing 
through narrow, steep-sided alluvial val- 
leys that cut across the Allies' projected 
axis of advance. This configuration 
would make large-scale deployment of 
tracked and wheeled vehicles off the 
roads almost impossible, and was only 
one of several drawbacks that had elim- 
inated the east coast from consideration 
by Allied planners as the major area of 
effort for the spring offensive. 



The Central Appenines, which by 
their size and sharply folded structure 
largely determine the shape and form 
the backbone of the peninsula, consist 
of numerous parallel ridges alternating 
with flat-bottomed valleys, all running 
in a northwest-southeasterly direction. 
The upper courses of the Tiber and 
Arno Rivers flow through the broad, 
alluvial valleys parallel to these ridges 
before cutting narrow canyons through 
the mountains and turning westward to 
the sea. The ridges are not continuous 
but are interrupted by deep transverse 
water gaps and by prominent saddles 
several thousand feet below crest eleva- 
tion. In the Central Apennines the 
highest point is the Gran Sasso d'ltalia 
(9,583 feet high). Southward the peaks 
gradually decrease to approximately 
3,000 feet in the vicinity of Benevento, 
about thirty miles northeast of Naples. 
The lower slopes of the mountains are 
usually terraced and planted with vine- 
yards and with citrus and olive gloves, 
while the upper slopes generally sup- 
port a thin cover of evergreen or scrub 
oak. 

Within this central mountain region 
rugged heights and deep ravines se- 
verely restrict cross-country movement. 
As with the east coast corridor, only 
one railroad and one highway run 
through the area, thus presenting a 
formidable obstacle to east-west move- 
ment of any military significance. South 
of a line running from Rome northeast 
to Pescara, four good roads enter the 
mountains from the east, but only two 
continue on to the western half of the 
country. Furthermore, all roads are 
flanked by high, rugged terrain and 
can easily be blocked by demolitions or 
defended by small forces. Narrow and 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



tortuous with ven steep gradients, the 
roads are frecjuently blocked by land- 
slides during the rainy season and in 
winter b\ snow. North of the Rome- 
Pescara line, roads crossing the Apen- 
nines are more frequent, but they cross 
even higher passes and from mid- 
December to mid-March are often 
blocked bv heavy snows. Military opera- 
tions in this region would require units 
well trained in mountain warfare, which 
were in short supply among the Allied 
forces in Italy. 

The grim logic of the inhospitable 
terrain left Allied commanders little 
choice in their selection of sites for 
major military operations — the penin- 
sula's western half, including the Liri 
valley and the coastal plain. Although 
the western coastal plain shares many 
of the disadvantages of the other re- 
gions, from the Allied point of view it 
was the most favorable of the three, for 
its long, exposed left flank could easily 
be turned by Allied sea power. The 
plain extends northwestward 100 miles 
from the mouth of the Garigliano River 
to San Severo, a small port about 
twenty miles west of Rome. Less than a 
mile wide at its northern and southern 
extremities, the plain broadens to a 
maximum of eight miles along the 
lower Tiber. At the foot of the Alban 
Hills just south of Rome lie the Pontine 
Marshes. Crisscrossed with drainage 
ditches and irrigation canals, the region, 
although seeming to offer a favorable 
maneuver area for military forces, was 
actually tjuite unfavorable for the de- 
ployment of wheeled or tracked vehi- 
cles on a wide front. South of the 
marshes to the lower reaches of the 
Garigliano River, the coastal plain re- 
sembles the 20-mile stretch northwest of 



Rome in that it (jffers more favorable 
terrain for the deployment of armored 
formations than do the Pontine 
Marshes. 

Another major geographic feature of 
the region west of the Central Apen- 
nines is the Liri valley, which also offers 
a favorable route into central Italy and 
Rome. The gateway to this valley, lead- 
ing through the mountains southeast of 
Rome, lies at the junction of the Liri 
and the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers. 
In 1944 the Germans had closed this 
gateway with a series of formidable 
defensive positions across the Liri valley 
and anchored on both flanks by two 
great mountain bastions, Monte Majo 
and Monte Cassino. Located south of 
the valley, Monte Majo rises to approxi- 
mately 3,000 feet and sends steep-sided 
spurs into the Liri valley. To the north 
the vast bulk of the Monte Cairo massif, 
southernmost peak of a great spur of 
the Central Apennines, towers to a 
height of 5,000 feet. From the summit 
of this mountain a ridge thrusts south- 
westward, terminating abruptlv in 
Monte Cassino. The Allied commander 
in Italy, General Alexander, had long 
believed Monte Cassino to be the key to 
the gateway leading into the Liri valley. 
Before this gateway, like a moat be- 
neath a castle wall, flows the Rapido. 
Throughout the winter of 1943-44 the 
U.S. Fifth Arm\ had tried in vain to 
blast open this gate. Now once again 
Alexander turned his attention toward 
a new strategic concept which this time 
he hoped would lead the Allies into the 
Liri valle\ and place them irresistibh on 
the road to Rome. 

Rome, the immediate objective of the 
Allied armies in Italy, lies in a gap 
carved through a range of hills that 



SPRING IN ITALY— 1944 



15 



separate the upper Tiber basin from 
the sea. North of the city rise the 
Sabatini Mountains; south of it, the 
Alban Hills. This was the region of 
Latium, cradle of the ancient Roman 
republic. 

The western half of the peninsula is 
also well served by a network of good 
roads, particularly in the vicinity of 
Rome, to which, for many centuries, all 
roads in Italy have led. In the coastal 
corridor the roads cross numerous 
stream beds, many of which are either 
dry or easily forded during the sum- 
mer, but in winter and early spring 
often become raging torrents. Else- 
where the roads frequently pass 
through narrow defiles, providing ideal 
sites for demolitions and mines, some- 
thing at which the Germans were par- 
ticularly adept. 

In this region numerous villages nes- 
tled in the valleys, sprawled along the 
main roads, or perched like miniature 
fortresses on the hilltops. Solidly built 
of native stone, the latter villages pro- 
vided excellent observation points as 
well as cover for troops. 

The mountainous terrain, the nar- 
row, twisting roads, the intensively culti- 
vated plains and valleys all combined to 
compartmentalize the countryside and 



relegate armor largely to the role of 
self-propelled artillery in suppcjrt of the 
infantry. Already in the advance to the 
banks of the Sangro and Rapido Rivers 
the Allies had experienced, but not yet 
fully mastered, the difficulties peculiar 
to fighting over this kind of terrain. 
The greatest problem was searching out 
a skillfully camouflaged enemy, who 
frequently withheld his fire until the 
last moment. Whereas the attacker 
might readily ascertain that an orange 
grove or vineyard harbored enemy 
troops, it was generally impossible to 
determine their exact location and 
strength without actually entering the 
area and risking heavy losses. After 
several costly encounters, the Allies had 
adopted the tactic of backing off and 
battering the suspected area with artil- 
lei7 or mortar fire before moving in to 
mop up, yet this was slow and costly in 
terms of materiel. Since deployment off 
the roads was often difficult and fre- 
quently impossible, and since the enemy 
used demolitions, mines, and ambush 
cunningly, the tactical problem of keep- 
ing losses to a minimum while advanc- 
ing along the roads would be one of 
the most difficult and persistent en- 
countered by the Allied forces through- 
out the entire campaign. 



CHAPTER II 



Preparing for a New Offensive 



The German Defenses 

The Germans had closed the gateway 
to the Liri valley with formidable defen- 
ses along two lines, or, more properly, 
zones, that they had constructed across 
the peninsula from Ortona on the 
Adriatic to the mouth of the Garigliano 
River on the Tyrrhenian Sea. One of 
these two lines the Germans had named 
Gustav. ' Crossing Italy at its narrowest, 
the line incorporated some of the best 
defensive terrain on the peninsula. It 
extended almost a hundred miles 
northward to the Adriatic coast, which 
it reached at a point some two miles 
northwest of Ortona. - 

The most heavily fortified part of the 
Gustav Line was the central sector, 
opposite the Eighth Army. Anchored 
on Monte Cairo, the 5,415-foot summit 
of the mountain massif forming the Liri 
valley's northern wall, this sector of the 
Gustav Line followed the high ground 
southeast to Monte Cassino, then ran 
south along the west banks of the 
Rapido and Gari Rivers across the 
entrance to the Liri valley and a termi- 
nus on the southern slopes of Monte 
Majo.^ From Monte Majo's eastern 



' Phonetic designation for the letter "G" in Ger- 
man alphabet. 

'' MS # T-la (Westphal et ai), CMH; Situation 
map, 7-10 May 44, AOK 10, KTB, Laeekarten, 4- 
20.V.44. 

^ Considerable confusion appears to have existed 
during these and earlier operations as to which 
stream was the Rapido and which the Gari. Based 



foothills the line continued south of the 
village of Castelforte, where it turned 
southwestward along high ground 
north of Minturno and thence on to 
the sea. 

With steep banks and swift-flowing 
current the Rapido was a formidable 
obstacle, and the Germans had supple- 
mented this river barrier with numer- 
ous fieldworks. Along the river's west 
bank stretched a thick and continuous 
network of wire, minefields, pillboxes, 
and concrete emplacements. Between 
the Rapido and the Cassino-Sant'An- 
gelo road, the Germans had dug many 
slit trenches, some designed to accom- 
modate no more than a machine gun 
and its crew, others to take a section or 
even a platoon. 

The entire fortified zone was covered 
by German artillery and mortar fire, 
given deadly accuracy by observers lo- 
cated on the mountainsides north and 
south of the Liri vallev. Allied forward 
observers and intelligence officers esti- 
mated that there were about 400 enemy 
guns and rocket launchers located 



upon a 1:25,000 map of Italy, the Gari, beginning 
just south of Cassino town, meets the Rapido 
flowing from Sant'Elia through Villa, making a 
bend to the east of Cassino about a mile north of 
SantAngelo. It is doubtful whether the map is 
accurate, since a stream flows through Cassino 
town. Therefore, since "rapido" could approxi- 
mately be applied to either stream and the current 
of both is extremely fast, the author has chosen the 
name Rapido to designate the major river in the 
area. 



PREPARING FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



17 



north of Highway 6 in the vicinity of 
the villages of Atina and Belmonte, 
respectively, nine and six miles north of 
Cassino. Of these the British believed 
that about 230 could fire into the 
Cassino sector, and about 150 could fire 
in support of the defenders of Monte 
Cassino and Cassino town. 

Opposite the Fifth Army sector, how- 
ever, only a small portion of the Gustav 
Line was still a part of the defensive 
positions that the Germans had selected 
in the autumn of 1943, for south of the 
Liri valley the front followed a line 
where the British 10 Corps had estab- 
lished a bridgehead beyond the Garigli- 
ano during the winter fighting. This 
meant that in some areas facing the 
Fifth Army the Germans were holding 
a defensive line not of their own choos- 
ing and that in some sectors (the 
French, for example) the Allies rather 
than the Germans possessed high 
ground overlooking the enemy posi- 
tions. ^ 

The Gustav Line was a zone of 
mutually supporting firing positions — a 
string of pearls, Kesselring called them. 
While those sectors of the line located 
in the Liri valley and along the coastal 
corridor were relatively deep defensive 
zones, ranging from 100 to 3,000 yards 
in depth, those in the mountains were 
much thinner, partly because the rocky 
terrain made it extremely difficult to 
dig or build heavier defenses, but 
mainly because the local German com- 
manders doubted that the Allies, unable 
to use armor and artillerv there, would 
choose to attack through such forbid- 



ding terrain. In any event, an attack 
over the mountains, they believed, 
would be relatively easy to stop. ■"' 

Except for barbed wire, railroad ties, 
and steel rails, the materials used in 
constructing the Gustav Line positions 
were readily obtainable on the site. 
Whenever possible the Germans utilized 
the numerous stone houses of the re- 
gion as shelters or firing positions. 
Locating machine guns or an antitank 
gim in the cellar, enemy troops piled 
crushed stone and rubble on the 
ground floor to provide overhead pro- 
tection. If bombs or shells destroyed the 
upper part of the house, the additional 
rubble would simply reinforce this 
cover. Allied troops would frecjuently 
fail to detect these cellar positions, 
sometimes not until hours after a posi- 
tion had been overrun and the Ger- 
mans had opened fire on the rear and 
flanks of the assaulting troops. 

Firing positions for infantry weapons 
were mostly open but usually connected 
by trenches to covered personnel shel- 
ters. The shelters ranged from simple 
dugouts covered with a layer of logs 
and earth to elaborate rooms hewn out 
of solid rock, the latter often used as 
command posts or signal installations. 
Invariably well camouflaged, most in- 
fantry shelters were covered with rocks, 
earth, k)gs, railway ties, or steel rails. 

Behind the Gustav Line the Germans 
had constructed the other defensive 
zone — the Fuehrer Riegel, or the Hitler 



'Situation map, 7-10 May 44, AOK 10, KTB, 
Lagekarten, 4-20.V.44. 



5 MS # C-064 (Kesselring); MS # C-071 (Vie- 
tinghoff ?/ ai). Unless otherwise cited the following 
section is based upon these references. See also 
Engr Rpt w/atchd map, 13 Apr 44, in files, XIV 
Panzer Corps, lalNr. 211144 g.Kdos, KTB, Anlagen 
1.IV-30.IV.44. 



18 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Line. *^ This line la) from five to ten 
miles behind the Gustav Line. Begin- 
ning on the Tyrrhenian coast near 
Terracina, tvventv-six miles northwest of 
the mouth of the Garigliano and the 
southern gateway to the Anzio beach- 
head, the Hitler Line crossed the 
mountains overlooking the coastal high- 
way and the Itri-Pico road from the 
northwest and west, and thence the Liri 
vallev via Pontecorvo and Aquino to 
anchor at Piedimonte San Ciermano on 
the southern slope of the Monte Cairo 
massif. Although essentially a switch 
position, as its name implied, the line 
was made up of fieldworks similar to 
those in the Gusta\' Line and was, at 
least in the Liri valley sector, as strong 
as or, in some instances, even stronger 
than the latter. 

Manning the German defense system 
on the southern front was the equiva- 
lent of about nine divisions. One of 
these was in reserve; the remainder 
were di\ided among two regular and 
one provisional corps headcjuarters. All 
were under the command of the Tenth 
Army. The XIV Panzer Corps, com- 
manded by Generalleutnant Fridolin 
von Senger und Etterlin, held a sector 
of the Gustav Line extending from the 
Tyrrhenian coast across the Aurunci 
Mountains to the Liri and a junction 
with General der Gebirgstruppen (Gen- 
eral of Mountain Troops) Valentin 
Feuerstein's LI Mountain Corps. Along 



* Colloquially, the German word Riegel means the 
bar of a d(K)r; in military parlance it is generally used 
in the combination RiegelsU-Uung which is best trans- 
lated as "switch position." When the Allied threat to 
the Fuehrer Riegel increased, the Germans renamed it 
the Senger Rwgel after General Fridolin von Senger 
und Etterlin, commander of the XIV Panzer Corps, 
through whose sector a major portion of the line ran. 



the panzer corps' front were the 94th 
Infantry Division in the coastal sector, 
and the 7 1st Infantry Division in the 
Petrella massif. A composite Kampf- 
gruppe made up of a regimental group 
detached from the 305th Infantry Divi- 
sion and a regiment from the 1 5th 
Panzer Grenadier Division lay between the 
71st Division and the Liri River. The 
remainder of the I5th Panzer Grenadier 
Division was in corps reserve and watch- 
ing the coast. '' 

In the LI Mountain Corps sector the 
44th Infantry (H u. D) Division " manned 
the valley positions, and the elite 1st 
Parachute Division continued to hold the 
Monte Cassino sector, including the 
town of Cassino. In the mountains 
north of the Monte Cairo massif the 5th 
Mountain Division and the 144th Jaeger 
Division held the corps' left \\ing to a 
junction with Generalleutnant Friedrich 
Wilhelm Hauck's provisional corps. 
Group Hauck. The latter held a quiet 
sector about eight miles southeast of the 
Pescara Ri\er on the Adriatic coast with 
the 305th and the 334th Infantry Diin- 
sions and the 1 14th Jaeger Division in 
reserve. In front of the Allied beach- 
head at Anzio lay the Fourteenth Army 
with its five divisions divided between 
the / Parachute Corps and the LXXVI 
Panzer Corps. One of these five divisions 
was located along the coast northwest of 
Rome as a precaution against an Allied 
amphibious landing attempt. 

As a mt)bile strategic leserve under 
Army Group C's control, Kesselring held 

^ As the 15lh Panzer Division, this unit had been 
destroyed in Tunisia. It had been reconstituted as 
the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division in Sicilv. 

•* The designation H u. D refers to an honorary 
title given the division: Reiefisgrenadierdivision "Hoch 
und Deutschmeister." 



PREPARINC; FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



19 



the 3d and 90th Panzer Grenadier Diinsums 
and the 26th Panzer Division in the 
vicinity of Rome, and, some thirty miles 
to the north near Viterbo, the 29th 
Panzer Grenadier Division. In northern 
Italy, serving mainly as a coast defense 
force, was Army Group von Zangen, con- 
sisting of the 162d (Turkomen) Infantry 
Division, the 356th Infantry Division, the 
278th Infantry Division, and the 188th 
Mountain Division, none of which were 
first-rate units. Except for von Zangen's 
group, all of the reserve divisions were 
first-rate and could, if committed soon 
enough, have an important influence 
on the outcome of the fighting. Yet 
their dispositions, partly determined by 
Kesselring's reaction to Allied deception 
plans, made it unlikely that they could, 
or would, be able to reach the southern 
front in time to influence the tide of 
battle. For the most part, however, 
Kesselring's veteran divisions were lo- 
cated in defensive zones well sited in 
relation to terrain that favored the 
defense. If properlv manned, the Gus- 
tav and Hitler Lines well merited Kes- 
selring's confidence that the gateway to 
the Liri valley and to Rome was reason- 
ably secure. 

Alexander's Concept 

To open the gateway, Alexander laid 
before his army and corps commanders, 
on 22 February 1944, guidelines for a 
co-ordinated attack by the British 
Eighth and the U.S. Fifth Armies. In 
the first battle for Rome, which had 
lasted from January to March, the 
American Fifth Army had carried the 
burden of the main effort at Monte 
Cassino and along the Garigliano River. 
This time General Alexander had de- 



cided that it would be the Eighth 
Army's responsibility to accomplish 
what the Fifth had failed to do, break 
through the enemy's defenses into the 
Liri valley and lead a drive to the line 
Civitavecchia-Viterbo-Terni north of 
Rome. 

On the Eighth Army's left, between 
the Liri River and the Tyrrhenian 
coast, the Fifth Army was to attack 
through the Aurunci Mountains and 
along the coast. That part of the Fifth 
Army in the Anzio beachhead was to 
burst forth from the confines of the 
beachhead and push back the German 
Fowieenth Army in order to cut off and 
destroy the right wing of the German 
Tenth Army as it fell back from the main 
attack along the southern front. ^ 

Behind this concept lay General 
Alexander's conviction, based upon un- 
usually good intelligence of the enemy's 
strength and dispositions, that the Liri 
valley, at the foot of the western margin 
of the Central Apennines, and the 
Anzio beachhead on the western coastal 
plain provided the only satisfactory 
areas for major offensive operations 
wherein he could effectivelv utilize Al- 
lied air and armored superiority. The 
central sector facing the Liri valley, 
which until March had been held by 
General Clark's Fifth Armv, was now- 
assigned to General Leese's Eighth 
Army, while Clark's Army was shifted 
to a relatively narrow sector between 
the Liri valley and the Tyrrhenian Sea. 



' Memo, Alexander to Wilson, 22 Feb 44, Future 
Operations in Italy, AFHQ microfilm. Job 10-A, 
reel 1-c, G-3 Plans/20, Italv Opns Policv; ACM? 
Appreciation No. 1, 22 Feb 44, AFHQ film. Job 47- 
B, reel 156-G, Ph/9, Post Huskv Administration & 
Maintenance; Opn. Order #1, H(js. AAI, 5 May 
1944. See also W.G.F. Jackson, Thf BattU- for Italy 
(New York: Harper and Row, 1967), p. 223. 



20 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Clark also retained command of the 
Anzio beachhead. 

The source of the extraordinarily 
good intelligence that supported Gen- 
eral Alexander's conviction arose from 
a fortuitous circumstance that had led 
eventually to the breaking of the Ger- 
mans' major operational code. Since 
early 1940 the British had been deci- 
phering and reading the Germans' 
Enigma Code — the code by which all 
major command radio traffic was sent. 
The advantages this gave the Allies in 
the North African campaign moved 
Cjeneral Alexander to remark in 1943 
that '"the knowledge not only of the 
enemy's precise strength and disposition 
but also how, when, and where he 
intends to carry out his operations has 
brought a new dimension into the 
prosecution of the war." Planning for 
the spring offensive, therefore, would 
take place under the most favorable 
circumstances for the Allied command. 
Unknown to the Germans, every major 
radio message to and from the OKW 
and OKH to Kesselring's army group 
and his two field armies was deciphered 
within minutes of its transmission and 
then relayed via special liaison units, 
attached to army groups and field 
armies, to the commanders and the 
relatively few officers on their staffs 
privy to the secret. *" 

After the failure of an Allied assault 
on Monte Cassino in February, General 
Alexander had concluded that he 
would have to develop a local superior- 
ity of at least three to one in infantry in 
order to have a reasonable chance of 



breaking through the enemy's defenses. 
To achieve this superiority in the critical 
Liri valley sector, he had ordered major 
regrouping of Allied forces on 5 
March. For ease in administration and 
supply, all British-equipped divisions, 
which included Dominion, Indian, and 
Polish units, would be brought into the 
Eighth Army, and all American- 
equipped divisions would remain in the 
Fifth Army. Thinning out the eastern 
sector of the front from the Central 
Apennines to the Adriatic, Alexander 
gave responsibility for the entire Ad- 
riatic sector to the British 5 Corps, 
under direct command of Headquar- 
ters, AAI. '' 

While these changes were being 
made, the Mediterranean Allied Tacti- 
cal Air Force (MATAF) began, on 19 
March, a large-scale interdiction opera- 
tion against German rail, road, and sea 
communications throughout an area 
from the so-called Pisa- Rimini Line to 
the southern battlefront. Appropriately 
designated Strangle, the operation was 
designed to choke off the enemy's 
supplies during the period preceding 
the spring offensive. By the end of 
March all rail lines from Rome to the 
southern front were cut off North of 
Rome rail traffic was generally unable 
to approach closer than within 1 25 
miles of the capital. This progiam of 
interdiction was to be continued 



'" Quoted in F.W. Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret 
(London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1974), p. 187. 



"Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Itaiv, 3 September 1943 to 2 Mav 1945. 
Part II, The Campaign in Central Italv, 26 March 
to 10 August 1944, Sec. B, Eighth Armv Advance to 
Rome, British Historical Section, Central Mediterra- 
nean, copv in Military Historv Research Collection, 
Carlisle, Pa.: Fifth Arrn\ History, Part \'. The Drive to 
Rome (Florence, Italv: LImpronta Piess, 1945), p. 2. 



PREPARING FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



21 



MONTE CASSINO 



PIGNATARO 



SAN GIORGIO 



LIRI RIVER 






^^^ 




LiRi Valley 



through the first day of Diadem, the 
code name of the Allied offensive. ^^ 

A Cover Plan 

To conceal the large-scale shifting of 
divisions behind the Allied front, the 
AAI staff devised a cover and decep- 
tion plan designated Nunton. Its pur- 
pose was to confuse the enemy on the 
location of the forthcoming Allied of- 

'^ See Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Gate, 
eds., "Army Air Forces in World War II," vol. Ill, 
Europe: Argument to V-E Day (Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1951), p. 387 (hereafter cited as 
Craven and Cate, eds., AAF III). 



fensive — to come either from the Anzio 
beachhead or from the southern 
front — in the hope that Kesselring in 
his uncertainty would be led to hold his 
reserves well back from the main front 
when the attack came. '^ 

When in late March it became appar- 
ent that the efforts of the New Zealand 
corps at Cassino had already tipped off 
the Germans on the importance the 
Allies attached to the sector west of the 
Apennines, AAI modified its deception 



'^ Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. B. 



22 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



plan somewhat. Hencetorth the plan 
would attempt to convince the enemy 
that the Allies intended to launch an- 
other amphibious operation, this time 
in the vicinity of Civitavecchia, some 
forty miles north of Rome. The sur- 
prise achieved b\ the Anzio operation 
suggested that the Germans would be 
special!) alert for any sign of a similar 
operation, and therefore more likely to 
be taken in by this deception than by 
indications of a major offensive from 
the beachhead area. The Germans, the 
Allied planners hoped, would therefore 
view the opening of the spring offen- 
si\e along the Garigliano and Rapido 
Rivers as a strong demonstration de- 
signed to draw their attention from the 
coastal flank. '^ The scenario for the 
cover plan called for the two divisions 
of the 1st Canadian Corps, then in 
Eighth Army reserve, and the 36th 
Infantrv Division, in Fifth Army re- 
serve, to simulate heavy radio traffic 
and take other measures to create the 
impression that they were engaged in 
amphibious training in the Naples-Sal- 
erno area. 

Disposition of tlie Allied Armies 

Foul weather and the normal dela)s 
attending the shifting of large numbers 
of troops in mountainous terrain had 
deferred completion of the regroup- 
ment of the two armies until the end of 
March. At the beginning of April the 
Eighth Army's sector extended 75 miles 
northeastward from the southernmost 
edge of the Liri valley, along a line 



•^ For text of plan, see AAI Opns Plan 53, 18 Apr 
44, in Operations of the British, Indian, and 
Dominion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. A, Allied 
Strategy, App C-2. 



from the highest peak of the Maiella, 
over the summit of the Gran Sasso 
massif of the Central Apennines, thence 
to the slopes of the hills overlooking the 
eastern coastal plain held by the British 
5 Corps. General Leese's striking force, 
the British 13 Corps, commanded by 
Lt. Gen. Sidney C. Kirkman, held the 
left of this line astride the Liri valley 
with four divisions. In army reserve, 
prepared either to pass through or to 
enter the corps front, was Maj. Gen. 
E.L.M. Burns' I Canadian Corps with 
two infantry divisions and an armored 
brigade. To the 13th Corps' right and 
assembled for what was expected to be 
the final assault against Monte Cassino, 
was Lt. Gen. Wladyslaw Anders' 2 
Polish Corps, also controlling two infan- 
try divisions and an armored brigade — 
but with this difference, the Polish 
divisions contained only two brigades. 
The armored brigade was to support 
either division. The British 10 Corps, 
w ith the equivalent of two divisions, was 
next in line. 

Holding a cjuiet front across the wild 
and desolate Central Apennines on the 
Eighth Army's right wing, Lt. Gen. Sir 
R.L. McCreery's 10 Corps included a 
miscellaneous gioup of units represent- 
ing the equivalent of four independent 
brigades, an infantrv and an armored 
division. On the Adriatic flank were 
veterans of the Tunisian Campaign, the 
British 5 Corps with two infantrv di\i- 
sions and an armored brigade. This 
corps was to serve as a containing force 
and be prepared to follow up any 
enemv withdrawal. '-^ 

The U.S. Fifth Army held a relatively 
narrow front extending 12 miles from a 



'^ Alexander DisfxiUh, p. 47. 



PREPARINC; FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



23 




General Coulter 



General Sloan 



point just east of the village of Scauri 
on the Tyrrhenian coast. Curving 
northward as far as Tremensuoli, the 
front then ran eastward along a range 
of hills north of the Garigliano River as 
far as the town of Minturno. From 
there the front line continued east 
through the village of Rufo, northeast 
across the Ausente valley to a point just 
southwest of Castelforte about six miles 
northeast of Minturno, thence east of 
the Monte Majo massif and across the 
forwarci sloj^es of Monti Turlitto, Juga, 
and Ornito to the Garigliano. It fol- 
lowed that river's east bank to the 
interarni) boundary along the southern 
edge of the Liri valley. 

On the left of this front was the U.S. 
II Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. 
Geoffrey Keyes, a cavalryman who had 
gained considerable experience in ar- 
mor as deputy to Lt. Gen. George S. 
Patton, Jr., in North Africa. Keyes had 
assumed command of the II Corps in 
Sicily. During April Keyes' corps con- 



sisted of two newly arrived infantry 
divisions — the 85th and 88th, com- 
manded respectively by Maj. Gens. 
John B. Coulter and John E. Sloan. 
The arrival of these divisions in Italy 
was, as General George C. Marshall 
remarked after the war, "the great 
psychological turning-point in the build- 
ing of a battleworthy army." '^ These 
were the first U.S. divisions to enter 
combat consisting largely of wartime 
draftees, making the coming offensive, 
at least the II Corps' part of it, the first 
real test of the U.S. Army's wartime 
training and replacement system. It was 
particularly fitting that this test be made 
under General Clark's command, for as 
G-3 and later as Chief of Staff of the 
Army Ground Forces in 1942 he had 
played an important role in the creadon 
of the system. Beginning on 10 April 
two regiments of the 85th Division 
assumed responsibility for the left half 

'« General Marshall Intervs, 25 Jul 49, in CMH 
files. 



24 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



of the Minturno bridgehead, while one 
regiment of the 88th Division covered 
the rem.iinder of the corps front to the 
left boundary of the French-held Monte 
Juga bridgehead north of the Garigli- 
ano. 

The French Expeditionary Corps 
(FEC) on the II Corps' right had been 
formed in Italy during the previous 
winter. Armed and equipped in North 
Africa by the U.S. Army, the FEC was 
under the command of General Al- 
phonse Juin, Algerian-born graduate of 
St. Cvr, the French national military 
academv. '" During the winter fighting 
the French corps had incurred 7,836 
casualties in an attempt to envelop 
Monte Cassino from the north. Al- 
though the maneuver had failed to 
bring about the capture of that key 
position, French mountain troops had 
amply demonstrated their skill and 
worth with the capture of Monte Bel- 
vedere and Monte Abate. Allied com- 
manders could expect that they would 
do equally well when faced once again 
with similar mountainous terrain. 

For the first half of April the 4th 
Moroccan Mountain Division, recently 
arrived from Corsica, held the entire 
corps front, while the 2d Moroccan 
Infantry and 3d Algerian Infantrv Divi- 
sions rested or engaged in mountain 
training in the vicinity of Salerno. In 
the middle of the month the 2d Moroc- 
can Division returned to the front to 
take over a part of the bridgehead 
from the 4th Moroccan Division. In the 
second half of April, Juin's corps also 



received the French 1st Motorized In- 
fantry Division, which included many 
early Free French recruits, who after 
the fall of France had rallied to the 
banner of General Charles de Gaulle. 

During April three groups of Tabors, 
totaling about 12,000 men, arrived in 
Italy from North Africa. The Tabors — 
units somewhat larger than battalion 
strength and made up of goums, or 
companies — were recruited from the 
mountain tribes of French North Af- 
rica. Usually referred to as goumiers, 
the men were professional soldiers and 
skilled in mountain warfare. '^ 

To control the Tabors, the First 
Goum Headquarters was attached to 
FEC on 13 April. By the beginning of 
May Juin's corps numbered 99,000 offi- 
cers and men — ^a formidable organiza- 
tion. Among the reinforcements were 
sufficient engineers to permit the re- 
lease of American units previously at- 
tached to the FEC. After April only 
U.S. armor and artillery units, the latter 
under the command of the 13th Field 
Artillery Brigade, would still be used in 
significant numbers in support of Juin's 
corps. '^ 



'' See Marcel Vigneras, Rearming the French, THE 
UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
(Washington, 1957), for the background of the 
FEC. 



'* A group of Tabors was the equivalent of a 
battalion; a goum the equivalent of a companv. A 
goumier was a Moroccan irregular soldier, usually 
recruited from the Berber tribesmen of the Atlas 
mountains and under the command of French 
officers and noncommissioned officers. A Tabor 
usuallv included a headquarters, one heavv weap- 
ons goum, and three goums with a total strength of 
about 65 officers and NCO's and 859 native NCO's 
and men, with 247 horses and mules. A group was 
composed of a headquarters and three Tabors with 
a total strength of about 3,100. In Februarv 1944 
the Goums Moroccains, under the command of 
Brig. Gen. Augustine Guillaume, was composed of 
the 1st, 3d, and 4th Groups of Tabors, in all about 
10,000 men. 

'" Operating as the French Expeditionarv Corps' 
artillery as long as the corps remained in Italy, the 



PREPARINC; FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



25 




I 




General Keyes 



General Crittenberger 



In preparation for the coming offen- 
sive, the Fifth Army also received some 
small but important reinforcements for 
mountain warfare. Two battalions of 
U.S. pack artillery (75-mm. pack howitz- 
ers) and two additional Italian pack 
mule companies were assigned to the 
army. The veteran 36th Infantry Divi- 
sion lay in army reserve, recuperating 
from the bloody battles of the past 
winter. 

Since February, the U.S. VI Corps at 
Anzio had been commanded by Maj. 
Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., former 
commander of the 3d Infantry Division. 

13th Field Artillery Brigade, under the command 
of Brig. Gen. Carl C. Banks, eventually moved with 
the French units when they left Italy for southern 
France, during Operation Dragoon. From the 
Mediterranean to the Rhine, the brigade would 
function as the I French Corps' artillery with both 
French and American units under its control. 



Truscott's corps held the beachhead 
with five and one-half divisions: the 
British 1st and 5th, the U.S. 3d, 34th, 
and 45th Infantry Divisions, and Com- 
bat Command A (CCA) of the U.S. 1st 
Armored Division. In addition to these, 
Truscott had the 36th Engineer Com- 
bat Regiment and the 1st Special Serv- 
ice Force, the latter an elite Canadian- 
American regiment-sized combat com- 
mand composed of men trained as 
parachutists, rangers, and commandos. 
Truscott had four of his infantry divi- 
sions in line and one in reserve along 
with the armored combat command. 

Lt. Gen. Willis D. Crittenberger, com- 
mander of the newly arrived IV Corps 
headquarters, was like his fellow U.S. 
corps commanders in Italy a former 
cavalryman. An outstanding instructor 
at the U.S. Army Command and Gen- 



26 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



eral Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, 
Crittenberger had also served as chief 
of staff of the 1st Armored Division, 
commanding general of the 2d Ar- 
mored Division, and later commanding 
general of the II Armored Corps. 

Crittenberger brought the IV Corps 
headquarters to Italy on 26 March, 
where for the next seven weeks it 
would remain in command of the 
coastal sector near Naples. Because of 
the relati\ely narrow army sector Clark 
would not commit the corps until June, 
when the VI Corps was withdrawn to 
take part in the Seventh Army's opera- 
tion in southern France. 

Both Allied armies were multinational 
in their make-up. The U.S. Fifth Army 
reflected the wartime coalition of the 
United States, Britain, and France. The 
British Eighth Army was even more of 
a polyglot assemblage. Serving under 
General Leese's command were soldiers 
of such diverse nationalities as Polish, 
Xepalese, Belgian, Greek, Syro-Le- 
banese, and Yugoslav. Added to this 
\ariety were troops from the United 
Kingdom and the other widespread 
members of the British Common- 
wealth — Canada, New Zealand, South 
Africa, Newfoundland, India, and Cey- 
lon. There were also men from Basuto- 
land, Swaziland, Bechuanastan, as well 
as from the Seychelles, Mauritius, Rod- 
riques, and West Indian Islands. As a 
recently announced cobelligerent, Italy 
also provided a few miscellaneous 
units. -" 

The manpower strength of the Brit- 
ish Eighth Army, including the 5 
Corps, totaled some 265,371 officers 
and men. This was considerablv smaller 



than the 350,276 making up the U.S. 
Fifth Army and would help account for 
the somewhat different approaches to 
tactical problems on the part of the two 
army commanders. -' 

Planning the Offensive 

The code name Diadem given to 
the coming offensive of the AAI staff 
implied that it was expected to be the 
crowning touch to months of frustrat- 
ing campaigning by the Fifth and 
Eighth Armies, respectivelv, from Sal- 
erno and Calabria to the banks of the 
Rapido and the Sangio. Although the 
capture of Rome, the first of the two 
axis capitals, was one of Diadem's 
obvious strategic goals, the offensive's 
real purpose was to keep as many 
German divisions as possible engaged in 
Italy as the Me 'iterranean theater's 
contribution to Overlord — the forth- 
coming invasion of northwestern 
France. Just before the spring offensive 
began, Alexander, in his order of the 
day, would hint at this connection with 
the words: "To us in Italv has been 
given the honor to strike the first 
blow." '-- 

General Alexander, with a record of 
distinguished service on the western 
front in World War I, shared the 
determination of all British authorities, 
from the Prime Minister on down, to 
avoid, if at all possible, "the costly 



Alexander Z)f5/?a<f A p. 42 and App. E. 



-' Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Part V, Sec. Ill; Ftjth Army History, 
Part V, App. B. Exact over-all, (present for dut>) 
strength figures at anv given time are difficult to 
determine. The figures given are therefore neces- 
sarily approximate and give only a basis tor com- 
parison with enemv strength figures which are also 
approximate. 

-- Alexander, Order of the Dav, .A.\I, Mav 1944. 



PREPARING FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



27 



frontal assaults which had characterized 
the campaigns of 1915-1918."^'^ It was 
logical for the Allied armies com- 
mander in Italy to opt for a strategy 
that would eschew the concentration of 
all his forces at one point for one 
massive onslaught against the enemy's 
lines. Instead the coming offensive was 
conceived of in terms of the campaign 
in North Africa. Drawing upon a box- 
ing analogy which he would frequently 
employ in the months to come, General 
Alexander described the coming offen- 
sive in terms of a one-two punch, with 
the Eight and Fifth armies throwing the 
first punch on the southern front and 
the Fifth Army's VI Corps following up 
with the second punch — a left hook 
from the Anzio beachhead. On the 
southern front the Eighth Army was to 
play the major role with a break- 
through into the Liri valley, followed 
by an advance along the axis of High- 
way 6 to Valmontone twenty miles 
southeast of Rome and a junction with 
the U.S. VI Corps attacking out of the 
beachhead. From his reading of the 
Ultra messages Alexander knew that 
the Valmontone area was a potentially 
weak point in the Germans' defenses. 
The Fifth Army was, meanwhile, to 
turn the southern flank of the enemy's 
defenses opposite the Eighth Army by 
securing the Ausonia defile, five miles 
northwest of Castelforte, extending 
northward about three miles to the Liri 
valley, and then advancing four miles 
to the northwest, via Esperia, to the 
southern edge of the valley. ^^ 



"John Ehrman. "Lloyd George and Churchill as 
War Ministers," pp. 101-15, in Tramattiom of the 
Royal Historical Socwty, Fifth Series, vol. II (I^)ndon 
1961). 

^* See General Alexander's notes for the confer- 



General Alexander evidently in- 
tended for Valmontone rather than 
Rome to be the major tactical focal 
point of the spring offensive, as had 
been the case in the first battle fin- 
Rome in January. Converging on Val- 
montone, the two Allied armies, Alex- 
ander believed, would trap and possibly 
destroy a major portion of the German 
Tenth Army. His plan to use the Fifth 
Army reserve, the 36th Infantry Divi- 
sion, either to reinforce the southern 
front or, on short notice, to move to the 
beachhead suggests the importance he 
attached to his "one-two punch" con- 
cept. -'^ 

Planning for Operations in the Liri Valley 

For some time it had been apparent, 
not only to Alexander but also the 
Eighth Army's staff, that the Liri valley 
offered the only terrain in the Allied 
sector where that Army's superioritv in 
artillery, armor, and aircraft could be 
exploited to best advantage. Moreover 
the valley offered the shortest and best 
road to central Italy and to Rome. 
Along the valley's southern edge runs 
the river which gives the valley its 
name. A tributary, the Gari, flows due 
south for nine miles across the valley's 
entrance to join the Liri about a mile 
north of Sant'Ambrogio. A neck of 
land enclosed by these two rivers, 
shortly before they join some six miles 
south of Cassino to form the Garigli- 
ano, was called the Liri "appendix" by 
Allied staff officers. From the tip of the 

ence held at AAI headquarters on 2 April 1944, in 
Operations of British, Indian and Dominion Forces 
in Italy, 3 Sep 43 to 2 May 45, Part I, The 
Conquest of Southern Italy, App. B-1. 
-'■ Ibid. 



28 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



appendix to the road junction of Ce- 
prano, near the junction of the Liri and 
Sacco Rivers, the valley is about twenty 
miles in length. Forming a rather broad 
and open plain opposite the Eighth 
Armv's front, the valley gradually nar- 
rows to the northwest, becoming undu- 
lating and well-wooded toward Ce- 
prano. In the spring of 1944 the val- 
ley's fertile soil supported abundant 
crops, especially vineyards, their vegeta- 
tion the more luxuriant because they 
\\ere untended. 

Except for Highway 6, the Roman- 
built Via Casilina, which hugs the val- 
ley's northern wall, there were in 1944 
few roads in the valley suitable for 
modern military traffic. Communica- 
tions were further hampered by the 
ability of the enemy in the flanking hills 
to observe all movement in the valley 
below. Numerous transverse gullies, the 
most important of which was the Forme 
d'Aquino, cut across the valley and 
would create additional problems as the 
Eighth Army advanced. 

Allied commanders had long agreed 
that the flanking high ground must 
first be seized before any large-scale 
operations could be undertaken in the 
Liri valley. In a move General Clark 
had tried during the winter, General 
Leese decided to send an attack into the 
foothills of the Monte Cairo massif, of 
which Monte Cassino is the most prom- 
inent and best known feature, simulta- 
neously with an attack across the Rap- 
ido to isolate and capture the town of 
Cassino. The Monte Majo massif, the 
high ground south of the valley, was to 
be dealt with by the EEC, the Fifth 
Army's right flank corps. In keeping 
with British practice, Leese issued no 
operation order. Instead on 1 1 April he 



simply gave his corps commanders a 
short directive, then elaborated his plan 
verbally in a series of command confer- 
ences between that date and D-day. ^'^ 

Leese divided his attack into two 
phases, the first aimed at the Gustav 
Line and the second aimed at the Hitler 
Line. During the opening phase, the 
Polish corps was to isolate Monte Cas- 
sino from the north and northwest and 
thereby dominate Highway 6 to facili- 
tate the advance of the 13 Corps, 
fighting its way south of the highway 
from the Rapido. Only after the latter 
corps had gained control of the high- 
way were the Poles to attempt to storm 
and capture the monastery itself While 
the Polish corps cut off the Germans 
defending Monte Cassino, the 13 Corps 
was to establish a bridgehead across the 
Rapido River just south of Cassino. 
Moving out from the bridgehead, the 
corps was to isolate the town at the foot 
of Monastery Hill by cutting the high- 
way and joining up with the Polish 
troops southwest of Cassino. Finally, 1 3 
Corps was to clear the town and open 
up the highway from the front to the 
point of contact with the Polish corps, 
before advancing on the Hitler Line, 
the enemy's second line of defense in 
the Liri valley. ~^ 

In the attack's second phase the 
Polish corps was to advance four miles 
westward across the flanks of the 



-* Operations of the British, Indian, and Domin- 
ion Forces in Italy, Part II, The Campaign in 
Central Italy. Unless otherwise indicated the follow- 
ing section is based upon this reference. 

-^ The 2 Polish Corps had its origin in the 1st 
Carpathian Infantry Brigade which had served with 
distinction during 1941-42 in North Africa. Lt. 
Gen. Wladyslaw Anders, the corps' commander, 
had formed the Polish Army of the East after the 
Soviet Union had allowed the Poles to emigrate to 
Iran. 



PREPARING FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



29 



mountains north of the highway to the 
town of Piedimonte San Germano, the 
Hitler Line's northern anchor. The 10 
Corps was meanwhile to cover the 
Poles' right flank and to feint in the 
direction of Atina, a road junction in 
the mountains about ten miles north of 
Cassino. The 10 Corps was also to he 
prepared to provide reinforcements to 
other units as the battle progressed. 

When the offensive began, the 1 
Canadian Corps was to be prepared 
either to reinforce the attack if neces- 
sary or to pass through the 13 Corps to 
exploit a breakthrough of the enemy's 
defenses. The 6th South African Ar- 
moured Division, its motor brigade de- 
tailed temporarily to the 2d New Zea- 
land Division in 10 Corps, was also in 
army reserve. 

To accomplish its tasks the 13 Corps 
had an armored and three infantry 
divisions; the 2 Polish Corps, two infan- 
try divisions and one armored brigade; 
and the 10 Corps, an infantry division, 
an Italian battle group (Gruppo Combatti- 
mento) equivalent to about a regiment, 
an infantry brigade, and two armored 
car regiments. The Eighth Army had, 
therefore, an attack force with the 
strength equivalent to about seven in- 
fantry and three armored divisions as 
opposed to the four divisions (a para- 
chute, a mountain, and two infantry 
divisions) that the Tenth Army had oppo- 
site the Eighth Army's front. This ratio 
was approximately the superiority 
which Alexander believed was neces- 
sary. 

To support its thrust into the Liri 
valley the Eighth Army had assembled 
1,060 guns of all types. About 300 of 
these were to fire in support of the 2 
Polish Corps in its assault on Monte 
Cassino. The remainder were sited in 



support of the 13 Corps sector. By way 
of comparison, the Germans were be- 
lieved to have no more than 400 guns 
and rocket launchers supporting the 
units manning the Gustav Line in the 
valley. 

As the army's attack developed, artil- 
lery reconnaissance aircraft were to 
carry out a daily average of twelve 
missions to provide almost continuous 
surveillance of the battle area. Once the 
offensive got under way the main air 
effort during daylight was to be di- 
rected against enemy artillery and mor- 
tar positions in the valley and in the 
Atina area north of Cassino; by night 
the aircraft were to concentrate on the 
enemy line of communications. On the 
first day of the offensive fighter-bomb- 
ers were to attack enemy command 
posts and all traffic observed behind the 
German lines. 

To direct this air support Eighth 
Army had established three miles 
southeast of Cassino on Monte Troc- 
chio, overlooking the front, a static 
forward air control post known as 
Rover David. Fighter-bombers circling 
the general area were to call in at stated 
intervals and be assigned targets of 
opportunity, thus reducing to a mini- 
mum the time lag between a request 
for help and the response. Within the 
army the 13 Corps and the 2 Polish 
Corps were to have first priority on air 
support. This support would be shifted 
to the 1st Canadian Corps when it 
began its exploitation role following 
the expected breakthrough of the en- 
emy's first line of defense in the Liri 
valley. 

Developing the Fifth Army Plan 

A chain of steep rugged peaks rising 
to heights from 3,000 to 5,000 feet, the 



30 CASSINO TO THE ALPS 

\uiunci Mountains facing the Fifth posing the Anzio beachhead. From 

Army extended in a northwestwardly there the road begins a gradual ascent 

direction toward Rome and averaged of the southwestern flanks of the Alban 

fifteen miles in width. One side of the Hills and thence to Rome, 

mountain chain is bounded by a narrow Within the Aurunci Mountains the 

coastal corridor along the Tyrrhenian wild, roadless Petrella massif presented 

Sea, the other b)' the relatively broad the most formidable terrain of all. Only 

Liri \alley. At the towns of Gaeta and a few trails, created by generations of 

Terracina, respectively ten and twenty- charcoal makers and shepherds, run 

six miles from the mouth of the Garig- along its steep slopes and through its 

liano Ri\er, the coastal corridor narrows narrow valleys. From the south and east 

to little more than the width of a road access to the region by large military 

as the mountains drop abruptly to the formations is virtually impossible. The 

sea. Elsewhere the high ground recedes coastal plain rises gradually past isolated 

more giadually and yields either to the Monte Campese to the foot of the 

flat, waterlogged Fondi and Pontine massif, which in turn rises sharply from 

plains or to a fruitful coastal strip the plain. East of the massif a steep 

between Formia and Minturno. Inland escarpment overhangs the Ausonia cor- 

are such formidable peaks as Monte ridor, through which ran a road from 

Petrella and its surrounding massif, the coastal highway northward to the 

whose steep sides tower himdreds of Liri valley. At the village of Spigno, on 

feet above the low-lying coastal plain, a shoulder of the escarpment, a trail 

Yet even in these hills are to be seen ascended to the northwest with a 51 

fertile farms offering a welcome con- percent grade for the steepest quarter- 

trast to the bare rock that abounds mile and then curved north and west of 

elsewhere. Monte Petrella for about seven miles to 

Along the Fifth Army's far left flank a moimtain basin called the Fraile. 
ran Highway 7, the Via Appia, the only The massifs northern and western 
really good road in the army's zone slopes are more accessible. A good mule 
and its vital supply artery. Crossing the trail led southwest from Esperia, four 
Garigliano below Minturno, the high- miles northwest of Ausonia, to the 
way parallels the coast for about ten Fraile, approximately six miles away; 
miles as far as Formia before turning and from the Itri-Pico road, a three- 
northwestward into the mountains to mile trail, which the Germans had been 
Itri and Fondi, respectively six and improving, ran as far as the Piano del 
eighteen miles from Formia. After skirt- Campo, a level upland plain about four 
ing the coastal marshes to a bottleneck miles north of Itri. While men and 
at Terracina — a town straddling High- mules could penetrate to the key peak 
way 7 as it passes between the moun- of the massif from several directions, 
tains and the sea — the highway breaks motor movement was out of the ques- 
out of the mountains onto the level tion. A poor road cut northwest from 
Pontine plain and continues thirty-one the town of Castelforte to the town of 
miles to the town of Cisterna, major Ausonia, north of which it joined a 
strongpoint of the German forces op- second-class road that followed Ausente 



PREPARINC; FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



31 




Generals Brann {left) and Clark 



Creek from Sant'Ambrogio through Es- 
peria to Pico and San Giovanni Incar- 
ico. From Pico there are two routes, 
one running northwest through Pas- 
tena and Ceccano and the other south- 
west through Lenola, Valle Corsa, and 
Amaseno. 

The German rear areas were well 
served by two lateral roads, one branch- 
ing off the coastal highway west of 
Minturno and following the Ausonia 
corridor northward some eighteen 
miles through the towns of Ausonia 
and San Giorgio a Liri to Cassino; the 
other, Highway 82, running northward 



from Itri twelve miles to Pico and on to 
the Liri valley. 

As unlikely and uninviting a picture 
as this terrain presented to the Fifth 
Army commanders and staff, to bold 
and innovative minds it would offer 
tactical and strategic opportunities as 
alluring as those more apparent ones in 
the Liri valley. This favorable develop- 
ment, when combined with the known 
German troop dispositions and the 
strong initiative shown by the Fifth 
Army commander within the Allied 
command structure in Italy, would have 
a far-reaching effect on the course of 



32 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



the forthcoming spring offensive. 

As was British custom, Alexander's 
staff had drawn up the general order 
for Operation Diadem in nothing like 
the minute detail usually found in 
American field orders. The British 
practice was to provide only broad 
operational guidelines for subordinate 
commanders. For American staffs and 
commanders such broad directives cre- 
ated problems. So much freedom of 
action did the British practice afford 
subordinate commanders that they 
sometimes carried out an operational 
plan quite at variance with the senior 
commander's original intent. Clark, his 
staff, and his corps commanders en- 
joyed the same latitude in preparing 
Fifth Army's part in Operation Diadem. 
While following in principle the guide- 
lines laid down in Alexander's order, 
the plan drawn up at the end of March 
by the Fifth Army ojDerations officer, 
Brig. Gen. Donald W. Brann, provided 
room for significant deviations from the 
original concept. 2*^ 

In accordance with this concept 
Leese's Eighth Army was to make the 
main attack across the Rapido River to 
capture Cassino town and Monte Cas- 
sino and open up the Liri valley. The 
Fifth Army was to concentrate on an 
envelopment of the Cassino-Rapido line 
from the left through the Aurunci 
Mountains to help the Eighth Army 
accomplish its mission. Yet the Fifth 
Army staff saw in the envelopment 
maneuver an opportunity to greatly 
enhance the army's role in the offen- 
sive. Monte Majo, rather than Monte 
Cassino, might well become the key to a 



breakthrough into the Liri valley. Clark, 
convinced that his neighbor on the 
right lacked sufficient aggressiveness to 
lead the Allied offensive up the Liri 
valley where the German defenses were 
strongest, was determined that Fifth 
Army should lead the way.^^ 

Instead of repeating the past winter's 
practice of costly frontal attacks, one 
that had cost the Fifth Army heavy 
casualties, Brann believed that the Ger- 
mans' defenses in the Liri valley could 
best be unhinged by a flanking attack 
led by the EEC through the Aurunci 
Mountains south of the Liri. Thus far 
Brann's concept differed little from 
Alexander's. If as Brann envisioned, the 
U.S. II Corps, after first blocking the 
Formia corridor, would pass through 
the EEC and continue the attack on a 
narrow front toward Monte d'Oro, 
some seventeen miles northwest of 
Monte Majo, the possibility loomed 
large that the Fifth Army and not the 
Eighth Army would, as Clark expected, 
lead the way toward Rome. It seemed 
to Brann that the Eighth Army's pri- 
mary role should be to maintain suffi- 
cient pressure against the defenses at 
the mouth of the Liri valley to prevent 
the enemy from reinforcing the moun- 
tain sector opposite the Fifth Army's 
right wing.^*^ 

At Fifth Army headquarters the G-3 
planning subsection, headed by Lt. Col. 



" Memo, Gen Brann for Gen Clark, 24 Mar 44, 
Truscott Papers. 



'^^ At the time of the original attempt to break 
into the Liri valley during the winter campaign. 
General Keyes had urged that the mountain mass 
above Sant'Angelo and south of the valley be taken 
betore an attempt was made to cross the Rapido. At 
that time the suggestion was not accepted by 
General McCreery, the British 10 Corps com- 
mander. See Blumenson, Salerno to Cassino, p. 326. 

^° Memo, Brann for Clark, 24 Mar 44, Truscott 
Papers. 



PREPARINC; FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



33 



Abraham M. Lazar, worked out the 
details ot Brann's plan. Lazar and his 
staff recognized that the main objective 
in the first phase of the attack should 
be Monte Majo, the dominating feature 
opposite the army's right wing and the 
southernmost of the two anchors of the 
German defenses across the Liri valley. 
After Monte Majo, the next objective 
on that wing would be Monte d'Oro, 
whose summit would provide observa- 
tion over the second line of German 
defenses in the Liri vallev.^^' 

There were several advantages in 
concentrating on Monte Majo first, not 
the least of which was that German 
defenses there appeared to be less than 
formidable. Although the terrain was 
forbidding, it was just the type the 4th 
Moroccan Mountain Division of the 
FEC had been trained to operate in. 
Once the French had (x:cupied Monte 
Majo, they could exploit the excellent 
observation from its summit over the 
Liri vallev and the enemy's first line of 
defenses there. The one major draw- 
back in the plan was obvious: a dearth 
of roads, which posed serious problems 
in supply and artillery support. The 
planners, however, believed that mule 
pack trains and jeeps might suffice until 
roads and trails could be improved.^- 

Generals Juin and Keyes agreed in 
commenting on the draft plan that the 
army's main effort should be made 
along the Monte Majo-Monte d'Oro 
axis to outflank the enemy's Liri valley 
positions. Yet both objected to the fail- 
ure to provide for an advance over the 
central part of the Aurunci Mountains, 
the Petrella massif, and to the proposal 



that, once the Formia corridor had 
been sealed off, the II Corps should 
pass through the FEC to continue the 
attack. Juin and Keyes both wanted to 
broaden the base of the Army's offen- 
sive to include a thrust across the 
Petrella massif either to open the 
coastal road (Highway 7) or to assist the 
French corps' advance toward Monte 
d'Oro. 3"' 

Juin's chief of staff, General Marcel 
Carpentier, conveyed this dissent to 
Brann, pointing out that the projected 
route of advance from Monte Majo to 
Monte d'Oro, one to two miles wide 
and served by a single road, was too 
narrow to accommodate two corps, that 
a wider envelopment, including an at- 
tack through the Petrella massif as far 
as the Itri-Pico road, was necessary to 
outflank the enemy's deep defensive 
zones in the Liri valley. General Car- 
pentier proposed, instead, that the FEC 
move through the Aurunci Mountains, 
while the U.S. II Corps broke through 
the enemy's coastal defenses, to open 
Highway 7.^^ This modification would 
further enhance the role played by the 
Fifth Army in the coming offensive at 
the expense of Alexander's concept of 
subordinating everything to expediting 
the Eighth Army's thrust up the Liri 
valley. 

These proposals reflected Juin's con- 
clusions after he reviewed the winter 
operations at Cassino. Only an outflank- 
ing maneuver through the mountains 
south of the Liri — an envelopment far 



^' Fifth Army (^3 Planning Studv, 26 Mar 44. 
« Ihid. 



''•'' Marechal Alphonse Juin, La Campagne d' Italic 
(Paris: Editions Grey Victor, 1962), pp. 91-100. 

^^ Marcel Carpentier, "Le corps expeditionnaire 
francais en Italie," Revue de Defense Nationale, new 
series (November 1, 1945), p. 579; Juin, La Cam- 
pagne d'ltalie, pp. 91-100. 



34 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



wider tlian that contemplated by either 
Alexander or Clark — would, Juin be- 
lie\ed, force a German withdrawal in 
the Liri valley. The longer Juin studied 
the area in front of his corps the more 
convinced he became that the decisive 
objecdve for the first phase of the Fifth 
Arm\'s offensive should be the enemy's 
second lateral route of communications, 
the Itri-Pico road connecting the coastal 
hiffhwav near Formia with the Liri 
\alle\ . By controlling this route the FEC 
would be able in the second phase to 
strike northward against the deep flank 
and rear of the enemy forces in the 
\'alle\ , an envelopment so deep that the 
Germans would be forced to withdraw 
completely from the Liri valley to avoid 
being trapped there. ^^ 

With this objective in mind Juin 
recommended to Clark a double envel- 
opment by the two Allied armies — the 
Fifth Army from the south by way of 
the Aurunci Mountains and Pico and 
the Eighth Army from the north by 
way of Atina, an important road junc- 
tion nine miles north of Cassino. ^^ This 
approach was quite different from that 
originally outlined by General Alex- 
ander. To achieve the envelopment 
from the south, Juin wanted to send his 
corps along the Monte Juga-Pico axis, 
first breaking through the enemy posi- 
tions at Monte Majo, then cjuickly ex- 
ploiting along several ridges running 
northwest from Monte Majo before 
clearing the area between Ausonia and 
Coreno to the north and the Colle di 



■''^ Juin, La Campagne d'ltalie, pp. 91-100. 

■'^ Memoire du General Juin en date du 4 Avril 1944 
sur les futures operations du C.E.F. dans les monts 
Aurunci, piece Nr. 116, in FEC Journal de Man lie 
(annexes), 1 April-22 July 1944, vol. I, roll No. 10. 
Unless otherwise indicated, the following section is 
based upon this document. 



Teto to the south. The II Corps, 
meanwhile, would be clearing the lower 
Garigliano and opening the approach 
roads and assembly areas required for 
an exploitation through the Petrella 
massif. 

The FEC commander further cau- 
tioned against concentrating the Fifth 
Army's effcjrts on frontal attacks astride 
the two available roads in the army 
zone — the narrow Ausonia-Pontecorvo- 
Pico road and the coastal highway — for 
they were under enemy observation 
and covered by strong defenses. An 
advance along the roads to take the 
towns of Esperia and Formia would, he 
warned, involve heavy fighting and "put 
us at the mercy of the enemy" regard- 
less of Allied strength. Juin instead 
urged upon Clark a rapid push by two 
corps through the lightly defended 
mountain sectors. This push would cut 
enemy communications and b\pass de- 
fenses along the roads, thereby prepar- 
ing the way for later advances along 
them. 

To make the exploitation phase of 
the offensive across the roadless moun- 
tains, Juin expected to form a provi- 
sional mountain corps consisting of the 
4th Moroccan Mountain Division and 
the Tabors. This force was to advance 
northwest ten miles from Castelforte to 
establish a strong base in the vicinity of 
Monte d'Oro four miles south of Ponte- 
corvo in the Liri valley. From there the 
force could either attack the enemy's 
second line of defense or, if the II 
Corps recjuired help, turn south toward 
Itri and Highway 7. After Esperia had 
been cleared, the 4th Moroccan Moun- 
tain Division, in company with another 
division, would attack the enemy's sec- 
ond line of defense in the vicinitv of 



PREPARING FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



35 



Pico. General Jiiin thus anticipated a 
wide envelopment ot objectives, com- 
bined with pressure along the Esperia 
road. 

Once established around Pico, the 
EEC could attack either toward Ce- 
prano c:)r Frosinone, important road 
junctions on Highway 6 and seventeen 
and twenty-eight miles, respectively, 
west-northwest of Cassino. In Juin's 
opinion, his corps, if reinforced by a 
fourth division and relieved on the 
right bv the Eighth Army's advance in 
the Liri valley, would be able to con- 
tinue in the direction of Frosinone 
instead of vielding its zone to the II 
Corps as Brann had originally pro- 
posed. Unalterably opposed to the sin- 
gle axis concept, Juin pointed to the 
confusion and lost time that would 
result if the II Corps attempted to 
relieve the EEC after it had reached the 
enemy's second Ime of defense. 

Instead Juin suggested that Keyes' 
corps cut the Ausonia-Formia road and 
take Spigno on the eastern edge of the 
Petrella massif. If Keyes used Spigno as 
a base for a thrust across the moun- 
tains, his corps could, in Juin's opinion, 
better assist the EEC advance toward 
the Germans' second line of defense. In 
the coastal area the II Corps should, 
Juin believed, follow up the attack from 
Spigno by occupying and clearing 
Highway 7 and thereby c^pening up a 
supply route to support further ad- 
vances in the mountains. 

Agreeing in principle with Juin's pro- 
posals, Keyes indicated that he would 
use the 88th Division to make the main 
effort on his right. He would make a 
secondary effort with the 85th Division 
in the coastal sector on the corps' left 
flank. 



Clark approved Juin's and Keyes' 
reconnnendations. To Brann's plan for 
a breakthrough by the EEC over Monte 
Majo and the sealing off of the Formia 
coiridor by the II Corps, Clark added 
Juin's proposals to broaden the base of 
the army's offensive by making a two- 
corps attack across the Petrella massif to 
cut the Itri-Pico road, the Germans' 
main lateral supply route, and to make 
a wider envelopment of their defenses 
in the Liri valley. ^'^ 

While still embodying Alexander's 
concept of an envelopment of the Ger- 
inans' Liri valley defenses, the Fifth 
Army operations plan, as eventually 
publisheci, gave Clark's army a far more 
significant role than Alexander's guide- 
lines had c:)riginally suggested. If Clark's 
forces broke thrc:)Ugh the mcjuntain 
sector south of the Liri on a two-corps 
front, as Juin and Keyes believed they 
would, a real possibility existed that the 
Fifth rather than the Eighth Army 
might lead the way to central Italy and 
Rome. 

This objective was of particular im- 
portance to General Clark whose Fifth 
Army had lost an opportunity to lead 
the way to Rc:)me in January when a 
combination of weather, terrain, and 
German resistance had halted the Allies 
in the first battle for that city. Eighth 
Army was to play the role Fifth Army 
had played then, but Clark was deter- 
mined that his army would succeed this 
tiine, for the Eighth faced obstacles that 
had stalled the first drive on Rome, 
while Fifth Army was now concentrated 
on what had seemed to be the enemy's 
most vulnerable sector. 



" Interv, Mathews with Clark, 10-21 May 49, 
CMH. 



36 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Artillen and air plans in support of 
the Fifth Army called for isolating the 
battle area by interdicting roads and 
trails and destroying bridges with artil- 
lery and air bombardment.'^^ Artillery 
hres were to remain normal until H- 
hour. \shen a 40-minute concentration, 
including counterbattery fire, was to be 
placed on known enemy positions and 
artillery. Fire missions for 240-mm. 
howitzers were to be carried out under 
corps' direction. The 240-mm. howitz- 
ers were to join medium 155-mm. guns 
in interdicting critical road junctions in 
the Itri and Pico areas. 

Besides the field artillery support, the 
Fifth Army would have reinforcing 
fires from the 8-inch guns of an Ameri- 
can cruiser lying just offshore. These 
guns were to direct their fire against 
those targets in the coastal sector be- 
yond the range of corps artillery. In the 
offensive's early phases the Navy was to 
fire interdiction missions in the Terra- 
cina area and against suitable targets 
such as the towns of Itri and Sperlonga, 
depots along the Itri-Pico road, 170- 
mm. gun positions near Itri, and the 
highway between Itri and Formia. The 
naval guns were to be available on call 
at least until D plus 5 and were to fire 
a minimum of five missions of about 
100 rounds each on suitable firing days. 

Clark's modification of Alexander's 
operational concepts was manifested in 
yet another way — by an effort to revise 
air support priorities that Alexander 
had set up for the two armies. Since the 
AAI commander deemed Leese's 
Eighth Army to be making the main 



'* II Corps AAR, May-Jun 44; Fifth Army History, 
Part V, pp. 27-31. The following section is based 
upon these references unless otherwise indicated. 



effort, Alexander had divided the avail- 
able air support between the two armies 
on a 70-30 ratio in favor of the Eighth 
Army. After the Eighth Army had 
initiated the second phase of the offen- 
sive by breaking through the enemy's 
defenses in the Liri valley, air support 
priority was to be shifted to the Fifth 
Army's VI Corps on the Anzio beach- 
head. Within the Allied armies, air con- 
trol sections were to designate all tar- 
gets. In co-ordination with the XII 
Tactical Air Command (TAC), the air 
sections were to determine the priority 
targets within each army's zone of oper- 
ations. Convinced the major role in the 
eventual breakthrough on the southern 
front would be the Fifth rather than 
the Eighth Army's, Clark sought to 
persuade Alexander to split the availa- 
ble air support equally between the two 
armies. At a final meeting of army 
commanders on 1 May at Alexander's 
headquarters at Caserta — a meeting 
marked by bickering and mounting 
tension — Clark argued his point in 
vain.^^ Alexander refused to alter the 
arrangement, insisting that there would 
be adequate air support for both ar- 
mies. He even declined a mollifying 
suggestion from General Cannon, 
American commander of the XII TAC, 
that the zones of the two armies be 
treated as one front with aircraft free to 
attack targets in both zones during the 
same mission. He would retain for 
himself, Alexander said, the decision to 
change the air support priorities. In any 
case he would allot air support in 
keeping with the developing situation. 

^^ Clark Diarv, 30 Apr 44; Interv, Mathews with 
Clark, 13 May 49, CMH; AAI Plan for Operation 
Diadem, FO 1, 5 Mav 44. 

^^ Interv, Mathews with Alexander, 10-15 Jan 49, 
CMH: AAI FO 1, 5 Mav 44. 



PREPARING FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



37 



On one point there was general 
agreement: the offensive should begin 
at night in order to conceal movement 
of the French beyond the Garigliano 
and the British beyond the Rapido. 
Accordingly, H-hour was set for 2300, 
since the moon, four days from its last 
quarter, would not rise until 2331. This 
would allow for half an hour of prepar- 
atory artillery fire before the infantry 
began to move. In order to assure 
adequate moonlight for French and 
British troop movements, Alexander 
had first selected 10 May as D-day, for 
it fell within the period of the rising 
moon. But when the Eighth Army 
reported that it would not be ready on 
that day, Alexander postponed D-day 
twenty-four hours. ^* 

At the 1 May conference, Alexander 
and his army commanders also agreed 
that the attack should be postponed in 
the event or threat of heavy rain. Any 
postponement, however, would be for 
only twenty-four hours at a time, and, 
to make allowance for any adjustments 
a delay would entail, would have to be 
decided by 1000 on D-day. ^^ 

Because Alexander decided not to 
designate an army group reserve, he 
restricted Clark's use of the 36th Divi- 
sion, the Fifth Army reserve. Clark was 
to commit the 36th only with Alex- 
anders permission.'*^ 

Both the decision on committing the 
36th Division and the timing of the 



'" Conf min, 1 May 44, AAI files. See also Fifth 
Army History, Part V, p. 23. Standard Army Time 
(from 0200, 2 April 1944) was B Time, two hours 
ahead of Greenwich Standard Time (Z). 

*2 Conf min, 1 May 44, AAI Files. 

«AAI FO 1, 5 May 44; Lt Gen John Harding, 
AAI COS, Remarks at Fifth Army Commanders 
Conference, 5 May 44, Army Records Center, St. 
Louis, Mo. 



Anzio attack, Alexander believed, 
should depend on the degree of prog- 
ress the offensive had made on the 
southern front. In any case, the 36th 
Division was not to be sent to Anzio nor 
was the beachhead breakout attack to 
be launched until the two Allied armies 
had penetrated the enemy's first line of 
defense on the southern front — the 
Gustav Line — and had demonstrated 
that they would need no additional 
strength for an assault against the sec- 
ond line of defense, the Hitler Line.^^ 

Another factor in the timing of the 
breakout from the beachhead was the 
status and disposition of Kesselring's 
reserve. Only after Allied intelligence 
had evidence that Kesselring had 
shifted his army group reserve to the 
support of the southern front was 
Truscott to strike. The attack from the 
beachhead was, in Alexander's view, 
"his most important weapon of oppor- 
tunity, to be launched when the situa- 
tion was fluid." "^'^ If this operation went 
according to plan, Alexander expected 
that the VI Corps' attack from the 
beachhead toward Valmontone on 
Highway 6 would possibly block the 
route of withdrawal for a large percent- 
age of the German forces on the south- 
ern front and result in the destruction 
of the Tenth Army's right wing.'*'' 

Alexander was aware during the last 
weeks before the offensive that Clark's 
strategic views differed sharply from his 
own. Nevertheless, the Allied com- 
mander and his staff remained con- 



^* Interv, Mathews with Alexander, 10-15 Jan 49, 
CMH. 

^* Harding, Remarks at Fifth Army Commanders 
Conf, 5 May 44. 

•*** Interv, Mathews with Alexander, 10-15 Jan 49, 
CMH. 



38 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



\inced that Leese's Eighth Army, after 
breaking through the German defenses 
in the Liri valle\, would lead the way 
up High\say 6 to\vard Rome. The AAI 
commander believed furthermore that 
at best the EEC's projected attack over 
the Aurunci Mountains would be a 
secondary and supporting effort, keep- 
ing pressure against the Germans in 
that area and preventing them from 
shifting troops to the point of main 
effort, the Liri valley. He did not count 
on the French colonial troops to break 
through readily on Monte Majo or for 
the II Corps to advance rapidly across 
the Petrella massif.^" 

Alexanders final operation order as 
published on 5 May still assigned to the 
Eighth x\rmv the major role in the 
offensive and sketched the Fifth Army's 
mission in onlv general terms. This 
gave Clark and his commanders the 
flexibility they wanted in order to en- 
hance their army's role as much as they 
wished. Concerning the unspoken yet 
real question in everyone's mind, 
namely, which armv would take Rome, 
the order remained silent. Yet it was 
hard to see how it would be possible for 
any but the Fifth Army to be first in 
Rome, and it was Clark's understanding 
that Alexander expected that the prize 
would fall to the Americans. ^^ On the 
direction the breakout was to take, 
however, Alexander's order was quite 
clear. Attacking from the beachhead, 
the VI Corps was to cut Highway 6 in 
the vicinity of Valmontone, thereby 
blocking the supply or withdrawal of 
the enemy's Tenth Army on the south- 
ern front. After the two portions of the 



Fifth Army linked up, the entire army 
was presumably to continue northwest- 
ward alongside the Eighth Army, for 
the order outlining Operation Diadem 
read that the Fifth Armv was to drive 
the enemy north of Rome, capture the 
Viterbo airfields forty miles to the 
north and the port of Civitavecchia, 
then continue northwestward up the 
narrow coastal plain. ^^ 

With the prospect of capturing Rome 
looming large in his mind, Clark dis- 
played no inclination on the eve of 
Diadem to worry about the availability 
of forces bevond the Tiber, something 
that American emphasis on France, 
rather than Italy, would eventualh call 
into (juestion. As far as he was con- 
cerned, the important thing was that 
for the first time in the Italian cam- 
paign the full resources of both Allied 
armies were to be used in a co-ordi- 
nated effort. With an over-all Allied 
strength of twenty-five di\isions as op- 
posed to nineteen enemy di\isions, su- 
periority in artillery, overwhelming 
domination of the air, sufficient re- 
serves, and the troops rested and ready, 
the Allied commanders could view the 
prospects of the coming offensive with 
confidence.'^" 



" Ihid. 

""AAI Opns O No. 1, 5 May 44. in Fifth Army 
Hiskny, Part V, App. 1 . 



'"'Ibtd. 

^" Of the 25 Allied divisions under .Alexander's 
control, 17 were deplo\ed on the main southern 
front, and opposing them on the same front the 
Germans had 6 divisions. The U.S. \T Corps 
controlled six divisions on the .Anzio beachhead, 
and were opposed there bv eight German divisions. 
On the Adriatic sector, east of the Central .Apen- 
nines, the British had two divisions and the Ger- 
mans three. The Germans had one division in 
strategic reserve and one in army reserve. Some 
writers point out that while the Allies had twentv- 
five divisions, the Germans had twentv-three, but 
reach the latter figure bv adding in the four 
divisions in Army Group von Zangen in northern 
Italv, units that were not available for the defense 
of the southern front. 



PREPARINC; FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



39 



Geiinan Preparatioivi 

In making preparations to meet an 
expected Allied offensive, the German 
armies in Italy were left largely to their 
own resources. Since the increasing 
pressures against the front in Russia 
and the growing danger of a cross- 
Channel invasion precluded any signifi- 
cant reinforcement of Kesselrings com- 
mand above the normal replacement 
flow, support from Hitler and the 
OKW was limited for the most part to 
exhortations to stand firm. The best the 
OKW could do for Kesselring was to 
postpone indefinitely the scheduled 
transfer from Italy to France of the 
Parachute Panzer Division "Hermann Goer- 
ing," a unit of the OKW reserve legated 
near Leghorn, well o\er 200 iniles away 
from the southern front. -^^ 

Nevertheless, from March through 
April 1944, in spite of the efforts of the 
Allied air forces through Operation 
Strangle to prevent German reinforce- 
ments from reaching the front, German 
troop strength and materiel in Italy had 
increased, though modestly. Althc^ugh 
no major units had moved into the 
theater, the flow of replacements and 
recovered wounded exceeded a casualty 
rate reduced by the April lull in the 
fighting, and the assigned strength of 
the German army units rose from 
330,572 on 1 March to 365,616 on 1 
May 1944. -^2 



^' Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, 
pp. 478-80. This division hereafter will be referred 
to as the Hermann Goering Division. 

^* Strength Rpt, Stacrke des Feldheeres, 25 May 44, 
OK WIGenerahtab des HeereslOrganizationabtetlung 
(hereafter cited as OKWIOrg.Aht.), KTB Anlagen, 5 
May 44-9 May 45. A study of Tenth and Fourteenth 
Armies' war diaries disclosed that the 1 April figures 
shown in the documents cited actually apply to 1 
-May, and they are so (juoted. All of the figures 



In addition to assigned strength, the 
Tenth and Fourteenth Armies on 1 May 
1944 also had approximately 27,000 
men attached from the Luftwaffe and 
the WaJfen-SS. One division and miscel- 
laneous small Luftwaffe ground units in 
von Zangen's gioup accounted for an 
estimated 20,000 more. Thus, on 1 May 
1944 the total German ground 
strength, including army, SS, and Luft- 
waffe ground units, assigned to the 
Italian theater numbered approximately 
412,000 men. But this force was scat- 
tered from the fronts south of Rome to 
the Alpine passes far to the north. 

Although most German units in 1944 
were plagued by a shortage of well- 
trained junic^r officers and noncommis- 
sioned officers, units in Italy had yet to 
suffer seriously from a growing man- 
power shortage afflicting German 
forces elsewhere. Several expedients, 
such as the "combing out" of overhead 
units and using foreign auxiliaries for 
housekeeping and labor duties, enabled 
the Germans to meet their manpower 
recjuirements. For these reasons, in 
early 1944 OB Suedwest commanded 
forces superior in quality to the average 
German unit in other OKW theaters of 
operation. '^^ 

Nineteen of the 23 divisions in Kes- 
selrings /inw); Group C as of 1 May 1944 
were considered suitable for the defen- 
sive missions they might be rec|uired to 
accomplish. The German commanders 
deemed only twcj of these divisions 



used in this paragraph refer to "assigned strength" 
and are therefore somewhat higher than "present 
for duty" figures. 

■^^ For a contemporary comparison between Tenth 
Army divisions and those of other German theaters, 
see Trip Rpt, 7 Apr 44, Fahrbemerkungen des Heeres 
OB Armeekommando 10 (hereafter referred to as 
AOK If), KTB 6, Anlagen 1.10-14.44). 



40 

cjualified for any offensive mission, 1 1 
for limited attacks, 6 for sustained de- 
fensive action, and 4 for small-scale 
defensive action. Thus approximately 
half of the divisions, an unusually high 
proportion at that stage of the war, 
were rated capable of some offensive 
action. ^'^ 

The relative quiet on the battle fronts 
in April had enabled Kesselring to 
disengage several of his better divi- 
sions — among them the 26th Panzer and 
the 29th and 90th Panzer Grenadier Divi- 
sions — for movement to the rear for rest 
and rehabilitation. Together with the 
Hermann Goering Division and several 
other divisions of lesser quality that 
were training, fighting partisans, or 
guarding the coasts, these disengaged 
formations made up the general and 
theater reserves available to Kessel- 
ring.^ 

In the disposition of his general 
reserves Kesselring had to consider 
three important factors. First, the exist- 
ence of two fronts south of Rome made 
it desirable to place reserves so that 
they could be quickly shifted to either 
front. Second, thanks to the Allied 
deception plan, so vulnerable did he 
regard the coastal sectors north as well 
as south of the Anzio beachhead that 
he believed a number of powerful and 
highly mobile units were necessary to 
back up the weak forces guarding that 



^ Status Rpt for 1 May 44, Zustandsberichte des OB 
Suedwest, 1 Jun 44, OKWiOrg.Abt. KTB 1944. 

^^ Since the location of these general reserves 
seemed to point to their commitment on the 
southern front, some confusion arose later as to 
whether they were army or army group reserves. 
But since in most cases Kesselring's or OKW's 
permission was required for the commitment even 
of units in corps reserve, the distinction is unimpor- 
tant. 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 

area of the coast. Finally, the possibility 
that the Allies might try to cut the few- 
roads between Rome and the southern 
front by means of an airborne landing 
in the \icinity of Frosinone, some fifty 
miles southeast of Rome, required a 
division in that area. Although Kessel- 
ring made strenuous efforts to satisfy 
all three requirements, whatever success 
he achieved was bought at the cost of 
dividing some of his best divisions 
among two or more widely separated 
groups.^^ 

The Germans clearly had been taken 
in by the Allied deception plan. In the 
area selected by the Allies for their 
main effort — the Liri valley — the enemy 
had underestimated Allied strength by 
seven divisions. For example, opposite 
the XIV Panzer Corps in the Allied 
bridgehead beyond the Garigliano Gen- 
eral Juin had managed to assemble 
four times the number of troops his 
adversaries had estimated to be under 
his command. On the other hand, 
German intelligence credited the Allies 
with much larger reserves than they 
actually had and believed that three 
divisions were in the Salerno-Naples 
area engaged in landing exercises pre- 
paratory for another amphibious opera- 
tion. Kesselring had disposed his forces 
on that assumption. A minimum num- 
ber of troops was in line and several 
reserve divisions were positioned along 
the coast to counter expected landings. 
That was to prove a vital factor in the 
early battles of the coming offensive. 

While some giound combat troops in 
Italy belonged to the Luftwaffe, as, for 
example, the Hermann Goering Division, 



5« Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKWiWFSt. KTB, 
II(I), pp. 478-81; MS # T-lb (Westphal et al.), 
CMH. 



PREPARINC; FOR A NEW OFFENSIVE 



41 



actual German air strength was negligi- 
ble. Compared with the approxiinately 
4,000 operational aircraft the Allies 
could muster in haly and on the nearby 
islands, the Luttualfe had only 700 
operational aircraft in the central Medi- 
terranean area. Of this number less 
than half were based in Italy. ■^" Of 
these only a small percentage would 



5^ British Air Ministry Pamphlet 248. The Rise 
and Fall of the German Air Force, 1933—45 (London: 
Air Ministry [A.C.AS. 1], 1948, pp. 265-71. 



ever rise to challenge the overwhelming 
Allied air forces or to harass Allied 
ground movements. German air com- 
manders were carefully husbanding 
their few aircraft for those occasions 
that might give some promise of success 
against a new Allied amphibious land- 
ing or, in conjunction with the greater 
air strength in Germany and France, 
against the expected Allied invasion 
attempt in northwestern Europe.''*^ 



' Ibid. 



CHAPTER III 



Diadem s First Day — 1 1 May 



Behind the German Front 

An atmosphere of uncertainty pre- 
\ailed on the German side of the front. 
Although German commanders re- 
minded one another daily that an Al- 
lied attack could begin at any time, they 
had no specific information, as was 
exident from the absence of mc^t senior 
officers from the front when the offen- 
si\e began. Only a few hours before it 
started. General von Vietinghoff, the 
Tenth Army commander, left for Ger- 
many to receive a decoration for \'alor 
from the hands of his Fuehrer. About 
the same time, the chief of staff of the 
XIV Panzer Corps departed for a week's 
home leave. Two weeks earlier General- 
major Siegfried Westphal, Field Mar- 
shal Kesselring's ailing chief of staff, 
had gone to Germany on convalescent 
leave; and General von Senger, the 
panzer corps commander, was still awav 
on a 30-day home leave that had begun 
in mid-April. Thus the Allied offensive 
was destined to strike a corps occupying 
a critical sector without its regular com- 
mander and chief of staff, an armv 
minus its commanding general, and an 
army group without its chief of staff, an 
extraordinary situation. ' 

For the Germans the daylight hours 
on 11 May passed uneventfully; no 




CORPS 



THE BATTLE FOR 
MONTE CASSINO 

12 May 1944 

allied gains 
► Axis of allied advance 

> AXIS OF allied RETREAT 

^^-^^ GUSTAV LINE 

Contour interval lOO meters 


-SM-r 



M. Finneman 



MAP 1 

prisoners were taken and .AJlied artil- 
lery fire was sporadic, as it had been 
tor several davs. Heaw motor mo\e- 
ments in the Eighth Arm\"s rear oppc^- 
site the Tenth Arm\'s left wing only 



Brut Bailey (MS #R-50), The German Situation Code. As a matter of fact, the Allies first learned of 

in Italy, 1 1 May— 4 June 44, copy in CMH (here- Vietinghoffs absence after intercepting a radio 

after cited as MS #R-5() [Bailev]). Allied knowledge message from Kesselring ordering Vietinghoff to 

of the German situation was thanks, in large return at once to his command in Italv. See 

measure, to the interception of the German Enigma Winterbotham, Tlw Ultra SaM, pp. 114-15. 



DIADEM'S FIRST DAY— 1 1 MAY 



43 

















_^ 


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Monte Cassino {Allied view). 



confirmed the belief that the Allies had 
yet to complete preparations for their 
offensive. 

Monte Cassino and the Rapido 

An hour before midnight on 1 1 May 
the massed artillery of two Allied arm- 
ies — 1,060 guns on the Eighth Army 
front and 600 on the Fifth Army's — 
opened fire from Cassino to the T\r- 
rhenian Sea. On the Fifth Army front 
beyond the lower reaches of the Garig- 
liano the infantry divisions ot the U.S. 
II Corps and of the French Expedition- 
ary Corps began moving up the slopes 



of the hills leading to their objectives. 
Three-(]uarters of an hour later the 
Eighth Army opened its attack as the 
British 13 Corps moved toward prese- 
lected crossing sites on the Rapido 
River. At 0100, two hours after the 
Fifth Army had begun to move, the 
Polish 2 Corps attacked enemy positions 
on Monte Cassino. {Map 1 ) 

In the early hours of the offensive 
the two Polish divisions — the 3d Carpa- 
thian and the 5th Kresowa — fought 
their separate ways across Monte Cas- 
sino's rocky flanks to capture two fea- 
tures: "The Phantom Ridge," some 



44 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



1 ,800 yards northwest of the abbey, and 
Point 593, high ground about 1,000 
)ards northwest of the abbey. But the 
Germans, well-entrenched and long fa- 
miliar with the ground, quickly re- 
co\ered from the preparatory artillery 
bombardment to inflict heavy casualties 
on the Polish troops. After daybreak 
exposed the attackers to enemy gun- 
ners, losses became so severe that the 
Poles were unable to withstand a series 
of counterattacks that began shortly 
after daylight. At 1400 on the 12th, 
General Anders, the corps commander, 
ordered his troops to withdraw during 
the night under cover of darkness to 
their line of departure northeast of 
Monte Cassino. Almost half of their 
number had been killed or wounded.^ 
Making the main attack in the valley 
below. General Kirkman's 13 Corps 
fought on through the night to estab- 
lish a bridgehead beyond the fog- 
shrouded Rapido. General Kirkman 
had planned to establish a bridgehead 
west of the Rapido with the British 4th 
Division on the right and the 8th 
Indian Division on the left. After con- 
solidating a position beyond the Rapido, 
the 4th Division was to swing to the 
northwest to effect a junction with the 
Polish corps on Highway 6 at a point 
about three miles west of Cassino. 
On the left, the Indians were, after 
securing their bridgehead, to clear the 
so-called Liri Appendix, the tongue of 
land between the Rapido and Liri Riv- 
ers, then exploit northwestward to the 
Hitler Line. The 78th Di\asion, in corps 
reserve, was to be prepared either to 



^ Operations of the British, Indian, and Domin- 
ion Forces in Italy, Part II, The Campaign in 
Central Italy. Unless otherwise indicated this section 
is based upon this reference. 



cover the Indian division's left flank or 
to exploit through one of the assault 
divisions. Until the infantry had broken 
through the enemy's first line of de- 
fense, the Gustav Line, the armor (the 
6th Armoured Division and the 1st 
Canadian Armoured Brigade, on whose 
superior numbers and firepower British 
commanders had placed gieat reliance) 
could be used only for fire support. 

At 2345, as the two infantry divisions 
launched their assault boats, the river's 
swift current swept many downstream 
and capsized others. Enemv automatic 
weapons fire, slashing through the 
dense smoke and fog, caused numerous 
casualties and made control difficult. 
Fortunately the earlier counterbattery 
fire had done its work well, for the 
assault troops encountered little enemv 
artillery fire at the crossing sites. Even 
so, by daybreak the corps had secured 
only a shallow bridgehead. 

Although the engineers began work 
on bridges as soon as the infantry had 
reached the far bank, the 4th Division's 
bridgehead was too shallow to give the 
engineers the necessary cover from en- 
emy small arms fire, and at first light 
the work was abandoned. In the 8th 
Indian Division's sector, however, engi- 
neers managed to complete two pon- 
toon bridges bv morning. With these in 
place, the Indians rushed reinforce- 
ments across to expand their bridge- 
head by late afternoon into the \illage 
of Sant'Angelo in Tiodice, about two 
miles south of Cassino. 

The 13 Corps' gains bv nightfall on 
the 12th were, nevertheless, disappoint- 
ing. Onlv about half of the objectives 
set for the offensive's first two hours 
were in Allied hands. Yet something 
had been achieved. For the first time 



DIADEM'S FIRST DAY— I 1 MAY 



45 




Terrain Facing the U.S. II Corps. Santa Maria Infante (lower left), Pulcherina 
(center foreground), and Monte Fammera (background). 



the Allies had si'cceeded in placing two 
vehicular bridges across the Rapido. ^ 

Santa Maria Infante and the S-Ridge 

Unlike the Eighth Army, the Fifth 
Army, in Diadem's first hours, had no 
deep and swift- flowing river to cross 
nor, except in the French sector, high 
mountains to scale. Instead, the Ameri- 
cans would launch their phase of the 
Allied offensive from assembly areas on 
the reverse slopes of a range of hills 



Ibid. 



paralleling the Garigliano River some 
two to three miles to the west. The 
French would actually have the advan- 
tage of attacking from mountain posi- 
tions west of the river that overlooked 
the German lines. For this favorable 
state of affairs the Fifth Army was 
indebted to the success of the British 
divisions of the 10 Corps, which, in the 
previous January, had established a 
bridgehead beyond the Garigliano ex- 
tending from Monte Juga in the bend 
of the river southwest to Minturno, 
about five miles away. 

By evening of 1 1 May the American 



46 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



assault units had moved into their as- 
sembly areas between the towns of 
Minturno and Tremonsuoli, a mile and 
a half" to the west. An overcast obscured 
the stars, and fog drifted through the 
narrow valle\s. A\\ was in readiness. It 
was, noted the 88th Division's G-3, "a 
c]uiet night, nothing special to report."^ 

Holding the 88th Division's objectives 
were the right flank regiment of Gener- 
alleutnant Wilhelm Raapke's 71st Light 
Infantry Division and the left flank regi- 
ment of Generalmajor Bernhard Stein- 
metz's 94th Infantry Division. The 88th 
Division's attack would thus strike the 
enemy along an interdivisional bound- 
ary, usually a weak point in the front. -^ 

Not only would the enemy be hit at a 
vulnerable point, but the H Corps' 
attack would be backed up by massive 
artillery support. In addition to organic 
artillery, the 85th and 88th Divisions 
would be supported by the 6th, 36th, 
and 77th Field Artillery Groups, con- 
trolling a total of nine firing battalions. ^ 

Corps artillery also was to execute 
counterbattery missions and harassing 
and interdiction fire. The 36th Division 
artillery with more than three battalions 
was to fire in direct support of the 85th 
Division, and the 6th Field Artillery 
Group, with two battalions, in direct 
support of the 88th Division. 



' II Corps G-3 Jnl, 11-12 May 44. 

^ Unless otherwise indicated this account is based 
upon the official records of the 85th and 88th 
Divisions and those of the II Corps, supplemented 
by after-action interviews with key participants by 
members of the Fifth Army Historical Section. 

** Directly under corps' control was a battalion 
each of 240-mm. howitzers and 8-inch howitzers, a 
battalion each of 155-mm. and 4.5-inch guns, four 
battalions of 155-mm. howitzers, and five battalions 
of I05-mm. howitzers. Fifth Army History, Part V, 
pp. 56-57. Also see II Corps Artillery AAR, 25 
Mar-5 June 44. 



In comparison, the Germans had 
about three battalions of light artillerv 
in the Ausonia corridor west of the 
village of Santa Maria Infante and 
Monte Bracchi, a mile to the northeast; 
three battalions of light and a battalion 
of medium artillery in the Formia corri- 
dor astride the coastal highwav; several 
batteries of dual-purpose 88-mm. guns 
near Itri and along the Itri-Speiionga 
road — an ecjuivalent total of six battal- 
ions of light and one battalion each of 
medium and heavy artillery. The en- 
emy also had numerous self-propelled 
light caliber guns and not more than six 
rocket projectors. " 

To counter fire from the enemv's 
long-range 170-mm. guns, corps artil- 
lery, during the night of 10 May, 
moved a 155-mm. gun batterv and a 
single 24()-mm. howitzer across the Ga- 
rigliano River and into prepared posi- 
tions within 1,500 yards of the front. 
Throughout the 1 1th a heavv smoke 
screen concealed these new positions 
from enemy observation. When the 
Americans began the preliminarv bom- 
bardment that night thev were able to 
bring the 1 70-mm. guns under effective 
counterbattery fire, and so the enemv's 
heavy artillerv was silent on the first 
day of the offensive. * 

From H-hour, or until the assault 
troops closed with the enemv, the six- 
teen American battalions of light artil- 
lery were to fire on German frontline 
positions. Thereafter the fire was to 
shift to enemv command posts, re- 
serves, and supply routes. Although the 
gieater weight of artillerv fire support 



' II Corps Arlv AAR, 25 Mar-5 Jun 44: MS # T- 
Ib (Westphal et al.). 
>* II Corps Arty AAR, 25 Mar-5 Jun 44. 



DIADEMS FIRST DAY— 1 1 MAY 



47 



available to Fifth Armv had been as- 
signed to the FEC], the II Corps would 
have, in addition to the tire support 
alreadv described, considerable help 
available from 11 to 16 May from an 
offshore cruiser firing against previ- 
oush located targets.'' 

As the American infantry began to 
advance toward the 94th Infantry Divi- 
sion's positions, the American artillery 
hammered the German front for an 
hour. Shells interrupted enemy commu- 
nications, but had little effect on the 
German infantry, deeply dug in. 

Making the main effort of the 88th 
Division and, in effect, the main effort 
of the II Corps, the 351st Infantry, 
commanded by Col. Arthur S. Cham- 
peny, moved toward the village of 
Santa Maria Infante. After taking the 
village and the adjacent high ground, 
the regiment was to attack across the 
Ausonia road and mount the Petrella 
escarpment. The 349th Infantry, com- 
manded by Lt. Col. Joseph B. Craw- 
ford, was to support this attack by 
taking Monte Bracchi, overlooking 
Santa Maria Infante a mile to the 
northeast. Col. James C. Fry's 350th 
Infantry on the right was to take Monte 
SS Cosma e Damian,^^ a small hill mass 
just west of the town of Castelforte, to 
advance and occupy Monte Rotondo 
and Monte Cerri, about one and two 
miles, respectively, to the northwest, in 
order to protect the division flank. 
{Map II) 

For men of the 350th Infantry as- 
cending the slopes of Monte Ciannelli, 
one of the several hills making up 
Monte Damiano, resistance was at first 
surprisingly light; but forty-five minutes 



after the attack began, when the lead- 
ing battalion sought to continue beyond 
Monte Cianelli, heavy fire erupted from 
the village of Ventosa on the northern 
slope of the hill. It took repeated 
attacks, plus commitment of the battal- 
ion reserve companv, to gain Ventosa 
by dawn. 

On the left, the 350th Infantry's 2d 
Battalion moved northward against Hill 
316, another summit in the Monte 
Damiano hill mass. Shordy after mid- 
night, when machine gun fire stopped 
one of Company F's platoons, the pla- 
toon leader, S. Sgt. Charles W. Shea, 
continued forward ak)ne to attack the 
enemy guns. Crawling up to one gun, 
he tossed grenades into the position, 
forcing four enemy soldiers to surren- 
der, and then attacked a second, cap- 
turing its two-man crew. Though a 
third gun took him under fire, he 
rushed it as well and killed all three 
Germans in the position. With these 
guns silenced, the 2d Battalion's attack 
gathered momentum and soon reached 
the summit of Mount Damiano. '• 

Just before daylight the right flank 
regiment of Raapke's 71st Division 
launched a company-sized counterattack 
against the 2d Battalion on Monte 
Damiano's southern slope, but the 
American infantrymen held their 
giound. Since the 88th Division's com- 
mander. General Sloan, was anxious to 
avoid exposing his right flank, he or- 
dered Colonel Fry to halt his men on 
Monte Damiano until the French could 
take the high giound north of Castel- 
forte. 



''Ibid. 

'" Hereafter referred to as Monte Damiano. 



" Shea received the first Medal of Honor 
awarded in the 88th Division, and was commis- 
sioned a 2d lieutenant. 



48 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Within thirteen hours after the begin- 
ning of the offensive, Fry's regiment 
had captured its first objective at a cost 
of two men killed and 55 wounded. 
This baptism of fire w.ould prove to be 
the onh real success along the entire II 
Corps front during the first twenty- four 
hours of the offensive. 

Nowhere across the American front 
on that first day would the agonizing 
adjustment of a new and untried divi- 
sion to the challenge of combat be 
more vividly illustrated than in the 
experience of men of the 351st Infan- 
try as they attacked a well-entrenched 
battalion of the 94th Infantry Division 
astride the road leading from Minturno 
to the regimental objective of Santa 
Maria Infante. At his headcjuarters in 
Minturno, the regimental commander, 
Colonel Champeny, had erected a sand 
table model of the terrain in order to 
familiarize his men with the ground 
over which they would soon fight. All 
unit commanders had reconnoitered 
the area from the air and from well- 
sited observation points along the regi- 
mental front. One platoon leader com- 
mented that "never had an infantry 
outfit a better chance to study thor- 
oughly the plan and terrain before an 
attack." ^'^ 

Although Champeny's patrols had 
probed the enemy's outposts nightly, 
the infantrymen actually knew consider- 
ably less about the disposition and 
strength of the German defenses than 
they did about the terrain. They had 
located several automatic weapons em- 
placements, mine fields, and barbed 
wire obstacles but still lacked an accu- 



351st Inf S-3 Jnl, 10-12 May 44. 



rate picture of the German positions. 
Possibly overoptimistic, Champeny ex- 
pected to capture Santa Maria Infante 
within two hours after the attack began. 
He directed his supply officer to be 
prepared to feed the men a hot break- 
fast in the village before they continued 
the advance toward the Petrella escarp- 
ment. 

Colonel Champeny selected the 2d 
Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Ray- 
mond E. Kendall, to lead the attack, 
while the 3d Battalion advanced in 
echelon to the right rear, and the 1st 
remained in reserve. From an assembly 
area south of the cemetery about half a 
mile northwest of Minturno, Colonel 
Kendall planned to advance with two 
companies abreast. One company 
would move along each side of the 
main road that leads from Minturno via 
Santa Maria Infante to the road run- 
ning through the Ausonia corridor 
from the coastal highway to Ausonia, 
where the corridor narrows to a mile 
and a half defile bearing that name. 
The two companies were first to occupv 
twin knobs (wistfully dubbed "Tits" bv 
the infantrymen) which flanked the 
road about 350 vards bevond the line 
of departure, then to continue astride 
the road into Santa Maria Infante. 

The road ran along the crest of a 
ridge some 125 vards wide connecting 
the base of a triangular wedge of hills 
just south of the Ausonia defile with an 
apex at Monte Bracchi. From an S- 
curve near the cemetery the road 
wound along the ridge for almost a 
mile until it reached the southern out- 
skirts of Santa Maria Infante, where it 
forked. The right fork led northeast to 
a dead end at the village of Pulcherini. 
perched high up the slope of Monte 



DIADEM'S FIRST DAY— I 1 MAY 



49 



Bracchi, while the left fork wound 
tlirough the hamlet of lame, a cluster 
of houses about 400 yards west of Santa 
Maria Infante, and thence to a junction 
with the road running through the 
Ausonia corridor northward from the 
coast to Ausonia. 

Many spurs cutting the flanks oi the 
ridge provided the enemy with excel- 
lent defensive positions against frontal 
attack. On c:)ne of the spurs, 700 yards 
southeast of Santa Maria Infante and 
overlooking a sunken road that tra- 
versed the slope, the Ciermans had de- 
veloped a strongpoint, in a group of 
stone cottages, of well-sited and camou- 
flaged machine guns and mortars — 
unfortunately not known to Cham- 
peny's men. In the early hours of the 
attack that position proved a formidable 
and deadly challenge to the untried 
infantrymen. 

About 2230 the two assault compa- 
nies, their movement masked by the 
roar of supporting artillery fire, moved 
beyond the Minturno cemetery toward 
positions immediately in front of the 
Tits. As the men advanced they laid 
white tape to help maintain contact in 
the darkness. Apparently anticipating a 
short operation, many of the men dis- 
carded their combat packs along the 
way. 

Company F on the left, commanded 
by Capt. Carl W. Nelson, ran into its 
first obstacle just beyond the cemetery; 
a string of concertina wire bkx:ked the 
way. Since the supporting artillery still 
kept the Germans under cover, it was a 
simple matter to cut the wire and 
continue to the base of the left Tit. 
There the company halted to await 
completion of the artillery preparation. 
Hardly had the friendly fires ceased 



when the leading platoons came under 
heavy small arms fire from an S-shaped 
ridge off to their left in the zone of the 
neighboring 85th Division. Caught in 
the open under intense fire for the first 
time, the company cjuickly dispersed 
into small one- or two-squad groups. 

Within thirty minutes after the jump- 
off. Company Fs attack had degenera- 
ted into a series of poorly co-ordinated 
platoon and scjuad actions. One after 
another of the platoon radios broke 
down, the leaders lost contact with their 
men, and darkness and fog shrouded 
the battlefield in a blanket of confusion 
that even bravery and good intentions 
were unable to penetrate. Early in the 
attack Captain Nelson lost communica- 
tion with his battalion commander and, 
aside from his command group, had 
contact at that point with only one 
squad. At dawn he finally regained 
control of his support and weapons 
platoons, as well as an attached heavy 
machine gun platoon. That part of 
Company F not in touch with Nelson 
separated into three small isolated 
groups, each independendy and fruit- 
lessly seeking to press the attack. 

Moving forward at a trot, one group 
of approximately twenty men led by 
S. Sgt. Peter Pyenta soon encoun- 
tered more barbed wire. As the men 
tried to bypass it, fire from automatic 
weapons emplaced west of the ridge 
road cut down half the gioup. Fighting 
back with rifles and hand gienades, the 
survivors managed to silence the enemy 
guns, but with only nine men left and 
no information available concerning the 
rest of the company. Sergeant Pyenta 
withdrew his men to a point about 150 
yards north of the Minturno cemetery. 

1st Lt. Jack L. Panich, a platoon 



50 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



leader, fared little better. Having lost 
control of all but one of his scjuads, he 
continued to press forward west of the 
road until he came upon T. Sgt. Robert 
A. Casev, another platoon leader, who 
also had lost contact with most of his 
men. Consolidating their small forces, 
Panich and Casey, with about ten men 
between them, continued to climb the 
slope of the ridge behind a stone wall 
that shielded them from machine gun 
fire coming from the crest. Spotting 
two of the enemy guns, most of the 
men took shelter in a large shell crater 
in order to provide covering fire while 
Lieutenant Panich along with four men 
crawled toward the guns. Reaching an 
open coinmunications trench, appar- 
endy connecting the machine gun posi- 
tions with the crews' sleeping cjuarters, 
Panich and his men hurled grenades 
until their supply was exhausted. 

Still the German guns fired. The 
engagement was at an impasse until 
Panich, learning that Casey (in com- 
mand of the covering force) had been 
wounded, was prompted to withdraw. 
Leading his own and Sergeant Casey's 
men toward the rear, the Lieutenant 
came upon Sergeant Pyenta and his 
small group near the cemetery. They 
joined forces, and, carrying their 
wounded, both groups withdrew to the 
company's former assembly area behind 
the cemetery. 

A third group led by 1st Sgt. Paul N. 
Eddy came under several short rounds 
of supporting artillery fire and ran into 
brief fire fights with individual enemy 
skirmishers along the road, but contin- 
ued to advance until halted by machine 
gun fire, apparently from the same 
guns that had stopped the other two 
groups. Failing to silence the guns with 
rifle grenades, the infantrymen dug in. 



There they vainly awaited reinforce- 
ments until night came again on the 
12th, when they too withdrew to the 
vicinity of the cemeterv. 

Captain Nelson, with about 100 men 
he had assembled, had, in the mean- 
time, managed to slip through the 
enemy's defenses west of the road more 
by accident than design. Screened by a 
stone terrace on the west slope of the 
ridge, Nelson and his men continued to 
move forward, despite brief delays occa- 
sioned by machine gun and mortar fire. 
Nelson himself knocked out one ma- 
chine gun position with a rifle grenade, 
and his men captured two mortars and 
overran fifteen half-dressed enemy sol- 
diers in their dugouts. B) dawn of the 
12th, Nelson's small force had reached 
Tame, the cluster of houses about 400 
yards west of Santa Maria Infante. 
There Nelson and his men established 
a strongpoint based on a culvert under 
the main road leading from Minturno 
to the Ausonia corridor. 

Companv E experienced similar con- 
fusion and dispersion while advancing 
on the right of the road leading into 
Santa Maria Infante from Minturno. 
Two of the company's platoons, fol- 
lowed by Colonel Kendall, the battalion 
commander, and his command gioup, 
climbed the forward slope at the right 
Tit and occupied the crest against 
short-lived resistance. The platoon on 
the right advanced rapidlv through 
giain fields for about 150 vards to the 
sunken road traversing the slope of one 
of the spurs cutting the flank of the 
ridge. Crossing the road, the infantrv- 
men deployed as skirmishers and as- 
saulted over the crest of the spur: but 
machine gun fire from both flanks 
drove them back to the shelter of the 
sunken road. 



DIADEM'S FIRST DAY— 1 1 MAY 



51 



On the left two s(juads of the other 
platoon, which had lagged behind, also 
sprinted forward and gained the sunk- 
en road. Moving cautiously, the two 
S(juads continued to \vithin seventy-five 
\ards of a house near the crest of the 
spur, when a machine gun o}x*ned fire 
from the house and forced them to 
halt. 

The third scjuad, separated fiom the 
rest of the platoon, ran into mortar fire 
on the forward slope of the Tit. The 
men took cover until Capt. Robert K. 
Carlstone, the Company E commander, 
arrived and urged them forward. Al- 
though wounded by a shell burst 
shortly after his arrival, Carlstone re- 
fused evacuation until he could arrange 
for supporting artillery fire and turn 
the companv over to the weapons pla- 
toon leader, 1st Lt. Harold V. McSwain. 

As McSwain assumed command of 
Company E, Colonel Kendall, disturbed 
at the company's lack of progress, ar- 
rived on the forward slope of the right 
Tit. Striding upright among men who 
were crouching behind any shelter they 
could find, Colonel Kendall prodded a 
few of them good-naturedly with his 
swagger stick. "Come on, you bastards, " 
he called out, "you'll never get to Rome 
this way!" *^ The very presence of 
Kendall — a tall, strapping figure — was 
enough to get the men moving again. 
Calling for more artillery fire on the 
crest of the spur, Kendall ordered his 
reserve company forward to join Com- 
pany E. 

Taking over direction of the attack, 
Lieutenant McSwain led Company E's 
support platoon to the sunken road, 
where he established contact with the 



'3 Sidney T. Mathews, Fifth Army His Sec, 1944, 
Combat Interview, CMH; 351st Inf AAR. 



platoon about 150 yards to his left. But 
after a survev revealed a confused 
situation, he decided to reorganize his 
force before continuing. As the men 
waited under the intermittent glare of 
enemv flares, and as mortar fire and 
grenades shattered the ground around 
them, the moon broke through the 
overcast to illuminate the hillside with a 
pale light. 

Learning that the attack had stalled. 
Colonel Kendall this time personally 
took command of the company. After 
recjuesting tanks to support the 2d 
Platoon advance along the main road, 
he himself led the 1st Platoon against 
the enemy's positions, apparently based 
upon houses on the crest of the spur. 

As the lead scjuad of the 1st Platoon 
clamb)ered over a stone wall and started 
to move toward the westernmost of the 
three houses, machine gun fire cut 
down all but three of the twelve men. 
The three survivors scrambled back to 
the sunken road. At the same time a 
second scjuad led by Kendall plodded 
up the slope toward the second house, 
the men firing as they advanced. Ken- 
dall successively fired every weapon he 
could lay his hands on — a carbine, an 
Ml, and a bazooka. When his third 
bazooka rocket struck the house, he 
urged two of his men to charge the 
position. But again a machine gun 
opened fire, apparently from the 
house. Both men scrambled for cover. 

At that point Kendall, calling on the 
rest of his men to follow, dashed for- 
ward. He personally destroyed the en- 
emy gun and killed two of its crew 
while the survivors fled across the crest 
of the hill. As Kendall paused for a 
moment to hurl a grenade into the 
position, another enemy machine gun 



52 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



opened tire. Kendall fell mortally 
wounded, but as he did so he clutched 
the gienade to his body to prevent it 
from harming his companions. Kendall 
was dead, but the survivors of the 1st 
Platoon and a few men from the 2d 
and 3d Platoons at last had a precarious 
foothold on the spur. '^ 

When word of the battalion com- 
mander's death reached Maj. Edwin 
Shull, the battalion executive officer, he 
assumed command and also moved 
forward to where most of Company E 
was dug in above and below the sunken 
road. After trying in vain to get the 
men moving again, Major Shull called 
for additional artillery fire on the objec- 
tive and waited for new instructions 
from the regimental commander. 

Since the attack had opened up, 
Company E had lost 89 men killed or 
wounded, roughly half of its starting 
strength. One enemy machine gun on 
the spur had been destroyed, but the 
accurate fire of about nine others still 
kept most of the men huddled in the 
cover of the sunken road. 

The tank support recjuested by 
Kendall failed to arrive until 0300, 
when a platoon of five mediums from 
Company C of the supporting 760th 
Tank Battalion reached Company E's 
left flank. After a mine disabled the 
lead tank, the column halted behind the 
left Tit. An attempt to get the tanks 
moving again failed when the second 
tank also struck a mine. A third effort 
to get the tanks forward came to 
naught when another mine disabled yet 
a third tank. At 0500 Champeny re- 



(juested division headquarters to send 
him another platoon of tanks. 

Until the additional armor arrived, 
Colonel Champeny ordered Company 
G (2d Battalion's reserve), assembling 
behind the right Tit in response to 
Kendall's earlier order, to reinforce 
Company E. Although Company E 
commander, 1st Lt. Theodore W. 
Noon, Jr., led his men as far as the 
sunken road, when they tried to storm 
the enemy positions beyond, machine 
gun fire from the westernmost house 
on the spur brought them to a halt. 

Lieutenant Noon nevertheless rallied 
his men and returned to the assault. 
With one platoon he sought to envelop 
the enemy from the left, but even 
though his men advanced to within 
thirty yards of the house, they t(K) were 
forced to fall back to the sunken road. 
Noon then tried to knock out the gun 
himself. With two of his men providing 
covering fire, he rushed the house. 
Hurling grenades and firing his pistol 
point-blank at the enemy position, Lieu- 
tenant Noon destroyed the gun, but not 
before the two men covering him were 
killed. Noon then withdrew to the sunk- 
en road.*^ 

As daylight neared it was evident that 
the 351st Infantry's attack had failed to 
make significant headway toward Santa 
Maria Infante. About ninetv men from 
Company F were on the outskirts of 
Tame but were confined to a small 
perimeter around the culvert and posed 
no serious threat to the Germans. Ex- 
cept for that group none of Cham- 
peny's units had been able to breach 
the defenses astride the Minturno road. 

Shortly before daybreak, to get the 



'^ For this action Colonel Kendall was posthu- 
mously awarded the DSC. 



For this action Noon was aw arded the DSC. 



DIADEM'S FIRST DAY— I 1 MAY 



53 



stalled attack under way, Colonel 
ChampeiiN ordered his reserve battalion 
(commanded by Maj. Charles P. Furr) 
to move along the west side of the 
Minturno road, pass through Cx)mpany 
F, and envelop Santa Maria Infante 
from the left. 

With Company K leading, Major 
Furr's battalion advanced beyond the 
left Tit, but there it came to a halt in 
the face of ubiquitous German machine 
gun fire. Furr then ordered Company I 
to swing further to the left in an effort 
to envelop the German defenses. He 
ordered Company K to regroup and 
support the envelopment with a re- 
newed frontal assault. 

Informed that elements of the 85th 
Division on his left had bv that time 
occupied the S-Ridge, Major Furr antic- 
ipated little difficulty from that direc- 
tion. Yet hardly had Company I begun 
its maneuver when the tragic inaccuracy 
of the information became apparent. 
Machine guns from the S-Ridge joined 
with guns to the front, as well as a 
bypassed machine gun somewhere 
along the road to the battalion's right 
rear, to strike Furr's companies from 
three directions. Again the attack 
ground to a halt. 

The regimental commander realized 
at that point that until the enemy's 
positions on the S-Ridge were de- 
stroyed, any attempt to envelop the 
German defenses from the left was 
doomed to failure. The nature of the 
terrain and divisional boundaries pre- 
cluded a wider envelopment maneuver 
from the left; therefore when Colonel 
Champeny asked permission to divert 
his attack to take the crest of S-Ridge 
his request was denied. A staff officer 
at division headquarters assured him 



that the 338th Infantry of the neigh- 
iDoring 85th Division would soon take 
the ridge. Unfortunately that regiment 
was having as much difficulty on the 
slopes of the S-Ridge as was the 351st 
before Santa Maria Infante. 

At that point Champeny called on his 
attached tank company to help smash a 
way up the Minturno road. Working 
throughout the rest of the night, the 
regimental mine platoon by daylight 
had succeeded in clearing the road to a 
point just beyond the Tits. Around 
noon a second platoon of five tanks, 
advancing along the road, destroyed 
two machine gun positions, but when 
the tanks tried to continue their ad- 
vance, concealed antitank guns, firing 
from the outskirts of Santa Maria In- 
fante, knocked out three and forced the 
others to withdraw behind the Tits. 
Several hours later a third platoon of 
tanks also attempted to force its way 
further along the road, only to encoun- 
ter a similar fate. Concentrated fire by 
the guns of the 913th Field Artillery 
Battalion on the suspected location of 
the German guns about 700 yards east 
of the town likewise failed either to 
destroy the guns or to drive the Ger- 
mans from their positions. 

At the culvert near Tame, mean- 
while, the Germans at the first light of 
day on the 12th discovered Captain 
Nelson's small force and quickly sur- 
rounded it. Throughout the day a 
beleaguered Company F fought back, 
its ammunition rapidly dwindling. At 
one point enemy self-propelled guns, 
advancing along the road from Spigno 
toward Tame, pounded the company 
with point-blank fire. All appeared k)st 
until American artillery observers, soar- 
ing above the battlefield in small obser- 



54 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Nation aircratt. spotted the German ve- 
hicles and, with well-directed fire from 
the supporting artillery battalion, de- 
stroxed two and drove the rest to cover. 

Although the immediate threat to 
Compan\ F was thus removed, as the 
hours passed the situation of the be- 
sieged force at the culvert worsened. By 
nightfall on the 12th food and ammu- 
nition were virtually exhausted, and 
Captain Nelson received an order from 
Major Shull to withdraw after dark, to 
the vicinity of the Minturno cemetery. 
Nelson agreed to try but doubted 
whether he could do it. On that de- 
spairing note Nelson's radio fell silent. 

Shorth' after sundown several enemy 
soldiers approached the culvert position 
shouting "kamerad." Not suspecting a 
ruse. Nelson's men scrambled from 
their shelter to accept their surrender. 
Suddenh, from all sides German sol- 
diers closed in. Except for five men 
who feigned death in their foxholes, 
the encircled men surrendered. That 
action effectively liquidated the 351st 
Infantr\'s only {penetration of the Ger- 
man front. Despite heavy supporting 
fire — the 913th Field Artillery Battalion 
alone had fired 4,268 rounds — the en- 
emy at nightfall on the 12th still held 
Santa Maria Infante. 

As was evident from the German 
automatic weapons fire from the S- 
Ridge that had plagued the troops of 
the 351st Infantry during the assault on 
Santa Maria Infante, men of General 
Coulter's 85th Division on the left wing 
of the II Corps also faced determined 
resistance. Corps had ordered Coulter 
to capture the high ground overlooking 
the Ausonia corridor on the corps' left 
wing. Immediate objectives were the S- 
Ridge, the southern extension of the 



ridge on which Santa Maria Infante wais 
located; San Martino Hill, an isolated 
rise just north of the Capo d'Acqua 
Creek about three-quarters of a mile 
beyond the American forward posi- 
tions; and the Domenico Ridge, the 
latter a group of low hills to the south 
of the San Martino feature overlooking 
the village of Scauri and the coastal 
highway. Control of the latter ridge 
would give the Americans terrain domi- 
nating the junction of the coastal high- 
way and the road running through the 
Ausonia corridor, the enemy's first lat- 
eral line of communications and the 
road toward which the Minturno- 
Santa Maria Infante road led. 

On the 85th Division's left wing Col. 
Brookner W. Brady's 339th Infantry, 
attacking with three battalions in line (in 
reserve, a fourth attached from Col. 
Oliver W. Hughes' 337th Infantrv), 
advanced toward San Martino Hill and 
the Domenico Ridge. Antipersonnel 
mine fields and hea\y fire from well- 
placed enemv automatic weapons made 
the going slow from the start. The best 
Brady's infantrymen could accomplish 
was to win tenuous footholds on the 
lower slopes of their objectives. "^ 

On the 85th Division's right wing the 
338th Infantry, commanded by Lt. Col. 
Alfred A. Safay, was to capture the S- 
Ridge, whose terraced sides were dotted 
with isolated stone cottages and an 
occasional grove of olive trees, with the 



"^ During this action 1st Lt. Robert T. Waugh of 
Company G led his platoon in an assault against six 
enemy bunkers. Lieutenant Waugh advanced alone 
against the first bunker, threw phosphorous gre- 
nades into it, and then killed the defenders as thev 
attempted to flee. He repeated this procedure with 
the lemaining bunkers. For this and subsequent 
gallantry in the offensive. Lieutenant Waugh was 
avvaided the Medal of Honor. 



DIADEM'S FIRST DAY— 1 1 MAY 



55 



village of Solacciano perched on the 
ridge's seaward nose. Under cover of 
the artillery preparation, Safay's regi- 
ment began moving toward the S-Ridge 
at 2300 with two battalions abreast. 

The 1st Battalion on the right, com- 
manded bv Maj. Vernon A. Ostendorf, 
struck at Hills 109 and 131, the latter 
the most imposing height along the S- 
Ridge and the site of the machine guns 
that later were greatly to plague the 
neighboring 351st Infantry in the attack 
against Santa Maria Infante. For the 
first two hours the two lead companies 
advanced through olive groves and 
grain fields up the southern slopes of 
the S-Ridge until halted midway to 
their objectives by a combination of 
antipersonnel mines and automatic 
weapons fire. Although one platoon 
from each company briefly gained the 
crest, they were pinned down there by 
heavy fire. Unable to get reinforce- 
ments forward and aware that the 
platoons could hardly hope to hold in 
the event of counterattack, the com- 
pany commanders ordered withdrawal 
halfway down the forward slope. 

On Major Ostendorfs left, the 3d 
Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Wil- 
liam Mikkelson, encountered a growing 
volume of fire while advancing toward 
the village of Solacciano and high 
ground just east of the village. Experi- 
encing their first hostile fire, the two 
lead companies advanced cautiously 
and slowly throughout the night. At 
daylight the battalion reached the out- 
skirts of Solacciano where heavy auto- 
matic weapons fire forced a halt. Dur- 
ing the day the 3d Battalion fought its 
way into the village to seize two houses, 
but even that limited gain came at a 
high price. By nightfall Mikkelson could 



muster only 200 effectives to defend his 
tbrward position at Solacciano. 

Like Colonel Champeny's men on the 
right. Colonel Safay's infantry, in spite 
of heavy artillery fire support, had been 
stalled by well-entrenched automatic 
weapons fire. Because these weapons 
had neither been silenced nor wrested 
from the Germans, Safay's men had 
little more to show for their first day of 
battle on the slopes of S-Ridge than had 
Colonel Champeny's in their approach 
to Santa Maria Infante. 

The 349th Infantry, which General 
Sloan had held in reserve on Hill 105, 
about 1,600 yards northeast of Min- 
turno and overlooking the Ausente 
Creek, had early on 12 May sent its 1st 
Battalion to occupy first phase objec- 
tives on the forward slope of the Casale 
Hill, some 1,200 yards southeast of 
Santa Maria Infante. There the battal- 
ion would remain until the afternoon of 
the 14th, when it again moved forward, 
this time to occupy Monte Bracchi by 
nightfall. 

Everywhere the Germans had held. 
The fighting had hurt them severely, 
but as the first day ended this fact was 
hardly discernible to the Americans. 

The massive artillery support of the 
II Corps' attack had taken a sharp toll. 
When, for example. General Steinmetz, 
commander of the 94th Division, at- 
tempted to reinforce his troops on San 
Martino Hill with a company from his 
reserve, American artillery fire cut the 
company to pieces while the troops 
were assembling for their approach 
march. The heavy artillery fire had also 
played havoc with the enemy's line of 
communications between the division 
rear area and the front line, virtuiilly 
isolating one from the other. Though 



56 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



that left what was essentially only a thin 
crust of resistance, it was one that 
proved remarkably tough in the face of 
renewed American assaiilt the next day. 
With the coming of daylight on the 
12th, Allied fighter and medium 
fighter-bombers, according to plan, be- 
gan a daylong attack against enemy 
headquarters, lines of communications, 
and supply dumps in an effort to 
complete the isolation of the battlefield 
begun earlier by Operation Strangle. 
Artillery spotter and control aircraft 
were especially effective throughout the 
day in locating enemy batteries and 
directing both friendly artillery and 
tactical bombers against them. Even 
Kesselring's and Vietinghoffs head- 
quarters came under attack. Allied 
planes destroyed the Tenth Army field 
headquarters in the first hours of the 
offensive and severely damaged Army 
Group C's command post near Frascati 
in the Alban Hills south of Rome. ^^ 

The Capture of Monte Majo 

General Juin envisioned the role that 
his French Expeditionary Corps would 
play in the early stages of the Allied 
offensive as participation in a series of 
three battles, to be fought in several 
phases and all aimed at eventually turn- 
ing the enemy's second major defensive 
line south of Rome, the Hitler Line. 

The first objective was a break- 
through over the Monte Majo massif to 
win f(30tholds on the massifs two paral- 
lel ridges. Juin expected his troops to 
capture Monte Majo within the first five 
hours of the offensive. To protect the 
right flank of this thrust, the French 
would, as a preliminary action, have to 



drive the Germans from relatively 
strong positions on the high ground 
overlooking the axis of attack. The high 
ground consisted of three terrain fea- 
tures— Cerasola Hill, Hill 739, and 
Monte Garofano — rising from a high 
plateau named Massa di Ruggero. '^ 

General Juin planned to exploit a 
breakthrough in the Monte Majo massif 
with drives along parallel northwest- 
running ridges to seize the Ausonia 
defile at the northern end of the Au- 
sonia corridor. With that defile in hand, 
Juin expected to turn his corps west- 
ward toward Monte Fammera, north- 
ernmost summit of the Petrella massif 
Monte Fammera would provide the 
needed foothold for an advance deep 
into the massif 

The objective of the second battle 
was to be a blocking action east of the 
town of Esperia, and included the cap- 
ture of the town and nearby Monte 
d'Oro, a dominant height overlooking 
the Liri valley. If successful this op)era- 
tion would sever communications be- 
tween the XIV Panzer Corps and the LI 
Mountain Corps, the latter opposing the 
British Eighth Army at Monte Cassino 
and in the Liri valley. 

In the third battle, Juin planned to 
send his forces first against Monti del 
Montrono and della Commundo, over- 
looking the road junction of Pontecorvo 
in the Liri valley. From there he would 
be able to send a column northwest- 
ward to envelop the town of Pico, 
another road junction on the Germans' 
second lateral route of communications 
between the Tyrrhenian coast and the 
Liri valley. Meanwhile, a provisional 



'^ Craven and Gate, eAs.,AAF 111, p. 387. 



^'^C.E.F., Etat Major, M'emoires du Airil (24 Apr 
44), pu'cf \'r. 117. The following paragraphs are 
based upon this document. 



DIADEMS FIRST DAY— 1 I MAY 



57 




Terrain in French Corps Sector Showing Castelforte and Monte Majo 

(background). 



corps under Maj. Gen. Francois Sevez 
was to approach the town from the 
southeast. 

Judging it to be best qualified for the 
demanding requirements of mountain 
warfare. General Juin selected Maj. 
Gen. Andre W. Dody's 2d Moroccan 
Division to spearhead the thrust 
through the Monte Majo massif Gen- 
eral Sevez's 4th Moroccan Mountain 
Division, recently arrived in Italy from 
occupation duty on Corsica, was to 
attack on Dody's right but minus a 
substantial portion of its infantry, which 
Juin brigaded with General Guillaume's 



goumiers to form a provisional moun- 
tain corps under General Sevez. Upon 
this task force Juin placed the main 
burden of the drive west from Monte 
Fammera and toward the enemy's sec- 
ond lateral communications road, a 
drive to be launched once Dody's Mo- 
roccans had captured the Ausonia de- 
file. In all three battles, enemy strong- 
points were to be b)passed whenever 
possible in order to maintain the mo- 
mentum of the attack and to sustain 
and exploit the surprise that Juin ex- 
pected to gain at Monte Majo. 
Juin's G-2 knew that the left wing of 




M- Finnemann. 



MAP 2 



DIADEM'S FIRST DAY— 1 1 MAY 



59 



Sengei's XIV Panzer Corps stretched 
from the Ausonia corridor across the 
Monte Majo massif into the Liri valley. 
In the mountain sector the corps front 
was thinlv held bv the 71st Division, 
under the command of General 
Raapke. This was a light infantry divi- 
sion with a strength of 10,000 men, 
supported by eighty artillery pieces, a 
few Italian assault guns, and a dozen 
self-propelled antitank guns — a rela- 
tively small force when compared with 
Juin's corps of approximately 90,000 
men. Some thirty miles to the rear 
Senger held about forty tanks as part of 
his corps reserve. 

Interrogation of a German noncom- 
missioned officer captured a week be- 
fore the offensive revealed that a few 
miles behind the Gustav Line Senger 
had directed preparation of a switch 
position that he designated the Orange 
Line. Actually, existence of the line 
proved later to have been limited 
largely to operations maps. Extensive 
aerial reconnaissance also disclosed that 
the enemy had virtually no defenses 
along that part of the Hitler Line 
extending through the Aurunci Moun- 
tains southwest of the village of Sant' 
Oliva, about three miles south of the 
road junction of Pontecorvo in the Liri 
valley. It appeared that Kesselring ex- 
pected to rely upon the formidable 
mountains themselves as constituting a 
sufficient barrier. 

In darkness, for the moon would not 
rise for another half hour, the infantry- 
men of the 2d Moroccan Mountain 
Division began moving at 2300 on 1 1 
May from their assembly areas on 
Monte Juga toward assault positions on 
the eastern sk)pes of the Monte Majo 
massif, there to await completion of the 



bombardment of the enemy's positions 
in the forbidding heights far above. For 
the next half hour the Moroccans 
waited while shells from some 400 
guns, including those of the U.S. 13th 
Artillery Brigade, smashed into the 
rocky sk)pes.^^ 

A week earlier Allied registration 
fires had prompted the German com- 
mander. General Raapke, to move most 
of his artillery into alternate positions so 
that the Allied guns inflicted few losses 
on his batteries. Dispersed in well-cov- 
ered dugouts and too close to the 
French lines to be hit by the artillery, 
Raapke's infantrymen also remained 
virtually unscathed by the preparatory 
fire. As on the II Corps front, the 
principal effect of the Allied fire was to 
disrupt wire communications and isolate 
scattered infantry positions. 

During the first two hours of the 
attack, the Moroccan infantrymen 
fought their way to within 300 yards of 
the summit of Monte Ornito, a 2,000- 
foot peak about two miles southeast of 
Monte Majo, the division's objective. 
The Moroccans had just reached their 
new positions when local reserves of the 
71st Division's 191st Grenadier Regiment 
counterattacked. {Map 2) 

Failure of the artillery to make pun- 
ishing inroads on the enemy infantry all 
too soon became apparent. Although by 
midmorning of the 12th a regiment of 
the 2d Moroccan Mountain Division 
fought its way to the crest of Monte 
Faito, a mile and a half southeast of 



'^ In this account the author has drawn upon two 
sources: Sidney T. Mathews, "The French in the 
Drive on Rome," prepared in CMH for publication 
in Fraternili d'Armes Fram o-Am'eru aine , a special issue 
of the Rt'i'uc HisUiriqut' de rArrru'i' (Paris, 1957); and 
]um. La CampagJie d' I talie, pp. 101-12. 



(1() 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Monte Majo, with light losses, the 
troops were still over a mile short ot 
Monte Majo, which General Juin had 
confidentlv expected to take within the 
first five hours of the offensive. What 
was more important, German defend- 
ers had thwarted a supporting attack on 
the right aimed at the high giound — 
Cerasola Hill, Hill 739, and Monte 
Garofano — overlooking the route the 
Moroccans would have to take from 
Monte Faito to Monte Majo. 

Despite the failure to take the high 
ground indispensable for a successful 
attack on Monte Majo, the division 
commander. General Dody, tried to 
resume the advance toward the objec- 
iWe. Yet hardly had the men begun to 
move when fire from the heights on 
the right brought them to a halt. 

Still determined to press on, General 
Dody ordered a regrouping, but before 
the men could move out again, a 
German battalion, reinforced by troops 
earlier driven off Monte Faito, counter- 
attacked. Only with the help of massed 
artiller)' fire were the Moroccans able to 
repulse the threat, but the action left 
them too disorganized immediately to 
renew their attempt to take Monte 
Majo. 

Although Generalmajor Friedrich 
Wentzell, chief of staff and acting com- 
mander of the Tenth Army in General 
von Vietinghoffs absence, and General 
der Artillerie Walter Hartmann, acting 
commander of the XIV Panzer Corps in 
Senger's absence, informed Field Mar- 
shal Kesselring of the unexpected sever- 
ity of the French attack against the 
Monte Majo sector — unexpected, be- 
cause the Germans had no idea of the 
size of Juin's force assembled in the 
bend of the Garigliano — the army 



group commander remained convinced 
that it was nothing more than a sup- 
porting operation for what he consid- 
ered to be the main Allied effort in the 
Liri valley. Until Kesselring determined 
that this was not so and that there was 
to be no amphibious landing on his 
Tyrrhenian flank, he would refuse to 
authorize commitment of reserves to 
shore up the 71st Infantry Division's 
sector. The best he would do was to 
authorize the movement of two reserve 
battalions into supporting positions be- 
hind the 94th and 71th Divisions' sectors. 
He retained for himself, however, the 
right to say when either of the battal- 
ions might be committed. General 
Raapke, Kesselring insisted, should cre- 
ate additional reserves by the familiar 
expedient of thinning out less threat- 
ened sectors. Hartmann saw no alterna- 
tive, therefore, to ordering the 7Ist 
Division commander to use his reserve 
battalion of panzer grenadiers. It was 
that battalion whose counterattack had 
just thrown the Moroccans off bal- 
ance. -" 

It seemed at this point that the 
French attack had stalled because of the 
same kind of resistance encountered by 
the U.S. II Corps on their left and by 
the British 13 Corps on their right. The 
failure to take the division objective as 
planned could be attributed directly to 
the failure to control the high ground 
on the right of the corps zone of 
operations. 

To revitalize the attack, General 
Dody proposed to the corps com- 
mander that he take advantage of the 
coming darkness to move on Monte 
Majo without first clearing the high 
ground. General Juin rejected this pro- 

^'> MS # R-50 (Bailey), CMH. 



DIADEM'S FIRST DAY— I I MAY 



6 



posal, tor he was convinced that even if 
Dodv's troops managed to slip past the 
high ground during the night, the 
enemy would emerge at daylight to 
harass their flank. Instead J uin ordered 
Dody to employ his reserve regiment in 
a night attack, to clear the high ground 
on the right, first against Cerasola Hill 
and then against the other two hills in 
turn. Shortly after the attack began, 
Dody's assault forces were to move out 
once again from Monte Faito toward 
Monte Majo. This, J uin insisted confi- 
dently, would carry the objective. 

General Juin's confidence permeated 
Dody's staff, and in a few hours the 
units were in position to renew the 
attack. At 0320 on 13 May, all artillery 
attached to Dody's division, except for 
two battalions supporting the troops on 
Monte Faito, began to fire on Cerasola 
Hill. Forty minutes later, as the reserve 
regiment began to advance, the artillery 
fire shifted to Hill 739 and finally to 
Monte Garofano. At the last minute, 
before the Moroccan infantry began 
their ascent, a detachment of combat 
engineers rushed forward with banga- 
lore torpedoes to blow gaps in barbed 
wire blocking the path of the advance. 
The artillery apparently did its job 
well, for, as the riflemen climbed the 
slope, German reaction was almost non- 
existent. Reducing the few positions 
that had escaped the bcjmbardment, the 
Moroccans moved quickly on to the 
next objective. Hill 739, and then to the 
third, Monte Garofano. Within two and 
a half hours the regiment had occupied 
all three objectives, capturing 150 en- 
emy soldiers in the process, and even 
advanced a few hundred yards farther 
to occupy yet another hill mass over- 
looking the village of Vallomajo in the 



shadow of Monte Majo. 

Success was not to be so readily 
achieved on the left, where the regi- 
ment making the 2d Moroccan's main 
effort tried to get moving shortly after 
0400, first toward an intermediate ob- 
jective, Monte Feuci, about midway be- 
tween Monte Faito and the objective, 
then on to Monte Majo. Almost imme- 
diately the regiment ran into a counter- 
attack by the 7 1st Dix'isions k)ne reserve 
battalion. Even though the Moroccans 
held, employing mortar and artillery 
fire with deadly effect to drive the 
Germans back, the action checked the 
French advance. 

Three more times before daylight 
and again at 0900 the German battalion 
tried to recapture Monte Faito with no 
success. Now the French, rather than 
the Germans, occupied the high 
ground on the right, which hampered 
the counterattacks from Monte Feuci 
just as, it had earlier hampered French 
efforts to attack toward that feature. 
French gunners, with the observation 
advantage that daylight brought, had 
turned the last counterattack into a 
cosdy failure. Broken by heavy casual- 
ties, the enemy battalion fell back in 
disorder. Covered by an ardllery prepa- 
ration, the Moroccan infantrymen 
reached the crest of Monte Feuci by 
1 130; not a shot was fired against them. 
The destruction of Raapke's reserve 
battalion, after the heavy punishment 
the troops in the main line of resistance 
had already taken, meant that no 
means existed for holding the Monte 
Majo sector of the Gustav Line. As the 
French regrouped, a radio operator 
intercepted a German radio message 
saying: 'Teuci has fallen. Accelerate the 
general withdrawal." When a platoon- 



62 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



sized patrol left Monte Feuci a few 
minutes later to test German defenses 
(Ml Monte Majo, the results appeared to 
confirm the German message, for the 
patrol found not a German there. In 
late afternoon a battalion came forward 
to txTupv the di\ision objective and to 
raise on an improvised flagstaff a 
French tricolor large enough to be seen 
from Monte Cassino to the Tyrrhenian 
Sea. 

Breaking through to Monte Majo on 
13 Ma), the Moroccans had breached 
the Gustav Line at one of its deepest, 
albeit most weakly defended, points. 
The feat had unhinged the entire left 
wing of the XIV Panzer Corps. It also 
had split Cieneral Raapke's 71st Division 
and opened the way for further ad- 
vances along the parallel ridges running 
northwest toward Ausonia, San Giorgio, 
and Esperia and for a thrust across the 
Ausonia defile to Monte Fammera. 
Most importantly for the Eighth Army, 
it had put the EEC in a position to 
bring pressure against the right flank of 
the German defenses in the Liri valley. 



It was to this latter threat that Field 
Marshal Kesselring now directed his 
attention. Kesselring at last realized that 
his southern front and not his Tyrrhen- 
ian flank between Rome and Civitavec- 
chia was the point of greatest danger. 
Accordingly, late on the 13th, he or- 
dered the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division 
to begin moving from its coast- watching 
position near the mouth of the Tiber 
southeastward to the southern front. 
Despite Allied air attacks against all 
enemy traffic, the last unit of the divi- 
sion managed to depart in the early 
hours of the 14th. Traveling mc^stly at 
night, the 200th Panzer Grenadier Regi- 
ment was the first unit to reach the 
southern front, some seventv-five miles 
away, early on 14 May. As the regiment 
arrived it was committed on the 71st 
Divisions left in an effort to stem the 
French advance from Monte Majo to- 
ward the town of San Giorgio on the 
southern edge of the Liri valley.-^ 



2' Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, 
IV (1), pp. 489-90. 



CHAPTER IV 



Collapse of the Gustav Line 



Despite the Allied command's long- 
held conviction that Monte Cassino 
would have to fall before there could be 
any appreciable success in the Liri val- 
ley, it now seemed, with the French 
breakthrough of the Gustav Line, that 
Monte Majo instead of Monte Cassino 
might be the key, not only to the Fifth 
Army's advance through the mountains 
south of the Liri but also to the Eighth 
Army's penetration of the enemy's de- 
fenses in the valley itself. Northeast of 
Monte Cassino the 2 Polish Corps had 
withdrawn to its line of departure as of 
the night of 1 1 May, leaving the 1st 
Parachute Division still master of the 
ruined abbey and its neighboring 
ridges, but General Raapke had been 
forced to commit his last reserves in a 
vain attempt to prevent the FEC from 
taking Monte Majo. The threat to 
Monte Majo and the need to reinforce 
that sector during the night of 12 May 
doubtless had been a factor in the 
German failure to prevent the British 
13 Corps from widening and deepen- 
ing its foothold beyond the Rapido. 
Thus by morning on the 13th the 
British 4th Division at last succeeded in 
bridging the river. With three pontoon 
bridges in operation — southeast of Cas- 
sino the 8th Indian Division had suc- 
ceeded in building two the previous 
night — the 13 Corps soon had a secure 
bridgehead, varying in depth from 
1,000 to 2,500 yards. 

The Eighth Army had accomplished 



what the Fifth Army had failed to do 
during the winter campaign: establish 
and reinforce a bridgehead beyond the 
Rapido. Although Monte Cassino re- 
mained in German hands, the 13 Corps 
had managed to construct bridges over 
which it could reinforce its units at will. 
Since the assault divisions had incurred 
considerable casualties, General Leese 
authorized the corps commander (Gen- 
eral Kirkman) to commit his reserve 
division, the 78th, on 14 May and at 
the same time warned General Anders 
(the 2 Polish Corps commander) to be 
prepared to resume his attack on 
Monte Cassino the next day. The 78th 
Division was to move out as soon as 
possible after dawn in order to pass 
through the British and Indian divi- 
sions south of Cassino and Highway 6 
and make contact with the Polish 
troops — hopefully, sometime on the 
15th — at a point on the highway south- 
west of Monte Cassino. ^ 

While the 78th Division assembled 
east of the Rapido preparatory to cross- 
ing into the 4th Division's zone, the XII 
Tactical Air Command flew 520 sorties 
in support of the British 4th and 
Indian 8th Divisions. In spite of clear 
weather and undisputed mastery of the 
skies, the strafing and bombing attacks 
failed to silence enemy batteries firing 



' Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. B. Unless otherwise 
noted this and the following section are based upon 
this reference. 



64 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



trom well-concealed positions in the 
vicinit\ of Atina, approximately seven 
miles north of Monte Cassino. 

The artiller) fne, plus stiffening re- 
sistance to efforts to expand the bridge- 
head, as well as the first indications of 
growing traffic congestion on the few 
available roads — a problem that would 
eventually harass the Eighth Army in 
the Liri \alle\ almost as much as would 
the enemy — so delayed the 78th Divi- 
sion that it was unable to get into 
position to fulfill its exploitation role. 
Although the 4th British and 8th In- 
dian Divisions continued to push ahead, 
it became clear by nightfall that the 
corps would be unable to reach the 
highwav by the morning of the 15th. 
That prompted General Leese to post- 
pone the Polish attack on Monte Cas- 
sino. The Eighth Army had penetrated 
the Gustav Line but had not broken 
through. 

German Countermeasures 

In preventing an Allied break- 
through in the Liri valley on the 14th, 
the Germans had paid a high price. 
That night Generalleutnant Bruno Ort- 
ner, the commanding general of the 
44th Division, reported to the U Moun- 
tain Corps headquarters that because of 
heavy losses and fragmentation of imits 
within his division his front would have 
to be heavily reinforced or else he 
would have to withdraw into the Hitler 
(Senger) Line, at the latest during the 
night of 15 May."- 

In response, General Feuerstein, the 
corps commander, authorized neither 
course. The only major reinforcement 
available in the corps area was the 90th 

""LI Mtn Corps, la KTB, Nr. 2, 14 May 44, U Mtn 
Corps Doc. No. 5577911. 



Panzer Grenadier Division, but part of it 
had already been committed on the XIV 
Panzer Corps' left flank to reinforce the 
faltering 775/ Infantry Division. On the 
15th, however, Feuerstein ordered the 
361st Panzer Grenadier Regiment, the sec- 
ond of the 90th Panzer Grenadier Divi- 
sion's, two motorized infantry regiments, 
to bolster the defense of Ortner's front 
on the Pignataro sector, about three 
miles southwest of the town of Cassino 
on the Cassino-San Giorgio road, but 
the regiment would arrive too late to 
prevent the Indian infantry, supported 
by armor, from capturing the village of 
Pignataro and breaking through the 
German lines about a half mile north- 
west of the town by midnight the same 
day.^ 

Meanwhile, on the XIV Panzer Corps 
front opposite the Fifth Army, Gen- 
eral Hartmann, the acting corps com- 
mander, prepared countermeasures 
against the U.S. II Corps. He despaired 
of restoring his front against the 
French, but remained confident that, at 
least for the present, he could continue 
to hold opposite the Americans. Al- 
though the American 85th Division had 
penetrated the 94th Dixnsions front be- 
tween the S-Ridge and the Domenico 
Ridge and had won a foothold in the 
village of Solacciano, Hartmann be- 
lieved that those minor penetrations 
could be eliminated. It was therefore 
with some expectation of success that 
he ordered the 94th Division com- 
mander. General Steinmetz, to launch 
counterattacks to pinch them off, ^ 



nbid., 15 May 44; G.W.L. Nicholson, "Official 
History of the Canadian Army in the Second World 
War," vol. 11, The Canadians in Italy, 1943-1945 
(Ottawa: Edmund Clothier, G. M. C. O.O., D.S.P., 
1956), p. 406. 

^ MS# R-50 (Bailev), CMH. 



COLLAPSE OF THE (;USTAV LINE 



65 



Less sanguine than the corps com- 
mander. General Steinmetz, on the 
night of 12 May, nevertheless counter- 
attacked on his right wing, from the S- 
Ridge to the coastal corridor; but ex- 
cept for some slight gains on the Do- 
menico ridge the Germans failed to 
regain the lost ground. Accurate con- 
centrations of American artillery fire 
had broken up the counterattacks and 
forced them back with heavy casualties 
that Steinmetz could ill afford. The 94th 
Division commander now recognized 
that unless his troops could be rein- 
forced before the next American ons- 
laught, his thin, brittle front would soon 
crack. He had no alternative but to act 
on a suggestion General Hartmann had 
earlier given the 71st Division com- 
mander: create his own reserves in the 
customary manner. In view of the 
strength of the Allied offensive across 
the entire corps front on 12 May, such 
a do-it-yourself scheme for obtaining 
needed reserves was patently the coun- 
sel of despair.^ 

The II Corps' Attack Renewed 

General Steinmetz's despair con- 
trasted sharply with General Clark's 
reaction to the results of operations on 
his own front. Sensing a breakthrough 
by the Fifth Army, Clark was impatient 
with what he deemed to be a lack of 
aggressiveness and flexibility in the II 
Corps' attack. That lack was particularly 
apparent when contrasted with the elan 
and drive shown by the EEC in its 
thrust into the Monte Majo massif. 
Though aware that the latter was com- 
posed of veteran, professional mountain 
troops, while 85th and 88th Divisions 



^ Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WPSt, KTB, 
pp. 488-91. 



were mainly conscripts engaging in 
their first combat operation, in view of 
the strength concentrated by the II 
Corps before the enemy's positions at 
Santa Maria Infante, ('lark believed that 
Sloan's 88th Division should have 
cleared the village by noon on 12 May.*^ 

Contrary to the impression created 
by the stubborn enemy resistance, Gen- 
eral Keyes (II Corps commander) be- 
lieved, as did General Steinmetz, that 
the German front was near the break- 
ing point. Convinced that one more 
effort would pierce the Gustav Line, 
Keyes called both of his division com- 
manders to corps headquarters early on 
the 13th to plan for a continuation of 
the attack. 

The 88th Division commander, Gen- 
eral Sloan, presented a reassuring pic- 
ture of the situation on his light wing, 
where the 350th Infantry held the 
village of Ventosa and Hill 316, key 
points on the regimental objective of 
Monte Damiano. Troops from the 
350th Infantry were also building up 
on Monte Ceracoli, and infantry with a 
platoon of tanks in support had thrust 
north of that feature toward the Au- 
sonia corridor. " 

Unfortunately, progress on the 88th 
Division's right wing had far exceeded 
that on the left, which was one of the 
causes of Clark's concern. Ak)ng both 
sides of the Minturno-Santa Maria In- 
fante road the troops of the 351st 
Infantry still faced strong opposition. 
Numerous strongpoints near the vil- 
lage of Pulcherini on the western slope 
of Monte Bracchi, on the Spur, at Santa 
Maria Infante, and on the S-Ridge 

« Clark Diary, 13 May 44. 

' Memo, Hq, 11 Corps, 13 May 44, sub: Confer- 
ence of Corps and Division (Commanders at 0730, 
in 1 1 (Corps Ci-3 Jnl. 



66 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



southwest of Tame were holding up 
General Sloan's left wing as well as 
General Coulter's right. 

On the credit side, losses incurred by 
the t\so dixisions in the early hours of 
the offensive had been cjuickly made up 
by replacements held in readiness in 
di\ision rear areas. As an experiment, 
each dixision had been assigned suffi- 
cient overstrength to permit the crea- 
tion of replacement detachments in 
support of each regiment. Having 
trained with their assigned unit, these 
men could be quickly integrated when 
replacements were needed, so that the 
two U.S. divisions were prepared to 
continue their attacks on 13 May with 
almost the same numbers as on the 
1 1th, the day the offensive began. 

Keyes continued to place the main 
burden of the renewed effort on 
Sloan's 88th Division, which was to 
resume its attack during the afternoon 
of the 13th. The corps commander also 
shifted the interdivisional boundary 
slightly to the left to give the 88th 
Division, which was to continue its drive 
on Santa Maria Infante, the additional 
task of clearing the northern end of the 
S-Ridge (Hills 109, 128, and 126), but 
lea\ing Hill 131 in the 85th Division's 
sector. Thus, the division bore responsi- 
bility for eliminating the machine guns 
that had been so troublesome on the 
351st Infantry's left flank. Coulter's 
85th Division, meanwhile, was to consol- 
idate its recently won positions at Solac- 
ciano and on the San Martino Hill and 
protect the corps' left flank by main- 
taining strong pressures on the Do- 
menico Ridge. ^ 

In making plans at the division level 



to resume the attack. General Sloan 
decided to shift the boundan of Colo- 
nel Crawford's 349th Infantr) westward 
to include the sector of the 1st Battal- 
ion, 351st Infantry. This freed the 1st 
Battalion, still relatively fresh, to tr)- to 
take Santa Maria Infante from the left 
flank. The battalion was to capture Hill 
109 on the S-Ridge, then swing north- 
ward along the ridge through Tame to 
envelop Santa Maria Infante from the 
northwest. While this battalion maneu- 
vered on the left, the 2d and 3d 
Battalions, astride the Minturno road, 
were to maintain pressure by holding 
attacks against the Spur and Hill 103. 
On the left. Coulter's 85th Division was 
to help with a renewed attack b) Colo- 
nel Safav's 338th Infantry against Hill 
131. 

Shortly after the conference. General 
Clark arrived at Keyes' command post. 
Concluding that the Germans had been 
thrown off balance b\ the magnitude of 
the Allied offensive, the Fifth Army 
commander directed Keyes to press his 
attack throughout the night, with the 
88th Division driving through Santa 
Maria Infante, crossing the Ausonia 
corridor, and capturing the \illage of 
Spigno on the edge of the Tetrella 
massif preparatory to a thrust across 
the mountains, as the French were even 
then preparing to do from Monte 
Majo. Back at his own headquarters at 
Caserta that afternoon, Clark noted 
confidently in his diary that "we should 
have Spigno tonight." ^ 

While the divisions prepared to re- 
new their efforts on the afternoon of 
the 13th, three U.S. righter-bc:)mbers 
attacked Santa Maria Infante, alreadv 



Ibid. 



"Clark Diarv, 14 May 44. 



COLLAPSE OF THE (iUSTAV LINE 



67 



reduced to Cassino-like ruins. As if in 
lesponse, the enemy made one of his 
rare air raids over Allied lines. At 1330 
three out of a flight of twenty-two FW- 
190"s eluded Allied air patrols and 
bombed and strafed the 85th Division 
sector in the \icinitv of Minturno-Tre- 
monsuoli, but damage was light and 
casualties few. 

Although the 351st Infantry com- 
mander, Colonel Champeny, had desig- 
nated 1630 as the jump-off hour, a 
slow approach march by the 1st Battal- 
ion to its line of departure at the base 
of the S-Ridge was followed by a series 
of dela\'s that for several hours jeopard- 
ized the operation. Taking longer to 
launch its attack because it fiad a 
greater distance to move from an as- 
sembly area near the cemetery than 
had the other battalions, the 1st Battal- 
ion also had difficulty in co-ordinating 
its plans with those of Colonel Safay's 
338th Infantry, which was preparing to 
attack Hill 131, the southernmost knob 
of the S-Ridge. The battalion was fur- 
ther delayed when enemy mortar fire 
pinned down the commander and sev- 
eral of his staff while they were on 
reconnaissance, separating them from 
their units and killing the heavy weap- 
ons company commander. Nt^t until six 
hours after the time originally set for 
the attack did the battalion at last begin 
to move toward Hill 109, 300 yards 
northwest of Hill 131. Learning of the 
1st Battalion's failure to reach its line of 
departure on time, Champeny post- 
poned the regimental attack first for 
half an hour, then for another thirty 
minutes, and finally for an additional 
hour.^" 



'" Unless otherwise indicated the following tactical 
narrative is based upon official records of the 85th 
and 88th Divisions and the II Corps. 



Unfortunately, word of the postpone- 
ments failed to reach the 2d Battalion, 
assembled east of the Minturno road. 
Ordered to pin down the defenders of 
Santa Maria Infante by an attack 
against the Spur, the battalion moved 
out as originally planned at 1630. As 
the lead companies approached the 
sunken road on the eastern slope of the 
Spur, where the attack on the 12th had 
halted, the Germans from the vicinity 
of Santa Maria Infante and Pulcherini 
brought down a heavy volume of artil- 
lery and small arms fire. The men 
nevertheless reached the crest of the 
Spur, where continued heavy fire drove 
them to cover and prevented them 
from going further. 

On the left, in the 85th Division's 
sector, a tank-infantry team, composed 
of two platoons from Company I, 338th 
Infantry, and about ten tanks from 
Company C, 756th Tank Battalion, 
with which Colonel Safay planned to 
cover the left flank of Colonel Cham- 
peny's attack, also failed to get word of 
the postponement. Tanks and infantry 
moved toward Hill 131 on the S-Ridge, 
but the former were soon wallowing 
helplessly in a small gully at the foot of 
the hill. Unassisted, the two infantry 
platoons nevertheless cjuickly overran 
the enemy on Hill 131, capturing about 
forty Germans but losing over half the 
American riflemen in the process. 
When the Germans struck back almost 
immediately with a sharp local counter- 
attack, they forced the survivors to fall 
back to their original positions down 
the slope. By evening only sixteen men 
remained of the original infantry force 
that had attacked Hill 131. 

When, after two hours, the 1st Battal- 
ion, 351st Infantry, still failed to ap- 
pear, Colonel Champeny, apparently 



68 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



unaware of the 338th Infantry's setback 
on Hill 131, decided to wait no longer. 
He ordered the 3d Battalion to main- 
tain its pressure against Hill 103 along 
the left side of the Minturno road in 
support of the 2d Battalion, already 
battling on the Spur. 

Beginning at 1825, the 2d Chemical 
Battalion and the 913th Field Artillery 
Battalion, assisted by guns of corps 
artillerw fired several hundred rounds 
of smoke, white phosphorous, and high 
explosives on the villages of Santa 
Maria Infante and Pulcherini. On the 
heels of this preparatory fire, the 3d 
Battalion's two forward companies be- 
gan to move toward Hill 103, about 500 
yards west of the Spur. Company L was 
to pin down the enemy from the front, 
while Company I worked around the 
western slope to envelop the enemy 
from the crest. Meanwhile, Company 
K was to provide supporting fire from 
positions just west of the road leading 
to Santa Maria Infante. 

As Company I attempted to begin its 
envelopment, 30 to 40 rounds of 88- 
mm. fire fell into the battalion sector. 
Heavy and accurate mortar fire also 
blanketed the area, forcing the lead 
companies to fall back in disorder to 
their starting positions. Company K was 
down to half its strength. Company I 
lost one-third of its effectives, and Com- 
pany L also incurred heavy losses. The 
battalion S-3 reported despairingly to 
the regimental commander: "Two years 
of training [have] gone up in 
smoke . . . my men . . . about 
half of them — almost all my lead- 
ers." 1^ 

Close on that misfortune, the long- 



" Telephone Log, 351st Inf Jnl, 13 May 44. 



delayed 1st Battalion began assembling 
for its attack on Hill 109. The com- 
mander, Maj. Harold MacV. Brown, 
decided on a frontal attack in a column 
of companies, with Company C leading 
the way. Once Company C reached the 
crest, the next company in line was to 
pass through and move northward 
along the crest to clear Hill 126 on the 
northern end of the ridge. 

Shortly after midnight, following a 
10-minute artillery preparation, men of 
Company C, advancing with two pla- 
toons forward, began to pick their way 
up the southern slope of Hill 109. 
Midway up the slope men of this 
company, as had other 1st Battalion 
troops, came under mortar and ma- 
chine gun fire from Hill 131. Also like 
these other troops, they too believed 
Hill 131 to be in friendly hands. The 
company commander (1st Lt. Gar\in C. 
MacMakin) ordered his men to dig in 
where they were while he brought his 
reserve platoon forward and surveved 
the situation. 

During MacMakin's absence his exec- 
utive officer, assuming that the fire on 
his troops from Hill 131 was coming 
from American guns, disregarded the 
advice of fellow officers and set out 
alone toward the hill. Shouting repeat- 
edly, "We're Americans, stop your firel " 
he approached to within a few yards of 
the German positions. A short burst of 
enemy fire cut him down. 

To Lieutenant MacMakin it was ob- 
vious at this pc:)int that something had 
gone wrong with Colonel Safay's attack 
on the left. He decided to hold his men 
where they were until somebody had 
cleared Hill 131. 

Colonel Champenv, in turn, in- 
formed his division headquarters that 



COIXAPSE OF THE (;USrAV IJNE 



69 



he was "catching hell from Hill 131," 
and retjuested permission to go into the 
85th Division's zone and clear it him- 
self. Until the hill was taken, Champeny 
pointed out, his regiment simply would 
be unable to move. General Coulter, 
the 85th Division commander, denied 
permission, apparently wary of the haz- 
ards of violating unit boundaries in the 
darkness. Coulter declined even to ap- 
prove neutralizing artillery fire against 
the hill, since the fire might endanger 
his own men on the forward slope of 
the S- Ridge. 

Colonel Champeny, convinced that 
he could not take Hill 109 and outflank 
Santa Maria Infante while Hill 131 
remained in enemy hands, ignored the 
refusal. He took it on himself to order 
Major Brown to seize the hill with the 
reserve company of his 1st Battalion. *- 

Lieutenant MacMakin of Company C 
had in the meantime brought up his 
reserve platoon. With the men of this 
platoon in position to cover the flank 
that faced Hill 131, he decided to try 
again to take Hill 109. With two pla- 
toons abreast, MacMakin started up the 
hill. This time, to his surprise, hardly 
any German resistance developed. His 
men quickly gained the crest and found 
there only a small enemy rear guard, 
eager to surrender. 

Even as MacMakin's infantrymen de- 
ployed on Hill 109 and while it was still 
dark, Major Brown's reserve company 
started to climb Hill 131. There too the 
Americans were in for a surprise. The 
company encountered only scattered 
bursts of machine gun fire and reached 
the top of the hill with few losses. By 



that time the men found only empty 
dugouts, probably abandoned by a rear 
guard that had just slipped away unob- 
served in the darkness. The only Ger- 
mans remaining were on the reverse 
slope — they were dead, victims of the 
first day's artillery fire. 

The Germans Fall Back on the Right 

The unexpected ease with which the 
men of the 351st Infanti7's 1st Battal- 
ion finally captured Hills 109 and 131 
was, without their knowing it, a direct 
dividend of the French breakthrough in 
the Monte Majo sector on the after- 
noon of the 13th. As the French had 
widened their breach in the (iustav 
Line during the rest of the day and 
through the night. General Hartmann, 
the acting XIV Panzer Corps com- 
mander, ordered Steinmetz to pull back 
his left wing about a mile and to anchor 
it on Monte Civita, two miles northwest 
of Santa Maria Infante, where contact 
could be re-established with Raapke's 
battered 7 1st Dwision.^^ 

During the night General Steinmetz 
withdrew across the Ausonia corridor, 
leaving a rear guard behind. In an 
effort to strengthen his center, he also 
pulled back his troops from the coastal 
salient on his right flank near Monte 
Scauri. Because neither Sloan nor Coul- 
ter hampered its movement, Steinmetz's 
division by morning had managed to 
establish itself in the Gustav Line's 
rearmost positions along the high 
ground extending from Monte Scauri 
northward to a point east of Castellon- 
orato along the crests of hills overlook- 
ing the Ausonia corridor from the west 



'2 Msg 118, 133235. CO, 351st Inf, to CG, 88th 
Div, in 88th Div G-3 Jnl, 1 1-15 May 44, vol. 4, incl. 
7. 



'3 MS # R-50 (Bailey), CMH. Unless otherwise 
indicated this section is based upon this reference. 



70 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



THE FEC DRIVE 

13-15 May 1944 

► Direction of attack, 13-15 may 

^nrn FEC POSITIONS, 13 may 
C^^ Counterattack 

Contour interval in meters 

10 10 MILES 

I ' ' ' I'lll' l l'l h 'll 

10 KILOMETERS 



REMNANTS 





/J- 3d Gp Tabors 
^ 6fh Mor Inf 



/<■ XX 

lst,4fh6p Tabors t. [^^3Alg 



Mor Inf 



M. Fmnemann 



MAP 3 



to the eastern slope of Monte Civita. 
From there Stein metz's 94th Infantry 
Dhnsion linked up with the 7 1st Dix'tsions 
right flank. The French continued to 
widen their gap in the Monte Majo 
massif and advance toward San Ciiorgio 
on the southern flank of the Liri valley, 
while the 9'ith Infantry Dii'ision, on the 
XIV Panz/r Corps' right flank, would try 



to stabilize its front ak)ng the new line. 
{Map 3) 

As the twc:> Allied armies prepared to 
continue their offensive on the 14th, 
the Germans found control o\er their 
front line increasingly difficult to main- 
tain because individual combat units, 
dispersed by Allied breakthrough and 
penetrations, had lost both leaders and 



COLLAPSE OF THE CUSTAV LINE 



71 



communications. Steinmetz was sure 
that unless Kesselring released consider- 
able reinforcements, his, Steinmetz's, di- 
vision would be unable to achieve more 
than to hold the Americans briefly 
short of" the Hitler Line {Senger Riegel). 
A withdrawal into the second line of 
defense appeared inevitable and would 
most likely have to be set up by the 
night of 15 May.^"* 

The Fall of Santa Maria Infante 

The U.S. II Corps commander, Gen- 
eral Keyes, meanwhile had learned 
from reconnaissance reports during the 
night of 13 May that the enemy had 
demolished a bridge on the road lead- 
ing from Ausonia to the coast and the 
first lateral communications route be- 
hind the enemy front. That confirmed 
Keyes' suspicions that Steinmetz was 
preparing to fall back to new positions 
west of the road. Keyes promptly di- 
rected Sloan to move his men as rapidly 
as possible into Santa Maria Infante 
and then on to occupy the Monti 
Bracci, Rotondo, and Cerri, the high 
ground to the northeast of the village. 
A day earlier Clark had told Keyes to 
strike across the Ausonia conidor and 
seize Spigno as rapidly as possible. But 
the hard fighting and uncertainty as to 
the extent of the enemy withdrawal 
since the 11th had left both troops and 
corps commander unprepared for a 
headlong pursuit of the enemy. In- 
stead, Keyes ordered Sloan to send 
strong patrols into the corridor to locate 
the enemy. '-^ {Map III) 

Before dawn on the 14th, the 349th 



Infantry's 1st Battalion advanced in a 
column of companies to occupy Monte 
Bracchi. Meeting little resistance and 
capturing only a few stragglers, the 
battalion gained the summit within 
eight hours. The remaining battalions 
of the regiment, in the meantime, 
moved up the Minturno road behind 
the 351st Infantry into an assembly 
area southeast of Santa Maria Infante, 
whence they were prepared to exploit 
the capture of the village by advancing 
through the 351st Infantiy, across the 
Ausonia corridor, and onto the Petrella 
massif. ^*^ 

While the 1st Battalion of the 349th 
Infantry scaled Monte Bracchi, the 3d 
Battalion of the 351st at last closed in 
on Santa Maria Infante, defended now 
by only a small rear guard. By early 
afternoon, after a house-to-house fight, 
the village was cleared. 

A small but nevertheless important 
role in the battle for Santa Maria 
Infante had been played by sixty local 
Italian peasants who had volunteered 
to serve as carriers during the battle. Of 
these sixty, twenty-three had been killed 
by enemy fire and several wounded.'' 

On the 88th Division's right flank, 
Colonel Fry's 350th Infantry had se- 
cured its initial objectives from the 
Ausente Creek around to Castelforte. 
After the adjacent French unit had 
cleared the north side of the Castelforte 
road, the regiment attacked on the 13th 
from the vicinity of Monte Damiano to 
occupy Monte Rotondo. Although in- 
terrogation of prisoners had revealed 
that the objective was lightly held, rug- 
ged terrain and a particularly stubborn 



'^L?r, Gen Kdo LI Mtn Corps, la 484l44g.Kdos, 
14.V.44 lo AOK 10, in AOK 10 KTB Mr. 6, Band V, 
Anlagen 723, 11-20 Mav 44, AOK W, Dot. 53271/8. 

'5 II Corps G-3 Jnl, i 1-13 May 44. 



'""Ibid., 11-16 May 44. 

"WD Hist Div, Small Unit Actions (Washington, 
1946), p. 57. 



72 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




American 1 roops Entering i he Ruins of Santa Maria Infante 



rear guard forced Colonel Fry's men 
into a 3-hour struggle before they could 
occupy the height.'^ 

Colonel Fry had then turned his 
attention to Monte Cerri, the regiment's 
second objective. Some 2,000 yards 
southwest of Monte Rotondo, Monte 
Cerri had been reported free of enemy 
by an earlier patrol. Fry gave the job of 
occupying the feature to a reserve com- 
pany located on Monte Ceracoli, only a 
mile away from the objective. 

What followed poignantly illustrated 
the demoralizing effect that the sounds 
and rumors of battle can have on 



"* 88th Div G-2 Rpt No. 51, 141300B Mav 44, in 
88th Div G-3 Jnl, vol. 3, incl. 7; II Corps G-3 Jnl, 
May 44. Unless otherwise indicated the following is 
based upon the latter reference. 



inexperienced troops waiting anxiously 
in reserve. When the regimental com- 
mander's order reached the companv 
commander, he refused to move out 
with his unit. Promptly reliexing him. 
Colonel En sent Maj. Milton A. Mat- 
thews, his S-3, to take command of the 
company. The men. Major Matthews 
found upon arrival on Monte Ceracoli, 
were thoroughlv demoralized. Matthews 
explained to them that a patrol had 
reported the objective abandoned: how- 
ever, onlv one officer and one noncom- 
missioned officer reluctantly agieed to 
follow him. OnK after considerable urg- 
ing and cajoling was Matthews able to 
persuade the men to advance. 

As the companv neared Monte Cerri, 
an 18-man Cierman rear guard opened 



COLLAPSE OF THE C.USTAV LINE 



73 



fire, giving the lie to the patrol's opti- 
mistic report. Nevertheless, the coni- 
panv kept moving. It {|uicklv gained the 
summit and dispersed the enemy rear 
guard at a cost of onl\' two men slightly 
wounded. This small success restored 
the company's morale. 

Bv early afternoon on 14 May, after 
almost three days of fighting that had 
cost the 88th Division almost 2,000 
casualties, German withdrawal across 
the Ausonia corridor enabled the weary 
infantrymen to walk unopposed onto 
most of their objectives. After almost 
three days of infantry probes by two 
fresh divisions, supported by heavy and 
accurate artiller) fire and supplemented 
by wide-ranging fighter-bombers from 
which only darkness brought relief, the 
losses among the defending German 
units had been heavy. That evening 
General Steinmetz reported that since 
the night of 1 1 May his 94th Division 
had lost 40 percent of its combat 
strength and could hardly hope to hold 
at length in the positions across the 
forward slopes of the Petrella massif 
and the coastal heights. He was con- 
vinced that the Americans would soon 
move against Monte Civita and the 
villages of Castellonorata and Spigno, 
the three remaining key positions in 
that part of the XIV Panzer Corps sector 
of the Gustav Line opposite the Fifth 
Army.'^ 

Monte Civita was the first of the new^ 
positions to be occupied by the Ameri- 
cans. General Sloan sent Fry's 350th 
Infantry toward Spigno and Crawford's 
349th Infantry to take Monte Civita, 
the nearest summit in the Petrella mas- 
sif beyond the Ausonia corridor. Reach- 



ing the base of Monte Civita by dark on 
the 14th, the regiment's forward battal- 
ion paused to rest. Resuming the attack 
that night, the American infantrymen 
encountered little resistance as they oc- 
cupied the south peak of the l,80()-foot 
height by morning. There they sur- 
prised and captured 23 men from an 
artillery unit that was still firing on 
American positions in the valley be- 
low.-** 

Colonel Fry's 350th Infantry mean- 
while advanced on Spigno. Widely dis- 
persed, uncertain of enemy strength, 
Fry's regiment moved cautiously. Upset 
at what seemed to be a lack of drive, 
the army commander. General Clark, 
threatened disciplinary action against 
whoever was responsible for the delay 
in capturing Spigno. General Keyes 
therefore sent the 351st Infantry for- 
ward to relieve the 350th Infantry. 
Passing through Fry's lines on the 
morning of the 15th, the 351st Infantry 
attacked toward Spigno, capturing the 
town within a few hours.^^ 

Clark's thoughts now were already 
ranging far beyond Spigno, for that 
morning he ordered Keyes to send the 
88th Division with all possible speed 
from Spigno directly west across the 
mountains toward Itri, nine miles away, 
and the road junction on the second of 
the enemy's two lateral communications 
routes, while Coulter's 85th Division 
followed the withdrawal of that part of 
the 94th Division on the seaward side of 
the Aurunci Moimtains. Echeloned to 
the left rear, the 85th Division was to 
follow only as far as Monte Campese, 
the high ground about two miles west 



MS # R-50 (Bailey), CMH. 



20 349th Inf Opns Report, May 44. 

2' Ibid.; II Corps G-3 Jnl, 11-16 May 44. 



74 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



of Castellonorato and overlooking the 
coastal highway. 

Looking ahead to a breakout from 
the Anzio beachhead, Clark planned 
first to move the uncommitted 36th 
Di\ision there within three days, then to 
shift the 85th Division and increments 
of the II Corps headcjuarters to Anzio 
as preliminaries to moving the entire 
corps there. General Crittenberger's IV 
Corps, then at Pozzuoli on the coast just 
west of Naples, was to take over the II 
Corps sector.-' 

It was evident at this point that Clark 
was still thinking in terms of making 
the major breakthrough to the Anzio 
beachhead through the Aurunci Moun- 
tains sector rather than ak)ng the coastal 
corridor where the German defenses 
appeared more formidable. Because of 
those defenses, both Clark and Keyes 
had rejected a frontal attack along the 
axis of the coastal road (Highway 7) as 
too costly. Keyes directed Coulter in- 
stead to break through to that part of 
the Gustav Line based upon the town 
of Castellonorato, on the seaward fringe 
of the high ground, thereby outflank- 
ing the strong positions on the coastal 
plain. To provide additional strength 
for that attack, Keyes attached the 
349th Infantry and the 337th Field 
Artillery Battalion to the 85th Divi- 
sion.-^ 

Its buildings clustered beneath the 
ruins of an ancient fortress perched 
atop a steep hill, Castellonorato was the 
lone stronghold remaining in that part 
of the Gustav Line. Yet since German 
positions on Hill 108, approximately a 



mile and a half northwest of Solacciano, 
midway between Minturno and Castel- 
lonorato, dominated the route of ap- 
proach to Castellonorato, General Coul- 
ter had first to clear the hill before he 
could move against the town. 

During the morning of 14 May, the 
85th Division commander regrouped 
his regiments before attacking Hill 108 
in early afternoon. Holding the 339th 
Infantry on the S-Ridge as a base of 
fire, he moved the 338th from the San 
Martino Hill to occupy the Cave 
d'Argilla, high ground about half a 
mile farther north, overlooking the ap- 
proach to Hill 108. To the 337th 
Infantry, which except for one battalion 
had been in reserve since the beginning 
of the offensive, he gave the mission of 
taking first Hill 108 and then Castellon- 
orato. The attached 349th Infantry was 
to cover the attack by advancing on the 
right, with the 337th Field Artillery 
Battalion firing in support.-^ 

Attack on Castellonorato 

Colonel Hughes, commander of the 
337th Infantry, decided to employ a 
tank-infantrv team composed of the 2d 
Battalion with two platoons of tanks, as 
Colonel Safay had done the day before 
in his ill-fated attack on the division's 
right flank. After taking Hill 108, 
Hughes planned to use the armor to 
probe the enemvs defenses before 
making a final thrust into Castellonor- 
ato. The 3d Battalion was to follow 
closelv in reserve, while the 1st Battal- 
ion remained attached to the 338th 
Infantrv. 



22 Clark Diary, 15 May 44; Fifth Army G-3 Jnl, ^^ 88th Div Directive (sgd Sloan), 15 Mav 44; 85th 

15-16 May 44; Fifth Army OI 18, 15 May 44. Div FO 6 (sgd Coulter), 15 May 44; II Corps G-3 

" II Corps G-3 Jnl, 1 1-16 May 44. Periodic Rpt (sgd Col Butchers, G-3), 15 Mav 44. 



COLLAPSE OF THE CiUSTAV LINE 



75 



Hardly had the attack on Hill 108 
jumped off on the afternoon of the 
1 4th when a hitch developed. As engi- 
neers tried to prepare a iording site for 
the tanks to cross a small stream near 
Capo d'Ac(|ua, a hamlet about 2,200 
yards east of the objective, heavy fire 
from the vicinity of Castellonorato 
forced them to take cover. The tanks 
had to remain on the east bank where 
they could provide the infantry with 
onlv long-range support. Even so, that 
support proved sufficient at the start, 
for the infantrymen forded the creek 
and gained the crest of the hill on 
which the hamlet was located against 
little opposition; but when the men 
tried to continue down the reverse 
slope, the story was different. Heavy 
machine gun fire drove them back 
across the crest. 

Here the attack was stalled for several 
hours until engineers at last succeeded 
in preparing a crossing site for the 
tanks, ten of which immediately forded 
the stream and joined the infantry to 
provide the impetus the attack needed. 
As the tanks rumbled down the reverse 
slope of Hill 108, part of the enemy 
surrendered while the rest fled toward 
Castellonorato. 

With the capture of Hill 108, the way 
was clear for Colonel Hughes' reserve 
battalion to make a final attack on the 
town, but the setbacks encountered ear- 
lier forced a postponement until the 
following morning. On the 15th, shortly 
before the assault on Castellonorato was 
to begin, aircraft from the XII TAC 
roared over the front. Beyond a bomb 
line laid down only a thousand yards 
ahead of the infantry, a flight of six 
fighter-bombers struck the objective. 
While smoke and dust hung heavily 



over the town, Hughes' men quickly 
entered, but despite the aerial bom- 
bardment it still took several hours of 
street fighting to clear the place. By 
midnight Castellonorato was free of the 
enemy. 

While the 337th fought for Castelk)n- 
orato, a battalion from the 338th Infan- 
try moved down from the Cave 
d'Argilla and quickly occupied Monte 
Penitro, situated over one mile to the 
west and overlooking the Ausonia corri- 
dor road a mile northeast of Highway 
7. Routing a small enemy detachment, 
the battalion also captured the village of 
Penitro and continued down the Au- 
sonia road to Santa Croce, a hamlet 
located at the junction of the road with 
the coastal highway. The capture of 
Castellonorato, Monte Penitro, and the 
Santa Croce road junction carried the 
85th Division — with it the II Corps — all 
the way through the Gustav Line on 
the seaward slope of the mountains. 
Thus outflanked, the enemy's defenses 
astride Highway 7 on the coastal plain 
near Monte Scauri were no longer 
tenable. -^ 

The Germans Prepare To Withdraw 

Recognizing the portent of this pene- 
tration for the entire German right 
wing, the acting XIV Panzer Corps com- 
mander, General Hartmann, issued the 
usual injunction to General Steinmetz to 
contain the breach at all costs, at the 
same time reporting to the Tenth Army 
headcjuarters that without reinforce- 
ments a clear American breakthrough, 



•^■■^ 337th Inf Rpt of Opns, 14-15 May 44; 338lh 
Inf Rpt of Opns, 14-15 May 44; 85th Div Rpt of 
Opns, 14-15 May 44. 



76 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



comparable to that which had already 
taken place in the French sector, was 
ine\itable. Hartmann urged either rein- 
forcing the 94th Division with a separate 
panzer grenadier regiment that was 
patrolling the coast on the Gaeta penin- 
sula or authorizing the corps to fall 
back about two miles immediately to the 
Dora switch position. Despite those rec- 
ommendations, General von Vieting- 
hoff. the armv commander, newly re- 
turned from his leave, authorized noth- 
ing more than withdrawal during the 
night of 15 May of the 94th Divisions 
artillerv. "-*^ 

While failing to obtain permission to 
withdraw all of the 94th Division, Gen- 
eral Hartmann nevertheless saw the 
authorization for artillery displacement 
as a harbinger of eventual approval. 
Relaying the instructions to Steinmetz, 
Hartmann hinted that orders for such a 
move would soon be forthcoming. 

To support the crumbling front and 
cover the expected general withdrawal, 
Steinmetz managed to assemble three 
infantry companies from the now un- 
tenable Monte Scauri salient, along with 
a platoon of heav>' antitank guns from 
the vicinity of Formia, five miles west of 
Scauri. Those units he rushed into 
positions southwest of Castellonorato. 
Yet Steinmetz's center continued to give 
way. A real danger began to k)om that 
the Americans might overrun the Dora 
Line even before the Germans could 
occupy it. For Steinmetz, the only 
bright spot was the arrival within his 
lines of survivors from a company that 
had fought out of an encirclement on 
Hill 79, south of San Martino Hill. 



Keyes Reinforces His Left 

General Hartmann was not alone in 
recognizing the portents of the capture 
of Hill 108 and the fall of Castellonor- 
ato. General Keyes too realized their 
significance. He also realized that at this 
point the more favorable terrain of the 
mountain slopes overlooking the coastal 
corridor rather than the inhospitable 
Aurunci Mountains offered the best 
opportunity for exploiting the II Corps' 
success in the Gustav Line. Accordingly, 
during the night of 15 May, Keyes gave 
first priority on artillery and armored 
support to the 85th Division, thereby 
transforming what was to ha\e been the 
secondary attack on the left into the 
main attack. Thenceforth the momen- 
tum of the II Corps was directed along 
the axis of the Castellonorato-Maranola 
road, the latter village located two and a 
half miles due west of Castellonorato. 
Keyes hoped thereby to outflank For- 
mia, four miles up the coastal highway, 
which controlled the road junction lead- 
ing to the enemy's second line of lateral 
communications, Route 82. Indications 
are that Keyes had not consulted Clark 
on this decision, for the latter had 
authorized use of the 85th Di\ision only 
as far as Monte Campese, and Maran- 
ola lies a mile to the northwest and 
Formia over two miles to the south- 
west.""' 

Bv earlv morning of 16 May, the 
French Expeditionar\ Corps as well as 
the U.S. II Corps had broken through 
the Gustav Line between the Liri \alley 
and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Earlier, follow- 
ing its success against the 71st Division at 
Monte Majo on the 13th, the EEC, on 



'"' MS # R-50 (Bailey), CMH. Unless otherwise 
indicated the following is based upon this reference. 



" Clark Diary, 15 May 44. 



COLLAPSE OF THE (;USTAV LINE 



77 



the Fifth Army's right wing, had fought 
across the Aiisonia corridor, captured 
the Ausonia defile leading into the Liri 
\allev, and advanced ovei the northern 
halt of the Pelrella massif into the heart 
of the Aurunci Moimtains. The net 
effect of the successful II Corps- FEC 
strike had been to outflank the strong- 
est parts of the Gustav Line, those 
along the Tyrrhenian coast and in the 
Liri valley. 

A total of more than 3,000 casual- 
ties — 1,100 of which were incurred dur- 
ing the first forty-eight hours of the 
offensive by the 85th Division — sur- 
passed the II Corps' losses in the hard 
fought battle for Monte Cassino during 
the preceding winter campaign. The 
replacement system employed by both 
the 85th and 88th Divisions neverthe- 
less enabled the corps to make up the 
losses cjuickly and maintain the momen- 
tum of the offensive.'^" 

Progress in the Liri Valley 

The Eighth Army, meanwhile, had 
also begun to move. On the 14th 
General Leese had assembled the 1st 
Canadian Corps behind the 13 Corps' 
left wing preparatory to sending the 
Canadians across the Rapido to take 
part in the forthcoming exploitation 
toward the Hitler Line. Even as the 
U.S. II Corps was battering through the 
Gustav Line's last defenses on the night 
of 15 May, so too in the Liri valley the 
British 13 Corps broke through the last 
of the Gustav Line's positions. That 



night the Canadian corps began cross- 
ing the Rapido.-'* 

The next day the 78th Division com- 
pleted its passage of the 4th Division's 
lines and launched its long-delayed at- 
tack to cut Highway 6 southwest of 
Cassino. During the day the 78th Divi- 
sion made such good progress that 
General Leese ordered the Polish corps 
on Monte Cassino to resume its post- 
poned attack the following morning. 

Accordingly, early on the 17th, the 
British in the valley and the Poles in the 
mountains launched a pincers attack 
against the surviving enemy positions 
on Monte Cassino and in the town at its 
base. By afternoon the 78th Division 
had cut the highway southwest of 
Monte Cassino and the Poles and seized 
the CoUe Sant'Angelo Ridge north of 
the abbey. Only two escape routes — 
along the Monte Cassino-Massa Albe- 
neta Ridge and the flanks of the hills 
overlooking the highway — remained 
open. The Cassino position was now 
clearly untenable. Field Marshal Kes- 
selring acknowledged this fact by order- 
ing General Vietinghoff to withdraw 
from that position the 1st Parachute 
Dwiswn. Within minutes after Kessel- 
ring's order was radioed to the Tenth 
Army on the night of the 17th, British 
Intelligence had deciphered the mes- 
sage and in turn radioed the welcome 
news to Churchill, Alexander, and the 
U.S. Chiefs of Staff. 3" 

Throughout the day aircraft of the 
Mediterranean Allied Air Forces flew 
about 200 sorties in support of the 



2« 85th Div G-1 Rpt of Opns, Mav 44; 88th Div 
LO Rpt to G-3, 15 May 44; 88ih Div G-1 Rpt of 
Opns, May 44. 



^''Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Fart 11, Set. B. Unless otherwise 
indicated the following section is based upon this 
reference. 

^" See Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret, p. 116. 



78 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Monte Cassino Monastery Shortly After Its Capture 



Polish attack on Monte Cassino. Targets 
were enemy mortar and artillery posi- 
tions in the vicinity of Villa Santa Lucia, 
Passa Corno, and Piedimonte Rocca- 
secca (features north and west of Monte 
Cassino), as well as the command posts 
of the 1st Parachute and 90th Panzer 
Grenadier Divisions and some troops as- 
sembling for a counterattack to cover 
the planned withdrawal of parachutists. 
The counterattack came that night 
from the neighborhood of the Villa 
Santa Lucia, a mountain village about 
two miles northwest of the abbey and 
was aimed at the Polish troops on the 
Colle Sant'Angelo Ridge. It enabled the 
Germans, as the Polish corps com- 
mander. General Anders, had feared, 
to withdraw over the remaining escape 
routes. Consecjuently, on the morning 
of the 18th, when a patrol from the 
12th Podolski Lancers, advancing along 



a ridge from the Colle d'Onufrio south- 
east of the abbey, reached its objective, 
it found only thirty badly wounded 
German soldiers with several medical 
orderlies (juietlv awaiting capture in the 
massive ruins of the abbev. At 1020 the 
Polish lancers hoisted their standard 
over Monte Cassino, thus ending the 
fourth in a series of battles for the 
height which had begun on 17 Januarv 
1944 when the U.S. 36th Infantrv 
Division had fought its wa\ across the 
Rapido. 

With the capture of Monte Majo h\ 
the French on 13 May, of Spigno and 
Castellonorato b\ the Americans on the 
15th, and, finallv, on the 18th, of 
Monte Cassino bv the Poles, the Allies 
could claim a complete collapse of the 
Gustav Line. General Leese's Eighth 
Arm\ was now poised to moxe against 
the towns of Pontecor\o, Aquino, and 



COLLAPSE OF THE (;USTAV LINE 



79 



Piedinionte San Germano, strongpoints 
in that sector of the Hitler Line astride 
the Liri valley. Two days earlier Gen- 
eral Clark's Fifth Armv had begun its 
exploitation to the Hitler Line. That 
meant an advance across the Aurunci 
Mountains and the seaward slopes in 
order to reach that part of the enemy's 
second line of defense lying between 
the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Liri valley. 

Tlie German Reaction 

From the very start of the Allied 
offensive, Field Marshal Kesselring, de- 
spite considerable effort on the part of 
his staff, had been unable to obtain an 
accurate picture of the situation on his 
southern front. He bitterly demanded 
that his senior commanders on that 
front, Vietinghoff and Senger, hastily 
summoned from their leaves in Ger- 
many in response to the emergency, 
give him the needed information. "It is 
intolerable," he fumed at one point, 
"that a division is engaged in combat 
for one and a half days without know- 
ing what is going on in its sector." 
Fighting a desperate defensive battle, 
the Tenth Army had captured only a few 
Allied prisoners while losing over 2,000 
of its own men as prisoners of war. 
Little wonder that German division 
commanders were unable to give their 
superiors a clear picture of the forces 
pressing against their positions.'^' 

Not until the 14th had Vietinghoff 
determined that eleven and not six 
Allied divisions, as German intelligence 



officers had originally believed, were 
trying to break through his front. He 
also suspected that Alexander was hold- 
ing twelve additional divisions in readi- 
ness for exploitation of any penetra- 
tion.^^ 

Shortly after the beginning of the 
offensive the Germans had identified at 
the front a number of Allied divisions 
previously presumed to be in rear 
areas. Yet they still believed as late as 
the 14th that the U.S. 36th Infantry, 
Canadian 1st Infantry, and South Afri- 
can 6th Armoured Divisions were in 
the vicinity of Naples, possibly prepar- 
ing for another amphibious landing. 
Field Marshal Alexander's deception 
plan had done its work. OB SucdwcsCs 
G-2 also believed that on the island of 
Corsica one American and three 
French divisions were being held in 
readiness as a forward echelon of a 
large strategic reserve in North Africa, 
earmarked for landings either in south- 
ern France or on the Ligurian coast of 
Italy. When on 15 May German agents 
in Bari reported an unusually large 
concentration of Allied ships in that 
port, concern arose briefly at Kesselr- 
ing's headquarters that the Allies might 
launch an amphibious attack against the 
Adriatic flank in co-ordination with a 
breakout attempt from the Anzio 
beachhead. ^^ The ships actually were 
bringing in supplies for the British 
forces in Italy. 

Because of this faulty estimate of 
Allied troop dispositions, a problem 
that would plague the German com- 



•^' Telecon, Lt Col v. Ingelheim, la, OB Suedwest, 
to AOK 10, 0955, 15.V44, in AOK 10 KTB Nr. 6, 
Band V, Anlagen 725, Doc. 53271/8. Through inter- 
cepts of Enigma messages, the Allied command was 
well aware of the disarray at Kesselring's headtjuar- 
ters. See Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret, p. 116. 



^■- Comments on Inspection of U Mtn Corps by 
Tenth Army CINC, 14 May 44, in AOK 10, la KTB 
Nr. 6, Band V, Anlagen 719, 11-20 May 44, AOK 10, 
Doc. 53271/8. 

"Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, 
p. 489. 



80 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



mand in Italy throughout the cam- 
paign, Kesselring and his staff persist- 
enth worried about the possibility of an 
amphibious landing somewhere along 
the Tyrrhenian flank. Partly this con- 
cern was the fruit of the Allied decep- 
tion plan which deliberately sought to 
foster concern in the enemy. Conse- 
(juentlv, during the first critical days of 
the Allied offensive, Kesselring had 
been unwilling to authorize more than 
piecemeal commitment of his reserves, 
and had forfeited his only opportunity 
for checking the Allied armies before 
their offensive accjuired an irresistible 
momentum. 

Not until 15 May did the Germans 
identify the Canadian 1st Infantry Divi- 
sion and the South African 6th Ar- 
moured Division opposite the entrance 
to the Liri valley. Only then did Kes- 
selring belatedly realize that the sup- 
posed Allied concentration in the vicin- 
ity of Naples no longer existed. His 
apprehension alleviated, on the 16th he 
ordered the 26th Panzer Division, as he 
had earlier the 90th Panzer Grenadier 
Division, to move from the vicinity of 
Rome southeastward into the Tenth 
Anny's sector.''^ Since Kesselring rated 
those divisions, together with the 29th 
Panzer Grenadier Division, as among his 
best, the shift indicated an even gieater 
awareness of the seriousness of the 
Allied gains on the southern front. Yet 
Kesselring hesitated to release control 
of the 26th Panzer Dnnsion to Vieting- 
hoff, holding it instead as a part of 



Army Group C's reserve even as the 
division began to move southward.'*^ 

Over the next few days Army Group C 
alerted additional units — among them 
the 1027th Grenadier and 8th Grenadier 
Regiments of the 3d Panzer Grenadier 
Division — for movement to the Tenth 
Armys sector. In the Tenth Arms Vie- 
tinghoff ordered the 305th and 334th 
Divisions on the army's Adriatic flank to 
shift units to the Liri valley. Movement 
of those reinforcements, however, was 
considerably delayed by Allied air at- 
tacks. ^^ 

At Supreme Headquarters in Ger- 
many, Hitler had on the 15th been 
briefed on the renewed fighting on the 
distant Italian front. He immediately 
ordered the 16th SS Panzer Grenadier 
Division to move from Germany to 
reinforce the OKW reserves in north- 
ern Italy. Yet like his commander in 
Italy, Hitler remained uncertain about 
actual Allied intentions there. He there- 
fore placed strong restrictions on the 
employment of the reserve units; they 
were to be used only in event of an 
Allied landing on the Ligurian coast, a 
possibility that the German command in 
Italy had already begun to discount. 
Such hesitancy on the part of both the 
OKW and Army Group C in reacting to 
the gathering momentum of the Allied 
offensive lx)ded ill for re-establishing a 
stabilized front south of Rome, as in the 
previous winter. 



^ MS # R-5() (Bailey), CMH. 



•« Ibid. 

^« Clreiner and Schramm, eds.. OKWIWFSt. KTB, 
p. 490. 



CHAPTER V 



Breakthrough on the Southern Front 



The Eighth Army's Advance to the Hitler 
Line 

With both Allied armies having bro- 
ken through the Gustav Line, Field 
Marshal Alexander's next concern was 
to close with and assault the Hitler 
Line, the enemy's second line of de- 
fense, before the Germans could dig in. 
The Hitler Line, especially in the Liri 
valley, was formidable and if fully 
manned could be even more of an 
obstacle than the Gustav Line. 

The main defenses extended from 
the hill town of Piedimonte San Ger- 
mano, about four miles west of Cassino 
at the northern edge of the Liri valley, 
in a westerly direction to the vicinity of 
Aquino, then turned southward paral- 
leling a secondary road for two and a 
half miles as far as Pontecorvo. Be- 
tween Aquino and Pontecorvo the de- 
fensive zone varied in depth from 500 
to 1,000 yards. Supplementing some of 
the natural obstacles found on the 
valley floor, such as the Forme 
d' Aquino, a tributary of the Liri, was a 
discontinuous antitank ditch, created by 
blowing craters that were rapidly filled 
by the high water table. There were 
also antitank mine fields with belts of 
barbed wire in the front and rear. 
Covered by fields of fire from auto- 
matic weapons, these wire belts would 
present a tough obstacle to engineers 
and infantry seeking to clear paths 
through the mines for armor. Scattered 



along the forward edge of the defensive 
zone were numerous prefabricated ar- 
mored pillboxes, capable of holding two 
men and a light machine gun. The 
line's main defensive zone consisted of 
an intricate system of reinforced con- 
crete gun emplacements and satellite 
weapons pits, all linked by tunnels or 
communications trenches. Adding to 
antitank defenses were nine Panther 
tank turrets on concrete bases with 
underground living quarters for the 
crews. The turrets had a 360" traverse, 
and two or three mobile antitank guns 
were echeloned to their flanks. A total 
of sixty-two antitank guns, of which 
twenty-five were self-propelled, were 
available. Deep shelters, having concrete 
roofs five inches thick and covered with 
up to twenty feet of earth, gave the 
defenders excellent protection against 
air and artillery bombardment. ' 

As formidable as the positions were 
they were weakened by the failure of 
the Germans to clear fields of fire 
through lush, untended vegetation that 
had grown up since the spring. Yet a 
greater handicap was the lack of an 
adecjuate number of troops to man the 
positions. 



■ MS # D-17() (Rothe); Map, 1:25,000, Stelhing- 
skarle Abschnitl 90 Pz. Gren Div, LI Mtn Corps, KTB 
Anlagen, Taetigkeitsbericht der Abt. lalStopi, 10, V- 
30.VI.44: Situation map, 5-6 Apr 44, AOK 10, KTB 
Anlagen VI, Lagekarten, I .IV-14.IV.44. 



82 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



In the Liri valley the Hitler Line 
would be defended by the 1st Parachute 
Division, in the Piedimonte San Ger- 
mane) area, and the 90th Panzer Grena- 
dier Division, which since the 16th had 
replaced the battered 44th Infantry Divi- 
sion, in the sector between Aquino and 
Pontecorvo. The parachute and infantry 
divisions had already incurred heavy 
casualties in defense of the Gustav Line. 
The latter division, for example, now 
encompassed in addition to its organic 
units a motley collection of dismounted 
panzer troops as well as various engi- 
neer units, all pressed into service as 
infantrymen. The sector of the Hitler 
Line south of the Liri valley between 
Pontecorvo and Pico was held by the 
recendy committed 26th Panzer Division. 

General Alexander hoped that the 
French Expeditionary Corps, advancing 
rapidly through the mountains over- 
looking the valley from the south, and 
the Polish corps, advancing along the 
flanks of the mountains overlooking the 
valley from the north, might be able to 
turn the Hider Line from the north 
and south and force the Germans to 
withdraw, as they had from the Gustav 
Line, thereby sparing the Eighth Army 
the necessity of making a set-piece 
frontal attack against the strongest sec- 
tors of the line in the valley. - 

Meanwhile, early on the 18th, Gen- 
eral Leese, hoping to overwhelm the 
Germans before they reached the shel- 
ter of the Hitler Line, sent the British 
78th Division hurrying seven miles west 
along Highway 6 to capture the town of 
Aquino, located on the near bank of 



* Operations of the British, Indian, and Domin- 
ion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. B. Unless otherwise 
indicated the following is based upon this reference. 



the Forme d' Aquino and on a second- 
ary road about a mile and a half south 
of the main highway. The division 
reached the town in the afternoon and 
immediately attacked. But the Germans, 
veterans of the defense of Monte Cas- 
sino, had already occupied the Hitler 
Line positions and repulsed the attack 
with heavy fire. Reluctant to continue 
during the night, the British settled 
down to await armored support, plus a 
thrust by the 1st Canadian Division 
toward Pontecorvo. {Map IV) 

Early on the 19th a ground fog 
offered welcome concealment to the 
attacking troops. The 78th Division got 
off to a good start, but unlike Joshua, 
Leese was unable to halt the sun in its 
course. When the sun burned the fog 
away, the advancing troops found 
themselves on open terrain with little 
cover and exposed to heavv and accu- 
rate fire from well-sited enemy antitank 
guns. The fire drove the accompanying 
armor from the field and left the 
infantry alone to face heavy automatic 
weapons and mortar fire. Under those 
conditions the infantry was unable to 
continue and fell back to its line of 
departure. In the meantime, the 1st 
Canadian Division's attack toward Pon- 
tecorvo stalled partlv for lack of suffi- 
cient artillery support, which had been 
largely engaged in backing up the as- 
sault on Aquino. Traffic congestion, 
aggravated by a paucitv of roads and 
trails, added to the problem. 

The failure of the initial assaults on 
Aquino and Pontecorvo dashed General 
Alexander s hope of outracing the Cier- 
mans to their second line of defense. 
There now seemed no alternadve to an 
all-out set-piece attack against the Hitler 
Line. 



breakthrou(;h on the southern front 



83 



The Fifth Army's Advance to the Hitler Line 

The terrain in the Fifth Army's zone 
was far more rugged than that in the 
Liri valley, yet General Clark's troops 
experienced less trouble than did Gen- 
eral Leese's in advancing to and closing 
with the Hitler Line. While few roads 
or trails crossed the Aurunci Moun- 
tains, neither did the mountains harbor 
many enemy troops. Aerial reconnais- 
sance, supported by prisoner of war 
interrogations, had disclosed such a 
dearth of enemy that the Fifth Army's 
two corps could approach their tasks of 
crossing the wilderness of rock and 
scrub oak with considerable confidence. 

Their first goals were the road junc- 
tions of Itri and Pico, key points on the 
enemy's second lateral line of communi- 
cations (Route 82), and, in the case of 
Pico, a strongpoint in the Hider Line, 
which, opposite the Fifth Army, ex- 
tended some twenty miles from its 
anchor at Terracina on the Tyrrhenian 
coast northeastward across the moun- 
tains via Fondi to Pico, on the southern 
edge of the Liri valley. Capture of Itri, 
the H Corps' objective, would give 
Keyes control over Highway 7 and the 
southern half of the enemy's second 
lateral route of communications. The 
key to Itri was Monte Grande, a domi- 
nating height just northwest of the 
town. Twelve miles north of Monte 
Grande lies Pico, the second important 
road junction and immediate goal of 
the EEC. An integral part of the Ger- 
man defense system, Pico was a hinge 
of that part of the Hitler Line passing 
through Piedimonte, Aquino, and Pon- 
tecorvo. 

On 15 May Clark had directed 
Keyes, in co-ordination with Juin's drive 
across the Aurunci Mountains, to send 



the II Corps as rapidly as possible to 
capture Itri and then attack the sector 
of the Hitler Line between Fondi and 
Terracina. Clark directed Juin to make 
his major effort against a sector of the 
enemy's defenses south of Pico, where 
Clark believed it to be the weakest 
opposite the Fifth Army front. "^ 

Spigno, on the southern shoulder of 
the Petrella massif, lay within the II 
Corps zone, but Keyes agreed on 16 
May to share the village with the 
French as a point of departure for the 
advance across the mountains. The 
steep, tortuous road leading across the 
escarpment to the village soon became 
jammed with American infantry, 
French colonial troops, mules, and mo- 
tor vehicles of many types, all winding 
westward through billowing clouds of 
dust.-* 

The II Corps was to advance in 
parallel columns: Sloan's 88th Division 
through the Aurunci Mountains and, 
echeloned to the left. Coulter's 85th 
Division moving across the seaward 
slopes of the mountains toward Maran- 
ola and Formia, the latter on the coast 
about seven miles southwest of Castel- 
lonorato.^ General Sloan selected Colo- 
nel Champeny's 351st Infantry to lead 
the 88th Division across the mountains. 
Champeny's route of march was across 
the southern half of the Petrella massif 
to Monte Sant'Angelo and Ruazzo, 
about three and six miles, respectively, 
west of Spigno. 



^ Fifth Army G-3 Jnl, 15-19 May 44; Fifth Army 
History, Part V, pp. 69-72. 

" II Corps CG Diary, 161345B May 44. 

•'' II Corps Directive, 16 May 44; II Corps G-3 
Rept of Opns No. 237, 16 May 44; II Corps Diary, 
161345B May 44. All in 88th Div G-3 Jnl, 16-20 
May 44, vol. 3, incl. 7. 



84 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Guided b\ two local peasants, the two 
lead battalions started out early on the 
16th tor Monte Sant'Angelo. Moving 
rapidly, the battalions soon outdistanced 
their telephone lines, and even radios 
could function satisfactorily only after 
the setting up of intermediate relay 
stations on the mountaintops. By noon 
Champeny's infantrymen, encountering 
only scattered and light resistance, had 
reached Monte Sant'Angelo. Although 
the regimental commander wanted to 
pause there for a rest, an urgent radio 
message from corps prompted him to 
rush his men westward during the late 
afternoon toward their second objective, 
Monte Ruazzo.*^ 

As the two battalions of the 351st 
Infantry moved toward Route 82, the 
Itri-Pico road, Senger, the XIV Panzer 
Corps commander, strengthened his po- 
sitions along that road with a scratch 
force of self-propelled guns and motor- 
ized infantry, a force hardly able to do 
more than check the Americans briefly 
as they emerged from the mountains. 

On 17 May, as the seriousness of 
Senger's situation in the mountains be- 
came evident at Army Group C head- 
quarters at Frascati, in the Alban Hills 
some ten miles south of Rome, Kessel- 
ring, still glancing anxiously over his 
shoulder at his coastal flank and the 
Anzio beachhead, finally decided to do 
something about the Tenth Army's right 
wing. The German commander author- 
ized Vietinghoff to shift a reconnais- 
sance battalion from the Liri valley to 
reinforce Steinmetz's hard-pressed in- 
fantry in the Aurunci Mountains. "Oth- 
erwise," Kesselring remarked to the 
Tenth Army commander, "Steinmetz will 



not be able to get the situation in the 
mountains straightened out." " 

On the morning of the 1 7th, Colonel 
Champeny's men gained the summit of 
Monte Ruazzo. Pausing only briefly, 
they resumed their advance in the late 
afternoon toward Monte Grande, the 
high ground overlooking Itri. When 
early the next morning the Americans 
approached the Itri-Pico road, they ran 
head on into fire from a force of tanks 
and self-propelled guns hastily assem- 
bled by General Senger to defend the 
road. Surprised by the heavy fire, 
Champeny's men had no choice but to 
halt, for their artillery was too far to the 
rear to be of help. Only when the 
regiment's reserve battalion arrived and 
artillery came within supporting dis- 
tance could the 351st Infantry resume 
its advance. ^ 

Forward displacement of the 88th 
Division's artillery depended upon the 
progiess of the neighboring 85th Divi- 
sion advancing across the seaward 
slopes of the Aurunci Mountains, the 
only area where roads and trails were 
to be found over which the guns and 
their prime movers might pass. While 
General Sloan's division threaded its 
way over the mountains toward the Itri- 
Pico road. General Coulter's 85th Divi- 
sion advanced in two columns along the 
corps' left wing. One column moved 
astride the coastal highway toward For- 
mia and the other, slightly ahead of the 
first, crossed the seaward slopes of the 
Aurunci Mountains toward Maranola, 
at the foot of Monte Campese and 



88th Div G-3 Jnl, 16-20 May 44, vol. 3, incl. 7. 



"Telecon, OB AOK 10 with Kesselring, 2030B 17 
May 44, in AOK 10, la KTB A'/. 6, Band V, Anlagen 
77i, 1 1-20 Mav 44, AOK 10, Doc. 53271/1. 

» 88th Div G-2 Rpt 55, 181600B Mav 44, in 88th 
Div G-3 Jnl, vol. 3, incl. 7. 



breakthrou(;h on thk southern front 



85 




View of Itri 



about three miles west of Castellonor- 
ato. On the afternoon of the 17th the 
337th Infantry, 85th Division, after scal- 
ing Monte Campese, descended its 
northwestern ridge to take Maranola 
before dusk. That move cut the only 
lateral road leading to Formia, about 
two miles to the southwest.^ 

Meanwhile, Juin's Moroccans and Al- 
gerians closed in on Pico. After crossing 



" II Corps G-3 Rpt 237, 16 May 44 and 88th Div 
G-2 Rpt 55, 181600B May 44, both in 88th Div G-3 
Inl. 



the northern flanks of the Aurunci 
Mountains from the Ausonia corridor 
on the 17th, the French reached the 
outskirts of Esperia, whence they over- 
looked the Liri valley. Early the next 
morning, as the Eighth Army began its 
race for the Hitler Line in the Liri 
valley, the Algerians swarmed out of 
the mountains and into Esperia, while 
elements of General Sevez's provisional 
mountain corps moved to within artil- 
lery range of Pico. In the mountains 
five miles west of Esperia, between 
Monte Faggeto and the Sierra del Lago, 



86 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



some French units had actually made 
two slight penetrations of a lightly de- 
fended sector of the Hitler Line.'" 

It was no longer possible for the 
Germans to establish a line east of their 
second lateral communications road. 
Furthermore, most German troop 
movements in the rear had become 
almost as hazardous as those in the 
front. During daylight hours, flights of 
fighter- bombers of the XII TAG freely 
roamed the skies, bombing and strafing 
virtually everything that moved behind 
the German lines, and depriving the 
enemy of the tactical moblity so vital to 
his defense. The Allied aircraft, after 
completing the destruction of Itri, 
knocked out two bridges northeast of 
the town and one to the southwest of 
Pico.'i 

As the Americans drew near Itri and 
Monte Grande and the French closed 
in on Pico, Vietinghoffs chief of staff, 
General Wentzell, told General West- 
phal, Kesselring's chief of staff, that 
Raapke had reported that his 71st Divi- 
sion had only 100 infantry effectives 
left.'^ Westphal promised an aUocation 
of replacements as soon as possible, but 
it was too late. On the afternoon of the 
1 8th Kesselring himself belatedly recog- 
nized that loss of the XIV Panzer Corps' 
mountain sector was only a matter of 
hours away, which meant that Vieting- 
hoff had to withdraw the Tenth Army's 
entire right wing or face envelopment. 



'"11 Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt 258, 171600B Mav 
44 and G-3 Periodic Rpt 259, 181600B May 44, 
both in 88th Div G-3 Jnl, vol. 3, incl. 7; Juin, La 
Campagne d'llalie, pp. 118-21. 

" Hq XII TAG, ISUM, 170600B Mav 44, in 88th 
Div G-3 Jnl, vol. 3, incl. 7. 

■^Telecon, AOK 10 C/S with Clen Westphal, 
1812108 Mav 44, in AOK 10, la KTB Nr. 6, Band V, 
Ant. 801, 11-20 May 44, AOK 10, Doc. 53271/8. 



Pivoting on Pico, which was to be held, 
that sector between Pico and Itri was to 
be withdrawn slowly west of the lateral 
road connecting the two towns. To 
reinforce the Tenth Army's right flank, 
which could be exposed by the maneu- 
ver, Kesselring was forced a second 
time to dip into his reserves. He di- 
rected the Fourteenth Army (Mackensen) 
to release to Vietinghoff the following 
day the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division 
from the Fourteenth Army's reserve.'^ 
Like the recently committed 26th Panzer 
Division, this too was one oi Army Group 
C's better units. 

Their confidence in the mountains as 
an obstacle to the Allied advance shat- 
tered, the Germans were also in for 
some surprises along the Tyrrhenian 
coast, where the 337th Infantry's cap- 
ture of Maranola had outflanked their 
positions east of Formia. Thus the 
338th Infantry, advancing astride High- 
way 7, was able to catch up with and 
eventually overtake its neighboring regi- 
ment in the mountains on the right. 
The 338th Infantry captured Formia 
against only scattered resistance on the 
afternoon of the 1 8th and continued on 
to the important junction of the coastal 
highway with the Itri-Pico road, less 
than a mile away. There was no opposi- 
tion. Acting on Kesselring's orders to 
Vietinghoff, General von Senger had 
already ordered a withdrawal to a line 
extending about four miles southwest 
from Itri to Monte Moneta. From that 
line, which was only a delaying position, 
the Germans were to fall back to a line 
between Fondi and Terracina, the re- 
maining strongpoints of the Hitler Line 
on the Tenth Army's right flank. Onlv a 



'* MS # C-()64 (Kesselring). pp. 53-55. 



breakthrou(;h on the southern front 



87 





'^^■*.. 



4,^ 




U.S. Infantry Approaching Itri 



rear guard remained at Itri and on 
Monte Grande. 

The withdrawal in the coastal corri- 
dor came none too soon, for the 88th 
Division's leading regiment the (351st 
Infantry) was about to cut the last 
escape route along Highway 7. During 
the afternoon and evening of the 18th 
the 351st Infantry's reserve battalion 
arrived before Itri and the 601st and 
697th Artillery Battalions, moving up 
from Maranola, drew within range of 
the Germans even as they were prepar- 
ing to withdraw to their first delaying 
positions between Itri and Monte Mo- 
neta. 



At that point, Colonel Champeny's 
infantrymen, well supported by artil- 
lery, attacked at dawn on the 19th. 
Opposed only by a rear guard, the 
Americans easily occupied Monte 
Grande by midmorning.''' 

The first pack train to reach Colonel 
Champeny's 351st Regiment in three 
days arrived after a 14-mile march 
across the mountain trails from Spigno. 
The ninety mules making up the train 
brought the weary infantrymen their 



•^ Msg, Leggin 6 to CG 88th Div, 191210B May 
44; Hq, 88th Div Directive to CO Leather, 182100B 
May 44, both in 88th Div G-3 Jnl, vol. 3, incl. 7, 
16-20 Mav 44. 



88 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




German Prisoners Captured at Itri 



first resupply of rations, ammunition, 
and signal eciuipment since they had 
begun their march on the afternoon of 
the 15th.i-^ 

While the men cut the Itri- Pico road 
and dug in atop Monte Grande, ad- 
vance patrols of Colonel Crawford's 
349th Infantry, which had moved up 
from Maranola during the night, en- 
tered Itri and found it leveled. By early 
afternoon on the 19th the regiment 



'^ Msg, 351st Inf to II Corps, 191945B May 44, 
in 88th Div G-3 Jnl, vol. 3, incl. 7. 



had captured or driven away a few- 
Germans lurking in the ruins. 

All across the II Corps front the 
enemy was breaking contact and with- 
drawing toward the Hitler Line. Antici- 
pating that the withdrawal would lead 
Clark to consider the possibilitv of a 
linkup bv the II Corps with the Anzio 
beachhead. General Keyes directed 
General Sloan to form a task force 
consisting of a motorized infantry bat- 
talion, reinforced by self-propelled artil- 
lery, tanks, and engineers. The force 
was to be prepared to capture Fondi, 



BREAKTHROUGH ON IHE SOUTHERN FRONT 



89 



seven miles northwest ot Itri, and bkx:k 
a secondary route from the coast to the 
Liri valley — the Lenola-Valle Corsa road 
where it passes through a narrow defile 
four miles north of Pondi — as prelimi- 
naries to an assault on the Hitler Line 
and a thrust to the beachhead.'" 

Meanwhile, General Coulter had sent 
the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron 
southwest along the coast to the 18th 
centur) Neapolitan seaside stronghold 
of Gaeta. Ranging freely and virtually 
unopposed, the squadron entered the 
port on the 19th. From Gaeta the force 
pushed northwestward eight miles 
along coastal roads to enter Sperlonga 
the next day. 

As General Sloan assembled his mo- 
bile task force for the drive on Fondi 
and possible exploitation toward the 
Anzio beachhead. General Clark 
weighed the choices before him. Only 
one day earlier he had directed Keyes 
to hold all but one regiment of Coul- 
ter's division at Formia to await move- 
ment by sea to Anzio. Should the entire 
II Corps attempt a breakthrough of the 
Hitler Line between Fondi and Terra- 
cina and then continue on to Anzio, or 
should Keyes merely close up to the 
line without attacking while Clark with- 
drew the 85th Division and other ele- 
ments of the II Corps for movement to 
the Anzio beachhead by water? 

Clark hesitated. On the 18th he had 
received a message from Alexander, 
who was understandably concerned 
about the Eighth Army's progress in 
the Liri valley and uncertain just how 
vigorously the Germans would defend 
the Hitler Line. He ordered Clark to be 



prepared to change the axis of his 
ariTiy's advance to the north. He was to 
be ready to send the II Corps as well as 
the EEC toward the Ceprano road 
junction of Routes 6 and 82 in the Liri 
valley to threaten the German line of 
communications in the valley. Next day 
General Alexander became painfully 
aware about how staunchly the Ger- 
mans would defend the Hitler Line. 
The British 78th Division was thrown 
back at Aquino and the French were 
halted before Pico by elements of the 
26th Panzer Division, which Kesselring 
had ordered to replace the battered 
71st Division on that part of the front. ' ^ 
Although Clark shared Alexander's 
uncertainty about how strongly the Ger- 
mans would attempt to hold the Hitler 
Line, the Fifth Army commander un- 
derstandably had less concern for the 
Eighth Army's problems in the Liri 
valley than for his own. Clark's atten- 
tion was focused on the Hitler Line 
between Fondi and Terracina. If the II 
Corps were to link with the beachhead, 
Keyes would have to break through 
soon. The Fifth Army staff had esti- 
mated that it would require four days 
to move the 36th Division to Anzio by 
sea and almost a week to shift the 85th 
Division and other parts of the II 
Corps. Such a delay would afford the 
Germans a welcome respite. When, on 
the 20th, the 91st Reconnaissance 
Squadron, after having taken Gaeta the 
day before, probed brusquely into 
Fondi and, before retiring, found the 
town weakly defended — no troops of 
the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division 
destined for that part of the front had 



'« Msg, Hq II Corps (sgd Col R.L.J. Butchens, II 
Corps' G-3) to 85th Div, 191645B May 44, in 88th 
Div G-3 Jnl, vol. 3. inti. 7. 



'" Mathews, "The French in the Drive on Rome," 
Fraternit'e d'Armes Franco- Amirkaine, pp. 133-34. 



90 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



\et arrived — Clark had his answer. He 
decided, notwithstanding Alexander's 
concern tor Eighth Army's difficulties 
in the Liri \alley, to take advantage of 
the enemv's apparent weakness along 
the coastal flank and throw the weight 
of Keyes' corps into a drive up the 
narrow coastal corridor toward a junc- 
tion with the beachhead. Juin's corps 
would, Clark believed, be sufficient to 
force the Germans to relax their de- 
fense opposite the Eighth Army. ^^ 

Breakthrough of the Hitler Line 

Clark's decision to disregard Alex- 
ander's operational concept was not the 
first time, nor would it be the last, that 
the American commander, taking ad- 
vantage of rapidly changing opportuni- 
ties, followed a course of action at 
variance with that originally envisioned 
by Alexander. In this instance, after 
being advised by Clark of the change, 
Alexander did not object. He had held 
as loose a rein on Montgomery in the 
Western Desert. This was the Allied 
commander's style of command. It had 
brought success to the Alexander- Mont- 
gomery team in North Africa, and 
Alexander expected that it would work 
in Italy with an equally independent 
subordinate. In any case, the Fifth 
Army was advancing toward the long- 
sought junction with the Anzio beach- 
head, and the Eighth Army was prepar- 
ing to launch a major set-piece attack 
against the Hitler Line. ^^ In prepara- 



'* Hqs, Fifth Army Opns Instr 19, 18 May 44; 
Clark Diary, 20 May 44; Fifth Army History, Part V 
pp. 79-80. 

'* Gen Clark's personal comments on MS, Oct 
1973, in CMH files; Nigel Nicolson, /i/ex, the Life of 
Field Marshal, Earl Alexander of Tunis (New York: 
Atheneum, 1973), p. 160. 



tion for that attack General Leese had 
shifted the burden from the British 13 
Corps (78 Division) to the 1st Canadian 
Corps, which was to make the main 
effort in the sector immediately north 
of Pontecorvo. The former was to 
maintain pressure against Aquino and 
be prepared to advance abreast of the 
Canadians after the breakthrough. 

Alexander had selected the night of 
21 May, or early on the 22d, for the 
beginning of the attack, indicating that 
he expected the operation in the Liri 
valley to coincide with the beginnings of 
the U.S. VI Corps' breakout offensive 
from the Anzio beachhead.-" 

Meanwhile, on the 19th the Polish 
corps, on the 13 Corps' right, had 
advanced four miles beyond Monte 
Cassino to capture an enemy strong- 
point, the Villa Santa Lucia. From there 
the Poles prepared to continue their 
progress the next day toward the north- 
ern anchor of the Hitler Line at Piedi- 
monte San Germano. 

Preparing for his imminent set-piece 
attack on the Hitler Line, General 
Leese brought forward units from his 
reserve. The 8th Indian Division, which 
had been relieved earlier by the 1st 
Canadian Infantiy Division, began mov- 
ing on the 19th from east of the 
Rapido to an assembly area behind the 
Canadian corps' sector. Concurrently, 
the British 6th Armoured Division also 
departed the army reserve to take part 
in the exploitation of the expected 
breakthrough of the Hitler Line. With 
those units under way, together with 



^" Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. B. Unless otherwise 
indicated the following section is based upon this 
reference. See also Nicholson, Th£ Canadians in Italy, 
pp. 411-12. 



BREAKTHROUGH ON THE SOUTHERN FRONT 



91 



the normal supply traffic in support of 
the offensive, the few roads and trails 
behind the army front soon became 
congested with monumental and vir- 
tually uncontrollable traffic jams. 

Traffic control problems were not, 
however, peculiar to the Eighth Army. 
On the same day that General Keyes 
assembled his forces for an assault on 
the Hitler Line at a point between 
Fondi and Terracina, he directed the 
troops still on the mountains to move at 
once southward through Itri. That or- 
der precipitated a traffic jam near the 
Itri road junction of Routes 7 and 82, 
as the infantry from the 88th Division, 
descending the mountains on the 19th 
became intermingled with elements of 
the 88th Division's motorized task force 
assembling to move on Fondi. For 
almost eight hours a tangle of motor 
vehicles, pack trains, and troops blocked 
the main road and held Sloan's task 
force east of the Itri junction more 
effectively than the enemy could then 
have done. Not until the following 
morning was the snarl untangled. '^^ 

Once again, as in the early hours of 
the May offensive when the EEC's 
capture of Monte Majo had been the 
break that had loosened up the entire 
German defenses, the French were to 
be the first to break through the enemy 
line. On the 20th, despite heavy fog 
and stubborn resistance from elements 
of the 26th Panzer Division, the 3d 
Algerian Infantry Division, reinforced 
with armor, penetrated the Hitler Line 
southwest of Pico and drove the enemy 
from the heights overlooking the town 



from the south. That evening the Alge- 
rians gained a foothold in the town 
itself, f he Germans held off the attack- 
ing troops until the afternoon of the 
22d, but the pressure was too great. 
Fighting on throughout the night, the 
Algerians drove the last of the enemy 
from the town by morning of the 
23d. 2-^ 

As Clark had foreseen, it would be 
the French breakthrough at Pico that 
would soon pay important dividends 
both in the Liri valley and on the 
Tyrrhenian flank, for in the attempt to 
hold Pico, Vietinghoff had been forced 
to bring up substantial parts of the 15th 
and 90th Panzer Grenadier Divisions from 
the Liri valley where they might have 
manned the Hitler Line against the 
Eighth Army. Moreover, Senger's 
preoccupation with the defense of Pico 
had prevented him from countering 
the threat posed by Keyes' II Corps to 
that part of the Hitler Line between 
Fondi and Terracina. ^^ 

In General Alexander's opinion, the 
critical stage of the spring offensive had 
been reached on the morning of 23 
May. The French had captured Pico, 
the hinge and vital connecting link 
between the sector of the Hitler Line 
that lay across the Liri valley and that 
still blocked the way to the II Corps' 
junction with the Anzio beachhead. 
Also on the 23d, the Eighth Army's 1st 
Canadian Corps was about to launch an 
all-out set- piece attack against the Pon- 
tecorvo sector of the Hitler Line, while 
on the coastal flank astride Highway 7 
the Fifth Army's II Corps was about to 



'' Msg. 88th Div to Engrs, 19230B May 44; CO 
Recon Trp to LO, 200220B May 44; Msg, 85th Div 
(Capt Butner) to II Corps, 2002 1 5B May 44. All 
items in 88th Div G-3 Inl, vol. 3, incl. 7. 



^^ Mathews, "The French in the Drive on Rome," 
pp. 134-35; Juin, La Compagnr d'ltalw, pp. 124-28. 

^■^ Mathews, "The French in the Drive on Rome," 
p. 134. 



92 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



enter Terracina. And that same morn- 
ing the Fifth Army's VI Corps had 
begun its long-awaited breakout offen- 
sive from the Anzio beachhead. 

For the assault on the Hitler Line the 
Eighth Army commander had assigned 
the 1st Canadian Corps a sector extend- 
ing northward from the Liri to a point 
near Aquino, which remained the ob- 
jective of the British 13 Corps. General 
Leese's over-all concept envisioned a 
breakthrough of the Hitler Line by the 
Canadian corps at Pontecorvo, while 
the EEC, after capturing Pico, would 
thrust toward Ceprano to menace the 
enemv's line of communications in the 
upper Liri valley. The 5th Canadian 
Armoured Division was, in the mean- 
time, to be prepared to exploit the 
breakthrough at Pontecorvo by an ad- 
vance toward Ceprano.-^ 

Behind a rolling barrage fired by 810 
guns, the Canadians launched their 
attack against Pontecorvo at dawn on 
the 23d. Taking cover in the deep 
shelters in the sector opposite the Cana- 
dians were four grenadier and two 
engineer battalions, as well as a field 
replacement battalion, all under the 
command of the 90th Panzer Grenadier 
Division. The 1st Parachute Division, with 
two parachute infantry regiments in 
line, awaited the British 13 Corps' at- 
tack at Aquino. 

Meanwhile, the haze that had cov- 
ered the valley in the morning had 
changed to rain, turning the battlefield, 
already pocked by heavy artillery fire, 
into a morass. Only after severe fight- 



^'' Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. B; Nicholson, The 
Canadians in Italy, pp. 414-25. Unless otherwise 
indicated the following is based upon these refer- 
ences. 



ing did the Canadians by nightfall at 
last blast a hole in the Hitler Line about 
a mile northeast of Pontecorvo. By 
daylight on the 24th the enemy was 
gone from the town. 

Casualties were heavy, especially in 
the 1st Division's 2d Brigade, which led 
the attack. In the Allied attack a total of 
513 men were killed or wounded, yet 
the enemy incurred even heavier losses. 
The Canadians took 540 prisoners and 
estimated even a larger number to be 
killed or wounded. Only at Aquino did 
the Germans throughout the 23d and 
the 24th repulse all assaults against the 
Hitler Line, but thereby they denied 
the Eighth Army the only good road in 
the valley, Highway 6. 

While the 78th Division fought on at 
Aquino, the Canadian corps swept 
through Pontecorvo on the 24th and by 
nightfall had advanced five miles be- 
yond to the near bank of the Melfa 
River, a southward-flowing tributarv of 
the Liri. That night the Canadians 
forced a crossing of the river. Ceprano, 
the goal of both the French and the 
Canadians, lay only five miles away. 

Meanwhile, throughout the 25th, the 
German delaying action at Aquino and 
Piedimonte San Germano continued to 
deny the Eighth Army use of Highway 
6. Thus blocked, the Canadian 5th 
Armoured Division and the British 6th 
Armoured Division, as well as all other 
traffic in support of the offensive, had 
to take the already overcrowded and 
rapidly deteriorating secondary roads 
and trails in the valley, so that traffic 
jams continued to cause delay and 
confusion as the Canadians widened 
their bridgehead beyond the Melfa. 
Covered by a rare air strike the Ger- 
mans, during the night of 25 May, t(X)k 



breakthrou(;h on the southern front 



93 



advantage of the slow Allied advance to 
evacuate both Acjuino and Piedimonte 
San Germano, but they failed to demol- 
ish two bridges in Aquino that the 
British were (juick to use. 

After the fall of Piedimonte San 
Germano, the Polish corps was pinched 
out of line by the British 10 Corps, 
operating on the army's right flank. 
The latter continued to follow up the 
enemy's withdrawal, the same assign- 
ment it had been executing since the 
beginning of the offensive. 

Junction With //?/' Bccuhhcad 

While the Eighth Army achieved its 
breakthrough in the Liri valley, in the 
mountains to the south of the valley the 
U.S. Fifth Army continued its efforts to 
exploit the penetration of the Hitler 
Line made by the EEC on the Pico 
sector and to achieve a breakthrough 
with the II Corps. General Clark, anx- 
ious to keep the enemy from withdraw- 
ing troops from the southern front in 
order to counter the VI Corps' break- 
out offensive from the beachhead, 
sought to maintain heavy pressure 
against the Germans in the mountains 
and in the Liri valley. He directed 
General Juin on 22 May to exploit the 
imminent fall of Pico by a thrust against 
the southern flank of the Liri valley 
with a two-pronged drive northward 
toward Ceprano, a road junction on 
Highway 6 seven miles north of Pico, 
and northwestward via Valle Corsa to 
Castro dei Volsci to Pofi, some nine 
miles northwest of Pico. This phase of 
the Fifth Army's offensive began early 
the next day at the same time the 
breakout offensive began at Anzio. 
When, however, the Eighth Army be- 



gan to show considerable progress in its 
attack on the Hitler Line in the Liri 
valley, the French drive shifted more 
toward the northwest in the direction of 
Castro dei Volsci in order to envelop 
the Germans opposing the Eighth 
Army. On the 24th Valle Corsa, five 
miles south of Castro dei Volsci, fell to 
the French and San (iiovanni Incarico, 
on Route 82 four miles north of Pico, 
fell on the next day. Thereafter, the 
enemy fought only delaying actions in 
an attempt to hold open his routes of 
escape opposite the U.S. II Corps on 
the west and the Eighth Army on the 
east. 

The II Corps had still to contend 
with a ten-mile stretch of the Hitler 
Line overlooking the coastal highway 
between Fondi and Terracina. Except 
for strongpoints at both places, the 
Germans had developed few defenses 
in that sector and preferred, as in the 
mountains between Pico and Fondi, to 
rely primarily on the rugged terrain. 
Before joining up with the U.S. VI 
Corps in the Anzio beachhead, the II 
Corps would have to cross an area 
varying in width from ten to twenty 
miles, from an irregular coastline to 
the left flank of the EEC, three miles 
north of Fondi. The area extended 
northwest from the Itri-Pico road over 
thirty miles of desolate mountains, deep 
gorges, and marshy coastal plains to 
Sezze, an isolated village overlooking 
the beachhead from the Lepini Moun- 
tains to the northeast. 

South of Itri a hilly region four miles 
wide and ten miles long parallels the 
coast as far as Sperlonga, about seven 
miles east of Terracina. The hills fall 
away in the west into a triangle-shaped 
coastal marsh, which the Germans, by 



94 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



flooding, had made even more of an 
obstacle. The base of the triangle 
stretches along the coast from Sper- 
longa to Terracina with an apex at 
Fondi. 

When General Sloan's 88th Division 
attacked Fondi, it found the town de- 
fended only by survivors of General 
Steinmetzs battered 94th Infantry Divi- 
sion and the modest reinforcements that 
Senger and Vietinghoff had managed 
to scrape together locally. The formida- 
ble 29th Panzer Grenadier Division, which 
Kesselring on the 19th had ordered 
sent to the Fondi area, still had not 
arrived because General von Macken- 
sen, the Fourteenth Army commander, 
had been slow to release the division. 
Facing an imminent Allied offensive 
from the Anzio beachhead, Mackensen 
was understandably anxious to hus- 
band his remaining reserves. 

Once before, in October 1943, one 
of Kesselrings army commanders (that 
time, Vietinghoff) had apparently 
dragged his heels in obeying orders to 
send the 1 6th Panzer Division to repel 
the British landing at Termoli. Then 
events had vindicated Vietinghoffs in- 
subordination. Would events do the 
same for Mackensen? ^^ The traffic jam 
between Itri and Fondi might have 
delayed General Sloan's forces long 
enough to have enabled the 29th Panzer 
Grenadier Division to occupy the Terra- 
cina-Fondi sector before the Americans 
attacked had not the men of Colonel 
Crawford's 349th Infanti7, preceded by 
elements of the 91st Reconnaissance 
Squadron, managed to slip by the bot- 
tleneck.^*^ The advance owed much to 



" See Blumenson, Salerno to Cassino, pp. 190-91; 
MS # C-064 (Kesselring). 

'•^ 349th Inf Rpt of Opns, May 44. 



the presence of Brig. Gen. Paul W. 
Kendall, the 88th Division assistant 
commander, who had been acting as 
General Sloan's alter ego: first with the 
350th Infantry during the fight for 
Monte Damiano on 1 1 and 1 2 May and 
later with the 351st Infantrv' in the dash 
from Spigno to Monte Grande. He 
would continue to act in this capacitv as 
the 349th Infantry raced for Fondi. By 
noon on the 20th the regiment had 
come within two miles of the town.-' 

Fondi — the ancient Roman Fundi, 
near where the Republic's legions un- 
der Quintus Fabius Maximus had 
checked Hannibal's army during the 
First Punic War — provided in May 
1944, as it had in the 3d century-, B.C., 
a natural defensive position, this time 
guarding access to the enemy's third 
lateral line of communications leading 
northward across the mountains to the 
Liri valley. Pillaged twice in the 16th 
century, the town was to fare somewhat 
better in the 20th, for the verv^ swiftness 
of the 349th Infantn's advance would 
carry the American infantrymen 
through the position before C»erman 
reinforcements could dig in. 

A patrol of the 91st Reconnaissance 
Squadron having drawn heavy fire 
from Fondi early on the 20th, Lt. Col. 
Walter B. Yeager (commander of the 
349th Infantn's 3d Battalion) was alert 
to the hazards of a frontal assault on 
the town. Leaving only a holding force 
south of Fondi, Yeager led his troops, 
accompanied by a platoon of tanks, off 
the main road and into the hills over- 
looking the town from the northeast. 
As Yeager had suspected, the local 
German commander, apparentlv antici- 



-' II Corps G-3 Jnl, May 44. 



BREAKTHROUGH ON THE SOUTHERN FRONT 



95 



pating an Allied thrust along the main 
road instead of through the mountains, 
had concentrated his meager defenses 
astride Highway 7. An assault down the 
slopes made quick work of the enemy 
garrison. ^^ 

Leaving a company to outpost the 
town, Yeager continued with the rest of 
his men toward Monte Passignano, just 
over a mile to the north. By evening 
the battalion was securely established on 
the high ground and had settled down 
for a well-earned rest while patrols 
probed north and west in search of the 
foe. The swift blow at Fondi had cost 
the 349th Infantry 6 dead and 13 
wounded, but in the process, the 3d 
Battalion had pierced the Hitler Line at 
one of the two remaining strongpoints 
within the H Corps sector and had 
denied to the enemy his last good 
lateral communications short of the 
Anzio beachhead.-^ 

While the breakthrough at Fondi was 
the more decisive, a thrust by the 88th 
Division far into the mountains north- 
east of the town appeared more spec- 
tacular. Even as Yeager attacked Fondi 
on the 20th, Colonel Fry's 350th Infan- 
try began what became a ten-mile 
march northwestward to Monte Alto, 
deep within enemy territory. There 
Fry's men overran scattered German 
positions, killing 40 enemy soldiers and 
taking 65 prisoners at a cost of 30 
American casualties, most of whom 
were wounded and evacuated over the 
difficult mountain trails on litters borne 
by the German prisoners.^" 

Fry's bold thrust created such a deep 



salient within the Tnjth Army\ right 
wing that it would take the rest of the 
Fifth Army three days to catch up. 
Until the rest of the 88th Division could 
cover Fry's flanks, he was dependent 
for supplies on an unprotected line of 
communications maintained by pack 
mule trains plodding over trackless 
mountain terrain. German patrols am- 
bushed and destroyed one train of forty 
animals and frequently harassed others. 
To protect his line of communications, 
General Sloan on the 21st sent the 
349th and 351st Infantry Regiments 
along Fry's right flank, where they 
remained until the left flank of the EEC 
would draw abreast two days later. ^' 

Along the coastal flank, the 85th 
Division, with the 337th Regiment lead- 
ing the way, continued to move toward 
Terracina. Finding the narrow coastal 
highway frequently blocked by demoli- 
tions, the corps commander ordered 
General Coulter to mount a small-scale 
amphibious operation to bypass the 
obstacles in the hope of accelerating the 
advance. Keyes had confidence in such 
a maneuver, since a similar tactic had 
had some success in the closing days of 
the Sicilian campaign. ^^ 

Late in the afternoon of the 21st the 
1st Battalion, 338th Infantry, boarded a 
fleet of DUKW's at the port of Gaeta 
and moved parallel to the coast toward 
Terracina, but so choppy was the sea 
that the small armada eventually gave 
up and limped into port at Sperlonga, 



" Ibid. 

29 88th Div G-3 Jnl, vol. 3, incl. 7; 349th Inf Rpt 
of Opns, Mav 44. 

="> 350th Inf Jnl, May 44. 



^' II Corps Opns Rpt, May-Jun 44. 

3- Fifth Army G-3 Jnl, 21-22 May 44; 88th Div 
G-3 Jnl, 16-20 May 44, vol. 3, incl. 7; Paul L. 
Schultz, The 85th Division in World War II (Washing- 
ton: The Infantry Journal Press, 1959), p. 49; Msg, 
Harpool 3, 220445B May 44, in II Corps G-3 Jnl, 
30 Apr-31 May 44. Unless otherwise cited the 
following section is based on the above sources. 



96 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Aerial View of Terracina 



several miles short of Terracina. The ad 
hoc seaborne infantrymen had nothing 
to show for their pains — and they were 
many — except a renewed appreciation 
for the terra firma they knew so well. 

Upon arrival at Sperlonga most of 
the DUKW's were found to be unsea- 
worthy. One sank and three others 
broke down on reaching shore; twelve 
others, the battalion commander in- 
sisted, would never make it to Terra- 
cina. Abandoning the amphibious ven- 
ture, the 1st Battalion moved inland to 
join the rest of the 338th Infantry in 
reserve southwest of Fondi. 



Magnificently situated on an emin- 
ence of gleaming limestone, Terracina 
anchored the Hitler Line in the H 
Corps sector and appeared to be an 
ideal defensive position. From a high, 
fmger-like ridge the mountains over- 
looking the town drop sharply into the 
sea. At several places cliffs oxerhang the 
main road, which runs along a narrow 
strip often less than a hundred yards 
wide between the mountains and the 
sea. An ancient Roman fortress town, 
Terracina marks the traditional bound- 
ary between southern and central Italv. 

Because the Germans considered 



BREAKTHROUCiH ON THE SOUTHERN FRONT 



97 



Terracina easily defensible from the 
landward side, they had concentrated 
their permanent defensive works 
against a seaborne attack, which after 
the Anzio landing had seemed the 
greater danger. The fiasco at Sper- 
longa, however, ended any threat from 
that quarter. 

The 337th Infantry's 1st Battalion, 
advancing slowly along the heavily cra- 
tered and mined coastal highway, 
moved to within a mile of Terracina 
before machine gun and small arms 
fire forced a halt. Again, as at Fondi, 
the Americans took to the hills over- 
looking the road. Leaving their artillery 
support behind and marching across 
the seaward slopes, they gained high 
ground northeast of Terracina, the 
summit of Monte Sant'Angelo, on the 
morning of the 22d."^'^ 

Establishing themselves near the 
ruins of a temple to Jupiter Auxur, the 
infantrymen of the 1st Battalion paused 
to gaze northwestward across the Pon- 
tine Marshes toward the dim outline of 
the Alban Hills, the last major terrain 
feature south of Rome. If on that 
picturesque height any of the men 
chose to meditate upon the vanished 
glories of antiquity in their immediate 
vicinity, they were rudely cut short by 
heavy fire from a battalion of the 29th 
Panzer Grenadier Division that had ar- 
rived belatedly during the night. Faced 
with an overwhelming volume of fire, 
Colonel Hughes withdrew his men to 
the base of Monte Sant'Angelo, where 
they were joined by the 3d Battalion, 
while artillery, which had drawn to 
within supporting distance, opened fire 



33 Fifth Army G-3 Jnl, 21-22 May 44, Tel Msg 5. 
from II Corps, 22051 5B May 44, fnl X5-22-12. 



on Terracina and the western slopes of 
Monte Sant'Angelo.^" {Map 4) 

Behind heavy preparatory artillery 
fire and with the newly arrived 3d 
Battalion in reserve, the 1st Battalion 
returned to the attack during the after- 
noon of the 22d. This time the Ger- 
mans contested every foot of the 
ground, but despite intense mortar fire 
from the hills northwest of Terracina, 
the men of the 337th Infantry had by 
nightfall fought their way back to the 
top of Monte Sant'Angelo and moved 
down the reverse slope as far as a 
cemetery a mile north of the town. 
After thirty-six hours of virtually unin- 
terrupted fighting, the 1st Battalion, too 
exhausted to continue, was relieved 
after dark by the 3d Battalion. Resum- 
ing the attack, the 3d Battalion by 
midnight had infiltrated beyond the 
cemetery into the outskirts of Terra- 
cina.^^ 

As the 337th Infantry prepared to 
renew the assault on Terracina on the 
23d, two battalions of the 338th Infan- 
try advanced over Monte San Stefano 
toward Monte Leano, four miles north- 
west of the town. Their mission was to 
block Highway 7 where it ran along the 
foot of Monte Leano, thereby cutting 
the German route of withdrawal from 
Terracina. Threatened with encircle- 
ment, the German garrison in Terra- 
cina left behind a small rear guard and, 
during the night of 23 May, withdrew 
northwestward in the darkness. 

The Tenth Army Withdraws 

To Kesselring and his staff the over- 
all German situation in Italy was far 

•" 337th Inf, 85th Div, Opns Rpt, May 44, pp. 4- 



• Ibid. 



98 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




II-VI CORPS LINK-UP 

22-25 May 1944 
I llllllllli Allied front, 22 may 

Fn f~n ALLIED FRONT, 25 MAY 

*■ PATROL 

CONTACT 

Contour interval in meters 
5 SMILES 

' ' I' ''' ''' I 1 — I 

5 5 KILOMETERS 






24' \ bFeIbs 

Contact, morning, ^8^ . 

25 Moy ^. A[g?l9l Ren 



TYRRHENIAN 
SEA 




M.Finnemann. 



MAP 4 



from reassuring. In the Liri valley, the 
Eighth Army had pierced the Hitler 
Line. The Fifth Army's two-pronged 
drive by the U.S. II Corps and the EEC 
toward the Anzio beachhead and upper 
reaches of the Liri valley, respectively, 
threatened to envelop the entire left 
wing of Mackensen's Fourteenth Army 
and the right wing of the Tenth Army. 
Euithermore, the Allied beachhead al- 



ready had begun to erupt. The pend- 
ing fall of Terracina would open the 
main coastal highway all the wav to the 
beachhead, while the EEC — driving be- 
yond Pico toward Lenola, thiiteen miles 
northeast of Terracina and a key 
strongpoint on a road to Erosinone, on 
Highway 6 some fiftv miles southeast of 
Rome — threatened to split the two Ger- 
man armies. Should the Germans fail to 



breakthrou(;h on the southern front 



99 



halt the Fifth Army at either Terracina 
or at Lenola, a breakthrough to the 
beachhead and probably to the Caesar 
Line, the last German defensive posi- 
tion below Rome, was a certainty. ^^ 

At Supreme Headquarters (OKW) in 
Germany, some officers recommended 
to Hitler that Kesselring be directed to 
abandon his front south of Rome, 
others that he employ all of his remain- 
ing air strength in an effort to hold his 
pxDsitions. One of the latter, General der 
Artillerie Walter Warlimont, deputy 
chief of the OKW operations staff, 
declared that failure to commit the 
Luftwaffe would doom Kesselring's 
chances of holding Rome. Determined 
to husband remaining air power for the 
expected Allied invasion of northwest- 
ern France, Hitler refused to accept 
that reasoning. He chose instead to 
allow Kesselring to continue as he was 
doing: defend as long as possible on 
favorable terrain before falling back 
under pressure to another line, all the 
while exacting as heavy a toll as possible 
from the attacking Allied forces, in- 
structions known to Alexander and his 
army commanders through the deci- 
phered Enigma messages. ^^ 

The Americans, in the meantime, 
had launched their final thrust to the 
beachhead. Early on the 24th patrols of 
the 85th Division's 337th Infantry en- 
tered Terracina, and in midmorning 
Clark's chief of staff reported, "Terra- 
cina is ours."^^ While General Coulter's 
engineers cleared the road through the 



••"^ Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, OKW, 
pp. 491-92. 

^^ Ibid.; Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret, p. 117. 

3» 337th Inf Opns Rpi, May 44; Fifth Army 
Sitreps, 11-30 May 44; Msg, Gruenther to Clark, 
Ref 167, 240925B May 44. 



town, a patrol from the 91st Reconnais- 
sance Squadron moved cautiously 
across the Pontine Marshes to the vil- 
lage of Borgo Grappo, where shortly 
after daylight on 25 May the troopers 
met an engineer patrol from the U.S. 
VI Corps. Two weeks after the begin- 
ning of the May offensive on the 
Rapido-Garigliano front and 125 days 
after the Allied landings at Anzio, the 
troops from the southern front, having 
successively broken through the Gustav 
and Hitler Lines, had linked with those 
from the beachhead. ^^ 

With the French capture of Pico and 
the beginning of the breakout offensive 
from the Anzio beachhead on the 23d, 
and the fall of Pontecorvo to the Cana- 
dians and of Terracina to the Ameri- 
cans on the 24th, Vietinghoffs Tenth 
Army had no alternative to a full-scale 
withdrawal across the southern front. 
Beginning the night of the 25th, the LI 
Mountain Corps, opposite the Eighth 
Army, fell back beyond the Melfa River 
and withdrew from the Liri valley 
northward along the several roads 
through the mountains that parallel 
Highway 6 to the north. Opposite the 
Fifth Army's II Corps and the EEC, the 
XIV Panzer Corps withdrew northward 
through the Ausonia Mountains into 
the Sacco River valley, which joins the 
Liri valley about three miles northeast 
of Pico. 

A combination of increasingly diffi- 
cult terrain, congested roads, and a 
caution born of weariness and heavy 
casualties slowed the Eighth Army's 
pursuit, while the tremendous signifi- 
cance attached to the capture of Rome 
had its influence on the Fifth Army's 



II Corps G-3Jnl, May 44. 



100 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



next operations. Meanwhile, large quan- Rome. Operation Diadem was about to 

tities of supplies from Naples moved in enter a new phase. ''^ 

long truck columns along Highways 6 *» Gen Clark's personal comments on MS, Oct 

and 7 to support the final drive on 1973, in CMH files. 



PART TWO 

BREAKOUT FROM THE 
BEACHHEAD 



From . . . the general endeavour to attain a relative superiority, there 
follows another endeavour which must consequently be just as general in 
its nature: this is the surprise of the enemy. It lies more or less at the 
foundation of all undertakings, for without it the preponderance at the 
decisive point is not properly conceivable. 

Cu^usEWiTZ, On War 



CHAPTER VI 



The Anzio Beachhead 



Italian Lands vs. German Blood 

As the Allied force used its strong 
right arm to punch its way from the 
southern front toward the Hitler Line, 
the left arm, which for several weeks 
had been gathering strength within the 
confines of the Anzio beachhead, re- 
mained flexed for a sharp hook against 
General Mackensen's Fourteenth Army, 
keeping vigil over the beachhead. In 
accord with General Alexander's order 
of 5 May, the attack from the beach- 
head was to be launched on 24-h()urs' 
notice at any time after D plus 4. The 
Allied armies commander had reserved 
for himself the final decision as to the 
exact time. ^ It was to constitute the 
hoped-for fulfillment of Alexander's — 
as well as Churchill's — original strategic 
concept behind Operations Diadem and 
Shingle, a one-two punch designed to 
trap and annihilate a large portion of 
Kesselring's armies south of Rome be- 
fore moving in to capture the capital of 
Mussolini's crumbling empire. This 
strategy rested upon the premise that it 
was more profitable to destroy enemy 
units than to take ground. It would not 
be enough merely to push back enemy 
armies but to wipe them out to such an 
extent that they would have to be 
replaced from other theaters to avoid a 
rout. Yet the lure of Rome for all 



Allied commanders in Italy threatened 
to undermine that premise.^ 

This strategy had yet to receive full 
acceptance within the Fifth Army, al- 
though the original mission in Opera- 
tion Shingle had included a thrust 
from the beachhead to cut the XVI 
Panzer Corps line of communications."' 
As far as General Clark was concerned, 
the question of which direction Trus- 
cott's corps was to take once it had 
broken out of the beachhead had yet to 
be answered. In any case, since it was a 
corps within Clark's army that was 
involved, Clark intended the decision to 
be his, not Alexander's. 

The question of the timing of the 
breakout offensive depended to a cer- 
tain extent upon its direction; thus 
timing remained a subject of contro- 
versy and some confusion until the very 
eve of the offensive, although the for- 
mal order from Headquarters, AAI, on 
5 May had clearly stated, as noted 
earlier, that the decision on dming was 
to be Alexander's. 

The question of which direction the 
offensive was to take following the 
breakout had been a matter of contro- 



' Hq AAI, Opns 1,5 May 44. 



^ Brigadier C. J. C. Molony, "History of the 
Second World War," The Mediterranean and Middle 
East, Volume V, The Campaign in Sicily and the 
Campaign in Italy, 3rd September 1943 to 3 1st March 
1944 (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 
1973), p. 833. 

^ Martin Blumenson, "General Lucas at Anzio," in 
Command Decisions (Washington, 1960), p. 301; 
Clark's comments on MS, in CMH files. 



104 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



versy within Allied planning circles ever 
since Januarv 1944, when the Allies had 
first come ashore at Anzio. The contro- 
versy had polarized about the persons 
of Alexander and Clark and stemmed 
largeh from differing views on the role 
of the Anzio beachhead. From its very 
inception Clark had opposed the very 
concept of Anzio and during the plan- 
ning stage had recommended dropping 
it. This view was also held by U.S. 
Army Chief of Staff (ieneral Cieorge C. 
Marshall. Thus Anzio was a British 
project, although carried out in large 
part by Americans. This anomaly may 
have had something to do with the later 
disagreement between Clark and Alex- 
ander.^ 

General Alexander originally had en- 
visioned the beachhead as a base for a 
thrust northwest along the axis of 
Highway 7 into the Alban Hills, while 
the main Allied forces drove the enemy 
from the southern front up the Liri 
valley into a trap formed by the VI 
Corps athwart the enemy's line of com- 
munications in the Rome area. In de- 
veloping plans to implement that con- 
cept early in 1944, General Clark had 
reversed the roles of the participating 
forces. He was then convinced that the 
VI Corps should be limited to pinning 
down the German Fourteenth Army op- 
posite the beachhead, thereby prevent- 
ing Kesselring from shifting reinforce- 
ments southward to assist the Tenth 
Army, which was then opposing the 
Fifth Army's attempt to break into the 
Liri valley.^ 



^ See Forrest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall, Orga- 
nizer of Victory (New York: Viking Press, 1973). p. 
331. 

'^Ibid., pp. 326-27; Mark W. Clark, Calculated Risk 
(New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950), pp. 283-86. 



Throughout the winter of 1943-1944 
the matter had been allowed to simmer 
quietly, but with the coming of spring 
and revival of plans for a May offen- 
sive, the controversy had boiled again. 
Although Alexander had shifted his 
attention from the Alban Hills and 
Rome southeastward some twenty miles 
to Valmontone and Highway 6, his 
original concept — trapping a major part 
of Vietinghoffs Tenth Army between a 
blocking force striking out from the 
beachhead and the main force advanc- 
ing from the southeast — remained unal- 
tered. 

On the other hand, the Fifth Army 
commander's views had changed signifi- 
cantly. In April, after Alexander had 
regrouped the two Allied armies. Gen- 
eral Leese's Eighth Army rather than 
General Clark's Fifth stood before the 
entrance to the Liri valley, leading 
Clark to wonder whether the British 
rather than the Americans might reach 
Rome first. The U.S. VI Corps, there- 
fore, seemed to offer Clark a chance to 
counter this geographical advantage in 
a race for the Italian capital. If Trus- 
cott's VI Corps could break out of the 
beachhead and strike directly north- 
ward into the Alban Hills, the Ameri- 
cans might win that race. Moreover, in 
addition to winning the race Clark was 
very much concerned about reaching 
Rome before the beginning of Ovtr- 
LORD, as George Marshall had fre- 
quently and pointedly urged him to do. 

General Clark, no longer considering 
the beachhead a holding action as he 
had during the winter, saw Truscott's 
corps as the potential spearhead of a 
Fifth Army drive on Rome. The Alban 
Hills had become in Clark's eyes a 
gateway rather than a barrier to Rome. 



THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



H)5 



Moreover, as long as the enemy held 
the hills in strength a threat remained 
to the flank of any thrust from the 
beachhead in the direction of Valmon- 
tone and Highway 6. Clark believed 
that his forces should secure the Alban 
Hills before attempting to cut off the 
Tenth Army's right wing at Valmontone.*^ 
General Clark, just as he had earlier 
modified Alexander's directive for the 
offensive along the southern front, now 
laid the groundwork for another, even 
more important unilateral change, this 
time in Alexanders guidelines for the 
VI Corps' breakout offensive from the 
Anzio beachhead. Clark directed Trus- 
cott to prepare a plan for an offensive 
to be launched on forty-eight hours' 
notice along one of four possible axes: 
northwestward along the coastal corri- 
dor, across the Alban Hills directly 
toward Rome, northwestward through 
Cisterna to Valmontone on Highway 6, 
or eastward to Sezze in the Lepini 
Mountains, overlooking the b)eachhead 
from that direction. On 2 April, during 
a conference with his army command- 
ers. General Alexander had opted for 
an attack toward Valmontone in the 
hope of cutting the enemy's line of 
communications with the main front. 
Yet Clark's instructions to Truscott had 
carefully avoided specifying a choice 
among the possible axes of attack from 
the beachhead, for General Clark failed 
to share the belief that significant num- 
bers of Germans would be cut off by a 
thrust to Valmontone and Highway 6. 
There were, in Clark's opinion, just too 
many alternate routes of escape availa- 
ble to the Germans. Alexander's desire 



for the thrust on Valmontone had, in 
Clark's view, been dictated mainly by an 
expectation that it would help to loosen 
up German resistance opposite the 
Eighth Army and enable the latter to 
accelerate its advance up the Liri-Sacco 
valley. For Clark that was insufficient to 
justify the risks to his Fifth Army 
inherent in Alexander's plan.'' 

On 5 May Alexander visited the VI 
Corps headquarters where Truscott laid 
before him the four alternate plans 
which the corps staff, as directed by 
Clark, had developed during the two 
preceding months. The plans went by 
the code names of Grasshopper, Buf- 
falo, Turtle, and Crawdad. 

Grasshopper outlined an attack to- 
ward the east in the direction of Litto- 
ria-Sezze with the object of making 
contact with the Fifth Army's main 
force advancing northwestward. Only if 
troops on the southern front appeared 
to be bogged down and in need of help 
to achieve a junction with the beach- 
head was Grasshopper to be mounted. 
Operation Buffalo, which most closely 
corresponded to Shingle's and Diadem's 
original strategic concepts, called for a 
thrust northeastward through Cisterna, 
Cori, and Artena to Valmontone. Its 
objective was to block Highway 6 and 
thereby cut off the retreat of the Tenth 
Army's right wing. The destruction of a 
significant part of the Tenth Army would 
open the road to Rome along Highway 
6. Operation Turtle called for an 
attack astride the Via Anziate (the An- 
zio-Rome road) and the Rome railroad, 
northward through Carroceto and 
Campoleone to a junction with High- 



® Clark's comments on MS, in CMH files. 



' Ihid. 



106 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




General Truscott 

way 7 about a mile south of Lake 
Albano in the Alban Hills. Operation 
Crawdad outlined a drive through 
Ardea, twelve miles northwest of Anzio, 
roughly paralleling the coast southwest 
of the Alban Hills. In terms of distance, 
Crawdad afforded the shortest route to 
Rome, but the road network was less 
favorable than that offered by Highway 
7. After looking over the four plans. 
General Alexander quickly dismissed all 
but Buffalo. The drive on Valmon- 
tone, he declared, was the only opera- 
tion likely to produce "worthwhile re- 
sults." ^ 

While Buffalo was eminently suited 
to Alexander's strategic concept, it con- 
flicted sharply with the idea taking 
shape in Clark's mind. The Fifth Army 
commander had no faith in the plan. 
When Truscott informed him of Alex- 
ander's vis it and of his comments on 

«Trusc()tt Personal Radios Sent tiles, Feb-Iun 
1944. 



the breakout plans, Clark immediately 
telephoned the Allied commander to 
express irritation over what he inter- 
preted as an unwarranted interference 
with the Fifth Army's command chan- 
nels.^ Clark insisted that he wanted to 
keep his own plans flexible and not be 
tied to "pre-conceived ideas as to what 
exactly was to be done." Rejecting Alex- 
ander's apparent assumption that Oper- 
ation Buffalo would trap a large part 
of the German Tenth Army, Clark added 
that he did not "believe we have too 
many chances to do that — the Boche is 
too smart." Clark agreed that Truscott 
should give Buffalo first priority in his 
operational planning, but he insisted 
that the VI Corps commander should 
be free to continue to develop other 
plans as well. The Fifth Army com- 
mander declared with some logic that 
he had to be "prepared to meet any 
eventuality" and keep his "mind free of 
any commitment before the battle 
started." ^*^ 

Even before these exchanges Clark 
had become suspicious that there might 
be "interests brewing for the Eighth 
Army to take Rome." But as he was to 
note later, "We not only wanted the 
honor of capturing Rome, but we felt 
that we more than deserved it . . . My 
own feeling was that nothing was going 
to stop us on our push toward the 
Italian capital. Not only did we intend 
to become the first armv in fifteen 
centuries to seize Rome from the south, 
but we intended to see that the people 
back home knew that it was the Fifth 



' Clark Diarv, 8 May 44; Clark's comments on 
MS, in CMH files. 

'"Clark Diary, 8 May 44; Sidnev T. Mathews, 
"Clarks Decision to Drive on Rome," in Command 
Decisions (Washington, 1960), pp. 353-54. 



THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



H)7 



Army that did the job and knew the 
price that had been paid tor it." These 
considerations were for Clark "impor- 
tant to an understanding of the behind- 
the-scenes differences of opinion that 
occurred in this period. Such controver- 
sies, he observed years later, were con- 
ceived in good faith as a result of 
honest differences of opinions about 
the best way to do the job."'' Alex- 
ander, however annoyed he may have 
been, generally kept his feelings to 
himself. Not only did he not reproach 
Clark in his dispatches but even failed 
to mention their disagreement. Such 
was the character ot the Allied armies' 
commander. '- 

German Plans 

Fundamental differences over strat- 
egy between Alexander and Clark con- 
cerning the direction the VI Corps' 
offensive was to take had a counterpart 
within the German command where 
opposing concepts, especially between 
Kesselring and Mackensen, the Four- 
teenth Army commander, exacerbated re- 
lations between the two men. Field 
Marshal Kesselring believed that the 
Allied forces on the beachhead would 
attempt to break out in the direction of 
Valmontone in an effort to cut High- 
way 6 and sever the line of communica- 
tions to the southern front. General von 
Mackensen, for his part, believed that 
once free of the beachhead, the VI 
Corps would advance into the Alban 
Hills along the axis of Highway 7, next 
to the coastal road, the most direct road 



to Rome.'"* Thus did the Fourteenth 
Army commander anticipate the strategy 
even then taking form in Clark's mind. 

This disagreement between the army 
gioup and Fourteenth Army commanders 
was further complicated by Hitler's in- 
tervention in the development of stra- 
tegic and tactical plans in Italy, about 
which he was deeply concerned even 
though far from the front, and even 
though Italy was a secondary theater. 
Anticipating the time when the Allies 
would attempt to break out of the 
Anzio beachhead. Hitler as early as 
mid-March, had instructed Kesselring 
to study the possibility of employing the 
so-called false front tactic, which, Hitler 
recalled, the French and Germans had 
successfully used near Rheims in the 
last year of World War I. More re- 
cently, the U.S. VI Corps had used it in 
repelling German counterattacks at An- 
zio in mid-February. This tactic may be 
described as follows: just before attack- 
ing forces began their preparatory artil- 
lery fire, the defenders would evacuate 
the forward positions for previously 
prepared positions in the rear of the 
main line of resistance. After the offen- 
sive had spent itself and the attackers 
were thrown off balance, the defenders' 
reserves, waiting securely in the rear, 
were to counterattack and destroy the 
foe. 

On 1 April Kesselring responded to 
Hitler's instructions with a plan of his 
own. He had already directed Macken- 
sen, he said, to begin an extensive 
thinning of the Fourteenth Army's for- 
ward battle positions and to dispose his 
defenses in greater depth. Forward po- 



" Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 352; Clark. Diary, 5 
May 44. 

'2 Nicolson,/}fcx, pp. 252-53. 



'3 CMOS (Br), The German Operations at Anzio, 
22 January to 31 May 1944. 



08 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



sitions were to be held in strength 
sufficient only to compel the Allied 
forces to attack with all their heavy 
weapons. While the Allied attack wore 
itself out against numerous strongpoints 
arranged in depth throughout the main 
battle pc:)sition, German losses would be 
held to a minimum. Even if the Allied 
forces penetrated the main line of re- 
sistance, there would still be time, Kes- 
selring believed, to bring up his re- 
serves for a counterattack. 

Taking a mildly critical view of Hit- 
ler's tactical suggestions, Kesselring 
pointed out an inherent weakness. How 
.could one determine early enough that 
a given Allied artiller)' bombardment 
presaged an offensive so that forward 
positions might be evacuated in time? 
To delay too long risked having those 
positions overrun and thereby exposing 
the main defenses; yet a premature 
withdrawal could mean loss of the 
entire main line of resistance. More- 
over, Kesselring argued, it would be 
difficult to deceive the Allies for any 
length of time as to the real location of 
the main line of resistance. 

Hitler, too, was concerned about the 
possibility that Mackensen's secondary 
defenses might be destroyed by artillery 
when the Allied attack rolled over his 
forward positions. When the Fourteenth 
Army's chief of staff, Generalmajor 
Wolf-Ruediger Hauser, visited the 
Fuehrer's headquarters early in April, 
Hitler indicated that he wanted Mack- 
ensen to consider shifting his secondaiy 
position even farther to the rear. 

As finally drawn, Kesselring's defense 
plan represented a compromise with 
Hitler's concepts. It called for tempo- 
rary evacuation of the forward areas 
and occupying previously prepared 



blocking positions as soon as prepara- 
tions for a full-scale Allied attack were 
identified, but only near the strong- 
points of Aprilia (called "the Factor)"), 
Cisterna, and Littoria, in the northern, 
central, and southern sectors, respec- 
tively. Defenders elsewhere were to 
hold in place. 

Although the Germans at first be- 
lieved that waterlogged terrain would 
limit large-scale employment of armor 
in the beachhead until well into the 
spring of 1944, by March they had 
begun to suspect that another breakout 
offensive by the Allied forces would not 
be long in coming. As the ground 
began to dry out toward the end of 
April, expectations increased. 

Early in April the Fourteenth Army 
commander reported a significant in- 
crease in Allied artillery registration 
fires and frequent use of smoke over 
the port of Anzio and other Allied 
debarkation points. Anticipating that 
the activity possibly foreshadowed the 
expected offensive from the beachhead. 
Kesselring ordered the planned with- 
drawal, but when April passed with no 
such attack, he concluded that the Al- 
lied offensive would begin not in the 
beachhead but either on the southern 
front or possibly with another amphibi- 
ous landing. He therefore ordered the 
Fourteenth Army's troops back to their 
original positions. 

The Terrain 

The Anzio beachhead sprawled over 
a large coastal plain which in Roman 
times had been a fertile farming region, 
but which through the centuries had 
become a vast malarial s\\amp. Reclaim- 
ing this pestilential region, known as 
the Pontine Marshes, had long been a 



THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



H)9 



dream of Italian agronomists. In the 
decade immediately preceding the war 
much of the area had been partially 
drained and had become one of the 
agricultural show places of Mussolini's 
government. 

A complex grid of drainage canals 
and ditches cut the plain into a series of 
compartments, severely restricting cross- 
country' movement of military vehicles. 
The most formidable of the barriers 
were the 240- foot-wide Mussolini Canal 
and the Colletore deile Acqua Medie, 
or West Branch of the Mussolini Canal; 
the former flowed generally from north 
to south along the beachhead's right 
flank and the latter flowed southeast- 
ward from the direction of the Alban 
Hills to join the Mussolini Canal about 
seven miles from the coast. The 
smooth, sloping banks of these canals 
dropped into water that varied in depth 
from ten to twenty feet. Most of the 
smaller canals were from twenty to fifty 
feet wide. 

Approximately triangular in shape, 
the Anzio beachhead encompassed 
much of the plain west of the Mussolini 
Canal, generally better drained than 
that to the east of the canal. Except for 
the few roads along the tops of dikes, 
the region around Littoria, fifteen miles 
east of Anzio, had reverted to its an- 
cient state, a virtually impassable marsh. 
From Terracina, at the southeastern 
edge of the plain, Highway 7 runs 
northwest for thirty miles to the town 
of Cisterna, fifteen miles inland and 
northeast from the ptjrt of Anzio. A 
section of the Naples-Rome railroad 
parallels the highway for a short dis- 
tance before crossing the highway at 
Cisterna. The Allied beachhead lay 



southwest of both the highway and the 
railroad. 

The apex of the triangle, whose base 
rested upon a 2()-mile stretch of coast- 
line, pointed like an arrowhead toward 
Cisterna. Around a large administrative 
building in the center of Cisterna, 
mostly in ruins as a result of months of 
artillery fire, the Germans had built a 
ring of mutually supporting strong- 
points, which had become the hinge of 
their forward defensive lines. 

Inland from Cisterna the coastal 
plain narrows, rising to a gently rolling 
corridor about three miles wide and 
extending from Cisterna in a north- 
northeasterly direction fourteen miles to 
Valmontone on Highway 6, at the 
upper end of the Sacco River, a tribu- 
tary of the Liri. Dotted with vineyards 
and orchards and cut by occasional 
wide, southward-running ravines, the 
corridor offers terrain generally favora- 
ble for military operations. Flanking to 
the southeast are the steep-sided Lepini 
Mountains, rising to heights of over 
3,000 feet. In the vicinity of the ancient 
fortress town of Cori, six miles north- 
west of Cisterna, the slopes of the 
mountains are covered by olive groves 
which give way on the higher elevations 
to bare rock and scrub oak. Footpaths 
and cart trails similar to those encoun- 
tered by the II Corps in the Petrella 
massif offer the only access to that 
inhospitable region. 

Northwest of the corridor are the 
Alban Hills, whose highest summits are 
somewhat lower than those of the Le- 
pini Mountains. Thousands of years 
ago this circular hill mass had been 
formed by a volcano. Two of the 
highest hills are the Rocca di Papa and 







CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Monte Cavo, both rising hundreds of 
feet above the crater floor. Over the 
years the southeastern rim of the crater 
eroded to form an elongated ridge 
about four miles in length, averaging 
2,000 feet in height. Rising like a wall 
behind the town of Velletri, located at a 
point halfway up the ridge where High- 
wav 7 leaves the coastal plain and 
enters the hills, the ridge bears the 
Ivrical name of Monte Artemisio. From 
both Velletri and the ridge behind it 
the Germans had excellent observation 
over both the beachhead and the corri- 
dor leading from Cisterna to Valmon- 
tone. 

Extending like fingers from the 
southern slopes of the Alban Hills and 
onto the coastal plain, steep-sided ridges 
formed by ancient lava flows ran past 
the towns of Velletri and Lanuvio, the 
latter located five miles to the west of 
the former. The sides of the ridges 
were covered with modest vineyards 
and groves of chestnut trees, but the 
crests were open and usually cultivated 
in a patchwork of grain fields. 

The Opposing Forces 

Reflecting the fluctuations imposed 
by attack and counterattack in the 
weeks since the landing at Anzio, the 
Allies' forward positions by mid- May 
traced a meandering line across the 
landscape. From the sea on the south- 
west they led to a ridge south of the 
Moletta River, thence to the Anzio- 
Aprilia-Albano road. From the road the 
front curved northeastward about five 
miles to the hamlet of Casale Carano, 
thence followed the Carano Canal for a 
short distance before turning southeast 
to parallel the Cisterna-Campoleone- 
Rome railroad for some seven miles as 



far as the west bank of the Mussolini 
Canal. At the canal the front turned 
south and followed its west bank for 
nine miles to the sea. Blocking the most 
likely avenues of enemy attack across 
the front were numerous mine fields 
emplaced by the Allied troops during 
the winter battles. 

Of the U.S. units on the beachhead 
in February — ^the 3d and 45th Divisions, 
the 1st Armored Division's Combat 
Command A, the 1st Special Service 
Force (an American-Canadian regimen- 
tal-sized force), the reinforced 509th 
Parachute Regimental Combat Team, 
and the 6615th Ranger Force (three 
battalions) — only the paratroopers had 
left the beachhead by mid-May. The 
survivors of the ranger force had been 
integrated into the 1st Special Service 
Force. Those losses had been more 
than made up in late March by the 
arrival of the 34th Infantry Division, a 
veteran of the winter fighting at Cas- 
sino. On 28 March that division began 
relieving the 3d Division, which had 
been on the front for sixty-seven con- 
secutive days. The 1st Armored Divi- 
sion was also brought up to full 
strength with the arrival in April of 
CCB, its second combat command, and 
other elements of the division. 

The British too had shifted some of 
their units. In early March the 5th 
Division had replaced the 56th, and the 
latter, together with some British com- 
mandos, left the beachhead. The 1st 
Division remained, but its 24th Guards 
Brigade was relieved by the 18th 
Guards Brigade, the former moving to 
Naples for rest and reorganization. 

By the beginning of April all Allied 
units had been brought to full strength. 
The VI Corps, including the two Brit- 



THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



ish divisions, mustered a combat 
strength of approximately 90,000 men. 
As planning for the beachhead offen- 
sive got under way, Allied units were 
holding the front from left to right in 
the following order: the British 5th and 
1st Divisions, the U.S. 45th and 34th 
Divisions, and the 36th Engineer Regi- 
ment. In corps reserve were the 3d and 
36th Divisions (the latter having arrived 
on the beachhead by sea on 22 May), 
the 1st Armored Division, and the 1st 
Special Service Force. ^^ 

The Germans too, after the repulse 
of their winter attack, had begun to 
regroup their forces. In mid-March a 
Jaeger division*^ was moved to the 
Adriatic coast to strengthen the front 
there, and the Hermann Goering Division 
was withdrawn to Tuscan bases near 
Leghorn for rest and reorganization. 
About the same time, the 26th Panzer 
and 29th Panzer Grenadier Divisions had 
also been withdrawn from the Four- 
teenth Army into army group reserve in 
the Rome area. ^^ 

Facing the Allied beachhead were 
five divisions divided into two corps. 
From right to left there were in line the 
following units: the / Parachute Corps, 
commanding the 4th Parachute, 65th 
Infantry, and 3d Panzer Grenadier Divi- 
sions, and the LXXVI Panzer Corps with 
the 362d and 715th Infantry Divisions. 

The heavy winter fighting had left 
most of the divisions somewhat under- 



'^ DA Hist Div, "American Forces in Action, " 
Anzw Beachhead (22 January-25 May 1944) (Wash- 
ington, 1947), p. 106. 

•5 "Jaeger" denotes a light infantry division as 
contrasted with a standard infantry division. 

'* GMDS (Br), The German Operations at Anzio, 
22 January to 31 May 1944, pp. 94-95. Unless 
otherwise cited the following is based upon this 
source. 



Strength. Although General von Mack- 
ensen's army would never regain its 
February strength, replacements had 
continued to trickle in. By mid-April 
the Fourteenth Army had grown to 
70,400 men, still considerably less than 
the approximately 90,000 Allied sol- 
diers assembled on the beachhead. 

The Fourteenth Army's artillery units, 
long-time targets of Allied air attacks, 
had also incurred heavy losses. Macken- 
sen's artillery had been further plagued 
by chronic delays in the arrival of 
ammunition, delays occasioned more by 
shortages of transport than by lack of 
supply in dumps. Furthermore, most 
Allied guns lay beyond range of the 
self-propelled howitzers and dual-pur- 
pose antiaircraft guns which made up 
the bulk of the Fourteenth Army's artil- 
lery. Mackensen's artillery could fire 
effective counterbattery only with a few 
100-mm. guns, although Kesselring had 
promised that additional heavy pieces 
were on the way: twelve 210-mm. how- 
itzers and seven batteries of 122-mm. 
guns from the OKW artillery reserve in 
France and a railway artillery battery of 
320-mm. guns from northern Italy. He 
also promised to increase ammunition 
allocations, although in view of German 
transportation problems that was hardly 
likely to come about. 

Allied Preparations 

As the Germans awaited the Allied 
blow, the leader of the force that was to 
make the main effort. General Trus- 
cott, commander of the U.S. VI Corps, 
still awaited a decision as to the direc- 
tion his force was to take once breakout 
from the beachhead had been achieved. 
Yet despite General Clark's determina- 
tion to keep the matter open, Truscott 



1 12 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



fcx:used his attention on the plan he 
deemed most likely to be adopted, the 
one Cieneral Alexander had favored — 
Operation Buffalo. 

Vital to Buffalo's success, Truscott 
reasoned, were rapid capture of the 
enemy's main stronghold at Cisterna 
and swift occupation of the town of 
Cori, halfway up the western slopes of 
the Lepini Mountains. Until those two 
objectives were in hand, the enemy 
would control the road network leading 
to Buffalo's objective, Valmontone on 
Highway 6. 

On 6 May, the day following General 
Alexander's visit to VI Corps headquar- 
ters, General Truscott outlined for his 
division commanders a two-phase attack 
designed to gain those objectives. In the 
first phase the corps was to drive 
northeastward to build up along the X- 
Y Line, a line forming a large aic two 
miles north and east of Cisterna and 
extending from Highway 7 as far as the 
main road from Cisterna to Cori. ^'^ In 
the second phase the corps was to 
capture Cori, then to advance north- 
ward via Guilianello toward Artena, a 
road junction about three miles south 
of Valmontone. From Artena the drive 
was to continue with a thrust to cut 
Highway 6, capture Valmontone, and 
cut the Tenth Armys line of communica- 
tions. 

The armored strength of the VI 
Corps' offensive was to be provided by 
the 1st Armored Division, commanded 
by Maj. Gen. Ernest N. Harmon, a 
vigorous and able leader given to blunt 
speaking. The 1st Armored Division 
had fought in North Africa but, after 




'^ VI Corps FO 25, 6 May 44. Unless otherwise 
cited this section is based upon this source. 



General Harmon 



the division landed on the Italian main- 
land in September 1943, mountainous 
terrain had denied it more than a 
minor role in the advance from Salerno 
to Cassino. During the winter, division 
headcjuarters and CCA had joined the 
VI Corps in the Anzio beachhead, 
while CCB remained behind with the II 
Corps on the southern front in order to 
exploit a projected Fifth Army break- 
through into the Liri vallev. In the end, 
CCB also had to come to Anzio by sea. 
A so-called "heavy" armored division, 
one of three formed in the U.S. Army 
before a decision to scale down the tank 
strength of armored divisions, the 1st 
Armored Division had a TO&E 
strength of 232 medium tanks and 
14,620 officers and men, making it a 
formidable force with a tank strength a 
third again greater than a German 



THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



13 



panzer division. In addition, the divi- 
sion had an attached tank destroyer 
battalion, an antiaircraft battalion, and, 
to supplement its three organic 105- 
mm. (howitzer) self-propelled artillery 
battalions, the attached 69th Field Artil- 
lery Battalion of 105-mm. self-propelled 
howitzers. To supplement the division's 
armored infantry regiment for the of- 
fensive, General Truscott attached the 
135th Infantry from the 34th Division. 
There were also two companies from 
the 83d Chemical Battalion, etjuipped 
with 4.2-inch mortars capable of firing 
smoke and high-explosive shells, ^^ one 
company each from the 109th Combat 
Engineer and self-propelled 636th 
Tank Destroyer Battalions, and a de- 
tachment of the 6617th Mine Clearing 
Company. 

General Harmon's division and the 
3d Infantry Division, formerly Trus- 
cott's own division, were to lead the 
breakout offensive. One of the U.S. 
Army's oldest and most distinguished 
divisions, the 3d had taken part in the 
North African and Sicilian campaigns. 
After Truscott had moved up to corps 
command, the division came under the 
command of Maj. Gen. John W. 
O' Daniel, whose rough features and 
barracks-yard voice had prompted the 
nickname "Iron Mike." 

For his part. General Harmon ob- 
jected strongly to pairing an armored 



'* This mortar had been developed from the 
Stokes Mortar of World War I and had first seen 
action during the Sicilian campaign in the summer 
of 1943. After the Chemical Corps adapted the 
mortar to fire HE, it became an important and 
useful infantry support weapon with a maximum 
range of 4,397 yards. See Leo P. Brophy, Wynd- 
ham D. Miles, and Rexmond C. Cochrane. The 
Chi'tnuaJ War/dir Scrx'Kc: From Lahoratory to Field, 
U.S. ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 
1959). 




General O'Daniel 



and an infantry division for the break- 
out attempt. Better to follow the con- 
ventional pattern, he argued, of holding 
the armor in reserve as a tool for 
exploiting an infantry breakthrough. 
He confided that view to two staff 
officers of the Fifth Army's G-3 plans 
section who visited his headquarters on 
the eve of the offensive. Harmon told 
his visitors that he expected to lose 100 
tanks in the first thirty minutes of the 
offensive. It was, he declared, "a crazy 
idea."^^ Actually, General Truscott rec- 
ognized that his decision to use the 
armored division in the first stage of 



" Interv, Sidney T. Mathews with Lt Col T. J. 
Conway (Chief, Plans Subsection, G-3, Hq Fifth 
Army, 16 Dec 44-May 45), 27 Jun 50, CMH. 



1 14 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



the offensive ran counter to current 
armored doctrine, but he saw the 
weight of the armor as affording the 
best possibility of breaking the long- 
held German positions in the Cisterna 
sector. -^ 

Under Truscott's plan the 1st Ar- 
mored Division was, during the offen- 
sive's first phase, to advance from posi- 
tions southwest of Cisterna along a line 
roughly parallel to Le Mole Canal to 
cut the railroad northwest of Cisterna, 
push on to Highway 7, then to the X-Y 
Line. In the second phase, the division 
was to move first to a phase line 
designated the O-B Line, which crossed 
the corridor between the Alban Hills 
and the Lepini Mountains three miles 
south of Velletri. The division's left 
flank was to keep the Velletri-based 
enemy north of that line, while the rest 
of Harmon's troops were, on Truscott's 
order, to swing northeast and continue 
the drive on Artena and Valmontone. 
Maj. Gen. Fred L. Walker's 36th Infan- 
try Division was to move up from corps 
reserve to take Cori and to reinforce 
the armored division's attack on Artena. 

To the 3d Division, General Truscott 
gave the crucial task of first isolating, 
then capturing Cisterna. Unlike Har- 
mon, O'Daniel had complete confidence 
in the plans for the forthcoming offen- 
sive and in the ability of his division to 
seize Cisterna and continue to the final 
objective. General O'Daniel's zeal may 
have been enhanced by an opportunity 
to even a score with the enemy follow- 
ing a futile attempt by the division to 
storm Cisterna in January. 

While the 3d Division attacked the 
enemy's center, the division's right flank 



^^ Interv, author with Truscott, Mar 62, CMH. 



was to be covered by Brig. Gen. Robert 
T. Frederick's American-Canadian 1st 
Special Service Force, advancing from 
positions just west of the Mussolini 
Canal to cut Highway 7 southeast of 
Cisterna and occupy that part of the X- 
Y Line in that sector. Thereafter, Fred- 
erick's men were to be prepared, on 
corps order, to seize the heights of 
Monte Arrestino, overlooking Cori 
from the south, then move northward 
across the Lepini Mountains to cut 
Highway 6 east of Valmontone. 

On the 1st Armored Division's left, 
Maj. Gen. William W. Eagles' 45th 
Division, holding the sector between the 
Spaccasassi Canal and the Carano 
Canal, was to cover the left flank of the 
offensive by an advance as far as the 
first phase line, which in Eagles' sector 
ran generally in a northerly direction 
just west of the village of Carano, some 
five miles southwest of Cisterna and on 
the bank of the Carano Canal. As the 
main attack moved on beyond Cisterna, 
the division was to keep the enemy in 
its zone occupied by vigorous patrolling. 

Meanwhile, Maj. Cien. Charles W. 
Ryder's 34th Division, holding the front 
across the corps center from Le Mole 
Canal to the Nettuno-Cisterna road, 
was to screen the final preparations for 
the offensive and to assist in gapping 
American mine fields and barbed wire 
barriers for the attacking units. When 
relieved from that assignment, the divi- 
sion, less the regiment attached to the 
armor, was to regroup and prepare to 
relieve elements of either the 1st Ar- 
mored Division or the 1st Special Serv- 
ice Force if either should be unable to 
continue the offensive after reaching 
the first phase line. 

General Truscott had also prepared a 



THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



15 



deception plan, Operation Hippo, de- 
signed to deceive the enemy as long as 
possible as to the offensive's true direc- 
tion by a strong demonstration on the 
beachheads far left flank a few hours 
before the breakout offensive began. 
The job of executing Hippo fell to the 
British 1st and 5th Divisions, holding 
that sector of the beachhead perimeter 
from the Tyrrhenian coast northeast- 
ward to the left flank of the 45th 
Division. Since they were to be with- 
drawn after the capture of Rome, the 
two British divisions were to operate 
under direct control of the Fifth Army 
without an intervening corps com- 
mand. ^^ 

To support the offensive, the VI 
Corps assembled an impressive group- 
ment of corps artillery: three battalions 
of 155-mm. howit/ers, a battalion of 8- 
inch howitzers, and a battery of 240- 
mm. howitzers. Two British artillery 
regiments were also attached to corps. 
Except for a battalion of l{)5-mm. how- 
itzers that Truscott had attached to the 
1st Armored Division, corps artillery 
was to fire in general support of the 
offensive. Three battalions of 9()-mm. 
antiaircraft artillery from the 35th Anti- 
aircraft Artillery Brigade were to be 
prepared to fire on ground targets. 
With a high muzzle velocity and flat 
trajectory, antiaircraft guns would be 
particularly useful against enemy armor 
and pillboxes. Finally, on D-day, as had 
been the case when the offense began 
along the (iarigliano, the guns of two 
cruisers lying offshore were to engage 
prearranged targets opposite the British 
sector. 22 



Several weeks before the anticipated 
date of the offensive, Truscott directed 
his corps artillery to begin a daily firing 
schedule designed to uncover the en- 
emy's defensive fires and further mis- 
lead the Germans as to the actual start 
of the offensive. In view of the defen- 
sive strategy that Hitler had urged 
upon his commanders in Italy such 
deception was of paramount impor- 
tance. But this, of course, was unknown 
to General Truscott. Each morning 
from different parts of the b)eachhead 
guns of various batteries opened a 
series of barrages, with their time, 
length, and method of firing frequently 
changed. At first the Germans replied 
with large-scale defensive fires, but after 
a time apparently concluded that the 
barrages were only another spendthrift 
American harassment and made little 
response. This assumption was destined 
to pay off with a delayed reaction when 
the Allied artillery preparation for the 
offensive actually iDegan.^^ 

Truscott's breakout was also to be 
supported by aircraft from the XII 
TAG, flying from bases in the vicinity 
of Naples. Before the offensive, fighter- 
b)ombers were to step up their opera- 
tions against the enemy's line of com- 
munications, especially southeast of 
Rome. Long-range artillery positions 
and supply installations in the Alban 
HiUs near Frascati and Albano as well 
as at Velletri and Valmontone were to 
be bomb)ed and strafed almost daily. ^^ 
Beginning at 0625 on D-day and 
continuing until 1930, fighter-bombers 
of the XII TAG were to fly twenty- 



2' Hq VI Corps AAR, 1-31 May 44. 
" VI Corps FO 26. 6 May 44. 



^^ Lucian K. Truscott, Command Missions (New 
York: E. P. Dutton and Co., 1954), pp. 368-70. 
^* Hq, VI Corps FO 26, 6 May 44, Air annex. 



1 16 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



eight preplanned missions, mostly 
against artillery positions and troop biv- 
ouacs. The airmen were also to provide 
fighter cover to protect ground forces 
from hostile air attack, even though for 
>^'^me time the Luftwaffe had been 

itually driven from Italian skies. Once 
he ground forces began their offensive, 
.^eventy-two fighter-bombers were to at- 
tack enemy positions along the rail line 
extending northwest from Cisterna, 
then bomb and stra^ enemy artillery in 
an effort to limit defensive fires in the 
offensive's early phases. Four fighter- 
bombers were to attack the town of 
Cori, and a group of heavies was to hit 
Velletri and Sezze with demolition and 
fragmentation bombs. ^^ 

Fighter-bombers were to provide 
close support as the offensive contin- 
ued, with a forward controller located 
at the Vl Corps command post direct- 
ing the aircraft to targets of opportu- 
nity. Aircraft flying prebriefed missions 
to specific targets were, upon entering 
the corps zone, to check in immediatelv 
with the forward air controller. If there 
were no emergency targets, the control- 
ler was to release the aircraft to go 
ahK)Ut assigned missions. Fighter-bomb- 
ers were also to fly armed reconnais- 
sance along Highways 6 and 7 south of 
Rome and over the road network be- 
tween the two highways. ^^ 

Tlie freedom of movement long en- 
joyed by the Allies behind their shield 
of air supremacy was again demon- 
strated by the ease with which the Fifth 
Army, despite numerous small-scale en- 
emy air attacks and harassing artillery 



fire, assembled over a period of several 
weeks sufficient supplies at Anzio to 
sustain the forthcoming offensive. Im- 
provement of the VI Corps' counterbat- 
tery fires and antiaircraft defenses and 
the cumulative effect of the XII TAC's 
attacks against German artillery posi- 
tions eventually reduced the effective- 
ness of enemy action against VI Corps' 
supply dumps to a negligible factor.^" 

During the winter most of the VI 
Corps' supply problems had been 
caused by a chronic shortage of ship- 
pi 'g. As the weather gradually im- 
proved and more craft became a\aila- 
ble, particularly small craft suitable for 
offshore unloading of Liberty ships, the 
problems eased. Transportation battal- 
ions were soon discharging five or six 
Lih)erty ships at a time. During March a 
peak volume of 157,274 tons was un- 
loaded at the beachhead.-^ 

By mid-May enough stocks to sup- 
port the VI Corps and its attached units 
for forty days of offensive operations 
had been cached in dumps dispersed 
over the beachhead. The supplies were 
in addition to those usually maintained 
to support ten days of normal opera- 
tions. To save time and personnel after 
the offensive got under way, several 
quartermaster truck companies were 
brought ashore, their vehicles fully 
loaded with ammunition. Once ashore, 



Ibid. 
'Ibid. 



-'' Wide dispersion of supply dumps helped ac- 
count for the low loss rate. Of the nine million 
gallons of POL shipped to the beachhead, for 
example, less than 1 percent was lost to enemv 
action. See William M. Ross and Charles F. Ro- 
manus, Tfw (Juartermaster Corps: Operations in the War 
Against Germany, U.S. ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
(Washington, 1965), pp. 96-114. See also Fifth 
Army G-4 Jnl, May 44, and DA Hist Div, .■inzio 
Beachhead, pp. 107-11. 

28 Fifth Army G-4 Jnl, May 44. 



THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



117 



the trucks moved (|uickly into concealed 
positions to await D-day. '^^ 

Final Moves 

Before Truscott could determine the 
exact H-hour for the offensive, he first 
had to resolve the conflicting opera- 
tional requirements of armored and 
infantry dixisions. The infantry, being 
particularly vulnerable to small arms 
and mortar fire, quite naturally pre- 
ferred to begin the attack before day- 
light. On the other hand, the armored 
division's tank gunners had to have 
enough daylight to see the cross-hairs in 
their gunsights. Since Truscott's staff 
believed that the infantry could substi- 
tute smoke for darkness and that the 
armored division could find no substi- 
tute for its requirements, H-hour was 
set for one hour after dawn.^" 

Getting the assault units undetected 
into positions close to their line of 
departure, about two or three miles 
south of the Cisterna-Rome railroad 
and between the Spaccasassi Creek and 
the Mussolini Creek, posed a special 
problem, for the Germans enjoyed su- 
perb observation of the entire beach- 
head area from their vantage points in 
the flanking hills and mountains. To 
solve the problem Allied staffs worked 
out detailed movement schedules for 
the infantry and artiller) to be accom- 
plished during the last two nights be- 
fore the offensive began. ^' Movement 
of the armor into forward assemblv 



" Ibid. 

'" VI Corps G-3 Jnl, May 44; Truscott Personal 
File; Interv, Mathews with Gen Harmon, 14 Dec 48, 
CMH. 

•^' Truscoti, Command Missions, pp. 367-68. 



areas was accompanied by tying the 
movement to the artillery deception 
plan. For several weeks preceding the 
offensive, as the artillery fired a daily 
barrage, the tanks, with no attempt at 
concealment, rumbled noisily toward 
the German lines, firing point-blank, 
then turning and scurrying to the rear. 
Noting that the tanks always stopped 
short of their own infantry's forward 
positions, the Germans soon ceased to 
react to the maneuver. Each day, once 
the ground had begun to dry out in 
mid-May, a few of the tanks slipped off 
the roads into previously prepared posi- 
tions. The tactic was repeated until a 
substantial armored assault force had 
been assembled close behind the 
front. ^- 

While the VI Corps made final prep- 
arations for the offensive. General 
Clark in his headquarters at Caserta 
remained concerned over the direction 
the offensive should take once the 
corps had broken out of the beachhead. 
On the morning of 19 May, Truscott 
and members of his staff went at 
Clark's request to the army headquar- 
ters. There Clark raised the suggestion 
that Buffalo's initial objectives, Cisterna 
and Cori, be taken as planned, but 
then, instead of moving to Highway 6, 
the VI Corps might regioup and turn 
northwestward into the Alban Hills. 
Frederick's 1st Special Service Force, in 
the meantime, could continue toward 
Artena and Valmontone, the original 
objectives of Operation Buffalo. Only 
after Truscott pointed out that Freder- 
ick's force alone was not strong enough 
for this task did Clark drop the sugges- 



^^ Monograph, "American Armor at Anzio," The 
Armored School, Ft. Knox, May 49, pp. 87-88. 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



tion.^^ Yet the suggestion reflected 
Clark's concern about what effect the 
enemy's presence on the Alban Hills 
might have on the VI Corps' advance 
toward Valmontone and Highway 6. 
During the conference Clark also in- 
formed Truscott that Alexander might 
order the breakout offensive to begin 
two days later — on the 21st. Returning 
to the beachhead on the 19th, Truscott 
'directed part of his corps and divisional 
artillery to begin displacing forward 
that night into their previously pre- 
pared positions. Until he received more 
definite word on the jump-off date, 
that was the only move he sanctioned. ^^ 
Alexander himself visited Clark's 
headquarters the next day. Poor 
weather predicted for the 21st, Clark 
told him, might delay the VI Corps its 
needed tactical air support; he recom- 
mended postponing the offensive at 
least twenty-four, perhaps even forty- 
eight, hours. Anxious to have the 
breakout offensive coincide as closely as 
possible with the Eighth Army's assault 
against the Hitler Line, Alexander read- 
ily agreed. When he radioed the news 
to Truscott, Clark indicated the possibil- 
ity of a postponement to the 23d but 
promised final word by late afternoon 
of the 2 1st. 35 

Postponing the offensive for even 
twenty-four hours created an awkward 
and a potentially dangerous situation 
for the VI Corps. The postponement 
meant that some units would have to 
remain in forward assembly areas 



^^ Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 370-71; 
Clark's comments on MS, in CMH files. 

^^ Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 370-71; Fifth 
Army History, Part V, p. 108. 

35 Clark, Calculated Risk, pp. 352-53; Clark Diary, 
20 May 44. 



longer than the forty-eight hours that 
Truscott intended, increasing the p)ossi- 
bility that the Germans might detect 
their presence and conclude that an 
offensive was about to begin. 

The Germans, meanwhile, were ap- 
parently nervous. Throughout the 
nights of the 20th and 21st the enemy 
increased his patrolling and artillen fire 
across the front. One patrol penetrated 
the 179th Infantry's outpost line in the 
45th Division sector on the corps' left 
flank but withdrew in the face of heavy 
mortar fire without taking a prisoner. ^^ 

At 1715 on the 21st final word on 
the date of the offensive arrived at 
Truscott's headquarters. "Operation 
Buffalo will be launched at 0630 hours 
on 23 May," Clark radioed. "I will 
arrive at Advanced Command Post 
about noon on Monday [22 May]."^^ 

That night the VI Corps' combat 
units moved into their assigned assem- 
bly areas, while the 109th Engineer 
Battalion and the 34th Division's engi- 
neers began the tedious and hazardous 
work of clearing gaps through Allied 
mine fields. The front remained rela- 
tively quiet, disturbed only by occasional 
German shelling that killed three men 
at a road junction near the 3d Division 
headquarters and caused minor casual- 
ties in the 45th Division's area. 

By daylight on 22 Ma\, all units had 
reached their jump-off positions. 
Throughout a lovely spring dav that 
invited lounging in the sunshine, the 
troops instead crouched in dark dug- 
outs, the ruins of farmhouses, and 
scattered groves of trees along the 



3« VI Corps G-3 Jnl, Mav 44. 

" Msg, Clark to Truscott, 211705B Mav 44. 
Truscott Personal Radios Received files. Feb-Jun 
44. 



THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



9 



drainage canals to avoid being seen by 
enemy observers. In the meantime, 
Clark, leaving his chief of staff in 
charge of the Fifth Army main head- 
quarters at Caserta, moved to the 
beachhead with his staff, where the 
army commander established a com- 
mand post in a tunnel beneath the Villa 
Borghese, located on a small hill over- 
looking Anzio harbor. 

General Clark confidently awaited the 
start of the offensive, yet as he did so 
he was troubled with misgivings over 
what he termed his "political problems." 
Three considerations were uppermost 
in his mind: he wanted above all to be 
first in Rome and to be there before 
the imminent invasion of northwestern 
Europe crowded the Italian campaign 
off the front pages of the world's 
newspapers; he was also understandably 
anxious to avoid destructive fighting 
within the hallowed city; and, finally, he 
was persuaded that to follow the strat- 
egy Alexander preferred would deny 
the Fifth Army the first goal and quite 
possibly the second. ^^ 

='» Clark, Calculated Risk, pp. 351-52. 



General Clark had by that time con- 
vinced himself that to follow Alex- 
ander's strategic concept was pointless. 
To do so, Clark believed, would shift 
the burden from the Eighth to the 
Fifth Army which had already incurred 
heavy casualties since the spring offen- 
sive had begun. "I was determined that 
the Fifth Army was going to capture 
Rome," he later recalled, "and I was 
probably overly sensitive to indications 
that practically everybody else was 
trying to get into the act. These indica- 
tions mounted rapidly in the next few 
days, and I had my hands full."^^ Thus 
it was that General Clark's rejection of 
Alexander's strategic concepts for the 
beachhead offensive cast a threatening 
shadow over Operation Buffalo and, 
with it, Alexander's (and Churchill's) 
expectations of trapping a major part 
of the German Tenth Army between the 
British Eighth and the U.S. Fifth Ar- 
mies south of Rome. 



files. 



'Ibid., p. 357; Clark's comments on MS, in CMH 



CHAPTER VII 



The First Day 



While the Americans tried to rest 
during the night of 22 May, the British 
launched the diversionary attack from 
their positions on the beachhead's far 
left flank. Shortly after dark and closely 
following preparatory artillery fire, a 
brigade of the British 1st Division 
lunged at the enemy's defenses west of 
the Anzio-Albano road. The British 
advanced only about 300 yards before 
automatic weapons and mortar fire 
forced a halt. Two hours later, a bri- 
gade of the 5th Division, supported by 
tanks, joined the fight with an attack 
along the coast toward the settlement of 
L'Americano. The fighting continued 
that night and next day until the bri- 
gades, after dark, returned to their 
starting positions. ^ 

General Clark arose at 0430, break- 
fasted in his van, then joined General 
Truscott in a forward observation post 
where, surrounded by their staffs, the 
two commanders awaited the com- 
mencement of the corps artillery prepa- 
ration. Beginning at H-hour minus 
thirty minutes, the artillery fired for 
five minutes on the enemy's main line 
of resistance across the entire front. For 
the next twenty-five minutes the divi- 
sional artillery joined in with fire di- 
rected against all known enemy gun 
positions. A heavy pall of smoke soon 
shrouded the landscape. Although a 
light rain cleared the air to a degree, 



visibility at dawn was limited to about 
300 yards. ^ 

When the artillery fire lifted, Clark 
and his companions heard the rumble 
of engines as sixty fighter-bombers 
from the XII TAG appeared over the 
front on their way to attack enemv 
positions about 3,000 vards in front of 
the corps and along the railroad run- 
ning northwest from Cistema. Encoun- 
tering heavy overcast in the target area, 
the aircraft turned about and attacked 
Cistema, their alternate target. Leaving 
the enemy strongpoint shattered and 
burning, the bombers flew southeast to 
attack the towns of Littoria and Sezze as 
well. Although the poor weather condi- 
tions limited air activity, the XII TAG 
would manage to fiy 722 sorties during 
the first day of the offensive.'' 

A General Hazard 

In actions along most of the VI 
Corps front on 23 May one weapon 
played a leading role in determining 
the course of the fighting — the mine 
(both Allied and German). Since the 
beginning of the Italian campaign, 
troops of both the U.S. Fifth and the 
British Eighth Armies had incurred 
numerous casualties both from enem)- 
mines and their own — ^the latter when 
patrols, raiding parties, or advancing 



^Fifth Army History, Part V, p. 108. 



^Clark Diarv, 23 May 44. 

=»VI Corps (;-2 Jnl, 23 Mav 44. Summarv of Air 
Action; DA Hist Div, Anzio Beachhead, p. 119; 
Craven and Cate. eds.,AAF III, pp. 384-96. 



THE FIRST DAY 



21 



troops moved unwittingly into indis- 
criminately laid or poorly charted mine 
fields. Commanders at all echelons con- 
stantly sought to develop methods of 
eliminating losses from friendly mine 
fields, but the basic problem remained, 
particularly in the Anzio beachhead 
where, during the heavy German coun- 
terattacks in February and early March, 
the front lines had frequently fluc- 
tuated. At the start of the breakout 
offensive, uncharted or poorly charted 
mine fields were destined to prove the 
single most harassing and disruptive 
battlefield obstacle, especially for the 
tanks of the 1st Armored Division.^ 

Bearing in mind that ever since the 
division's earliest experience, mines 
rather than enemy antitank guns had 
thus been the tanks' greatest hazard, 
the division commander. General Har- 
mon, had demanded maximum effort 
in locating and clearing lanes through 
all mine fields, enemy and friendly. 
The engineers proposed to do the job 
by blasting gaps through known or 
suspected mine fields with 400- foot 
lengths of steel pipe filled with explo- 
sive material — long, unwieldy contrap- 
tions which the engineers had named 
"Snakes." The Snakes were to be towed 
forward and then pushed into position 
by tanks; once in place, they would be 
detonated by machine gun fire from 
the tanks. In tests the resulting explo- 
sions had produced 15- foot-wide gaps 
in mine fields and had detonated mines 
buried as deep as five feet. ^ 



^Hq 15th AGp, A Military Encyclopedia, Based on 
Operations in the Italian Campaign, 1943^5, pp. 31 1- 
14. 

^There were important limitations to the use of 
Snakes. They were useful only against minefields 
protecting prepared positions. If towed assembled 
for any distance over rough ground, they broke up. 



The decision on whether to employ 
the Snakes, Harmon left to his combat 
command commanders. Col. Maurice 
W. Daniel of CCA opted for them, but 
Brig. Gen. Frank Allen, Jr., of CCB 
chose to depend upon mine detectors 
in the hands of his engineers. Allen was 
concerned lest a premature detonation 
of the Snakes by enemy fire spoil the 
element of surprise. He wanted to hold 
his Snakes for the more extensive mine 
fields that he expected would be found 
near the railroad running northwest- 
ward from Cisterna. ^ 

Harmons Plan 

Truscott had assigned to Harmon's 
armor the comparatively open terrain 
west of Cisterna on the 3d Division's 
left flank. The zone widened from 
about three miles at the line of depar- 
ture (two miles south of the railroad) to 
about nine miles along the first phase 
line, the X-Y Line six miles to the 
north. The Mole Canal, extending 
northward from the beachhead and at 
a near right angle to the railroad, 
divided the zone into approximately 
two equal parts, the canal actually being 
just inside CCA's portion. General Har- 
mon assigned the left and slightly wider 
part to Colonel Daniel's CCA and the 
right, from the canal's east bank to the 
divisional boundary, to Allen's CCB. 
{Map V) 

General Harmon had devised for his 
division a scheme of maneuver involv- 
ing a three-phase attack with the two 



On the other hand, if moved unassembled into 
position, more time was required to assemble them 
than to cross mine fields by other means or to by- 
pass them altogether. 

•'Interv, Mathews with Lt Col Robert R. Linville, 9 
May 50, CMH. 



1 22 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



combat commands abreast. During the 
first phase, the combat commands were 
to pass through the 34th Division to 
occupy the line of the railroad three 
miles northwest of Cisterna; they were 
then to pause to allow the engineers to 
prepare crossings and open a path 
through the expected extensive mine 
fields. 

Both combat commands were to ad- 
vance from the railroad to seize, first, a 
low ridge line about a quarter of a mile 
beyond, then fan out to occupy the X-Y 
Line. From that first phase line the 
di\ision was to reconnoiter aggressively 
toward Giulianello and Velletri, respec- 
tively seven miles northwest and north 
of Cisterna, while getting ready to re- 
spond to a corps order to continue the 
offensive as far north as the second, or 
O-B phase line. From there the armor 
was to continue northward into the 
Velletri gap toward the town of Artena, 
within three miles of Highway 6 and 
the goal of the attack's third phase. '' So 
read the plans on paper, but in actual 
fact the bulk of the division was des- 
tined never to reach Highway 6. Clark 
had other plans for it which he would 
not disclose until Cisterna had fallen. 

The assault echelon in each of the 
combat commands consisted of a battal- 
ion each of medium and light tanks, 2 
battalions of infantry — 2 from the 6th 
Armored Infantry with CCB and 2 
from the 135th Infantry supporting 
CCA— and 2 companies of tank de- 
stroyers. Each combat command had a 
battalion of medium tanks in reserve. 
Two armored artillery battalions sup- 
ported CCA and 3 supported CCB; 3 



field artillery battalions and an antiair- 
craft battalion were in general sup- 
port. ^ 

Colonel Daniel had chosen the 3d 
Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment, to 
lead the attack in his sector and Gen- 
eral Allen the 13th Armored Regi- 
ment's 2d Battalion to lead in his. Each 
was to advance with two companies of 
tanks abreast, followed at a 200-yard 
interval by infantry accompanied by 
light tanks. The interval was designed 
to protect the infantry from enemy 
artillery fire, which most likely would be 
aimed at the medium tanks leading the 
attack. On the other hand, the 200-yard 
interval would keep the infantry close 
enough to the armor to prevent by- 
passed enemy groups from attacking 
the tanks from the rear. ^ 

The Attack Begins 

The weather on the 23d seemed to 
favor the American ground operations. 
Throughout the day a persistent haze, 
combined with an Allied smoke screen, 
would so limit observation from the 
hills overlooking the beachhead that 
German artillery would prove to be 
generally ineffective. The few German 
guns disclosing their presence were 
soon silenced by concentrations fired by 
the 27th Field Aitillen Battalion. That 
battalion also helped Harmon's tanks to 
maintain their course over the haze- 
shrouded terrain by firing at 20-minute 
intervals three rounds of red smoke 
aimed at a point a little over a mile 
beyond the front and in the center of 
the division sector. The remaining two 



Mst Armd Div FO 10, 19 May 44, and CCA and »Ibid. 

CCB FO's of same date. ^Ibid. 



THE FIRST DAY 



123 



battalions of division artillery also 
placed supporting fires 1,300 yards 
ahead of the assault elements. As pre- 
determined lines were reached, the ar- 
tillery shifted its fires forward at the 
request of the assault commander. '" 

The British diversionary attacks on 
the 1st Armored Division's left helped 
cover the noise of Harmon's tanks as 
they began moving toward their line of 
departure shortly after midnight. Be- 
ginning at 0430 in CCA's sector, two 
engineer guides led four tanks, each 
towing a 400-foot Snake into the two 
gaps prepared earlier through an 
American mine field along the line of 
departure. For over an hour engineers 
toiled in the darkness within the narrow 
confines of the gaps to connect the 
unwieldy lengths of pipe. Thirty minutes 
before H-hour (set for 0630) Daniel's 
tanks began pushing the Snakes 
through the gaps into their final posi- 
tions. Several times enemy fire struck 
dangerously close to both tanks and 
Snakes, but the Snakes failed to deto- 
nate. By H-hour they were in place in 
the enemy mine fields. 

As CCA's tanks approached the line 
of departure, commanders of the lead- 
ing tanks ordered their machine gun- 
ners to detonate the Snakes. Shattering 
explosions followed, blasting wide paths 
through the mine fields. Other tanks 
moved through to push additional 
Snakes into position. As the smoke and 
dust from the second detonations 
drifted through the air, Colonel Dan- 
iel's tanks advanced through two gaps 



'"Unless otherwise noted, the following narrative 
is based on the official records of the 1st Armored 
Division and subordinate units and on combat 
interviews and small unit action reports prepared 
by Sidney T. Mathews. 



25 feet wide and extending over 700 
feet into the German defenses. 

In the left half of CCA's sector two 
medium tank companies of the 3d 
Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment, ad- 
vanced along both sides of the Bove 
Canal, one of several canals paralleling 
the axis of advance. Following each 
company in close support came a pla- 
toon of tank destroyers and engineers. 

Company H led the 3d Battalion 
attack along the left side of the canal. 
In the van was a platoon of five tanks, 
with three volunteers from the 135th 
Infantry crouching atop each. Moving 
swiftly toward a slight rise about a 
quarter of a mile beyond the line of 
departure, the platoon opened fire on 
the first of two enemy strongpoints. 
Apparently still stunned by the detona- 
tion of the Snakes and prevented by 
tank fire from manning their guns, 
fifteen surviving enemy soldiers quickly 
surrendered as the tank-riding infantry- 
men leaped to the ground and 
swarmed over their position. While the 
tanks moved on, the infantiymen hur- 
ried their prisoners to the rear along 
the shelter of the Bove Canal's steep 
banks. To the right of the canal, tanks 
from Company I employed similar tac- 
tics to destroy a second enemy strong- 
point. 

With two strongpoints out of the 
way, CCA's tanks rolled on toward the 
railroad embankment about a mile 
away. Two hundred yards behind them 
came the 135th Infantry's 1st Armored 
Regiment's light tanks. 

As CCA's mediums penetrated 
deeper into the German defenses, indi- 
vidual enemy infantrymen, armed with 
the bazooka-like Panzerfaust, vainly at- 
tacked the leading vehicles. A tactical 



1L>4 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



formation developed by the armored 
dixision during the North African cam- 
paign was largely responsible for the 
enemv's failure. The tanks were eche- 
loned so that only the lead tank was 
exposed to enemy fire. As soon as a 
German soldier fired a Panzerfaust, all 
of the tanks in the formation shot at 
the suspected position. Only a few of 
these encounters were needed to con- 
vince most German tank fighters to 
withhold their fire rather than risk 
certain death. In the few instances 
when a Panzerfaust found its target, the 
rockets exploded harmlessly against 
sandbags bracketed with steel rods to 
the front and sides of the hulls. 

On the right of the Bove Canal, 
Company Ts medium tanks pushed 
ahead of the rest of the battalion. 
Assisted by the accompanying tank de- 
stroyers and fire from the supporting 
artillery battalion, the tanks silenced 
several antitank guns positioned in the 
shadow of the railroad embankment. 
Bv 1100 the company was within 200 
yards of the railroad, the first objective. 

As the company neared the railroad, 
the accompanying for^vard artillery ob- 
server spotted eight enemy tanks a 
thousand yards to the north, presum- 
ably assembling for a counterattack. 
Two artillery' battalions, responding to 
his call with heavy concentrations, set 
two tanks afire and prompted the oth- 
ers to withdraw. The threat removed, 
Company I's tanks crossed the remain- 
ing 200 yards and at noon gained the 
railroad. Quite unexpectedly, the tank- 
ers found no mines, nor did they 
experience any difficulty in negotiating 
the embankment's steep sides; more- 
over, antitank fire beyond the railroad 
was feebler than anticipated. By 1300 



all of the company's tanks, followed by 
the 1st Battalion, 135th Infantn, had 
crossed the railroad and occupied high 
ground 500 yards to the north. *' 

Left of the Bove Canal mines pre- 
vented Company H from matching 
Company Ls progress. After advancing 
about a thousand yards beyond the line 
of departure. Company H ran into an 
unsuspected enemy mine field. Four 
tanks were immediately disabled and a 
fifth returned to the rear with wounded 
crewmen. Continuing forward, the 
135th Infantry's 2d Battalion, with its 
bodyguard of light tanks, cut around 
the disabled medium tanks and crossed 
the mine fields, the light tanks inexplic- 
ably failing to set off explosions. Be- 
yond the mine field, infantrv and tanks 
confronted an enemy strongpoint. Sup- 
ported by direct fire from the light 
tanks, infantiymen of Company E as- 
saulted it with grenades and bayonets. 
With hands held high, twentv enemy 
soldiers poured from the position. 

No sooner were those prisoners hus- 
tled to the rear than the tank-infantry 
force ran into another belt of antiper- 
sonnel and antitank mines. While en- 
emy small arms and mortar fire from 
somewhere to the front picked at the 
area, an engineer detachment hurried 
forward to clear a path. The field 
having been gapped by 1130, the infan- 
try and light tanks resumed their ad- 
vance to within 400 yards of the rail- 
road. Concerned about likely enemy 
strength beyond the railroad, the infan- 



"Technical Sgt. Ernest H. Dervishian and Staff 
Sgt. George J. Hall of the attached 135th Infantry 
(34th Division) won the Medal of Honor during the 
fighting on the 23d for "conspicuous gallantrv and 
intrepiciitv at risk of life above and beyond the call 
of duty." 



THE FIRST DAY 



25 



try commander halted his men to await 
arrival of the medium tanks that were 
still tning to extricate themselves from 
the first mine field. 

By early afternoon both wings of 
Colonel Daniel's CCA were either 
within striking distance of the railroad 
or had alread\' crossed it and occupied 
a k)\\ ridge 500 yards to the north. At 
that point General Harmon directed 
Daniel to move the 135th Infanti7's 2d 
Battalion up to the railroad on the 
division's left, where the battalion was to 
tie in with the 45th Division to cover 
the 1st Armored Division's left flank 
while the main body of CCA crossed 
the railroad. 

While the armored regiinent's Com- 
panies H and I completed their cross- 
ings of the railroad and headed toward 
the ridge beyond, supporting artilleiy 
either kept the enemy at arm's length 
or cowering under cover. In the course 
of the move. Company H encountered 
only scattered resistance and quickly 
moved onto its portion of the objective, 
but on the right, it was Company I's 
turn to fight. The tanks had to knock 
out several well-emplaced antitank guns 
before gaining the ridge. As the two 
infantry battalions and their accom- 
panying light tanks followed to join the 
mediums on the high ground for the 
night, division artillery dispersed an 
enemy force detected assembling in a 
draw a mile north of the railroad. 

General Harmon's left wing under 
Colonel Daniel's command had, by 
nightfall, gained its objectives with rela- 
tively few losses, but Allen's CCB, on 
the right, had fared less well. Antitank 
mines were the cause. Nowhere along 
the VI Corps front on that first day did 
mines take a greater toll than in CCB's 



sector. The reason was that (ieneral 
Allen had decided to hold his Snakes in 
reserve; he depended instead upon 
infantrymen and engineers from the 
34th Division to clear gaps through 
known or suspected mine fields just 
beyond the line of departure. 

Assigned a sector flanked on the left 
by the Mole Canal and on the right by 
the Femminamorta Canal and divided 
by a third, the Santa Maria Canal, CCB 
was to breach the German defenses 
south of the railroad and seize part of 
the low ridge a quarter of a mile 
beyond. To inake the assault, Lt. Col. 
James S. Simmerman's 2d Battalion, 
13th Armored Regiment, began to 
move from its asserribly area shortly 
before H-hour. With Company D on 
the left of the Santa Maria Canal and 
Company F on the right, the battalion 
advanced along two unimproved roads 
toward the line of departure. As in 
CCA, b)ehind the medium tank compa- 
nies came the infantiy, accompanied by 
light tanks. Following Company D was 
the 6th Armored Regiment's 3d Battal- 
ion accompanied by an attached pla- 
toon of light tanks; behind Company F 
came the same regiment's 1st Battalion, 
also with a platoon of light tanks. 

Colonel Simmerman's battalion 
crossed the line of departure at the 
appointed time, but within half an hour 
exploding antitank mines disabled ten 
medium tanks — three from one com- 
pany and seven from the other. The 
tanks had apparently run into an un- 
charted antitank mine field hastily laid 
by U.S. troops sometime during the 
hectic winter defense of the beachhead. 
Although the 34th Division's mine- 
clearing detachments had labored 
through the night, often under harass- 



I2() 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



ing fire, to clear paths through the 
mine fields, they had missed this one. 

Under considerable pressure to keep 
the attack moving. Colonel Simmerman 
decided not to delav until mine-clearing 
detachments could come forward to 
complete their job, nor did he call for 
Snakes. Instead, in the hope that the 
mine field was not extensive and that 
the first explosions would be the last, he 
told the other tank commanders to 
keep moving by maneuvering as closely 
as possible around the disabled vehicles. 
His hope was short-lived. As the second 
wave of tanks attempted to proceed 
they too fell victim to mines. Simmer- 
man at that point had no choice but to 
delay until mine-clearing detachments 
could come forward. 

When news of Simmerman's difficul- 
ties reached General Allen, the CCB 
commander chose to believe, as had 
Simmerman at first, that the tanks had 
encountered no extensive mine field 
but only a few scattered mines. Anxious 
to hold onto his Snakes for possible use 
later, he authorized sending them for- 
ward only after engineers had deter- 
mined that the tanks had in fact come 
on an extensive mine field. It was 0915, 
almost three hours after the start of the 
attack, before the medium tanks began 
the arduous task of towing the un- 
wieldly lengths of steel pipe forward 
and then pushing them into position. 

Meanwhile, the two infantiy battal- 
ions had closed up behind the crippled 
tanks. In hope of maintaining the mo- 
mentum of the attack, the armored 
infantrymen following Company D by- 
passed the tanks and advanced to 
within a thousand yards of the railroad 
before fire from two enemy strong- 



points forced a halt. The battalion 
commander, Lt. Col. Robert R. Linville, 
tried to get tank destroyers and towed 
57-mm. antitank guns forward to sup- 
port an assault on the strongpoints. But 
these were as vulnerable to antitank 
mines as were medium tanks. 

Following Company F on the right, 
Lt. Col. Lyle S. Deffenbaugh's infantrv- 
men (1st Battalion, 6th Armored Infan- 
try Regiment) also passed through the 
antitank mine field only to run into an 
antipersonnel mine field backed by an 
enemy strongpoint that forced a halt 
after an advance of only 500 yards. 
There the infantrymen remained until 
the engineers cleared a path through 
the antitank mine field and enabled the 
surviving medium tanks of Company F 
to come forward. First silencing a nest 
of enemy antitank guns that opened 
fire from a draw to the right front. 
Company F's tanks churned through 
the antipersonnel mine field, and the 
infantiy followed safely in their tracks. 
Together tanks and infantn- eliminated 
the enemy strongpoint. With the me- 
dium tanks again leading, the attackers 
moved a few hundred vards closer to 
the railroad, only to be stopped once 
again by a mine field 1,200 yards short 
of their objective. 

By midday CCB's left wing was 
within a quarter of a mile of the 
railroad, but the right still had more 
than half a mile to go. The gains had 
cost 23 medium tanks and seven tank 
destroyers. Most were recoverable, \et 
they were nevertheless lost to the attack. 
While the crews of eight tank reco\er) 
vehicles toiled through the afternoon 
and far into the night to move the 
disabled tanks to the rear for repair, 
the division commander (General Har- 



THE FIRST DAY 



27 



mon) replaced CCB's losses with 
twenty-three tanks from his resei-ve. 

Time was running short it CCB was 
to reach the railroad before dark, as 
Harmon had insisted. Although Gen- 
eral Allen gave his approval to using 
the Snakes if necessary to get the attack 
moving, so narrow and circuitous were 
the paths cleared through the first mine 
field that the tank crewmen almost 
despaired of getting through with the 
long, unwieldy steel pipes. 

As that slow process went on, the 
commander of Company F, Capt. John 
Elliott, impatient at the delays, decided 
to try to bypass the second mine field 
that blocked his tanks on the right wing 
of CCB's attack. Sideslipping 500 yards 
to the northeast, the company's tanks, 
followed by infantry, by midafternoon 
finally located the field's eastern limits, 
but, before they could proceed, a con- 
cealed German antitank gun knocked 
out the lead tank, while enemy artillery 
fire forced the American infantrymen 
to cover. Only after Captain Elliott had 
sent a platoon to the rear of the 
troublesome antitank gun to silence it 
were tanks and infantry able to con- 
tinue. They reached the railroad as 
darkness was settling over the beach- 
head. While the tanks took cover for 
the night south of the railroad, the 
armored infantrymen crossed the rail- 
road embankment and outposted the 
high ground a few hundred yards 
beyond. 

Colonel Linville's infantrymen (3d 
Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry) on 
CCB's left wing meanwhile had been 
unable to overcome the two enemy 
strongjx)ints south of the railroad. Not 
until late afternoon, when tank destroy- 
ers, towed antitank guns, and the pla- 



toon of light tanks that had originally 
accompanied the infantry came for- 
ward, did the attack on the positions 
begin to make headway. The strong- 
point finally fell to a frontal assault 
launched by two infantry companies, 
assisted by another enveloping from the 
left. Only then, as nightfall came, was 
the infantrv able to cross the railroad 
and outpost the ridge 500 yards to the 
north. 

POr all the day's mishaps, the tanks 
and infantry of the 1st Armored Divi- 
sion's two combat commands by night- 
fall had fought their way across the 
railroad to their first objective, the low 
ridge to the north. During the night 
both commands consolidated their posi- 
tions while self-propelled supporting ar- 
tillery displaced forward. 

Not since the fighting for Monte 
Trocchio during January of 1944 had 
the division incurred so many casualties 
in one day. Of the total of 173 casual- 
ties, 35 had been killed, 137 ^^ounded, 
and 1 was missing in action. '- 

From the German viewpoint, the 1st 
Armored Division's penetration had oc- 
curred within the sector of the LXXVI 
Panzer Corps almost adjacent to the 
boundary with the / Parachute Corps. 
The armored attack pierced the main 
line of resistance on the right wing and 
center of the 362d Infantry Division to a 
depth of almost a mile. (As in several 
cases on the southern front when the 
Allied offensive had opened there, the 
beachhead offensive caught the com- 



'-9th MRU, Fifth Annv Battle Casualties, 10 Jun 
45. During the fighting on the 23d, 2d Lt. Thomas 
W. Fouler of the 1st Armored Division performed 
with "conspicuous gallantrv and intrepidity at risk 
of lite above and bevond the call of dutv," for 
which he was subsequently awarded the Medal of 
Honor. 



128 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



mander of the 362d Division away from 
his post, on leave in (iermanv, visiting a 
son badJN wounded in Russia.)'^ CCA's 
thrust had pushed back two under- 
strength battalions of the 956th Infantry 
Rforiment, while CCB's had done the 
same to the 954th Infantry. On the 362d 
Diimons left wing south of Cisterna the 
third regiment, the 955th Infantry, the 
only one with a battalion in reserve, 
had in the meantime achieved greater 
success in facing the attack of the U.S. 
3d Infantiy Division. 

Th^" Attack on Cisterna 

In striving to take the rubble-strewn 
strongpoint of Cisterna — vital to Gen- 
eral Truscott's plans since the main 
roads leading to Velletri, Cori, and 
Valmontone passed through the town — 
General O'Daniel's 3d Division was to 
fix the defenders of Cisterna frontally 
with one regiment while the other two 
enveloped the objective from the right 
and left, after which the center regi- 
ment was to penetrate the town. Once 
Cisterna was in hand, the division was 
to continue to Cori, there to anchor the 
VI Corps" right flank on the high 
ground behind the village, then turn 
north toward Highway 6 and Valmon- 
tone. General Frederick's Canadian- 
American 1st Special Service Force was 
to operate along the division's right 
flank. 

In addition to the 362d Divi.sioti'^ left 
regiment, located west of the main 
highwav into Cisterna from the south- 
west, the 3d Division faced the right 
wing of the 71 5th Division, reinforced by 
a panzer grenadier regiment. Since that 
division held the line from the same 



road all the way around the eastern arc 
of the beachhead to the coast, its regi- 
ments were thinly spread. General 
O' Daniel's men faced four enemy bat- 
talions on line, with approximately 
three in reserve. 

Just as mines seriously deterred the 
1st Armored Division's attack, so they 
also posed a major hazard for the 3d 
Division. Only on the division's right 
wing, where the 15th Infantrv under 
Col. Richard G. Thomas sought to 
envelop Cisterna from the southeast, 
would mines cause no appreciable de- 
lay.'^ 

In making a wheeling maneuver to 
get behind Cisterna, Colonel Thomas 
recognized that his regiment would be 
turning away from General Fredericks 
1st Special Service Force, on the 15th 
Infantry's right flank, and thus creating 
a gap between the two forces. To co\er 
that gap Thomas formed a special task 
force around Companv A, which he 
drew from his regimental reser\e. Com- 
manded by Major Michael Paulick, the 
task force included a platoon each of 
medium and light tanks from the 751st 
Tank Battalion and a section from the 
601st Tank Destroyer Battalion. The 
force also included the regimental battle 
patrol, a platoon of machine guns, a 
section of mortars, a platoon from the 
cannon company, and a squad of engi- 
neers. Moving close along the right 
flank of the 2d Battalion, which was to 
constitute the regiment's right wing. 
Paulick's task force was to cross the 
Cisterna Canal and dri\e northeastward 



'^MS # O064 (Kesselring). 



'^Unless otherwise noted the tactical narrative is 
based upon official records of the 3d Division and 
its subordinate units, plus combat interviews and 
small unit action narratives prepared bv Sidnev T. 
Mathews of the Fifth Armv Historical Section. 



THE FIRST DAY 



29 



to cut Highway 7, in the process taking 
several road junctions and clearing the 
Boschctta di Mosca woods, the latter 
less than a mile short of Highway 7. 

Striking swiftly at H-hour (0630) 
Conipan) A with fire support from the 
attached tanks and tank destroyers 
(]uicklv envek)ped and seized a bridge 
over the Cisterna Canal, but every 
attempt to advance beyond the bridge 
brought dovN n a hail of small arms fire 
from a group ot houses some 600 
yards away along a road leading from 
the hamlet of Borgo Podgora into 
Cisterna. The company commander 
tried to set up a base of fire with one 
platoon and send a second to outflank 
the enemy position, but the German 
fire was too intense. When the attached 
tanks and tank destroyers tried to move 
against the position, accurate fire from 
well-sited antitank guns knocked out 
two tanks and one tank destrover. 

At that point Major Paulick sought to 
break the impasse by sending his three 
surviving tanks on a wide flanking 
maneuver into the 1st Special Service 
Force's zone on the right. The neces- 
sary permission obtained, the tanks 
turned back to cross the Cisterna Canal 
until thev were well to the rear of the 
enemy-held houses. Firing point-blank 
at the houses, the tanks enabled a 
platoon of Company A to attack the 
position from the front. Unable to 
withstand the fire, the Germans with- 
drew as the infantry closed in. That 
resistance broken, the main bodv of 
Task Force Paulick moved on with little 
difficulty into the Boschetta di Mosca, 
there to dig in for the night within half 
a mile of Highway 7 southeast ot 
C-islenia. 

After dark the regimental battle pa- 



trol sent three men to a road junction 
200 yards beyond the woods. The men 
reached the junction just in time to 
observe a column of about sixty Ger- 
man soldiers apparently on their way to 
establish a strongpoint in the vicinity of 
the woods. Undetected, the three men 
quickly withdrew to the main body of 
the battle patrol and set up an ambush. 
When the German column came within 
range, the entire battle patrol opened 
fire, killing 20 and capturing 37. 

Two of the 15th Infantiy's battalions 
meanwhile had launched the regiment's 
main attack between the location of 
Task Force Paulick and Cisterna, with 
the 2d Battalion on the right making 
steady progress from the start. While 
the infantrymen advanced toward the 
first objective, a wooden area about half 
a mile beyond the line of departure, the 
attached platoon of medium tanks en- 
countered no antitank mines; from the 
first the infantry had effective close-in 
fire support. 

As the troops neared the woods, the 
battalion commander, in a maneuver 
designed to draw fire and force the 
enemy to disclose his positions, sent 
Company F across an open field 500 
yards east of the woods. At the same 
time, Company E, accompanied bv the 
tank platoon, made the main assault 
directly against the woods. At that point 
the tanks did run into mines, but so 
close to the woods that thev were still 
able to support the infantn by fire. 

With ammunition running short and 
anxious to take advantage of the sup- 
porting tank fire's keeping the enemy 
under cover. Company E's commander 
ordered his men to fix bavonets and 
charge. In one of the few verified 
bayonet assaults by American troops 



30 



GASSING TO THE ALPS 



during World War II, the men dashed 
into the woods and swarmed over the 
German positions. They killed 15 of the 
enemv and captured 80, while an un- 
determined nimiber broke from the 
far side of the woods and fled. Gom- 
pan\ F, meanwhile, crossed the open 
field east of the woods to join Gompany 
E in rounding up enemy stragglers. 

The first objective taken, the battalion 
commander called for an artillery con- 
centration on the area between the 
woods and the highway and committed 
his reserve, Gompany G, with orders to 
pass north of the woods and capture a 
road junction 500 yards away on the 
Gisterna-Borgo Podgora road. Meeting 
only light resistance, Gompany G 
reached the junction at 1800 and then 
turned east to the Gisterna Ganal, there 
to capture more than a hundred Ger- 
mans who had taken refuge from artil- 
lery fire in deep dugouts along the side 
of the canal. Since those shelters were 
useless as fighting positions, the Ger- 
mans had little choice when U.S. infan- 
trymen suddenly appeared but to sur- 
render. 

Although Golonel Thomas had in- 
tended both his assault battalions to cut 
Highway 7 southeast of Gisterna before 
dark, the opening moves of the 2d 
Battalion had taken too much time, and 
a lapse in communications between the 
battalion and regimental headquarters 
imposed a further delay. The battalion 
at last headed for the highway in late 
afternoon, but progress was so slow that 
darkness found the men still short of 
that objective. 

On the 15th Infantry's left wing, the 
3d Battalion, in the meantime, had 
crossed the line of departure in a 
column of companies, with Gompany L 



leading and taking advantage of the 
cover of a shallow ditch abcjut half a 
mile east of the American-held settle- 
ment of Isola Bella. The company's 
objective was a group of houses around 
which the Germans had developed a 
formidable strongpoint southwest of a 
road junction 700 yards away. As the 
men emerged from the ditch, a blast of 
small arms and mortar fire from the 
strongpoint forced them back. Only 
after a fire fight lasting several hours 
and with supporting fire from tank 
destroyers did Gompany L capture the 
position, and then but 40 effectives 
remained of an original strength of 1 80 
men. Other enemy positions still 
blocked the way, and Gompan\ L was 
too depleted to continue. 

At noon the battalion commander 
relieved Gompany L with what many in 
the 3d Division hoped would be a 
decisive innovation in infantry combat — 
a regimental "battle sled team" towed 
by a platoon of medium tanks. The 
battle sled was General O'Daniel's idea, 
one in which he took special pride. It 
was an open-topped narrow steel tube 
mounted on flat runners and wide 
enough to carry one infantnman in a 
prone position. Serving as protection 
against shell fragments and small arms 
fire, the steel tubes were to transport 
infantrymen through enemy fire in 
what O'Daniel looked on as portable 
foxholes. Early in May, a battle sled 
team of sixty men had been organized 
in each of the division's three regi- 
ments.'^ 

With each of five tanks towing twehe 



'^Donald G. Taggert. cd.. History of the Third 
hifantry Division in World War II (Washington: 
Infantry Journal Press, 1947), p. 148. 



THE FIRST DAY 



13 




IsoLA Bella. Cistema and Alban hills in background. 



battle sleds, the 3d Battalion, with Com- 
panies I and K following, renewed its 
attack in early afternoon. The tanks 
had advanced only a short distance 
when they came upon a drainage ditch 
too wide and too deep to negotiate. 
The men in the battle sleds had to 
dismount and continue the attack on 
fool. Thus ended the first and, as it 
turned out, sole test of the division 
commanders proud innovation. The 
medium tanks that had towed the sleds 
nevertheless continued to support the 
infantrymen by fire. Progress was 
steady, yet it took time to root the 
enemy from one strongpoint after an- 



other. Consequently, as darkness fell 
the 3d Battalion, like the 2d, was still 
well short of cutting Highwav 7 south- 
east of Cisterna. 

Whereas mines had caused the 15th 
Infantry, on the 3d Division's right 
wing, little trouble, they were much 
more of an obstacle in the center, 
where the 7th Infantry, under Col. 
Wiley H. Omohundro, attacked. Not 
decisi\'e, the mines ne\'ertheless ser\ed 
to deny the infantiy companies much 
of their needed tank support in front 
of Cisterna in what General O'Daniel 
expected would be the hardest fighting 
on his division's front. 



:V2 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




5 
1^ 





'^^«*^ 




General ODaniel's Battle Sleds 



In direct defense of the major 
stronghold of Cisterna, the Germans 
had constructed their most formidable 
defenses, controlled from a regimental 
command post located in a wine cellar 
deep underneath a large building in the 
center of the town. Other cellars and 
numerous tunnels honeycombed the 
ground beneath the town, sheltering its 
garrison from the 3d Division's prepa- 
ratory artillerv fire and aerial bombard- 
ment. When those fires ceased, the 
Germans quickly emerged to man fir- 
ing positions from which they could 
contest every foot of ground. 

The 7th Infantry commander, Colo- 



nel Omohundro, was to send two bat- 
talions abreast in a northeasterly direc- 
tion along the axis of the Isola Bella- 
Cisterna road to break through the 
enemv defenses south of Cisterna and 
draw up to the town. That accom- 
plished, Omohundro, on division order, 
was to send his reserve battalion to take 
the settlement of La Villa, on the 
railroad a mile northwest of Cisterna, 
and then seize a ridge just east of La 
Villa, cut Highway 7 in the vicinity of 
the Cisterna cemetery, and occupy a 
portion of the X-Y phase line. The 
remainder of the regiment was. on 
division order, to clear the Germans 



THE FIRST DAY 



33 



from the rubble of Cisterna. A com- 
pany each from the 751st Tank Battal- 
ion and the 60 1st Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion, as well as a battery from the 
lOth Field Artilierv Battalion (l()5-mm. 
howitzers, towed), were to be in direct 
support of the regiment throughout. 

No sooner had leading troops of the 
7th Infantry's 3d Battalion ciossed their 
line of departure (about three miles 
southwest of Cisterna) at 0630 than 
automatic weapons fire from two posi- 
tions about half a mile northeast of 
Isola Bella drove them to cover. Two 
and a halt hours alter the attack began 
the two advance companies were still, in 
the words of Omohundro's S-3, 
"pinned down." To that report General 
O'Daniel growled, "We have no such 
words in our vocabulary now." The 
division commander added threaten- 
ingly in words meant moie for Omo- 
hundro than his harried S-3, "You're 
supposed to be at the railroad track 
by noon. You'll get a bonus if you 
do, something else if vou don't." '^ 
What Omohundro's infantrymen most 
needed at that point was close-in fire 
support, but an uncleared antitank 
mine field kept the attached medium 
tank platoon and a platoon of tank 
destroyers too far away to have effect. 

To get the attack inoving again, a 
slow, painstaking, and costly infantry 
advance in the face of enemv fire 
seemed the only way. Taking advantage 
of every scrap of cover and conceal- 
ment, especially nimierous drainage 
ditches, the 3d Battalion, with (Company 
I. leading, laboriously started to move. It 
took the men three hours to advance 
one mile to within grenade-throwing 



"id Div G-3 Jnl, 230925B May 44. 



range of the enemy strongpoint that 
had held up the attack all morning. 
Unable or unwilling to resist once (com- 
pany L got that close, sixteen surviving 
Germans laised their hands in surren- 
der. Their capitulation enabled (^lom- 
pany L to move (juickly onto its first 
objective, the Colle Monaco, a low rise 
about a (|uarter of a mile noitheast of 
Isola Bella, while Company I in the 
meanUme slipped around to the left to 
seize a nose of adjacent high ground 
500 yards away. Moving too far to the 
west. Company I encountered a storm 
of enemy fire that forced the men to 
take such coxer as they could find. The 
battalion commander committed Com- 
pany K on Company I's right, but that 
move proved of little help after enemy 
fire killed first the company com- 
mandei and then his executive officer. 
By midafternoon, the 3d Battalion had 
penetrated the German position to a 
depth of almt^st a mile, but, in doing so, 
had incurred such hea\y casualties that 
the momentum of its attack was lost. 

On the 7th Infantry's right wing, the 
2d Battalion had even less to show in its 
advance astride the Isola Bella-Cisterna 
road. Scheduled to jump off at H-hour, 
the battalion had to delay for twenty 
minutes t)ecause of enemy artillery fire. 
The assault companies, supported b) a 
platoon of medium tanks, had ad- 
vanced only 200 yards beyond the 
shelter of a drainage ditch that marked 
the line of departure before small arms 
fire from two strong points approxi- 
mate!) 600 yards away drove the men 
to cover. To get the attack moving 
again, tanks came fonvard to deal with 
those positions, but the maneuver col- 
lapsed when antitank mines disabled all 
of the tanks. Fhe Company E com- 



34 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



niander then decided to envelop one of 
the strongpoints by sending an infantry 
platoon on a wide swing to the west. 
Ad\ancing slowh in a)\er afforded by 
a drainage ditch, the platoon, after two 
hours of crawling through the ditch, 
approached to within striking distance 
of the enemv. Assaulting the first 
strongpoint with rifle fire and grenades, 
the men cjuickh o\erran and destroyed 
it, but the effort lett the platoon with 
but eighteen men. 

Meanwhile, Company F, fighting east 
of the Isola Bella-Cisterna road, had a 
much easier experience. Attacking the 
other strongpoint, Company F had the 
support of an attached platoon of tank 
destrovers that somehow experienced 
no difficulty with mines. In only forty 
minutes. Company F overcame the en- 
em\ position. 

Regi'ouping his men, the 2d Battalion 
commander called for more tanks to 
replace those lost earlier to mines, but 
the regiment had none to spare, with- 
out tank support, no recourse remained 
but to resume the attack with the 
firepower at hand, this time toward the 
Colle Maraccio, a group of low hills 
about 1,300 yards north of the Colle 
Monaco. The two assault companies 
had advanced a quarter of a mile when 
heavy automatic weapons fire forced 
another halt. 

When word of the 7th Infantry's 
continuing difficulties reached the divi- 
sion commander, he authorized addi- 
tional artillery support and a smoke 
screen behind which Omohundro's reg- 
iment was to tiy again before dark to 
break the impasse. While his regiment 
regrouped. Colonel Omohundro moved 
his reserve battalion into a blocking 
{x^sition east of Isola Bella. 



The new drive was to begin at 1645 
behind a 15-minute preparation fired 
by four battalions of artillery. As the 
fire lifted, the 2d Battalion began to 
advance. Apparently demoralized by 
losses during the morning action, the 
adjacent 3d Battalion failed to move. 

With two companies abreast, the 2d 
Battalion advanced along bc^th sides of 
the Isola Bella road. Although antitank 
mines again prevented two surviving 
tanks and a platoon oi tank destroyers 
from accompanying the infantry, when 
two enemy tanks suddenly appeared 
several hundred yards to the front, the 
American armor was close enough to 
bring the enemy vehicles under fire. 
One German tank burst into flame and 
the other withdrew. That threat re- 
moved, the 2d Battalion continued to 
advance, although the commander was 
concerned that unless the 3d Battalion 
soon drew abreast, his leading compa- 
nies might be cut off B\ 2300 the lead 
company was within 600 yards of Cis- 
terna. 

The 3d Battalion in the meantime 
remained throughout the afternoon on 
the Colle Monaco. At last convinced 
that the commander was no longer able 
to control either himself or his unit, the 
executive officer, Maj. Lloyd B. Ram- 
sey, assumed command and made plans 
for a two-company attack to start 
shortly after nightfall at 2100. When 
the armored support Ramsev recjuested 
failed to appear, he postponed the 
attack to 2130, but before that hour 
arrived, enemy tanks made a second 
appearance. Leading a small infantry 
force, several German tanks ap- 
proached to within 250 \ards of Ram- 
sey's right front. Although the tanks 
failed to attack, their presence was 



THE FIRST DAY 



.S5 



enough to prompt Ramsey to cancel his 
plans and go on the defensive for the 
night while awaiting reinforcement b\ 
the regiment's reserve battalion. By the 
end of the first dav, only the 2d 
Battalion of Omohundro's 7th hifantry 
had made any significant penetration of 
the enemy's defense, that to within 600 
\ards of Cisterna. Antitank mine fields 
had severely limited the close-in fire 
support so desperately needed by the 
infantry in the first hours if the mo- 
mentum of the attack was to be main- 
tained. Moieover, the dav's gains had 
been as costly as they were disappoint- 
ing. Of the regiment's more than 200 
casualties, 54 men had been killed. 

As with the 7th Infantry, antitank 
mines also affected progress of the 30th 
Infantrv, constituting the 3d Division's 
left wing and main effort alongside the 
1st Armored Division. This was the 
regiment comprising the left pincer of 
General O'Daniel's enveloping maneu- 
ver to isolate Cisterna. The regiment 
was first to cut the railroad, then the 
highway to the northwest of the town, 
and finally to move on Cori along with 
the 15th Infantry on the right. The 
sector assigned extended at the line of 
departure for 2,500 yards astride the 
Femminamorta Canal but narrowed to 
about 800 yards at the railroad, a little 
over a mile away. 

Like Colonel Omohundro on his 
right, the regimental commander, Col. 
Lionel C. McGarr, also planned to 
attack with two battalions abreast. In 
direct support of each was a platoon of 
the 751st Tank Battalion. The 30th 
Infantry was further strengthened by 
attachment of a company from the 
601st Tank Destroyer Battalion, whose 
vehicles were to be emploved as self- 



projx^lled assault guns. 

Believing the enemy's defenses to be 
weakest opjjosite his left wing. Colonel 
McGarr sought to exploit this situation 
bv choosing his most expeiienced com- 
mander, Lt. Col. Woodrow W. Strom- 
bei-g of the 2d Battalion, to lead the 
effort there. Because the battalion's sec- 
tor was (juite narrow, McGarr told 
Stromberg to attack in a column of 
companies, leapfrogging them periodi- 
calh to keep the fieshest foiward. 

On the right, where the sector was 
much broader and the defenses appar- 
enth stronger, McGarr ordered the 3d 
Battalion to attack w ith three companies 
abreast and attached a company- from 
the 1st Battalion as a reseive. He also 
placed all of the attached tank destrov- 
ers and the regimental cannon com- 
pany of 105-mm. howitzers in direct 
support. 

At 0630 Company G led Stromberg's 
2d Battalion in a column of companies 
west of the Femminamorta Canal and 
advanced toward Hill 77, about 1.200 
yards northwest of Ponte Rotto, an 
enemv-held settlement at a load junc- 
tion and bridge oxer the canal a mile 
and a half southwest of Cisterna. E\'en 
before the company crossed the line of 
departure, automatic weapons fire, 
punctuated with shelling by mortars 
and artillery, forced the men to take 
cover in a nearb\ drainage ditch. At the 
same time, mines halted the tanks too 
far from the action to be of much 
assistance. 

Since the drainage ditch led in the 
direction Company G wanted to go, it 
provided a confined though adecjuate 
co\ered approach and enabled the in- 
fantrymen to reach and overrun Hill 
77. Then thev moxed 300 vards bexond 



13(1 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



to the t(H)t of Hill 81, about 600 yards 
be\ond the line of departure. Since that 
pui Conipain G almost halfwav to the 
railroad. Colonel Stromberg sent Com- 
pany E to seize the hill. 

That accomplished with reasonable 
facililN, Stromberg directed Company F 
to destroN a troublesome strongpoint on 
a knoll just east of Hill 81. Bv 0900, less 
than three hours after the attack began, 
that mission too was accomplished. Yet 
for all the relative ease of the advance. 
Colonel Stromberg hesitated to con- 
tinue to the railroad without first deal- 
ing with several bypassed pockets of 
resistance. That both flanks were ex- 
p)osed also made him wary of continu- 
ing. It took much of the rest of the dav 
for Company G to clear the ptxjkets of 
resistance, while Companv E, from 
blocking positions on Hills 81 and 77, 
covered the battalion's flanks. As time 
passed. Colonel Stromberg grew ever 
more apprehensive about continuing 
alone to the railroad, particularly when 
reports revealed that Companv G was 
down to 26 men and Company E to 40. 
Only Company F, last in line in the 
battalion column of companies, had 
incurred relatively few casualties and 
was in a condition to continue the 
attack. 

Anxious that the 30th Infantrv se- 
cure its objectives before morning, Gen- 
eral O' Daniel authorized Colonel Mc- 
Garr to commit his reserve battalion to 
exploit the 2d Battalion's limited suc- 
cess.'" With that assurance of support, 
Colonel Stromberg, as darkness settled 
over the battlefield, sent Company F on 
toward the railroad. When the com- 
pany reached a point only a hundred 



'■ VI Corps G-3 Jnl, 231450B May 44. 



\ards from the railroad bridge o\er the 
Femminamorta Canal, intermittent 
small arms fire began to strike the 
column. Unable to locate the enemy 
positions in the darkness, the company 
dug in and settled down for the night. 
Not until daylight came was the reserve 
battalion destined to reach the com- 
pany's position. 

On the 30th Infantrv's right wing, 
the 3d Battalion met little resistance at 
first, but that was before the supjiKirting 
tanks and tank destroyers bogged down 
in the mine fields. From that point 
resistance increased, so that by midaf- 
ternoon the battalion had lost its mo- 
mentum. As night fell the leading com- 
panv, unable to keep pace with Com- 
pany F west of the canal, had reached a 
point only about half a mile north of 
the Ponte Rotto road junction. ShortK 
after dark the troops dug in where they 
were, placed concertina wire and mines 
across the road, and settled down to 
await dawn. 

Thus, although the armored half of 
the VI Corps' attack had made consid- 
erable progress toward seizing the first 
dav's objectives on schedule, the infan- 
trv half (the 3d Di\ision) had lagged. In 
spite of abundant artiller\ suppcirt, fre- 
quent harassment of the enemy's rear 
throughout the da\ by tactical aiicraft, 
and, most importanth, the element of 
surprise that Truscott had succeeded in 
maintaining until the offensive began, a 
well dug-in enemy had responded to 
the 3d Division's attack with considera- 
ble small arms fire and had held the 
infantrymen to relativelv modest gains. 
Some indication of the effectiveness of 
the enemy's defensive fires could be 
seen in the high losses incurred bv the 
division on the first dav. Of a total of 



THE FIRST DAY 



37 



1,626 casualties, 107 were killed in 
action, 642 wounded, 812 missing, and 
65 captured. '" 

Action on the Corps' Flanks 

Even as the 1st Armored and 3d 
Infantry Divisions attacked in their sec- 
tors, General Eagles' 45th Division had 
launched a limited objective attack to 
stabilize the VI Corps' left flank. While 
one regiment made a vigorous demon- 
stration on the far left in the vicinity of 
the Anzio-Campoleone railroad, the 
45th Division's other two regiments at- 
tacked along an axis running northwest 
of the village of Carano, a little over 
five miles southwest of Cisterna. 

Mine fields, fortunately, were not the 
problem here that they were elsewhere. 
Both regiments moved rapidly toward 
objectives along the road leading north- 
west from Carano to the Cisterna-Rome 
railroad. The supporting tanks worked 
closely with the infantry, the two arms 
fighting together as a smooth-working 
team. By midafternoon. Col. Robert L. 
Dulaney's 180th Infantry, on the left, 
had reached its objectives about one 
mile northwest of Carano after over- 
running a battalion of the 29th Panzer 
Grenadier Regiment and capturing the 
battalion commander in his command 
post. On the 180th Infantry's right, the 
157th Infantry, commanded by Col. 
John H. Church, attacked toward dis- 
tant objectives along the railroad and in 
the pnxjess encountered a sharp Ger- 
man riposte. 



Although General Eagles was una- 
ware of it at the time, the (juick pene- 
tration by his division seriously threat- 
ened the left flank and rear of the 3d 
Panzer Grenadier Division, comprising the 
left wing of the / Parachute Corps. The 
panzer gienadier division commander 
reacted by counterattacking with the 
only force at his disposal: 15 Tiger 
tanks from the 508th Panzer Battalion. '^ 
About the time Colonel Dulaney's 1 80th 
Infantry was digging in on its objec- 
tives, a force of Tigers variously esti- 
mated by American observers to num- 
ber between fifteen and twentv-four 
attacked Colonel Church's 157th Infan- 
try. The Cjerman tanks pushed through 
one battalion and opened fire on the 
rear of another. 

To counter that threat. General 
Truscott ordered forward a battalion of 
armored infantry from the 1st Ar- 
mored Division's reserve, but before the 
infantrymen could arrive, division and 
corps artillery, including 8-inch howit- 
zers, responded with a devastating blast 
of shelling. It was too much for the 
Germans. The tanks withdrew, leaving 
behind several of their number as flam- 
ing hulks. By nightfall, fighting had 
cost the division a total of 458 casual- 
ties, of whom 30 were killed, 169 
wounded, 31 captured, and 228 miss- 
ing.2'> 

Meanwhile, on the opposite flank of 
the American offensive. General Fred- 
erick's 1st Special Service Force had 
begun its part of the operation with an 
advance by its 1st Regiment toward 



'"gth MRU, Fifth Armv Battle Casualties, 10 Juii 
45, CMH. As a result of the fighting on the 23d 
three members of the 3d Division were awarded the 
Medal o{ Honor: Privates 1st Cllass John W. l^utko 
(posthumously), Patrick L. Kessler, and Henry 
Schauer. 



'« MS# R-50 (Bailev). CMH. 

-"9th MRU, Fifth Artnv Battle Casualties. lOJun 
43, CMH. For action during this fight Technical 
Sgt. Van T. Barfoot was awarded the Medal of 
Honor. 



138 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Highway 7 and the railroad. Despite 
German small arms and machine gun 
fire, the lead regiment (juickly overran 
the enem\'s torvvard positions and by 
n(X)n had pushed across Highway 7 to 
within a thousand yards of the railroad. 
General Frederick held the regiment 
there to allow units of the neighboring 
13th Infantry on the left to pull abreast. 

The pause afforded the Germans 
time to assemble a counterattacking 
force of tanks and infantry beyond the 
railroad embankment. Shortly after 
dark, twelve Mark IV tanks and an 
estimated platoon of enemy infantr\ 
suddenly struck. Within an hour the 
Germans had rolled through the 1st 
Special Service Force's outpost line and 
threatened to break through to the 
rear. "All hell has broken loose up 
here," Frederick's G-3 reported. "The 
Germans have unleashed everything. 
They got four of our M-4's and three 
M-10 tank destroyers. We need more 
M-4's and TD's." Maj. William R. Ros- 
sen, the assistant corps G-3, promised 
to "see if we can get some stuff up light 
away."-' 

Help arrived, but not before part of 
one company had been cut off and 
captured. The rest of the regiment fell 
back about half a mile south of the 
highway. Despite the early gains, won 
largely by exploitation of the elements 
of shock and surprise, the Germans 
lacked the necessary reserve strength to 
take advantage of their success and 
under heavy artillery fire fell back 
north of the railroad. The withdrawal 
gave General Frederick an opportunit\ 
to regroup his battered force, reoccupv 
some of the lost ground, and count his 



losses. The 1st Regiment had lost 39 
men killed, over 100 wounded, and 30 
captured. During the night, General 
Truscott, in order to give the regiment 
some respite from its exertions that day, 
ordered the 34th Division's 133d Infan- 
try t(^ send one battalion to reliexe the 
1st Special Service Force's 1st Regiment 
and outpost a line north of the highway 
and another to protect the flank along 
the Mussolini Canal. 

For Generalleutnant der Panzertrup- 
pen Traugott Herr, at the command 
post of his LXXVI Panzer Corps, the 
situation map throughout 23 Mav pro- 
vided little reason for satisfaction de- 
spite the brief successes of the counter- 
attacks against the American flanks. 
The stronghold of Cisterna in the pan- 
zer corps center still held, but the 
magnitude of the attack meant to Gen- 
eral Herr that the Allies had indeed 
begun their long-awaited breakout of- 
fensive. -- 

In response to pleas during the after- 
noon from the commander of the 
hard-pressed 715th Infanh^ Division, op- 
posite the 1st Special Service Force, 
General Herr requested approval by 
Fourteenth Army headcjuarters to with- 
draw the division's left wing about 
1,200 yards to the line of the railroad, 
which southeast of Cisterna la\ bevond 
the highwas'. That move would enable 
Herr to anchor his left flank on higher 
ground, the foothills of the Lepini 
Mountains, and establish a stronger 
defensive line parallel to the Tyrrhe- 
nian coast. 

In line with that reasoning, \et un- 
willing to make the decision without 



-' VI Corps G-3 Jnl, 23-24 May 44. 



-- Unless otherwise noted German niateiial is 
based upon MSS #'s R-30 (Bailev). T-la and T-lb 
(Westphal et al.). and C-064 (Kesselring). 



THE FIRST DAY 



:^9 



approval ot higher authority, General 
von Maci<.ensen relaved the proposal to 
Field Marshal Kesselring, :ilong with the 
additional information that the Ameri- 
cans (the 1st Special Ser\'ice POrce) had 
already cut Highway 7 southeast of 
Cisterna and the railroad (1st Armored 
Division) northwest ot the town. Still 
concerned about an Allied thrust 
against the German right flank along 
the coast, Mackensen also pointed out 
that approval of the panzer corps com- 
manders proposal would release some 
troops to reinforce the Cisterna sector 
while avoiding the risk of weakening 
other parts of the front in a (]uest for 
reinforcements. 

As in the case of the southern front, 
Kesselring would sanction no with- 
drawal. Hold in place, the army group 
commander directed, and stabilize the 
LXXVI Panzer Corps with local reserves. 
To pull back the left wing of Herrs 
corps might create a gap in the moun- 
tains north of Terracina between the 
corps and the Tenth Armys right flank, 
thereby enabling the U.S. Fifth Army to 
separate the two German armies. New 
positions along a line b)etween Cisterna 
and Sezze, Kesselring believed, also 
would be less economical in men and 
weapons, and pulling back would deny 
the Fourteenth Army an opportunity to 
mount further counterattacks against 
the American right flank in hope of 
pinching off the penetration of the 
army's lines about the beachhead. 

Kesselring also dismissed Mackensen's 
concern for his right flank along the 
beachhead's northwestern front; the at- 
tack there by the British divisions, the 
field marshal correctly believed, had 
been only a diversion. He suggested, 
instead, that Mackensen shift elements 



of the 92 d Infantry Division from the / 
Parachute Corps sector southward to 
reinforce the central sector of the 
LXXVI Panzer Corps near Cisterna. 

That Mackensen was unwilling to do. 
The Fourteenth Army commander was 
convinced that the Americans had yet 
to reveal the direction of the main 
thrust from the beachhead, and that 
when it came it would develop near his 
right wing in the Aprilia-Albano sector, 
the gateway into the Alban Hills. (Ac- 
tually, General Clark was even then 
considering the possibility of shifting 
the axis of Truscott's beachhead offen- 
sive in that very direction.) Shifting 
troops to the Cisterna sector would, 
Mackensen reckoned, leave the Albano 
gateway open. In any case, the 92d 
Infantry Division was his only uncommit- 
ted division. Recently formed and only 
partially trained, he regarded it as unfit 
for intensive fighting. 

In response to the 1st Armored 
Division's pushing back the 362d Divi- 
sions right wing beyond the railway, the 
only action Mackensen took was to 
direct General der Flieger Alfred 
Schlemm, commander of the / Para- 
chute Corps, to transfer a panzer recon- 
naissance battalion from the vicinity of 
Albano to reinforce the 362d\ right. 
Until that battalion completed its move 
shortly after nightfall on the 23d, the 
LXXVI Panzer Corps would have to draw 
upon its own local reserves. 

In the fight against both the 1st 
Armored Division and the 3d Infantry 
Division, the acting 362d Division com- 
mander by midafternoon had already 
committed his last reserves: one engi- 
neer and two infantry battalions. On 
the left, the commander of the 715th 
Infantry Division had committed his re- 



40 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



maining intantry reserves and some 
tanks in the counterattack against the 
1st Special Service Force along Highwav 
7. 

Both divisions had incurred heavy 
losses dunng the dav. The 362d Divi- 
sion, bearing the brunt of the American 
attack, had lost 50 percent of its combat 
strength; two regiments of the 7l5th 
Division had lost 40 percent of theirs. 
In both divisions equipment losses, es- 
peciallv in antitank gims, had been 
correspondingh heaw. 

Bv early evening of the 23d, Field 
Marshal Kesselring realized that, con- 
trary to all his expectations, the situa- 
tion at the beachhead had taken a most 
unfavorable turn. The Allied offensive 
itself, however, had been no surprise to 
him. He had been expecting it for over 
a week, though he had been uncertain 
as to the exact timing. 

What had surprised him was Mack- 
ensen's failure, with the forces at his 
disposal, to contain the breakout. The 
penetration by the 1st Armored Divi- 
sion into the 362d Division s sector, 
Kesselring recognized, threatened the 
Fourteenth Army's entire position and also 
that of the Tenth Army, whose slow 
withdrawal from the southern front 
would be jeopardized should the Four- 
teenth Armys front collapse. That eve- 
ning Kesselring hinted to Vietinghoff, 
the Tenth Army commander, that he 
should be thinking about a withdrawal 
to the Caesar Line south of Rome. 

Both Kesselring and Mackensen 
agreed that somehow Herr s LXXVI 
Panzer Corps had to be reinforced, but 
they differed as to how it should be 
done. The army group commander 
clung to his conviction that the corps 
front could be reinforced in place by 



thinning out (juiet sectors. In that vein, 
he ordered Mackensen to move to the 
threatened sector all available antitank 
gun companies from the / Para<hutr 
Corps. That Mackensen did, but he still 
delayed transferring other units from 
the / Parachute Corps to the LXXVI 
Panur Corps front. In response to Kes- 
selring's urging, he did order the / 
Parachute Corps to assemble a fusilier 
battalion in the Alban Hills as a reserve 
under army control for possible com- 
mitment in the Cisterna sector. Macken- 
sen also directed a battalion of the 12th 
Parachute Regiment to the central sector 
but countermanded the order after 
Schlemm, the / Parachute Corps c(mi- 
mander, played upon his fear that the 
British attack on the northern flank of 
the beachhead might increase in 
strength and be supplemented b\ an 
amphibious landing along the coast. 

Concerned lest the American ar- 
mored penetration along the intercorps 
boundary turn the left flank of the / 
Parachute Corps, Mackensen directed 
Schlemm to withdraw his corps during 
the night of the 23d, in accord with the 
army's original defense plan, to a sec- 
ondary defense line abK)ut half a mile 
behind his forward positions. Mean- 
while, General Herr, the LXXVI Panzer 
Corps commander, awaiting authoritv to 
withdraw, went ahead hopefulh with 
plans to shift units from the 7l5th Divi- 
sion's relatively c]uiet coastal flank to 
bolster the division's front just east of 
Cisterna. That action, he hoped, would 
prevent the Americans from splitting 
the division from the rest of the corps 
and pinning it against either the coast 
or the Lepini Mountains. Moreover, the 
Americans preparing to assault Terra- 
cina would, if they broke through 



THE FIRST DAY 



41 



there, soon threaten the divisions rear. 
Unlike Kesselring, Mackensen still be- 
lieved that General Clark intended a 
main effort along the more direct road 
to Rome — that is, against the / Parachute 
Corps — and that he might also launch 
an amphibious landing in the army's 
rear. He also still looked with deep 
concern at the British divisions close to 
the coast. Until the morning of the 
24th, these misplaced concerns denied 
timely reinforcement of the central sec- 
tor at Cisterna, the real focus of Gen- 
eral Truscott's offensive. Thus, un- 
known to Truscott at the time, the 
cover plan Hippo had accomplished 



exactly what those who planned it had 
intended. 

The first day of the breakout offen- 
sive had been costly for the Ameiicans, 
and there had been no breakthrough of 
the enemy's defenses. Yet decisive ad- 
vances had been made, and Generals 
Clark and Truscott, following the day's 
action on the operation maps in their 
command pcjst, were satisfied. Had they 
been aware of the growing differences 
between Field Marshal Kesselring and 
General von Mackensen c^ver defense 
strategy, their satisfaction might have 
been even greater. 



CHAPTER VIII 



Breakout From the Beachhead 



As Operation Buffalo entered the 
second dav. General Harmon's 1st Ar- 
mored Division prepared to exploit its 
success beyond the railroad. His two 
combat commands were to cross High- 
wav 7 to occupv the X-Y Line, or first 
phase line, about a mile and a halt 
northeast of the railroad. Thereafter, 
on corps' order, the axes of the combat 
commands were to diverge: Colonel 
Daniel's CCA, on the left, was to turn 
northward toward Velletri to occupy 
the O-B, or second, phase line, some 
four miles northwest of Cisterna, and 
block the enemv believed to be in the 
vicinity of Velletri; Allen's CCB, on the 
right, was to swing northeast of Cis- 
terna in the direction of Giulianello, a 
\ illage seven miles beyond Cisterna and 
midway between Velletri and Cori, to 
occupy the O-B Line in that sector. If 
all went well General Allen's command 
would become the armored spearhead 
of the drive through the corridor to- 
ward Valmontone and Highway 6, Op- 
eration Buffalo's ultimate objective, 
about thirteen miles away. ' 

As the advance resumed at 0530 on 
the 24th, Colonel Linville's 6th Ar- 
mored Infantry Regiment led the way 
for CCB, with the 2d and 3d Battalions 
forward. A company each of medium 



' This narrative is based upon official records ot 
the 1st Armored Division; Sidney T. Mathews' MS, 
"The Beachhead Offensive;" and published works 
such as Taggert, ed.. The History of the Third Infantry 
Division in World War II, and George F. Howe, The 
Battle History of the 1st Armored DivLsion, "Old Iron- 
sides" (Washington: Combat Forces Press, 1954). 



and light tanks supported each battal- 
ion. Leading both battalions were two 
companies of dismounted armored in- 
fantrymen, each supported bv an at- 
tached machine gun section. 

Between the railroad and Highwav 7, 
leading northwestward out of Cisterna, 
tall reeds and dense brush covered the 
terrain, which, near the highwav, be- 
came increasingly compartmentalized by 
gullies and ravines. Not unusual during 
the advance through the dense vegeta- 
tion was an experience of a company 
commander from the 3d Battalion. Fol- 
lowing his platoons on foot, 1st Lt. 
Mike Acton almost bumped into an 
enemy officer who suddenlv stepped 
out of a thicket. Acton and the German 
drew their pistols at the same time. 
Acton's weapon jammed; the German 
fired but missed. A xjuick-thinking run- 
ner in Lieutenant Acton's headcjuarters 
section shot the German officer. 

Progressing slowly toward the high- 
way the two battalions, often without 
physical or visual contact, fought their 
wav through or around small groups of 
enemy soldiers well concealed in the 
reeds and brush. To speed the attack 
and draw the enemy out into the open. 
General Allen ordered medium tanks 
from the 2d Battalion of Colonel Sim- 
merman's 13th Armored Regiment to 
take the lead. Followed closely bv Lin- 
ville's infantry and harassed only by 
scattered and poorlv directed artillerv 
fire, Simmerman's tanks moved north- 
eastward along a narrow dirt road that 



BRKAKOUT FROM THE BEACHHEAD 



143 



provided the only cleared corridor 
through the thick vegetation to within a 
hundred yards of Highway 7. A pla- 
toon and an infantry detachment re- 
mained behind to mop up any by- 
passed enemy. 

In moving to within assault distance 
of the highway, CCB's tanks and infan- 
try had overrun the 954th Infantry Regi- 
ment's main battle position. The burden 
of defense in the sector fell thereafter 
upon the men of the 362d Artillery 
Regiment, with the help of a few survi- 
vors of the 954th. As the tanks resumed 
their attack German artillery, deployed 
along the west side of Highway 7, 
fought back at point-blank range. The 
guns included 88-mm. dual-purpose 
pieces that destroyed six tanks before 
the defenders fell back on the artillery 
regiment's secondary firing positions. 
Yet the 1st Armored Division's tanks 
overran those positions too, before an 
enemy panzer reconnaissance battalion, 
which had taken the entire night to 
move from the vicinity of Albano, could 
reinforce the sector. 

By noon the medium tanks were in 
position on their objective, the X-Y 
Line, a low ridge beyond Highwav 7. 
Scarcely had they gained the objective 
when antitank guns located on high 
ground to the northwest opened fire. 
In response to a call from Colonel 
Simmerman for artillery support, the 
91st field Artillery Battalion fired 130 
rounds, knocking out at least one piece 
and destroying a building concealing 
another. The artillery support was in a 
way a mixed blessing, since for two 
hours short rounds fell intermittently 
among the medium tanks despite re- 
peated demands by Colonel Simmer- 
man that the firing cease. Eventually 



the gunners determined which piece 
was faulty. 

A similar error also temporarily 
checked C>)lonel Linville's 6th Armored 
Infantry following the tanks. When 
small arms fire from enemy positions 
on a knob overlooking the highway 
from the east pinned down the infantry 
just west of the highway, short rounds 
from artillery trying to dislodge the 
enemy fell among the American infan- 
try. The rounds continued to fall even 
after the enemy had ceased firing and 
had apparently withdrawn. Not until 
1400 did the infantry reach the high- 
way and proceed across the road to join 
the tanks on CCB's objective. 

Having crossed Highway 7, CCB had 
cut one of the two major roads serxing 
the Germans in Cisterna. That accom- 
plished — and with it what appeared to 
be a critical penetration of the en- 
emy's 362d Division — (ieneral Harmon 
passed on to General Allen the corps' 
order to proceed with the second phase 
of the breakout offensive. Accordingly 
General Allen sought control of the 
remaining road, that leading northeast- 
ward to Cori. He told Lt. Col. Frank F. 
Carr to mo\'e with his battalion of light 
tanks to the high ground at the Colle di 
Torrechia, near a road junction some 
two miles northeast of Cisterna oxer- 
looking the road to Cori. At the same 
time, Allen sent the 13th Armored 
Regiment's reconnaissance companv 
ahead to screen Carr's left flank and 
maintain contact with elements of Colo- 
nel Daniel's CCA, which were engaged 
in forcing what remained of the 362d 
Dix'ision's right wing beyond the Mole 
Canal. 

Carr's light tanks gathered (juickh in 
an assembh area just south of the 



44 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



railroad, but soon ran into successive 
delavs along the railroad embankment: 
first a mine tield, then long-range 
artillery fire, and finallv tanks ot the 
combat command's reserve crowding 
onto the same crossing site over the 
railroad. It took Carrs tanks two hours 
to reach Highway 7 and regroup in a 
wooded area bevond. 

Under cover of prearranged artillery 
concentrations fired by the 91st Field 
Artillery Battalion, the tanks turned 
eastward toward the Colle di Torrechia. 
Rolling tc^ward that objective, they en- 
countered little resistance as they over- 
ran a Tiger tank, its 88-mm. gun in full 
working order. Faced with such a 
swarm of light tanks, the German crew 
apparently decided against giving battle 
and escaped on foot int(3 the under- 
brush. Soon after dark a battalion of 
armored infantry joined the tanks tcj 
help hold the Colle di Torrechia, while 
a battalion of medium tanks took up 
positions about half a mile behind the 
advance elements to give depth to the 
defense. 

Meanwhile, on the 1st Armored Divi- 
sion's left Colonel Daniel's CCA, ad- 
vancing to the northwest astride High- 
way 7, experienced similar success. Such 
heaw losses had the 362d Division in- 
curred that even with reinforcement by 
the panzer reconnaissance battalion that 
General von Mackensen belatedly or- 
dered transferred from the / Parachute 
Corps, the division cc^uld do no more 
than execute a fighting withdrawal. As 
night fell CCA's 81st Reconnaissance 
Battalic:>n had reached a position within 
four miles of Velletri from which a 
sortie tcjward the town could be made 
the next morning to determine how 
well defended it was. The 362d Divi- 



sion's front was split, with the troops in 
front of Cisterna separated from the 
rest of the division. The strcjnghold of 
Cisterna now almost isolated, its de- 
fenders awaiting the inevitable — not 
passively, however, for there was still 
plenty of fight left in them, as the 
infantrymen of the 3d Division were 
soon to learn. 

While the advance c^f CCA's light 
tanks to the Colle di Torrechia was in 
effect a partial envelopment of the 
enemy stronghold of Cisterna, the job 
of completing the envelopment of the 
town still belonged to General 
O'Daniel's 3d Division, whose 30th In- 
fantry, closer to the town, was doing 
the job on the west, the 15th Infantry 
on the east. The 7th Infantry in the 
division's center was to pin the enemy 
in Cisterna and later reduce the town. 
At the same time the regiment was to 
assist the 30th Infantrv in the envelop- 
ment. With its reserve battalion, the 7th 
Infantry was to take the settlement of 
La Villa, a mile northwest of Cisterna, 
and cut Highway 7 in the vicinity of the 
Cisterna cemetery. The battalion 
thereby would serve as a blocking force 
against the Germans in Cisterna lest 
they interfere with the 30th Infantr\'s 
wheeling movement to get in behind 
the town, while at the same time afford- 
ing a starting line for an attack to take 
the Cisterna defenses in flank. 

At 0400 on the 24th, the 3d Divi- 
sion's artillery fired for fifteen minutes 
in front of the 7th Infantrv's left wing. 
Four hours later the artiller\ repeated 
the performance. Meanwhile, the re- 
serve battalion, the 1st, had moved up 
in the darkness in rear of the positions 
gained in the first dav's fighting. 

Following the second artiller\ prepa- 



BREAKOUT FROM THE BEACHHEAD 



145 



ration, the 1st Battalion began to ad- 
vance in a column of companies and 
reached high gioimd within 400 yards 
of the railroad after experiencing noth- 
ing more disturbing than an (x;casional 
round of enemy shellflre. Yet when 
Company C, in the lead, started to 
move across flat, exposed ground lead- 
ing to the railroad, rifle and machine 
gun fire erupted from the edge of a 
wood close to La Villa. The battalion 
commander, Lt. Col. Frank. M. Izenour, 
then committed another company in a 
flanking maneuver against this opposi- 
tion, enabling Company C to get mov- 
ing again behind the fire support of the 
battalion's 81 -mm. mortars. Passing 
through a cut in the railroad embank- 
ment in the face of only occasional 
German small arms fire, the company 
moved quickly into La Villa. In the 
hamlet the men searched in vain for a 
tunnel that the division G-2 believed 
led to Cisterna. 

Continuation of the attack to cut 
Highway 7 and gain the Cisterna ceme- 
tery was delayed when a company of 
tanks and a platoon of tank destroyers 
that were to assist failed to arrive. 
When at last seven tanks appeared. 
Colonel Izenour ordered Company B 
to get on with the attack. As it turned 
out, not even those tanks were needed. 
In half an hour, by 1600, Company B 
and the tanks were astride Highway 7 
at the cemetery with no sign of the 
enemy. 

Colonel McGarr's 30th Infantry, in 
the meantime, had been building up to 
the railroad and the highway to the 
northwest to get into position for the 
enveloping maneuver. The advance in- 
volved a thrust by Company F, which 
had led the regiment's attack on the 



first day to within a himdred yards of 
the railroad, and by the fresh 1st 
Battalion, to which Company F was 
temporarily attached. 

At dawn on the 24th, Company F on 
the left and Company B on the right, 
each supported by a platoon of heav\' 
machine guns, advanced toward a 
group of low hills, west of the Femmi- 
namorta Canal, that overlooked the 
railroad from the south. From the high 
ground the two companies would be 
able to cover the move of the rest of the 
1st Battalion across the railroad on the 
other side of the canal. 

The 41st Field Artillery Battalion 
fired several concentrations before the 
infantry moved out, but the Germans 
responded to the new attack with auto- 
matic weapons and mortar fire from 
positions near a group of ruined stone 
houses atop two knobs south of the 
railroad. Rather than attempt what 
might have been a costly frontal attack 
against the positions. Company F sw img 
far to the left in an outflanking maneu- 
ver. That move carried the western 
knob and enabled Company B to clear 
the eastern knob quickly. By 1100 
Company F and the entire 1st Battalion 
had closed up to the railroad. 

The 30th Infantry's 3d Battalion, 
astride the Ponte Rotto road, found 
even easier going. Hearing movements 
before daylight in the vicinity of an 
enemy strongpoint along the Femmina- 
morta Canal, men of Compan\ L de- 
duced that the Germans might be with- 
drawing. In an attempt to catch them 
before they got away, the companv 
hastened along the canal toward the 
position, but too late. At the strong- 
point Company L found onlv twenty- 
four enemy dead. Moving on to a 



146 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



second position nearbw the company 
toiind that. too. abandoned. 

In midatternoon, as the 1st Battalion 
prepared to cross the railroad and seize 
the high gioiind just beyond, the 3d 
Battalion made ready to develop the 
enveloping maneuver by advancing to a 
road junction a mile and a halt north- 
east of Cisterna on the forward slopes 
of the Colle di Torrechia. not far from 
the objective of the light tanks of 
Colonel Carrs battalion of the 1st Ar- 
mored Division's CCB. Indeed, had not 
the infantry battalion incurred delays, 
the two forces might have arrived on 
their adjacent objectives at approxi- 
mately the same time. While the 3d 
Battalion's move constituted the left 
arm in the envelopment of Cisterna, it 
was also designed to put the 30th 
Infantrv in position to assist the 15th 
Infantry in a drive early the next 
morning on Cori. 

Although the 3d Battalion, 30th In- 
fantry, began to move about 1630, 
darkness had fallen when the men 
crossed the highway and passed 
through the cemetery. Unwittingly, the 
troops had cut across the rear of a 
battalion of the 7th Infantry just as that 
battalion launched an attack on Cis- 
terna. As German mortar fire began to 
fall, confusion in the cemetery in- 
creased. Untangling the two forces took 
considerable time, so that it was close to 
daylight before the 3d Battalion, 30th 
Infantry, in an unopposed march 
through the darkness, could reach the 
road junction near the Colle di Torre- 
chia. A projected continuation of the 
attack at 0630 on the 25th against Cori 
would have to be delayed. 

With the 3d Battalion thus delayed, 
not until midnight did the 30th Infan- 



trv's 1st Battalion receive an order to 
follow. That battalion reached the ob- 
jective soon after davlight, there to find 
preparations for mounting an attack on 
Cori hampered by persistent German 
shelling apparendy directed at the light 
tanks of the 1st Armored Division's 
CCB assembled nearby on another part 
of the Colle di Torrechia. It would be 
late on the 25th before the 30th Infan- 
try could launch its drive on Cori. 

Constituting the other arm of the 
maneuver to envelop Cisterna, the 15th 
Infantry in the meantime had mounted 
an attack with its 2d Battalion driving 
due north to cross Highway 7 and the 
railroad, skirting Cisterna to the east, 
and advancing to the Cisterna-Cori 
road. While the 1st Battalion and Task 
Force Paulick, closing the gap between 
the division and the 1st Special Service 
Force, remained along Highway 7 in 
positions gained on the first day, the 3d 
Battalion was to follow the 2d and once 
across the railroad was to swing east to 
occupy the Maschia San Biagio, a 
wooded area a mile and a half east of 
Cisterna, thereby piotecting the 2d Bat- 
talion's flank. 

At 0730 Company G led the 2d 
Battalion's attack, advancing fairly read- 
ily across Highway 7 to the railroad 
despite harassing machine gun fire 
from somewhere near the railroad em- 
bankment. As the men started to cross 
the embankment, fire from small arms 
and self-propelled guns in the outskirts 
of Cisterna drove them back. To get 
the attack moving again, the battalion 
commander sent Company F along the 
shelter of the steep banks of the San 
Biagio Canal a small tributary of the 
Cisterna Canal, to outflank the enemy 
from the right, but German fire halted 



BREAKOUT FROM THE BEACHHEAD 



147 



that maneuver too.- The !^9th Field 
Artillery Battalion fired several concen- 
trations in order to silence the enemy 
tne, l)ut a second try at crossing the 
railroad met continued oj)|X)sition. 

During the early alieiiioon the battal- 
ion commander sideslipped his compa- 
nies to the right in an effort to avoid 
the tire coming from Cisterna. He also 
committed a third company as prelude 
to a new assault. Piexented bv antitank 
tire from bringing tanks and tank de- 
stroyers close enough to the railroad 
embankment to give the infantry close 
support, he gained permission to move 
the destroyers into the 1st Special Serv- 
ice Force's sector on the right. From 
there the destroyers tried to place 
flanking fire on the troublesome enemy 
positions, but again the effect on the 
\ oltime of enemy fire was negligible. 

A visit in midafternoon to the 15th 
hifantry command post by the division 
commander. General O'Daniel, brought 
a promise of additional artillery support 
to help get the attack moving again; but 
a new attempt shortly before nightfall, 
this time supported by five artillery 
battalions, made no headway. Only 
after another heavy artillery prepara- 
tion did the infantrymen finally cross 
the railroad and advance to the edge of 
a wood about 700 yards to the north — 
onlv to be forced back 200 yards by fire 
from small arms and tanks. By that 
time darkness had fallen.-^ 

Taking advantage of the darkness, 
engineers built ramps on the steep sides 



^ The intrepid performance of Pvt. James H. 
Mills, Company F, 15th Infantry, during this attack 
was subsecjuently recognized by the award of the 
Medal of Honor. 

^ For his role in the attack Sgt. Sylvester Aiitolak, 
("oinpanv B, 15th Inf;intry, was awarded the Medal 
of Honor posthumously. 



of the railroad embankment so that the 
tanks and tank destroyers might cross. 
After Joining the infantry, the tank 
destroyers before daylight on the 25th 
knocked out the strong{3oints that had 
l3een holding up the 2d Battalion for 
almost twenty-four hours. At the first 
light of the new day, the 2d Battalion 
began to move again while remnants of 
the enemy's 955th Regiment retreated 
deeper into the ruins of Cisterna. In 
early morning of the 25th the battalion 
reached the Casa Montaini, a farm near 
the Cori road about half a mile north- 
east of Cisterna and within hailing 
distance of troops of the 30th Infantry 
on the Colle di Torrechia. That action 
completed the encirclement of Cisterna. 

Even as the 3d Division's two flank 
regiments were getting on with that 
encirclement, the division commander. 
General O'Daniel, deemed the enemy 
so weakened that he had no need to 
delay delivering the coup de grace to 
Cisterna itself. While the 7th Infantry's 
2d Battalion, attacking frontalK against 
the Cisterna defenses, gained little 
ground during the second dav, 
O'Daniel believed that, bv hitting the 
enemy from the flank position held bv 
the regiment's 1st Battalion at the ceme- 
tery ak)ngside Highway 7, the 7th In- 
fantry might yet take the town in one 
quick thrust. He told the regimental 
commander. Colonel Omohtmdro, to 
use his 3d Battalion. That was the unit 
that had failed to foHow orders on the 
first day, but the battalion had a new- 
commander, its former exectitive offi- 
cer. Major Ramsey, and a (|tiick, suc- 
cessful seizure of Cisterna might fullv 
restore the confidence of officers and 
men alike. 

Colonel Omohundro planned to be- 



48 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 







Patrol Moving Through Cisterna 



gin the assault on Cisterna with a 
renewed frontal attack by the 2d Battal- 
ion to serve as a diversion. Once that 
attack began, supporting artillery was to 
deliver a 30-minute barrage on the 
town, whereupon Ramsey's 3d Battalion 
was to strike from the cemetery south- 
eastward down Highway 7. A smoke 
screen was to conceal the start of the 3d 
Battalion's attack. 

While preparations for the attack 
were under way, a patrol reconnoitered 
from the cemetery as far as Cisterna's 
western outskirts but there encountered 
considerable machine gun and mortar 
fire. That response was the first hint 
that the town might be less readily 



taken than General O'Daniel had be- 
lieved, and that the 3d Battalion might 
have a hard fight, something for which 
that unit the day before had shown 
little inclination. 

The first hitch in Omohundro's plan 
developed when the 2d Battalion de- 
layed its attack until a suppc^rting pla- 
toon of tank destroyers could get for- 
ward. Scheduled to attack at 1930, the 
battalion did not move until shortlv 
after the tank destroyers finalh arrived 
at 2130. Since the 2d Battalion was to 
attack first, the 3d Battalion at the 
cemetery also had to postpone its at- 
tack, which meant there would be no 
further need for a smoke screen: the 



BREAKOUT FROM THE BEACHHEAD 



149. 



7th Infantry was to hit Cisterna by 
night. 

rhis unforeseen delay was the second 
in a series of unfortunate circumstances 
that had begun earlier in the day when 
Major Ramsey, the 3d Battalion's new 
commander, was wounded and evacu- 
ated to the rear. The commander of 
the Weapons Company, Capt. Glenn E. 
Rathbun, took his place. At 2145, with 
Company K on the left, Company D on 
the right, and Company L in reserve 
behind Company I, the battalion at last 
began to move through the Cisterna 
cemetery toward a line of departure 
just beyond it. An attached tank pla- 
toon and three tank destroyers were in 
direct support. It was then that the 
third in the series of mishaps occurred: 
the unforttmate intermingling in the 
cemetery with the leading battalion of 
the 30th Infantry and the delay of 
several hours before the battalions 
could be separated and control 
restored. 

Even more trouble awaited the un- 
fortunate 3d Battalion. As the men 
finally crossed the line of departure, 
heavy enemy shelling and several short 
rounds from U.S. artillery fell among 
them. That left the men badly shaken. 
At dawn on the 25th the battalion was 
only 200 yards beyond its line of depar- 
ture, still about 700 yards short of the 
first buildings of Cisterna. When Colo- 
nel Omohundro ordered the battalion 
to renew the attack, withering automatic 
weapons fire stopped the men as soon 
as they attempted to move. Casualties 
were heavy, among them the com- 
mander of Company K, the company's 
third commander in four days. The 
attack collapsed and with it General 



O'Daniel's hope of quickly redeeming 
the battalion. 

Paradoxically, the diversionary attack 
by the 2d Battalion into the face of the 
main defenses at Cisterna had been 
making better progress. The battalion 
at first ran into stubborn resistance 
from Germans concealed in a group of 
ruined houses on both sides of the 
railroad. Each house had to be labori- 
ously reduced; but with the help of well 
co-ordinated mortar and artillery fire, 
the men fought through the night and 
gradually worked their way forward. 
When the two leading companies 
reached the railroad embankment, they 
called for supporting fires to lift, then 
rushed across at six points. Weary from 
the night's fighting, the companies dug 
in just beyond the embankment and 
less than 200 yards from the fringe of 
Cisterna. The 2d Battalion's success and 
the 3d Battalion's failure were destined 
to dictate a change in plan for the final 
assault into the town. 

Action on the Flanks 

As the 3d Division encircled Cisterna 
on the 24th, the 133d Infantrv, serving 
as a screen for the 1st Special Service 
Force on the di\'ision and corps right, 
headed sk)wly northward, its right fiank 
anchored on the Mussolini Canal. That 
night the 1st Special Service Force 
assembled behind the 133d Infantrv 
and prepared to pass through its lines 
the next morning in a thrust toward 
Monte Arrestino, overlooking Cori 
from the southeast. 

On the opposite flank, the 45th Divi- 
sion, after gaining its assigned objectives 
on the 23d, continued to hold its 
position northwest of Carano. Yet again 



50 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



that was to be no passive operation, foi- 
at dusk on the 24th the Germans 
counterattacked with a reinforced bat- 
tahon supported by tanks. Moving 
south along the west bank of the Car- 
ano Canal, the enemv struck the right 
flank of the 18()th Infantrv's 2d Battal- 
ion astride the Carano road. Under 
cover of heavy mortar and artillery fire 
and taking advantage of lush vegeta- 
tion, the enemy infantry crept to within 
100 yards of the American lines before 
being discovered. Hurling gienades at 
the Americans, the Germans rushed 
forward. During ensuing hand-to-hand 
fighting, the defenders were supported 
by eight battalions of artillery firing at 
the enemy's lines of communications. 
Although the counterattack forced back 
the 180th Infantry's front slightly, the 
lost ground was regained by midnight, 
and patrols that night reported that the 
enemy had withdrawn from the divi- 
sion's immediate front. 

While the U.S. 45th Division lost and 
then regained ground on the Carano 
sector, the British 5th and 1st Divisions 
on the beachhead's western flank along 
the coast yielded to counterattacking 
enemy units from the 4th Parachute and 
65th Infantry Divisions the slight gains 
made by the diversionary attack on the 
23d. Falling back to their original front, 
the British held. 



The German Reaction 

The counterattacks mounted by the / 
Parachute Corps during the 24th re- 
flected the emphasis which the Four- 
teenth Army commander. General von 
Mackensen, had placed since the begin- 
ning of the Allied breakout offensive 
on his right wing between the Alban 



Hills and the Tyrrhenian coast. The 
limited success of the counterattacks in 
holding that sector of the Fourteenth 
Army front was the only encouragement 
for Mackensen on the second day of 
the Allied offensive. Yet, since it at last 
had become undeniable that the Allied 
main effort was at Cisterna, the limited 
successes on the parachute corps front 
hardly brightened a day filled with 
gloom. ■* 

Little time had passed during the 
morning of 24 May before General von 
Mackensen discerned that the thrusts 
by the American armor northwest of 
Cisterna and the infantry on either side 
of the town were abcjut to drive wedges 
between the 362d Division and its two 
neighboring divisions — the 3d Panzer 
Grenadier Division on the right and the 
715th Division on the left. The counter- 
attacks against the U.S. 45th Division 
and the two British divisions were ex- 
pected to ease the pressure somewhat 
on the right. Yet the extreme left wing 
of the 715th Division was still behind the 
Mussolini Canal and unless allowed to 
withdraw was likelv to be pinned 
against the Tyrrhenian coast. 

Field Marshal Kesselring at last 
agreed to pulling back the 715th Divi- 
sion s left wing to the railroad, which 
parallels the coast approximately ten 
miles inland. To the approval, however, 
Kesselring attached the proviso that an\' 
forces thereby freed from contact with 
the Americans were to reinforce the 
defenders of Cisterna. The proviso 
bore little relationship to the situation 
on the ground, for even bv nightfall of 
the 24th the American advances had 



* Unless otherwise indicated, the German account 
is based upon MSS#s T-lb (Westphal ^/ a/. ) and R- 
50 (Bailev). 



BREAKOUT FROM THE BEACHHEAD 



151 



virtually severed contact between the 
715th Division and the rest of the pan- 
zer corps. 

As pressure against the 715th Division 
increased during the afternoon of the 
24th, General von Mackensen made up 
his mind to exceed the authority 
granted by Kesselring and withdraw the 
entire division to a secondary line ex- 
tending eastward from Cisterna toward 
the Lepini Mountains. When Macken- 
sen learned in late afternoon that 
troops of the U.S. 3d Division were on 
the fringe of Cisterna and that the 1st 
Special Service Force had penetrated 
the 715th Division's center, he author- 
ized withdrawal of the division as soon 
as darkness provided concealment from 
Allied fighter-bombers. 

As the 715th Division began to with- 
draw that night, the commander of the 
362d Division, Generalleutnant Heinz 
Greiner, returned to his command 
from his emergency leave in Germany. 
Taking stock of the obviously critical 
situation, Greiner concluded that if the 
garrison of Cisterna was to have any 
chance at escape he had to mount some 
kind of counterattack. While harboring 
no illusions about what a counterattack 
by his depleted forces could accomplish, 
he nevertheless hoped he might throw 
the Americans off balance long enough 
for reinforcements to arrive from the / 
Parachute Corps and for the garrison to 
slip out of Cisterna. 

Even that faint hope had disappeared 
when, in late afternoon, contingents of 
the U.S. 1st Armored Division plunged 
toward the Colle di Torrechia. Either 
abandon Cisterna or lose all the men 
there, Greiner believed, but Field Mar- 
shal Kesselring refused withdrawal. 
General von Mackensen nevertheless 



went beyond his authority for the sec- 
ond time that day and told Greiner to 
pull the men back. When General Grei- 
ner that afternoon tried to pass on the 
word, it was too late. The garrison's 
radio had ceased to function. In Grei- 
ner's words, '^Cisterna antxvortete nicht 
wchr" ("Cisterna no longer answered").^ 

To the (ierman command it was now 
clear that only the arrival of division- 
size reinforcements could prevent a 
collapse of the Fourteenth Army's center. 
Three divisions from the army group 
reserve alreadv having departed to rein- 
force the Tenth Army on the southern 
front, the only major reserve force 
remaining was the Hermann Goering 
Dn'isi(m, which on the 23d had begun a 
march south from the Ligurian coast, 
over 150 miles away. Having overesti- 
mated Allied amphibious capabilities, 
Kesselring and the Cierman High Com- 
mand had hesitated until the last min- 
ute before deciding to use that division. 

As for a shift of forces within the 
Fourteenth Army, even after it was clear 
that the Allied offensive was actuallv 
aimed at the left wing of the LXXVI 
Panzer Corps, General von Mackensen 
ordered only piecemeal transfer of 
small units. Why shift units and invite 
trotible elsewhere when he was con- 
vinced his armv lacked sufficient forces 
to accomplish its defensive mission? As 
late as 19 May he had bitterly protested 
Kesselring's transfer to the southern 
front of the 26th Panzer and 29th Panzer 
Grenadier Divisions from the arm\ gioup 
reserve, a reserve on which Mackensen 
believed he had first claim and without 
which he judged he had no hope of 



' Heinz Greiner, Git a.D., Kmnpj urn Rom — Inferno 
am Po (Kurt Vow inckel. V'erlag, N'eckargeinuend, 
1968), p. 30. 



152 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



containing the Allied offensive. The 
presence of the 92d Infantry Division, 
guarding the coast just south of the 
Tiber, was of little consecjuence as a 
reserve torce for it was as vet an 
untried unit, composed largelv of men 
still undergoing training. At that point 
he doubted that he cDuld even count 
on being given the Hermann Goering 
Division, if and when it arrived at the 
tront south of Rome, for he strongly 
suspected that it too would go to the 
Tenth Army. To Mackensen, Field Mar- 
shal Kesselring's inability to halt the 
offensive was proof that his belief that 
it could be stopped was misguided 
optimism. Relations between the two 
German commanders had become so 
strained as to approach the breaking 
point. 

The Third Day 

Against the backdrop of futility on 
the German side, all units of General 
Truscott's VI Corps planned to renew 
their assaults on the third day of the 
offensive, 25 May, and exploit the im- 
pressive gains already achieved — the 1st 
Special Service Force to take Monte 
Arrestino, the 3d Division to take Cis- 
terna while at the same time driving 
northeastward on Cori, the 1st Ar- 
mored Divi'sion to pursue the drive on 
\'elletri and northeastward toward Val- 
montone via Cori and Giulianello, and 
the 45th Division to continue to anchor 
the left flank of the American force. 

Throughout the night of 24 May 
(ieneral Truscott shifted his units pre- 
parat()r\ to continuing the offensive the 
next morning. To close a gap created 
by the diverging axes of the 1st Ar- 
mored Division's two combat com- 



mands, Truscott gave the 34th Di\isi(jn 
control of a five-mile sector north of 
Cisterna behind the armor. With two 
regiments, the division was to block any 
attempt by the enemy to exploit open 
space between the armored columns 
and permit the armor to move more 
freely in exploiting the German collapse 
below Cori. During the night contin- 
gents of corps artillery began displacing 
foiward to areas south and west of 
Isola Bella in order to better support 
the continuation of the main attack. 

On the extreme right flank of the 
corps the 36th Division engineers, who 
since the 23d had remained in corps 
reserve, had readied task forces to 
move southward to contact the II Corps 
advancing from Terracina. That night 
the engineers crossed the Mussolini 
Canal and pushed down along the 
coastal road through territory recently 
abandoned by the 715th Division. The 
link-up with the Americans from the 
Garigliano front was to occur on the 
morning of the 25th. 

As the two fronts joined, the 1st 
Armored Division was advancing be- 
vond the second phase line. Combat 
Command A continued to move toward 
Velletri against steadily increasing resist- 
ance. A combination of rugged terrain, 
well-sited antitank guns, and a counter- 
attack led by Mark V tanks held the 
Americans four miles south of the 
town. The day's fighting cost Colonel 
Daniel's combat command seventeen 
tanks damaged or destro\ed. 

On Daniel's right General Harmon 
had in the meantime moved from 
reserve a task force under Col. Hamil- 
ton H. Howze. The task force was 
composed of Lt. Col. Bogardus S. 
Cairn's 3d Battalion, 13th Armored 



BREAKOUT FROM THE BEACHHEAD 



53 



Regiment; the 2d Battalion, 6th Ar- 
mored Infantry; the 3d Battalion, 135th 
Infantry; Companies B and D, 1st 
Armored Regiment; and Companies B 
of the 635th and 701st Tank Destroyer 
Battalions. Colonel Hovvze assembled 
the unit during the night of 24 May 
near Torrechia Nuova in readiness for 
an advance toward the road junction of 
Giulianello the following day. 

Striking across country, the medium 
tanks of Howze's task force by 1300 
reached and blocked the Cori-Giuli- 
anello road about 2,500 yards south of 
Giulianello. When an infantry column 
arrived late in the afternoon, tanks and 
infantry moved together to clear the 
village before dark. Meanwhile, General 
Allen's Combat Command B prepared 
to accompany and support the 3d Divi- 
sion's 15th Infantry as it moved from 
the Colle di Torrechia toward the vil- 
lage of Cori on the western slope of the 
Lepini Mountains. 

The Enemy Situation 

The 1st Armored Division's thrust up 
the Valmontone corridor to (iiulianello 
had irretrievably separated the 362d 
and 715th Divisions. Large groups of the 
enemy, cut off and without effective 
control, surrendered. By midday on 25 
May, 2,640 prisoners had passed 
through the Fifth Army's cages at An- 
zio since the offensive began on the 
23d. The penetration also threatened to 
cut off the left wing of the 715th 
Division, attempting to withdraw along 
secondary roads and trails southwest of 
the Lepini Mountains. The division, 
having exhausted its mortar ammuni- 
tion and lost most of its mortars as well 
as its light and heavy machine guns, 



was in desperate straits. Contact with 
the attached panzer grenadier regi- 
ment, constituting the division's center, 
had been k)st completely; communica- 
tions with other subordinate units were 
little better. A lOO-man Kampfgruppc, 
commanded by an artillery battery com- 
mander, constituted the division's right 
wing north of the Cisterna-Cori road. 
Supporting the Kampfgruppe were an 
artillery battery, firing at point-blank 
range, and a platoon of 88-mm. antiair- 
craft guns. On 25 May that \\as all that 
stood between the Americans and 
Cori.'' 

Two infantr) battalions, unsupported 
by heavy weapons, were scattered in 
hasty positions in the hills to the north- 
west of Cori. A rifle company and the 
heavy weapons company, all that re- 
mained of a battalion on the division's 
left flank, had been ordered to rein- 
force these battalions, but it was doubt- 
ful whether the reinforcements would 
be either sufficient or in time to check 
the onrush of the Americans. Also, 
transfer of even those modest forces 
would leaxe the Monte Arrestino sector 
held onlv bv the equivalent of three 
rifle companies. 

Meanwhile, an infantry regiment 
from the 92d Infantry Division, guarding 
the coast just south of the mouth of the 
Tiber, had been sent to reinforce the 
715th Division. That regiment had been 
last reported marching from Giulianello 
toward Cori. Without motor transport, 
the regiment had had to leave behind 
its heavy support weapons and even its 
field kitchens, and was not expected to 
reach Cori until noon on the 25th. 



" MS # R-3() (Bailev). The tollouing account is 
based on tliis source. 



154 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



The Attack on Cori 

Although General O'Daniel, the 3d 
Di\ision commander, had originally ex- 
pected the 15th Infantry to attack to- 
ward Cori no later than 0530 on the 
morning of 25 Mav, the 1st and 3d 
Battalions (the latter ha\dng relieved the 
2d) reached their assembly points along 
the Cisterna-Cori road only by mid- 
morning. The 3d Battalion had a 
greater distance to move from its posi- 
tions south of Cisterna, and the line of 
march was made hazardous by numer- 
ous antipersonnel mines. Those factors 
prevented the battalion from reaching 
its line of departure before the 1st 
Battalion started for Cori at 1 000. 

With the regimental battle patrol cov- 
ering the battalion's right flank, Com- 
pany C led the way toward Cori across 
the increasingly hilly terrain that 
merged gi adually into the slopes of the 
Lepini Mountains. On the left (north) 
of the Cisterna-Cori road moved the 3d 
Battalion of the 15th Infantry. Neither 
battalion encountered appreciable op- 
position. Reaching the fringe of Cori at 
twilight, both battalions sent patrols into 
the town to probe the ruins of the 
village. Although the patrols found no 
sign of the enemy, the battalion com- 
mander decided to await daylight be- 
fore moving in. 

The 15th Infantry had found no 
enemy in Cori because the reinforce- 
ments from the 92d Division had never 
arrived. The night of the 24th, as the 
regiment had marched along the Giuli- 
anello-Cori road, the men had encoun- 
tered elements of the 715th Division 
withdrawing in the opposite direction to 
escape being cut off by the American 
thrust toward Cori. German command- 



ers were unable to straighten out the 
resulting confusion before da\light ex- 
posed the crowded road to the eyes of 
a pilot of a reconnaissance aircraft from 
the XII TAC. Calling for assistance, the 
pilot soon had all available aircraft 
bombing and strafing the concentration 
of men and vehicles. 

The Capture of Cisterna 

As the remainder of the 3d Infantry 
Division advanced north and east of 
Cisterna, the 7th Infantiy, charged with 
the task of taking the enemy strong- 
point, prepared to close in for the kill. 
The failure of the attack against the 
town's north flank on the 24th and the 
relative success of the 2d Battalion's 
frontal advance the same da\ prompted 
the regimental commander. Colonel 
Omohundro, to give the job of taking 
the town to the 2d Battalion. The 
commander, Lt. Col. Everett W. Du\all, 
started the assignment by sending his 
reserve. Company F, around the right 
flank of the positions gained earlier just 
beyond the railroad embankment. 

Attacking before daylight on 25 May, 
Companv F cjuickh secured a foothold 
in the southwestern part of the town. 
Upon arrival of two medium and eight 
light tanks from the 751st Tank Battal- 
ion to provide fire support, Duvall 
ordered the company to continue to- 
ward the center of town, while Com- 
pany G cleared the enemy from the 
southeastern section. Colonel Duvall in- 
tentionally sent the two companies on 
divergent axes lest in the close cjuarters 
of the rubble-filled streets one should 
fire upon the other. 

While Company G proceeded me- 
thodically with a task that amounted to 



BREAKOUT FROM THE BEACHHEAD 



155 




Disarming German Prisoners at Cisterna 



mopping up, the men of Company F 
picked their way slowly toward the 
center of town against machine gun 
and mortar fire that grew in intensity. 
The Germans had prepared what had 
apparently once been the town hall for 
a last-ditch defense, ringing it with 
antitank mines and covering all ap- 
proaches with machine guns protected 
by rubble-coyered emplacements. On 
the west side a well-sited antitank gun 
covered the entrance to an inner court- 
yard. 

Despite suppoit of the light and 
medium tanks, the attack against the 
town hall made little headway. Not until 
late afternoon, when a sc|uad managed 
to emplace a machine gun atop a ruin 
overk)oking the entrance to the court- 



yard, did the siege take a turn for the 
better. From that position, the gunner 
drove off the crew manning the trou- 
blesome antitank gun. A medium tank 
immediately came forward, destroyed 
the gun, and, with men of Company F 
close behind, rolled through the en- 
trance into the town hall's inner court- 
yard. All resistance collapsed. In the 
gathering twilight of the 25th, three 
days after the breakout offensixe had 
begun, the American infantrymen 
swarmed into the ruins to rout out the 
survivors, including the commander of 
the 955th Infantry Regiment. 

That night General Truscott could 
k)ok back with some satisfaction on the 
capture of Cisterna and the imminent 
fall of Cori. On his right wing, the 1st 



3() 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Special Service Force, having gained 
NIonte Arrestino's rugged and deserted 
summit, was poised for a drive across 
the Lepini Mountains toward the upper 
Sacco valle\ and Highway 6. The objec- 
tives of Operation Buffalo's second 
phase had been gained. Truscott's VI 
Corps had broken out of a six-month 
confinement in the beachhead, and 
Buffalo's ultimate objective, Valmon- 
tone and Highway 6, lay some ten miles 
away. The Anzio beachhead no longer 
existed but had become instead the 
extended left flank of the U.S. Fifth 
Armv. Fifth Army's troops were much 
closer to Rome than were those of the 
British Eighth Army, still some forty 
miles southeast of Valmontone. 

German Countermoves 

The sharp deterioration of Army 
Group C's situation was remarked at 
OKW as early as the evening of the 
24th. The link-up of the Fifth Army's 
main forces and the beachhead, the 
Eighth Army's steady advance in the 
Liri valley, and the VI Corps' bieakout 
at Cisterna led the German High Com- 
mand to conclude that there was no 
alternative to withdrawal of the entire 
army group into the Caesar Line. Early 
in April the Germans had started con- 
structing that secondary defense line 
between the Anzio beachhead and 
Rome from the Tyrrhenian coast north 
of Anzio, across the southern flanks of 
the Alban Hills to Highway 6 near 
Valmontone, thence over the Ernici 
Mountains to Sora on the Avezzano 
road. Despite the fact that more than 
10,000 Italian laborers, under the direc- 
tion of German army engineers, had 
worked on the defenses, the line was 
far from finished. From Campo lemini, 



on the Tyrrhenian coast about seven- 
teen miles southwest of Rome, across 
the southern slopes of the Alban Hills 
as far as the town of Labico on High- 
way 6, some two miles east of Valmon- 
tone, the line was complete; but else- 
where it was nothing more than a 
penciled line on situation maps. " Ger- 
man records refer to the Caesar Line as 
the C-Stellung, or C-Position; Allied 
staffs simply assumed the "C" stood for 
"Caesar" — a logical deduction consider- 
ing its location. A second line, the 
Campagna Riegel, or switch position, lay 
between the C-Stellung and Rome, but 
was of little significance. 

To screen the Caesar Line, the Ger- 
mans had put up an almost continuous 
barbed wire obstacle, which in some 
sectors attained a depth of ninety feet. 
They had also placed mines to block 
the most favorable routes of approach. 
While infantiy firing positions and shel- 
ters in the Caesar Line resembled those 
along the Gustav Line, few defenses 
were in such depth. In the opinion of 
General von Mackensen, the Fourteenth 
Army commander, the Caesar Line was 
suitable for no more than a delaying 
action. ^ 

The German High Command opera- 
tions staff nevertheless recommended to 
Hitler on the evening of the 24th, even 
before the fall of Cisterna and the 
crossing of the Melfa River b\ contin- 
gents of the Eighth Armv, that both 
German armies begin at least a partial 
withdrawal into the Caesar Line. The 
Fourteenth Army's right wing was to re- 
main in place as far as Cisterna. while 



^ MSS #'s C-()61 (Mackensen rt al.) and D-21I 
(Bessel). See also Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/ 
WFSt, KTB, IV (1), pp. 480-81. 

* Greiner and Schramm, eds., I\'(l), pp. 492-94. 



BREAKOUT FROM THE BEACHHEAD 



157 



the left wing (the LKXVI Panzer Corps), 
in co-ordination with the Tenth Army's 
right wing (the XIV Panzer Corps), with- 
drew gradually to gain as much time as 
j^ossible for the occupation and prepa- 
ration ot the unimproved portions of 
tfie line. The operations staff also pro- 
posed that the remnants of the 71st and 
94th Infantry Divisions be employed in 
the Caesar Line as security detachments 
until thev could be brought up to 
strength with replacements. In addition 
to the Hermann Goering Division, which 
on the 23d had started shifting south- 
ward from its bases near Leghorn, the 
356th Injantiy Division was also to move 
south from the vicinity of Genoa. ^ 

During the regular noon situation 
briefing on the 25th, Hitler substantially 
accepted those proposals and, thanks to 
British Intelligence, the Allied com- 
mand in Italy was soon privy to this 
decision. The area immediately north 
of the Alban Hills on both sides of 
Highway 6 — in short, Operation Buf- 
falo's general objective — was. Hitler 
and his advisers agreed, the most 
threatened sector. That was exactl) the 
conclusion that Clark hoped that the 
(iermans would reach. Moieover, his 
(i-2 had also informed him that the 
(iermans would attempt to reinforce 
with the Hermann (ioering and 356th 
Infantry Divisions. Both Clark and Kes- 
selring, however, would underestimate 
the ability of Allied aircraft to delay 
inovement of those divisions. 



" The latter divisions place was to be taken by the 
42d Jaeger Division. The 16th SS Panzer Grenadier 
Division, on occupation duty in northern Italy, was 
to be billeted along the coastal region vacated by 
the two divisions though not to be committed to a 
coastal defense role. Additional divisions from 
northern Europe were to be moved into Italy to 
reconstitute the theater's strategic reserves. 



In any case. Hitler insisted, the Cae- 
sar Line had to be held. Uncompleted 
sectors of the line were to be iiTiproved 
at once by using labor companies, secu- 
rity detachments, and k)cal inhabitants. 
Delaving action in front of the line was 
to be aimed at inflicting such crippling 
losses that the Allied forces would be 
stopped even before reaching the line. 
Such an order bore little relationship to 
the reality of the tactical situation and 
would not reach Army Group C until the 
afternoon of the 26th, too late to do 
much about it. 

In the meantime, Kesselring and 
Mackensen turned their attention to 
General Herr's battered LXXVI Panzer 
Corps on the Fourteenth Army's faltering 
left wing. The harried corps com- 
mander had no know ledge of the exact 
location of the 715th Division but 
guessed that it might be scattered 
among the towns of Cori, Norma, and 
Sezze in the Lepini Mountains. As for 
Greiner's 362d Division, it was in better 
shape. One regiment had been de- 
stroyed at Cisterna. Survivors of the 
remaining two were withdrawing in the 
direction of Velletri and Valmontone. '" 

To Kesselring it was e\ident that a 
dangerous gap had opened on Herr's 
front, and that Truscott's corps would 
soon move through to threaten High- 
way 6 near Valmontone. To close the 
gap Kesselring ordered the Fourteenth 
Army commander to commit the recon- 
naissance battalion of the Hertnann Goer- 
ing Division as soon as it arrixed, the 
battalion to serve as a blcKking force 
ak)ng a four-mile front between Lari- 
ano at the foot of the Alban Hills to an 
anchor on Monte Ilirio, about two miles 



'" MS # R-5() (Bailev). L'nless otherwise indicated 
the iollowing section is based upon this source. 



158 

northeast ot Giulianello. Kesselring also 
told Mackensen to have patrols of the 
362d Division try to re-establish contact 
with the 715th Division. 

Mackensen readily agreed that he 
might be able to ck)se the gap with the 
reconnaissance battalion, but pointed 
out that it would be too thinly spread 
tor any offensive action. As for the 
362d Division, it was alreadv overex- 
tended and probably would be unable 
to maintain contact with the 775//? Divi- 
sion, even if patrols should succeed in 
k)cating the divisk)n. Mackensen had 
little confidence that either measure 
could do much to stem the American 
thrust toward Valmontone and High- 

wav 6. 

Mackensen, nevertheless, transmitted 
both orders to his panzer corps com- 
mander. Meanwhile, the corps was to 
establish a new defense based on for- 
mer artillery positions south of the 
Velletri-Giulianello road. That road had 
to be kept open if the integrity of the 
LXXVI Panzer Corps was to be main- 
tained, yet even as the order was given, 
the armored spearhead of the U.S. VI 
Corps had reached the fringe of 
(iiulianelk). 

Turning to his right wing, Macken- 
sen ordered Schlemm to begin with- 
drawing his / Parachute Corps into the 
Caesar Line. The positions there were 
to be held at all costs. " 

As the situation on the Fourteenth 
Army^s left wing deteriorated on the 
25th, Kesselring directed Mackensen to 
shift additional antitank guns from the 
/ Parachute Corps to the LXXVI Panzer 

" CL\C AOK 14, la Nr. 1470/44 g.K chefs, 26 May 
44, in AOK 14 la KTB \r. 3, Anl. 462, 1-31 May 44, 
AOK 14, 5909113. 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 

Corps front. Mackensen had already 
transferred 48 heavy antitank guns, 8 
88-mm. guns, and about half of the 
parachute corps' remaining assault guns 
to the panzer corps, leaving only 1 
company of antitank guns and 8 assault 
guns in the parachute corps. Of the 
508 th Panzer Battalion's original 38 Tiger 
tanks onlv 17 remained, and those too 
had been moved to the panzer cxjrps. 

General von Mackensen decided that 
he could make no further withdrawals 
from the parachute corps with(jut seri- 
ously weakening his right wing. He still 
believed, as he had since the beginning 
of the Allied offensive on the 23d, that 
eventually the Allied main effort was 
going to erupt against that right wing. 
The only reserve left to the / Parachute 
Corps, in any case, was the newly organ- 
ized 92d Infantry Division, with a coastal 
defense mission west of Rome; and 
because of the condition of the roads 
and the shortage of transport, Macken- 
sen doubted whether it would fx^ possi- 
ble to shift the division to Herrs front. 
All that Mackensen could ho|3e to add 
to oppose the American thrust toward 
Valmontone was the panzer reconnais- 
sance battalion of the Hennann Goering 
Division and, if found, the disorganized 
remnants of the 715th Division. 

General von Vietinghoff, the Tenth 
Army commander, was also concerned 
about keeping open Highway 6 
through Valmontone as k)ng as possi- 
ble, for, while he had other routes 
available to him, the Valmontone junc- 
tion was important for a withdrawal of 
the Tenth Army's right wing. The integ- 
ritv of Herr's corps was thus vital to 
Vietinghoffs plans for extricating Sen- 
ger's corps from the converging Allied 



BREAKOUT FROM THE BEACHHEAD 139 

armies. Meanwhile, the Tenth Army con- position anchored on the Sacco River 
tinned to fall bat k to a new delaying near Castro dei Volsti. 



PART THREE 
DRIVE TO ROME 



If I know that the enemy can be attacked and that my troops are capable 
of attacking him, but do not realize that because of the conformation of 
the ground I should not attack, my chance of victory is but half. 

Sun Tzu, The Art of War 



CHAPTER IX 



Stalemate Along the Caesar Line 



Clark's Decision 

On the afternoon of 24 May General 
Clark asked General Truscott, "Have 
you considered changing the direction 
of your attack to the northwest — toward 
Rome?" 

General Truscott, whose attention 
was still focused on Valmontone and 
Highway 6, replied that he had, but 
only in the event that Mackensen 
shifted a significant part of the still 
formidable / Parachute Corps from the 
Alban Hills into the Valmontone Gap. 
Since such a concentration might delay 
the VI Corps long enough to allow the 
Germans to slip through Valmontone, 
Truscott thought that under those cir- 
cumstances "an attack to the northwest 
might be the best way to cut off the 
enemy withdrawal north of the Alban 
Hills." To meet such a contingency, his 
staff had kept plan Turtle current — an 
attack to the northwest directlv toward 
Rome.' 

Clark's cjuestion was for Truscott the 
first indication since the meeting at 
Army headquarters a few days before 
the breakout offensive began that the 
Fifth Army commander was still seri- 
ously considering modification of Oper- 
ation Buffalo. Although Clark said 



nothing further at the moment, Trus- 
cott was puzzled over Clark's apparent 
desire to tinker with an operation that 
seemed to be moving rapidly to a 
successful conclusion. ^ 

In spite of Truscott's confidence in 
the operation, Clark continued to ques- 
tion the validity of what he considered 
to be Alexander's strategic concept. 
Seeing the attack toward Valmontone as 
simply the result of a "long-stand- 
ing . . . preconceived idea" promoted 
by Alexander's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. 
Sir John Harding, General Clark be- 
lieved it was "based upon the false 
premise that if Highwav 6 were cut at 
Valmontone a German army would tx? 
annihilated." The many alternate roads 
leading northward out of the Sacco-Liri 
valley, he believed, would enable the 
Tenth Army to bypass a trap at Valmon- 
tone. Clark became more and more 
convinced that instead of continuing a 
major effort toward Valmontone and 
Highway 6, he should be driving 
straight for Rome.^ 

Clark's conviction was strengthened 
by his estimate of the enemy's disposi- 
tions. According to G-2 reports, rem- 



'Truscott, Commatid Missions, p. 374; Iiitcrv, au- 
thor with (ien Truscott, I Mar 62. CiMH. 



^ Interv, author with (ien Truscott, 1 Mar 62. in 
CMH files: Ltr, fien Truscott to CMH, 3 Nov 1%1, 
in CMH lllcs. 

■'Clark Diarv. 2(i Mav 44. 



Ili4 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Aerial View of Valmontone and Highway 6 



nants of the 362d Division had with- 
drawn from Cisterna into the sector 
between Velletri and Valmontone, and 
Kesselring had ordered the Hermann 
Goering Division into the Valmontone 
Gap. Cieneral Clark also suspected that 
Mackensen would shift units from the 
Fourteenth Army's right Hank toward 
Valmontone, and would thereby signif- 
icantly thin out the / Parachute Corps' 
defense in the Alban Hills. Earlier 
German actions along the Ciustav Line, 
where forces had been transferred 
from the mountains in order to but- 
tress defenses athwart natural routes of 



advance, tended to support his reason- 
ing.^ 

Even if the VI Corps managed to 
break through to Valmontone — which 
Clark saw as unlikeh in \'iew of the 
reported enem\ build-up there — Clark 
concluded that the lengthening line of 
communications extending from Anzio 
toward Valmontone would become in- 
creasingly vulnerable to German forces 
in the Alban Hills. Without further staff 
discussion on the subject, Clark decided 
to modifv Operation Buffalo signiti- 



^Fitth Armv C;-2 Jul. Max 44. 



STALEMATE ALONCi THE CAESAR LINE 



65 



candy and turn the bulk of Truscott's 
corps northwestward into the Alban 
Hills.' 

On 25 Mav Clark diiected his G-3, 
General Brann, to inform General 
Truscott of the new objective. "We will 
capture Rome/' Clark said conti- 
dentb, ". . . it is just a matter ot 
time." '' 

Visiting his sulDordinate commanders 
on the moining ot 25 May, and una- 
ware of the impending change in plan, 
Truscott was pleased with what he saw. 
The 1st Armored Division was within 
tour miles ot Velletri. The 3d Division 
was closing in on Cori. Frederick's 1st 
Special Service POrce was nearing the 
summit ot Monte Arrestino on ttie VI 
Corps" right flank. All shared Truscott's 
confidence that by the following morn- 
ing the VI Corps "would be astride the 
German line of withdrawal through 
Valmontone."" 

Returning to his command post 
about noon, Truscott found General 
Brann waiting for him. "The Boss 
wants you to leave the 3d Infantry 
Division and the Special Force to blcKk 
Highway 6," Brann said, "and mount 
that assault you discussed with him to 
the northwest as soon as you can."* 

Truscott was dumbfounded. There 
was as yet no indication, he protested, 
that the enemy had significantly weak- 
ened his defenses in the Alban Hills. 
That was, he insisted, the only condi- 
tion that would justifv modifying Bi'f- 



lAi.o. Nor, unlike (^lark, did Truscott 
have evidence of an important enemy 
build-up in the Valmontone area, ex- 
cept for an identification of reconnais- 
sance elements of the Hermann Goering 
Division. This was no time, the corps 
commander argued, to shift the main 
effort of his attack to the northwest 
toward the / Parachute Corps where the 
enemy was still strong. The offensive 
should continue instead with "maxi- 
mum power into the Valmontone Gap 
to insine destruction of the German 
Army."'' 

When Truscott said he wanted tc3 talk 
with Clark before abandoning Blf- 
FALO, Brann said that was impossible. 
The Army commander had left the 
beachhead and was out of reach of 
radio. There was no point arguing; the 
"Boss" had said attack to the northwest 
and that was an order. Truscott told his 
staff to prepare to implement the or- 
der.^" 

Later that afternoon, apparenth dis- 
turbed that his protest might indicate 
an unwillingness to pursue the new 
course, Truscott called Brann and ex- 
pressed enthusiasm for the new plan. "I 
feel very strongh that vve should do this 
thing. We should do it tomorrow. May 
not he able to get it organized before 
noon. I have preparations going 
on . . ."'' Yet despite that turnabout, 
Truscott actualh believed Clark's deci- 
sion to be basically wrong. He deter- 
mined nevertheless to carry it out 
w holeheartedh , and he intended for his 
division commanders to do the same. '"- 



*Intcrv. Mathews with l.t Col T. J. Coiiwaw 27 
jun 50. 

« Fifth Armv i.-^ ]iil. Mav 44; Claik Diaiv. 25 
May 44. " 

^ Truscott, Cinnmand Missions, pp. 374-75. 

"VI Corps G-3 Jnl. 25-27 May 44, entry 
251740B Mav 44. 



•' Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 375-76. 
'"Ibid. 

" VI Corps C.-3 Jnl, 25-27 Mav 44, entrv 
25174()B. 

'- Interv, author with Fiustott, Mar 62, C'MFt. 



6ti 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



The test came shortly be tore mid- 
night when Truscott met with his com- 
manders in the VI Corps command 
post to tell them of the change, h was a 
gloomy gathering, for rumors of the 
change had ahead) reached the divi- 
sions. Although Truscott presented the 
new plan with zeal, he failed to change 
the prevailing mood. Generals Harmon 
and O" Daniel were especially bitter, for 
they deemed they were on the thresh- 
old of success. The decision was unjusti- 
fiable, thev argued, because their divi- 
sions would soon be astride Highway 6 
and in possession of Valmontone from 
which they could make a rapid advance 
along the highway to Rome. ^'^ 

Without minimizing the problems in- 
herent in the change in direction, Trus- 
cott eloquently defended Clark's con- 
cept. The Cerman Tenth Army's retreat 
from the southern front and Kessel- 
rings shift of reserves from the north, 
Truscott declared, had led Clark to 
believe that "in the Valmontone Gap 
the going will grow increasingly more 
difficult. " Nor would cutting Highway 6 
guarantee destruction of the Tenth 
Army, for the German troops could 
withdraw over alternate routes. Al- 
though Truscott conceded that Allied 
forces would eventually have to break 
through the defenses at Valmontone, 
he endfjrsed Clark's theory that an 
attack northwestward into the Alban 
Hills would enable the Fifth Army to 
outflank those defenses and open the 
road to Rome more quickly. "It is," 
Truscott said stoutly, "an idea with 
which I am heartily in accord."'^ 



The VI Corps, General Truscott an- 
nounced, was to attack the next day on 
a three-mile front with two divisions 
abreast, the 34th and the 45th, to 
occupy a general line between Campo- 
leone and Lanuvio, respectively four 
and eight miles west of Velletri. Since 
the divisions were to attack on a rela- 
tively narrow front and in some depth, 
the attack would be powerful and capa- 
ble of punching a hole in the last 
enemv defenses south ot Romc.^^ {Mafj 

Those defenses, Truscott continued, 
were manned by S'^hlemm's / Pararhutr 
Corps — composed of the 4th Parachute, 
the 65th Infantry, and the 3d Panzer 
(grenadier Divisions, significantlv weak- 
ened, Truscott's (i-2 had assured him, 
by shifts to reinforce the Cisterna and 
Valmontone sectors. Elements of the 
334th Infantry Dii'ision had also been 
identified, and an additional battalion 
of paratroopers could be expected; oth- 
erwise, between Velletri and Campo- 
leone to the southwest there was onlv a 
'hodgepodge of units," much like those 
encountered when the corps had first 
landed at Anzio. Moreover, the 362d 
Dix'ision, which had defended the Cis- 
terna sector, was believed to be virtuallv 
destroved, and the 7 J 5th Dii'ision had 
been severelv hurt.'" 

This latter estimate was reasonablv 
accurate. Yet the analysts overlooked 
the fact that even though the / Para- 
chute Corps lacked manv tanks, assault 
guns, and antitank pieces, the corps" 
three divisions still represented a strong 



May 44. 



V'l Corps Division C>ommanders' Meeting, 25 



^* Ibid.; Interv, author with Gen Truscott, Mar May 44 
62, CMH. ^<^ib,d. 



'^ VI Corps Division (Commanders" Meeting. 25 



STALEMATE ALONC; THE CAESAR LINE 



67 



and as yet uncommitted force, well 
entrenched in the only completed por- 
tion of the Caesar Line. 

Moreover, the situation labeled a 
"hodgepodge of units'" prevailed not to 
the southwest of Velletri, but more 
nearly described that on the sector 
around Valmontone. Even as the U.S. 
VI Corps began to shift its main attack 
from the northeast to the northwest, 
General O'Daniel's reinforced 3d Divi- 
sion continued to ptish toward Valmon- 
tone and Highway 6. That development 
so disturbed Field Marshal Kesselring 
that he abandoned all plans for rein- 
forcing the Tenth Army. Instead he 
began to send everything he could lay 
his hands on — a rocket launcher unit 
from the 334th Division, an infantry 
regiment from the 9()th Division, and an 
antiaircraft artillery battery — toward 
Valmontone and Highway 6 to rein- 
force the Fourteenth Armys left wing, 
and to cover the Tenth Army^s right 
flank.'" Until division-sized reinforce- 
ments might arrive, these forces were 
indeed a hodgepodge of units, and 
through most of the 27th were all that 
stood between Truscott's VI Corps and 
its original objective. 

Buffalo Buried — Almost 

By shifting the direction of the VI 
Corps offensive, Clark had of course 
altered Operation Bi fkalo significantlv, 
but he had not completely iDuried it.'^ 
A force sizable enough to justify Kes- 
selring's concern continued in the direc- 
tion of Highway 6 and Valmontone. 



While General O'Daniel's 3d Division 
made up the bulk of this force, it also 
included Frederick's 1st Special Service 
Force, operating on the right flank, as 
well as Howze's armored task force on 
the left. Operation Buffalo had been 
downgraded to a secondary operation, 
and, if the enemy could bring in suffi- 
cient force in time, might become es- 
sentially defensive rather than offen- 
sive.'^ To he sure, Clark planned even- 
tually to augment O'Daniel's force with 
Keyes' II Corps after it had completed 
its task in the mountains to the south, 
but it was questionable whether this 
augmentation could be made in time to 
accomplish Operation Buffalo's stra- 
tegic objective. 

Led by a battalion of the 15th Infan- 
try, the 3d Division at first encountered 
little opposition. It was a mild May day 
and, since the enemy had seemingly 
vanished, the troops began to react to 
the balmy weather, so much that an 
irate division staff officer was prompted 
to upbraid his counterpart on the staff 
of the offending regiment. "Today vour 
troops up there seem[ed] to be relaxing 
without helmets, arms . . . picking 
daisies, and enjoying the spring air. 
What do you think — that the war is 
over?"-^' 

The vernal interlude was rudelv shat- 
tered that afternoon when a flight of 
American fighter-bombers, mistaking 
the 3d Division's columns for fleeing 
enemy troops, attacked without warn- 
ing. About five P-4()'s first bombed the 
columns, then returned to strafe the 
scattered infantrymen. As the planes 
disappeared in the distance, the\ left 



" (;reiner and Schramm, eds.. OKW/WFSl, KTB, 
IV(1), pp. 493-94. 

"* See. Mathews, "The Drive on Rome," in Ciim- 
mand Dcri.wons, p. 360. 



-" 3d Inf D\\ G-3 Jnl, '2703008 Mav 44, Cobra 3 
to Si3, 30th Inf. 



6S 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



behind over a hundred men killed or 
wounded and a number of vehicles 
destroyed, including several loaded with 
ammunition.-' 

The tragic mistake was especially 
costly to smaller units, such as the 10th 
Field AriP-^rv Battalion. Two battery 
commanders were killed and a third 
batterv commander, the communica- 
tions officer, the assistant S-2, and the 
antitank officer wounded.-- Even as the 
units were caring for their casualties, 
other Allied aircraft bombed Cori, 
which had been in American hands 
since early morning. It took engineers 
five hours to clear a path through 
rubble blocking the main road in the 
town. -^ 

The mistaken bombing prompted the 
division commander, General O'Daniel, 
to substitute the 7th Infantry for the 
15th Infantry and to send the 30th 
Infantry to cover the flanks. One battal- 
ion of the 30th Infantry moved north- 
westward from Giulianello to screen the 
left and a second marched eastward 
from Giulianello to screen the right. 
Following a narrow twisting road to- 
ward the village of Rocca Massima, the 
second battalion surprised and captured 
the village's garrison, a German infan- 
try company. Meanwhile, the 7th Infan- 
try passed through the 15th and contin- 
ued on toward Artena, where after 
dark the regiment halted in hills south- 
west of the town."^^ 

Screening the 3d Division's left flank. 



^' Fifth Army History, Part V, pp. 120-22; Taggert. 
ed., History of the Third Infantry Division in World War 
II, p. 173; 3d Div G-3 Jnl, 2619558 May 44. 

" 3d Div G-3 Jnl, 261955B May 44; 10th FA Bn 
Opns Rpt, May 44. 

-3 10th FA Bn Opns Rpt, May 44. 

2^ 3d Div G-3 Jnl, 26 May 44. 



Colonel Howze's task force advanced 
that afternoon far beyond Giulianello, 
and as darkness approached one tank 
company came to a halt within 800 
yards of Highway 6, not far from 
Labico, a village about two miles north- 
west of Valmontone. When the tanks 
approached the highway, enemy anti- 
tank fire destroyed three and forced 
the remainder to fall back into cover. ^^ 

Despite the setback. General O'Daniel 
was markedly encouraged by the prog- 
ress on the 26th. That evening he 
observed to the VI Corps commander, 
"This area is very soft .... Im con- 
vinced we could go into Rome, if we 
had more stuff up here."-" Truscott 
shared O'Daniel's optimism and urged 
him to occupy the Artena- Valmontone 
area and cut the highway before day- 
break. Willing to give O'Daniel an addi- 
tional tank battalion to do the job, 
Truscott reminded him, "Highway 6 
must be . . . cut and the gap h)etween 
Artena and the Alban Hills must be 
kept closed."-" 

In giving vent to such optimism and 
ambition, neither O'Daniel nor Truscott 
was affording sufficient weight to a 
disturbing portent that had developed 
in late afternoon as the 7th Infantry 
approached Artena. The German 
troops pushed back by the men of the 
7th Infantry were from the reconnais- 
sance battalion of the Hermann Goering 
Division. General O'Daniel displayed a 
more realistic interpretation of the im- 
plication in that intelligence when in the 
evening he told Colonel Howze to 



" Col Hamilton Howze, MS "The Rome Opera- 
tion" (hereafter cited as Howze MS). 
-« VI Corps G-3 Jnl, 26-28 Mav 44. 
" VI Corps G-3 Jnl; 263310B Mav 44. 



STALEMATE ALONC; THE CAESAR LINE 



69 



withdraw his tank company near High- 
way 6 at Labico and tie the company in 
with the tasiv force's main position along 
the raih'oad west of Artena. 

Nexertheless, even if the presence of 
the enemy reconnaissance battalion did 
presage early commitment of the entire 
Hermann Goenng Division, a chance still 
remained that the reinforced 3d Divi- 
sion might yet get to Valmontone 
ahead of the German reinforcements 
and, as Truscott had urged, close "the 
gap between Artena and the Alban 
Hills." If that could be accomplished. 
Operation Buffalo's original goal 
might be partially achieved despite Gen- 
eral Clark's decision to shift the VI 
Corps' main effort northward into the 
Alban Hills. 

Presence of the enemy reconnais- 
sance battalion did indeed indicate that 
Field Marshal Kesselring was planning 
to commit the Hermann Goering Diinsion 
at Valmontone, although except for the 
reconnaissance battalion, he intended 
waiting until the entire division arrived 
before committing the rest of the divi- 
sion. Yet that would be difficult to do, 
for, hard hit bv Allied aircraft en route, 
units of the division, often without 
much ot their heavv etjuipment, 
trickled in. Alarmed at the pace of 
the American advance, the division 
commander, (ieneralmajor Wilhelm 
Schmalz, took it on his own to reinforce 
the reconnaissance battalion with the 
other units as they arrived. 

When word of what was happening 
reached army group headquarters, Kes- 
selring sent a sharply worded order to 
disengage the division immediately and 
hold it in an assembly area north of 
Valmontone. The order reached Gen- 
eral Schmalz on the morning of the 



27th. Convinced that if he followed the 
order the Americans would (|uickly cut 
Highway 6, General Schmalz ignored it. 
Kesselring, he believed, was unaware of 
the true situation and, once he under- 
stood it, would endorse Schmalz's deci- 
sion.-^ 

In the meantime, Kesselring appar- 
ently came to the same conclusion, for 
later in the morning he removed all 
restrictions on commitment of the Her- 
mann Goering Division. The Fourteenth 
Army commander. General von Macken- 
sen, then ordered Schmalz to counterat- 
tack at noon. Although Schmalz had 
issued such an order, he found Ameri- 
can artillery fire so punishing and the 
ground over which the attack had to 
move so exposed that he later post- 
poned the attack until 1930, hopeful 
that gathering darkness would enhance 
the chance of success. Unfortunately for 
Schmalz's plan notification of delay 
failed to reach all units. -^ 

That development explains whv the 
Germans launched a virtually suicidal 
counterattack that afternoon. Shortly 
after noon. Colonel Howze's outposts 
along the railroad west of Artena re- 
ported what seemed to be enemy infan- 
try advancing through the wheat fields 
in full view of the American positions. 
Doubting that the Germans would ac- 
tually be so foolhardy, the men in the 
outposts asked if they might possibly be 
Americans. "Hell, no, shoot them up!" 
Colonel Howze himself bellowed into 
the phone. Leaving his command post, 
the task force commander raced for- 
ward in his jeep "to get in on the 



-« MS # C-087b (Schmalz and Bergengruen), 
Einsatz der Division Hermann Goernig in llalien, 26 
Mai-5 juin 44, CMH. 

■-" Ibid. 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



show." When he reached his front line, 
Howze could scarcely believe his 
e\es, ■'. . . the jerries walking and 
crawling through the wheat on the 
hillsides onh 1,500 yards away." Here 
was the long-expected Hermann Goering 
Division "coming in to face us." Howze's 
tanks opened fire with devastating re- 
sults. Gazing out over the carnage, 
Howze mused, "Why over the hills in 
davlight? . . . another mystery."'^" 

The remainder of the Hermann Goer- 
ing Division attacked at 1930, striking 
hard at Task Force Howze's left flank. 
Slipping through a wooded area on the 
left and firing from the shelter of the 
trees, a German self-propelled gun de- 
stroyed two of Howze's tanks. At the 
same time, accurate artillery fire hit the 
American positions, falling primarily on 
men of the 1st Battalion, 6th Armored 
Infantry, and perilously close to 
Howze's command post. Even as the 
infantrymen sought cover, a "terrific 
pounding of 155's" — short rounds from 
their own supporting guns — hit their 
positions. As if to compound the confu- 
sion, a group of 160 replacements 
arrived just as the bombardment began. 
Bewildered and frightened, the men 
flung themselves to the ground; over 
half of them were killed or wounded. 
The infantry battalion commander and 
all three of his artillery observers ex- 
posed themselves selflessly at the radio 
transmitter in futile efforts to halt the 
American fire, but they were killed 
during the barrage. Taking advantage 
of the artillery fire and confusion 
among the Americans, Schmalz's troops 
penetrated the 6th Armored Infantry's 



lines, but the surviving infantry halted 
them short of a breakthrough. 

Under the circumstances, Colonel 
Howze decided to refuse his embattled 
left by withdrawing the company hold- 
ing the flank. After night came the 
company pulled back about 1,500 
yards, while the supporting artillerv — 
the U.S. 91st Armored Field Artillerv 
Battalion and the British 24th Royal 
Artillery Field Regiment — hurled saho 
after salvo beyond the lines. In the face 
of that fire, the Germans desisted. Early 
the following morning Howze sent his 
infantry back into the abandoned posi- 
tions. 

In the meantime, the 15th Infantrv 
early on the 27th had again taken the 
lead in the attack on Artena. Although 
the regiment entered the town b\ 0900, 
the men were unable to clear the last 
resistance until late afternoon, about 
three hours before the German strike 
against Task Force Howze. The sur\i\- 
ing Germans in Artena withdrew a mile 
north to the Artena railroad station 
where they hastily constructed field for- 
tifications blocking the \vav to Valmon- 
tone — only a tempting mile and a half 
away. ^^ 

Although the Hermann Goering Divi- 
sion's counterattack had failed to hold 
the gi'ound gained on the 27th, and the 
Americans had taken Artena, the Ger- 
mans had thrown O'Daniel's force suffi- 
ciently off balance to force a postpc:)ne- 
ment of the drive toward Valmontone 
and Highway 6. Relieving Task Force 
Howze, the 7th Infantrv attacked 
through the day of the 28th — advanc- 
ing over the same grain fields through 
which the Germans had attacked on the 



^" Howze MS. Unless otherwise cited, the tollow- 
ing is based upon this source. 



VI Corps G-3 Jnl. 270900 and 271610 Mav 44. 



STALEMATE ALONC; THE C:AESAR LINE 



17 



27lh — but gained only a few hundred 
yards before coming to a halt in the 
face of heavy enemy fire.'" 

Late on the 28th the 1st Battalion, 
6th Armored Infantry, followed the 
next day by the 91st Armored Field 
Artillery, withdrew from the task, force 
and returned to the 1st Armored Divi- 
sion, then preparing to join the drive 
on Rome thioiigh the Alban Hills. The 
remainder of Howze's task force then 
reverted to 3d Division reserve. By 
noon on the 29th General O' Daniel's 
troops held a line across the Valmon- 
tone corridor from the northeastern 
corner of the Alban Hills east to the 
Lepini Mountains. The right was held 
by General Frederick's 1st Special Serv- 
ice Force, the center of the line by the 
7th, and the left by the 30th Infantry, 
with the 15th Infantry in reserve. The 
91st Cavalry Reconnaissance Scjuadron 
had moved up on the right to patrol 
the hills between the 1st Special Service 
Force and the FEC, advancing through 
the Lepini Mountains toward Colle- 
ferro, some five miles east of Artena.'^'^ 

At this pinni General Clark decided 
to halt the drive toward Valmontone 
briefly until General O'Daniel's troops 
could be reinforced, for, in his words, 
"Valmontone and the high ground to 
the north and to the west is so strongly 
held and in the enemy's main defense 
position that to send one division to the 
north alone would meet with disas- 
ter."''^ General Clark gave yet another 
reason for his decision. The thrust 



■'" Taggert, ed.. History of t fie Third Infantry Division 
in World War II , pp. 17.5-76. 

•■'•■' Fifth Army G-3 Jnl, 27-28 May 44; M.sg, 
Brann to Gruenther, 28 May 44; Fifth Army History, 
Part V, pp. 121-22. 

•'^ C:lark Diary, 30 May 44. 



toward Valmontone had exposed the 
VI Corps' right flank, and an enemy 
division — the 715th — was facing it. As it 
turned out that decision, in reality, 
constituted no threat, for its remnants 
were even then desperately attempting 
to escape northward before being 
trapped between the Americans and 
the French. 

In General Juin's corps, ojx'rating on 
the Fifth Army's right flank across the 
northwestern slopes of the Lepini 
Mountains, Clark had a strong force 
which, if used boldly, might be able to 
cut the enemy's LOG — Highway 6 — 
several miles east of Valmontone. Rec- 
ognizing this opportunity, and faced 
with the very real prc^spect c:)f being 
pinched out of line by the U.S. VI 
Corps and the Eighth Army, Juin pro- 
posed on 28 May that his corps de- 
bouch from the mountains into the 
Sacco valley. Thus would the French 
outflank the enemy east of Valmontone 
then drive toward Tivoli in the Sabine 
Hills east of Rome. Alexander, unlike 
Clark, did not favor such a maneuver, 
and forbade the French to cross the 
Sacco River. ^-^ 

General Alexander objected mainlv 
because he wanted to keep Highwav 6 
clear for the approaching Canadian 
Corps on the Eighth Army's left wing. 
Yet the Canadians, after taking Ce- 
prano on the 27th and on the following 
day pushing on to the outskirts of Arce 
some forty miles .southeast of Valmcm- 
tone, would not reach Frosinone until 
the 31st. Meanwhile Juin sent his corps 
over the northern and northwestern 



■■'■' Pierre Le Goyet, La Participation Franc^aise a la 
Cam/jagnc d'ltalic, 1943-i-i (Paris: Imprimerie Na- 
tionale, 1969), pp. 124-2.5; Juin, La ('.(impagnr 
d'ltalii', pp. 132-35. 



172 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



slopes ot the Lepini Mountains toward 
a junction w ith the U.S. VI Corps near 
Artena. The 4th Moroccan Mountain 
Division then relieved the U.S. 88th 
Infantn Division on a sector extending 
westward to Sezze. Alexander's concern 
tor keeping Highway 6 tree for l.eese's 
army was obvioush overly sanguine, tor 
it was evident to hKjth Clark and Juin 
that it would be some time before the 
Eighth Armv drew abreast. '^^ 

Yet reinforcement of the diluted 
drive on Valmontone was destined to 
come from another (]uarter. On 25 
May General Keyes' II Corps had made 
contact with the VI Corps near Sezze 
about twelve miles southeast of Cis- 
terna. As for the EEC, denied permis- 
sion to strike out directly for Eerentino 
and Highway 6, it would continue in a 
northeasterly direction through the Le- 
pini Mountains along the axis of the 
Carpineto Romano-Colle Eerro road 
which connects with Highway 6 five 
miles east of Valmontone. Once the 
Erench had reached that point Clark 
hoped to persuade Alexander to shift 
the interarmy boundary northward to 
allow Juin and his corps to cover the 
Eifth Army's right flank north of the 
highway as that army's II Corps ad- 
vanced toward Rome along Highway 6 
west of Valmontone. ^^ 

Meanwhile, back in London, Prime 
Minister Churchill, whose strategic con- 
cepts b(jre most heavily upcm the un- 
folding campaign in Italy, fretted over 
the daily situation maps in the Cabinet 
War Room. As he saw it, unless the 
Americans soon captured Valmontone 
and cut Highway 6, the Tenth Army 



might elude the trap the Anzio (offen- 
sive had been designed to spring. 
Whether that strategic grand design 
rested upon military realities or upon 
ministerial fancy, Churchill cabled .^ex- 
ander on 28 May urging him to move 
sufficient armor 'up to the northern- 
most spearhead directed against the 
Valmontone-Erosinone road [Highwav 
6]. . . " To that Churchill added: "a 
cop [in the English school boy slang, to 
capture or nab a ball as in cricket] is 
much more important than Rome 
. . . the cop is the one thing that 
matters."'^ Later the same day the 
Prime Minister expressed his growing 
concern in yet another cable, u hich said 
in part: '. . . the glory of this bat- 
tle . . . will f)e measured, not bv the 
capture of Rome or the junction with 
the bridgehead [Anzio beachhead], but 
by the number of (ierman divisions cut 
off. I am sure," the British leader 
reminded his commander in Italv, "that 
you will have revolved all this in vour 
mind, and perhaps have already acted 
in this wav. Nevertheless, I feel that I 
ought to tell you that it is the cop that 
counts. 

Alexander sought, apparentlv in vain, 
to put his Prime Minister's mind at 
ease, but Clark's earlier decision to 
divert the bulk of Truscott's VI Corps 
to the northwest had alreadv taken the 
matter out of Alexander's (and Church- 
ill's) hands. Years later Churchill would 
observe: ". . . the Hnmann Guering Di- 
vision . . . got to Valmontone first. 
The single American division sent bv 
General Clark was stopped short of it 



■"' Ibid. 

^' Clark Diarv, 26 and 28 Mav 44; Clark, Calcu- 
lated Risk, pp. 356-61. 



■'** Winston S. Churchill, 'The Second World 
War" series, Closing the Ring (Boston: Houghton 
Mifflin Company, 1951), p. 607. 

■'''I bid. 



STALEMATE ALONC; THE CAESAR LINE 



173 



and the escape road [Highway 6] re- 
mained open. That was verv unfortun- 
ate.""*" 

"The most direct route to Rome" 

In line with the shift of emphasis 
awa\ from Valmontone toward Rome, 
General Truscott had planned to imple- 
ment Clark's order by attacking with 
Ryder's 34th and Eagles' 45th Divisions 
on a three-mile front southwest of 
Velletri, to the Campoleone station. On 
the left, Eagles' division was to advance 
toward the railroad station, while Ry- 
der's division on the light approached 
Liinuvio. Harmon's 1st Armored Divi- 
sion was to maintain pressure against 
Velletri until relieved by Walker's 36th 
Division, then in corps reserve. Instead 
of relieving the 3d Division north of 
Cisterna, as originally planned, the 36th 
Division was to replace the armor so as 
to free it for exploitation of any enemy 
soft spots uncovered between Lanuvio 
and tfie Campoleone station. 

Through(jut the night of 25 May 
American infantrymen moved by truck 
or on foot over the roads southwest of 
Cisterna into assembly areas in prepara- 
tion for the offensive. "Considering the 
congested area and restricted road net," 
the corps commander later observed, "a 
more complicated plan would be diffi- 
cult to conceive." When it became ap- 
parent early on the 26th that the units 
would be unable to reach their lines of 
departure before daylight, General 
Truscott delayed the attack an hour, 
until 1 {)()(), then another hour to 
1100.^' 



During the morning army headquar- 
ters confirmed General Clark's oral or- 
ders of the previous day. The reason 
given was that "the (werwhelming suc- 
cess of the current battle makes it 
possible to continue Operation Bi k- 
FALO with powerful forces and to 
launch a new attack along the most 
direct refute to Rome."^'- 

Soon afterward, General Alexander 
visited the Fifth Army rear headcjuar- 
ters where General Gruenther, Clark's 
chief of staff, briefly explained the new 
plan. Alexander agreed that it seemed 
to be a good one. He also incjuired 
whether Clark intended to continue his 
drive toward Valmontone. Gruenther 
assured him that Clark "had the situa- 
tion thoroughly in mind, and that he 
could depend upon [Clark] to execute a 
vigorous plan with all the push in the 
world." ^^ 

Whether Alexander was satisfied with 
the answer or whether he chose, in 
view of the limitations peculiar to this 
multinational commanci, to accept it 
with his usual good grace made little 
difference, for he had been presented 
with a fait accompli. The bulk of the 
U.S. VI Corps had alreadv launched a 
new offensive across the southern 
slopes of the Alban Hills — in Ckfiieral 
Clark's words, "the gatewa\ to Rome." 

While the two British divisions dem- 
onstrated west of the An/io-Albano 
road in order to hold the Germans on 
that front, and the 1st Armored Divi- 
sion increased its pressure against Velle- 
tri, 228 guns began a 3()-minute prepa- 
ratory barrage at 1{)3(), and the 34th 
and 45th Divisions prepared to jump 



'"Ibid. 

" Truscott, Command Missions, pp. :^7.'S-76: VI 
Corps G-3 Jnl. 25-27 May 44. 



'■ Filth Ariin OI 24. 26 Mav 44. 
^•' Clark, Calculated Ri,sk. pp. 3r)7-r>8. 



174 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



off.^^ Attacking at 1100 with two regi- 
ments abreast through rolling wheat- 
fields east of Aprilia, a road junction 
ten miles north of Anzio, the 45th 
Division encountered Hanking auto- 
matic weapons fire fiom *the direction 
of Aprilia, which lay in the British 
sector. For two hours the fire pinned 
down the troops, until a company of 
tanks came forward to silence the en- 
eni) guns. By nightfall the division had 
advanced a mile and a half and had 
netted some 170 enemy prisoners, in- 
cluding a battalion commander and 
three members of his staff. The day's 
action cost the 45th Division a total of 
225 casualties, of whom 2 were killed, 
203 wounded, and 20 missing. ^'^ 

On the right the 34th Division ad- 
vanced along the axis of the old Via 
Appia until its troops too were stopped 
by heavy machine gun fire. Supporting 
artillery fire eventually silenced the en- 
emy guns, so that at the end of the day, 
the 34th Division was also about a mile 
and a half beyond its line of departure. 
The division paid for that modest suc- 
cess with a total of 118 casualties, of 
which 21 were killed and 94 
wounded. ^'^ 

Both divisions were within two miles 
of their respective objectives, the Cam- 
poleone railroad station and Lanuvio, 



^^ Stone buildings concealing enemy guns and 
command installations were targets tor the 24()-mm. 
howitzers and 155-mm. guns. Even tour battalions 
of 9()-mm. antiaircraft guns opened fire against 
terrestrial targets. See Fi/tli Army History, Part V, p. 
123. 

** 45th Div Opns Rpt, Mav 44; Fifth Army History. 
Part V, pp. 123-24: 45th Div G-3 Jnl, 2'622250B 
and 270350B May 44; Analysis of Battle Casualty 
Reports, U.S. Fifth Army, June 45. 

■"* Although the artillery had played the primary 
role in destroving the enemy guns, the action of 1st 
Lt Beryl R. Newman (133d Infantry), who single- 



yet co-ordination between the two units 
had left much to be desired. Unfamiliar 
terrain and a virtually sleepless night of 
rapid marches from one sector to an- 
other help to explain it. Because of the 
lack of co-ordination, a wide gap had 
opened along the Cisterna-Campo- 
ieone-Rome railroad, the interdivision 
boundary. In spite of efforts of recon- 
naissance companies from both divi- 
sions to close the gap, scattered and 
bypassed enemy detachinents continued 
to harass the inner flanks of the divi- 
sions for the next two days. 

The next morning both divisions re- 
newed their efforts; but unknown to 
the Americans, the enemv had with- 
drawn during the night behind a screen 
of automatic weapons, backed bv roving 
tanks and self-propelled guns. At 0615, 
behind a 15-minute artillery prepara- 
tion, the 45th Division attacked with 
two regiments forward. Not until early 
afternoon did anv significant resistance 
develop. This came from a covev of 
German tanks located in a small woods 
beyond the Spaccasassi Canal, a south- 
ward-flowing drainage canal a thousand 
yards west of Carano. Armor support- 
ing the attack quickly came forward, 
crossed the creek, and forced the Ger- 
mans to withdraw. As darkness fell, the 
infantry joined the tanks and dug in for 
the night bevond the creek. 

The 34th Division also attacked on a 
two-regiment front. All went well until 
enemv guns located along a low ridge, 
extending from the Piesciano Canal in 



handedlv silenced thiee enemv machine guns, killed 
2 enemv, wounded 2, and took 1 1 prisoners, had 
much to do with it. For this Lieutenant Newman 
received the Medal of Honor. See 34th Div Rpt of 
Opns, May 44, and U.S. Fifth Army Battle Casualty 
Rpts, Jun 45. 



STALEMATE ALONC; THE CAESAR LINE 



175 



the west to the Prefetti Canal in the 
east, broke up the assault. No sooner 
had the attack failed than the Germans 
launched a tank-supported counterat- 
tack. After beating back the enemy 
force, the Americans settled down for 
the night at the foot of the ridge. 

After two days of fighting, the main 
body of the VI Corps still was almost 
two miles short of Campoleone railroad 
station and the town of Lanuvio, the 
immediate objectives. Yet in spite of the 
slow progress, Truscott still believed the 
enemy front to be weakly held and 
alerted General Harmon to assemble 
his armor for an attack through the 
45th Division's lines on the 29th. 
Walker's 36th Division had already re- 
lieved the armored division south of 
Velletri. 

Truscott Commits His Armor 

During the night of 28 May General 
Harmon assembled his armored divi- 
sion behind the VI Corps' left wing to 
exploit what appeared to the corps 
commander to be a potentially soft spot 
in the enemy's defenses opposite the 
45th Division. The terrain there seemed 
to be favorable for the use of armor. 
To give Harmon a more extensive road 
net, Truscott, after co-ordinating with 
Fifth Army headquarters, shifted the 
corps' boundary slightly to the left into 
the British sector. At the same time. 
General Ryder's 34th Division, now 
screened on its right by the 36th Di\i- 
sion, was to try once more to break 
through at Lanuvio, while General Ea- 
gles' 45th Di\ision was to regroup and 
follow in the wake of Harmon's armor. 
That night General Eagles sent the 
179th Infantiy into the line east of the 
Albano road to screen the armored 



division's preparations, and General Ry- 
der prepared to launch the 135th In- 
fantry, less one battalion, in a renewed 
attack against Lanuvio in the morning. 

Before dawn on the 29th the 1st 
Armored Division moved to a line of 
departure ab{jut 1,200 yards south of 
Campoleone station, and at 1530 the 
division attacked. On its left was CCB, 
supported by the 180th Infantry, and 
on the right, CCA, supported by the 3d 
Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry. Off- 
shore a French cruiser lent additional 
support, its guns firing at targets in the 
vicinity of Albano. To a staff officer of 
the 180th Infantry observing Harmon's 
armored units as they rolled forward, 
the attack "looked like a corps re- 
view."^" 

During the morning the armored 
units advanced easily against light resist- 
ance. CCB (juickly cleared a rear guard 
from the Campoleone station and then 
continued northward along the sides of 
several scrub-covered gullies. After 
crossing the Albano road, CCA also 
wheeled northward. Early that after- 
noon, as the armor approached the 
outpost positions of the Caesar Line, 
opposition increased sharply. Hea\T fire 
from enemy armor and artillery 
smashed against CCA's front and right 
flank, while at close range small detach- 
ments of enemy infantry armed with 
Panzerfausts harassed the American 
tanks. The tanks, nevertheless, contin- 
ued to advance, too far in fact, for they 
bypassed many strongpoints that held 
up the infantry. That happened, for 
example, when men of the 180th In- 
fantry tried to foUow CCB's tanks into 
Campoleone station; enemy automatic 



^' 45th i:>iv C.-3 Jill, 2910308 Mav 44: VI Corps 
G-3Jnl, 290920B Mav 44. 



176 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Tanks of 1st Armored Division Assembling For Attack Near Lanuvio 



weapons and artillery fire halted the 
accompanying foot soldiers. ^^ In CCA's 
zone a tank-supported counterattack 
stopped the 2d Battalion, 6th Armored 
Infantry, and forced the battalion to fall 
back almost two miles, to a line a mile 
north of Campoleone station, there to 
hold for the night. Thus the enemy 
broke up the close partnership between 
infantry and armor that was vital in 
operations of this kind. 

The capture of the station seemed to 
be all that Harmon's armored division 



had to show for its efforts on the 29th, 
which cost the division 133 casualties: 
21 killed, 107 wounded, and 5 missing. 
In addition, enemy antitank fire de- 
stroyed 21 M-4 and 16 M-5 tanks. 
Unlike tanks damaged earlier bv mines 
west of Cisterna, those hit bv enemy 
guns and Panzerfausts were generally a 
total loss. ^^ 

The German Situation 

In reality, the 1st Armored Division 
had accomplished more than was sug- 



"» 1st Armd Div AAR, May 44; 18()th Inf Opns ^" 6th Arnid Inf AAR. Mav 44; Fifth Armv Battle 

Rpt, May 44. Casualties, 10 }un 45. 



STAl.EMATE ALONCl THE CAESAR EINE 



177 



gested by the numerous burned-out 
hulks noith of the Campoleone station. 
The attack had actually penetrated the 
65th Dn'i.siou's center northeast ot the 
railroad to a depth of almost two miles 
on a l,5()0-yard front. Early that after- 
noon Mackensen had informed Kessel- 
ring that the division was in a precar- 
ious situation. Casualties were severe — 
over 400 killed and 150 taken pris- 
oner — and there remained only six as- 
sault guns, a Tiger tank, and a tew 
heavy antitank guns with which to repel 
further attacks by an entire U.S. ar- 
mored division. All that Kesselring 
could do to help was to attach the 
remaining antiaircraft artillery from 
arm\ group reserve to the / Pararhulr 
Corps. That reserve amounted to about 
fourteen batteries, all ot which were to 
concentrate solely on antitank tire. At 
the same time, the army group com- 
mander ordered all available engineers 
to lav antitank mine fields in the path 
ot the American armor.''" 

Meanwhile, Mackensen had b)egun to 
round up additional antitank weapons, 
ordering the 334th Division to send its 
antitank guns to the / Parachute Corps 
sector at once. Mackensen also trans- 
feired to the corps the assault battalion 
of the army gioup weapons school as 
well as some antitank weapons from the 
92d Division, still in army group reserve. 
Yet few of these reinforcements man- 
aged to arrive on the 29th. Until they 
did the 65th Division had to rely for 
support upon a battalion of the 11th 
Parachute Regiment, backed up by several 
88-mm. antiaircraft guns.''' 

In spite of directives from both OKW 
and Field Marshal Kesselring to the 



effect that the Caesar Line had to be 
held at all costs, and not sharing Army 
Group Cs belief that Valmontone re- 
mained the focus of the U.S. Fifth 
Army's efforts, Mackensen had quietly 
directed the / Parachute Corps to recon- 
noiter a switch position just southeast of 
the Tiber. The reconnaissance was not, 
however, to include the city of Rome, 
for Mackensen hoped eventually to use 
Rome as a screen behind which his 
forces might retire to the north. •^'- 

Although the presence of three U.S. 
divisions in the attack against the Four- 
teenth Army's right wing west of Velletri 
since noon on the 26th was known to 
Field Marshal Kesselring, only on the 
28th did he begin to have misgivings 
that the American thrust toward Val- 
montone was the main effort and the 
attack toward the Alban Hills no more 
than a feint. The next day inteicepted 
radio messages and front line reports 
identified the U.S. 1st Armored Divi- 
sion on the Albano-Lanuvio front. Only 
then did Kesselring conclude that the 
offensive toward Valmontone had be- 
come a secondary effort. '^'^ 

Infantry Against Lanuvio 

The new direction taken b\ the VI 
Corps' offensive had coine as no sur- 
prise to General von Mackensen, the 
Fourteenth Army commander, for he had 
always assumed that the forces in the 
An/io beachhead would eventuallv 



^" MS # R-50 (Bailey) 
■^' Ibid. 



"-Befehl, OB AOK 14, la Nr. 2164/44 g. Kdos, 28 
Mav 44, m .^OK 14, l<i KTB \'i. 3. Aul. 742a. i-:il 

Mav 44, AOK 14, Doc. Nr. 590913. 

'•''Ibid.; AOK 14, G-2 Rpt, Ic Nr. 1002/44 geh. 
Kdos, 28 May 44, in AOK 14 IC Rpts, 1 Api-3() Jiin 
44, AOK 14 Doc. Nr. 5902/2; AOK 14. G-2 Rpt, Ic 
Nr. 2357/44, 29 May 44. in AOK 14, Ic Morgen-u. 
Tagesmeldungen , I Apr-3() Jiin 44, AOK 14 Doc. Nr. 
5909214. 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



mo\e in that direction. He had accord- 
ingh arranged his defense to the detri- 
ment of the Cisterna sector of his front 
but to tlie advantage of the Caesar Line 
against which General Truscott's forces 
were now moving.''^ 

Although unfinished, the Caesar Line 
could cause an attacking force some 
trouble. Behind it numerous self-pro- 
pelled guns ranged the roads, firing 
repeated volleys before moving to es- 
cape the inevitable counterbattery fires. 
South of Lanuvio and opposite the 34th 
Division were two particularly challeng- 
ing enemy strongpoints, San Gennaro 
Hill and Villa Crocetta, on the crest of 
Hill 209. Before them was a series of 
fire trenches five to six feet deep with 
machine guns and mortars covering 
everv route of approach. Barbed wire 
fronted the trenches. Even to draw 
within striking distance of these formi- 
dable obstacles the American infantry- 
men would first have to cross open 
wheat fields, then attack up steep slopes 
in the face of heavy fire."^'^ 

On the morning of the 29th the 34th 
Division's 168th Infantry prepared to 
assault those positions. At dawn, behind 
a 30-minute artillery barrage directed 
mainly at the fire trenches and wire, 
the 1st and 2d battalions attacked, the 
former passing through the 3d Battal- 
ion, which was to remain in reserve. 
Two hours later Ryder observed that 
the assault had gone "pretty well on the 
left, slow on the right." •^'^ 

What had held up the right were 
three enemy tanks and a self-propelled 
gun on San Gennaro Hill. Fire from 
those weapons halted an attack from 



the southeast by the 2d Battalion's 
Company E, but the battalion's other 
two companies, unaware that Company 
E was pinned down, continued to strug- 
gle up the western slope of the objec- 
tive. Reaching the railroad (the Velletri- 
Rome line) that crosses the forward 
slopes of Hill 209 and San Gennaro 
Hill, Company F turned eastward and, 
taking advantage of the shelter af- 
forded by the railroad embankment, 
soon gained the crest of San Gennaro 
Hill. To the west and somewhat behind 
Company F, Company G moved cau- 
tiously along a dirt road just south of 
the railroad.-^" 

Both companies at that point had 
dangerously exposed flanks. At 1445 
some men from Companv F straggled 
into Company G's area, saying that they 
had been driven from the San Gennaro 
Hill by a counterattack coming from 
vineyards on the eastern slope. At the 
same time, enemy fire from the rear 
began to hit Company G. The men 
nevertheless hurried forward to rein- 
force their companions on San Gen- 
naro Hill. Sprinting through a hail of 
hand grenades and bursts of small arms 
fire, the men of Company G soon 
gained the crest, but before thev could 
dig in properly on the exposed hilltop, 
heaw enemy mortar fire forced both 
Companies F and G to withdraw. The 
survivors of the two companies fought 
their way back down the hill through 
groups of infiltrating enemv soldiers. 
Shortly before dark the exhausted in- 
fantrymen reached the same gullv in 
which they had spent the previous 
night. There the\ met the first arrivals 



''' MS# R-5() (Bailey). 

'^'^ Fifth Army History, Part V, p. 127. 

'« VI Corps G-3 }nl, 290820B May 44. 



" VI Corps G-3 Jnl, 28-29 Ma\ 44: Fifth Arm\ 
History, Part V, pp. 127-28. 



STALEMATE ALONC, THE CAESAR LINE 



179 



ot the 3d Baltalion, coming to relieve 
them. Because the men were tired and 
the hour late, the battalion commanders 
decided not to attempt to retake the hill 
that night.''** 

Meanwhile, on the left of the regi- 
mental sector, the 1st Battalion had 
attacked the enemy defending the Villa 
Crocetta, about 1,200 yards southwest 
of San Gennaro Hill. Crawling throtigh 
the giainfields on the forward slopes of 
Hills 203 and 216, the Americans 
reached a shallow ravine a few hundred 
yards southeast of the villa. When the 
men left the ravine to make the final 
assault, enemy machine gun and mor- 
tar fire drove them back and held them 
there. Prevented by enemy fire from 
either continuing the assault or with- 
drawing from the ravine, the troops 
had to wait until three tanks and four 
tank destroyers came forward to screen 
their withdrawal into a new assembly 
area, where they prepared to renew 
their assault that afternoon.'^" 

Shortly before the attack on Villa 
Crocetta was to resume. General Trus- 
cott phoned the 34th Division com- 
mand post to express his impatience 
with the delay in taking the division's 
objectives — San Gennaro Hill and the 
Villa Crocetta: General Ryder was for- 
ward with one of his regiments. When 
Ryder returned, the corps commander 
told a division staff officer, "tell him to 
crack this Lanuvio. It's holding up the 
whole thing."''" 

In resuming the attack earlv that 
afternoon, the 1st Battalion, 168th In- 
fantry, was to try to envelop Villa 



Cn^etta with tank-supported infantry. 
Before Companies A and C began a 
frontal assault. Company B with accom- 
panying tanks was to swing left of the 
Villa Crocetta as far as Hill 203 before 
turning right to envelop the objective 
from the west. The appearance of the 
supporting armor on Hill 209 directly 
behind Villa Crocetta was to be the 
signal for Companies A and C to begin 
their attack from the southeast.**' 

The enveloping company moved out 
as planned and cjuickly secured Hill 
203. Leaving a contingent of six men 
there, the company, still accompanied 
by tanks, moved down a slope on the 
right, crossed a shallow gully, and 
rather than envelop Villa Crocetta by 
taking Hill 209, actually overran the 
villa, forcing the enemy to flee.**- 

Unknown to General Rvder, the pen- 
etration at Villa Crocetta and the earlier 
abortive thrust on San Gennaro Hill 
had hit the Germans at a critical point, 
along the boundary between the 3d 
Panzer Grenadier and the 362d Infantry 
Divisions. Unless (juickly contained, the 
thrusts might develop into a break- 
through of the Caesar Line southeast of 
Lanuvio. To forestall such a blow, 
Schlemm, the / Parachute Corps com- 
mander, ordered the 3d Panzer Grena- 
dier Division, the stronger of the two 
German units, to counterattack both 
American forces, the one which had 
taken Villa Crocetta and the one which 
;iad taken San Gennaro Hill but which, 
apparenth without German awareness, 
it had abandoned in the face of heaN") 
mortar flre.*'^ 



"""Ibid. 

•■^" VI Corps C^'i Jill, 29090()B May 44; Fifth Army 
History. Part V, p. 128. 

«" VI Corps G-3 Jnl, 291205B May 44. 



'• Fifth Army History. Part V, p. 128. 

'-Ibid., p. 129. 

''^ MS # R-5() (Bailev). 



80 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Spearheaded b\ a ritle company, sup- 
pcirted b\ tour self-propelled guns, the 
counterattack cnerwhelmed the six men 
on Hill 203 and carried the Germans to 
a point from which thev could fire on 
the rear of Company B at Villa Cro- 
cetta. Concerned lest they be cut off, 
the men of Company B withdrew to 
the original line of departure at the 
base of the hill. Having failed to ob- 
ser\'e the tanks, either at Villa Crocetta 
or on the original objective of Hill 209, 
Companies A and C had not begun 
their scheduled frontal attack on the 
\illa. Bv nightfall die 168th Infantry's 
1st Battalion was back to where the 
men had started from that morning. As 
if to add a final full measure to a dav 
filled with frustration and disappoint- 
ment, Anzio Annie, as the troops had 
nicknamed the German 280-mm. guns 
that for long had harassed the beach- 
head, fired sixteen harassing rounds 
before retiring. Meanwhile the two- 
division British force, its left flank rest- 
ing on the coast, had followed up the 
German withdrawal and had kept 
abreast of the 45th and 1st Armored 
Divisions on the right but had exerted 
little pressure on the enemy. '^^ 

On the German side. General von 
Mackensen was pleased with the / Para- 
chute Corps' defense; early that evening 
he notified Kesselring that Schlemm's 
counterattacks had eliminated both 
American penetrations, and that the 
Caesar Line remained firmly in Cjer- 



"•* Fifth Army History, Part V, p. 129; MS # R-30 
(Bailev). The action on the 29th was highlighted by 
the example and sacrifice of Clapt. William Wvlie 
C.alt (168th Infantry) who personally killed forty of 
the enemy before falling mortally wounded over 
the machine gun he had manned at(jp an armored 
tank destroyer. He was awarded the Medal of 
Honor posthumously. 



man hands. The local German com- 
manders attributed their success in part 
to a delay on the part of the Americans 
in occupying and securing captured 
firing trenches and a failure to hold 
reserves in close supporting {positions. "' 
In spite of the American setbacks 
between Campoleone and Lanuvio the 
VI Corps had made some gains from 
the 26th through the 29th. Yet in 
almost every case, the gains had been 
largely the result of \oluntan German 
withdrawals. As Allied pressure 
mounted, the / Parachute Corps, pivoting 
on Velletri, had swung slowK back like 
a great gate toward high ground and 
the prepared positions of the Caesar 
Line. It appeared to Truscott at this 
point that the gate had been slammed 
shut against the Alban Hills. As night 
fell on the 29th the VI Corps" attempt 
to break through the Caesar Line on 
the most direct route to Rome seemed 
halted at e\'en point. 

The 1st Armored Divisions Attack 
Rciu/orifd 

In spite of three davs of frustrations 
General Truscott still counted on the 
fire power of General Harmon's ar- 
mored division to blast open that gate. 
But to do it both men agreed that the 
1st Armored Division had to have more 
infantry support. CCB was therefore 
reinforced with the 1st Battalion, 6th 
Armored Infantn, and CCA with the 
2d Battalion, 135th Infantn. CCA also 
received the tanks t)f the 1st Armored 
Regiment's 2d Battalion.''*' Thus rein- 



•^■^ MS # R-50 (Bailey). 

'•" 1st Armd Div AAR, May 44; Fifth Armv (^-3 
jnl. The Advance on Rome. Unless otherwise cited 
the following section is based upon these refer- 
ences. 



STALEMATE ALON(; THE CAESAR LINE 



8 



tbrced, the arniored division returned 
to the attack at 0630 on the 30th. Yet it 
soon became evident that the enemy 
had also taken advantage of the lull to 
garner strength, so much so that the 
reinforcing units even had to fight their 
way fonvard to join the armored units 
they were to support. The morning's 
operations again produced only negligi- 
ble gains. 

Harmon tried again in mid-afternoon 
with an artilleiy preparation followed 
by attacks by both combat commands. 
In CCA's sector well-sited enemy anti- 
tank gims and self-propelled artillery 
fired on eveiy tank that moved. Under 
cover of this fire enemy infantiy armed 
with Panzerfausts again slipped in to 
destroy several tanks. Beyond the Cam- 
poleone station, CCB's tanks and their 
supporting infantry managed to stay 
together and advance as far as the 
Campoleone Canal (Fosso di Campo- 
leone), a little over a mile away, but 
they could go no farther. Again the 
armor had achieved no breakthrough, 
and the division's casualties the second 
day were even heavier than on the 
first — 28 killed, 167 wounded, 16 miss- 
ing. Equipment losses were less but still 
heavy: 23 tanks destroyed and several 
others damaged. 

On the right of the armored division 
General Ryder's 34th Division als(^ re- 
sumed its efforts on the 30th to break 
the Caesar Line in the vicinity of Lanu- 
vio. Once again the infantiy foUowed a 
heavy aitilleiy preparation up the San 
Gennaro Ridge toward the battered 
Villa Crocetta. This time two of the six 
suppt^rting tank destroyers reached the 
crest of Hill 209 behind the villa, but 
enemy fire destroyed one and the 
other, after almost overrunning an en- 



emy fire trench, withdrew amid a 
shower of hand grenades. The infantry 
briefly gained Hill 203 just bek)w the 
Villa Cn^etta only to be forced back by 
heavy mortar and machine gun fire.**" 

The only gains made on the 30th 
were by the British as they crcjssed the 
Moletta River, on the far left flank. 
After repulsing a brief counterattack, 
they occupied Ardea, a road junction 
about two miles beyond the river. Yet 
again this advance was a result of 
German withdrawal into the Caesar 
Line. 

By nightfall on 30 May there 
emerged from the intricate patterns of 
blue and red lines and unit symbols on 
the situation maps of everv' commander 
from corps to company one grim fact: 
General von Mackensen had succeeded 
in slamming shut the gate on the VI 
Corps' drive to Rome over the south- 
western flanks of the Alban Hills. Clark 
himself telephoned Truscott and his 
commanders to express his keen disap- 
pointment with their efforts. *^^ 

Yet the total Fifth Arm\ situation was 
less bleak than it appeared on the VI 
Corps front. For the past fue da\ s the 
U.S. II Corps and the French Expedi- 
tionary Corps, opposed only b\ the rear 
guards of the XIV Panzer Corps, had 
been moving through the Lepini Moun- 
tains toward the Valmontone corridor. 
By nightfall on the 30th the 85th 
Division had reached the former Anzio 
beachhead area, and the 88th Division, 
at this point under control of the IV 
Corps, had reached Sezze, about thir- 
teen miles southeast of Cisterna. Two 
days before, at General Clark's direction 

'•" :Mth Div C^;i jiil. M.i\ 44: VI Corps Ci-:i Jul. 
28-:3() Mav 44. 

'•« Clark Dial V, :«) Mav 44. 



82 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



General Keves, the II Corps com- 
mander, had turned control of his 
corps zone and the 88th Division over 
to General Crittenberger's IV Corps for 
mopping lip operations in the Lepini 
Mountains and, bv early afternoon on 
the 29th, had assinned command of 
General O'Daniefs reinforced 3d Infan- 
tr\ Division in the vicinity of Artena. 
For the next three days the 88th Divi- 
sion mopped up scattered enemy units 
in the southwestern half of the Lepini 
Mountains while awaiting relief by ele- 
ments of the FEC. Meanwhile, since the 
25th, the French had been advancing 
along two axes: the 4th Moroccan 
Mountain Division up the Amaseno- 
Carpineto road to clear the northeast- 
ern half of the Lepini Mountains, and 
the 2d Moroccan Infantry Division 
south of the Sacco River. By the 30th 
both columns were headed toward Col- 
leferro, a junction with the American 
forces, and relief of the U.S. IV Corps 
in the Lepini Moimtains."^ 

Under those circumstances General 
Clark had grounds for believing that 
"one or two more days of all-out attack" 
in the Lanuvio-Campoleone sector, 
combined with a new operation being 
planned by the 36th Division northeast 
of Velletri, "might crack the whole 
German position in the Alban Hills 
area .... If I don't crack this posi- 
tion in three or four days," Clark 
observed, "I may have to reorganize, 
wait for the 8th Army and go at it with 
a coordinated attack by both ar- 
mies . . . ."^" To the Fifth Army 
commander that was an unacceptable 
alternative. 



It was hardly a likely alternative in 
any case, for the Eighth Army's 1st 
Canadian Corps, after clearing Ceprano 
on the 27th, had been experiencing 
considerable difficulty in ad\ancing as- 
tride Highway 6 toward the road junc- 
tion of Frosinone, some ten miles to the 
northwest. One thousand yards south 
of Ceprano a 120-foot bridge had col- 
lapsed on the 28th just as the engineers 
were about to declare it operational. 
For the next twenty-four hours the 5th 
Canadian Armoured Division, assem- 
bled ak)ng the highwa\ to exploit Ce- 
prano's fall, waited idly while the engi- 
neers hurriedly constructed a new 
bridge across the upper Liri. On the 
30th the armored division finally 
crossed the river and resumed the 
advance. As the tanks moved beyond 
Ceprano, the terrain became increas- 
ingly hilly, and ahead lay sexeral tribu- 
taries of the Sacco, each a formidable 
obstacle to armor. The Germans had 
destroyed every bridge over the ri\er 
and covered each crossing site with 
artillerv and mines. Under those cir- 
cumstances, Lt. Gen. E.L.M. Burns, the 
Canadian corps commander, brought 
fonvard the Canadian 1st Infantry Divi- 
sion to lead the wav. By the evening of 
the 30th the forward elements of the 
Canadian infantry were within sight of 
Frosinone, yet still about twenty-five 
miles southeast of Valmontone.'' 

To the Canadian right a strong rear 
guard held up the British 13 Corps" 6th 
Armoured and 78th Infantiy Di\isions 
south of Arce, on the 27th, but on the 
28th the impasse was broken when the 
8th Indian Division made a wide flank- 



^^ Fifth Army History, Part V, pp. 134-37. 
■" Clark Diary, 30 May 44. 



"' Operations ot British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. B; \icholson. The 
Canadians In Italy, pp. 439-46. 



STALEMATE ALONCi THE CAESAR LINE 



183 



ing maneuver through the mountains 
north and northeast of Arce and that 
night forced the Germans to yield their 
strong defensive positions. The next 
day the Indians occupied Arce without 
opposition and began a cautious ad- 
vance along Highway 82 toward Sora. 
Enemy artillerv, demolitions, and a nar- 
row, winding mountain road would all 
combine to slow down the Indians for 



the next tew days. Meanwhile, the 
British 78th Division turned to the 
northwest and advanced north of and 
parallel to Highway 6 to cover and 
eventually pull abreast of the right 
flank of the Canadian corps as the 
(Canadians led the Eighth Army towaid 
Frosinone."^ 



Nicholson, The Canadians in Italy, pp. 439-46. 



CHAPTER X 



Breaking the Stalemate 



The operation being planned by the 
36th Division and which bolstered Gen- 
eral Clark's confidence that the Caesar 
Line would soon be broken was trig- 
gered by a startling discovery during 
the night of 27 May. Reconnaissance 
patrols from the 36th Division, probing 
the dark slopes of Monte Artemisio, a 
four-mile-long ridge running from 
northeast to southwest and overlooking 
\'elletri from about a mile to the north, 
had found no sign of the enemy. Had 
they stumbled upon an undefended 
gap in the Caesar Line? 

There was indeed a gap. It lay along 
the boundary between the / Parachute 
and the LXXVI Panzer Corps. It was 
attributable to two developments: hold- 
ing the left flank of the parachute 
corps, the 362d Division was respc:)nsible 
for the Velletri sector, but severe losses 
in the defense of Cisterna had left it 
few troops for defense of Monte Ar- 
temisio. Also the Hermann Goering Dix'i- 
sion, on the right flank of the adjacent 
panzer corps, had been drawn to the 
southwest in the direction of Valmon- 
tone by the American thrust toward 
Highway 6, so that contact between the 
362d and the Hermann (loering Dix'/sions 
had never been firmly established. 
When General Schmalz, commander of 
the Hermann (ioerijig Dixusion, learned of 
the lack of contact, he sent patrols 
during the night of 27 May to try to 
reach the 362d Division. The patrols 
roamed across Monte Artemisio's south- 



ern sk)pe for two miles before at last 
finding troops of the 362d Division near 
a fork in the road just northeast of 
Velletri. 

Aware of the hazards of such a gap 
to the over-all defense of the Caesar 
Line, General Schmalz sent an engineer 
plat(X)n to occupy the Castel d'Ariano, a 
ruin k)cated on Monte Artemisio's crest 
three miles north of Velletri and two 
miles west of Lariano. A few hours later 
an officer-led patrol from Schmalz's 
division also occupied a group of 
houses at the hamlet of Menta, on the 
intercorps boundar\. Yet those modest 
forces represented no more than out- 
posts and in no sense served to close 
the gap, for it was on that same night 
of 27 May that American patrols were 
active on Monte Artemisio and had 
nowhere encountered anv German 
troops. ' 

Reports of the situation on Monte 
Artemisio prompted General Herr, the 
panzer corps commander, to order 
Schmalz to send trucks immediatelv to 
the Hermann (iorrtng Dn'ision's assemblv 
area northwest of Valmontone to trans- 
port to Monte Artemisio two infantry 
battalions delaved during the long 
march from Leghorn. Herr also or- 
dered the battered 715th Division, which 
had been withdrawn to the Tivoli area 
for reorganization, to send troops at 



' MS # C-087b (Schmalz and Bergengruen). 
Einsiatz der Division Hermann Goering in lialien. 
CMH. 



BRKAKINC; THE STALEMATE 



185 



once to Schmalz's sector. Unfortunately 
for the Germans, neither the two infan- 
try battalions nor the reinforcements 
from the 715th Division would arrive in 
time to close the breach. - 

Not until the afternoon of the 29th, 
during a brief visit to the forward area 
of the parachute corps, did Field Mar- 
shal Kesselring learn of the gap. He 
immediately ordered Mackensen to 
close it. Mackensen passed along the 
f'lelcf marshal's order, but he and his 
two corps commanders were satisfied 
that the job had already been done and 
took no further action. That night the 
army commander's report to army 
gi'oup made no mention of a gap on 
Monte Artemisic3. ■' 

The next day Kesselring learned how 
tenuous the link between the two corps 
actually was and telephoned Mackensen 
to express his displeasure. He bruscjuely 
pointed out that while one battalion 
might be sufficient to hold Monte Ar- 
temisio against probing attacks, an en- 
tire division could hardlv hold it if the 
Americans focused on that part of the 
front. Mackensen nevertheless stuck to 
his conviction that the gap had been 
satisfactorily closed and that Monte Ar- 
temisios rugged terrain and steep sides 
would make up for the paucitv of 
forces. 

Meanwhile, Mackensen had turned 
his attention to the northern flank of 
the Alban Hills between Lariano and 
V'almontone where, he rightly sus- 
j)ected, the Americans might soon at- 
tempt an outflanking maneuver. In- 
deed, General Keyes, the commander 
of the U.S. II Corps, which had just 
reached the Anzio area to take com- 



^ MS # R-50 (Bailey). 
3 Ibid. 



mand of the force in the Artena sector 
between the Alban Hills and Valmon- 
tone, was even then planning such a 
move. To block it, Mackensen directed 
Herr to have the Hi'rnuinn Gocring 
Division attack at once in order to throw 
the Americans off balance, much as the 
division's reconnaissance battalion had 
done on the 26th. But the panzer corps 
commander was reluctant to commit 
the Hcrnuinn (ioering Division to any- 
thing so ambitious, because Schmalz's 
entire division had yet to arrive. Herr 
suggested instead that Schmalz concen- 
trate what units he had on the panzer 
corps' right flank with a view merely 
toward reinforcing (ierman positions 
on the northern slope of the Alban 
Hills. Even as — unknown to the (Ger- 
mans — two regiments of the U.S. 36th 
Division began to climb Monte Artemi- 
sio the night of 30 May, Mackensen 
reluctantly accepted Herr's counterpro- 
posal. 

Stratagem on Monte Artemisio 

The 36th Di\'ision commander. Gen- 
eral Walker, had informed the VI 
Corps commander. General Truscott, 
on the afternoon of 28 May of the gap 
on Monte Artemisio. The fc:)llowing day 
Walker called Truscott's chief of staff, 
Brig. Gen. Don E. Carleton, to tell him 
that 36th Division patrc:)ls were on the 
feature's forward slopes seeking a fa- 
vorable passage over Monte Artemisio, 
thereby outflanking Velletri from the 
northeast. Agreeing that this was a fine 
idea, Carleton noted that if it could be 
done, "the Boche in there [Velletri] 
would find themselves in a tough situa- 
tion, and the town might just cave in."^ 

^ VI Corps G-3 Jnl, 28-29 Mav 44, 291330B Mav 
44; Tel. C/S to CXI. 36th V)\\\ 281851 B Mav 44. 



86 



GASSING TO THE ALPS 



Encouraged by Carleton's reaction, 
Walker summoned his staff officers to 
give them a planning concept that 
envisioned pinning down the enemy in 
\elletri with one regiment, the 141st, 
and with the 142d and 143d scaling 
Monte Artemisio.'' The 142d was to 
establish roadblocks to close the north- 
ern escape routes from Velletri, while 
the 143d, after assisting in the capture 
of Monte Artemisio, moved northward 
into the Alban Hills to seize Monte 
Cavo and the Rocca di Papa, two hills 
providing excellent observation over the 
entire area. 

For the plan to succeed, armor and 
artillery had to follow close behind the 
attacking infantry to help maintain 
roadblocks and protect the long flanks 
created by the thrust. Since there would 
also be a vulnerable line of communica- 
tions extending eight miles over a ridge 
varying in height from two to three 
thousand feet, and sin(e no more than 
mere footpaths and a few cart trails led 
over the mountain, success of the entire 
venture would also depend upon rapid 
improvement of one of the trails to 
enable tracked vehicles and jeeps to 
ascend behind the infantrv regiments." 

Here was a job for the engineers. 
After studying aerial photographs and 
reconnoitering several promising trails, 
the' 36th Division's engineers found a 
trail that apparently could be improved 
within a reasonable period. Meanwhile, 
Walker's infantry regiments had been 
making their preparations. On the 



■^ The 141st and 143d Infantry had incurred 
heavy casualties in January 1944 along the Rapido 
and again on Monte Cassino. See Blumenson, 
Salerno to Cassino, pp. 322-51, 367-78. 

« Col Oran C. Stovall, Div Eng, typescript account 
of operation. 



morning of the 30th, the 36th Division 
commander laid his completed plan of 
operations before the corps commander 
at the latter's command post." 

General Walker's plan was relatively 
simple. While the 141st Infantry en- 
gaged the Velletri garrison, the 142d 
Infantry, followed by the 1 43d, was to 
pass through the lines of the 141st 
during the night of 30 May and 
scale Monte Artemisio. After reaching 
the ridge, the 142d Infantrv was to 
move southwestward to the Maschio 
deir Artemisio, a knob two miles north- 
west of Velletri, while the 143d was to 
move northward along the ridge to 
capture the Maschio d'Ariano and Hill 
931, the two highest points at the 
northeastern end of the ridge. The 
141st Infantrv was then to launch a fron- 
tal attack to capture Velletri and open 
Highwav 7." (Ma/) 5) 

After questioning Walker's engineer 
closely as to the feasibilit\ of improving 
an existing cart trail up Monte Artemi- 
sio, Truscott okayed the plan. He also 
placed the separate 36th Engineer Regi- 
ment in direct support of Walker's 
division.^ 

The 36th Division had accjuired con- 
siderable but costly experience in 
mountain operations at night at the 
hard fought battle of San Pietro the 
previous January. That experience 
would serve the division well in the 
coming operation. Would it be another 
San Pietro? General Walker thought 
not. He noted in his dian : "Our opera- 
tions for tonight and tomorrow have 
promise of being spectacular. We are 



'Ibid: Walker Diarv, 29-30 Mav 44. 
>* 36th Div Rpt of Opns, Mav-Jun 44: Fifth Army 
History, Part V, p. 142. 

■' Truscott. Command Missions, p. 377. 




MAP 5 



H. Clinton 



188 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



taking chances, but we should succeed 
in a big way." General Clark clearly 
shared his subordinates' confidence.'" 

About an hour before midnight, the 
142d Infantry, in a column of battalions 
with the 2d Battalion leading, headed 
toward the dark outline of Monte Ar- 
temisio. Aided by a new moon that 
afforded just enough light to enable the 
troops to discern a trail, the leading 
company reached the base of the 
mountain at 0130. From there they 
picked their way slowly through leafv 
vineyards covering the lower slopes. 
Just as dawn began to blank out the 
stars, the head of the coltnnn crossed 
an open field and began to climb a 
steeper slope. Seeing the summit loom- 
ing before them, the men quickened 
their pace. At 0635 the leading stjuads 
scrambled onto the crest of Monte 
Artemisio, there to surprise and capture 
three artillery observers, one of whom 
was taking a bath. Not a shot was fired. 
That fortunate state of affairs contin- 
ued throughout the morning as the 
142d Infantry turned southwest along 
the ridge toward the 2,500-foot Mas- 
chio deir Artemisio. '' 

That afternoon Germans along the 
main road (Highway 7) leading west 
from Velletri spotted the Americans 
atop Monte Artemisio and opened fire 
with several self-pnjpelled guns assem- 
bled in support of the defenders of 
Velletri. Despite that fire, mostly harass- 
ing, the 142d Infantry's leading battal- 
ion pressed on to reach the Maschio 
dell'Artemisio in early evening. From 
the crest the Americans looked down 



on V^elletri much as had advance 
guards of an Austrian army, under 
Prince von Lobkowitz, two centuries 
before when, instead of Germans, 
Spaniards under Don Carlos of Naples 
were defending Velletri; the Americans 
were not the first to have used this 
route to outflank the Velletri position. *- 

That night the 142d Infantry estab- 
lished roadblocks on two of the three 
roads left to the enemy troops in 
Velletri and by morning the town was 
virtually surrounded. Only one escape 
route (Highway 7) remained open to 
the Germans. When news of the 142d 
Infantry's success reached the Fifth 
Army headquarters, the frustration 
built up during the five days of virtual 
stalemate vanished and, in General 
Clark's words, caused all of us to turn 
handsprings."'-^ 

Meanwhile, the 143d Infantrv had 
followed the 142d to the crest and then 
had turned right to cover that flank. 
Moving northeastward along the ridge 
toward Hill 931 and the Maschio 
d'Ariano, the men of the 143d encoun- 
tered considerable sniper fire, but bv 
late afternoon had eliminated it. Onh 
at the ruins of the Castel d'Ariano was 
it necessar\ to call upon artillerv sup- 
port to drive from the ruins the engi- 
neer platoon from the Hermann Gocring 
Division, which General Schmalz had 
committed the niijht of the 27th. Bv 
dark the entire Monte Artemisio ridge 
was in American hands. '^ 

The next morning a partv of artillerv 
observers accompanying the 143d In- 



'" Walker Diary, 30 May 44; Clark Diary, 30 May 
44. See Blumenson, Salerno to Cassino, pp. 270-89, 
for detailed description of the San Pietro operation. 

" 142d Inf Rpt of Opns, Mav 44. 



'- See Spenser Wilkinson. The Defense of Piedmont. 
1742-48 (London: Oxford, 1927), pp. 181ff. 

'3 I42d Inf Rpt of Opns. Mav-Jun 44; Walker 
Diarv, 31 Mav-1 Jun 44; Clark Diarv, 31 Mav 44. 

'" Interv. Mathews with Col Paul D. .\dams (CO 
143d Inf). 27 Apr 48. 



BREAKINC; THE STALEMATE 



89 



tantrv were deliglitecl to tinci that the 
summit of Maschio d'Ariano provided a 
200 ° field of observation from the east 
to the southwest. Below lay supply 
arteries of much of the Fourteenth Army, 
especially those supporting the Lariano- 
Valmontone sector. Scores of tempting 
enemy targets crawled across the land- 
scape beneath them. The only problem 
was to obtain enough batteries to do the 
firing and observers to direct them. 
Calls immediately went back to division 
and corps for every available artillerx 
observer to come forward to help. Soon 
"forward observers were sitting around 
on the Maschio d'Ariano like crows on 
a telephone line, having a field day."''' 
"This was," General Truscott ob- 
served, "the turning point in our drive 
to the northwest."'*^ 

The German Reaction 

Not until the afternoon of the 31st 
did the German Fourteenth Army head- 
(]uarters become aware that the U.S. 
36th Division was on top of Monte 
Artemisio. Dismayed, General von 
Mackensen (juicklv directed a series of 
countermeasures to restore his front. 
He ordered his two corps commanders 
to contain and destroy the American 
penetration at whatever cost, even if 
they had to use their last man and 
weapon. Corps' boundaries were to be 
ignored, Mackensen declared, for "in a 
situation of this kind, corps boundaries 
no longer have any meaning." '" 

In contrast to the earlier break- 



through on the Cisterna sector, it was 
the LXXVI Panzer Corps' turn to help 
the / Parachute Corps. Mackensen di- 
rected Herr to backstop Schlemm's po- 
sitions west of Monte Artemisio with an 
armored reconnaissance company 
which was to block a road leading 
northward from Monte Peschio, one of 
the several peaks on the Monte Artemi- 
sio ridge. Other armored reconnais- 
sance detachments were to set up block- 
ing p(3sitions along Highway 7 between 
Velletri and Lake Nemi. Meanwhile, a 
grenadier battalion from Herr's panzer 
corps was to trv to pinch off the 
American salient by a counterattack 
directed against the 143d Infantry's 
positions on the northern end of the 
Monte Artemisio ridge. The corps com- 
manders were to report the results of 
those measures to Mackensen by 0700 
the next dav, 1 June.'^ 

The Fourteenth Army commander, 
fully engaged in attempting to contain 
the penetration along the intercorps 
boundarv, failed to inform Field Mar- 
shal Kesselring of what had happened 
until late on the 31st. When Kesselring 
learned of the 36th Division's presence 
on Monte Artemisio, he was furious. 
Had he been notified promptlv, he 
declared, one or two battalions might 
have been able to handle the situation, 
but now the penetration had grown to 
such proportions that no reser\'es then 
available to army group wt)uld be able 
to seal it off. As far as the army gioup 
commander was concerned, this was the 
last straw in his steadily deteriorating 
relations with his subordinate.'-' The 



'•' 143d liifOpns Rpt, Juii 44. 

"* Truscott, Command Missions, p. 377. 

'' Befehl, AOK 14. la Nr. 2338144, g.Kdos. 31 May 
44, in AOK 14. la KTB Nr. 3, Aniagc 4H7 , 1-31 May 
44, AOK 14. Dor. \'r. 59091/3. 



'" Ihid. 

'■' Bi'Irhlr. OB Siirditrsl. la \r. 5914/44 fr,Kdos. 1 
Jun 44, in Hccrcs^uj)})!' C./OB SW, Vrrsdiifdinus. la. 
Jan-jun 44, Hnifsirniplx- C. Dor. Nr. 7513H/I. 



90 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



feeling was apparent!) mutual, tor Gen- 
eral von Mackensen too had concluded 
that, figuratively speaking, the gap be- 
tween him and the field marshal had 
become as large and menacing as that 
on Monte Artemisio. For the third 
time — there had been two other occa- 
sions in February — Mackensen placed 
his command at Kesselring's disposal. 
Ha\ing already obtained Hitler's per- 
mission to relieve Mackensen, Kessel- 
ring this time accepted Mackensen\s 
re(|uest for relief. Five davs later Mack- 
ensen would leave for (iermany, after 
relin(|uishing his command to (ieneral 
der Panzertruppen Joachim Lemel- 
sen.^" 

The countermeasures ordered by 
Mackensen had been tactically sound 
but bv 1 June impossible of fulfillment. 
His blunder had been less in delaying 
to notify Kesselring of what had hap- 
pened than in allowing the gap to 
develop in the first place. 

Exploiting the Penetration 

The successful penetration by the 
36th Division on 31 May aided the 
other divisions of the VI Corps south of 
a line between Lanuvio and Campo- 
leone, for it offered opportunities un- 
foreseen during the past four days, a 
period which had been marked by 
grinding, costly, and frustrating fight- 
ing.-' Seeing also a chance of outflank- 
ing the enemy in the Alban Hills, 
General Clark decided to shift the bur- 



2" MSS #"s T-la and T- 1 b (Wcstphal rl al.). 
CMH. 

2' On the 31st, Pvt. Furman L. Smith, 135th 
Infantry, 34th Division, single-handedly held off an 
enemy counterattack until he fell mortally 
wounded, his rifle still in his hands. He was 
awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. 



den of the drive on Rome to General 
Keyes' II Corps. This was the head- 
(juarters which two davs earlier had 
assumed control of General O'Daniel's 
reinforced 3d Division, whose forces 
had been augmented by the arri\al of 
the 85th Division. 

Acknowledging that the II Corps, in 
the vicinity of Valmontone, would soon 
be astride Highway 6, Alexander, at 
Clark's request, adjusted the interarmy 
boundary to afford the Fifth Armv 
exclusive use of Highway 6 between 
Valmontone and Rome, as well as the 
hills overlooking the highwa\ from the 
north where Clark expected to empk)\ 
the FEC. Thus Clark would be able to 
make the final drive on Rome with all 
three of the Fifth Arm\'s corps ak)ng 
the axes of two main highways, 6 and 
7, instead of onh ak)ng Highwav 7, as 
he had planned originalh when send- 
ing Truscott's VI Corps into the Alban 
Hills. •" 

At the same time that Alexander was 
adjusting his interarmy boundary, Kes- 
selring did the same. The German 
commander shifted the boundarv of 
Vietinghoffs Tetith Army northwestward 
in order to give the Fourteenth Army's 
hard-pressed LXXVI Panzer Corps a nar- 
rower front. This Kesselring did bv 
broadening the sector of the X/l' Panzer 
Corps and placing the 29th Panzer Grena- 
dier Dii'/sion, hitherto on the LXXVI 
Panzer Corps left flank, under the con- 
trol of the former corps. -'^ 

Before the II Corps could mo\e on 
Rome, the corps had first to complete 



^- A\e\:inAev Despatch , p. 50. 

-^Befehle, AOK XIV, la AV. 2338144 g.Kdos. 31 
Mav 44, in AOK XIl\ la KTB Nr. 3, Anlage 487, 1- 
31 May 44, AOK XIV Doc. \'r. 59091/3. 



BREAKING THE STALEMATE 



19 



Operation Buffalo's original mission: 
to block Highway 6, capture Valmon- 
tone, and secure the high ground north 
of the town as well as the northeastern 
slopes of the Alban Hills. Thereafter, 
on Clark's order, the corps was to 
pursue the enemy northwestward a- 
stride Highway 6 toward Rome and, at 
the same time, send mobile forces 
southeastward along the highway to fall 
upon the flank and rear of those 
enemy forces retreating before the EEC 
and the British Eighth Army. Mean- 
while, the EEC, having completed mop- 
ping up operations in the Lepini Moun- 
tains, was to secure the high ground in 
the vicinity of Segni on the northern 
slopes of those mountains and then cut 
Highway 6 near Colleferro before mov- 
ing on northwestward to Cave and 
Palestrina, some ten miles away, to 
cover the II Corps' right flank and rear 
as it passed beyond Valmontone. Ulti- 
mate goal of the French was to seize a 
crossing of the Tiber east of Rome.-^ 

Concurrently, the VI Corps was to 
attack ak)ng the axes of Highway 7 and 
the Via Anziate, the latter the main 
road running north from Anzio into 
the Alban Hills, to secure the south- 
western half of the Alban Hills and cut 
the enemy's routes of withdrawal 
through Rome before sending forces 
southwestward to pin the Germans 
against the Tiber southwest of the city. 
On the VI Corps' left flank the British 
1st and 5th Divisions, once again at- 
tached to Truscott's corps, were to 
foHow up the enemy withdrawal toward 
the Tiber and help destroy those en- 



-' Hq, Fifth Army. OI 25, 31 May 44. See also 
Mathews, "The French in the Drive on Rome," 
Revue Historique de I'Armee. p. 139. 



emy forces trapped east of the river. '^•'' 
The stage was at last set for the final 
drive on the Italian capital — a drive 
which was to become in effect an intra- 
army contest as to which corps — Trus- 
cott's VI or Keyes' II — would be first in 
Rome. On 31 May it had seemed to 
Claik that the odds favored Keyes, for, 
except for the 36th Division, all of 
Truscott's corps still faced the most 
heavily defended sector of the Caesar 
Line, that which stretched southwest- 
ward from Velletri to the sea. More- 
over, the terrain would give Keyes' 
corps an advantage, for in front of the 
II Corps stretched the most favorable 
ground that corps had faced since the 
beginning of the May offensive along 
the Garigliano. 

Between Highway 6 and the Via 
Prenestina to the north lav a belt of 
slightly rolling and intensivel) cultixated 
farmland varying in width from three 
to five miles and extending all the way 
to Rome. Unlike the former beachhead 
south of Cisterna, the firm, dry soil, 
infrecjuently cut by lateral drainage 
ditches, promised excellent footing for 
tanks. Supplementing the main high- 
way, two excellent roads also ran 
through the corps zone to Rome: to the 
north of Highway 6 the Via Prenestina, 
and to the south, the Via Tuscolana, 
although the latter served the VI Corps 
for part of its length. To Keyes' troops 
these conditions represented a welcome 
respite from the cragg) mountains and 
tortuous roads and trails encountered 
to the south. The only terrain obstacle 
of any consequence in the II Corps 
zone was the northern slopes of the 
Alban Hills, but the presence of the 
36th Division on Monte Artemisio 



■^ Hq, Fifth Army, OI 25, 31 Mav 44. 



92 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



would prevent the Cierinans troin tak- 
ing full advantage of that.-" {Map VII) 

As General Clark adjusted his forces 
for continuing the drive on Rome, the 
British Eighth Armv was still slugging 
its uav up the Liri xalley and bevond. 
During the afternoon of 31 May infan- 
tr\ of the 1st Canadian Corps entered 
the important road center of Frosinone 
astride Highway 6 twenty-five niiles 
southeast of Valmontone, while the 
British 13 Corps, having bvpassed Arce 
to the southeast of Frosinone on High- 
wax 82, pulled abreast on the right.-' 
That meant that the Liri valley lay 
behind the two corps. From that point 
the\ were to continue northwestward 
up the valley of the Sacco River past 
Valmontone toward Tivoli, eighteen 
miles east of Rome. The 13 Corps was 
prepared to \'ary that route, should the 
armv commander, Cieneral Leese, deem 
it propitious, in order to open addi- 
tional roads leading generallv north- 
ward through the Simbruini Mountains. 
The 10 Corps on the British right wing 
meanwhile was to continue to block 
passes in the Central Apennines to 
deny German intervention from the 
Adriatic front. 

In altering the interarmy boundarv 
north of Highway 6 to give the Fifth 
Army greater freedom of movement 
northwest of Valmontone, General 
Alexander, having abandoned all hope 
of trapping the Tenth Army, added the 
proviso that if it became necessary for 
both Allied armies to make a joint 
assault on the Caesar Line, the original 
boundary would be reinstated. In that 
event, the Eighth Army would attack 



abreast of the Fifth Army on a narrow 
front, with the 1st Canadian Corps 
astride Highway 6 and the British 13 
Corps ak)ng an adjacent route, the Via 
Prenestina. 

Once the Caesar Line was pierced 
and Rome fell, (ieneral Leese, the 
Eighth Army commander, planned to 
move the Canadian corps int(j army 
reserve, while the 13 Corps, passing 
east of Rome through Tivoli, was to 
lead the Army's advance northward. 
On the Eighth Army's far right the 10 
Corps too was to drive generalh north- 
ward along Highwax 82 through 
Avez/ano. 

PrelinuTiayy Moves 

To launch the new phase of the Fifth 
Armv's drive on Rome, the II Corps 
commander. General Ke\es, had little 
time to prepare elaborate plans. The 
36th Division's presence on Monte Ar- 
temisio had apparently thrown the Ger- 
mans off balance. It was important to 
move (|uicklv for the (iermans had long 
since demonstrated an almost uncannv 
abilitv to reco\er rapidlv from re- 
verses.-*^ 

Since the 36th Dixision's success on 
Monte Artemisio raised the possibilitv 
of (juicklv achieving a deep salient, 
Clark saw the need to act with dispatch 
to protect the 36th Division's right flank 
and rear. Con\inced that General Ke\es 
would need more strength than origi- 
nally contemplated to accomplish that, 
he decided on the evening of the 31st 
to gixe the II Corps General Sloan's 
88th Division, which he had intended to 
hold in armv reserve.--' 



-" II Corps Opns Rpt, Mar-Jun 44. 
'^' Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
Fortes in Italv, Part II, Set. B. 



-** II Corps Opns Rpts, Ma\-|un 44. 
-■'Clark Diarv, 31 Mav 44. 



BREAKINC; THE STAEEMA TE 



93 



For the drive on Rome General 
Keyes thus would control the 85th and 
88th Divisions — the same ones with 
which he had broken the Gustav Eine 
over two weeks before — plus the 3d 
Division, the 1st Special Service Force, 
and Colonel Howze's armored task 
force, the units that had been operating 
in the Valmontone corridor under Gen- 
eral O'Daniefs command. This was a 
force about as formidable as that com- 
manded by VI Corps when Clark 
turned it toward the Alban Hills. 

Although General Keyes had no ar- 
mored division, Howze's task force rep- 
resented a powerful exploitation force, 
since it consisted of the 13th Armored 
Regiment (less one battalion), the 756th 
Tank Battalion, and several artillery, 
tank destroyer, engineer, and armored 
infantry units. Having rejoined the 
corps, the 91st Reconnaissance S(]uad- 
ron drew the mission of screening the 
right flank, pending further advance of 
the French Expeditionary Corps. Gen- 
eral Frederick's 1st Special Service 
Force was also highly mobile, and each 
of the three infantry divisions had an 
attached medium tank battalion. 

Before attempting to break into the 
Valmontone gap, Keyes first had to 
secure his left flank on the northeastern 
slope of the Alban Hills, both for his 
own protection and to cover the 36th 
Division's right flank. That was to be a 
respcjnsibility of General Coulter's 85th 
Division (with the 349th Infantry at- 
tached from the 88th Division), which 
during the night of the 30th relieved a 
regiment of the 3d Division on the left 
wing of the corps in the vicinity of 
Lariano, midway between Artena and 
Velletri. The 85th Division was further 
reinforced with a company of tanks 



from Howze's task force. '^" 

An hour and a half after midday on 
the 3 1st, Coulter's infantrymen attacked 
across slopes dotted with thick chestnut 
and pine woods, terraced vineyards, 
and silvery-leaved olive trees. Advanc- 
ing on either side of Eariano, the 1st 
and 3d Battalions, 337th Infantry, en- 
countered little opposition. Bypassing 
the town, they occupied high ground to 
the northwest. The 2d Battalion, mean- 
while, sent a reinforced company in a 
frontal assault against the town. Al- 
though the German defenders em- 
ployed considerable small arms hre, the 
town was in hand by nightfall. During 
the night the 1st Battalion continued 
over two miles beyond Eariano to reach 
the Maschio d'Ariano at the northern 
end of the Monte Artemisio ridge, 
there to relieve the 36th Division's 143d 
Infantry. 

The 337th Infantry's attack had dealt 
roughly with the battalions of the Her- 
ni(in}i (iorrinir Dn'is/on, encircling a bat- 
talion of the l.st Panzer Grcuddicr Regi- 
ment and driving back another from the 
2d Panzer Grenadier Regiment. Under 
cover of a company-size counterattack 
supported by seven tanks, the encircled 
battalion escaped during the night. 
Nonetheless, the 85th Division managed 
to hold on as anchor of the left flank of 
the II Corps on Monte Artemisio.-'' 

Keyes Plan 

During the evening ot 31 May, Gen- 
eral Keves outlined to his dixision com- 



"' \YM\h Int Opns Rpt, Mav 44; :^38th Int Opns 
Rpt, May-Jun 44; 3d Int i:>iv Jnl, 31 May, 21210B 
Mav 44. 

" MS # R-fiO (Bailcv), CIMH. 



194 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



manders his jjlan ol attack to secure 
Highua\ 6 in the \icinity ol Valmon- 
tone belore beginning the dri\e on 
Rome. The main burden oi tlie elloit 
was to be borne initially by the 3d 
Dixision. This di\ision was to capture 
\'alniontone before continuing to the 
noithwest to secine the corps' liglit 
tlank on high ground in the vicinitv ol 
Palestrina, a lew miles north ol Val- 
montone, where the dixision was to 
remain until reiiexed by the VV.C With 
the Hanks secured, the 88th Division, 
accompanied bx Task P'orce Hoxwe, 
was to achance as lar as Highwax 6, 
west ol Valmontone, then tuin north- 
xvestward.''- To the dixision's lelt (Coul- 
ter's 85th Dixision was to cross tlie 
Alban Hills' northeast slopes to the 
xicinitx ol Frascati, about ten miles 
southeast ol Rome. Therealtei, C>oulter 
was to be prepared, on corps' order, to 
sxving one regiment abruptly to the lelt 
to cut off those enemy troops opposing 
the VI Corps. Once the FEC arrived to 
reliex'e the 3d Division and cover the II 
Corps' right flank and rear north of 
Valmontone, General O'Daniel's divi- 
sion was to adxance alongside the 88th 
Dixision to screen the corps' right Hank. 

The II (]()yf)s Bcir/n.s To Moi'c 

The main line of resistance of the 
German LXXVI Panzer Corps, compris- 
ing the Fourteenth Arniys left wing, ex- 
tended eastxvard from the northeastern 
slo}X' of tlie AlbcUi Hills to Highwax 6 
at a point midwax between Valmontone 
and Labico, and thence to a jimction 
with the XIV Panzer Corps on the Tenth 



Army's right wing a few miles east of 
Valmontone. Manning the line from 
the Alban Hills to the interarmx bound- 
arx were the Hermann Goermg Diviswn 
and remnants of the 334th and 715th 
Infantry Divisions. This force was more 
impressive on paper than it was in 
reality, for the onlx units actuallv in line 
xvere two understrength pan/er giena- 
dier regiments and a Kampfgruppe, the 
lattei made up of miscellaneous artillerx 
units, most of Which had lost their guns 
to jXMsistent Allied aircraft. With the 
exception of antitank weapons, this 
foice nexertheless possessed adecjuate 
supporting arms and serxices.'^"^ 

Beginning at OSOO on 1 Jime the 
85th and 3d Infantix Divisions — the 
88th Division had xet to come into line 
in the corps' center — began moxing 
toward their first objectixes. Progress 
was slow dining the morning, especiallv 
in the 3d Division sector. Onlv alter 
repelling sexeral tank-led counterattacks 
east ol the Artena-X'almontone road 
did the 15th Infantrv finalh succeed, 
late in the dax, in adxancing the dixi- 
sion's right as lar as Highxvax 6. On the 
lelt. Colonel Howze's armored task 
foice destroxed eight enemv antitank 
guns while spearheading the 30th In- 
fantrx's attack. Task Force How/e in 
turn k)st three tanks, and snipers took a 
heaxx toll ol tank commanders. To 
make matters worse, darkness found 
both tanks and infantrv still short of the 
highxvax northwest of \'almontone. 
Colonel How/e summed up the dax's 
action bx obserxing. "Our at- 
tack . . . went damned slowlx ." '^ 



'^ II Corps AAR, Jun 44, The Rome Campaign. 
Unless otherwise indicated the following is based 
upon this document. 



MS # C-(i4 (Kessehing). CMH. 
'M)ih Int Narr, Jun 44: How/e MS. 



BREAKINC; THE STALEMA IE 



95 



On the corps' left the 3H8ih InlantiA 
of C'.oiiher's 85th Di\'isi()n ran into 
cncniv well entrenehed along a steep- 
sided iailua\ embankment just north- 
east of Lariano. After a hea\\ lire fight 
the regiment drove the Geinians from 
their positions, then wheeled slowh 
northwestward in the direction of 
Monte C>eraso, four miles awa\ on the 
northeastern rim of the Alban Hills. 
When the maneuver ojx'ned a gap on 
the 338th Infantiy's right flank. Coultei 
cjuieklv closed it with the 349tli Infan- 
trv/*"' 

Meanwhile, a battalion of the 337th 
Infantry still on the Maschio d'Aiiano, 
the northern knob of the Monte Ar- 
temisio ridge, came under fire fiom an 
enemy force that had been hastily as- 
sembled in the vicinity of a faini one 
mile to the northeast. Appaientlv belat- 
edly trying to restore contact between 
the Fourteenth Afmy\ two corps, the 
enemy had infiltrated from the noith 
through heaxilv wooded draws to iso- 
late the 1st Battalioti command post 
and capture an entire platoon of (>om- 
pan\ D. Later in the day the battalion 
rallied and drove the enemy off. The 
rest of the 337th Infantry advanced 
before dark as far as Monte (lastellac- 
cio, about two miles to the noith, thus 
providing the II (]orps a secure anchor 
for its left flank on high ground over- 
looking Highway 6 from the south.''' 

Southeast of Valmontone General 
Frederick's 1st Special Set \ ice Force 
reached (^olle Ferro, a road junction a 
few miles southeast of Valmontone lh.it 



was im})()itant to the enemy trooj^s 
withdrawing Ix'fore the FEC. Surprising 
the Germans, Frederick's men fell u})on 
their right flank and took oxer 200 
piisoneis, thus virtually eliminating the 
enemy rear guard at that point, and 
assuring clear passage for the 3d Alge- 
rian Infantry fiivision, leading the FEC^ 
advance toward Highwa\ (i.'' 

Although no bieakthiough had de- 
\'eloped, there were increasing signs 
with each passing hour that the enemy 
was growing progressively weaker. 
Later that afternoon out}Dosts reported 
seeing a white flag flying ovei Valmon- 
tone and hearing the sounds of heaxy 
motor traffic moving westward. Obserx- 
ers also reported txvo big explosions, 
apparently demolitions, in the vicinity 
of C^axe on the Via Prenestina, midwa) 
between Cienazzano and Palestrina. ''' 

That night the commandei of the 
15th Infantiy telephoned 3d Division 
headcjuaiters near Giulianello, report- 
ing the noise of heaxy motor traffic 
across his front. "Whx don't xou put 
mortar fire on it?" (General O'Daniel 
replied with some heat. "Get an AF 
gun up there and plastei the hell out of 
everything that comes along. You can 
block the road any place xou want to. 
The important thing is to shoot exery 
goddamn xehicle that comes by 
there." ■^■' Twenty minutes later the regi- 
mental commander telephoned again to 
say that Company E had just finished 
shooting up three truckloads of enemy 
soldiers on the road. "Good, Keep it 
up," O'Daniel replied, somewhat molli- 



•'■'• 349th Inf Hist. Jun 44; 3.38th Ini Jnl, 1 Jun 44. 

■'"337th hit Rpt of Opns, Jun 44; Orders. AOK 
14, la Nr. 2359144, g/Kdos, I Jun 44, in AOK 14, la 
KTB Nr. 3, Anlage 4H4 , 1-31 Mav 44, AOK 14, l)o(. 
Nr. 590913 : Fifth Army History, Fart V, p. 146. 



"Fifth Army History. Fart V, p. 146; Mathews, 
■'The French in the Drive on Rome," j). 139. 

■"* II Corps C;-3 Jnl, 01 1855B Jun 44. 

■'"3d Ini i:)iv ci-3 Jnl, 012310 Jun 44, Tel CX) 
l.'jih Inlto CG. 



196 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



tied. "Don't let a single \ehicle get 
through tonight — not one, under- 
stand?" -»" 

With Highwa\ 6 cut b\ iiie, e\en 
though not plnsicallv blocked, the Ger- 
mans were clearly in trouble. As Gen- 
eral Clark had noted when arguing 
against General Alexanders preoccupa- 
tion with Valniontone and Highway 6, 
other roads were available lor the Ger- 
man Tenth Army's withdrawal; neverthe- 
less, a combination of the loss ol High- 
way 6 and a continued American acl- 
yance to the north would iurther re- 
strict the Tenth nuny's escape routes 
from the Sacco Valley. Furthermoie, il 
the left wing of Cieneral xon Mac ken- 
sen's Fourteenth Anny collapsed, as ap- 
peared imminent, the Americans could 
hardh be stopped, cUid the / Paraehute 
Corps would haxe to abandon its rela- 
tiyeh strong Gaesar Line ])ositions in 
the Alban Hills. 

Early on 1 June, even as the L .S. II 
Corps had begun to move. Field Marshal 
Kesselring had told the Tenth Army's 
Chief" of Staff, (ieneial Went/ell, to has- 
ten the withdrawal of the 9()th Panzer 
Gremuiier Divisum from the Sacco valle\ to 
secure the high ground north of Val- 
montone around Palest lina. That was to 
be a preliminar) to the entire .\7/' Panzer 
Corfis making a stand there. If the Ameri- 
can II C>orps swung northwestward to- 
ward Rome, as seemed likeh , the A7/ 
Panzer Corps would be in a position to 
harass the attackers' flank. ^' 

If Kesselring's plan wds to ha\e ain 
chance of success, the Fourteenth Army's 
left wing had to hold eilhei at Valnion- 



tone or on the high ground at Pales- 
trina imtil the 90th Panzer Grenadier 
Division could arrive. To those Germans 
on the scene there seemed to h)e little 
chance of that. Because of the Ameri- 
can fire on Highway 6, the jDosition at 
Valmontone was clearly untenable. 
Leaving only an 18-man rear guard in 
the town, the Germans withdrew to 
high grotmd, but the total strength 
then available for holding the new 
position was one infantry battalion suj> 
)3orted by four Mark I\' tanks, a smat- 
tering of assatilt guns and flak guns, 
and three light artillery batteries. ^- 

At dawn on 2 June, Cjcneral Keves" 
II (]orps renewed its attack, this time 
with Creneral Sloan's 88th Division hav- 
ing taken over the center of the corps. 
Ihat the Germans had pulled back 
dining the night iDecame c|uicklv appar- 
ent. A patrol of the 3d Division's l^Oth 
Infantry led the way into Valmontone 
and by 1030 reported the town free of 
the enemy. To the left the 7th Inlantrv 
occupied Labico, on Highwav 6 two 
miles northwest of Valmontone. and 
together the two regiments followed the 
retreating enemy toward the high 
ground around Palestrina. four miles to 
the north. Bv nightfall l:K)th regiments 
had seized footholds on the high 
ground against only light resistance. ^'^ 

Two legiments of the 88th Division 
meanwhile moved toward Gardella Hill, 
a point of high ground overlooking 
Highwav 6 al3out five miles northwest 
of \'almontone. Within a few hours the 
hill was occupied and the highwav cut. 
Two battalions of the 351st Infantrv 
then turned northwest astride the high- 



'" Ibid: 3d Div G-3 Jul, Sitifp. 0207:50 |un 44. 

^' Teleon, AOK 10 CIA u/Col Btvlit/, OB Surdwr^l 
Opns C)(f. 0! I ITifiB Jun 44. in AOK 10. la KTB Mr. 7. 
AnldiT,' 20. 1-5 |un 44. AOK 10 Ihu . Xr. 55291/2. 



'- MSS #'s T-hi. T-lb. T-lc (Westplial rt al.) 
and C-0(i4 (Kesselring). 

'■' II Corps C-3 Jnt 0210306 Jim 44. 



BREAKING THE STALEMATE 



197 




3d Division Infantry Entering Valmontone 



uav and entered the road junction 
town of San Cesareo, seven miles north- 
west ol Valmontone. Along the \va\ the 
men counted 12 destroyed or aban- 
doned 88-mm. guns and 14 enem\ 
vehicles. The 85th Division on the left 
made similar progress, one regiment 
coming abreast of the 351st Infantrx 
near San Cesareo in later afternoon, 
another occupying Monte Fiori, two 
miles south of the town.^"* 



'" II Corps AAR Jim 44, 1 hf I! Corps Diivc on 
Rome. 



Bv 2 June the II Corps had gained 
control of a six-mile length of Highway 
6 and. more importantly, had compro- 
mised the )X)sitions on the high giound 
near Palest rina which the Germans had 
ho{X'd to hold pending the arrival of 
the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division. C 'con- 
flicting reports reaching Amiy Group C 
head(]uarters throughotit the dav 
served to conceal the full extent ol the 
peril to the Cierman plan to emplox 
that di\ision defensixeh. but b\ night- 
fall Field Marshal Kesselring realized 
that more drastic steps were needed if 
what was developing as a full-scale 



98 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




American Infantrymen Advancing Along Highway 6 Toward Rome 



breaklliioiigh dt Wiliiiontonc wds to be 
contained.^' 

To Gencial von Vicliiigholf, com- 
mander oi" the Tenth Army witlKliawing 
before the British Kighth Aiiin, Kes- 
sehiiig insisted that the XIV Pcnizcr 



^•' Teleton, AOK 10 CIS with Coloiul Bcclil/. OB 
Suedwest Opns Oirufi, 01 1 155B Jun 44, in AOK 10, 
la KTB \'r. 7, Anlage 20, 1-5 ]uii 44, AOK 10 Dm. 
\r. 55291/2: Telecon, CIS AOK 10 iv/OB Sueduu'st. 
0112208 Jun 44, AOK 10 Doc. \'r. 55291/2: MSS 
# T-lb (Wcslphal rl ai) and C-064 (Kcssclring). Un- 
less othervvisf indicated this sedion is based upon 
these references. 



(A)rps countei attack the leit flank of the 
Fiftli AiiiiNs II C'oips. now Ix^ginning 
to move lip Highwax 6. \'ietinghofT 
responded emphaticallx that he had 
neithei sufficient troops not ammuni- 
tion for a counterattack of an\ kind. 
I he entile XW Panzer Corps, for exam- 
ple, had onh fourteen eomhat-readx 
tanks. Kesseliing ieluctantl\ took liim 
at liis word and both commanders had 
to accept the fact that Rome would 
soon be lost. During the night of 2 
June, X'ietinghof f ordered liis Tenth 
Army to break contact with tlie Britisli 



HREAKINC; THE STALEMATE 



199 



Kiglith Anin and ictrcMt norlhucud 
ihrough the Sinibruini Mountains to 
the Anicnc River east ol Rome. 

As the lull-seale withdrawal began, 
tension and sleepless nights Ix-gan to 
take their toll among the senior Cicr- 
man eommanders. General von Vie- 
tinghoff. who lor several months had 
been rej)eatedl\ ineapat itated b\ 
chronic illness, tinned over his com- 
mand to his chief oi stall, General 
Went/ell, and lelt lor hos})itali/ation in 
northern Itah. A lew hours later Kes- 
selring's chietOl stall, (ienerai Westj)hal, 
collapsed Irom ner\ous exhaustion and 
was also evacuated. 

The Tfiith Army's retreat through the 
mountains was well-cone ei\ed and skill- 
fulh exeeuted, amph luirilling (Clark's 
earlier predietion that there were just 
too many eseape routes open to the 
Germans. Yet an examination ol the 
map suggests that a combination ol a 
more vigorous lollow-up bv the Eighth 
Armv ol the Germans in the Liri 
vallev, and a timely blockade ol High- 
wav 6 between Perentino and Valmon- 
tone h\ the Filth Armv would have 
made that retreat lar moie costlv. 

Tlw VI Clorps Bi'gim To Move 

Sinee 26 Mav the VI (>orps, west ol 
the Alban Hills, had gained little 
ground and had incurred heaNA casual- 
ties in some ol the hardest lighting 
since the previous winter. Four oi the 
live divisions (the 36th Di\ision had 
been in corps reserve lor much ol the 
period and had sustained lew losses 
during the ascent ol Monte Artemisio) 
had su tiered a total ol 2,829 casualties, 
including 342 killed. Those were losses 
comparable to, and in some instances, 
surpassing those incuned during the 



breakout oiTensi\e Irom the beach- 
head. »'' 

I hat such a grim pattern oi" losses 
might still continue Ix'came evident on 
1 June when the VI (>orps resumed its 
eliorts to break thiough the (>aesar 
Line between Lanuvio and Gamj)o- 
leone. On a two-battalion Iront. the 
179lh Iniantry led the 43th Division's 
advance astride the Albano road. I he- 
attack had penetrated the lines ol an 
enemv infantry school regiment, a re- 
cent reiniorcement to the 3d Panzer 
Grenadier Division, but the 179lh Inlan- 
try's heavy losses caused considerable 
disorganization in that regiment. B\ 
noon one company could muster onl\ 
an oiiicer and thirty-live men. and the 
other companies were little better oil. 
The division commander. General Ea- 
gles, replaced the 179th with the IHOth 
Inlantr), so that the attack was renewed 
in the afternoon, but the second regi- 
ment had no more success than the 
First. ■*' 

To the 45th Di\ision's right the 34th 
Division also resumed its eliorts to 
capture the Villa G-rocetta and the San 
Gennaro Ridge southeast of Lanuxio. 
After two hours ol hard fighting, the 
168th Infantry's 3d Battalion captured 
two hills on the ridge but was still short 
of complete control of the leature. On 
the 168th Infantry's left, the frustrating 
chronicle oi the prexious week was 
repeated as a platoon of the 109th 
Engineers struggled to within a stone's 
throw of the Villa Crocetta before a 
curtain of automatic weapons and mor- 
tar lire drove the men back down the 



*'' See 9tli Machine Records Unit Fittli Armv 
American liattle Casualties, 10 )un Ab, CIMH. 

^' 45th Div Opns Rpt. Jun 44; VI Corps i',-'^ 
Periodic Rpt, Jun 44; MS # T-la (Westphal ct at.). 



200 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



hill through shattered olive groves to 
the line of departure. ^^ 

To the corps commander. General 
Truscott, it was apparent that his best 
prospects tor breaking through the 
Caesar Line la\ with the 36th Division. 
Since occup\ing Monte Artemisio be- 
fore davlight oi the 31st, that dixision 
had graduallv extended its positions 
and had xirtualK surrounded Velletri. 
Only Highwax 7 remained open as an 
escape route for the town's garrison, 
the survixors of General Greiner's 362d 
Infantry Division. The 36th Division 
commander. General Walker, believed 
that the enemv, recognizing the ho{x^- 
lessness of the situation, would soon 
abandon Velletri.^" 

In realitv, bv early afternoon of 31 
Max. the / Parachute Corps commander, 
General Schlemm, had indeed decided 
that nothing was to Ix? gained bv pro- 
longing the defense of Velletri, and 
accordingly had re(|uested General von 
Mackensen's permission to withdraw. 
The Fourteenth Army commander readily 
assented, and that night, leaving fc)ehind 
a rear guard, Greiner withdrew his 
division along Highxvay 7 toward Lake 
Xemi, about fixe miles to the northxvest 
of Velletri.''" 

As night fell on 1 June, the 36th 
Division entered Velletri, where the 
Americans captured 250 enemx soldiers 
at a cost of thirtv-four casualties. With 
\elletri's fall, it seemed unlikelv that the 
Germans could k)ng hold the Lanuxio- 
Campoleone sector."'' 

Yet despite the 36th Divisions suc- 



cess, Field Marshal Kesselring had not 
yet authorized Mackensen to withdraxv 
from the southern flanks of the Alban 
Hills. The armv group commander 
beliexed that it was important, indeed 
vital, to the fortunes of the German 
forces that the Fourteenth Army hold as 
long as possible in order to enable the 
Tenth Army to make good its escape 
from the upper Liri-Sacco xallev. If" 
Mackensen xvere flung back too c|uicklv 
on Rome the Allies might be able to 
separate the two German armies and 
seize tlie crossing sites of the Tiber 
north of Rome."'- 

(^onsecjuently, when the 34th and 
45th Divisions resumed their efforts on 
2 June, the Germans continued to hold 
except at the Villa Crocetta. which the 
34th Dixision finally seized. Elsewhere 
betxveen Lanuxio and Gampoleone, the 
VI Corps made little headwav.'-' 

General Clark made no secret of his 
keen disappointment at Truscott's fail- 
ure to break through west of Velletri. "I 
xvant to take ground, but Rxder and 
Eagles haxen't gone anx place todax." 
Clark complained to Truscott's chief of 
staff. ''^ The) were engaged in a race 
against time, Clark added, and 'mv 
subordinates fail to realize how close 
the decision will be. If Kesselring man- 
ages to reinforce his positions in the 
Alban Hills with the 1st Parachute Divi- 
sion and the 90th Panzer Grenadier be- 
fore I get there, they may turn the 
tide.""'-' " 



*** Fifth Army History, Part V, p. 151. 
■•» 36th Div Rpi ofOpns, Mav-Juri 44. 
'^" VIS# R-50(Bailc-v). 

•^' 9th MRU, Fifth Aimv Ameiican Battle Casual- 
ties, lOJun 45; 36th Div Rpt of Opns, May-Jun 44. 



■''- Frido von Senger und Etterlin, Xeither Hope 
Nor Fear (New Yoik: F. P. Dutton &: C\).. Inc.. 
1964), p. 253, 

•••'VI Corps C;-3 |ni, 1-2 Jun 44. 0217458 Jun 
44, Tel, C(; 45th Div to CG VI Corps. 

""Ubid., 021840B Jun 44; Tel, Fifth .\rniv .Adv CP 
to CXj VI Corps. 

■^■^ Clark Diary, 2 Jun 44. 



BREAKINC; THE STALEMATE 



201 



Although upset by the kick ol prog- 
ress west oi V'elletri, C^laik was encour- 
aged bv the 36th Division's prospects at 
X'elletri and on Monte Artemisio. "\i 
the 36th goes," (Hark observed to Irus- 
(ott, "I feel that there should be a 
breakthrough.""''' (Mark's confidence in 
Walkers division was well placed, tor 
while Truscott's other division com- 
manders iiuned in frustration through- 
out 2 June, the 36th Division began a 
methodical exploitation of its capture of 
Velletri. At dawn the 142d and 143d 
Intantrv Regiments led the way from 
Monte Artemisio across rolling farm- 
land toward Monte Caxo and Rocca di 
Papa, which were tour and a halt miles 
awav. Advancing along the only 
coxered route of approach in its zone 
and taking fiftv prisoners from the 
Rome Police Battalion, a scratch covering 
force huiriedh sent south from Rome, 
the 142d Intantrv, gained a position 
directlv east of Monte Cavo. To the 
right the 143d Infantry occupied Monte 
Tanc), a mile and a halt northeast of 
Monte Cavo. Meanwhile, the 141st In- 
tantrv, which had captured Velletri, 
advanced into the hills just east of Lake 
Nemi.'" 

The 36th Division's thrust opened 
Highway 7 as far as Lake Nemi and 
threatened the 362d Divisions left flank 
with envelopment. Even the commit- 
ment of a battalion of the 1099th 
Infantyy Regiment from the 92d Grenadier 
Division, an untried unit in training 
along the coast near Rome, failed to 
stem what at that point amounted to a 
breakthrough along the / Parachute 



^'' VI Corps G-3 Jnl, ()2()813B, ()214I5B, and 
(I2IH40B Jun 44. Tels. Clark to Iruscolt. 

■^" I42(f Inl Opris Rpt , Juii 44; 1 4 1 si Inf Nan, 
|iin 44. 



(Corps' left flank, fo avoid envelopment. 
General Schlemin withdrew the 12th 
Parachute Regiment from his center and 
shifted it to a sector extending north- 
east from Lake Nemi to the corps' left 
flank. Yet that unit, reduced b\ combat 
k)sses to about the strength of a battal- 
ion, could be expected to act as little 
more than a delaying force. 

By nightfall on 2 June, Kesselring at 
last reluctantlv acknowledged that the 
Fourteenth Army too had no alternative 
to withdrawal and authorized Macken- 
sen to begin pulling back his entire 
front, with the exception of the far 
right ak)ng the Tyrrhenian coast where 
as vet the British divisions there had 
exerted little pressure. The / Parachute 
Corps' center and left were to withdraw 
about a mile and a halt, and the LXVII 
Panzer Corps v\as to pull back its right 
wing two miles and its left one. Kessel- 
ring further directed Mackensen to 
bring forward all of his field replace- 
ment battalions and. it necessarv, to 
draw upon all available militarv trans- 
port — even that being used to stipplv 
foodstuffs tor the civilian population of 
Rome — to move the reinforcements to 
the front. 

That afternoon Ckfrman artillerv fire 
opposite the 34th and 45th Divisions' 
sector suddenlv increased in volume 
and continued until dark. The tire 
served to mask the / Parachute Corps 
preparations tor a withdrawal that 
night. As darkness fell an unaccus- 
tomed (juiet settled over the VI Corps 
front as the Germans broke contact and 
withdrew to new positions.''" 

Suspecting that a withdrawal was tak- 
ing place. General Rvdei, the 34th 



■'''AOK H. la Nr. Anl. 2411144. 2 Jim 44. AOK 14 
Doc. \r. 590912/44. 



202 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Dixision coniiiKindcr, oidcied his legi- 
nicnlal coniniandeis to send out strong 
combat patrols that night toward the 
enein\ lines. Patrols from the 168th 
Infantrx met no lesistanee as they en- 
tered Lannvio's dark ruins shorth alter 
midnioht. At lirst light on 3 lune the 
regiment began to mo\e and b\ ()9()() 
had completed the oecu])ation oi the 
town. The rest of the 34th Division 
then advanced on both sides ot Lanuvio 
toward Genzano, a road junction with 
Hiohwav 7 three miles to the northwest 
where the highway skirts Lake Nemi.'" 
That was the opportunity General 
Truscott had been wailing for, t(^ com- 
mit General Harmon's 1st Armored 
Division as an exploitation loice. Trus- 
cott planned to send the armor astride 
the Anzio road toward a Junction Avith 
Highwav 7 at the town of Albano. 
Harmon, who had never reconciled 
himself to Clark's decision to shift the 
VI Corps (and his division) from the 
Valmontone sector, once again pro- 
tested against his new mission. This 



was, he declared, "a hell of a place to 
put an armored di\ision — on top of 
these mountains."' Colonel Caileton, 
Truscott's chief of staff, replied that 
that was where the corps commander 
had said Harmon would go, and that 
ended the matter.''" 

Meanwhile, Truscott b\ phone urged 
the 45th Division commander to get his 
men moving as soon as possible. The 
45th Division was to precede the armor 
toward Albano as far as the V'elletri- 
Rome railroad northwest of Lanuvio, 
whereupon the armor was to pass 
through and, together with the 36th 
Division, lead the final drive to Rome.'" 

By the evening of 2 June both the II 
and V'l Cx)rps thus had broken through 
the Caesar Line. As dawn broke o\er 
the Alban Hills on the 3d. both corps 
were poised to begin the intra-armv 
race to determine which would be first 
into Rome. 



•••' VI Corps C;-3 Jul, 3-4 Jun 44; Filth Army 
History, Part V, pp. 153-54. 



'•"VI C()ri)s G-3 Jnl. 0LM500B Jun 44. Tel. 
C^arleton to Harinon. 

'■' VI Corps G-3 Jnl. 3-4 Jun 44: Fifth Army 
History. Part V, pp. 153-34. 



CHAPTER XI 



The Fall of Rome 



The German High Coniniancl real- 
ized only too well that the lall ol Rome 
would have repercussions tar beyond 
the Italian theater ol war, and that 
Allied propaganda would lake full ad- 
vantage ot the capture ol the first of 
the Axis capitals. From the Allied point 
of view, a bettei prelude to the immi- 
nent in\asion of France could scarcelv 
ha\e been desired. The Germans had 
onlv two choices: to evacuate Rome oi 
to defend it street b\ street and house 
by house. The latter course would gain 
Kesselring a little time but wotild leave 
the cit\ in ruins and invoke the certain 
condemnation of all C'hristendom. ' 

Since October 1943 the OKVV plan- 
ning staff had been considering alter- 
nately the possibility of either declaring 
Rome an o|3en cit\, in the event of an 
Allied landing near the mouth of the 
Tiber, or of withdrawing the front to 
the en\ii()ns of the cit\ and therebx 
risking its destruction. On instructions 
from the OKW chief of staff, the 
subject had been placed in abeyance 
that winter, since Hitler had ordered 
the Bernhard Line in southern Italv 
held under all circumstances. In any 
case, the High Gommand believed that 
if the Allies landed near Rome, the 
local commanders would ha\'e to be 
governed by military necessity. 

As for the concept of Rome as an 



' (.reiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSl, KTB , 
IV, pp. 499-504. L'nles,s otherwise indicated the 
following is based upon this source. 



open citv, the only concession OKW 
was then prepared to make was to 
order that all monuments of historical 
or artistic value, as well as occupied 
hospitals, be spared destruction. Simul- 
taneously, the High Command agieed 
to respect the Vatican's sovereignty and 
to place its territory off limits to all 
German militar\ personnel. 

When the Allies landed at Anzio in 
Januar) 1944 the c|uestion of Rome's 
status, should the front approach the 
city, again became urgent. On 4 Febru- 
ary Field Marshal Kesselring submitted 
to the OKW a list of measures to be 
accomplished in the event he had to 
give up the city. The army group 
commander recommended demolition 
of all bridges across the Tiber, all major 
electrical installations (except those re- 
cjuired by the Vatican City), and all 
industrial and rail facilities outside the 
city (except those having no militarv 
role and serving only the civilian popu- 
lation). W'ithin the city, Kesselring pro- 
posed demolition onh of those indus- 
trial installations whose destruction 
could be accomplished \sithout damage 
to neighboring structures. After clear- 
ing the matter with the German For- 
eign Minister, OKW approved Kessel- 
ring's recommendations, but with Hit- 
lers own proviso forbidding destruction 
of the Tiber bridges within the citv, for 
many of them had considerable histori- 
cal and artistic merit. 

On 1 1 March in a note \erbale for 



204 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



the German Ambassador to the HoK 
See. the Vatican reminded the Germans 
of their earlier assurances to spare from 
the ra\ages of war the Vatican Cit) and 
Rome's famed monuments. The imme- 
diate effect of these representations was 
a 13 March order bv the Fourteenth 
Army, in whose zone of responsibility 
Rome la\, directing all militar\ person- 
nel, except medical detachments and 
quartermaster, butcher, and bakery 
units, to leave the city. German soldiers 
could enter Rome only with special 
passes, and the Vatican City, including 
St. Peters Church, was placed off limits. 
All military convoys were forthwith to 
be detoured around Rome. The Ger- 
man command hojDed by these meas- 
ures to remove all legitimate military 
targets from Rome and thereby give it 
the status of an open city within the 
meaning of the Hague Convention. 

The next move came from the Allied 
side with a ptiblic statement bv Presi- 
dent Roosevelt on 19 April, in response 
to a message from President de Valera 
of neutral Ireland, ret]uesting an Allied 
guarantee for the protection of the city 
of Rome. Roosevelt shrewdly observed 
in his reply that only the foct that Rome 
was in German hands had catised the 
question to be raised in the first place. 
Once the Germans had left Rome there 
would be no problem, for the Allies 
could easily guarantee its safety. The 
fate of Rome, Roosevelt concluded, 
therefore lay in German, not in Allied, 
hands. This equivocal reply left Rome's 
status still in doubt and the Allies free 
to take whatever action the militar) 
situation demanded. - 



There the matter rested until after 
the Allied offensive had begun in mid- 
May. On 15 May the U.S. Department 
of State queried General Wilson, Allied 
Forces Commander, Mediterranean, on 
whether to declare Rome an open city, 
subject to reservation of transit rights 
tor both belligerents.' Wilson replied 
with a firm negative. The Allied com- 
mander, echoing Roosevelt's earlier 
stateinent, pointed out that at this stage 
of the war, w hen German airpower was 
waning, such a declaration could be of 
advantage only to the enemy, since onh 
the Allies were in a position to attack 
Rome. After they had captured the cit\ 
they would have adequate means of 
defending it. Rome offered facilities 
essential to the continuation of the 
campaign beyond the Tiber, and Wil- 
son was determined not to allow his 
hands to be tied by any declaration 
respecting the use of these facilities. 
The British chiefs of staff agreed with 
Wilson's position and added that mili- 
tar) necessity alone must goxern Allied 
policy toward Rome. If the Germans 
chose to defend the city, the Allies 
would "take appropriate measures to 
eject them."^ 

Although unwilling to commit them- 
selves, the Allies had frecjuently assured 
Vatican authorities that the Cit\ State 
would "be accorded the normal rights 
of a neutral and [would] be treated as 
an independent neutral state." '^ Vatican 
propert) outside the cit\ state would be 
given the same diplomatic immunity 



2 Msg OZ 2571. 15 Mav 44, AMSSO to AFHQ 
SHAEF SGS 370.2/2, vol. II. 



'Ihtd. 

' Msg B 12688, AFHQ Adv CP to B/COS, 0100/4/ 
28, 19 Mav 44, SACS; Msg 2770, Air Ministry to 
AFHQ SACS, Cable l.od 26, ser. 28a. 

•^ Ltr, Hci AAI, 27 Mav 44, Sub: Occupation and 
Preservation of Vatican and Other Religious Prop- 
erties, AAI Plans Set, 0300/7c/19. 



THE FALL OF ROME 



205 



accorded to Vatican authorities. Yet the 
Alhed note contained an important 
(]ualiFication: during the lorthconiing 
drive on Rome the diplomatic immu- 
nity of Vatican propert\ would "not be 
allowed to interfere with militarx o}3era- 
tions," a principle that had goxerned 
Allied operations at Monte Cassino, 
with ruinous consecjuences for the an- 
cient monastery. The HoK See could 
take slight comfort in these assurances.*^ 

Since these instructions, however, 
closeh paralleled those that OKW had 
already given Kesselring, the Vatican 
Cit\ at least had statements from both 
sides that its neutrality would be re- 
spected, if at all possible. How effective 
these assurances would be if all Rome 
were to become a battlegiound contin- 
ued to trouble Vatican authorities, for 
as long as Rome's status depended 
upon "military necessity" there was little 
real security for the Vatican itself. 

Not until 3 June, when advance 
detachments of the U.S. Fifth Arm\ 
drew within sight of Rome, did OKW 
authorize Kesselring to approach the 
Allies through the Vatican in an effort 
t(^ obtain a joint agreement on declar- 
ing Rome an open city. This was in 
response to the field marshafs recoin- 
mendations that, except for necessary 
services, theie were under no circum- 
stances to be militaiT installati(Mis, troop 
billets, or troop movements within the 
city. There would be no demolitions, 
and electricity and water supply facili- 
ties would be maintained intact after 
the surrender of those still in German 
hands. Vatican authorities wcmld be 
responsible for seeing that these meas- 
ures were carried out and for arranging 



direct contacts between officers of the 
two belligerents to work out the final 
details for declaring Rome an open city. 
If the Allies failed to res})ond to Ger- 
man overtures, Kesselring was free to 
act according to military necessit\ . 

The AAI headcjuarters not onl\ ig- 
nored these overtures but via Allied 
radio called upon Romans to rise and 
join the battle to drive the Germans 
from Rome. By this time the call was 
b)oth pointless and rash, since within the 
city only isolated German units were 
desperately trying to reach the far bank 
of the Tiber before the Americans. Any 
attempt on the part of the civilian 
population to interfere might ha\'e led 
to destructive street fighting. ' 

On the heels of this radio appeal 
General Clark sent a message to his 
commanders repeating earlier Allied 
statements that if the Germans did not 
attempt to defend Rome there would 
be no combat within the city. The Fifth 
Army commander also declared that it 
was his "most urgent desire that Fifth 
Army troops protect both public and 
private propert\ in the city of Rome." 
While every effort was to be made to 
prevent Allied troops from firing into 
the city, "the deciding factor would be 
the enemy's dispositions and actions." If 
the Germans opposed "our advance bv 
dispositions and fires that necessitate 
Fifth Army troops Firing into the city of 
Rome, battalion commanders, and all 
higher commanders [were] authorized 
to take appropriate action without delay 
to defeat the opposing enemy elements 
by fire and movement."^ 



Ihid. , 030Q/4aJ28. 



■ MS# T-lb(Ufstplial^/«/.). 

•* II Corps G-:^ Jill, Juii 44, Fifth Armv Msg trom 
Clark. 3 Jun 44. " 



206 



GASSING TO THE ALPS 



It was now the Germans' turn to 
make a unilateral declaration, as had 
the Belgian and French authorities four 
\ears earlier when the battlefronts 
threatened to overwhelm their capitals, 
that Rome was an open city within the 
meaning of the first category implied in 
the Hague Gonvention. The Allied 
command had left them little choice — 
either fight or get out. Since Rome lay 
within the zone of military operations, 
such a declaration amounted, as in the 
case of Brussels and Paris, to an "antici- 
pators surrender" of the cit\. There- 
fore, on the afternoon of 3 June the 
OKVV instructed Kesselring to hold his 
front south and southeast of Rome onh 
long enough to permit evacuation of 
the citv's environs and withdrawal of 
the Fourteenth Army bevond the Tiber, 
which flows through Rome from north 
to south. Thereafter, he was authorized 
to withdraw the army north of Rome 
and west of the Tiber to the next 
favorable defense line.-' That night 
Army Group C headcjuarters issued or- 
ders for the evacuation of Rome and 
the re-establishment of a new line north 
of the city and extending east and west 
astride the valley of the Tiber. 

Tlie Race for Rome 

Bv davbreak on 3 June, both the II 
and the VI Gorps were on the move. 
During the day the II Gorps' left wing, 
made up of the 85th Division, with the 
337th Infantry on the right and the 
339th on the left, crossed the northeast- 
ern flanks of the Alban Hills toward 
Frascati, Kesselring's former headcjuar- 
ters. The 337th Infantrv led the wa\, 



passing north of Rocca Priora and 
taking first Monte Gompatri, shortly 
thereafter, Monte Porzio Gatone. After 
a brief skirmish on the slopes of Mcmte 
Gompatri, the regiment counted thirt\- 
eight prisoners who had been pressed 
into combat duty from the German 
Army cooks and bakers school near 
Rome. Darkness found the regiment 
descending the northern slopes of the 
Alban Hills into Frascati, and the pris- 
oners heading toward the arm\"s cages 
at Anzio. 

In the corps' center, Gompanv A of 
the 81st Armored Reconnaissance Bat- 
talion, followed bv tanks of Howze's 
task force, led the 88th Division's ad- 
vance along Highwav 6 at a five- to 
seven-mile-an-hour pace. Hard-pressed 
to keep up, the infantr\ pulled abreast 
of the armor only after well<oncealed 
enemy antitank guns opened fire on 
the tanks just beyond Golonna, a rail- 
way station abotit three miles west of 
San Gesareo. The tanks huddled in 
defilade tmtil the infantrv deploved and 
joined them in a co-ordinated assault 
on the enemv's hastilv occupied posi- 
tions. In the face of the American tank- 
infantry attack the Germans soon aban- 
doned their guns and fell back along 
the highway toward the suburbs of 
Rome. Throughout the afternoon the 
88th Division encountered giadualh in- 
creasing opposition from similar rear 
guard detachments covering the enem\ 
withdrawal.'" 

B\ the end of the da\ the II Gorps' 
two leading divisions had scored im- 
pressive gains: south of Highwa\ 6 the 
85th Division had pushed back the 



" Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKWIVVFSt KTB. 
IV, pp. .505-06: MS # T-lb (Westphal et al.). 



"• 13th .\nnd Regt AAR. |un 44: Isi Armd Div 
G-3 jiil. liin 44. 



THE FALL OF ROME 



207 



eneni) lear guard five miles to the line 
of Monte Compatri-Colonna, while to 
the north of the highway the 88th 
Division, after brushing aside a small 
delaying force south of Zagarolo, lo- 
cated on a secondary road Just west of 
Palestrina, had advanced halfway to the 
\illage of Pallavincini, seven miles west 
of Palestrina. 

This setback in the vicinitv of Zagar- 
olo was especiallv worrisome to Field 
Marshal Kesselring, for, although he 
had already reconciled himself to the 
loss of Rome, he was still intent on 
extricating his forces located southeast 
of the citv. Fhe crossings of the Aniene 
River between Rome and Ti\'oli, rather 
than the citv of Rome, was their best 
escajx^ route, and to control these cross- 
ings he needed to delay the Allied 
forces between Palestrina and Zagarolo 
long enough to enable his forces to 
reach the Aniene first. Tc:) this end 
Kesselring diverted an assault gun bat- 
talion that Mackensen had ordered to 
Colon na on Highway 6 and sent it 
instead northward toward the vicinity of 
Zagarolo.' ' 

During the day Allied aerial recon- 
naissance had reported considerable 
traffic streaming out of the Alban Hills 
in a northerly direction, apparently to- 
ward the crossings of the Aniene. The 
night before, the Fourteenth Army com- 
mander had ordered General Schlemm, 
commander of the / Parachute Corps, to 
withdraw the 11th Parachute Regiment 
and the main body of the 4th Parachute 
Dix'i.sioffs artillerv from the army's right 
wing to tjie left where they were to 



" MSS #'s T-la, T-lb (Westphal et al.) and C- 
064 (Kesselring). Unless otherwise cited the follow- 
ing is based upon these references. 



cover the withdrawal to the Aniene. By 
0920 on 3 June one battalion of the 
parachute regiment had reached a road 
junction on the Via Tuscolana three 
miles northwest of Frascati, and a sec- 
ond took up positions at Due Torri, 
five miles west of a planned blocking 
point at Osteria Finocchio, until then 
held only by a detachment from the 
29th Field Replacement Battalion and sixty 
men from the 715th Division. But this 
force was all that Mackensen had with 
which to cover that sector. Three addi- 
tional reserve battalions were too far 
awav to be of much help: one, a 
battalion of the 334th Division, lav thir- 
ieen miles north of Tivoli; a second, a 
long delayed battalion of the Hcrnunin 
(ioering Division, still lay at Sutri, twenty 
miles north of Rome; and a third, the 
26th Panzer Division's replacement battal- 
ion, was e(|uall\ far to the rear. Nor 
was the Tenth Army in a position to send 
reinforcements to Mackensen's aid. Its 
90th Panzer Grenadier Dix'ision, with 
which Kesselring had expected to shore 
up the Fourteenth Army's left wing, had 
been thrown off balance by Allied artil- 
lery fire after the division's arrival in 
the vicinity of (iena/.zano, five miles 
northeast of Valmontone. The division 
had, therefore, no choice but to remain 
on the defensive where it was and to 
concentrate on delaying the French 
corps' attack southeast of Cave. To 
make matters worse, Tenth Army had 
lost all contact with the division that 
afternoon and had only the vaguest 
details concerning the situation on its 
own right flank between Palestrina and 
(iena/zano. 

As darkness fell on 3 June, Field 
Marshal Kesselring, after studying the 
reports from his army commanders, 



1>()8 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



decided tliat onlv bold measures could 
save the Fourteenth Army's left wing from 
a collapse that would open up the way 
to the Aniene River crossings between 
Rome and Tivoli. The army group 
commander, therefore, directed the 
Tenth Army's acting commander, Gen- 
eral Wentzell, to turn his reserve divi- 
sion (the 15th Panzer Grenadier) over to 
General Mackensen for use on the 
LXXVI Panzer Corps' sector. Kesselring 
hoped thereb) to keep that wing strong 
enough to cover the corps' withdrawal 
northward from the Alban Hills to the 
Aniene and to prevent envelopment of 
the Tenth Army's right Hank.'- 

Actualh, because of General Clark's 
concentration on the capture of Rome 
Field Marshal Kesselring's fears were 
gi'oundless. hi contrast with his earlier 
concern for the enemy-occupied high 
ground overlooking his left flank as the 
VI Corps advanced toward Valmon- 
tone, this time the Fifth Army com- 
mander chose to ignore temporarily the 
Germans in the hills north of Highway 
6 as the H Corps moved along the 
highway toward Rome. To be sure, as 
quickly as possible Clark would move 
the French Corps up onto the II Corps' 
right flank as the latter wheeled left 
astride the axis of Highway 6 after 
capturing Palestrina and Zagarolo. 
Therefore, Juin's troops would provide 
a covering force to Keyes' long right 
flank as it passed south of the Aniene 
River. 

Conset|uently, during the night of 3 
June, with the 13th Panzer Grenadier 
Division providing a shield, General 
Mackensen managed to extricate Herr's 
LXXVI Panzer Corps as well as much of 



'■^ Greiner and Schranini, eds., OKW/WFSt. KTB. 
IV(1), p. 500. 



Schlemm's / Parachute Corps irom en- 
trapment southeast of Rome. The bat- 
tered 362d Infantry Division, meanwhile, 
by means of a series of hard-fought 
rear-guard actions, covered the with- 
drawal of the remainder of the Four- 
teenth Army through the Alban Hills and 
beyond the Tiber. 

While the II Corps' sweep astride 
Highway 6 north of the Alban Hills 
seemed to Clark's eyes most promising 
and to Kesselring's most threatening, 
the VI Corps had also begun to move 
directly into the Alban Hills. The 36th 
Infantry Division and the 1st Armored 
Division were to lead the wav toward 
Rome itself. Early on 3 June Harmon's 
armor assembled along the Via Anziate 
behind the 45th Di\ision and prepared 
to pass through its ranks when the 
infantry division should reach the \icin- 
ity of Albano that e\ening. The 36th 
Division, on the corps' right, had 
mo\'ed be\ond Velletri b\ noon to take 
first the village of Nemi and then to 
advance to the northwest as far as a 
road junction just east of Lake Albano. 
Nightfall found both the 1st Armored 
and the 36th Infantrv Divisions biv- 
ouacked close b\ Albano and prepared 
to continue their ad\ance toward Rome 
the following morning — the armored 
division along High wav 7 and the in- 
fantrv division along the Via Tuscolano 
b\ wa\ of Frascati. Meanwhile, the 34th 
Division, in the corps' center, had 
moved along a secondar\ road south of 
and parallel to Highwav 7 bevond 
Lanuxio to a sector south of Albano, 
where the division would remain until 
after the fall of Rome. On the corps* 
far left flank the British 1st and 5th 
Divisions foUowed up the enem\ with- 
drawal west of Ardea with instructions 



THE FALL OF ROME 



209 



to advance only as far as the near bank 
of the Tiber southwest of Rome. ''^ 

Echeloned considerabh to the Fifth 
Arm\'s right in the upper readies of 
the Sacco-Liri vallev, the British Eighth 
Army prepared early on 3 June to 
launch a final attack aimed at driving 
the enemy bevond the Aniene and into 
the Umbrian highlands east of the 
Tiber. That this could be cjuickly ac- 
complished seemed reasonable, for be- 
tween Highway 6 and the Subiaco road 
all that stood in the path of the army's 
1st Canadian and British 13 Corps were 
the 26th Panzer and 305th Infantyy Divi- 
sions. These divisions, considerably un- 
derstrength, held the XIV Panzer Corps' 
center and left along an east- west line 
extending from a point four miles west 
of Acuto along the Trivigliano-Genaz- 
zano road to a point one mile beyond 
the Subiaco load — actually the area be- 
tween Highway 6 and the Subiaco road. 
Yet two days would pass before the 
Eighth Army would reach the Aniene 
east of Rome and pull abreast of its 
neighbor on the left. Caution and 
traffic congestion caused by the pres- 
ence of two armored divisions and their 
numerous trains of vehicles, as well as a 
skillfully executed retreat c^n the part of 
General von Senger and Etteiiin's XIV 
Panzer Corps, accounted for much of the 
delay. ^^ 

Even as the U.S. Fifth Army's II and 
VI Corps began to close in on Rome, 
the Eighth Army's 1st Canadian Corps, 



" VI Corps AAR, June 44; Fijth Army History, 
Part V, pp. 153-54. 

''* Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec B. Unless otherwise 
cited the following is based upon this soince. See 
also, G. A. Shepperd, Tfu Italian Campaign 1943^5, 
A Political and Military Re-Assessment (New York: 
Frederick A. Praeger, 1968), p. 243. 



after replacing the 1st Canadian Infan- 
try Division with the 6th South African 
Armoured Division, attacked the 26th 
Panzer Division's positions between Pali- 
ano and Acuto. But the Germans man- 
aged to delay the armored division 
behind a screen of well-placed mines 
and demolitions long enough to break 
contact and slip away in the darkness. 
And the British 13 Corps on the Cana- 
dian's right did no better in closing with 
and overwhelming the enemy. In that 
corps too an armored division — the 
British 6th Armoured — had been 
moved into the van to begin a pursuit, 
since the Germans were believed to be 
on the point of breaking and running 
for it. With two brigades — the 1st 
Guards and the 61st — forward, the 
British 6th Armoured Division ad- 
vanced north and west of Alatri, forc- 
ing back the enemy's outpost line. But 
here too enemy rear guards and demo- 
litions caused frecjuent delays which 
allowed the Germans to escape through 
the mountains to the northwest. The 
next morning — 4 June — the British 13 
Corps entered Trivigliano unopj^osed. 
At the same time, the lOth Rifle Bri- 
gade cleared Monte Justo, about half a 
mile to the east, while the 6th Ar- 
moured Division advanced four miles 
northwest of Alatri without making 
contact with the Germans. 

The Central Apennines against whi(h 
both Churchill and Alexander had 
ho}3ed to pin the German Tenth Army, 
or at least a large part of it, were, in 
fact, not the seemingly impenetrable 
barriers they appeared to be on the 
map. Actually, through these mountains 
ran numerous roads and tracks over 
which an army could readily move and, 
at the same time, easily block with 



210 



CASSINOTO THK ALPS 



modest rearguards. When combined 
with the Eighth Army's cautious ad- 
vance, this geographic fact and the 
Germans" skillfull exploitation of it ena- 
bled the X/l' Panzer Corps, on the Tcntli 
Army's right wing to elude entrapment 
in the upper Liri-Sacco valle\. During 
the past fi\e days the corps" engineers 
had kept the Subiaco road open, de- 
spite efforts of Allied bombers to close 
it. Allied aircraft had forced the (ier- 
mans to limit their activities, including 
road marches, to the hours of darkness, 
yet the entire XIV Pauztr Corps had 
managed to break contact and reach 
the Aniene River in the \icinit\ of 
Tivoli well ahead of the British Eighth 
Arm\ . '' 

Earlier, on 3 June, many miles of 
winding mountain roads and an elusive 
enemy still separated the British Eighth 
Army from its goal; on the other hand, 
the U.S. Fiftli Army was almost within 
sight of its objective. With every passing 
hour the troops encountered a glowing 
numh)er of signs indicating that the city 
of Rome was not far away. During the 
day familiar characteristics of a large 
metropolitan area — a growing density 
of housing and an urban road and rail 
network — had greeted the advancing 
Americans, and from occasional high 
points tfie troops could see a hazy 
panorama that they guessed was the 
city of Rome itself. All of these signs 
and sights fueled a mounting anticipa- 
tion. When the reconnaissance patrols 
from the 88th Division caught ttieir first 
glimpse of the Roman skyline, a wa\'e 
of excitement soon pervaded the entire 
Fifth Army. That afternoon General 
Gruenther observed: 



The CP has gone to hell. No one is doing 
any work here this afternoon. All sem- 
blance of discipline has broken down. 
Although the C>-3 War Room purposely 
shows only a moderately conser\ative pic- 
ture, ever)' pilot, eve rv one in fact who nas 
come from Anzio since 1000 this morning, 
has brought back a pair of pants full of 
ants with the result that this unsuppressible 
wave of optimism and expectancN has 
swept through the headquarters.'" 

Perhaps because of Ultras decipher- 
ment of messages iDetween OKW and 
Kesselring"s headquarters that Rome 
would not b)e defended, Clark realized 
that its fall was now onl\ hours awav. 
Concerned that the Germans might 
demolish the Tiber bridges. General 
Clark saw his major tactical problem as 
that of securing these bridges intact to 
enable his arm\ to pass through Rome 
without pause in pursuit of the enemv. 
The Fifth Armv commander therefore 
ordered the II and \T Corps com- 
manders to form mobile task forces to 
make the dash into the cit\ to secure 
the river crossings h)efore the enemv 
had an opportunitv to destrov them.'' 

Clark's concern for the bridges was 
gioundless, for a few hours earlier 
Hitler had instructed Kesselring to 
leave the bridges intact as the Germans 
withdrew north of the citv. Even as 
small detachments of Germans fought 
on in the southern suburbs, tlie Fueh- 
rer had declared that Rome ". . . be- 
cause of its status as a place of culture 
must not t)ecome the scene of combat 
operations.""'^ 



'■^Jackson, The Battle J or Italy, pp. 243-44; St-ngei. 
Neither Hope nor Fear, p. 252. 



"' Clark Diarv. 8 June 44. 

'" VViiiterbotham, The Ultra Secret, pp. 117-18: 
Filth Armv OI 26, 4 Jun 44. 

"* I.tr. CVS Surthre.st to (iermaii Foitcs in lial\. 4 
I mi 44. Hnres Cruppe C, la Sr. 2cS7H-f, G.Kdos. in 
AOK 10. la KTB \'r. 7, Chrfsarhrii. .iulagr 12. .Wk 
10, Do,. .\r. 53271/2. 



THE FALL OF ROMF 



2 1 I 




Generals Keyes (left), Clark, and Frederick Pause During Drive on Rome 



Entry Into Rome 

The tactical progress of the Fifth 
Army's many spearheads during the 
last few hours before the army entered 
Rome formed confusing patterns as the 
small, highly mobile armor-infantry task 
forces leading the two corps toward tht 
city darted back and forth through the 
multitude of roads and alleys veining 
the Roman suburbs. Accompanying in- 
fantrymen and engineers generally 
rode in trucks or on the decks of tanks 
or tank destroyers. Then came the 
main bodv of the assault divisions, some 



truck-borne, some on foot. The latter 
were to remain on the outskirts of the 
city until the mobile task forces had 
secured the Tiber bridges.'^ {Map 6) 

Leading the II Corps' advance to 
Rome along Highway 6 and the Via 
Prenestina were two columns under the 
command of the 1st Special Service 
Force's General Frederick. Task Force 
Howze made up the first column, the 
1st Special Service Force the second. To 
each column was attached a battalion 



'" II Corps Opns Rpt, Jim 44; VI Corps AAR, 
Jun 44. 



2 1 2 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




German Troops Withdrawing From Rome 



from the 88th Division's 35()th and 
351st Infantry Regiments. On the left 
of the corps' sector another task force, 
built upon the 338th Infantry, led the 
85th Division across the northern slope 
(jf the Alban Hills. On the corps' right 
the FEC had begun relief of the 3d 
Division's 15th Infantr) in the xicinit) 
of Palestrina. That regiment then rap- 
idly leapfrogged the 7th, 30th, and 
349th Infantiy Regiments to reach jxjsi- 
tions from which it could screen Fred- 
erick's right flank as his combined force 
passed south of Tivoli on the wa\ to 
Rome. As successive French units re- 
lieved the 7th and 30th Infantry Regi- 



ments these too mo\ed for\vard to join 
the 15th Infantry. By the morning of 4 
June the entire 3d Division was de- 
pk)ved across the II Corps" light flank 
south of the Aniene Ri\er, while the 
FEC deployed north of the Via Fhenes- 
tina and northwest of Palestrina. -" 

At the same time two companies of 
the 1st Special Ser\ice Force, mounted 
in eight armored cars of the 81st 
Armored Reconnaissance Battalion of 
Howze's task force, began mo\ing along 
Highwa\ 6 toward the suburb of Cento- 
celle, three miles east of Rome. When 



-" II Corps Opus Rpt. Jun 44. 



FIFTH ARMY IN ROME 

4 June 1944 




Piazza del Popolo 

1201 85th InfDiv, Elms ^^^,^^| 
'9 k^V^ Railroad Stotion 

!^^ ROME 

®T^ 1st Special Service Force 

7 



\ O 

"\\ ^-^ Piazza Venezia 




^The Colosseum 
Porto San Giovanni 



1st Armored Div, Elms 



\^. ^^% 



^^ 34thlnf Div, Elms 



MAP 6 



1 PONTE della MAGLIANA 

2 PONTE SUBLICIO 

3 PONTE PALATINO 

4 PONTE FABRICIO-CESTO 

5 PONTE GARIBALDI 

6 PONTE SISTO 

7 PONTE GIUSEPPI MAZZINI 

8 PONTE di FERRO 

9 PONTE VITTORIO EMANUELE 

10 PONTE SANT' ANGELO 

11 PONTE UMBERTO I 

12 PONTE CAVOUR 

13 PONTE MARGHERITA 

14 PONTE del LITTORIO 

15 PONTE del RISORGIMENTO 

16 PONTE del DUCA d'AOSTA 

17 PONTE MILVIO 

R, Clinfon 



2 14 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Entering the (Iates of Rome 



the Americans attempted to advance 
be\ond Centocelle, fire from a German 
parachute detachment, supported by 
self-propelled 150-mm. guns, brought 
them to a halt. The enemy guns, 
located in a series of strongpoints on a 
low ridge overlooking the town from 
the southwest, kn(x:ked out two of the 
American tanks, as the colimin de- 
ployed and prepared to attack with a 
combined tank-infantry force.-' 

While this action was taking place, 
the 88th Division's 88th Cavalry Recon- 
naissance Troop bypassed the develop- 
ing fire fight to the north and sped 



along the Via Prenestina toward Rome. 
A patrol from this unit entered Rome 
at daybreak, but cjuickly withdrew to 
await the arrival of reinforcements be- 
fore pressing on into the cit) to seize 
the bridges in the corps zone.-"' Mean- 
while, the 1st Battalion of the 350th 
fiifantry, supported b\ a batter\ of 105- 
mm. self-propelled howitzers of the 
338th Field Artillerx Battalion, a com- 
pany of tanks from the 752d Tank 
Battalion, and a companv from the 
313th Engineer Battalion, had moved 
along High\\ay 6 toward Torrenova, 
two miles east of Centocelle. When the 



^' Ibid. 



88th DivG-3 jnl, 4 Jun 44. 



THE FALL OF ROME 



215 



battalion commander learned of the 
fire fight at Centocelle he too bypassed 
the town to reach a point overlooking 
the left flank of the Germans holding 
up Frederick's force. As the flanking 
force approached the enemy positions, 
it too was brought to a halt b) hean' 
fire. Company C, in the lead, quickly 
detrucked and deployed as the rest of 
the battalion, accompanied by trucks, 
worked its way around the left flank. 
Only after losing three additional tanks 
to enemy guns did the Americans fi- 
nally force the Germans to withdraw by 
late afternoon.-'^ 

While a major part of Frederick's 
command fought on at Centocelle, at 
0615 Col. Alfred C. Marshall, Jr.'s 1st 
Regiment (1st Special Service Force) 
attacked cross-country toward the Ro- 
man suburb of Tor Pignatara, about 
three miles southwest of Centocelle 
Clinging to the decks of the tanks of 
Colonel Cairn's 3d Battalion, 13th Ar- 
mored Regiment, the men of Company 
H led the way. Colonel Marshall 
foHowed in Colonel Cairn's tank. Cien- 
eral Frederick's command half-track 
brought up the rear of the command 
group with Companies I and C follow- 
ing. Until this column reached the 
outskirts of Rome the main obstacle was 
a crowd ot newspaper correspondents 
and an American field artillery battery 
in convoy.'-^ 

An hour later and one mile southeast 
of Tor Pignatara the column crossed 
the city limits of Rome. No sooner had 
the tanks leacling the column passed the 
line than a well-concealed enemy anti- 



" 350th Inf Hist, Jun 44; 351st Inf Jnl, 4 Jun 44; 
FSSFS-3Jnl, 4 Jun 44. 
" FSSFS-3Jnl, 4 Jun 44. 



tank gun opened fire. The tank-riding 
infantrymen quickly threw themselves 
to the ground, and the cavalcade of 
newsmen, led by a British correspond- 
ent wearing a smart-looking trench 
coat, disappeared to the rear. As for 
the artillery convoy, it simply pulled off 
to the side of the road as the men took 
cover. '^^ 

The enemy gun destroyed two of 
Cairn's leading tanks before vanishing 
into the maze of streets and alleys. 
Moving on, the column met some civil- 
ians who warned them of mines and a 
German tank and infantry force lurking 
on the road ahead. Thus forewarned, 
Frederick sent Companies G and I to 
reconnoiter a bypass. Just as Frederick 
dispatched the two companies. Generals 
Clark and Keyes airived. 

General Frederick quickly explained 
to his visitors his plan of maneuver, 
which Clark approved, although em- 
phasizing that he wanted the column to 
seize the Tiber bridges as quickly as 
possible. Accordingly, General Keyes 
ordered Cairn to take a platoon of 
tanks and move immediately into the 
city without waiting for Companies G 
and I to complete their reconnaissance. 
Before starting out, Cairn wisely sent 
word to the two companies to continue 
their efforts. He then led five tanks 
down the highway directl) into the cit). 
No sooner had Cairn's two leading 
tanks, one of them his own, rounded a 
bend in the road, about 100 yards from 
where he had halted, than enemv and- 
tank guns — apparently the ambush of 
which the Italians had warned — opened 
fire. The two tanks burst into flames. 
Hastily escaping their burning vehicles. 



Ibid. 



216 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Cairn and the surviving crew members 
returned to their starting point. There 
Cairn requested permission to abandon 
the frontal attack and to continue his 
efforts to outflank the enemy. Keyes 
raised no objection.'-*' 

Company G of the maneuvering 
force had in the meantime outflanked 
the enemy and opened fire on the self- 
propelled guns that had stopped Cairn. 
Caught completely off guard, their 
guns still pointed down the road toward 
the American lines, the Germans lost 
nine armored vehicles before the sur- 
viving vehicles turned and fled into the 
city.-" 

Company I then joined Company H 
and marched northward cross-country 
to the suburb of Acque Bollicante on 
the Via Prenestina. There they found 
Company G, which had arrived about 
an hour ago, just in time to see an 
enemy force of armored vehicles, ap- 
parently part of the force that had 
earlier defended Centocelle, withdraw- 
ing toward Rome. Company G's lead 
platoon had quickly set up an ambush 
on a high bank overlooking the road 
just as eight German tanks pulled out 
onto the Via Prenestina not fifty yards 
away. Excitedly the Americans swung 
their guns toward the targets, only to 
find that the guns would not depress 
far enough to hit the enemy vehicles. 
Nor, because of the steep bank, could 
the Germans elevate their own guns 
sufficiently to fire at Cairn's tanks. 
While Company G's tankers watched in 
dismay, the German tanks rolled right 
by them into the city. Company G, 



however, did manage to get off a few 
rounds at the rear of the enemy col- 
umn as it disappeared around a curve 
in the road.^^ 

As soon as the enemy vanished, a 
column under the command of Colonel 
Howze, including his own task force as 
well as the 1st Special Service Force's 2d 
Regiment and a battalion from the 3d 
Regiment, arrived at Company G's posi- 
tion. '^^ Leaving most of his infantrymen 
in reserve, Howze prepared to send a 
small tank-infantr\ column into the city 
to capture the Tiber bridges in his 
zone. He set H-hour at 1500 but post- 
poned it for thirty minutes to await the 
arrival of a battalion from the 1st 
Special Service Force's 3d Regiment. At 
1530 Howze's column began to move, 
led by numerous tank-infantry patrols, 
each equipped with instructions in the 
Italian language calling upon Romans 
to lead his men to the Tiber bridges.^" 

Meanwhile, on Highwav 6 Colonel 
Marshall and a battalion of his 1st 
Regiment had also arrived at the Tor 
Pignatara. Concerned about one of the 
companies that had fallen behind. Colo- 
nel Marshall turned his command over 
to his executive officer. Major Mc- 
Fadden, and, accompanied by an en- 
listed man, set out on foot in search of 
the missing companv. The two men 
had gone onlv about one hundred 
yards when enemy fire cut them down. 
Unaware of what had happened. Mc- 
Fadden and Maj. Edmund Slueller, the 
battalion commander, entered the citv 
through the Tor Pignatara quarter. 
Close behind came a rifle company 



^^ Interv, Mathews with Col Cairn, 24 Apr 50, 
CMH. 



2» Ibid; Howze MS. 

■-'^ Fifth Ann\ History, Part V, p. 159. 

3" Howze MS. 



THE FALL OF ROME 



217 




88th Division Infantry Riflemen Pass Burning Tank in Rome 



commanded by Lt. William (i. Sheldon. 
What followed appears to have been 
rather typical of the experiences of 
many of the small company-sized pa- 
trols infiltrating Rome that day. No 
sooner had Lieutenant Sheldon's men 
entered the city than they found a 
Mark IV tank blocking their way. Local 
partisans led them around the road- 
block by passing through a nearby 
convent. A few moments later the com- 
pany emerged onto a street behind the 
roadblock only to find another enemy 
tank blcx:king the way. This time Shel- 
don led his men through a store and 



out the rear door onto the street be- 
hind the second tank.'" 

Sheldon and his men advanced along 
a street leading further into the center 
of Rome until halted by machine gun 
fire from a high building overlooking 
an intersection. Leaving most of his 
men huddled in sheltering doorways, 
Sheldon and Mueller led a squad into 
the building opposite the machine gun 
position. Finding the elevator in order, 
the men rode it to the top floor, where 
the occupants of an apartment over- 



Interv, Mathews with Mueller, 8 May 50, CMH. 



218 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



looking the enemy position offered 
them a \antage point from their bed- 
room windows. Sheldon and his men 
cjuickly silenced the gun with a burst of 
fire, then paused to enjoy cool drinks 
and sausage proffered by their hosts. 
After a profuse exchange of thanks and 
farewells the men rode the elevator 
down to the street and rejoined the rest 
of the company. ^^ 

Moving on to a point near the rail- 
road yards, Sheldon's company encoun- 
tered a detachment of German infantry 
and two self-propelled guns. Major 
McFadden, deciding that the company 
was no match for this enemy force, 
withdrew with his men to the Tor 
Pignatara to await the arrival of the rest 
of the battalion. Major Mueller and his 
battalion command detachment, in the 
off chance that one of his companies 
had already entered the city by another 
street, continued on toward the Tiber. 
Waiting in the shelter of a house until 
twilight, Mueller and his small party 
slipped by the enemy in the darkness 
and made their way through the dark 
streets to the river. There, sure enough, 
they found a company from the 1st 
Special Service Force's 3d Regiment 
already in possession of one of the 
bridges. Major Mueller and his com- 
mand group remained there until noon 
the following day and then rejoined his 
battalion, which, in the meantime, had 

started moving through the citv to meet 
him.'^3 

The company Mueller had found on 
the bridge was part of Howze's column 
that had entered Rome at 1915. Mov- 
ing to the center of the city, Howze's 



men had reached the Central Railroad 
Station at 2000. On the wav, one 
company had turned off from the main 
column into the Piazza Venezia, where 
the troops overtook some enemy strag- 
glers. Individual companies fanned out 
to cx;cup\ tw{) of the four Tiber bridges 
north of the Ponte Margherita which 
crosses the river just west of the Piazza 
del Popolo. Echeloned to the right of 
Howze's column, a battalion of the 
351st Infantry passed through the dark 
streets of the city to seize a bridge 
already occupied by a detachment from 
the 1st Special Service Force. Mistaking 
one another for enemy in the darkness, 
the two units engaged in a brief fire 
fight. Before the error was disco\'ered 
one man had been killed and several 
wounded, among the latter General 
Frederick, who had just arrived at the 
bridge. FoUowing this incident, the bat- 
talion turned northward to occupy the 
last vehicular bridge in the corps zone, 
the historic Ponte Milvio. Meanwhile, a 
battalion of the 350th Infantry had 
occupied the Ponte del Duca d'Aosta, 
the next bridge downstream from the 
Ponte Milvio. ^^ 

As the task forces from the 88th 
Division, the 1st Special Ser\ice Force, 
and Task Force Howze led the II 
Corps into Rome, the 3d and 85th 
Divisions advanced along the corps' 
right and left flanks, respectiveh . On 
the left flank the 85th Division's 338th 
Infantry, after having taken Frascati 
early in the day, continued toward 
Rome ak)ng the Via Tuscolana well in 
advance of the VI Corps' 36th Di\ision. 
A small motorized task force from the 



'■ Ibid. 
' Ibid. 



■"* FSSF AAR. Jun 44: 351st Inf AAR. Jun 44: 
FSSF and 350th and 351st Inf S-3 Inis. 5 Jun 44: 
Howze MS. 



THE FALL OF ROME 



219 



338th Infantry reached the city by 
0830.^^ On corps' order, General Coul- 
ter sent the 337th Infantry, on the 
division's right flank, southwest toward 
Highway 7 with the intention of cutting 
off those enemy opposing the neighbor- 
ing VI Corps. The regiment reached 
the highway at 1700 only to find the 1st 
Armored Division blocking its way. The 
resulting traffic jam delayed both units 
for at least an hour. Meanwhile, a small 
task force from the 338th Infantry, 
after brushing aside an enemy rear 
guard on the outskirts of Rome, had 
entered the city to occupy the Ponte 
Cavour, the next bridge downstream 
from the Ponte Margherita. On the 
corps' right flank the 3d Division's 30th 
Infantrv' sent patrols through the north- 
eastern quarters of the city to seize the 
railway bridge over the Aniene. By 
2300, 4 June, all bridges in the II 
Corps zone had been secured. ^"^ 

In contrast with the helter-skelter 
entry of the II Corps' ad hoc task forces 
into Rome, the VI Corps' approach and 
entry was more systematic, less con- 
fused, but somewhat slower. This me- 
thodical approach can most likely be 
attributed to a widespread caution and 
weariness throughout Truscott's corps, 
fostered by the bitter combat since 26 
May along the Caesar Line south of the 
Alban Hills. To dispel this mood and to 
spur a sense of competition within the 
corps. General Carleton, Truscott's 
chief of staff, sped the spearheads on 
their way with a challenging report that 
Keyes' corps, advancing in three sepa- 
rate columns, had already moved to 



within three to five miles of Rome. 
"The II Corps' left flank has just 
crossed around us and will be in there 
before daylight undoubtedly," he an- 
nounced.^'^ Nevertheless, a weary cau- 
tion prevailed on the VI Corps sector as 
an advance party of the 1st Armored 
Division's CCA, which had spent the 
night on the outskirts of Albano, moved 
slowly into the town at dawn. As the 
rest of the command followed two 
hours later, Carleton again called Har- 
mon's command p(ist, saying: "This is 
an all-out pursuit, the enemy is running 
away from us — put on all steam." ^^ 
This Harmon proceeded to do. The 
resulting pell-mell dash by the entire 
armored division so crowded the roads 
in its zone of operations that by late 
afternoon a series of traffic jams had 
caused more delays than the scattered 
enemy resistance. By 1800 CCA's point 
moving along the Via Appia Nuova, the 
extension of Highway 7, had passed 
through the Porta San Giovanni, hard 
by St. John Lateran, into the inner city. 
Echeloned to the left, CCB met more 
resistance as it advanced five miles 
beyond Albano. During the morning 
the command's spearhead encountered 
strong enemy rear guards whose tactics 
of fire and run repeatedly forced the 
tanks and armored infantiy to deploy 
and fight. But by 1330 Company A, 
13th Armored Regiment, finally man- 
aged to break free and, accompanied 
by a platoon of tank destroyers, ad- 
vanced rapidly to the outskirts of 
Rome. The 6th Armored Infantry's 2d 
Battalion followed in half-tracks. Enter- 
ing Rome from Highway 7 late that 



" 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 4-5 Jun 44; FSSF G-3 Jnl, 4 
Jun 44. 

••'« 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 4 Jun 44; FSSF C;-3 Jnl, 4 
Jun 44. 



'■ VI Corps G-3 Jnl, 040045B Jun 44, Tel, 
Carleton to Harmon. 
^^Ibid., 040700BJun 44. 



220 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Romans Line the Streets as Ameri- 
can Armor Rolls By the Coliseum 



afternoon, the battalion moved rapidly 
through the city to seize the Ponte 
Palatino. The rest of the combat com- 
mand skirted the city to the south to 
capture two major crossings of the 
Tiber just outside Rome. That night the 
1st Armored Division secured all 
bridges in its sector and by daylight on 
the 5th had reached Rome's western 
limits. "Push on to Genoa, if you want 
to," Truscott exultantly radioed Har- 
mon."'^ 

The 36th Division, which throughout 
the day had advanced toward Rome 
along the Via Tuscolana, also entered 
the city that night. But because VI 
Corps had given Harmon's armor 
priority on the roads, the infantry divi- 
sion was delaved while the armored 



division entered Rome. Shortly before 
midnight Walker's division too began 
moving through the darkened maze of 
Roman streets. Although street and 
other lights were out, moonlight helped 
the troops pick their way through the 
unfamiliar city to those Tiber bridges 
already in the hands of Harmon's divi- 
sion. "As we moved along the dark 
streets," Walker observed, "we could 
hear the people at all the windows of 
the high buildings clapping their 
hands." There was no other sound but 
the tramp of marching feet, and the 
low whine of truck motors. It was still 
dark when the procession crossed the 
Tiber. 

The following morning Romans 
emerged from their dwellings in large 
numbers to give the long columns of 
troops still passing through their city 
the tumultuous, almost hysterical wel- 
come so familiar to newsreel viewers of 
that time. But men who had actuallv 
captured Rome had passed through in 
darkness and near silence.^" 

By the morning of 5 June most of 
the Fifth Army had drawn up to the 
line of the Tiber along a 20-mile front 
from the river's mouth southwest of 
Rome to its junction with the Aniene 
northeast of the city. The British 1st 
and 5th Divisions were on the left, the 
U.S. VI and II Corps in the center, and 
on the right the FEC. Recently pinched 
out of line by the II Corps, the FEC 
covered the arm\"s right rear, pending 
the arrival of the British Eighth Army 
on the line of the Aniene east of Rome. 
On the VI Corps' sector southwest of 
Rome the 34th and 45th Divisions 
faced a bridgeless Tiber. In the south- 



Ibid., 050630BJun 44. 



^» Walker Diary, 4 Jun 44. pp. 40-42. 



THE FALL OF ROME 



221 



ern half of the cit\ the 1st Armored 
and 36th Infantry Divisions had crossed 
the river and advanced to the city's 
western outskirts. In the northeastern 
(|uarters of Rome the II C'orps' 85th 
and 88th Divisions had also crossed the 
Tiber and moved to the edge of the 
citv. The 1st Special Service Force con- 
tinued to guard the bridges, and the 3d 
Division lay along the Aniene, prepared 
to enter Rome as the garrison force. 
Moving up on the U.S. II Corps' right, 
Juin's corps, after clearing Cave and 
Palestrina, advanced toward the Tiber 
east of Rome. The 1st Motorized Infan- 
try Division and the 3d Algerian Infan- 
try Division mopped up the area east of 
Rome, preparatory to relief bv the 
British 13 Corps. '^^ 

The Eighth Army's I Canadian and 
British 13 and 10 Corps were eche- 
loned some distance to the southeast 
facing north toward the Pienestini and 
Simbruini ranges of the Apennines. 
The dispositions of Cieneral Leese's 
forces were as follows: on the left, the I 
Canadian Corps with the 6th South 
African Armoured Division along the 
Anagni-Baliano road; in the center, the 
13 Corps with the British 6th Ar- 
moured Division along the Alatri-Fiuggi 
road and the 8th Indian Division along 
the Alatri-Guarcino road; and, on the 
right, the 10 Corps with the 2d New 
Zealand Division forward, strung out 
along the Sora-Avezzano and Atina-Opi 
roads. On the, Adriatic sector the 5 
Corps came to life, as the Germans 
began shifting forces from that sector to 
the area west of the Apennines. ^^ 

41 Pierre Le Goyet, La Participation Franqaise a la 
Campagne d'ltalie 1943^4 (Paris: Imprinierie \a- 
tionale, 1969), p. 129. 

^'' Operations of the British, Indian, and Domin- 
ion Forces in Italv, Part II, Sec. D. 



General Clark and his Fifth Army 
had captmed Rome two days before 
the Allied landings in Normandy. But 
contrary to Churchill's and Alexander's 
expectations, the German Tenth and a 
good part of the Fourteenth Army had 
escaped destruction. Ever since that first 
week of June 1944 the question has 
been debated whether the glittering 
prize of Rome was an acceptable alter- 
native to the destruction of the enemy's 
forces in the field — the conventional 
object in battle. 

Because Alexander in planning Op- 
eration DiADKM had the texts of all 
radio messages passing between Kessel- 
ring's head(|uarters and OKW shortly 
after their transmission, thanks to the 
code breakers in Britain, he had consid- 
erable grounds for believing that his 
armies would achieve that object. ^^ 
Clark, on the other hand, believed that 
destruction of the enemy forces south 
of Rome was an impossible objective. 
The fact that the Tenth Ariny did indeed 
escape destruction without using High- 
way 6 tends to support Clark's position. 
Furthermore, when Clark recom- 
mended to Alexander that Juin's corps 
be allowed to move on Ferentino in the 
Sacco vallev, there to cut off the (ier- 
mans, as Alexander had hoped that 
Truscott's corps would do at Valmon- 
tone, the Allied commander had re- 
fused to do so. Yet Alexander still 
reported to Churchill on 4 June that 
there was not much doubt "that we 
have got a fair cop.'^^ 

On the other hand, Alexander was to 
observe later that "If he (Clark) had 
succeeded in carrying out my plan the 
disaster to the enemy would have been 



*3 Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret, p. 1 18. 
^* Nicholson. Alex, p. 2.54. 



222 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



much greater; indeed, most of the 
German forces would have been de- 
stroyed. True, the battle ended in a 
decisive victon for us, but it was not as 
complete as might have been. ... I 
can onlv assume that the immediate 
lure of Rome for its publicity value 
persuaded Mark Clark to switch the 
direction of his advance."^"' 

Other explanations have been of- 
fered to account for the failure of the 
Allied armies to destroy more of the 
enem\'s forces south of Rome. If the 
four Allied armored divisions in the 
theater had been ecjuipped as mountain 
divisions like those of the French, it has 
been contended, they would have been 
able to follow the Germans more closely 
through the mountains. In the Liri 
valley the Canadian and British ar- 
mored divisions, with their vast columns 
of supporting vehicles, did more to slow 
down the Eighth Army's pursuit than 
the enemv."*^ Yet the difficulties en- 
countered by the French mountain divi- 
sions after their breakthrough of the 
Gustav Line would indicate that divi- 
sions similarly organized and e(]tiipped 
would have had an equally difficult 
time pursuing the retreating enemy 
over narrow, easily blocked roads in the 
Apennines. 

In any case the drive for Rome, 
which, in a sense, had begun in Sep- 
tember 1943, had finally come to an 
end. Rome had been essentially an 
Allied victory, though only Americans 
savored the flavor of a triumphal entr\ 
into the ancient capital. Yet it seemed 
not altogether unjust that this was so. 



^'John North, c-d.. Mrmmrs, Field Marshal Alix- 
ander oj Tiniis, I939-f5 (New York: McClrau-Hill. 
1962). 

**^ Shepperd, The Italian Campai^i, p. 43. 



for the Fifth Army had paid for that 
prize with the longest casualty lists of 
any of the Allied forces. Since the 
beginning of Operation Diadem on 1 1 
May, 3,145 Americans had been killed 
in action, 13,704 wounded, and 1,082 
missing — a total of 17,931 casualties. 
During the twenty-four days of the May 
offensive, the Fifth Army had incurred 
one-third of its total losses in Italy since 
D-day at Salerno in the previous Sej> 
tember. Yet on 4 June, thanks to a well- 
functioning replacement system, the 
Fifth Army's strength was at a peak that 
it had not reached before, nor would 
again — an effective strength of 369,356, 
which included 231,306 Americans, 
95,142 French (mostlv Algerians and 
Moroccans), and 42,908 British. 

The French and British elements of 
Clark's army had also incurred rela- 
tively hea\y losses during the dri\'e on 
Rome. During the period from 1 April 
to 4 June, 520 British soldiers had been 
killed in action, 2,385 wounded, and 
450 missing. In proportion to their total 
strength, the French had suffered most 
heavily: 1,751 of the EEC had been 
killed in action, 7,912 wounded, and 
972 missing, for a total of 10,635 
casualties.^" 

Although Operation Diadem had 
given the Eighth Arm\ the major role 
and the wider front, that arm\'s casual- 
ties had been somewhat less than the 
U.S. Fifth Army's — 11,639 as compared 
with 17,931. If, however, the losses of 
the attached French and British units 
are added to the Fifth Armv totals, the 
disproportion becomes greater — 
28,566^for the entire army, for the 
casualty figures for the Eighth Army 
included Dominion and Polish forces as 



*~ Fifth Army History, Part \", pp. 166-67. 



THE FALL OF ROME 



223 



well as British. With the Eighth Army 
British contingents constituting the larg- 
est national elements, they quite logi- 
cally had suffered the heaviest casual- 
ties — 1,068 killed in action, 3,506 
wounded, and 208 missing. Dominion 
forces listed some 910 killed in action, 
3,063 wounded, and 1 1 8 missing. For 
the Polish corps the figure was 629 
killed in action, 2,044 wounded, and 93 
missing. Total Allied losses, therefore, 
amounted to 40,205 of all categories. ^^ 

For approximately the same period 
(10 May to 10 June) the two defending 
German armies had incurred a total of 
38,024 casualties. Of these the Tenth 
Army lost 8,672, as compared with the 
Fourteenth Armys 7,012. Of these 2,127 
were listed as killed in action for both 
German armies. In addition to the 
casualties of the armies, Armee Abteilung 
von Zangen, opposing the British 5 
Corps along the Adriatic, and Army 
Group Cs headquarters listed a total of 
39 1 casualties of all types. The fact that 
within the Wehrmacht casualties were 
reported through two different chan- 
nels. Personnel and Field Surgeon, 
probably accounts for a discrepancy 
between the totals given through the 
latter, 31,759, and the total of 38,024, 
given by the OKW War Diary. ^^ 

An even more significant discrepancy 
exists between the 15,606 prisoners of 



*^ Ibid.; Operations of the British, Indian, and 
Dominion Forces in Italy, Part V; Nicholson, The 
Canadians in Italy, p. 452; Robin Kay, Official History 
of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939^5, vol. 
II, Italy, From Cassino to Trieste (Wellington, N.Z.: 
Historical Publications Branch, Department of In- 
ternal Affairs, 1967), p. 86. 

■"• Verluste der Wehrmacht bis 1944, Organization des 
Verlustmeldewesens, HI/176a Monatsmclditngen ab. 
1. 11.43, photocopy in CMH; Ltr, Bundesarchiv 
(Militararchiv), 18.3.1970. A/.6992/Jessup to 
Cieorge Blau, CMH; (ireiner and Schramm, eds., 
OKWIWFSt, KTB, IV(1), p. 514. 



war the Allies claim to have captured 
during the period 1 April to 4 June 
1944 and the 6,122 listed by the Ger- 
mans as missing in action. The differ- 
ence of 9,484 between Allied claims of 
enemy captured and German records 
of men listed as missing in action can 
possibly be explained as follows. The 
German military command generally 
did not record losses among non-Ger- 
man personnel attached to the armed 
forces. Many of these men were Rus- 
sian and Polish prisoners of war who, to 
escape the rigors of life in a prison 
camp, had volunteered to serve as 
auxiliaries with the German armed 
forces. Known as Hilfswillige, or, more 
familiarly, as HiWis among the soldiers 
whom they supported, these men were 
usually dependable when on duty in 
rear areas but readily deserted when 
caught in difficult combat situations, as 
was frequently the case in the defense 
of Rome. Dressed in German uniform, 
the HiWi's were classified as POW's bv 
the Allies.-^" 

The feelings of many on the Allied 
side were perhaps best summed up in 
the following words of a British war 
correspondent. "Now, at last the victory 
had arrived. It was good that it should 
come, for it had been bravely contested 
and in the end brilliantly achieved. But 
it had been a long journey, and every- 
one was very weary. And too many had 
died.""'' 



^" In addition to the personnel losses, the German 
armies reported as of 28 May, a large quantity of 
equipment lost or destroyed in battle. This included 
500 heavy and 1,600 light machine guns, 300 
artillery pieces, 60 rocket laimchers, and 200 to 250 
tanks of all types (approximately half of the armor 
on hand in the Tenth and Fourteenth Armies). See 
Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB, 
IV(1), p. 514. 

"'' Christopher Buckley, Road to Rome (London: 
Hadder-Stoughton, 1945). 



PART FOUR 
ROME TO THE ARNO 



The energy thrown into the first stage of the pursuit chiefly determines the 
value of the victory. 

CLAUSEWITZ, On War 



CHAPTER XII 



Interlude in Rome 



The View From the Capitoline Hill 

As the U.S. Fifth Army moved 
through Rome, General Clark on the 
morning of 5 June summoned his 
corps commanders and senior staff offi- 
cers to a conference in the city hall atop 
the Capitoline Hill. ' Starting from the 
Excelsior Hotel where Clark had estab- 
lished his temporary command post, a 
procession of jeeps bearing the largest 
assemblage of high military rank that 
the Romans had seen in many months, 
wound its way through jubilant throngs 
to the city hall, at that point occupied 
by only a handful of anxious function- 
aries. - 

The senior commanders gathered 
that morning on the historic hill with 
mixed emotions. Relief that the long 
drive on Rome had at last reached its 
goal and confidence that the enemy was 
at last on the run were somewhat 
overshadowed by an awareness that 
demands of other campaigns in other 
lands would soon obscure the Italian 
venture now so favorably underway. 
For it was the eve of Overlord, and 



' Clark, Calculated Risk, pp. 365-66. 

^ General Clark, accompanied by his chief of 
staff. General Gruenther, Brigadier Georges Beu- 
cler, chief of the French Mission with the Fifth 
Army, and Colonel Britten of the British increment. 
Fifth Army, Maj. Gen. Harry H. Johnson, com- 
mander of the Rome Ciarrison, and Brigadier E. E. 
Hume, Chief of Allied Military (iovernment, en- 
tered Rome at approximately 8 a.m. on Monday, 5 
June. 



news of the Allied landing in Nor- 
mandy would soon crowd Rome and 
the Italian campaign off the front pages 
of the world press and, most impor- 
tantly, the campaign would drop to 
second place in Allied strategic plan- 
ning for the Mediterranean. 

On 22 May General Alexander had 
received assurance from General Wil- 
son, the Mediterranean theater com- 
mander, that the Allied armies in Italy 
would be given "overriding priority in 
the allocation of resources" until the 
capture of Rome, but thereafter em- 
phasis within the theater would shift to 
preparations for an amphibious opera- 
tion to be undertaken no later than 
mid-September. ^ 

This operation was to be either in 
close support of ground operations in 
Italy or against the coast of southern 
France. The force required for the 
latter enterprise would probably include 
"three United States infantry divisions 
and all the French divisions at present 
in Allied armies Italy." After the cap- 
ture of Rome, one U.S. division was to 
be relieved by 17 June, a French divi- 
sion by the 24th, and three days later a 
second U.S. division; thereafter, the 
remaining formations at longer inter- 
vals. Also an "experienced U.S. Corps 
headquarters" was to be relieved as 
soon as possible. These instructions with 



Wex^nder Despatch, pp. 51-52. 



228 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



their uncertainties for the continued 
primacv of the Italian campaign in the 
Mediterranean took some of the edge 
off the victory celebrations in the sev- 
eral Allied headcjuarters, from Wilson's 
to Clark's, and influenced planning for 
operations be\'ond Rome. 

Three davs after the Fifth Army's 
entry into Rome, General Wilson in- 
formed his superiors in London that 
the success of Operation Diadem would 
permit him "to mount an amphibious 
operation on the scale of Anvil with a 
target date of 15 August." A week later 
Wilson directed Alexander to withdraw 
the U.S. VI Corps headquarters and 
the 45th Division immediately, the 3d 
Division by 17 June, and the 36th 
Division by the 27th. The French were 
to begin withdrawing one division on 
the 24th and a second in early July. 

At the same time, Alexander also 
received instructions from the Com- 
bined Chiefs in London to complete 
destruction of the German forces in 
Italy south of the Pisa- Rimini Line, that 
is to say, south of the Arno River, with 
the forces remaining under his com- 
mand. Until this had been done "there 
should be no withdrawal from the 
battle of any Allied forces that are 
necessary for this purpose." These con- 
tradictory instructions reflected the con- 
flicting influences at work at Headquar- 
ters, Allied Armies Italy and at Allied 
Force Headquarters, Mediterranean. 
Alexander generally acted as a spokes- 
man for Churchill's strategic views. 
Cieneral Wilson's headcjuarters, on the 
other hand, was dominated by the 
views of its largely American staff, 
headed by the deputy theater com- 
mander. General Devers, generally a 
spokesman for General Marshall's stra- 



tegic views in that headquarters. 
Against this background of differing 
strategies and uncertainty the Allied 
commanders in Italy would undertake 
the pursuit of the German armies north 
of Rome. ^ 

Planning the Pursuit 

With the capture of Rome a wide 
gap had been opened in that part of 
Army Group C extending from Tivoli, 
fifteen miles east of Rome, southwest to 
the mouth of the Tiber. Scattered rem- 
nants of four German divisions were in 
the area but were too concerned with 
mere survival to even atteinpt to close 
the gap. General Alexander determined 
to exploit the situation by sending the 
U.S. Fifth and British Eighth Armies as 
quickly as possible through the gap in 
the hope they would reach the North- 
ern Apennines, some 170 miles north- 
west of Rome, before Kesselring could 
once again establish his armies in ter- 
rain even more favorable for the de- 
fense than that of the Gustav Line.^ 

In planning his pursuit of the Ger- 
man armies north of Rome, Alexander 
decided to continue the classical 
"oblicjue order" in which his own ar- 
mies had approached the city following 
the junction of the southern front with 
the beachhead. The oblique order now, 
as then, found the Allied left wing, 
composed of the Fifth Arm\ and one 



^ Robert W. Coaklev and Richard M. Leighton, 
Global Logistics and Strateg\: 1943-45. LMTEI') 
STATES ARMY IN U'ORl^D WAR II (Washington. 
1968), ch. XV; Msg. MEDCOS 125 AFHQ. Wilson 
to COS. 7 June 44, CCS 561/5 m ABC 384 Eur. 
Sec. 9-A; Ehrman, Grand Sirati'gy. vol. V. pp. 34.5- 
67. 

' Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy. Part II, Sec. D; .Alexander DtspaUh, 
p. 50. 



INTERLUDE IN ROME 



229 



corps of the Eighth Army, advanced, in 
Alexander's words, "en potence." His 
right wing, made up of a second corps 
of Eighth Army and the 5 Corps, the 
latter under AAI control on the Ad- 
riatic coast, was held back. A third 
corps was in reserve. He expected 
thereby to execute a pursuit of the 
enemy forces by a holding attack 
against the still relatively strong Tenth 
Army in Kesselring's center and an all- 
out attack against the weakened Foiir- 
teenth Army. Alexander counted on this 
move to complete that army's destruc- 
tion and enable the U.S. Fifth Army to 
outflank the German Tenth Army west 
of the Tiber and possibly cut off its 
retreat. This had been Alexander's basic 
strategic concept south of Rome, and it 
had fallen short of realization. It re- 
mained to be seen whether it would 
succeed north of Rome.'' 

In the Fifth Army zone of operations 
immediate goals were the capture of 
the small seaport of Civitavecchia, forty 
miles northwest of Rome, and Viterbo, 
site of an airfield complex forty miles 
north-northwest of Rome and thirty 
miles inland. ^ Possession of Viterbo 
would give the Allies forward bases 
from which aircraft of the MATAF 
could fly in close support of the ad- 
vance to the Arno and MASAF bomb- 
ers could attack cities in southern Ger- 
many. The swift capture and restora- 
tion of the port facilities at Civitavecchia 
were of even greater importance for 
ground operations, for with each pass- 
ing day the Allied armies left their 
supply dumps farther to the rear, while 
gasoline consumption rates increased in 



direct proportion to the distance of the 
armies from those dumps. For the 
Eighth Army the possession of the 
Adriatic port of Ancona, 130 miles 
northeast of Rome, was of equal impor- 
tance. 

Although in May the Peninsula Base 
Section (PBS), the U.S. logistics com- 
mand, had launched several ambitious 
pipeline construction projects, the pipe- 
lines were, by 5 June, still far from 
Rome. The 696th Engineer Company 
had extended a six-inch pipeline along 
Highway 6 at the rate of two miles per 
day, and had reached a dispensing 
point at Ceprano, fifty-four miles south- 
east of Rome. Another month would 
pass before the pipeline would reach 
Rome. Ak)ng Highway 7 on the Tyr- 
rhenian coast a four-inch pipeline un- 
der construction by the 785th Engineer 
Petroleum Distribution Company would 
not be open at its distribution point at 
Terracina until 9 June. ^ 

Civitavecchia's eventual importance to 
the Allies as a petroleum distribution 
point lay in its role as the first port 
north of Naples, which since 1943 had 
been the Fifth Army's main supply 
base, capable of receiving small tankers. 
For some time Allied logisticians had 
planned to open a 1 00,000-barrel ter- 
minal at Civitavecchia, and construction 
units were poised close behind the 
advancing front to begin work as soon 
as the port was captured. In the mean- 
time, both Allied armies would depend 
upon growing numbers of trucks to 



* Alexander Despatch, p. 48. 

' See Hq, AAI OI No. 1,5 May 44. 



** Lida Mayo, The Corps of Engineers: Operations 
in the War Against (iermany, a volume in prepara- 
tion for the UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD 
WAR II series, MS ch. 12 (hereafter cited as Mayo 
MS), CMH. 



230 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



haul the vital gasoline to suppK^t their 
lengthening lines of communications. 
This increased requisition of motor 
transport would, in turn, reduce the 
number of trucks available to the engi- 
neers to haul pipeline construction ma- 
terial, thus delaying pipelines and com- 
pleting a vicious circle which only the 
opening of additional ports along both 
the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic flanks 
could eliminate.^ 

Dependence upon motor transport 
became heavier through lack of alterna- 
tive means of transport. Coastal ship- 
ping from Naples to Anzio had been 
practical as long as the front remained 
south of Rome, but with the advance to 
and beyond Rome the port of Anzio 
c|uickly lost its importance. Railroads 
offered little promise of resolving the 
problem since they had been systemati- 
cally destroyed by the Germans and 
Allied bombers. The long winter stale- 
inate along the Gustav Line and on the 
Anzio beachhead had given the Ger- 
mans plenty of time to demolish the 
two main rail lines between Naples and 
Rome — one passing through the Liri 
valley and the other running along the 
Tyrrhenian coast. In addition to rip- 
ping up the ties, German demolition 
crews had also destroyed bridges, cul- 
verts, overpasses, and tunnels. Because 
of a shortage of manpower and con- 
struction materials railroad repairs took 
considerable time. Not until early June 
did the engineers, using captured Ger- 
man material, complete a 237-foot rail- 
way bridge over the Garigliano at Min- 



turno. Clearing the Monte Orso tunnel 
through the Ausoni Mountains just 
south of the former Anzio beachhead 
was so difficult that this rail line was not 
opened as far as Cisterna station until 
20 July. Consequently, when Rome fell 
on 4 June, the Allies, especially the 
Eighth Army, were still dependent 
upon a lailhead at Mignano, a hundred 
miles southeast of Rome, and on the 
dumps at the former Anzio beachhead 
supplied by coastal shipping from Na- 
ples.'" 

The ability of the engineers rapidlv 
to repair highways, bridges, and cul- 
verts thus had a considerable influence 
on the speed of the Allied pursuit. 
Along Highway 1, running through the 
Fifth Army zone, bridges and cuherts 
averaged about one per mile and all 
had been systematically destroved bv 
the retreating Germans. Before the end 
of June the 1108th Engineer Combat 
Group, supporting first the II and VI 
Corps, later the IV Corps, had repaired 
thirty-eight culverts and graded 1 76 
miles of roads. Fortunatelv, throughout 
Italy there was usually plentv of local 
material for road construction and re- 
pair. ' ' 

Until additional ports were opened 
on both coastal flanks, Alexander could 
hardly support more than nine divi- 
sions in the field against Kesselring's 
army group. Thus a race for ports, 
especially in the Fifth Armv zone, 
would soon become the strategic and 
tactical leitmotif of the Allied advance to 
the Arno. 



''Joseph Bykofsky and Harold Larson, The Trans- 
portation Corps: Operations Overseas, UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington. 
1957), pp. 211-32. 



^^^ Ibid.; Mayo MS, ch. XV; Operations of the 
British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in Italv, Part 
II, Sec. D. 

" Mavo MS, ch. XII. 



INTERLUDE IN ROME 



231 



The German Situation 

The fighting south of Rome had 
damaged the Fourteenth Army more se- 
verely than it had the Tenth and conse- 
quently it was more hard pressed as it 
withdrew beyond Rome before the U.S. 
Fifth Army than was the Tenth Army, 
which had managed to escape virtually 
intact into the mountains and across the 
Aniene before the British Eighth Army. 
Aware that the Allied command would 
attempt to exploit this situation by pur- 
suing the Fourteenth Army so vigorously 
as to force it to expose the Tenth Anny^s 
right flank, Field Marshal Kesselring 
decided to cover that flank with the 
Tiber River, which north of Rome 
flows generally in a southerly direction 
out of the Umbrian highlands. At the 
same time, he also needed to reinforce 
the battered Fourteenth Army so as to 
delay the Fifth Army's pursuit and 
thereby expose as litde as possible of 
the Tenth Army's right flank. This would 
be almost impossible until Orvieto was 
reached. Between Rome and Orvieto, a 
Tiber crossing some sixty miles north of 
Rome, all bridges across the river had 
been destroyed either by Allied aircraft 
or by German engineers, acting with 
premature zeal. Thus for the first sixty 
miles beyond Rome the Allied armies 
would be pursuing an enemy whose 
main battle strength lay east rather than 
west of the Tiber. That this would 
favor the U.S. Fifth Army rather than 
the British Eighth Army was as evident 
to Kesselring in his command post near 
Monte Soratte on Highway 3 some 
twenty-two miles north of Rome as it 
was to Allied commanders at their 5 
June conference on the Capitoline 
Hill. '2 



Further adding to Kesselring's woes, 
for the first hundred miles north of 
Rome the terrain offered few defensive 
advantages. The peninsula broadens 
rapidly for some eighty-five miles, until 
at the latitude of Lake Trasimeno it 
attains a width of about 140 miles. In 
this area the Central Apennines, after 
first curving eastward, begin a wide 
swing to the northwest to reach the sea 
north of Leghorn and the Arno River 
and become the Northern Apennines. 
In them Field Marshal Kesselring 
planned to establish a new winter line, 
the Gotenstellung, or Oothic Line, along 
which he expected to make another 
stand as he had in the winter of 1943 
before Cassino and along the Rapido. 
The name of the line would evoke the 
presence of the Ciothic kingdoms estab- 
lished in Italy by Ciermanic tribes in the 
6th century A.D.''^ 

If the German command in Italy 
could delay the Allied advance to the 
Arno and the Northern Apennines un- 
til autumn rains hampered cross-coun- 
try movement, Kesselring might have a 
chance to turn the Gothic Line into 
another Gustav Line. This, then, be- 
came Kesselring's main tactical problem 
beyond Rome — to rebuild the shattered 
Fourteenth Army while at the same time 
checking the Allied pursuit and turning 
it once again into a slow, grinding 
advance as it had been from Salerno to 
Cassino and the Winter Line, and then 
to bring it to a halt for the winter along 
the Gothic Line. 

The Fourteenth Army on 6 June re- 
ceived a new commander as General- 
leutnant Joachim Lemelsen replaced 
General von Mackensen. Lemelsen 



'2 MS # C-064 (Kesselring). 



i^* Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKWiWFSt, KTB, 
IV(1), pp. 513-15. 



232 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



found his command in bad shape in- 
deed. Since the major part of the 
LXXVI Panzer Corps had escaped de- 
struction southeast of Rome by retreat- 
ing northeastward over the Aniene in 
the vicinity of Tivoli into the Tenth 
Anny's zone, there was left to Cieneral 
Lemelsen onK the / Paraihute Cirrps and 
a provisional corps. Holding the Four- 
teenth Anny's left wing, its tlank resting 
on the Tiber, was the parachute corps. 
Consisting only of two battleworthy di- 
\'isions, the 4th Parachute and 3d Panzer 
Grenadier Divisions, it was but a shadow 
of the corps that had held the Caesar 
Line so stubbornly in May. On the 
corps' right, or coastal, flank were rem- 
nants of the 65th and 92d Divisions, the 
latter a training unit originally engaged 
in coast-watching duties near the mouth 
of the Tiber. These two units had been 
grouped together under a provisional 
corps headquarters known as Group 
Goerlitz. The Hermann Goering, 362d, 
and 715th Divisions had either experi- 
enced such severe losses as to necessi- 
tate withdrawal from action for rest and 
reorganization or were with Herr's 
LXXVI Panzer Corps east of the Tiber 
and under Tenth Army control.'^ 

The Tenth Army at that point com- 
manded three army corps — the XIV 
and LXXVI Panzer and the LI Mountain 
Corps. In turn, these corps controlled 
among them the best divisions remain- 
ing in Army Group C. These included 
the 29th and 90th Panzer Grenadier Divi- 
sians and the 1st Parachute, 5th Mountain, 
and 44th and 278th Infantry Divisions. 
On the Adriatic flank another provi- 
sional corps, Group Hauck, controlled 



the 114th Jaeger and 305th Infantry 
Divisions. Not yet hard pressed in that 
sector, these divisions could be expected 
eventually to provide reinforcements to 
the sectors west of the Tiber. In armv 
group reserve near Orvieto were the 
26th Panzer and 20th Luftwaffe Field 
Divisions and the 162d Turkomen and 
356th Infantry Divisions. The Luftwaffe 
division had recently arrived from occu- 
pation duty in Denmark, and the 162d 
and 356th Divisions had been employed 
on coastal defense and antipartisan du- 
ties in northern Italy. The Turkomen 
division, of doubtful loyaltv, was com- 
posed of former Russian prisoners of 
war from Soviet Turkestan led bv Ger- 
man officers and noncommissioned of- 
ficers. ''^ 

Because of the difficulties of shifting 
units from east to west of the Tiber 
south of Orvieto, Kesselring, at least for 
the first week following the loss of 
Rome, would have no recourse but to 
reinforce his right wing (Fourteenth 
Army) with those troops already located 
west of the Tiber and within marching 
distance of the front. These were the 
divisions in army group reserve near 
Orvieto. Kesselring decided to leave the 
26th Panzer Division at Orvieto to de- 
fend that important crossing and to 
send first the 20th Luftwaffe Field Divi- 
sion and then the 162d Turkomen Divi- 
sion southward to reinforce the Four- 
teenth Army. He hoped therebv to slow 
up the Allied armies enough to permit 
him to regroup his forces in such a way 
as to permit the establishment of a 
series of temporary dela)ing positions 
south of the Arno River. For the next 



'^ AOK 14, la KTB Anl. 3, 7 Jun 44, AOK H, Doc. 
59091/1; MS # C-064 (Kesselring). 



•5 Greiner and Schramm, eds.. OKW/WFSt. KTB. 
IV(1), pp. 514-15. 



INTERLUDE IN ROME 



233 



two weeks this would become the domi- 
nant tactical theme within Anny Group 
C: for in Kesselring's words, "On this 
everything depended.""' 

Two of the most im}X)rtant of these 
defensive lines he designated Dora and 
Frieda. The former began in the vicin- 
ity of Orbetello, located on coastal 
Highway 1 seventy miles noithwest of 
Rome; from Orbetello it extended east- 
ward, skirting Lake Bolsena's southern 
shore, thence to Narni on Highway 3 
forty miles north of Rome; it then 
extended twenty miles southeast to Rieti 
on Highway 4, eastward for thirt) miles 
to L'Azuila, then skirted the southern 
edge of the wild and desolate Gran 
Sasso ditalia, from which the Germans 
had earlier rescued a captive Mussolini, 
and finally extended eastward to the 
Adriatic coast. The Frieda Line, begin- 
ning near Piombino, thirty miles north- 
west of Grosseto, extended about thirty- 
five miles northeastward to Radicondoli, 
thence to Lake Trasimeno, on to Peru- 
gia, an important road junction ten 
miles east of the lake, then twenty miles 
southeast to Foligno on Highway 3, and 
thence sixty miles eastward across the 
Apennines to reach the coast near 
Porto Civitanova. ' ^ For the next two 
weeks Allied operations north of Rome 
would be concerned largely with reach- 
ing and breaking through these two 
lines. 

Rome in Allied Hands 

The capture of Rome marked not 
only the zenith of the Italian Campaign 



thus far but also an important turning 
point in the relatively brief history of 
the Kingdom of Italy.'* Not since Sep- 
tember 1943, when the Germans had 
occupied Rome, had King Victor Em- 
manuel HI, who had fled with his 
government to Bari in southern Italy, 
set foot in his former capital.'" Several 
months before the Allies entered Rome, 
the King, his long association with Fas- 
cism having made him unacceptable 
either to the Allies or to the major 
Italian political factions, had yielded to 
Allied pressure and agreed to abdicate 
as soon as the Ciermans were driven 
from the city. Thereupon, with the 
approval of the Allied Control Commis- 
sion (ACC), Marshal Pietro Badoglio's 
government had intended for the trans- 
fer of power to Crown Prince Hum- 
berto, as the Lieutenant General of the 
Realm. The old soldier Badoglio was 
then to resign, in anticipation of the 
Crown Prince's formation of a new 
government, which was to include the 
leaders of the Roman Committee of 
National Liberation {Comitati di Lihcra- 
zionc Nazionale, CLN). 

As soon as the U.S. Fifth Army drew 
near Rome, however, the King began to 
have second thoughts and insisted that 
he should personally once again enter 
Rome as king. The Allied Control 
Commission (ACC), justifiably con- 
cerned about Rome's reception of the 



^'^ Ibid., pp. 513-15; Albert Kessclring, /I Soldier's 
Record (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1954), 
p. 247. 

'' Kesselring, /I Soldier's Record, p. 247. 



"* The modern Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed 
in 1861, prior to the annexation of Venetia and 
Rome. 

'" Harry L. Coles and Albert K. Weinberg, Civil 
Affairs: Soldiers Become Governors, UNITED STATES 
ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1964), 
pp. 454-61. Unless otherwise cited the following is 
based upon this source. See also Charles F. Deizell, 
Mussolini's Enemies: The Anti-Fascist Resistance Parties 
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961). 



234 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



now discredited monarch, prevailed 
upon him to adhere to his original 
agreement. On 5 June, still far away in 
Bari, he signed the instrument transfer- 
ring the royal powers to Crown Prince 
Humberto. 

While successful in disposing of the 
Italian King, the Allies were less so in 
fulfilling the second part of their plan — 
forming a new government under Ba- 
doglio. Many key Italian political lead- 
ers, it developed, refused to serve un- 
der Badoglio. All factions, including the 
Committee of National Liberation 
(CLN), agreed, however, to accept the 
73-year-old Ivanoe Bonomi, President 
of the Committee of National Libera- 
tion and a prime minister in the pre- 
Fascist years. In spite of the urgings by 
both the ACC and Bonomi, Marshal 
Badoglio refused to serve in this new 
government. 

When the Fifth Army's civil affairs 
officer. Brig. Gen. Edgar E. Hume, 
arrived in the city on 5 June to become 
military governor, he found the city 
controlled by a well-organized arm of 
the CLN. It was led by General Roberto 
Bencivengo, who prompdy relinquished 
to the Allied representative the author- 
ity the committee had exercised since 
the Germans had begun to evacuate the 
city. It was not long, however, before 
the first warm glow of joyous co- 
operation with the Allied authorities, 
which had accompanied the liberation 
of Rome, gave way to bitter recrimina- 
tions as the ACC attempted to bring 
some order to the chaotic food and 
housing situations. 

After formation of the new civil 
government, the Allied Force Head- 
quarters (AFHQ), for military and ad- 
ministrative reasons, refused to author- 



ize Bonomi's government to move to 
Rome from Bari for well over a month 
following the city's capture. Even after 
the return of the Italian Government to 
Rome a lack of effective civil adminis- 
tration would continue to plague Allied 
authorities for the remainder of the 
campaign. 

The Allies had long since taken the 
position that the capture of Rome 
would be of greater political than mili- 
tary significance, and their occupation 
policies were therefore similar to those 
of the Germans. Although Rome's tra- 
ditional position as the hub of the 
peninsula's transportation and commu- 
nications network was to remain an 
important factor in operations, the AAI 
command decided not to establish ad- 
vance base installations within the citv. 
Military installations were limited to 
hospitals, transit camps, and a few 
military leave hotels. Moreover, the Vat- 
ican's neutrality was to be respected, 
with enemy nationals who had taken 
refuge there not to be disturbed. Rome 
was to remain, as it had been under the 
Germans, essentially an open city.-" 

There were other similarities too. 
The Allies were soon to complain bit- 
terly, as had the German militan au- 
thorities before them, that the Romans 
seemed indifferent to the gieat struggle 
being waged in their countn , that they 
appeared more concerned about their 
own immediate interests than about the 
rehabilitation and reconstruction of It- 



-" The city of Rome was to be garrisoned by the 
U.S. 3d Infantry Division with attached Allied units, 
including a battalion of British troops and a mixed 
battalion of French, with one company from each 
of the four divisions making up the French Expedi- 
tionary Corps. See Le Goyet, La Participation 
Franqaise a la Campagne d'ltalie, p. 129. 



INTERLUDE IN ROME 



235 



aly.-' As General Clark moved through 
the streets to the plaudits of the Ro- 
mans on the morning of 5 June, he 
might well have meditated momentarily 
upon the fickleness of a populace which 
had submitted so often to concjuerors 
only eventually to turn against them. 

The city, with its agriculturally inade- 
(juate environs, was now cut off by the 
Allied victory from its traditional 
sources of food supply — still in German 
liands. Furthermore, lack of trans[X)rta- 
tion facilities would greatly limit the 
amount of food that could be brought 
from the few agricultural areas in the 
south. The Allied cornucopia thus 
failed to produce the flood of food and 
clothing that the inhabitants had long 
expected. That only served to make the 
Romans e\'en more restless and resent- 
ful over what they considered to be 
their ill-deserved misfortune. Over the 
coming months they would show their 
disappointment in a sullen hostility to 
the Allied military authorities and in an 
unconcealed and virtually uncontrolla- 
ble black market, flourishing with the 
tacit consent of the civil authorities who 



refused to prosecute violators even after 
dentinciations were made to them by 
the Allied Black Market Control Divi- 
sion.-- In the over-all conduct of the 
phase of the campaign that was about 
to begin, the Romans would prove to 
be as much of a burden to the Allies as 
they had been to the Germans. 

The capture of Rome had been the 
focus of Allied hopes and plans for so 
long that for many, ranging from pri- 
vate to general, the operations in the 
months following would appear to be a 
postscript to the Italian campaign. In a 
strategic sense perhaps they were, for 
after Rome and the Allied landings in 
northwestern France, the campaign 
sank to the level of a vast holding 
operation. But operationally considered, 
the eleven months between the fall of 
Rome and the surrender of the Ger- 
man armies were anything but a post- 
script. In terms of ground gained, of 
battles fought and won, and casualties 
incurred, the second half of the Italian 
campaign must be considered as ecjual 
in importance to the first half. 



-' H() ACC Rpt for Jun 44, cited in Coles and 
Weinberg, p. 461. 



"Ibid.; Harold B. Lipsius, Chief, Rome Black 
Market Control Division, ACC Rpt for Nov 44, 
ACC files 10400/153/79. 



CHAPTER XIII 



Pursuit North of Rome 



General Alexander's order of 5 May 
which had set the drive on Rome in 
motion had also designated the broad 
objectives for the next phase of the 
campaign. General Clark's Fifth Army 
was to pursue the enemy northwest of 
Rome to capture the Viterbo airfields 
and the port of Civitavecchia, thereafter 
to advance on Leghorn. Cieneral Leese's 
Eighth Armv was to pursue the enemv 
in a northerly and northeasterly direc- 
tion along the general axis Terni-Peru- 
gia, thereafter to advance on Florence 
and the Adriatic port of Ancona. 

On 7 June Alexander further refined 
these instructions. Both armies were to 
continue their advance "with all possible 
speed" — the Fifth Army to advance 
toward the western half ot the North- 
ern Apennines, comprising a triangle 
connecting the cities of Pisa, Lucca, and 
Pistoia, and the Eighth Army toward 
an area enclosed b) a triangle connect- 
ing the cities of Florence, Arezzo, and 
Bibbiena. Both armies were to maintain 
close contact on their inner flanks, but 
not to wait for one another, and were 
to bypass strongpoints in hope of main- 
taining the momentum that had carried 
them to Rome and beyond. For Alex- 
ander, privy to Kesselring's situation 
and intentions, b)elieved that if his ar- 
mies could sustain that momentum they 
might have a second chance to outflank 
and destroy Vietinghoffs Tenth Army 
and breach the Gothic Line before the 



Germans had an opportunitv to occupv 

Although traditional military wisdom 
at this point called for a headlong 
pursuit of the enemy to keep him from 
regrouping and re-forming his lines. 
Allied commanders for the next two 
weeks spent considerable time in shuf- 
fling units back and forth across the 
front. One reason is that plans for 
Operation Anvil called for the Fifth 
Army to give up two of its four corps — 
the U.S. VI and the French Expedition- 
ary Corps. Other reasons were growing 
k)gistical problems and difficult terrain. 
Perhaps for these reasons General 
Clark chose not to base his planning 
upon the intelligence proxided bv the 
Ultra interception and decipherment 
of radio traffic between OKW and 
Kesselring's headcjuarters. 

This decision at this point was unfor- 
tunate. Heav) losses in btJth men and 
materiel had rendered at least three of 
the Fourteenth Army's divisions ineffective 
and reduced the remainder to half 
strength. Also, a wide gap had opened 
up between the Tenth and Fourteenth 
Armies. As his armies w ithdrew north of 
Rome, Kesselring intended to shift suf- 
ficient forces from the Tenth to the 
Fourteenth Army in an attempt to rein- 
force the latter and therebv close the 



' Winterbotham, The Ultra Sirrct. pp. 159-60: 
SAC Despatch, The Italian Campaign, 10 Mav-12 
Aug 1944, typescript in CMH. 



PURSUIT NORTH OF ROME 



237 



gap. An aggressive Allied pursuit, how- 
ever, would have doomed these meas- 
ures. 

Because he was to lose Truscott's and 
Juin's corps within a few weeks, Clark 
decided to use them in the early phase 
of the pursuit beyond Rome even 
though both corps were exhausted. The 
FEC, which had been covering the 
Army's right flank, prepared to take 
over from the II Corps. After a period 
of rest, the latter was to relieve the 
French in time for their withdrawal 
from the Army. The VI Corps, mean- 
while, was to continue in line until 
reliexed by the IV Corps. 

Throughout the first day following 
Rome's capture, reconnaissance units 
ranged widely across the army's front to 
determine the extent of the enemy's 
withdrawal. Meanwhile, the 1st Ar- 
mored and the 34th and 36th Infantry 
Divisions assembled in a bridgehead 
west of the Tiber. To maintain contact 
with the rapidly retreating Germans, 
Clark directed his corps commanders to 
form small, highlv mobile task forces. - 

After clearing Rome by nightfall on 5 
June, the Fifth Army continued to 
advance at first on a two-corps front in 
the same order in which it had entered 
Rome: on the left, Truscott's VI Corps 
moving in two columns, one along the 
axis of Highway 1 (the coastal highway 
running northwestward toward Civita- 
vecchia) and a second initially ak)ng the 
axis of Highway 2, roughly paralleling 
the coastal road some ten miles inland; 
on the right, Keyes' II Corps advancing 
to take over Highway 2 about seven 
miles north of Rome and continuing 
east of Lake Bracciano north to Vi- 



terbo. The II Corps' right boundary 
was also the interarmy boundary and 
ran almost due north from a point four 
miles east of Rome, through Civita 
Castellana, thence to a point just west of 
Orte, forty miles north of Rome on the 
Tiber. (Map VIII) 

The farther the Fifth Army moved 
beyond Rome, ever lengthening supply 
lines wreaked an inevitable burden on 
the hardworking trucks and drivers and 
exacerbated gasoline shortages at the 
front that could be alleviated only by 
opening the port of Civitavecchia. Nar- 
row, winding secondary roads and fre- 
cjuent demolition of culverts and 
bridges by the retreating enemy con- 
tributed to delays and limited the num- 
ber of troops that might advance along 
the axis of a single road. 

Early on 6 June, General Harmon's 
1st Armored Division, with Allen's CCB 
accompanying the 34th Division along 
the coastal highway toward Civitavec- 
chia and CCA the 36th Division along 
Highway 2, took up the pursuit toward 
Viterb(j. The 45th Division remained in 
corps reserve, while the British 1 and 5 
Divisions withdrew into AAI reserve as 
soon as the bulk of the Fifth Army 
moved beyond Rome.^ Each combat 
command formed a mobile task force 
composed of a medium tank battalion, 
a motorized infantry battalion, and at- 
tached engineer and reconnaissance 
units, as well as a battalion of self- 
propelled artillery. Because of difficul- 
ties involved in maneuvering and pro- 
tecting the armor during the hours of 
darkness, motorized infantry led the 
way at night, armored units by day. 

As night fell on the 6th, CCB had 



- Hqs Fifth Armv OI 28, 6 Jun 1944. 



Ihid.; Fi/lh Army History, Part VI, pp. 20-21. 



238 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Aerial View of Civitavecchia 



reached a point about seventeen miles 
southwest of Civitavecchia. Piogiess had 
been so rapid and resistance so light 
that Clark abandoned a plan to use the 
509th Parachute Infantry Battalion to 
block Highway 1 behind the retreating 
enemy. Meanwhile, the 34th Division's 
168th Infantry, mounted on trucks, 
consolidated gains and rounded up 
enemy stragglers bypassed by the tanks. 
Demolished bridges and culverts bore 
witness to the enemy's passage, but 
there was little physical contact with the 
foe. Throughout the night a motorized 
battalion of the 168th Infantry led the 
way, and by dawn on the 7th reached a 



point within three miles of Civitavec- 
chia. Entering the port, the infantrv 
cleared it by noon.^ 

In the meantime, the 34th Division 
commander. General Ryder, ordered 
Col. William Schildroth's 133d Infantry 
to take up the advance in trucks along 
the coast toward Tarquinia, about ten 
miles northwest of Civitavecchia. Aliens 
CCB, meanwhile, turned eastward to 
rejoin the rest of the 1st Armored 
Division south of Viterbo. Against little 



^ VI Corps Opns Rpi, jun 44: 34th Div &-3 Jul. 
5-7, 8-16 Jun 44. Unless otherwise indicated the 
following is based upon these sources. 



PURSUIT NORTH OF ROME 



239 



opposition, the 133d Infantry, as night 
fell, came within five miles of Tarqui- 
nia, but the next morning, 8 June, in 
hillv country just south of Tarcjuinia the 
regiment encountered the first elements 
t)f the 20th Luftwaffe Field Division, a 
unit that Kesselring had sent south 
from Orvieto to reinforce the Fourteenth 
Army. The enemy infantrymen had es- 
tablished themselves on the sides of a 
ravine overlooking the highway. Backed 
by mortars and artillery, they held until 
shortly before dark, when the Ameri- 
cans, using newly issued 57-mm. anti- 
tank guns as direct-fire weapons, 
blasted the positions. Instead of sending 
the 133d Infantry into Tarquinia that 
night, Ryder relieved it with an at- 
tached unit. Col. Rudolph W. Broed- 
low's 361st Regimental Combat Team, 
the first contingent of the 91st Division 
to arrive in Italy. 

Early the next morning, the 9th, 
Truscott shifted the 36th Division, 
which had been advancing along the 
axis of Highway 2, from the VI Corps' 
right wing to relieve the weary 34th 
Division and take over the advance 
along the coastal highway. The 36th 
Division's place was taken by the 85th 
Division on the II Corps' left flank, 
which Clark had moved westward to 
include Highway 2. Ryder's division 
then retired into corps reserve in the 
vicinity of Civitavecchia. Two days later 
Crittenberger's IV Corps was to relieve 
the VI Corps and take command of the 
36th Division and the advance along 
the coastal flank. 

On the VI Corps' right wing Colonel 
Daniel's CCA, in the meantime, had 
advanced seven miles along Highway 2, 
then turned onto a good secondary 
road running through the corps zone 



west of Lake Bracciano before rejoining 
the main highway north of the lake. 
Daniel divided his unit into three small 
task forces, each built around an infan- 
try and a medium tank company. Leap- 
frogging the task forces, Daniel, by 
nightfall on the 7th, had pushed his 
column to within fourteen miles of 
Viterbo. Resuming the advance the 
next morning, CCA headed for the 
point where the secondary road re- 
joined Highway 2. There the Germans 
had assembled a relatively strong rear 
guard from the 3d Panzer Grenadier 
Division, which managed to delay Dan- 
iel's task force for three hours, long 
enough for the enemy to evacuate the 
adjacent town of Vetralla. From Ve- 
tralla, Viterbo lay only a tempting seven 
miles away but within the adjacent II 
Corps zone of operations. Not one to 
be overly respectful of corps' bounda- 
ries when opportunity beckoned. Gen- 
eral Harmon, the 1st Armored Division 
commander, told Daniel to go on into 
Viterbo. Task Force C continued until 
halted by enemy rear guards at mid- 
night a mile and a half south of the 
town. Later that night, when it became 
evident that the enemy had withdrawn, 
the task force dashed unhindered into 
Viterbo. 

Since the beginning of the pursuit on 
the 6th, the II Corps front had been 
echeloned somewhat to the right rear 
of its neighbor, which was why Task 
Force C found no II Corps troops at 
Viterbo. After leaving the 3d Division 
behind to garrison Rome, Keyes se- 
lected the 85th and 88th Divisions to 
lead the II Corps along the axis of 
Highway 2 to the corps' objective, the 
road line Viterbo-Soriano-Orte. The VI 
Corps' units, which had been using the 



240 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



same highway for the first hours of 
their advance north of Rome, had 
ah-ead\ turned off onto a secondary 
road that would carry them west of 
Lake Bracciano. The II Corps, advanc- 
ing along the axis of Highway 2, would 
pass east of Lake Bracciano.'^ 

Early on 6 June, the 85th Division, in 
a column of regiments with the 339th 
Infantry leading and elements of the 
1 1 7th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squad- 
ron screening the front and flanks, led 
the II Corps up Highway 2 to take over 
the advance on Viterbo from the 36th 
Division. A tank battalion and a tank 
destro)er battalion, attached frc^m Task 
Force Howze, accompanied the lead 
regiment. Leapfrogging his regiments 
and alternating his forward elements 
between motorized and dismounted in- 
fantr), the division commander, Gen- 
eral Coulter, kept his columns moving 
so rapidly that by dark on 8 June they 
had advanced to within six miles of 
Viterbo. There Coulter learned that the 
1st Armored Division's CCA was al- 
ready advancing on the town, which the 
army commander, General Clark, react- 
ing to 3. fait accompli, shifted into the VI 
Corps' zone. 

On Coulter's right, Sloan's 88th Divi- 
sion set out from Rome about the same 
time as its neighbor. Limited to second- 
ary roads east of Highway 2, General 
Sloan deployed all three of his regi- 
ments. Their advance over these roads 
was more of a tactical march than an 
actual pursuit. Both to the front and on 
the right flank, a task force consisting 
of the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron 



with a battalion each of tanks and tank 
destroyers screened the advance while 
the regiments followed. After the task 
force passed through Civita Castellana, 
45 miles north of Rome, which the 6th 
South African Armoured Division of 
the British 13 Corps had captured two 
days before, the continued advance of 
the South Africans pinched out the task 
force. 

At dawn on 9 June the French 
Expeditionary Corps began relieving 
the II Corps, whose zone of operations 
had been greatly reduced by the pres- 
ence of the South African armor on 
Highway 3, temporarily assigned to use 
of the Eighth Armv. Bv midmorning 
the 3d Algerian Infantry Division on 
the left and the 1st Motorized Division 
on the right completed relief of the 
85th Division. Meanwhile, the 88th Di- 
vision, pinched out by the South Afri- 
cans, had also pulled out of the line. 

The Fifth Army front on 1 1 June 
thus described a wide arc extending 
westward from Viterbo to Tuscania, 
thence southwest to a point just north 
of Tarquinia on Highway 1. Thus far 
casualties had been exceptionally light, 
each division seldom exceeding a daily 
average of ten in all categories. ^ 

Eighth Army Joins the Pursuit 

East of Rome, the Eighth Arm\ on 6 
June crossed the Tiber and its tributary, 
the Aniene, on a two-corps front, the 
13th Corps on the left, the 10th Corps 
on the right. The former had the 6th 
South African and the 6th British Ar- 
moured Divisions, split at first b) the 



^ Fifth Army History, Part VI, pp. 25-30. Unless 
otherwise cited the following is based upon this 
source. 



•^ 9th MRU, Fifth Armv Battle Casualties, 19 Jun 
45, CMH. 



PURSUIT NORTH OF ROME 



241 



southward- flowing Tiber; the latter had 
the 8th hidian and the 2d New Zealand 
Divisions. Under ariny group control, 
the 5 Corps was to follow a German 
withdrawal on the Adriatic flank. Oper- 
ations there were to remain in low key 
in the hope that the Eighth Army's 
advance would prompt the Germans to 
yield the Adriatic poi t of Ancona with- 
out a fight. Failing that, General Alex- 
ander planned to use the 2 Polish 
Corps to take the port, 130 miles 
northeast of Rome. ' 

As with the Americans, shuffling of 
units helped delay the Eighth Army's 
advance, particularly on the left in the 
sector of the 13 Corps. Yet the necessity 
for the shifts was early demonstrated by 
the problems faced by the 6th South 
African Armoured Division, advancing, 
in effect, astride the Tiber River. Be- 
cause the bridge to be used in the 
jiimp-off along Highway 3 was demol- 
ished, the division early on 6 June had 
to detour through the U.S. II Corps 
sector, losing several hours in the proc- 
ess. Reaching Civita Castellana, 25 miles 
to the north, as nightfall approached, 
the division faced the necessity of again 
crossing the river if progress was to 
continue along Highway 3 to Terni. 
The Tiber was as much of a barrier to 
intracorps movement in the attack as it 
was to the Germans on the defense. 
Furthermore, if the South Africans 
along Highway 3 and the 6th British 
Armoured Division east of the Tiber 
along Highway 4 continued to follow 
those routes, they would be moving 
away from their objective, the Florence- 
Arezzo-Bibbiena triangle. 



' Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
Fortes in Italv, Part II, Sec. D. 



The 13 Corps commander. General 
Kirkman, accordingly obtained approval 
to put his entire corps west of the 
Tiber, avoiding the necessity to cross 
and recross the river while at the same 
time orienting the corps more directly 
toward the objective by use of Highway 
71. The shift also avoided splitting the 
corps by another prominent terrain 
feature. Lake Trasimeno, which High- 
way 7 1 bypasses on the west. 

The shift left the 10 Corps alone in 
pursuit of the stronger German force, 
the Tenth Army, east of the Tiber. The 
goal of that corps would be to keep 
enough pressure on the Tenth Amiy to 
forestall Field Marshal Kesselring from 
transferring units to reinforce the Four- 
teenth Army west of the Tiber. 

Kesselring Outlines His Strategy 

Even as the U.S. Fifth Army passed 
through Civitaveccia and Viterbo, and 
the British Eighth Army closed in on 
Orte, Narni, Terni, and Rieti, Field 
Marshal Kesselring began to prepare 
his superiors for the eventual loss of all 
central Italy between Rome and the 
Arno. On 8 June he informed the 
OKW that he might be able to delay 
the Allied armies forward of the Gothic 
Line for only three more weeks, and 
for that long only if the Allies made no 
attempt to turn Army Group Cs front 
with an amphibious landing on either 
the Tyrrhenian or Adriatic coasts, 
which Kesselring saw as a possibility at 
any time. 

Both the Tenth and Fourteenth Armies 
were to fight delaying actions while 
bringing reserves from the rear and 
flanks, closing newly opened gaps, and 
establishing firm contact along the in- 
ner wings of the two armies. Loss of 



242 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



terrain was less important to Kesselring 
than overcoming the manpower losses 
suffered in the defeat south of Rome 
b\ rehabilitating severely mauled divi- 
sions. ^ 

Compared with several delaNing lines 
south of the Arno, the Gothic Line 
appeared on the map to offer a secure 
refuge for the German armies in the 
mountain fastness of the Northern 
Apennines, but in reality the line was 
far from complete. Construction of for- 
tified positions in the relatively im- 
pregnable western sector, toward which 
the U.S. Fifth Army was advancing, 
had progressed satisfactorily, but little 
had been accomplished in the more 
vital and vulnerable central and eastern 
sectors, where the British Eighth 
Army's objectives lay. Although OKW 
had sent Field Marshal Kesselring addi- 
tional engineer, fortification construc- 
tion, and mountain battalions in order 
to complete the line before Army Group 
C withdrew beyond the Arno, the High 
Command was unable to afford him 
what he most needed — time. Kesselring 
could gain that only with his own skill 
and the steadfastness of his troops. 
While he was determined to hold the 
Allies as far south of the Arno as 
possible, unremitting pressure, espe- 
cially against the Fourteenth Army on his 
right wing, delays in the arrival of 
reinforcements, and increasing difficul- 
ties in maintaining contact between his 
two armies across the barrier of the 
Tiber would, in Kesselring's opinion, 
leave little alternative to a fighting with- 
drawal. 



Hitler disagreed. Even as Kesselring 
prepared on 9 June to issue new stra- 
tegic guidelines to his army command- 
ers. Hitler ordered him to stand and 
fight. Three days later the Fuehrer's 
written instructions pointed out that 
since another seven months were 
needed to complete the Gothic Line, 
the army group commander, if forced 
from his first defensive position, the 
Dora Line, had to be prepared to 
stabilize his front on the Frieda Line, 
forty miles farther north. Hitler also 
insisted that Kesselring should quickly 
disabuse his troops of any notion of the 
existence of a secure haven in the 
Northern Apennines into which they 
might eventually withdraw. The Gothic 
Line offered no advantages. Hitler 
added, for combat conditions there 
were less faxorable than those south of 
the Arno. Furthermore, the hazards of 
flanking amphibious operations by the 
Allies were e\en greater. As if further 
to downgrade the importance of the 
Gothic Line in the eves of both friend 
and foe. Hitler ordered the name of 
the line, with its historic connotations, 
changed. He reasoned that if the Allies 
managed to break through thev would 
seize upon the more pretentious name 
as gi'ound for magnif\ing their \ictor\ 
claims. Kesselring renamed it the Green 
Line.'* 

Essentially, despite Hitler's insistence 
on a stand and fight strategy it devel- 
oped rather that under Kesselring's 
command the German armies in Itah 
adopted a 2()th-centur\ variation of the 
delaying strategy associated with the 



" Circiner and Schramm, eds., UKW/WFSl, KTB. 
IV (I), pp. 513-23. Kesselring's comments on Oct 
Fcldzug in Italicn, Part II, in CMH files. Unless 
otherwise indicated the toliouing section is based 
upon these references. 



" Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKWiWFSt. KTB. 
IV(I), pp. 520-23. Since the Allies never adopted 
the new name, the text will continue to use the 
designation Gothic Line. 



PURSUIT NORTH OF ROME 



243 



RAILROAD 



HOR.N.XiaMife 




Grosseto and Terrain to the East 



name ot the Roman general Quintus 
Fabius Cunctator, who, during the 
Punic War of the 3d century, B.C., had 
worn down the Carthaginian armies by 
a series of delaying actions. How effec- 
tive was the German adaptation of tliat 
strateg) twenty-one centuries later re- 
mained to he seen. 

To the Trasimeno Line 

As both the Fifth and Eighth Armies 
completed their regrouping on 1 1 June, 
the Allied front extended from a point 



on the Tyrrhenian coast atx)ut 20 miles 
northwest of Tarquinia, northeastward 
some thirty miles to the vicinity of 
Fontanile Monte fiascone, thence in a 
southeasterly direction to Narni and 
Rieti, passing south of L'Ac]uila on the 
southern edge of the (iran Sasso, and 
on to Chieti and the Adriatic coast 
about seven miles south of Pescara. The 
Allied armies at that point were in 
contact with the first of the enemy's 
delaying lines north of Rome. 
On the Fifth Army's left, Crittenber- 



244 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



gers IV Cx)rps held a 30-mile front 
between the coast and the hills over- 
looking it from the east and, on the 
right, the FEC's front stretched across 
twentN miles of the Umbrian highlands 
dominating the Tiber vallev from the 
west. The intercorps boundary ex- 
tended in a northwesterly direction 
from Tuscania.'" 

General Crittenberger planned for 
the 36th Division to make the main 
effort along the axis of the coastal 
Highway 1. To give Walkers division 
more punch, Crittenberger reinforced it 
with Broedlow's 361st Regimental Com- 
bat Team and the 753d Tank and 
636th Tank Destroyer Battalions. The 
117th Reconnaissance Scjuadron was to 
screen the corps front, with corps artil- 
lery to follow in general support. Two 
combat engineer regiments, the 36th 
and 39th, were also available. For the 
time being, the 34th Division was to 
remain in army reserve near Tarqui- 
nia. '' 

On the corps' right wing in the 
vicinity of Canino, eight miles southwest 
of Valentano, Crittenberger created a 
task force under the command of Brig. 
Gen. Rufus S. Ramey, with the mission 
of screening that flank and maintaining 
contact with the French Expeditionarv 
Corps. The 1st Armored Group head- 
quarters and headquarters companv 
formed the command group for Ra- 
mey's task force, which included the 
91st Reconnaissance Squadron, the 3d 
Battalion of the 141st Infantry, the 59th 
Field Artillery Battalion, an engineer 
battalion, and a medical company. '- 



The 36th Division's immediate objec- 
tive was Grosseto, a provincial center 
approximately sixty miles northwest of 
Civitavecchia. Situated just north of the 
Ombrone River near the junction of 
Highways 1 and 73, Grosseto lies in the 
middle of a broad, flat valley formed b\ 
the Ombrone as it nears the sea. Al- 
most fifteen miles wide, the vallev is 
scored by a gridiron of small drainage 
ditches and canals. 

Six miles beyond the 36th Di\ision's 
front and twenty-three miles south of 
Grosseto lay the town of Orbetello, 
located at the mainland end of a cause- 
way linking the n^cky peninsula of 
Monte Argentario and the port of San 
Stefano with the mainland. San Stefano 
was the first of a series of small ports 
beyond Civitavecchia dotting the Tvr- 
rhenian coast as far as Leghorn. The 
Allied command, especiallv the Fifth 
Army, hoped that with San Stefano's 
large licjuid storage facilities in Allied 
hands, it would help solve the growing 
fuel supply problems. The gasoline 
shortage had been aggraxated a week 
earlier when fire in the Fifth Armv 
dumps near Rome destroved large 
quantities of fuel. '^ 

The tactical problems to be soKed by 
the 36th Division resembled those 
which had been faced b\ the 85th along 
the coastal highwa) south of Terracina 
during the drive to link up the south- 
ern front with the Anzio beachhead. 
Between Orbetello and Grosseto the 
Umbrian hills stretch almost to the 
coast and just east of Orbetello form a 
defile through which Highwav 1 passes. 



'" IV Corps AAR, Jun-Jul 44. 

" Fifth Army History, Part VI, pp. 32-35; IV Corps 
AAR, jun 44.' 

'" IV Corps AAR, Jun 44. 



' ' Interv, Mathews uith Lt Col Charles S. d'Orsa. 
10 May 48, CMH. Colonel d'Orsa was executive 
officer. Fifth .Armv (^4. during the campaign. 



PURSUIT NORTH OF ROME 

Since the defile had been incorporated 
into the enemy's Dora Line, the Ger- 
mans could be expected to put up a 
stiff fight for the feature. 

Although the 361st Infantry had 
l^een held up for most of 10 June by 
fire from near the defile carrying High- 
way 1 through the Umbrian Hills, the 
14ist Infantry — its 1st Battalion leading, 
followed by the 2d — encountered no 
opposition as it began moving up the 
highway shortly before dawn on the 
11th. Yet just as the Americans had 
begun to suspect that the enemy had 
withdrawn from the defile, out of the 
half-light of early morning heavy auto- 
matic weapons and artillery fire stabbed 
at the head of the column. The lead 
battalion quickly deployed off the road 
to set up a base of fire, while the next 
battalion in line turned off the main 
road to scale the high ground flanking 
the roadblock to the east. 

Full davlight found the 1st Battalion 
astride the highway, and the 2d Battal- 
ion well up the 700-foot Poggio Capal- 
biaccio, commanding the enemy's de- 
fenses; but during the morning two 
companies of German infantry, infiltrat- 
ing through wheat fields east of the 
feature, outflanked and overran the 2d 
Battalion's leading company and forced 
the Americans to fall back to the base 
of the hill. Not until the afternoon, and 
with the help of division artillery, was 
the battalion on Poggio Capalbiaccio 
able to restore its lines. That evening, 
reinforced with a battalion from the 
361st Infantry, the 2d Battalion once 
again started up the high ground. 
Throughout the night, fighting flared 
across the hillside, but dawn of the 12th 
found the 2d Battalion on top of 
Poggio Capalbiaccio and overlooking 



245 

the enemy roadblock along the coastal 
highway. 

This feat, in conjunction with a re- 
sumption of the 1st Battalion's attack 
along the highway during the afternoon 
of the 12th, was sufficient to force the 
Germans to yield the Orbetello defile 
and fall back toward Grosetto. At that 
point General Walker relieved the 141st 
Infantry with the 143d, which had been 
in reserve east of Nunziatella. The 
141st Infantiy then shifted to the right 
to join Task Force Ramey and the 
regiment's 3d Battalion on that flank of 
the corps. 

That night engineers accompanied 
the infantry across the causeway to San 
Stefano, where the Americans found to 
their delight that the fuel storage facili- 
ties were still intact, thanks to Italian 
engineers who had failed to carry out 
German orders to destroy them. An 
Italian diver provided information con- 
cerning the location of underwater 
mines placed in deep moats surround- 
ing the tanks. 

At San Stefano the Americans also 
discovered underground storage facili- 
ties for an additional 281,000 barrels of 
gasoline.'^ Yet before the first tanker 
could enter, the harbor had to be 
cleared of sunken ships and the docks 
repaired. That was difficult work under 
wardme conditions, so that not until 1 
July was the first tanker to dock, but 
the port soon became the main POL 
terminal for the Fifth Army. ''^ 

While the 143d Infantry cleared Or- 



'* Mayo MS, ch. XIV. 

'^ Leo J. Meyer, MS, Strategy and Logistical 
History: MTO, ch. XXXIX, "Extension of Commu- 
nications North of Rome" (hereafter cited as Meyer 
MS), CMH; Interv, Mathews with d'Orsa, 10 May 
48. 



246 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



betello and cxcupied San Stefano, the 
42d Infantry, accompanied by tanks, 
:rossed the hills on the division's right 
wing toward the village of Capalbio. 
The regiment brushed aside a weak 
counterattack by elements of the 162d 
Turkouu'u DivLsion to occupy the village 
before noon on the 1 1th. That after- 
noon and throughout the next day the 
troops continued to advance — the in- 
fantrv across the hills and the tanks 
through the narrow valleys — northwest 
to high ground just south of lateral 
Route 74. ^"^ 

Bv the evening of 12 June, Walker's 
36th Division was within sight of the 
Albegna River, which parallels Route 74 
and enters the Tyrrhenian Sea five 
miles northwest of Orbetello. The gen- 
eral had planned crossings of the river 
that night, but it turned out that all 
bridges were destroyed and that the 
water was too deep for fording. Post- 
poning the attack until morning, he put 
his engineers to work constructing foot- 
bridges in the darkness. Shortly before 
dawn on the 13th, the 142d Infantry, 
followed by the 143d on the left, began 
to cross. 

The 143d Infantry encountered little 
opposition until reaching the village of 
Bengodi on the banks of the smaller 
but deeper Osa River, three to four 
miles north of the Albegna.'" Not so 
with the 142d Infantry on the right. As 
that regiment neared the village of 
Magliano, five miles north of the Al- 
begna, heavy fire from that village and 
the hills to the north brought the men 
to a hak. They attempted to outflank 
the village to the east, but resistance was 



firm there as well. Nevertheless, by 
1500 the 2d Battalion, supported by 
tank and heavy artillery fire directed 
against the enemy in the hills to the 
north, managed to win a foothold in 
the outskirts of Magliano. During the 
rest of the afternoon and throughout 
the night the infantry inched into the 
village house by house and street by 
street. The village's fall opened a road 
along which the division could outflank 
Grosseto from the southeast, as it had 
done earlier at Orbetello. Throughout 
the afternoon the 142d Infantn contin- 
ued to move up until its leading battal- 
ions occupied high giound flanking the 
Magliano-Grosseto road. That night the 
361st Infantry came forward to spell 
the 142d.i« 

Meanwhile, throughout the 14th, the 
143d Infantry continued io forge ahead 
astride the coastal highwav. Attacking at 
dawn, the 2d and 3d Battalions re- 
quired fine hours to drixe the enem\ 
from the flanking high giound north 
of Bengodi, in the process capturing 
fifty prisoners and five artiller\ pieces. 
For the rest of the afternoon the two 
battalions advanced against slackening 
opposition, as the Germans, having lost 
Magliano, fell back across the corps 
front toward Grosseto. By dark the 
regiment had come within twelve miles 
of Grosseto and the Ombrone River. '^ 

Moving before dawn on the 15th, a 
battalion on each side of the highwav. 
the 143d Infantry encountered no re- 
sistance in occupying the high ground 



44. 



'« IV Corps AAR, Jun 44; 36th Div Hist Rpt, Jun 
36th Div Hist Rpt, Jun 44. 



'"Ibid. During the battle for Magliano, S. Sgt. 
Homer I.. Wise's fearless and skillful leadership of 
his rifle platoon enabled the 2d Battalion to seize its 
objective. For this action Sergeant Wise was 
awarded the Medal of Honor. 

'MV Corps AAR, Jun 44. 



PURSUIT NORTH OF ROME 



247 



overlcK:>king the Ombrone and in flank- 
ing the highway near Collecchio, a 
village six miles south of the river. As 
the men descended into the river valley 
and worked their way across the net- 
work of small streams and drainage 
ditches scoring the valley floor, sporadic 
machine gun and mortar fire picked at 
them, but there were few casualties. 
U)cating a ford a mile east of the main 
road, the troops waited until dark be- 
fore attempting to cross the river. 
Thereupon one battalion proceeded 
quicklv into Grosseto. The Germans 
had already left.-*' 

To the right of the 143d, the 361st 
Infantry operating south and west of 
Istia d'Ombrone, four miles northeast 
of Grosseto, had more trouble in cross- 
ing the river. Unable to k)cate a ford, 
engineers toiled through the night to 
construct a footbridge. When the men 
h)egan crossing at daylight on the 16th, 
enemy artillery inflicted a number of 
casualties. It was early afternoon before 
all three battalions were across the river 
and astride high ground overlooking 
the vallev from the northeast.-' 

On the division's right flank Task 
Force Ramey had been held up since 
early on the 14th by resolute defenders 
south of Triana, a small, walled town at 
a road junction twenty-two miles east of 
Grosseto. Instead of a direct confronta- 
tion, General Ramey concentrated on 
clearing the neighboring villages of 
Santa Caterina, Vallerona, and Roccal- 
begna. That so threatened the enemy's 
line of communications to the strong- 
jx)int at Triana that the town's garrison 
soon withdrew. 



On the morning of the 16th Ramey's 
men entered Triana. The fall first of 
Grosseto on the night of the 15th and 
then of Triana meant that the VI 
Corps was well past the Dora Line and 
two-thirds of the way to the Frieda 
Line. 

Early next day, 17 June, a 9,7()0-man 
French amphibious landing force at- 
tacked the island of Elba, seven miles 
off the coast. Composed of two regi- 
mental combat teams from the 9th 
Colonial Division and a commando bat- 
talion with a group of goumiers at- 
tached, all supported by an American 
air task force, with a British naval task 
force in general support, the French 
approached the island over a calm, fog- 
shrouded sea from a base in nearby 
Corsica. Despite some early resistance 
by a 2,500-man enemy garrison, 550 of 
whom were Italian Fascist troops and 
the rest Germans, the French quickly 
established two secure beachheads. The 
next day virtually all resistance ceased. 
Other than to boost French morale, the 
capture of Elba had little immediate 
significance for the Allies, yet for the 
Germans the operation again raised the 
specter of an Allied amphibious opera- 
tion to the German rear and made 
Kesselring pause before committing his 
reserve, the 16th SS Panzer Grenadier 
Divisiun.'^'^ 

The IV Corps, meanwhile, continued 
to niove northwestward, paralleling the 
coast beyond Gr(>sseto. On the left wing 
ak)ng the coast, the 36th Division ad- 
vanced on a 15-mile front to clear all 



'Ibid. 



2' Ibid.: Fifth Army History, Part VI, pp. 37-40. 



■-- The Allied intelligence officers had grossly 
overestimated the number of Italian troops on Elba; 
allied sources estimated 5, ()()() It?lian soldiers to be 
on the island. See SAC Despatch, 10 May- 12 Aug 
44, pp. 37-40, and C.reiner and Schramm, eds., 
OKW/WFSt, KTB, IV(1), pp. 524-25. 



248 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



tlie high ground southeast oi Route 73. 
On the right wing, lask Force Ramey, 
with the 141 St Infantry attached, cut 
Route 73 below the town of Roccas- 
trada, ten miles north of the coastal 
highway, there to await relief by the 1st 
Armored Division. 

In ten days the IV C'.orps had pro- 
gressed but twenty-two miles on a 20- 
mile front, a rate imjDosed by persistent 
German delaying action and one hardly 
characteristic of a rapid pursuit. Yet it 
then appeared that even firmer Ger- 
man resistance might be in the offing, 
possiblv sufficient even to halt the pur- 
suit; for as the corps prepared to cross 
Route 73, intelligence officers identified 
prisoners from the 16th SS Panzer Gren- 
adier Division. '-■^ 

The French Advance to the Orcia 

A similar threat was developing on 
the Fifth Army's right wing, where 
General Juin's French Expeditionar\ 
Corps, since relieving the U.S. II Corps 
on 10 June, had encountered steadily 
increasing resistance. In the meantime, 
the French had learned that they would 
soon be withdrawn from the front to 
prepare for the invasion of southern 
France. During the weeks to come, that 
kntnvledge would exercise, especiallv 
among the French officers of the North 
African legions, a strong psychological 
restraint over operations. Why die with 
the liberation of France close at hand? 
The dash and spontaneity that had 
characterized FEC operations in the 
mountains south of Rome thus was 
missing.-^ 



Finding his corps again operating 
over the worst terrain in the army 
sector, General Juin formed an ad hoc 
pursuit corps heacicjuarters to direct 
field operations. He placed Lt. Gen. 
Edgard R.M. de Larminat in command 
of a force that included Maj. (ien. 
Diego Brossets 1st Motorized (March) 
Division and Maj. (ien. de Goisland de 
Monsabert's 3d Algerian division, all 
still supported by the 13th U.S. Field 
Artillen Brigade and its attached battal- 
ions.-' 

The first objectixe was Route 74, the 
lateral road connecting Highways 1 and 
2 running east-west just north of Lake 
Bolsena, some nineteen miles north of 
the jump-off positions. Attacking on 1 1 
June, even as the neighboring IV Corps 
began to head toward Orbetello and 
Grosseto, the French gained Lake Bol- 
sena on the 12th. It took another two 
days to come up to either side of the 
lake and to get beyond it, at the same 
time that the neighboring task force 
cleared Route 74 between Lake Bolsena 
and the sea. 

On the same dav General Clark 
extended the FEC western boundar\ to 
close a developing gap between the two 
corps. To cover the wider front. Gen- 
eral de Larminat reinfoiced General de 
Monsabert's Algerian division with a 
task force that, in proceeding diagonalh 
to the northwest and roughh parallel to 
the line of the coast, soon pinched out 
Task Force Ramey. 

By nightfall on 17 June the French 
had gained positions some fifteen miles 
beyond Lake Bolsena but for the next 
three days a combination of enemy 
resistance and worsening weather re- 



^^ Fifth Army History, Part VI, pp. 38-41. 

^* Interv, Mathews with Gen Clark, 1948, CMH. 



Fifth Army History, Part \'l. pp. 41-46. 



PURSUIT NORTH OF ROME 



249 



striclcd progress to another ten miles. 
B\ the 2()th the corps was nevertheless 
within striking distance oi the Orcia 
River, a westuard flowing tributaiy ol 
the Ombrone. As the FEC prepared to 
assault the obstacle, Brosset's 1st Motor- 
ized l)i\isi()n began to withdraw in 
anticipation of the invasion of southern 
France, while Maj. Gen Andre W. 
D<)d\"s 2d Moroccan Infantry Division 
ino\ed from corps reserxe to take its 
place in line. 

The British Secto)- 

General Clark's concern that the Brit- 
ish Eighth Armv , facing a more capable 
German force and more difficult ter- 
rain, would be unable to keep pace with 
the Fifth Armv proved needless, for 
(ieneral Leese's troops had maintained 
a momentum developed during the 
first week of the pursuit bevond Rome. 
The Eighth Arm\ continued to advance 
northward on a two-corps front, the 13 
Corps to the west of Lake Trasimeno 
via Highway 71, and the 10 Corps to 
the east of the lake.-" 

After some delay due to the need to 
stjueeze through Viterbo's narrow 
streets at the same time the U.S. II 
Corps was tr\ing to withdraw from the 
area, the 13 Corps by the evening of 13 
June had drawn to within four miles of 
Orvieto, its first objective. A few davs 
t)efore, that move would have threat- 
ened to block the (iermans" lateral 
communications from Terni and Todi 
through Orvieto to the sectors west of 
the Tiber; but Kesselring, too, having 
completed the regrouping, strength- 



^" Operations ol British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. I). Unless otherwise 
indicated this section is based upon this source. 



ened the Fourteenth Army's front and no 
longer needed that lateral route. 

The regiouping had begun on the 
r2th with the transfer of Senger's XIV 
Panzer Corps headtjuarters from the 
TeJith to the Fourteenth Army sector, 
where the panzer corps took command 
of the 19th and 20th Luftwaffe Field 
Divisions on the coastal flank, pending 
the arrival of its former divisions — the 
26th Panzer and the 29th and 90th 
Panzer Grenadier Dii'isio7is from the Tenth 
Army zone. Since 13 June the panzer 
and the two panzer grenadier divisions 
had been located west of the Tiber, 
where they had been steadily braking 
the Fifth Army's forward movement. 
Whether the Tenth Anny, shorn of those 
units, could continue to do the same to 
General Leese's Eighth Army, was a 
(|uestion about to be answered as the 
Eighth Army, like the Fifth, prepared 
to close with the Frieda Line. 

Or\'ieto no longer having meaning, 
the Germans, as the 13 Corps ap- 
proached, began withdrawing into hills 
commanding the Paglia \'alle\ north of 
the town. By noon on 14 June the 6th 
South African Armoured Division had 
cleared the town of the last of the 
German rear guards. 

East of the liber the 10 Corps 
shifted its axis slightK west\vard from 
Rieti to Terni, for enem\ mo\ements, 
observed by reconnaissance aircraft, 
had indicated that Terni had becoine 
the focus of the regrouping of General 
P>uerstein's LI Mountain Corps. For se\- 
eial days Feuerstein had recei\'ed help 
in that task bv terrain that had so 
(analized the 10 (.orps" advance as to 
recjuire the British 6th Armoured Di\i- 
sion to take fhe days to cover the thirty 
miles Ixnween Passo Corese and Terni 



230 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



on Highuav 4. As on tlie Filth Army 
troni, the British ainioi- led the wav 
during the da\ and the inlantrv at 
night, and, similarly, demolitions cov- 
ered b\ artillery and mortar fire caused 
most ol the delavs. The British armor 
did not reach the southern outskirts ol 
Terni until 13 June, there to be held 
up for two da\s b\ a demolished bridge 
across a deep gorge just outside the 
town. The gorge at last bridged, the 
tankers found the enemy gone from 
Terni . 

Kesselnng Remfurces His Right Wing 

From the German xiewpoint, despite 
the successive loss of Grosseto, Orvieto, 
and Terni, chances of restoring an 
intact front had improved considerabh 
b\ mid-June. In addition to returning 
Senger's XIV Panzer Corps to the Four- 
teenth Army, Field Marshal Kesselring 
also brought the Hermann Goering Pan- 
zer Grenadier Parachute Division back into 
action, this time on the Tenth Army's 
right flank north of Orvieto opposite 
the British 13 Corps. 

Undoubtedly, Field Marshal Kessel- 
ring's most significant accomplishment 
during the first ten days after the loss 
ol Rome had been to prevent a break- 
through along the interarmy boundarv 
and to reinforce the Fourteenth Army 
west of the Tiber. By mid-June the 
Fourteenth Army commander, General 
Lxmelsen, could muster nine divisions, 
with two others having been withdrawn 
ioY rest and reorganization. Although 
three of the nine criticalK needed relief, 
five of the remaining six were first-rate 
panzer and panzer gienadier di\isions. 

Opposite those divisions the U.S. 
Fifth Army had, by mid-June, six di\i- 
sions and part of a seventh (the 91st). 



On the Eighth Army left wing the 
British 13 Corps controlled three di\i- 
sions, making a total of about nine and 
a half divisions against the Fourteenth 
Annys nine. Even allowing for the fact 
that three of the nine were under- 
strength, the ratio of nine and a half to 
nine scarcely afforded a promise of a 
continued rapid Allied advance.-' Op- 
posite the e(|uivalent of five divisions in 
the 10 Corps, on the Eighth Army right 
wing, the German situation was no 
more encouraging, for there General 
Vietinghoff s Tenth Army mustered eight 
divisions, divided between Hen's LXXVI 
Panzer Corps and Feuerstein's LI Moun- 
tain Corps. 

The ability of the Germans, despite 
harassment bv a daily average of 1,000 
Allied air sorties, to shift major units 
from one sector to another and to 
bring important reinforcements from 
northern Italy to man the several de lav- 
ing lines north of Rome had been 
largely responsible for the failure of the 
two Allied armies to cut off and destroy 
significant parts of either of the two 
German armies. Bv maintaining ma- 
neuverabilitv , the Germans were able to 
re-form along new lines even in the 
face of Allied pressure and jDenetration, 
forcing upon the Allies a form of 
pursuit that had come to characterize 
Russian operations against the Germans 
on the Eastern Front. In the opinion of 
General von Senger und Etterlin. onlv 
if the Allies had, as at Anzio, taken 
advantage of the Germans" k)ng and 
vulnerable seaward flanks to laimch 
amphibious landings could that pattern 
have been broken. Unknown to the 



'" (Ireiner and Schramm, eds.. OKlV/lVFSt. KTB. 
IV(1), pp. 52()-21. 



PURSUIT NORTH OF ROME 



2 3 1 




Generals Crittenberger and Mascarenhas 



Germans at the time, the shortage oi 
landing craft prevented such opera- 
tions.-^ 

Both the specter of Allied amphibi- 
ous landings and the xeiy real fact of 
partisan operations against German 
lines of communications bedeviled Ger- 
man commanders. The farther north 
the Germans retreated the more active 
became Italian partisan bands, many 
led by former Italian Army officers. As 
early as 13 June, Lemelsen's chief of 
staff had obtained army group authc^r- 



^^ See Special Investigations and Interrogation 
Report, Operation Lightening USDIC/SII R 30/36, 
\5 Mar 1947, CMH files, and Senger, Neither Hope 
nor Fear, pp. 257-58. See also (ireiner and 
Schramm, eds., OKWIWFSt, KTB, 1V(1). p. 519. 



ilv to punish acts of sabotage against 
the Cjerman armed forces and to take 
ten-for-one reprisals against military-age 
members of the civilian population for 
every German soldier killed or 
wounded by partisans. By mid-June 
sabotage of the German lines of com- 
munications had nevertheless reached 
such proportions as to disrupt not only 
long-distance telephone cables, upon 
which the Germans had increasingly 
come to rely for their communications 
because of Allied aii- attacks on military 
signal facilities, but also to immobilize 
even local telephone networks. In the 
vicinity of Siena, some 115 miles north 
of Rome, partisans also cut a vital 
lateral supply route leading from Gros- 



232 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



seto to Siena. Stung b\ these actions, 
the Germans were to take stern coun- 
termeasures in the weeks to come."" 

Tlie Eighth Army Closes With the Frieda 
Line 

As the British 10 Corps resumed its 
advance early on 15 June, the im- 
pro\ed stance of German units soon 
became apparent. The British 6th Ar- 
moured Division, leading the way, did 
manage to cross the Nera River over 
bridges recently completed at Terni 
and Xarni during the last leg of an 
advance aimed at Perugia, ten miles 
east of Lake Trasimeno. However, Vie- 
tinghoff, the Tenth Army commander, 
had selected Perugia, a major German 
supph base, as the hinge of his forward 
defensive zone east of the lake. Al- 
though the British armor was able to go 
twentv miles be\()nd the Nera with little 
difficultv, unexpectedly strong resist- 
ance devek)ped on the 16th southeast 
of Todi, midwav between Terni and 
Perugia. To bypass it, the corps com- 
mander ordered the Tiber bridged 
about three miles northwest of Todi so 
that progress could continue along the 
west bank o\er terrain more favorable 
for armor. The bridge completed earh 
on the 1 7th, the 6th Armoured Division 
resumed its advance ak)ng both sides of 
the Tiber. Moving rapidly once again, 
the British by nightfall drew within six 
miles of Perugia,'^" the goal assigned b\ 



-■•AOK 14, la KTB Anl. 3, 13 Jun 44, AOK 14, 
Doc. 59091/1: l.tr, R.R. Wadieigh, 2d Lt FA, 142d 
Inf, 16 Jul 44, to Lt Co! H.E. Helsten, 2660 Hcj Co 
Mies (reel 41-A, C;-3 Div, Sp Opns files, AFHQ 
microfilm). 

■^" Five miles southeast of Orvieto the Tiber 
makes a sharp bend to the northeast as far as Todi; 
from there it turns again northward to Perugia. 



General Leese in the first week of June; 
but as was soon evident, the corps had 
also closed with outposts of the Frieda 
Line. It took another three days to 
con(|uer Perugia. After yielding the city, 
the Germans withdrew into their main 
defensive zone in hills north and north- 
west of the city. The next day, the 20th, 
in the face of the staunchest resistance 
since the fall of Rome, the advance 
ground to a halt just beyond Perugia. 

In the 13 Corps sector the 6th South 
African Armoured Di\ision also ran 
into strong defenses along that part of 
the Frieda Line west of Lake Trasi- 
meno. By the 16th se\eral fresh enemv 
units, taking ad\antage of a range of 
hills southwest of Lake Trasimeno, held 
the armor at Chiusi, on Highwav 71 
twenty-two miles north of Orvieto. In- 
telligence gleaned from prisoners indi- 
cated that the 334th Infantry Division lay 
west of the highwa\, the 1st Parachute 
Division astride the road, and the 356th 
Infantry Division to the east. 

Thus were signs increasing across the 
entire Eighth Arm\ front that the en- 
emy was determined to give battle 
along a line flanking Lake Trasimeno 
to the east and west. To add to the 
attacker's woes, hea\T rains began fall- 
ing on the evening of the 17th, trans- 
forming the countrvside into a (juag- 
mire. By the 20th it was clear that the 
Germans could be dislodged onh b\ a 
full-scale set-piece attack. With the 13 
Corps bogged down southwest of Lake 
Trasimeno and the 10 Corps unable to 
penetrate the hills north and west of 
Perugia, the Eighth Arm\s pursuit, like 
that of the Fifth Arm\ . aooeared to be 
at an end. 

Conscious that the tempo of the 
advance west of the Apennines was 



PURSUIT NORTH OF ROME 



253 




Generals Leese (left) and Anders 



insufficient to induce the Germans to 
yield the port city of Ancona on the 
Adriatic coast without a tight, General 
Alexander accordingly decided to step 
up operations in the Adriatic sector. On 
15 June he ordered General Anders' 2 
Polish Corps back into line to relieve 
the British 5 Corps, which since the fall 
of Rome had limited its operations to 
proceeding on the heels of the enemy 
withdrawal. The next day the Poles, 
with a brigade-size Italian Corps of 
Liberation attached on the left, began 
to move toward Ancona, 70 miles to the 
northwest. Over the next five davs the 



advance carried 45 miles to and beyond 
the Chienti River and within 25 miles 
of the goal of Ancona. 

The week's rapid progress had been 
made possible largely by an earlier 
German decision to fall back on the 
defenses of Ancona, which constituted 
that part of the Frieda Line east of the 
Apennines. Trying to renew the ad- 
vance on the 22d, the Poles too were 
checked. Only with sizable reinforce- 
ments. General Anders concluded, 
would he be able to break the enemy's 
hold south of Ancona. Generals Alex- 
ander and Leese approved a two-week 



254 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



pause to enable him to effect the 
buildup.'" 

Tlie pmsuit exerwvhere was nearing 
an end. At tlie time it had begun, 
General Alexander had assured Gen- 
eral Wilson, the Mediterranean theater 

^' Operations of the British. Indian, and Domin- 
ion Forces in Italv, Part II, Sec. A. 



commander, that barring substantial 
German reinforcements, the Allies by 
the end of June would have reached a 
line extending from Grosseto to Peru- 
gia. Even though three additional en- 
emy divisions had entered the line, 
Alexander had achieved that goal and a 
little more. 



CHAPTER XIV 



The Pursuit Ends 



Strategic Priorities: France or Italy 

As the Allied armies moved beyond 
Rome, the inter-Allied debate over 
Mediterranean strategy entered a sec- 
ond and more urgent phase. The first 
phase had ended when the American 
Chiefs of Staft reliictanth abandoned 
their plans for an Operation Anvil 
timed to coincide with 0}x^ration Over- 
lord. \ow that Overlord had secured 
a firm toehold on northern PYance and 
Rome had fallen to the Allied spring 
offensive in Italy, that old (|uestion of 
which theater — Italy or southern 
Prance — would offer the best opj^ortu- 
nity to contain German troops and 
thereby assist General Eisenhower's ar- 
mies in northern France had yet to he 
decided. 

Diversion of enemy forces from 
northern France was the bait that Alex- 
ander extended to his American col- 
leagues in an effort to make his own 
Italv-first strategy more palatable to 
men whose attention for several months 
had been Fixed on southern France 
rather than on Italy. The primary ob- 
ject o{ the Italian campaign was, in 
Alexander's words, "to complete the 
destruction of the German armed 
forces in Italy and in the process to 
force the enemy to draw to the maxi- 
mum on his reserves."' The greatest 



assistance the Allied forces in Italy 
could offer the invasion of northern 
France was to divert large numbers of 
German divisions from France. Alex- 
ander's intelligence officers believed 
that by 6 June the Germans had al- 
readv committed an ecjuivalent of six 
additional divisions in Italy; actually, 
they had moved only four. An addi- 
tional six divisions were believed to be 
in the country but not yet committed, 
although onlv two of those were re- 
garded as even approximating full com- 
f)at effectiveness. In reality, the (Ger- 
mans after the loss of Rome had with- 
drawn five divisions for rest and reor- 
ganization in the rear, while a sixth, the 
92d, was disbanded. 

At the time the Germans began to 
retreat beyond Rome, Field Marshal 
Kesselring controlled 24 di\isi{)ns — 19 
in his two armies, 2 in armv group 
reserve, and 3 en route into Italy. Many 
were understrength or inexperienced. 
1 wo, tor example, were made up of 
Air Force personnel from airport secu- 
ritv battalions, including antiaircraft ar- 
tillery and searchlight units. Another 
was composed of former prisoners of 
war from Soviet Central Asia, while 
others, made up largely of overage and 
convalescent troops, were suitable only 
for coastal defense or garrison duty.- 



' Sec .AAI Msg, MA 1364, 6 Jun 44, AAI lo 
AF(iQ, in Operations of British, Indian, and Do- 
minion Forces in Italy, Part 11, Sec. A, App. IV2. 



- Greiner and Sthrainm, 
IV(1), pp. 515-23. 



OKWnVFSt, KTB. 



256 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Alexander concluded that by the time 
the Allied armies had fought their way 
to the Northern Ajx^nnines, Kesselring 
would ha\e no more than the ecjuiva- 
lent of ten fully combat-eftective divi- 
sions with which to defend tlie Gothic 
Line. "\'et Alexander believed that Kes- 
selring would need at least twelve divi- 
sions for that task, and defense of his 
coastal flanks would re(|uire additional 
divisions of lesser caliber. Alexander 
believed the Germans would have to 
bring into Italy eight to ten fresh 
divisions from the nearby Western 
Front, rather than from the hard- 
pressed and more distant Eastern 
Front, which is what the Ciermans even- 
tually did. Thus, so Alexander's argu- 
ment ran, a vigorous continuation of 
the Allied offensive up the Italian pen- 
insula could be expected to help the 
Allied drive across northern France and 
into Ciermany.' 

Alexander' calculated that after reach- 
ing the approximate line of Grosseto- 
Perugia (roughly, the Frieda Line), his 
armies during the second half of July 
would be prepared to mount a full-scale 
attack against the Ciothic Line. That 
presupposed that Leghorn, the remain- 
ing port on the Tyrrhenian coast, and 
Ancona, on the Adriatic coast, would be 
in hand and providing necessary logisti- 
cal backup for a 2()-division force. Since 
those divisions would be full strength, 
they would be more than a match for 
twenty-four enemy divisions of lesser 
strength.^ 

Once past the Gothic Line, his ar- 
mies, Alexander expected, would be 

^Ibid.: SAC Despatch, The Italian Campaign. 10 
May to 15 Aug 44. 

^ SAC Despatch, The Italian Campaign, 10 May 
to 15 Aug 44. 



able to continue without interruption to 
drive the (iermans from the Northern 
Apennines, take Bologna, and, by late 
summer, establish in the Po Valley a 
base for operations directed most likely 
northeastward toward Austria and the 
mid-Danube basin, a long-time object of 
British strategic interest."' Airfields of 
great value to the Allied air forces in 
the western Mediterranean also could 
be secured, and the agricultural prod- 
ucts of the Po Valley denied the enemy. 

These long-range predictions rested 
upon the assumption that the Allied 
ground and air forces then in Italy 
would remain; whereas on 12 June, 
only a week after Alexander had made 
them, General Wilson had informed 
him that the Allied Force Headquar- 
ters' American-dominated planning 
staff remained firmly wedded to the 
Anvil operation, which would have to 
be mounted out of resources already in 
the Mediterranean theater. That meant 
giving up the U.S. VI Corps headcjuar- 
ters, the FEC, and three U.S. and two 
French divisions. Although the final 
decision on Anvil was yet to be made, 
it was evident as early as mid-June that 
planning for it at the theater level had 
advanced almost to the point of no 
return. 

When Wilson and Alexander met 
again on 17 June at Alexander's head- 
cjuarters in Caserta, the two tried val- 
iantly to salvage something of Alex- 
ander's proposed strategy. Since the 



^ Although Alexander's recommendations also in- 
cluded a suggestion that operations might be 
mounted against France from the Po Vallev, a 
glance at the terrain and a knowledge of British 
desires and intentions prompts the conclusion that 
this was only verbal dust to be thioun into the eyes 
of American advocates of Operation Anvil (south- 
ern France). 



THK PURSUIT ENDS 257 

Joint (Uiiets of Staff in Washini^on no desirable though that might \x\ was no 

longer xiewed the pui j:K),se of Anvil as longer General Kisenhouei's primary 

a diversion for General Eisenhower's strategic recjuirement. The Supreme Al- 

armies, now that those armies were lied Ciommander instead needed a ma- 

securely established in France, Wilson jor French port for bringing in Ameri- 

introduced a new variation of the diver- can troops and supplies. ()nlv Anvil 

sion concept by observing that the Med- would satisfv that re(|uirement. 

iterranean theaters basic mission was to Later in the da\ the U.S. Arm\ C^hief 

prevent the Germans from reinforcing of Staff, General Marshall, who had 

armies in France. Alexander, in turn, arrived in Italv for an inspection trip 

elaborated on the theme by increasing following a visit to Eisenhower's Lon- 

his estimates of 6 June. If the Germans don headcpiarters, added weight to 

wished to retain the Po Valley, he what Devers had said. There were, 

maintained, the\ would have to rein- Marshall noted, forty to fiftv dixisions 

force their armies in Italy with ten to in the United States ready for commit- 

flftecn divisions by the end of June, ment in France. Port facilities then 

Those reinforcements, Alexander rea- available in northern France were insuf- 

soned, would have to come from Ficient to handle such a large force and 

France rather than from the hard- its logistical sup|Dort, and to stage the 

pressed Eastern Front or from the divisions through the United Kingdom 

Balkans, long seething with partisan was impracticable. Eisenhower needed a 

activity. If the Ciermans failed to rein- major French port — Marseilles 

force, the Allied armies by mid-July through which the reinfoi cements 

would be in the Po Valley in a position could move directly. Marshall added 

to attack across the Adige River with (undoubtedly with the British interest in 

ten to twelve divisions in mid-August the Danube basin in mind) the ftnther 

and capture the Ljubljana (iap by the caveat that the di\asions \\ere, in an\ 

end of the month. •• case, unavailable for service elsewhere 

Although this restatement of British in the Mediterranean theater. " 
strategic aims found support among the As for Alexander's estimate that the 
air force and naxal commanders also Germans would fight to hold the Po 
present at the meeting, it found none at Valley, Marshall belie\ed thev would 
all with Wilson's American deputy and opt instead for defending the Alpine 
planning chief, General Devers, who passes. Alexander's projected offensixe 
again pointed out that diversion of through the Northern Apennines and 
enemy forces from northern France, into the Po Vallex thus would cause no 
diversion of enemx forces from anv 

** Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, fVoUt, east or West. 

1943-1944; Michael Howard, The Mediterranean 

Strategy in the Second World War (New York: Fraeger. ' Never enthusiastic about a inajoi tanipaiiJii in 

1968); Trumbull Higgins, Soft Underbelly: The Anglo- Italv. Cieneral Marshall had agreed to operations in 

American Controversy Over the Italian Campaign, 1939- southern Italv and a push toward Rome onlv to get 

45 (New York: The Macmillan C;<)mpany, 1968). a firm holding position while landing craft were 

These works discuss the consecjuences of the mili- being shifted from the Mediterranean to Kngland 

tarv versus the political-militarv aspects of Amc-ri( an for Overlord. See Fogue. George C. Marshall, 

versus British decision making. Organizer of Victory, 1943^5, p. 295. 



258 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Acknowledu'ino the validitv ot Mar- 
shall's argument, Wilson pointed out 
that with a\ailable resources he would 
be unable to mount Anvil while at the 
same time pmsuing a major offensive 
in ItaK. That was the theme adopted 
bv the advocates of Italv-fhst when 
Allied commanders met two days later 
on 19 June to resume their discussions. 
This time the air commanders. Air 
Marshal Slessor and General Eaker, 
agreed with Wilson. Once the Allied 
armies reached the Northern Apen- 
nines and closed with the German 
defenses there, Eaker observed, a diver- 
sion of air power to support the attack 
on southern France would necessarily 
reduce the Italian campaign to a defen- 
sive action. Marshall countered with the 
observation that once the initial phase 
of Operation Anvil was completed. 
Allied air power would be sufficient for 
both France and Italy. 

Marshall's arguments apparently car- 
ried some weight with Wilson, for on 
the 19th he threw his suppcnt to Anvil 
on the condition that the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff back Marshall's position 
on the paramount need for a major 
port in southern France.^ The foUow- 
ing day, in a cable to General Eisen- 
hower in regard to future operations in 
the Mediterranean theater, he reiter- 
ated the familiar British position that 
unabated and undiminished continua- 
tion of Alexander's offensive would 
divert so many divisions from the path 
of Eisenhower's armies in northern 
France that the Germans would face 
prospects of defeat before the end of 
the year. If, on the other hand, Eisen- 



* Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 
1943^4, p. 470. 



hower preferred to proceed with the 
invasion of southern France, Wilson 
cautioned that the operation could not 
be mounted before 15 August. This 
would, of course, prevent both an im- 
mediate diversion of enemy dixisions 
from France and an immediate offen- 
sive by Alexander's armies against the 
Gothic Line, thereby giving the Ger- 
mans a badly needed respite. 

The next dav, the 21st, word arri\ed 
from London stating what Wilson al- 
ready knew from his conversations with 
Marshall, that Eisenhower remained 
firmly committed to Anvil. For the 
remainder of the month of June, Prime 
Minister Churchill would bombard 
President Roosevelt with frantic appeals 
to salvage something of British plans 
for "a descent on the Istrian peninsula 
and a thrust against Vienna through 
the Ljubljana Gap"; but the Piesident 
held firm in support of his military 
advisers. For all practical purposes 21 
June represented the passing of the 
point of no return for the Anvil 
operation. Southern France it would be, 
and the campaign in Itah would ha\e 
to suffer the consecjuences." 

In the end the dire effects so many 
had predicted for the Italian campaign 
as a result of the decisicm in favor of 
Anvil were short-lived and far less 
drastic than partisans of the Itah-first 
theme had imagined. E\en the troop 
withdrawals in June and Jul\ tipped the 
balance only slightly against the Allies in 
Italy, and the situation would be fully 

^Ibid., pp. 472-75. In early August the British 
made a final effort to persuade the Americans to 
either land Anvil forces through Breton ports or 
permit them to remain in Italv for an advance into 
the middle Danube Basin. On 1 August the code 
designation for Operation Anvil was changed to 
Operation Dragoon. 



THE PURSUIT ENDS 



259 



redressed in Octolxr. By that time the 
Allies were destined to have five fresh 
dixisions in Italy, while the Ciermans 
would have moved four divisions from 
Italy to serve on other fronts.'" 

Breaking tlw Frieda Line 

B\ 21 June the Allied armies in Itah 
had reached a line extending across the 
peninsula from a [X)int on the Tyrrhen- 
ian coast, some 110 miles northwest of 
Rome, to the Adriatic coast at a }3oint 
ti\e miles north of Pedaso. The general 
trend of the front remained, as it had 
since the fall of Rome, with the Allied 
left advanced and the right refused. 

On the left the Fifth Army was some 
30 miles short of its intermediate goal, 
lateral Route 68, which, paralleling the 
Cecina Ri\er tor 15 miles, connects the 
town of Cecina on the coastal highway 
with the ancient Etruscan hill town of 
\'()lterra, 20 miles to the northeast, 
llience another 15 miles to a junction 
with Highway 2 not (juite midway be- 
tween Siena and Florence. {Map IX) 
Ke\ to the Fifth Army's program was 
the Tuscan Hills, a stretch of low, 
rolling terrain overlooking and parallel- 
ing Highwa\ 1 from the east. Once the 
enemy had been cleared from those 
hills, the coastal corridor would proxide 
an excellent route of advance. The 
crests are generally wooded and the 
lower, seaward-facing slopes covered 
with orchards and vineyards. Since it 
was summer, the xegetation was in full 
leaf and afforded the Germans, oj^erat- 
ing under Allied-dominated skies, des- 

'" For .1 cietailed analysis of this debate as it 
iiinuenccd the campaign in southern France, see 
Robert Ross Smith, The Riviera to the Rhine, in 
preparation for the series, UNITED STATES 
ARMY I\ WORLD WAR IE 



perately needed concealment. East of 
the hills and aljout five miles inhmd, a 
giaveled secondary road wound north- 
ward through a series of stream \alleys 
to a jiuKtion with lateral Route 68, 
eight miles east of Cecina. 

About the latitude of Grosseto the 
trend of the coastline becomes more 
northwesterly, thus widening the IV' 
(^orps front and enabling General Crit- 
tenberger to empk)y for tfie first time 
two full divisions, the 36th Infantrx and 
the 1st Armored. Relieving Ramey's 
task force, which had been screening 
the corps right flank, the 1st Armored 
Division was to clear the enem\ from 
the hills o\erk)oking the coastal corridor 
by moving along the axis of Highway 
439, which joined lateral Route 68 fhe 
miles southw est of Volterra. ' ' 

Although Crittenberger, the IV 
Corps commander, realized that the 
hilly terrain was less favorable for ar- 
mor than that assigned the 36th Divi- 
sion along the coast, he wanted to avoid 
the loss of time inherent in shifting 
divisions. He also believed that the 
Germans would concentrate on defense 
of the coastal flank and depend, as they 
had in the past, upon the more rugged 
hill terrain to aid them in the interior. 
A hard-hitting armored division with 
sufficient fire power could be expected 
to force the enemy from the hills and 
enable (ieneral Harmon's tanks to so 
threaten the flank of the Ciermans in 
the coastal corridor as to prompt their 
withdrawal, (ieneral Crittenberger, 
moreover, was aware that he soon was 
to lose the 36th Division and alerted 
(ieneral Ryder, commander of the 34th 
Division, to be prepared to relieve 



IV Corps AAR, juii 44. 



260 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Walker's 36th Division within the 
week. '- 

Learning oi his latest assignment. 
General Harmon protested, as he had 
when his dixision had been committed 
in the Alban Hills south of Rome, that 
hill country was no place for tanks. He 
nevertheless aarain threw himself into 
his task with characteristic enthusiasm, 
giuffness, and salubrious profanity. To 
provide Harmon with adclitional infan- 
tr\ needed to support armor in hilly 
terrain where numerous defended bar- 
riers and roadblocks might be expected 
on narrow, winding roads, Crittenber- 
ger attached to Harmon's division the 
361st Infantry (less one battalion).''^ 
Unfortunately, those troops had never 
worked closelv with armor, and the 
result would be less than ideal. '^ To the 
armor Crittenberger also attached the 
155-mm. guns of the 6th Armored 
Field Artillery Group, which were to 
provide reinforcing fires until the ar- 
mored division had arrived at maxi- 
mum range, whereupon the gioup was 
to shift; westward to join the rest of the 
corps artillery in general support of the 
infantry along the coast.'"' 

As the armor moved into the hills 
early on 21 June, Walker's 36th Divi- 
sion, less the attached 517th Parachute 
Infantry, continued along the coastal 
flank into a low range of hills between 
Highway 1 and the coast northwest of 
Grosseto. With the 142d Infantry on 
the left of the highway and the 143d 
Infantrv on the right, the division en- 

'- Interv, Mathews with Ladue, 17 Jun 48, CMH; 
IV Corps AAR, Jan 44. 

'^ Howe, Battle History of the 1st Armored Division, 
pp. 354-55. 

'* IV Corps AAR, Jun 44; Interv, Mathews with 
Ladue, 17 Jul 48. 

'^ Interv, Mathews with Ladue, 17 Jul 48. 



countered only scattered resistance en 
route to the Cornia River, about 10 
miles away. In the process the advance 
would seal off a small peninsula and 
the little port of Piombino with \aluable 
oil storage facilities. 

For all the lack of determined resist- 
ance, the infantry's advance was consid- 
erably delayed by heavy rains on 22 
June, but relief of Task Force Ramey 
during the day by the 1st Armored 
Division provided additional strength to 
assist the infantrv on the 23d, both the 
141st Infantrv and the 517th Parachute 
Infantry. The paratroopers took over 
the 36th Division's left flank along the 
c()a.stal highwav, while the 141st Infan- 
try joined the 143d Infantry for the 
drive toward the Cornia River. Bv 
nightfall on the 24th the iwo regiments 
had crossed the river and partiallv 
sealed off the Piombino peninsula, but 
the rear guard of the 19th Luftwaffe 
Field Division, retreating along the coast, 
got away before the last escape route 
could be cut. 

The next day, the 25th, marked the 
36th Division's last participation in the 
Italian campaign. After having been in 
action almost continuouslv since 28 May 
and having covered almost 240 road 
miles since the breakthrough of the 
Caesar Line at Monte Artemisio on 1 
June, Walker's division pulled out of 
line in preparation for its role in south- 
ern France. 

As had the earlier capture of C-ivita- 
vecchia and San Stefano, the capture of 
Piombino would soon help to relieve 
pressure on Allied supplv lines. L(Kated 
midway between Civitavecchia and 
Leghorn, Piombino's harbor could han- 
dle twelve ships at a time. Like Civita- 
vecchia, Piombino, with a prewar pop- 



THE PURSUIT ENDS 



261 



Illation of 1 (),()()(), lecjuircd extensive 
rehabilitation, but by the end of June 
the port was able to aeeommodate 
several ships. During the next three 
months, 377,000 tons of cargo and 
1,477 vehicles were discharged and foi- 
warded through the port, an amount 
almost twice that handled at (>i\itavec- 
chia during the same period. In addi- 
tion, 20,446 troops arrived there."' The 
{X)rt's main drawback was the absence 
of a rail connection with the main line 
limning northward from Rome, so that 
all cari{() had to be forwarded b\ motor 
transport until mid-August when the 
Fifth Armv engineers established a rail- 
head nearbv at Venturina. In addition 
to ser\'ing the Fifth Armv, the port also 
received and forwarded a considerable 
part of the Eighth Arm)"s ration and 
gasoline supplies pending capture of 
the Adriatic port of Ancona. Yet for all 
the help provided b\ the small ports, 
onlv Leghorn, Italy's third largest 
port — on 25 June still 40 miles north- 
west of the Fifth Army front — had 
facilities that could sustain a major Fifth 
Armv offensive into the Northern 
Apennines, and the Eighth Army 
would have to have Ancona.'" 

Meanwhile, General Harmon's 1st 
Armored Division on 22 June had 
begun its part in the drive toward 
lateral Route 68. Although the air line 
distance was only 40 miles, the di\ision 
would have to travel 120 miles over 
narrow, winding secondarv roads to 
reach its objectixe. Here were the Tus- 
can Hills with steep-sided ridges, a\'er- 
aging 1,500 to 2,000 feet in height. To 



"■ I.fo j. Mfvei, MS, Strategy and Logistical 
Historv ol the Mediterranean Theater, ch. XXIX, 
CMH. 

'•Ibid. 



maintain firm contact with the French 
on his right. General Harmon ordered 
a preliminary move on the 21st by the 
8 1 St Armored Reconnaissance Battal- 
ion to establish contact with an Alge- 
rian division on the French left. 
Hardly had the battalion begun to 
move when heavy artillery fire drove 
the men to cover. Only after nightfall 
was the battalion able to accomplish its 
objective. 

That artillery fire revealed the en- 
emy's awareness of the armored di\i- 
sion's presence opposite the XIV Panzer 
Corps. To forestall a possible break- 
through, the Fourteenth Army com- 
mander. General Lemelsen, had 
scraj^ed together his remaining reserves 
and moved them into the corps sec- 
tor.'*^ 

For the main attack General Harmon 
utilized two secondarv roads: Highwav 
439 on the left for CCB and Route 73 
on the right for CCA. As during the 
first week following the fall of Rome, 
the combat commands were subdi\ided 
into small task forces in order to facili- 
tate using narrow side roads and trails 
to bypass demolitions and roadblocks 
on the main routes.'-' 

Hardly had the armor begun to roll 
when General Harmon decided he 
needed more strength on the line. In 
early afternoon he inserted Task Force 
Howze from his reserve into the center 
to foHow another secondarx' road. As it 
turned out. Task Force Howze made 
the da\'s longest adxance: 5 miles. On 
the right, in the face of numerous 
obstacles covered bv determined and 
accurate antitank fire, CCA managed to 

'\WK H. Id KTB, AV. 3. 22 Jun 44, AOK H. 
59091/1. 

'" 1st Aimd i:)iv. AAR, Jun 44. 



262 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



gain onh twt) miles. After losing heavily 
to an enemy ambush, CCB made even 
less progress. Over the next four days 
the rugged terrain and the enemy's 
roadbl(x;ks and demolitions continued 
to impose delavs, but pushing forward 
doggedh, the division managed an av- 
erage daily advance of five miles. 

Along the coastal flank. General R\- 
ders 34th Division, after relieving the 
36th Division on 26 June, had the 133d 
Infantrv on the left astride the coastal 
hiijhwav, while in the center the at- 
tached Japanese-American 442d Regi- 
mental Combat Team took the place of 
the 517th Parachute Infantrv, also 
scheduled for southern France. The 
168th Infantrv moved into position on 
the division's right.-" 

On the first day of the attack, the 
27th, the 34th Division moved to within 
15 miles of the intermediate objective, 
lateral Route 68. Paralleling that road 
for some 20 miles, the little Cecina 
River was of itself a slight militarv 
obstacle, but when defended bv an 
enemy well established in a range of 
low hills beyond, it could become a 
formidable obstacle. 

As the Fourteenth Army on Army Group 
C's right wing fell back toward the 
Cecina River and lateral Route 68, 
Kesselring prepared to occupy this ter- 
rain in strength by assigning to the XIV 
Panzer Corps the newly arrived 16th SS 
Panzer Grenadier Division and the 19th 
Luftwaffe Field Division, the latter replac- 
ing the 20th Luftwaffe Field Division, 
which then moved to the Tenth Army. 
Kesselring also relieved the I62d Turko- 
men Dii'i.sion, which had been in action 
on the coastal flank almost continuouslv 



since 8 June, with the veteran 26th 
Panzer Division, thus returning the pan- 
zer division to Senger's XIV Panzer 
Corps. Two full corps, contrcjlling be- 
tween them eight divisions in line, with 
one ill reserve, at that point manned 
the Fourteenth Army front from the 
Tyrrhenian coast eastward for some 35 
miles to a boundary east of and parallel 
to Highwav 2. Schlemm's parachute 
corps lay to the east and Senger's 
panzer corps to the \\est of that high- 
way.-' 

Increased German strength was soon 
apparent to both attacking American 
divisions, the 34th and the 1st Ar- 
mored. The 34th Division reciuired an 
entire day to cover the six more miles 
toward Route 68 and the Cecina River 
and vet another to draw within two 
miles of the river. After dark, the 133d 
Infantry's Company K led the 3d Bat- 
talion in a dash for the river but in a 
maze of orchards and vinevards ran 
into an ambush that forced the rest of 
the battalion to halt and wait until 
dawn before resuming the advance. 
That was the first indication of the 
presence of the 16th SS Panzer Grenadier 
Division. Although the bulk of the divi- 
sion lav' in corps reserve near Leghorn, 

one of its regiments had entered the 

1.,., 
ine.— 

The 1st Armored Division took four 

days tc:) achieve a comparable advance, 

in the process crossing the upper 

reaches of the Cecina River where the 

stream runs several miles south of 



IV Corps AAR, Jun 44. 



-' (ireiner and Schramm, tds.. OKW/W FSl. OKW. 
IV (1), pp. 525-28. 

-- IV Corps AAR. [un 44: 133d Inf Opns Rpt. 
Jun 44; Clerman Lagekartc, Jun-Jul 44; Fifth Armv 
G-2 Rpts, Jun-Jul 44. Unless otherwise indicated 
the following section is based ufK)n these refer- 
ences. 



THE PURSUIT ENDS 



263 



Route 68. As tlic divisions combat 
commands approached the road on the 
3()th. sliarp resistance, mainh from the 
3d Panzer Grenadier Division and newh 
arrived elements of the 90th Panzer 
Grenadier Dix'ision, ensconced on the 
liigh ground along the road, brought 
the armor temporarily to a halt.-'' 

Faced with e\idence ol German rein- 
torcement, the 34th Division com- 
mander. General Ryder, decided to use 
his reserve, the 135th Infantrv, to swing 
to the east in an eftort to en\'elop what 
appeared to be the strongest defenses 
along the coast south of the town of 
(-ecina. The regiment was first to re- 
lieve the attached 442d Infantry, then 
move along a ridge three miles inland 
that oNcrlooked the coastal con idor and 
prepare to cross the Cecina four miles 
east of the coastal highway. Unfortu- 
nateh for Ryder's plan, the high 
ground overlooking that particular sec- 
tor of the river line was held bv the 
26th Panzer Dii'ision, a unit that had 
gi\en good account of itself in the 
battles south of Rome. 

At dawn on the 30th, Compan\ E 
led the 1st Infantry's 2d Battalion 
across the river to establish a modest 
bridgehead, but when the battalion at- 
tempted to reinforce the bridgehead, 
heavx fire from the high ground 
pinned the men t<) the ground. A 
second effort, this time with armor 
support, came to grief when enemv 
antitank gunners destroyed all but two 
of a force of eleven Sherman tanks. 
Fhe two siuviving tanks withdrew un- 
der protecti\e fire to the south bank, 
leaving only the beleaguered infantr\ 



-'Howi-. liatllr Hisliir\ i>/ the hi Annaird DiviMini. 
pp. :^.'>B-ti(). 



clinging to the little bridgehead thiough 
1 Julv.' 

Earlv on 2 JuK, the battalion tried a 
third time to lein force the bridgehead. 
This time heavy corps artillerv suj^poit 
and close air support from fighter 
bombers hammered the enein)-held 
high ground and carried the day. By 
nightfall the entire regiment had suc- 
cessfully crossed the Cecina and had 
begun to expand the bridgehead. 

Resistance along the coastal route 
south of the town of Cecina meanw hile 
continued to be strong. When the 3d 
Battalion, !33d Infantrv, resumed its 
attack early on the 30th, Compan\ I in 
the lead required most of the morning 
just to recover ground lost the dav 
before. Shortly past noon an enemv 
counterattack almost cut off the com- 
pany from the rest of the battalion. The 
company saved itself onh b\ withdraw- 
ing about 1,500 yards, thereby nullify- 
ing the gains of the forenoon. Hea\T 
protective fires b\' sup}X)rting artillerv 
finally brought the counterattack io a 
halt, but not before the enemv had 
destroyed two tanks and inflicted sharp 
casualties. 

Since the 135th Infantrv was still 
trying to secure its bridgehead. General 
Ryder sa\\ no alternatixe to pressing the 
frontal attack by the 133d Infantry 
against Cecina with e\'er gieater \igc)r. 
That the regimental commander. Colo- 
nel Schildroth, prepared to do late that 
afternoon when he reliexed the wearx 
3d Battalion with the 1st Battalion, his 
reserve. Until darkness brought their 
operations to a halt, the 1st and 2d 
Battalions edged slowh forward, cap- 
turing six enemv guns, vet failing to 
dri\e the enenn from his positions 
south ol C-ecina. 



264 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Aerial View of Cecina 



The Germans managed to hold, but 
the effort had cost them so many 
casualties, mostly from Allied artillery 
fire, that the Fourteenth Army com- 
mander, General Lemclsen, decided to 
withdraw the right wing of the A7/' 
Panzer Corps approximate!) five miles. 
Since the new position was no stronger 
than the one at Gecina, Lemelsen saw it 
as only another delaying line and told 
the XIV Panzer Corps commander to 
pull out the 29th Panzer Grenadier Divi- 
sion on the night of 2 July and move it 
to an area along the Arno River about 
seventeen miles west of Florence, there 
to constitute an army reserve in prepa- 



ration for an eventual Allied attack 
against the line of the Arno.-^ 

Before daylight on 1 Julv, men of the 
133d Infantiy, unaware that the Ger- 
mans were preparing to withdraw, re- 
turned to the attack. Five hours later 
the 2d Battalion was inside Cecinas 
southeastern outskirts, where the men 
were checked briefly b\ stubborn rear 
guards. On the left the 1st Battalion got 
within 500 yards of the town, then early 
the following morning flnallv cleared 
paths through mine fields and soon 



''AOK H. In KTB \>. 
62241/1. 



4. I Jul 44. riOK H. 



THE PURSUIT ENDS 



265 



after dayliglit joined the 2d Battalion 
inside Ceeina. 

By niid-niorning the battle of (Ceeina 
was over, the costliest for an American 
unit since the fall of Rome. Carrying 
the main burden of the 34th Division's 
frontal attack, the 133d Infantry alone 
lost \6 ()ffi(ers and 388 enlisted men 
killed, wounded, or missing. 

Tlw Capture of Volterra and Swna 

As the fight for Ceeina proceeded, 
General Harmon's 1st Armored Divi- 
sion, operating 20 miles inland along 
upper reaches of the Ceeina River, 
renewed its efforts to cut Route 68 and 
gain the high ground beyond. That 
CCB achieved during the night of 30 
June, moving onto the high ground 
immediateh north of the lateral road 
four miles southeast of Volterra. Enemv 
artillery fire halted Task Force Howze 
two miles south of the road, a reflection 
of the presence of reinforcements from 
the 9()th Pofizi t CrciKidicr Dn'/sioii. Onlv 
after Harmon had moved up the last of 
his reserves on 3 Julv was Howze's 
force able to drive the enemv back. In 
the meantime, seven miles to the south- 
east, CCA inciuTC'd numerous casualties 
in unsuccessful attempts to drive the 
enemv from a fortified village just 
south of Route 68, Casole dElsa. The 
village fell on the 4th to CCA and its 
attached 361st Infantr\ after three davs 
of fighting that cost the armored regi- 
ment six medium tanks, three light 
tanks, and two tank destroyers. 0\er 
the next few days the 88th Division 
began to relieve the armor, which with- 
drew into army reserve, and one of the 
fresh regiments, the 350th Infantry, 
completed the concjuest of Route 68 on 



8 July by capturing the walled town of 
Volterra. ^■'^ 

As the IV Corps was advancing to 
Route 68, General Juin's French Expe- 
ditionary Corps on the Fifth Army's 
right wing was driving toward Siena 
astride Highway 2. Juin had the 3cl 
Algerian Infantrv Division on his left 
and, on his right, the 2d Moroccan 
Infantry Division. 

Starting to attack on 21 June, the 
French soon founcf themselves bogged 
down opposite the Fourtcoit/i Artfi\\ 
left wing, one of the most heavilv 
defended sectors of the German front. 
There General Schlemm's / Parachute 
Corps had deployed from east to west 
the 356th Grenadier Division, the 4th 
Parachute Division, a regiment of the 
26th Panzer Division, elements of the 
20th Luftwaffe Field Division, and a regi- 
ment of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Diiri- 
sion. ¥ov the next five days, from 22 
through 26 June, this stiong enemv 
force held the French to a two-mile 
advance. Not until 26 June, after the 
neighboring 1st Armored Division had 
outflanked the enemy positions, did the 
Germans begin to withdraw and the 
French to make appreciable progiess. 

As the acknowledged heaci of all 
French forces fighting on the side of 
the Allies, General de Gaulle had as- 
sured Pope Pius XII that French 
troops would spare the historic cit\ of 
Siena. Consec|uentlv, as Juin's corps 
approached the cit\, the French relied 
upon outflanking and bypassing ma- 
neuvers to cut off the enemv inside the 
city. While these tactics delayed entrv, 
they succeeded in forcing the Germans 



-■• Howx-, Battle History oj the 1st Armori'd Division. 
pp. 36(M")1. 



266 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Generals Clark and Juin at Siena 



to evacuate the city so that when the 
first French troops entered at 0630 on 
3 Juh they hred not a shot and not a 
single hist(Mic monument was dam- 
aged.-" 

General Juin immediateh regrouped 
his forces to continue the advance, but 
with the capture of Siena much of the 
former elan of the French units had 
\anished. Even as they entered the city, 
General Juin received orders detaching 

■'' Lf (i()\ft, L<i FiirtK ifHiliiDi Fnnqdiu a la C(im- 
pagne d'ltalie, p. 168; Fifth Army History. Part VI, pp. 
70-76. 



man\ of his units for ser\ice with a 
newly formed I French Corps then 
assembling in the vicinit\ of Naples for 
the forthcoming invasion of southern 
France.-" 
Bevond Siena, across a 15-mile front, 
Juin deploved two divisions, the 2d 
Moroccan Infantr\ and the 4th Monx- 
can Mountain. The Germans, the Mo- 
roccans found, had turned road junc- 
tions near Colle di Val dElsa. 12 miles 
bevond Siena, and at Poggibonsi. 3 
miles farther north, into strongpoinis, 

-' Iiitci\, Matlu-us with i.adiR-. 17 jaii 48. C.MH. 



THE PURSUIT ENDS 



267 



so that the Prciich had to light hard 
over the next four days before the 
enemv retired during the night of 6 
July from tlie first of tlie two strong- 
points. Before daylight on 7 July, Colle 
di Val d'Elsa and the high ground 
o\erlooking the town were in French 
hands. That evening the French too 
crossed Route 68 and continued their 
advance over winding mountain roads 
toward Poggibonsi.'-** 

Although thirt\ miles of rugged ter- 
rain remained to be crossed before the 
Fifth Army would reach the south bank 
of the Arno, the worst of the terrain 
between Rome and the Arno at that 
point lay to the rear of Clark's army. As 
the French Expeditionary Corps pre- 
pared to continue its drive, Crittenber- 
gers IV Corps, having moved about 
five miles beyond Route 68, prepared 
to close with the last German defenses 
south of Leghorn. 

The Eighth Army 

While the Fifth Army advanced to 
and beyond Route 68, the British 
Eighth Army had been operating on 
the wider of the two army fronts and 
over far more difficult terrain than had 
the Fifth Army. The front of the 
Eighth Army and the separate Polish 
corps meandered for almost 200 miles 
through the fastness of the Central 
Apennines and the less mountainous 
but still challenging terrain flanking 
Lake Trasimeno. Yet because of a 
superior road net, only the 30-mile 
sector flanking the lake was of strategic 
importance. It was there that General 
Leese had concentrated his main 
strength, the 10 and 13 Corps, to the 



east and west of Lake Trasimeno re- 
spectively. Because the lake divided the 
two corps, it was evident that in their 
assault on the Frasimeno Line they 
would at first proceed independently 
along separate axes fifteen miles apart. 
Once the waters of the lake were 
behind, a broad range of hills that 
divided the Chiana valley from the 
upper reaches of the Titer River still 
would divide them. There would be no 
firm contact until they reached Arezzo, 
20 miles north of the lake. The inability 
of each to influence the progiess of the 
other would be a contributing factor to 
the success of the Germans over the 
next ten days (from 20 through 30 
June) in holding the British to slow- 
painstaking progress in some of the 
most difficult fighting encountered 
since crossing the Aniene and Tiber 
two weeks before.--' 

The Eighth Army's operational j^rob- 
lems were further complicated after the 
advance beyond Rome to the Trasi- 
meno Line had left the army's railhead 
and main supply base 200 miles to the 
rear. There were no ports on the 
Adriatic flank between Bari and An- 
cona. Although the Fifth Army's cap- 
tuie of the small ports on the Tyrrhe- 
nean coast helped to a degiee to ease 
British supply difficulties, especially in 
gasoline, the Eighth's k)ng lines of com- 
munication would remain until Ancona 
could be opened. In view of the supply 
problems, the Eighth Army probably 
would have been unable to maintain 
additional divisions at the front even 
had they been available. 



-^ Operations of the British, Indian, and Domin- 
ion Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. D. Unless otherwise 
indicated the lollowing section is based upon this 
reference. 



268 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



General Leese, nevertheless, com- 
manded a formidable and balanced 
force with which to carry out General 
Alexander's directive to capture Arezzo, 
Ancona, and Florence as bases from 
which to mount an offensive against the 
Gothic Line. On the army's left wing 
west of Lake Trasimeno General Kirk- 
man's 13 Corps had an armored di\i- 
sion, the 6th South African, and an 
infantr\ di\ision, the British 78th, on 
line, and the British 4th Infantry Divi- 
sion in reserve. East of the lake General 
McCreery's 10 Corps included the Brit- 
ish 6th Armoured and the 8th Indian 
Infantrv Dixisions. An Italian reconnais- 
sance squadron screened the corps 
right flank in the foothills of the Cen- 
tral Apennines. There was no corps 
reserve. 

The zone of the 13 Corps was bi- 
sected bv a north-south belt ol low. 
rolling hills overlooking two main roads 
on cither Hank — a secondar\ road to be 
followed by the South African armor 
on the left, and Highway 71 to serve as 
the axis of advance of the 78th Division 
on the right. The roads ran northward 
along the edges of what in prehistoric 
times had been the bed of a large lake, 
of which remain onK Lakes Trasimeno, 
Chiusi, and Montepukiano, the latter 
two located S(Hne five miles southwest 
of Trasimeno. While offering terrain 
far more favorable than that to the east 
of the lakes, the region was intensixeh 
cultivated, and lush summer \egetation 
would conceal the enemy from Allied 
reconnaissance aircraft. The tactical 
problem of the attacking troops would 
be to secure a bisecting belt of hills, in 
the center of the corps zone, from 
which the enemy dominated the routes 
of approach to the east and west. 



Opposite the 13 Corps lay the / 
Parachute Corps with three di\isi(ms in 
line: the Hermann (Jocring, 1st Para- 
chute, and 334th Infantry Divisions. Their 
positions consisted mainly of field forti- 
fications similar to those encountered 
elsewhere in Italy and supported by 
antitank guns well-sited in fonvard posi- 
tions and supplemented bv mortars and 
rockets. Ground and aerial reconnais- 
sance of these positions had convinced 
General Kirkman, the 13 Corps com- 
mander, that he would have to empk)v 
all of his available forces when on 20 
June he moved against the Trasimeno 
Line. While the 6th South African 
Armoured and the British 78th Infan- 
try Divisions advanced on either flank, 
the British 4th Division was to move 
along secondary roads in the center and 
clear the dominating hills. 

It took the 13 Corps eight days, until 
28 June, to reach a point not cjuite 
halfwav up Lake Trasimeno's western 
shoreline. That, nevertheless, put the 
corps well inside the Frieda Line, pre- 
senting the Germans with the possibilitv 
of an Allied breakthrough and prompt- 
ing a slow withdrawal. The defensive 
battles along the Frieda Line had won 
for Field Marshal Kesselring an 8-dav 
delay, but he paid a high price for it, 
for the Germans had k)st 718 men as 
prisoners and probablv more in dead 
and wounded. Over half the prisoners 
were from the 334th Division, which 
bore the brunt of the 78th Division's 
attack along Lake Trasimeno's western 
shore. Although some favorable defen- 
sive terrain remained short of the 
Northern Apennines, none would be as 
conducive to the defense as that which 
the Germans were forced to lelinciuish. 

Operating east of Lake Trasimeno, 



THE PURSUIT ENDS 



269 



General McCreery's 10 Corps made 
little progress beyond the city oi Peru- 
gia, some ten miles southeast of the 
lake. Since north of Perugia terrain was 
even more favorable to the enemy, 
General Leese, the Eighth Army com- 
mander, adopted a strateg) that Alex- 
ander had employed earlier against 
strong defensive positions, advancing 
his left (13 Corps) m /xtdtKc and denv- 
ing his right (10 (^orps). To that end, 
priority in men and materiel would 
henceforth go to Kirkman's corps to 
reinforce its drive on Arezzo, which on 
28 June lav onlv 28 miles away. Bv the 
end of the first week in julv Mc(>reerv\s 
10 Coips would be reduced to the 
strength of a two-division holding force, 
the 4th and lOth Indian Divisions. 

While that was going on, the 13 
Corps continued to press forward 
through a zone of hilly terrain ten miles 
deep, of which the enemy toc^k full 
advantage to fight a series of staunch 
delaying actions. On 4 July the British 
6th Armoured Division, withdrawn 
from the 10 Corps, gave new weight to 
the 13 Corps attack. During the morn- 
ing the British armor ran a gauntlet of 
fire from a ridge overlooking Highway 
71 from the east to capture the town of 
Castiglione Fiorentino, ten miles south 
of Arezzo, but from this point on, prog- 
ress was slow, hamjxfred by hea\T rains 
and frec|uent demolitions, the latter 
covered by enemy mines and artillery 
fire. By the end of the day it had 
beccjme clear that the Germans had 
reached another delaying position, from 
which they would have to be forciblv' 
expelled. To the east the 10th Indian 
Division of the 10 Corps had by 6 July 
advanced beyond Perugia tcj capture 
Umbertide, ten miles north of Perugia 



and twenty-six southeast of Arezzo, but 
heavy enemy fire brought the Indians 
to a halt just foui- miles b)evond the 
town. 

Events had taken a similar course 
along the Adriatic flank, where, since 
21 June, the Polish corps and the 
brigade-size Italian (^orps of Lifx-ration 
had reached a point twelve miles be- 
vond Porto Civitanova, the eastern an- 
chor of the Trasimeno Line. The Poles 
continued their advance during the first 
week of Julv to capture a town ten 
miles south of Ancona, and the Italians 
to reach the outskirts of another, fifteen 
miles southwest of the port. Thereafter, 
all efforts to push ahead failed in the 
face of resistance as determined as that 
before Arezzo. 

Strategic Decisions 

Even as the Allied advance again 
came to a halt, this time just shcjrt of 
Leghorn, Arezzo, and Ancona, an omi- 
nous directive from the Allied Force 
Headcjuarters, Mediterranean Theater, 
reached General Alexander. Beginning 
on 5 July "an overriding priority for all 
resources in the Mediterranean Theater 
as between the proposed assault on 
southern France and the battle [in Italy] 
is to be given the former to the extent 
necessarv to complete a buildup of ten 
divisions in the south of France."^" 
Although hardly unexpected, the direc- 
tive nevertheless came as something of 
a shock, seemingly the final bk)w to a 
long-cherished hope, mainlv British, but 
shared by many in Clark's headcjuarters 
as well, that the Italian campaign rather 
than Anvil would somehow remain the 



■■'" sac; Despatch. The Italian Champaign, 10 Ma\ 
to 12 Aug 44, p. 54. 



270 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



major Allied operation in the Mediter- 
ranean. 

Not only the Allies but also the 
Germans proceeded to modify strategic 
guidelines that had determined their 
operations since the. loss of Rome. Yet, 
unlike the Allies, the Germans were 
influenced more directly by events on 
the Italian battle front during the pre- 
ceding three weeks. The success of the 
British Eighth Army's 13 Gorps west ot 
Lake Trasimeno and of the U.S. Fifth 
Army's IV Gorps along the Gecina 
River and Route 68, as well as the 
advance of the 2 Polish Gorps along the 
Adriatic to within striking distance of 
Ancona, impelled Field Marshal Kes- 
selring to summon his army command- 
ers to a conference late on 1 Julv at his 
headquarters near Florence. There the 
German commander revealed that a 
growing shortage of both replacements 
and materiel forced him to modify 
OKW's strategic guidelines calling for 
maximum resistance along successive 
lines. While such tactics had served to 
delay the Allies along the Frieda Line 
for ten days (20-30 June), it had cost 
the Germans heavily in men and ecjuip- 
ment. In view of growing demands 
from other fronts, there was little likeli- 
hood that those losses would be made 
up soon. 

Instead of maximum resistance along 
successive lines, Kesselring said, the 
army group would try to hold along 
selected lines until the main forces had 
withdrawn to secondary, or switch, posi- 
tions in sufficient strength to prexent a 
breakthrough. Ak)ng the first of those 
lines, there were three widely separated 
sectors of primary interest to the field 
marshal: Rosignano Solvay, 12 miles 
south of Leghorn; just north of Gor- 



tona, covering the southern approaches 
to Arezzo; and along the Musone River, 
12 miles south of Ancona. Kesselring 
expected to check the Allies in those 
sectors as long as his limited resources 
would allow before falling back to a 
final delaying position along the Arno. 
That line ran from Pisa on the Ligurian 
coast along the Arno to Florence, 
thence over the mountains and along 
the north bank of the Metauro River to 
the Adriatic. Delays along those two 
lines would gain time to improve the 
(iothic Line positions in the Northern 
Apennines. It was as obvious to the 
German commander as to his Allied 
opposite, General Alexander, that be- 
fore the Allied armies could mount a 
serious threat to the Gothic Line thev 
first would ha\e to secure and rehabili- 
tate the ports of Leghorn and Ancona 
and would also need the communica- 
tions centers of Arezzo and Florence.'^' 
If either commander needed further 
proof that his campaign had been rele- 
gated t(^ a secondary position, that of a 
large-scale holding operation, the deci- 
sions refjuired of them during the first 
week of Julv pro\ided it. On the Allied 
side, the U.S. Fifth Armv had been 
stripped of manv of its best units to 
swell the ranks of the foices preparing 
to open another front in France, while 
the German armies would ha\e to get 
along without major replacements of 
men or e(|uipment. to enable the Reich 
to reinforce other more critical fronts. 
The two decisions would, in effect, 
cancel one another out. so that when 
the Allies attacked \et another German 
line, thev would find the situation in 
Itah basicalK unchanged. 

".-IOA: 14, la KTB \r. 4. 1 )ul 1944, AOK 14. 
Dot. 62241/1. 



CHAPTER XV 



End of the Campaign in Central Italy 



Mission 

In pursuing the essential task of 
capturing the major port of Leghorn, 
the commander of the IV Corps, Gen- 
eral Crittenberger, was determined not 
to repeat the tactics employed in the 
battle for Cecina, which had dissipated 
the corps strength in a frontal attack 
with only a belated and relatively weak 
attempt to outflank the objective. By 
interxening early in the planning stage 
of the operation against Leghorn, the 
IV Corps commander expected to co- 
ordinate the frontal and flanking ojx^ra- 
tions more closely. As at Cecina, R\der"s 
34th Infantry Division was to carrv {he 
main burden. ' 

To give Ryder's division additional 
lire power, Crittenberger reinforced it 
with the 442d Regimental Combat 
Team, the 804th Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion, and the 363d Regimental Com- 
bat Team, the second of the 91st 
Division's units to be assigned to the 
Fifth Arm) to gain combat exj^erience. 
To the 363d Regimental Combat Team 
(>rittenberger gave the mission of out- 
flanking Leghorn on the east and of 
threatening the enemy's route of with- 
drawal. 4 liat maneuver, he belie\ed, 
would cause the enemy garrison, when 
the 34th Division approached the port 
from the south and east, to abandon 



the objective rather than attempt a last- 
ditch stand. - 

Tfw Terrain and the Plan 

Before Crittenberger could execute 
these plans his corps, from positions in 
the hills some six miles north of the 
Cecina River, had first to cross a 20- 
mile stretch of terrain far more con\'o- 
luted than that south of Cecina. This 
was infantry countiv and the infantry, 
supported by artillery, would have to do 
most of the fighting. From the line of 
the Cecina three natural routes of ap- 
proach led toward Leghorn and the 
Arno valley. Four miles beyond Cecina, 
Highway 1 returned to the coast, and 
from that j3oint wound along the edge 
of cliffs dropping abrupth to the sea. 
Before reaching Leghorn the highway 
connected several small coastal towns, 
the largest of which was Rosignano 
Solvay, seven miles north of Cecina and 
the site of a large chemical works. A 
secondary road. Route 206, led north- 
ward from the junction of Highway 1 
and lateral Route 68 through a \alle\ 
flanked on the left b\ the coastal range 
and on the right by a high ridge line. 
That road linked numerous \illages and 
towns and passed through the largest 
community, CoUe Salvetti, eighteen 
miles away on the southern edge of the 
Arno yallcN. A third, unnumbered 



' IV Corps A.'\R, |ul 44: Interv, Mathews with 
Ladue, 17 Jun 48, CMH. 



- IV Corps .-XAR, Jul 44. 



THE ADVANCE ON LEGHORN 

2-19 July 1944 

~^^"^^ Allied FRONT LINE, MIDNIGHT, 2 JUL 

■— — — - Allied front line, midnight, 3 jul 
Allied front line, midnight, io jul 

allied front line, midnight, 19 JUL 

Allied axis of advance 
Enemy axis of retreat 




URIA 



a C Brewer, Jr 



MAP 7 



END OF THE CAMPAI(;N IN CENTRAL ITALY 



273 



route parallt'k'd that road about tlvt- 
niiks to llu' cast on the eastern side of 
the 1 idge line. Ihe unnumbered route 
led northward from a jundion with 
lateral Route 68 \ia Riparbella, six miles 
northeast of Cecina, to a juiution with 
Route 206 at Torretta, three miles 
south of Colle Salvetti. Crittenberger 
planned to send the f)ulk of the 34th 
Division alonijj the latter two roads while 
the 8()4ih Tank Destroxer Battalion and 
the 34th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop 
held to the narrow coastal highwav.' 
(Ma/) 7) 

To the 34th Division's right, the 88th 
Division (and later also the 91st Division) 
was to mo\'e forward along the west 
bank of the Era River vallev, which 
paralleled the coast seventeen miles in- 
land. After the 91st Division ai rived, 
the 88th Division was to cross the Era 
and proceed up its east bank toward 
the Arno. Thirteen miles east of the 
Era the French Expeditionary Corps 
was to continue its drive on the Fifth 
Armv's right flank through the Elsa 
\alle\ until relieved just short of the 
Arno by the II Corps, whicli General 
C>lark for several weeks had been hold- 
ing in leserve. 

The terrain o\er which these se\'eral 
routes led fa\ored the defense. Ridge 
lines on the flanks of the main routes 
of approach rose to ]:)eaks of over 1 ,500 
feet on the left and over 2,000 feet on 
the right, offering the Germans vantage 
j)oints from which thev might rake the 
advancing columns with flanking fire. 
Seven miles north of Cx^ina and lateral 
Route 68 the reinforced 19th Luftwaffe 
Division prepared to make a stand just 
north of a lateral road w hich connected 

■■' I bid. 



the coastal highway with Route 206, the 
westernmost of the 34th Division's two 
main routes of approach. 

The town of Rosignano Marittimo, 
on a hilltop two and a half miles 
northeast of the junction of the lateral 
road with the coastal highway and the 
factory town of Rosignano Solvay, af- 
forded the enemy a commanding view 
of the terrain almost as far as Cecina. 
On the summit of the hill in the center 
of the town stood a massive stone castle 
whose thick walls had withstood besieg- 
ing armies in centuries past. The loca- 
tion of the town and its buildings had 
prompted the Germans to make it the 
major strongpoint of their defenses 
south of Leghorn. 

Because of the terrain and the routes 
of approach, General Ryder planned to 
advance with three regiments abreast — 
the 135th Infantry on the left, the 
attached 442d Infantry in the center, 
and the 168th on the right. The 133d 
Infantry, which had borne the brunt of 
the battle for Cecina, would remain in 
reserve. On his left flank, the 804th 
Tank Destroyer Battalion, screened b\ 
the 34th Reconnaissance Troop, was to 
advance along the narrow, cliff-hanging 
coastal highway. On his right flank, 
Ryder would depk)y the reconnaissance 
company of the 776th Tank Destroyer 
BattaHon to screen the 168th Infantry's 
flank and to maintain contact with the 
91st Division after it entered the line 
between the 34th and 88th Divisions. 
By evening of 2 July all units had 
reached their assigned assembh posi- 
tions and were prepared to launch the 
dri\e to Leghorn early the next morn- 
ing.^ 



' 34th Div Opus Rpt, lun-Iul 44. 



274 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Deplo\ed on the high ground oppo- 
site the IV Corps front two enemy 
divisions of varving cjualitv awaited the 
attack. On the Fourtcruth Army's right 
flank. General von Senger's XIV Panzer 
Corps was controlling the 19th Luftwaffe 
and 26th Panzer Divisions, both ol which 
had given such good account of them- 
selves in the defense of the Cecina 
sector, but in so doing had suffered 
considerable losses. To the left and 
holding a comparativcK narrow front 
was the 20th Lujt\i'ajlc Field Dix'isioii .'' 

Adi'diuc Foirard Lghani 

At dawn on 3 July, the 135th and 
168th Infantrv Regiments of the 34th 
Division began to adxance across the 
flanking ridges; at the same time in the 
valley below, the 442d Infantr\ attacked 
across a broader front. By early e\'ening 
the lead cc^mpany of the 135th Infan- 
try's 3d Battalion had reached Rosig- 
nano Marittimo's southern outskirts. A 
few hours later the rest of the battalion 
arrived, but was halted just short ol the 
town by mortar and artillerv fire, in- 
cluding some 170-mm. rounds from 
enemy guns located behind a ridge 
northeast of Rosignano. Since it was too 
dark to continue the assault, the battal- 
ion organized three company-sized 
strongpoints and settled down for the 
night. Early the next morning the bat- 
talion began the difficult task of estab- 
lishing a foothold in the town. For 
several hours the men inched forward 
through streets made gauntlets bv the 
enemy's firing small arms and hurling 
grenades from upper stories of the 
compact stone buildings lining the 
streets. After beating off a strong tank- 

'^ Lagekarten, Anlagen 14 AOK, Jul 44. 



supported infantry counterattack, the 
3d Battalion by late afternoon had at 
last gained a foothold in the southern 
third of the town. Despite reinforcement 
bv the rest of the parent 135th Infantry, 
it took three more davs for the men to 
advance house by house through the rest 
of the town. It was late on 7 July before 
the men reached the northern edge of 
the town, there to confront a stubborn 
rear guard holding scattered 
strongpoints in isolated houses along the 
fringe." 

The remaining regiments under 34th 
Division control found the fighting 
ecjually difficult. The 442d Regimental 
Combat Team, astride the \allev road 
in the center, and the 168th Infantrv, 
along the eastern ridge o\erl()oking the 
\alley road, ad\anced in echek)n to the 
right rear of the 135th Infantrv. Al- 
thcHigh on 4 Julv the corps commander 
attached the 363d Infantn to the 34th 
Division for use on the 168th's right, 
the 442d and the 168th could do little 
more than consolidate their gains across 
a four-mile front. They accomplished 
that onlv after beating off several small- 
scale coimterattacks b\ Germans infil- 
trating a proliferation of ra\"ines and 
gullies. So painstaking was the ad\ance 
that the 168th Infantrv recjuired four 
days to reach and clear the \illage of 
Castellino Marittimo, five miles due east 
of Rosignano Marittimo. ' 

For all the difficulties, capture of 
Rosignano Marittimo and Castellina 
Marittimo meant that the infantr\men 
had driven the enemv from the last 
favorable defensive terrain south of 



'■ IV Clorps AAR, Jul 44; Kitth Armv C.-:< Jul and 
file. 15-16 Jul 44. "l(B-3-2, Federal Records C.en- 
ter, Suitland, Md. 

" IV Corps AAR. Jul 44. 



END OF THE CAMPAKiN IN CENTRAL ITALY 



275 



Leghorn. Thai left the 135th Inlantrv 
free to move directly on the {)ort while 
to the right the 34th Division's remain- 
ing regiments and attached units were 
to envelop the city from the east before 
turning west toward the coast and 
north toward the Arno River and Pisa, 
site of the famous leaning tower. They 
would have help from Maj. Gen. Wil- 
liam G. Livesay's 91st Division, commit- 
ted for the first time as an entire unit 
between Ryder's 34th and Sloan's 88th 
Divisions. At the same time attachment 
of the 363d Infantrv to the 34th Di\i- 
sion and the 361st Infantry to the 1st 
Armored Division terminated. 

With two regiments forward — the 
362d on the right and the 363d on the 
left — the 91st Division launched its first 
attack as a division early on the 12th 
from assembly areas three miles south 
of a four-mile-wide sector between 
Chianni and Laiatico and about ten 
miles northeast of Rosignano Marit- 
timo.^ On the 91st Division's right the 
88th Division resumed its drive astride 
Route 439 near the Era River. Both 
divisions were heading for the Arno 
near the small industrial town of Pon- 
tedera, seventeen miles northeast of 
Leghorn.-' 

It would be only a matter of time 
before General Lemelsen's Fourteenth 
Army would have to begin a general 
withdrawal to the Arno. Hard pressed 
on the right wing. General von Senger's 



"On thai (late- in severe fighting near C.asaglia six 
miles south of the division's assembly areas, Sgt. 
Roy W. Harmon, Company C, 362d Infantry, so 
distinguished hiiTiself in combat while his battalion 
led the regiment toward the Chianni-Laiatiro line 
that he was posthumoush awarded the Medal oi 
Honor. 

''Fifth Army History. Pan VI. pp. 85-90: IV Corps 
AAR,Jul44. 



XIV Panzrr Corps fell ba( k toward Leg- 
horn. The panzer corps' left wing expe- 
rienced an e(|uallv serious reverse with 
the loss of Volterra on 8 Julv to the 
88th Division, which opened a wide gap 
in a sector occupied by the 90th Panzer 
Grenadier Division. With no available 
reserves to close the gap. General von 
Senger had no alternative but to with- 
draw across his entire corps front. That 
move forced General Lemelsen to pull 
back the neighboring / Parachute Corps 
front as well. Even as the 91st Division 
during the night of 12 July prepared to 
attack, the Fourteenth Army broke contact 
across its entire front and fell back on 
the Arno.'" 

General Lemelsen was concerned not 
only with the persistent American 
ground advance but also with stepped- 
up Allied naval activity. For a week the 
Germans had been observing Allied 
naval units engaged in mine-clearing 
operations in the waters west of Leg- 
horn and the mouth of the Arno west 
of Pisa. That activitv rekindled both 
Kesselring's and Lemelsen's chronic ap- 
prehension of an amphibious operation 
aimed at envelopment of the Fourteenth 
Army's western, or Ligurian, flank. Le- 
melsen, accordinglv, alerted Senger to 
the possibility of a landing between 
Leghorn and Pisa. Thus concerned, 
however unrealistic the threat, it was 
unlikelv that the Germans would at- 
tempt a protracted defense of Leg- 
horn.' ' 

Ovei the next few days as General 
Crittenberger's IV C^orps advanced 

'"AOK N. la KTB \'r. -4. «- 1 2 [ul 44. AOK H. 
I)()(. H224I/I. 

" Opns Orders, AOK 14. In \'r. 3015144 g. Kdos, 
1930 firs, 13 Jul 44, to Hqs, LXXVI Pz Corf)s' in AOK 
14. la KTB Sr. 4. Anl. 713. AOK 14. Doc (i224l/l4. 
Nr. 62241/14. 



27(^ 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



across its entire front, the corps com- 
mander's attention was focused upon 
the columns operating southeast of 
Leghorn. The 168th Infantry and a 
newiv recommitted 133d Infantry made 
up the force attempting to envelop 
Leghorn from that direction. The going 
for the 133rd Infantry was relatively 
easv. the regiment emerging fiom hills 
overlooking the Arno on 17 julv; but 
the 168th Infantry had to fight harder 
for comparable gains. As the regiment 
on the 17th reached the outskirts of the 
\illaec of Faua[:lia, about ten miles due 
east of Leghorn, the Germans in their 
determination to cover their main 
forces in a difficult withdrawal behind a 
bridgeless Arno mustered their remain- 
ing mortars and artillery and in the 
afternoon e\en managed a battalion- 
sized counterattack sup}Dorted b\ seven 
Tiger tanks. It took help from all 
available divisional artillerv for the 
1 68th to beat off the enemv forces, but 
then the regiment entered Fauglia and 
moved on five miles bcNond to Colle 
Salvetti, the last major town in the 
regimental zone of oj^erations south of 
the Arno vallev. Larly the next morning 
a battalion of the 442d Regimental 
(^oinbat Team to the 168th's left en- 
tered the village of Torretta, two miles 
west of Fauglia; and bv evening of the 
18th all three regiments were sending 
patrols deep into the Arno \alle\ in a 
\ain effort to regain contact with the 
retreating Germans. 

The Capture of Leghorn 

As the enveloping maneuver against 
Leghorn proceeded. General Critten- 
berger became concerned about ha\ing 
only one regiment, the 135th Infantry, 



to assault the city frontally. That cir- 
cumstance prompted him again to at- 
tach the 91st Division's 363d Infantry to 
the 34th Division. In concert with the 
135th Infantrv, approaching Leghorn 
from the southeast, the 363d was to 
attack the citv from the east. '- 

Both regiments found the going easv. 
They readily brushed aside a weak rear 
guard to enter Leghorn before davlight 
on the 19th. Within the city they met 
no resistance, for the enemy garrison, 
concerned, as the American com- 
mander had hojDed, with the columns 
investing the citv from the east, had 
slipi^ed away during the night. Mean- 
while, to the south of Leghorn, the 
reconnaissance and tank destroyer force 
drixing along the coastal highwav had 
to contend with nothing more serious 
than destroyed cuherts and wideh scat- 
tered mines, and it entered the (ity 
soon after da\ light. Ck)se behind came 
the 442d Regimental Combat Team's 
100th Battalion to take up garrison 
duty.'-' 

Although the Germans had been 
forced to \ield Leghorn earlier than 
they had planned, thev managed to 
destro\ the citx's port facilities and 
partiallv bk)ck the harbor with sunken 
ships. All (|uav walls were demolished 
and the masonr\ toppled into the 
water. A number of ships were scuttled 
ak)ngside piers and the harbor sown 
with mines. Allied bombing had earlier 
cut all rail lines and created ruins that 
bk)cked the streets in the port area. In 
their turn the Germans had sown the 
ruins indiscriminateh with thousands of 



'■- Fifth Army Hislory. Part VI. p. 83. 

'■'Fiflh Army Histon. Part VI, pp. 83-84: Hist Red. 
34th C.av Ren Prp. Jul 44: 8()4th TD Bii AAR. Jul 
44. 



END OF THE CAMPAKiN IN CENTRAL ITALY 



277 




Aerial View of Leghorn 



mines and booby traps. Hundreds of 
American soldiers fell victim to these 
devices in the early weeks following the 
fall of Leghorn.'^ 

However monumental the task of 
putting the port of Leghorn in opera- 
tion, it had to be done before the Fifth 
Army could launch major operations 
beyond the Arno. Surveys oi the dam- 
aged harbor by Army and Navy engi- 
neers indicated that at least three weeks 
would be needed to provide just two 



" Meyer MS. ch XXIX; Clark. Calculated Risk, p. 



185. 



berths for Liberty ships. Barring un- 
foreseen circumstances the engineers 
estimated that it would take two months 
before Leghorn could meet all the 
needs of the Fifth Army north of 
Rome. The first Liberty ships carrying 
engineering e(|uipment and stevedoring 
gear arrived at Leghorn on 20 August 
but had to be imloaded by lighters. 
Drawing upon earlier experience in 
rehabilitating the port of Naples, Army 
engineers soon bridged over the vessels 
sunk alongside the piers and extended 
the cjuays so that all hatches of cargo 
ships could be worked without rexeis- 



278 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



ing the vessel. B\' such expedients two 
Libert\ ships were able to dock on 26 
August only i\\e weeks after the city's 
capture. ' ' 

T/i( Capture of Aikoiki and Arczzo 

Just as Leghorn, on the opposite 
coast, was vital for the Americans, so 
Ancona on the Adriatic coast remained 
a prerecjuisite for continued large-scale 
operations bv the British Eighth Army. 
Having been halted early in July bv 
firm resistance eight miles south of 
Ancona, General Anders' 2 Polish 
Corps prepared on 16 Juh to resume 
the drive for that port. 

General Anders had two Polish di\i- 
sions — the 3d Carpathian along the 
coast and the 5th Kresowa in the 
(enter — with the brigade-sized Italian 
C-orps of Liberation on the left. Like 
(ieneral Crittenberger, (ieneral Anders 
hoped to envelop his objective rather 
than atta( k trontallv. Bv simulated con- 
centrations and movements ot armor 
and other heav\ ec|uipment in the area 
of coastal Highwav 16, the 3d Carpa- 
thian Division was to tr\ to draw enem\ 
attention awav trom the area ot actual 
attack, the sector of the 5th Kresowa 
Division. With help of the 2d Ar- 
moured Brigade, the 5th was to attack 
along the axis Osimo-Agugliano in 
hope of turning the (ierman defenses 
from the west, then to exploit eastward 
as far as the coastal high wax above 
Ancona. In the meantime, an attack 
northward b\ the Italian corps was to 
cover the division's left flank. The 
Desert Air Eorce (DAE), the Eighth 



Meyer MS. 



Armv's long-time air arm, was to tlv in 
general support. "' 

During the night oi 16 Julv four 
Polish infantrv battalions ancl fcjur ar- 
mored regiments, the latter containing 
approximately 240 tanks, faced a 
front defended by an estimated three 
infantr) battalicjns of the 278th Division, 
plus some units of the 71st Division that 
had been reconstituted after heavy 
k)sses in May during the defense of the 
Gustav Line south of Rome. Because 
the Poles planned to reh on accurate 
close air supj^ort, the\ attacked at da\- 
light on 17 Julv behind the fire of 
approximatelv 300 artiller\ pieces and 
aerial bombardment b\ the DAE. 

Earh in the dav some anxiet\ de\el- 
oped at Polish heackjuaiters o\er the 
securitv of the left flank because of 
hesitation and k)cal withdrawals b\ the 
Italians. Yet that concern was short- 
lived as the overwhelming weight of 
Allied firepower propelled the 5th Kre- 
sowa Dixision forward expeditiouslv in 
the center. B\ the end of the dav the 
division and the tanks of the armored 
brigade had gained approximateh four 
miles. The next da\ the Poles drove the 
Germans bevond the Esino River, ten 
miles northwest of Osimo, and on the 
18th pursued the enemv bevond the 
river, completing the envek)pment of 
Ancona. As the Carpathian Lancers of 
the 3d Carpathian Di\ision pushed 
ak)ng the coastal highwa\ to enter the 
citv in earlv afternoon, thev were vir- 
tuall) unopposed. 

Over the next week the Polish corps 



"^ Operations of the British. Indian, and Dt)niin- 
ion Forces in Italv. Part II, Sec. F. 2 Polish Corps 
Operations. Unless otherwise indicateci the ft)llo\\- 
ing is based upon this reference. 



END OF THE CAMPAKiN IN CENTRAL ITALY 



279 



forced the enem\ steadily northward to 
plate the port of Ancona well beyond 
the range of German artillerx and to 
gi\e the Eighth AnTi\' a major foiwaid 
supph base. No longei would British 
truck conx'oys have to make the long 
overland haul from Bari, over 260 
miles to the south. Fortunateh' for the 
Allies, the Germans at Ancona had 
been unable to demolish the port as 
thoroughh as their confreres at Leg- 
horn. On 23 Julv, only five davs after 
the tall of Ancona, a British supplv 
convov steamed into the port.'' 

Meanwhile, far to the west beyond 
the Apennines, a major part of the 
British Eighth Army prepared to renew 
the drive against the communications 
center of Arezzo, a prere(|uisite to 
continuing on to Fk)rence. Opposite the 
13 Corps, which for several weeks had 
carried the main burden of the Eighth 
Army's offensive, were the same fom 
German divisions that had earlier de- 
fended the Frieda or Trasimeno Line: 
the 75//? Panzer Grenadier, the 334th 
Injantry, titc 1st Panuhutc, and the H(r- 
mann (locring Divisums — all under the 
command of General Herr's LXXVI 
Panz(r Corps. ^^ Thev were deploved 
along dominating heights between 
Monte Castiglione Maggiore and Cas- 
tello di Brolio, the latter twent\ miles 
west of Arezzo. Evervw here thev en- 
joved the advantage of observation and 
fields of fire. Onlv in the center, where 
infantrvmen of the 4th Division had 
captured the isolated hill Poggio 



aPOmo. had the (iermans given 
ground. '•' 

Checked on the left by enemy fire on 
3 Julv, the 13 Corps at the outset failed 
to appreciate the strength of the Ger- 
man positions. Several days were lost 
while the leading brigades continued to 
probe in the belief that the positions 
could be {penetrated through continued 
pressure without the necessitv of a full- 
scale, set-piece attack. The fact that the 
6th Armoured Division on the right 
and the 4th Infantry Division in the 
center continued to make some prog- 
ress supported that belief, until on the 
7th those divisions too encountered the 
full strength of the German defensive 
fires. On the corps right flank the tanks 
of the 26th Armoured Brigade, 6th 
Armoured Division, reached a point 
about a mile south of the junction of 
Highways 71 and 73 where thev had to 
halt, three miles short of Are/zo. On 
the left the 6th South African Ar- 
moured Division also ground to a halt. 

Although General Leese assumed 
that the 13 Corps would have to be 
reinforced if a breakthrough to Arezzo 
was to be achieved, reinforcements 
were less readily obtainable than they 
had been in June. The 10 C>()rps, which 
had earlier provided additional units 
for its neighbor on the left, had only 
one division and an armored brigade to 
empk)v against the ec|uivalent of two or 
three German divisions deployed, as 
were those opposite the 13 Corps, on 
good defensive terrain; and thus the 10 
Corps had first claim on reinforce- 
ments. General Leese met the claim by 



'" AXexanAfT Despatch , pp. 60-61. 

"* On II julv. the 7l>th Injantn Dwisuni began 



'■'Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
the relief ..f'the //rrm«H« Gon'mg Divisum. See I'otli Forces in Italy, Part II, Sec. D. Unless otherwise 
Arm\ KTB \'r. 10. 1 I Jul 44. AOK Dot. .'i299l/l. t'tfd the following is based upon this reference. 



280 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



ordering forward the 4th Indian Divi- 
sion, which had been undergoing three 
weeks of training in mountain warfare. 
Bv 10 Juh the Indians had taken their 
place in line to the left of their country- 
men in the 10th Indian Division. 

Reinforcements for the 13 Corps had 
to come from theater reserves which 
Alexander had earlier earmarked for 
participation in the offensive against the 
Gothic Line. That development meant 
that the 2d New Zealand Division, 
resting and training south of Rome, 
had to be committed earlier than 
planned. It took until 14 July for that 
division to enter the line east of the 
Chiana Canal between the 4th Indian 
Infantry and the British 6th Armoured 
Divisions. 

With the division's arrival, the 13 
Corps commander, Kirkman, planned 
to attack at 0100 on the 15th with the 
4th Infantry and 6th South . African 
Armoured Dixisions demonstrating ac- 
tively on the left to conceal the main 
effort to be made by the New Zealand- 
ers and the British 6th Armomed Di\i- 
sion on the right in an effort to take 
Arezzo from the west. The attack went 
slowly at first, the Germans even man- 
aging some local counterattacks while 
slowly yielding ground. Yet that night 
the Germans broke contact and with- 
drew. Early on 16 July the British 6th 
Armoured Division's 26th Armoured 
Brigade descended into the upper 
Chiana valley west of Arezzo and rap- 
idlv closed on the city and crossings of 
the Arno some four miles to the north. 
During the remainder of the day the 
New Zealanders and the British armor 
sped forward along the roads west and 
northwest of the objective. By evening 
they had crossed the Arno where it 



flows westward for a short distance 
before turning northwestward toward 
Fk)rence, 25 miles away. By dark on 16 
July the battle for Arezzo had ended 
and the advance on Fk)rence was about 
to begin. 

The extended defense of Arezzo had 
given Field Marshal Kesselring about all 
the time he could hope for — an addi- 
tional ten days — for improving the 
Gothic Line and resting and reorganiz- 
ing his forces. That the respite came at 
a relatively low cost could be inferred 
from the fact that the 13 Corps 
counted only 165 prisoners during the 
ten-day flight. 

Despite the heavv operational de- 
mands of the Arezzo battle, the Eighth 
Army continued with its administratixe 
preparations for the Gothic Line offen- 
sive. In the vicinity of Orte and Castel- 
lana at the end of the first week of Juh 
the armv opened its first railheads 
north of Roine. Arezzo was soon to 
serve as the army's main communica- 
tions center and roadhead for opera- 
tions in the Northern Apennines. Once 
that roadhead was open, the Eighth 
Arm\ staff estimated, a force of thir- 
teen and a half divisions, nine of w hich 
might be operationallv empkned. could 
be maintained north of Florence. 

Pause at tlie Arno 

As the U.S. Fifth Army drew up to 
the Arno west of Florence, (ieneral 
C>lark decided against crossing the ri\er 
immediately in favor of a pause to rest 
and reorganize his troops and assemble 
supplies. One of the divisions most 
deserving of a rest was the 34th. in 
action with few respites since fighting in 
North Africa in 1943. The 45-niile 



END OF THE CAMPAI(;N IN CENTRAL ITALY 



28 



advance troni Pionibino to Leghorn 
had only been the last of a grueling 
battle experience that brought all ranks 
close to exhaustion. Even the dixision 
commander, General Ryder, was men- 
tally and physically near exhaustion, so 
that on the 21st General (^lark replaced 
him with a younger man, Maj. Gen. 
Charles Bolte. It was a relief without 
prejudice, General Ryder going on to a 
corps command in the United States.-" 

¥o\ French units, meanwhile, time 
was to run out before they could reach 
the Arno. Acting under orders from 
the Allied command, General Clark 
directed that all French units be re- 
lieved and assembled near Naples be- 
fore the end of July. As s{)ecif'ied b\ 
General Alexander, the British 13 
Corps upon departure of the French 
was to shift its left flank westward to 
embrace the former EEC sector, thus 
extending the interarmy boundary to a 
line generally paralleling the Elsa River. 
As the relief neared, the French front 
stabilized roughly ten miles short of the 
Arno. The EEC's zone passed to the 
British on 22 July, considerably narrow- 
ing the Fifth Army's sector. 

Although the French stopped short 
of the Arno, their contribution to the 
drive north of Rome was considerable. 
The Algerian and Moroccan divisions, 
tor example, had captured 2,080 pris- 
oners. The French themselves incurred 
(),b8() casualties, including 1,342 killed. 

As the 13 Corps relieved the French, 
the U.S. IV Corps prepared to clear the 
last enemy remaining south of the 
Arno between Leghorn and Pisa. That 
task could still pose problems. A battal- 



-" Intcrv, Mathews with I.adur, 17 )iin 48, CMH; 
34th Div AAR, Jul 44; Clark. (Mliuhiird Risk, p. 384. 



ion of the 363d Infantry, still attached 
to the 34th Division, ran into considera- 
ble resistance while fighting thiough 
much of the night to enter Marina di 
Pisa at the river's mouth before daylight 
on the 2.3d. And the 442d Regimc-ntal 
(>()mbat I cam and the 168th Infantry 
were delayed by the numerous canals 
scoring the broad valley. Engineers sub- 
ject to harassing fire from north of the 
Arno had to construct numerous 
bridges, including one over the 100- 
foot-wide gap of the Canale Navigable, 
connecting the Arno with the port of 
Leghorn. 

During the afternoon of 23 JuK, two 
battalions of the 363d Infantry occu- 
pied that part of Pisa King south of the 
Arno. Finding all bridges destroyed, the 
men dug in along the south bank of 
the river while enemy guns and mor- 
tars jDoured in heavy fhe. Since Pisa's 
famed Renaissance monuments, the 
Baptistry of St. John with its Camjx^n- 
ile — the leaning tower — were north of 
the river, they were unaffected. From 
somew here north of the Arno 280-mm. 
guns oj^ened fire on Leghorn. Yet by 
evening the 34th Division and its at- 
tached units had occupied the entire 
south bank of the Arno from the sea to 
a point about ten miles east of Pisa. 
During the next two days the 91st and 
88th Divisions pulled up to the south 
bank on the IV Corps center and right 
flank, resjx^ctively. 

The Arno River flows through a 
broad valley at the foot of the Northern 
Apennines. From Arezzo, atK)Ut forty 
miles southeast of Florence, it flows 
northward, w here the Sieve Ri\er joins 
ten miles east of Florence. Thus en- 
larged, the Arno proceeds westward 
through Eknence and Pisa for 65 miles 



282 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



before entering the Ligurian Sea at 
Marina di Pisa. The largest river in the 
Fifth Army's /one of operations, the 
Arno varied in width from 60 to 600 
feet, with an average of from 200 to 
250 feet. The depth also \aried greath, 
ranging from onh a feu feet in periods 
of drought tt) over thirty feet at flood 
stage, hi late summer, before the au- 
tumn rains began, the river could be 
easily forded almost anywhere bv foot 
troops and at numerous points b\ \ehi- 
cles. Because of seasonal flooding in 
spring and late autumn, levees from 20 
to 40 feet in height and 50 to 100 feet 
wide flanked the river for much of its 
length. Between Pisa and the coast the 
banks were about ten feet high, lising 
to forty feet east of Pisa, then falling off 
to twenty feet near Florence. As the 
ri\er enters the coastal plain near Pisa, 
its valle\ widens to fifteen miles. 

Since the Arno in the midsummer of 
1944 represented no formidable mili- 
tary obstacle, General Clark's superiors 
both in Caserta and in Washington 
favored an immediate continuation of 
the ad\ance t)eyond the ri\er. General 
Alexander, in particular, was anxious to 
place the port of Leghorn b)ey(jnd the 
range of enemy artillery as soon as 
possible. He urged the Fifth Army 
commander, if he found the line of the 
Arno weakly held, to push on immedi- 
ately to seize the heights of the Monte 
Pisano hill mass, 14 miles northeast of 
Leghorn and probable haven for man\ 
of the guns harassing Leghorn. Extend- 
ing from the Arno northwestward for 
twehe miles to the banks of the Serchio 
River, the hill mass might also serve as 
a springboard for an advance on Pis- 
toia, 20 miles to the northeast. Since the 
configuration of the terrain made the 



sector from the city of Prato (ten miles 
northwest of Florence) westward to the 
Ligurian coast a single tactical entitv, 
Alexander assigned Clark's Fifth Army 
respcMisibility for all of it. After crossing 
the Arno, the Fifth Armv would ha\e 
as its objectives, after the Monte Pisano 
hill mass, the cities of Pistoia and Lucca, 
the latter about ten miles northwest of 
Pisa.-' 

If the Germans elected to hold along 
the coastal reaches of the Arno, Alex- 
ander suggested that Clark attempt in- 
stead to force a passage somewhere to 
the east between Pontedera, 17 miles 
northeast of Leghorn, and Empoli, 16 
miles farther east, and from there de- 
Nelop two thrusts, one on Pistoia and 
the other on Lucca. With those cities in 
hand, the Fifth Armv would control a 
four-lane autostrada running westward 
from Florence to tlie coastal high\\a\, 
ten miles west of Lucca. That situation 
w(Hi!d gi\'e the Fifth Armv an excellent 
lateral route o\er which troops might 
be shifted rapidh from one sector to 
another. -- 

Although General Alexander was 
aware that many of the Fifth Army's 
di\isions needed rest and reorganiza- 
tion, he was also conscious that the 
Germans were in more serious straits 
and thus were unlikelv to launch a 
major counteroffensive at anv point 
along the river. This circumstance 
should enable Clark, Alexander be- 
lieved, to assume the defensi\e on his 
left wing b)etween Pontedera and the 
sea, thereby resting sc:)me of his di\i- 
sions, while at the same time concen- 



■'' Ur. Marshall to Devcrs, 17 Jul 44. CCS 603/4. 
in ABC:: 384, F.ur Set 9-A; l.tr, Alexander to Clark. 
19 Jul 44, Sub: Future Opns H(|S AAI, M.V.A470. 

■-•- Ltr. Alexander to Clark. 19 Jul 44. 



KND OF THE CAMPAK.N IN CENTRAL ITALY 



283 



trating his tittcst units on his light 
between Pontedera and Empoli tor the 
thrusts on Pistoia and Lucxa. It was ot 
"supreme importance," Alexander (on- 
cluded, to go "all-out" to capture those 
two cities before Kesselring's armies 
could recover from the attrition of the 
past few weeks.-' 

Despite this attrition. Field Marshal 
Kesselring had actually achieved some- 
thin"; of a defensive success in holding 
the Allied armies for so long south of 
the Arno. "\'et there was another reason 
for Allied delays, not of" Kesslering's 
making: the shift of ground and air 
resources duiing July from Alexander s 
armies to those forces preparing for 
southern France. That shift had fore- 
stalled anv swift advance to and 
through the Northern Apennines, 
across the Po Valley, and into north- 
eastern Italy. 

A swift advance across the Po thus 
obx'iated, no longer was it necessary to 
spare the bridges of the Po. In an 
effort to isolate the enemy in the 
Northern Apennines, Alexander de- 
cided to concentrate on disrupting the 
enemy's lines of communication across 
the Po. Thus Operation Mallory Ma- 
jor, which aimed at destruction of :ill 
bridges across the Po, in some respects 
reflected less the bright hopes of early 
summer than an admission of frus- 
trated expectations attributable to the 
events and command decisions of late 
June or early July.-^ 

Planning for Mallory Major had 



begun in earlv June shortly after the 
fall of Rome, after Allied intelligence 
had concluded that the destruction of 
bridges would cause greater disruption 
of enemy lines of communication than 
the repeated bombing of railroad mar- 
shalling yards. The plan was to concen- 
trate bc)mt)ers on the destruction of the 
six rail bridges across the Po and one 
across the Trebbia, a northward flowing 
tributary entering the Pc:» at Piacenza, 
some 34 miles southeast of Milan. The 
operations were to be supplemented by 
destruction of either the Recco or the 
Zoaglia viaducts on the coastal highway 
a few miles east of Genoa, Italy's major 
commercial port, about 100 miles 
northwest of Leghorn. The plan was 
later modified to include all bridges 
acrc:)ss the Po. Yet in the first weeks 
after the capture of Rome, ex|3ectations 
that Allied armies would reach the Po 
Valley by later summer had prompted 
Alexander to shehe the plans.-'' 

With the decision for Operation An- 
vil, Alexander still hoped that his ar- 
mies would be able to force a passage 
of the Northern Apennines before win- 
ter; but after Wilson's directive of 5 
July, he had abandoned all hope that 
the\ would be able to do so withcjut 
pause. The AAI commander therefore 
focused his thoughts c:)n bringing the 
enemy to a decisive battle between the 
Apennines and a bridgeless ri\ei — thus 
a revived Operation VIallory Major. 
On 1 1 July Allied Force Headcjuarters 
issued orders for the operation to h)egin 
the next day. 



-■■' J bid. 

-^ Blockade: The Isolation of Italv from the Reich 
bv the Mediterranean Tactical Air Forte, 29 Aug 
44-1 Mav 4.-^ Hcjs MATAF, July 1945. The Albeit 
F. Simpson Historical Research Center, L'SAF Max- 
well AFS, Ala. 



-'' Opeiations ol the Biitish, Indian, and Domin- 
ion Forces in Italy. Part II, Sec. A, Allied Strategy; 
Alexander Despatch, pp. 64-65. L'nless otherwise 
indicated the following is based upon these lefer- 
ences. 



284 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Beginning on 12 July hundreds ot 
medium bombers attacked the nineteen 
bridges from Piacenza eastward to the 
Adriatic, then turned westward to bomb 
the bridges as far west as Torre Beretti, 
50 miles west of Piacenza. Bv the 27th 
all bridges between Torre Beretti and 
the Adriatic were destroyed, virtually 
cutting off Kesselring's armies from 
their supply bases in northern Italy. 

That would appear to have been the 
logical time for General Clark to have 
crossed the Arno River, drive on Pistoia 
and Lucca, and force the Germans back 
into the Gothic Line west of Florence. 
Instead, the Fifth Army for almost a 
month after the completion of Mal- 
LORY Major remained south of the 
river. "-*^ Except for a quick thrust in 
early August to seize Florence, so did 
the Eighth Army. Thus Kesselring 
gained more time for strengthening his 
defenses in the Northern Apennines 
and, even more important, to restore 
his sorely damaged lines of communica- 
tion across the Po. Using pontoon 
bridges, ferries, pneumatic lines, and 
overhead cable lines, German engineers 
managed to keep enough supplies mov- 
ing across the Po to maintain, though 



not to increase, existing levels. The 
Germans also organized an adequate 
ferry service across the Po to supply 
Ferrara, their main communications 
hub behind the army gioup's left wing. 
By the end of July nineteen ferries 
were in service, ten of them capable of 
carrying twenty-four tons of cargo 
each.-' 

On 3 August traffic started moxing 
again across several repaired bridges 
that had been knocked out in Juh b\ 
Allied aircraft. B\ 6 August the Bren- 
ner railroad line was also back in 
(){:)eration. Four davs later the main line 
from the Austrian Alps to the Ligurian 
coast — from Brenner, \ia Bologna, to 
Genoa — was again open and the rail 
line to Turin, sevent\-five miles north- 
west of Genoa, restored. On the follow- 
ing day the rail line from Genoa into 
southern France was also passable. 
While Operation Mallorv Major was a 
marked success in terms of bridges 
destroyed, failure to co-ordinate it 
closely with an Allied offensive against 
the Gothic Line meant that in the long 
run it had no more than a temporar\ 
harassing effect. 



-'■See ch. XVI, pp. 1-2, tor explanation of 
Clark's decision to halt along the A-rno. 



-'Craven and Cate, eds.. AAF III, pp. 404-17; 
Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB , 
IV(1), pp. 542-43. 



CHAPTER XVI 



Along the Arno 



While General Clark's decision to 
pause along the Arno during the sec- 
ond half of July had forfeited the 
temporary advantages provided by Op- 
eration Mallory Major through de- 
struction of the Po bridges, timing of 
the aerial operation had been Alex- 
ander's responsibility rather than 
Clark's. Furthermore, General Clark 
saw several compelling reasons for 
holding his army south of the river, 
most important of which was the condi- 
tion of men and equipment. The ports 
of Civitavecchia, San Stefano, and 
Piombino were just beginning to take 
up some of the slack caused by leaving 
Naples and Anzio far to the rear, but 
the essential port of Leghorn had yet to 
begin to function. Moreover, in Clark's 
opinion, the demands of Operation 
Anvil had already deprived his army 
of the reserves necessary to continue 
the advance beyond the Arno without a 
pause for rest and reorganization.' 
That was a theme to which the Fifth 
Army cominander would frequently re- 
turn. Since the Eighth Army would not 
reach the Arno between Pontassieve 
and Florence until the end of the 
month and would, like the Fifth Army, 
also have to pause and reorganize be- 
fore continuing, Mallory Major's brief 
opportunities were forfeited by the 
Eighth Army as well. 

That Crittenberger's IV Corps, at 
least, was desperately weary and in no 



' Clark Diary, 8 Jul 44. 



condition to continue the advance be- 
yond the Arno without pause there 
seemed little doubt. Everybody was 
near exhaustion and in desperate need 
of rest, although, as Alexander re- 
minded Clark, no more so than the 
enemy. 

There were organizational changes 
too that required a pause. The 1st 
Armored Division, then in corps re- 
serve, had on 17 July also acquired a 
new commanding general, Maj. Gen. 
Vernon E. Prichard, former com- 
mander of an armored division in the 
United States. Like Ryder, General 
Harmon went home to assume com- 
mand of a corps. Three days later the 
1st Armored Division undertook a thor- 
ough reorganization, one that had been 
postponed since September 1943, when 
the U.S. Army had adopted a new 
Table of Organization and Equipment 
for armored divisions. Although the 
new organization was an outgiowth of 
the 1st Armored Division's own experi- 
ences in the North African campaign, 
the division had been unable to reorga- 
nize in September, since part of the 
unit had been fighting in haly and the 
rest was in Algeria preparing to move 
to Italy. In the months since Salerno 
some elements of the division had been 
in almost continuous contact with the 
enemy. As the Fifth Army pulled up to 
the Arno, the time to make the changes 
had come.- 

^ Howe, The Battle History of the 1st Armored 
Division, pp. 363-66. 



286 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



The 1943 TOE had cut the strength 
of an armored division from 14,620 
men to 10,937, but because the 1st 
Armored Division had been under- 
strength, less than a thtmsand had to be 
transferred. In essence, the reorganiza- 
tion eliminated one armored regiment 
as well as headquarters of the other 
two. In their stead were three separate 
tank battalions and three separate ar- 
mored infantry battalions, which could 
be thrown together in various mixes 
with supporting units to form two com- 
bat commands, while new small head- 
cjuaiters, designated division trains, con- 
trolled the division reserve and supplies. 
The reorganization cut the number of 
medium tanks from 250 to 154. The 
basic reasons for the reductions were 
control and maneuverability, the old 
heavv division having proved ponder- 
ous. ^ 

On 25 July headquarters of the II 
Corps, which had been in army reserve 
for the past few weeks, came forward 
on the army right flank to take control 
of the 85th, 88th, and 91st Divisions. 
Clark, nevertheless, intended no exten- 
sive operations along the Arno since he 
planned to conserve Keyes' corps to 
carry the main burden of the army's 
offensive against the Gothic Line north 
of the river. ^ 

After the capture of Leghorn, Clark 
began to withdraw the Fifth Army's 
combat divisions to afford all a rest 
period off the line. To make that 



easier, he turned over a 10-mile sector 
of the defensive line to four automatic 
weapons antiaircraft battalions con- 
verted into infantry, thereby releasing a 
battle-weary 34th Infantr\' Di\ision. In- 
fantry units in rest areas furnished 
mortars, machine guns, automatic rifles, 
and radios to equip the antiaircraft 
battalions for their new role. Tank 
destroyers, tanks, and batteries of 3.7- 
inch and 90-mm. antiaircraft guns pro- 
vided heavy fire support. Brig. Gen. 
Cecil L. Rutledge, erstwhile commander 
of the 45th Antiaircraft Artillery Bri- 
gade, commanded what became known 
as Task Force 45. 

To make up for shortages in artillery 
and engineers in the Fifth Army caused 
by earlier withdrawals for .4nvil, Clark 
borrowed from his British counterpart 
some sixty miscellaneous artillery pieces 
and two battalions of Royal Engineers. 
He also borrowed an antiaircraft artil- 
lery regiment, which he converted into 
infantrv and assigned to Task Force 
45.^ 

Meanwhile, Clark began to regroup 
his armv across a 30-mile front bet\\een 
the Ligurian coast southwest of Pisa 
and an interarmy boundars close to the 
Elsa River, which enters the Arno at a 
point four miles west of Empoli. Crit- 
tenberger's IV Corps held a 23-mile 
sector on the army left flank as far 
inland as the village of Capanne, five 
miles east of Pontedera. Keves" II Corps 
held the remaining seven miles. Within 



^ For detail see Mary Lee Stubbs and Stanley 
Russell Connor, Army Lineage series, Armor-Cav- 
alry, Part L Regidar Army and Army Rcscri'i' (Wash- 
ington, D.C., 1969). 

^ Interv, Mathews with Ladue, 17 June 48, CMH; 
Chester G. Starr, ed.. From Salerno to the Alps: A 



History (i/ till' Fifth Army. 19-13-45 (Washington: 
Infantrv Journal Press, 1948), pp. 297-98. 

• C^lark Diarv. 17 Aug 44; Fifth Army History. Part 
VI, p. 99. A British AA regiment was the ecjuivalent 
of a U.S. AA battalion. 



ALONC; THE ARNO 



287 



the IV Corps sector Task Force 45 held 
the coastal flank, and the newly reorga- 
nized 1st Armored Division moved for- 
ward from reserve to take up a position 
on the right, while a regimental combat 
team of the 91st Division held the 
narrow II Corps front. 

That disposition permitted the bulk 
of the Fifth Army to rest, so that by 
mid-August Clark would have five divi- 
sions — four infantry and one ar- 
mored — ready to resume the offensive, 
while Task Force 45 would have re- 
ceived sufficient infantry experience to 
be useful either as a follow-up or as a 
holding force. Two additional units 
were on their way to join the army: the 
Negro 92d Infantry Division and the 
Brazilian Expeditionary Force, the latter 
a division-size unit consisting of the 1st, 
6th, and 1 1 th Regiment Combat Teams 
with attached supporting units. Because 
of limited training and relatively low 
strength, neither division was expected 
for the next few months to have more 
than a defensive capability. Even with 
the addition of those two units, the 
Fifth Army would have the equivalent 
of but seven divisions, only half as 
many as in May along the Garigliano 
River at the beginning of the drive to 
Rome. Reductions had also occurred in 
the number of corps artillery battalions, 
twenty-two as compared with thirty- 
three, and additional battalions were 
soon to be withdrawn for Operation 
Anvil. For an army that had come to 
depend heavily upon massive artillery 
fire, that cutback was disturbing.*^ 

By the end of July all French 
troops, the majority of which were 




American Patrol Entering Pisa 

Moslem, had left the Fifth Army, but 
the arrival of the Brazilian troops in 
August would give the army's G-4 little 
relief from long-time pn^blems of pro- 
viding rations acceptable to men of 
several different nationalities with 
widely differing dietary customs and 
preferences. The Brazilian menu, for 
example, included considerably more 
sugar, lard, and salt than did the 
American while excluding tomato juice, 
dried beans of all types, and rice. ^ 

The Germans meanwhile faced far 
more critical difficulties with their ra- 
tions. Long plagued with short supplies, 
the Germans, as they withdrew north- 
ward, were forced increasingly to live 
off the land, and especially to draw 
upon the agricultural resources of the 



'■ AAI Order oi Battle on withdrawal oi Anvil 
(Dragoon) formations, Bigot-Anvil, an. II to app. 
D-5. 



'Fifth Army History, Part VI, p. 117. 



288 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



fertile Po \ alle). Furthermore, among 
the German troops the unaccustomed 
heat of a central halian summer had 
caused considerable hardship from heat 
exhaustion and illness from tainted 
food. ^ 

The Eighth Army 

While the Fifth Arm\ paused along 
the Arno west of Florence, the British 
Eighth Army continued to advance on 
a two-corps front over terrain as chal- 
lenging as that encountered around 
Lake Trasimeno. Beyond Arezzo there 
loomed the Pratomagno mountain mas- 
sif, a region of few roads or trails, 
stretching almost thirty miles northwest- 
ward and filling the fifteen-mile-wide 
area between two arms of the Arno 
where the river, flowing south from the 
Northern Apennines, makes a large 
loop northwest of Arezzo before flow- 
ing northwest toward Florence, turning 
again, and flowing westward to the sea. 
Two highwavs extended bevond A- 
rezzo: Highway 71 northward along the 
east bank of the Arno to Bibbiena, 
located at the foot of the Northern 
Apennines at the junction with High- 
way 70, and Highway 69 northwest- 
ward along the west bank of the Arno 
as far as Inciso in Valdarno, whence the 
highway divided into two parts, one 
continuing west of the river to Florence 
and the second east of the Arno via 
Pontassieve to Florence. With the 10 
Corps following Highway 7 1 tow ard 
Bibbiena and the 13 Corps the valley of 
the middle Arno toward Florence, the 
two corps would again diverge, as they 
had south of Lake Trasimeno. 



By the end of July the 10 Corps' 4th 
Indian Division had reached the en- 
trance of the upper Arno valley, and 
the 10th Indian Division had secured 
an area in the Sansepolcro plain; but 
there the divisions had to pause to 
regroup in order to sideslip to the west 
toward the Pratomagno massif.^ The 
13 Corps, meanwhile, continued toward 
Florence without pause. General Kirk- 
man sent the 13 Corps down the Arno 
valley, with the British 6th Armoured 
Division making the main effort on the 
corps right astride the river. On the 
corps left the 6th South African Ar- 
moured Division continued its advance 
west of the Chianti Hills, and in the 
center the British 4th Division main- 
tained contact between the two armored 
forces. If the enem\ continued to with- 
draw north of Arezzo, Kirkman in- 
tended to hold the 2d New Zealand 
Division in corps reserve. Otherwise, he 
intended to commit the New Zealand- 
ers to reinforce his main effort. The 13 
Corps also had the 8th Indian Division, 
formerly with the 10 Corps, as well as 
the British 25th Tank Brigade from the 
army reserve and the 1st Army Artil- 
lery Group from the 5 Corps.'" 

The corps got going on 16 July on a 
broad front northwest of Arezzo. In a 
quick thrtist beyond the city the 6th 
Armoiued Division's 26th Armoured 
Brigade seized intact the Ponte a Buri- 
ano, a bridge across the upper Arno six 
miles northwest of the city, but the next 
day when the rest of the di\ision at- 
tempted to cross, fire from high 



*• German military records frequently comment 
on these problems. 



^ Operations of the British, Indian, and Domin- 
ion Forces in Italv, Part II, Sec. D. Unless otherwise 
indicated the following is based upon this source. 

'" Tank brigades, unlike armored brigades, were 
designed for attachment to infantrv divisions. 



ALONC; THE ARNO 



289 



ground to the northwest so disrupted 
the column that the commander or- 
dered a search for an alternate crossing. 
The search located a ford concealed 
from eneni) observation ancf fire, but 
after only a few hours' use it deterio- 
rated so badlv that it had to be aban- 
doned. 

There the British 6th Armoured Di- 
vision might ha\'e been forced to halt, 
except that the next day, the 17th, the 
6th South African Armoured Division 
gained the ridge of the Chianti Hills. 
From the high giound the South Afri- 
cans were able to direct flanking fire 
against the Germans opposite the 4th 
Division in the corps center and on the 
eastern flanks of the hills. That forced 
the Germans to fall back far enough to 
enable the British armor to cross the 
Arno in strength and, by the 20th, to 
capture high ground near Castiglione 
Fibocchi. 

It was clear at that point to General 
Kirkman that the Germans intended to 
make a stand to block the middle Arno 
valley and the lower slopes of the 
Pratomagno massif east of^ the valley 
with Schlemm's / Parachute Corps, which 
had the 1st Parachute, 15th Panzer Grena- 
dier, and 334th Divisions deployed oppo- 
site the 13 Gorps right flank in the 
Arno valley. West of the valley the 
715th Light Infantry Division was in the 
process of relieving the Hermann Goer- 
ing Division along a sector extending 
from the valley to the ridge line of the 
Ghianti Hills. Having lost heavily in 
May at Anzio, the 715th Division had 
been reinforced and reorganized with 
replacements from the Reich. Although 
most of the men lacked battle experi- 
ence, they were deployed in terrain so 
devoid of roads as to favor the defend- 



ers. West of the Ghianti Hills, between 
Highway 2 and Route 222, the Ger- 
mans had deployed the 4th Parachute 
and 356th Divisions across a ten-mile 
sector opposite the South African ar- 
mored division. 

After studying those dispositions and 
reflecting on the slight progress made 
thus far in the Arno valley. General 
Kirkman decided that the best route to 
Florence lay west of the Ghianti Hills 
on his left flank, which General Leese 
was about to extend to take over the 
FEC sector from the Fifth Army. On 
20 July he decided to shift the main 
effort to that flank and began moving 
there the 8th Indian Division and the 
New Zealand division from his reserve. 
The 8th Indian Division, with the ar- 
mor of the 1st Canadian Tank Brigade 
in support, was to operate on the corps 
left flank, while the New Zealanders 
were to pass through the FEG's 2d 
Moroccan Division early on the 22d 
and drive northward toward the Arno 
River crossings at Signa, five miles west 
of Florence. To the New Zealanders' 
right the South Africans were to ad- 
vance astride Route 222 to Impruneta, 
five miles south of Florence. To the 
South African division's right and east 
of the Ghianti Hills, the 4th Division, 
supported by the 25th Tank Brigade, 
was to advance toward Pontassieve and 
cross to the north bank of the Arno at 
Poggio Alberaccio, seven miles east of 
Florence. The British 6th Armoured 
Division was to continue to operate on 
the right flank. 

Thus regrouped, the 13 Gorps re- 
sumed its advance on 21 July. For the 
next two weeks the corps battled its way 
through a series of well-sited and skill- 
fully defended pt^sitions to within seven 



290 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Aerial View of Florence 



miles of the Arno west of Florence. 
Late on 2 August the New Zealanders 
fought to the top of La Poggiona, high 
ground five miles southwest of Florence 
overlooking Highway 2 from the west, 
the last remaining favorable defensive 
terrain south of Florence and west of 
the Chianti Hills. With that loss those 
enemy forces still east of the highway 
began to thin out. By the morning of 3 
August the Germans were in full re- 
treat across the entire corps front. 

Along Highway 2 during the night of 
3 August the Imperial Light Horse of 
the 6th South African Armoured Divi- 



sion entered the southern portion of 
Florence and the next dav reached the 
Arno. There the South Africans discov- 
ered that all of the Florentine bridges 
had been demolished except the pictur- 
esque Ponte Vecchio. Narrow and lined 
on either side with shops, the Ponte 
Vecchio was unsuitable for anvthing but 
foot traffic, and the Germans had 
blocked both ends with demolished 
buildings. West of the city the New 
Zealanders cjuicklv closed up to the south 
bank of the Arno, and the 8th Indian 
Division secured the high ground above 
Montelupo, eleven miles west of the 



ALONC; THE ARNO 



29 



city. By nighttall ot 5 August the 13 
Corps was in firm control of the south 
bank of the river from Montelupo 
eastward to Florence. 

The German Situation 

As the British approached Florence, 
Field Marshal Kesselring was conscious 
that with Leghorn, Are/./o, and Ancona 
already in Allied hands, all Cieneral 
Alexander needed to complete a system 
of logistical, communications, and oper- 
ational bases from which to support 
and control an offensive into the 
Northern Apennines was Florence. The 
city and the Arno obviously constituted 
an advantageous delaying line before 
the Apennines. On the other hand, 
there were important argmnents for 
abandoning Florence and the Arno. 

The main argument was Kesselring's 
desire to preserve, as he had Rome, the 
city of Florence and its irreplaceable 
artistic and other cultural treasures. To 
that end, the German commander had 
on 23 June designated Florence an 
open city and ordered his army com- 
manders to exclude all but internal 
security personnel from the city. That 
information was communicated indi- 
rectly through Vatican officials to the 
Allied command. Although General 
Alexander, as in the case of Rome, 
declined to issue a similar declaration, 
he was equally anxious to avoid fighting 
w ithin the historic city. ' ' 



''AOK 14, la Nr. 4695H4IC,fh., 23 Jun 44, in AOK 
14, In KTB Nr. 3, Aril. 611.1, 30 Jun 44, AOK 14, 
59091/4: MS # C-095c (Senger), CMH; Alexander 
Despatch, pp. 60-61. An interesting eve\vitnes.s ac- 
count as to how both sides treated the so-called 
open city may be found in Nicky Mariano, Forty 
Years with Berenson (New York: Knopf, 1966), Ap- 
pendix: "A month with the Paratroopers in the 
front line." 



Similarly, to fight along the Arno and 
at other delaying positions short of the 
Gothic Line was to endanger the world- 
renowned artistic and architectural 
monuments of other Tuscan cities, such 
as Pisa, Lucca, and Pistoia. Even the city 
of Prato, a few miles northwest of 
Florence, contained important frescos 
by Fra Filippo Lippi. Moreover, stored 
in scores of villas and warehouses over 
the Tuscan countryside weie priceless 
art treasures removed for safekeej)ing 
from Florence's famed Uff'izi Gallery. 
Should an all-out battle develop along 
the Arno, those too would be endan- 
gered. '- 

The argument jDosed for Field Mar- 
shal Kesselring a critical choice, if he 
allowed the Allied armies to assault the 
Gothic Line without first having to fight 
through a series of forward delaying 
positions, he would run the risk of 
facing them in the Po Valley before the 
end of the year. He had given orders 
that Pisa and Florence were to be 
spared, but at the same time he had 
directed his arm\ commanders to make 
the Allies fight for every gain between 
the Arno and the Northern Apennines. 
The orders were obviously inherently 
contradictory, since Florence, especially, 
was the key to the Arno p)sition. To 
\ield the city would necessarih lead to a 
withdrawal all along the north bank of 
the river. ''^ 

While the German commander 
weighed the pros and cons of holding 
the Arno position, his Allied opponents, 
despite Kesselring's unilateral declara- 
tion of Florence as an ojDen city, har- 
bored no doubts that he would contest, 



'-MS # C-09.5C (Senger), CMH. 
'•'MS # C-064 (Kesselring), C;MH: AOK 14, la 
KTB AnI. 4, 2 Aug 44, AOK 14, Doc. 62241/1. 



292 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



as lie had done so otten l^efore, every 
vard ol defensible ground south of the 
eit\ and p)ssibl\ within it until forced 
to withdraw. C>)n\inced that the Ger- 
mans had \et to complete their defen- 
ses in the Northern Apennines, the 
Allied commanders belie\ed that Kes- 
selring still needed time and thus would 
attempt to hold along the Arno. '^ 

As the front approached Florence, 
the Germans faced glowing difficulties 
in keeping the civilian population of the 
citv supplied with food, w hich had to be 
trucked from as far awav as the Lom- 
bard plain, fifty miles to the north. 
The Fourteenth Army, in whose zone the 
city lay, was itself plagued by a shortage 
of transport to supj3ort its own opera- 
tions and could spare few trucks to 
assist the hungry Florentines.'' 

Under those circumstances it was not 
surprising that, as the front neared the 
citv, the German garrison faced mount- 
ing hostilitv from the population, but 
General Lemelsen prohibited any retal- 
iation unless civilians engaged in hostile 
acts, such as guiding Allied troops over 
difficult terrain or informing them of 
the location of German positions. In 
such cases he did not shrink from 
authorizing strong punitive measures, 
including, in one case, reprisal b\ exe- 
cuting twenty-six civilians.'" 

On 31 July, as the British 13 Corps 
approached Florence, Lemelsen or- 
dered destruction of all bridges within 
or near the citv except the Ponte Vec- 



•^Msg, FX 80724, Wilson to Troopers, 9 Aug 44, 
AFHQ Cable Log file (OUT), 0100/4/43. 

'\40K 14, la KTB Anl. 4, 21 Jul 44, AOK 14, Doc. 
62241/1. 

'«//>(</., 22 Jul 44; AOK 14, Opn. Order, ta \'r. 
3041144 g. Kdos, 14 Jul 44, in la KTB Anl. 4, Anl. 
723, AOK 14, Doc. 62241/4. 



chio. '" While that bridge is pictuiescjue, 
art historians judge that it has little 
artistic merit in comparison with some 
of the others that the Germans de- 
stroyed. A consideration in Lemelsen's 
mind ma\ ha\'e been that its militar\ 
\alue was as slight as its artistic worth. 

Meanwhile, after British artillerv fire 
destroved the electric power lines lead- 
ing to Florence, conditions for the 
population worsened. All water supplies 
were cut off, thus further fanning a 
growing resentment toward the Ger- 
mans, whom the Flc^entines, as the 
Romans before them, regarded as the 
authors of all their misfortunes.'^ 

Evacuation oj Florence 

Faced with the near hopeless task of 
supplying a denselv populated urban 
area with the necessities of living, Kes- 
selring decided on 2 August to aban- 
don the city, employing paratroopers to 
cover the withdrawal of Schlemm's / 
Parachute Corps. As the paratroopers 
fought with their backs to the Arno 
throughotit 3 August, the fur\ of the 
battle threatened at times to engulf 
Florence, despite the mutual concern to 
spare the citv. Allied artiller\ fire hit 
those (|uarters south of the ri\er. and 
occasional long rounds smashed into 
the central citv, hitting among other 
places the Piazza Museo Instituto 
defArte and the Ponte della \'ittoria, 
one of the bridges left standing in spite 
of Lemelsen's order. Allied aircraft, 
flving ck)se support missions, also fned 
into portions of the city on both sides 
of the Arno. '•' 



''AOK 14, la KTB \r. 4, 26 and 31 Jul 44. .WK 
14, Doc. 62241/1. 
'>*Ibid., 31 Jul 44. 



ALONC; THE ARNO 



293 



The next day under strong j)res.suie 
from the British, the Germans, having 
leit combat outposts along the south 
bank, tell back beyond the Arno east 
and west of Florence. Under orders to 
make no stand within the citv, the main 
bod\ of the joaratroojx^rs withdrew to 
the Mugnone Canal on the northwest- 
ern edge of the cit> . That was to ser\'e 
only as a brief dela^ing position before 
withdrawal into the Heinrich Mountain 
Line, another dela\ing position located 
in the Mugello Hills four miles north of 
Florence.-" After first proxiding the 
Florentines with a two-dav ration of 
bread, General Schlemm on 7 August 
withdrew the last of his troops. As the 
Germans left, local partisans swiftly oc- 
cupied those (juarters of the city south 
and east of the canal."-' 

The Ligurian Flank 

While Kesselring's attention had been 
understandably concentrated on his 
central sector in the vicinity of Florence 
during the fhst week of August, he 
nevertheless continued to cast anxious 
glances toward his Ligurian flank, 
which he had long considered a likelv 
site for another Allied amphibious op- 
eration. Noting that some French units 
had been identified in northern France, 
he wondered if that meant that an 
attack against southern France was no 
longer contemplated. If not southern 
France, perhaps the Italian Riviera? As 
late as 10 August intelligence officers 
were gixing e(|ual weight to the {possibil- 
ity of landings in southern France and 
the Italian Riviera. -- 



Kesselring's apprehension increased 
on the 1 1th when reports from Ger- 
man aeiial reconnaissance disclosed the 
presence along the west coast of Corsica 
of two Allied convoys, totaling seventy- 
five ships. While the Germans believed 
most of that force was headed for 
southern France, some concern re- 
mained that at least part of it might 
attempt to land along the Ligurian 
coast where Marshal Rodolfo Graziani's 
Italo-German Ligurian Army garrisoned 
the coast of the Gulf of Genoa to the 
Fourteenth Army's left rear. As if to 
underscore the concern, Lemelsen and 
Graziani placed both of their com- 
mands on full alert, and Lemelsen 
moved a motorized battalion to Lucca, 
ten miles northeast of Pisa, as a security 
force against possible airborne or am- 
phibious landings.-'^ For the next few 
days the Germans waited tensely. Al- 
though a patrol captured several Amer- 
icans from the 1st Armored Di\ision, 
their interrogation confirmed onh the 
obvious fact that the armored di\ision 
had leturned to the front. -^ The Ger- 
mans also observed artillerv strong- 
points, hea\T vehicular traffic, and the 
assembly of armor south and southwest 
of the Arno. All seemed to point to a 
renewal of the Allied dri\e north- 
ward.'-'' 

On 15 August Kesselring's long pe- 
riod of watchful waiting and wondering 
what the Allies were going to do with 



'"'Ibid., 3 Aug 44. 
''"Ibid., 4-6 Aug 44. 
^'Ibid., 7 Aug 44. 

-^Greiner and Sctiramm, cds., OKW/WFSl, KTH . 
IV(I), pp. 507-12 



-■'The Ligurian Army was actually more of a 
provisional corps head(|uarters than an army, some- 
what similar to Annee Abteilung von Zangen, consist- 
ing of the fusilier battalion of the 34th Dix'ision, the 
~f2 Jfirgrr Divisian. the 3d and 4th Italian Mountain 
Divi.siony Set- AOK H. la KTH Nr. 4. 12 Aug. 44. AOK 
14. Doc. 62241/1. 

-ybid., 10 and 13 Aug. 44. 

-'Ibid., 14 Aug. 44. 



294 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



those troops assembling south of Rome 
ended when he learned of the U.S. 
Seventh Army's landing in southern 
France. Even then he expected that the 
Allies might vet attempt tactical land- 
ings between Genoa and La Spezia, the 
Italian naval base about fifty miles 
northwest of Leghorn. That was yet 
another example of Kesselrings obses- 
sion with the possibilitv of hostile am- 
phibious operations against his flanks.-*' 
Meanwhile, both sides continued to 
spar in the sectors flanking Florence, 
while the city itself was for several days 
a no-man's-iand, controlled by roving 
partisan bands. Although Cierman rear 
guards easih kept the partisans at bay 
along the Mugnone Canal, increasing 
difficulties in supplying minimum ra- 
tions to the civilians in those suburban 
quarters still held by the (iermans 
prompted General Lemelsen on 17 Au- 
gust to abandon the canal line. That 
night, Indian infantrymen, who had 
entered Florence on the 13th over the 
Ponte Vecchio, fanned out to take o\er 
the entire city.-' 

Tfw Cost 

With the occupation of Florence the 
campaign of central Italy, which had 
begun four months before along the 



Liri and the Garigliano Rivers, came to 
an end. The Allied drive from the 
Tiber to the Arno, w hile less costly than 
the major battles of the May offensive 
south of Rome, had taken a heavy toll 
nevertheless. Beyond Rome the U.S. 
Fifth Army captured over 16,000 Ger- 
mans, while the British, Poles, and 
Italians added more than 7,000. The 
Germans listed their combat k)sses from 
mid-June to mid- August as 63,500 
killed, wounded, and missing. Between 
Rome and the Arno the U.S. Fifth 
Armv toll was approximatelv 18,000 
castiallies, the Eighth Arm\ 16,000. 
The Allied total was about half that of 
the Germans, representing a much bet- 
ter ratio than during the drive on 
Rome. -^ 

On a clear da\ one could see from 
the Allied front lines the distant out- 
lines of the Northern Apennines where 
for months the Germans had been 
constructing defensive works even more 
formidable than those of the Gustav 
Line south of Rome. The withdrawals 
for southern France accomplished, the 
peninsula cleared up to the Arno, Al- 
lied commanders could turn full atten- 
tion to the planning for an offensive 
aimed at breaking those defenses. 



'''Ibid., 15 Aug 44. 

'''Ibid., 17 and 18 Aug 44; Operations oi the 
British, Indian, and Dominion Forces in halv. Part 
II, Sec. D. 



"f////; Army History, Part VI, pp. 106 and 111; 9th 
MRU, Fifth Armv American Battle Casualties, 10 
Jun 45, CMH: IWliiste der Wehrmacht, HI/1 76a, CMH. 
Otthe 17,939 casualties in the Filth .\rmy. American 
casualties totaled 11,259: 1,933 killed, 8,777 
wounded, 549 missing. 



PART FIVE 
THE GOTHIC LINE OFFENSIVE 



In studying ancient combat, it can be seen that it was almost always an 
attack from the flank or rear, a surprise action, that won battles, 
especially against the Romans. 

Colonel Ardant du Picq, Battle Studies: 
Ancient and Modem Battles. 



CHAPTER XVII 



Planning for the Offensive 



The Allied campaign in central Italy 
over, some of the hardest battles and 
the most challenging terrain ot the war 
in western Europe still faced Cieneral 
Alexander's armies as the\ prepared to 
attack in the Northern A])ennines. In 
the months to come the character of 
those mountains and the soggy plain of 
the Romagna, northeast of the Apen- 
nines largeh within a triangle formed 
bv three major roads linking the cities 
of Rimini, Ravenna, and faenza, would 
pla\ an important role in determining 
the fortunes of friend and foe alike. 

The Tenoiu 

Extending from the Ligurian Alps 
just north of Genoa, Italv's major com- 
mercial port, the Northern Apennines 
foim a great arc extending southeast- 
ward across the peninsula, almost as far 
as the Adriatic coast south of Rimini, 
before turning southward to become 
the ('entral Apennines, the rugged 
spine of the Italian j)eninsula. The 
northern face of the Apennines is 
friendly, sloping gradually and invit- 
inglv toward the Lombard j)lain and 
the valley of the Po, while the southern 
face is hostile, dropping sharpK and 
formidablv into the Arno \allev and a 
uarnnv coastal plain south of the naxal 
base of La Sj)ezia, 45 miles northwest of 
Leghorn. (Map X) 

Although the dominant alignment of 
the Northern AjDennines is northwest to 



southeast, erosion b) numerous traverse 
streams draining both slopes of the 
range has cut long and irregular spurs 
extending northeast and southwest and 
left isolated peaks along the highest 
ridges. The range's summits rise from 
an elevation of 300 feet along the edge 
of the Lombard plain to an a\erage 
crest elevation of 3,000 to 3,600 feet. 
Aboxe the ridges some summits exceed 
4,000 feet and in the western part of 
the range, 6,000 feet. 

The \\ater dixide of the Apennines is 
not the crest line but instead a line of 
high ground crossed by sexeral passes, 
all over 2,700 feet in elexation. Most of 
the water courses run relatixely parallel 
to one anothei-, flowing either northeast 
into the Po Valley, or south into the 
Arno Rixer, oi" the Ligurian Sea. Onh a 
few, such as the Sieve, which flows 
almost due east through a \ alley fifteen 
miles north of Florence, fail to conform 
to the pattern. The deep \alle\s cut by 
the mountain streams, together with the 
irregular geolog\ of the range, dixide 
the Northern Apennines into countless 
compartments marked by broken 
ridges, spurs, and deep, pocket-shaped 
xalleys providing a series of excellent 
defensive positions. 

In contrast to the more hospitable 
and intensixely cultixated hill countrv of 
central Italy xvest of the C^entral Apen- 
nines, the Noithern Apennines afford 
little ()j)portunity for cross-countix or 
lateral moxement bx either xvheeled or 



298 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



tracked vehicles. In nian\ areas in 1944, 
cart tracks or mule trails were the only 
routes between \illages. As elsewhere in 
Itah, grain fields, vineyards, and olive 
gi()\es were spread across the valleys, 
hills, and k)wer slopes of the mountains. 
On the upper sk)pes, where there had 
been little erosk)n, chestnut, scrub oak, 
and evergreen forests abounded. Else- 
where centuries of erosi(Mi have ex- 
posed precipitous bare rock slopes, 
sheer cliffs, and razor-backed ridges. 

In late September the autumn rains 
often lUrn normally small mountain 
streams into torrents, flooding roads 
and washing out culverts and bridges. 
With the rains in the fiill of 1944 came 
fog and mist swirling around the 
mountain peaks, filling the narrow val- 
leys, and reducing visibility to zero. At 
the higher elevations snow began falling 
in late October and in midwinter pe- 
riodically blocked the passes. 

Just north of Florence the foothills of 
the Northern Apennines extend to 
within a few miles of the Arno. West of 
the city the foothills curve northwest- 
ward, rising above a wide plain north of 
the river. Two spurs, extending south- 
east from the mountains, di\ide the 
plain into three parts. Fifteen miles west 
of Florence, from an elevation of 2,014 
feet, the Monte Albano ridge dominates 
the eastern half of the plain and, four 
miles northeast of Pisa, the 3,001 -foot 
Monte Pisano massif dominates the 
western half. 

Numerous roads crossed the plain. A 
four-lane autostrada ran along its 
northern edge, connecting Florence 
with Pistoia and Lucca and the coastal 
road northwest of Pisa. A good second- 
ary road network tied those towns with 
the fertile Tuscan countryside, criss- 



crossed by numerous drainage canals. 
Although in dry summer months the 
valley provided excellent terrain for 
militaiy operations, the complex system 
of ditches and canals could be exploited 
as antitank obstacles. 

The main roads that traversed the 
moimtain range folknved the dominant 
northeast-southwest pattern of the 
spurs and stream lines. An exception 
was the Florence-Bologna highway 
which followed a north-south axis. 
From the Arno \'alle\ twehe all-weather 
roads crossed the Apennines to the 
Lombard plain and the Po Valle\, but 
only five figured prominently in Allied 
planning for the offensixe against the 
Gothic Line. Most of the others, espe- 
cially those west of Pistoia, either 
crossed mountainous terrain unsuited 
for large-scale militarv operations or led 
to points of little strategic interest. In 
addition, several secondary roads that 
would figure later in the offensive 
threaded across the mountains through 
narrow stream valleys to the Po Valley. 
Numerous curves, steep gradients, and 
narrow defiles made those roads a 
challenge even to peacetime motorists. 
Few bvpasses of bridge crossings ex- 
isted, and during heavy rains landslides 
frecjuently blocked the roads. 

Roads available to the Allies south of 
the Arno were fewer than those the 
Germans might use for their support in 
the Po Valley, and heavy military traffic 
had left most in a bad state of repair. 
The U.S. Fifth Army's western sector 
had better lines of communications 
than those occupied bv the British 
Eighth Army east of the Central Apen- 
nines, and to compound the issue, in 
winter the few existing roads were 
more fre(]uentlv covered with ice and 



PLANNINC; FOR THE OFFENSIVK 



299 



snow than those west oi the Apennines. 

The rail lines also iavoied the west 
coast, tor two of Italy's best railroads, 
both double-tracked, paralleled the 
coast west ot the Apennines. li worked 
to capacity the lines could deli\ei" an 
estimated 10,000 tons daily to lorward 
railheads. On the east coast north ol 
San Se\ero there was only a single-track 
line over which a peak capacity of about 
;^,000 tons per da\ could Ix' delivered 
to the railhead. 

On the German side ol the moun- 
tains one of the tactically most useful 
loads in the Po Vallev and Lombard 
jjlain was Highway 9 (the old Via 
Emilia), which paralleled the noithern 
base of the Apennines and ran from 
Rimini on the Adriatic northwestward 
to Milan, the industrial anci population 
center of the region. The cities of 
(^esena, Forli, Bologna, Modena, Reg- 
gio, and Parma, all northern termini of 
loads crossing the Apennines, were 
located along the highway. The road 
thus was an important factor for ena- 
bling Kesselring to shift his forces rap- 
idlv behind his front and keep supplies 
moving into the mountains. 

Although the valley's excellent road 
and rail network gave the Germans 
shorter and better lines of communica- 
tions, Allied air superiority created seri- 
ous problems, especially with the rail- 
roads. All of the frontier lines entering 
Italy, except those on the east and west 
coasts, crossed Nulnerable Alpine passes 
and converged at the foot of the Alps 
at im[3ortant junctions where traffic was 
rerouted for different parts of Italy: 
Genoa, Turin, Milan, Verona, Trieste, 
and Mestre (rail terminal for Venice). 
With the exception of Genoa, all of 



these cities lay on an east-west trunk 
route from Turin to Trieste and had 
connections with the distribution centers 
of Genoa and Bologna, which con- 
trolled most of the traffic from the 
north into peninsular Italy. Destruction 
of those junctions, or one of the railway 
bridges before the junctions, would 
have disrupted Italy's north-south as 
well as east-west rail traffic. The fact 
that the Italian railways had few loop 
lines tor decentralizing the main traffic 
streams made them particularly vulner- 
able, although thus far the (iermans 
and their north Italian allies had shown 
a remarkable ability to keep people and 
goods moxing between the Alps and 
the Apennines. ' 

The Gothic Line 

In developing the Gothic Line in the 
Northern Apennines, the Germans had 
created a defensive zone in considerable 
depth. The origins of the defenses 
actually antedated the Italian campaign. 
In August 1943, before the Allied 
landings in southern Italy, Field Mar- 
shal Rommel, then Army Group B com- 
mander in northern Italy, had begun 
reconnaissance for defensive positions 
in the Northern A{3ennines, whence the 
Germans might withdraw in the e\ent 
of an Allied invasion of Italy. - 

Reconnaissance for the projected de- 
fensive zone continued throughout the 

' See Part V, The Railroad Situation from the 
beginning of January until the end of April 1945, 
Typescript Operation Ijghtning. Ref \r. t'SDIC/ 
SIIR 3()/S(i, 13 Mar 47, Special Interrogation Rpt. 

-MS # B-268 (Beckel and Beelit/)'. I'hc Italian 
Theater, 23 August-2 September 1944, C. MH; 
Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKW/WFSt, KTB. IV 
(1), pp. 16-17. Unless otherwise indicated the 
following is based upon these sources. 



300 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



remaining months of 1943, but actual 
work began only in the following spring 
under a paramilitary Cierman construc- 
tion agency. Organization Todt, em- 
ploying several thousand Italian civil- 
ians. From the vicinitv of Massa on the 
Liorurian coast about fort\ miles north- 
west of Leghorn, the Gothic Line ex- 
tended eastward along the ridge line of 
the main Apennines chain to foothills 
north of the Foglia River. From there 
the line ran along the crest of one of 
the range's many spurs to Pesaro on 
the Adriatic coast, some forty miles 
northwest of Ancona. The line covered 
a total air line distance of some 180 
miles. 

When Kesselring became senior Ger- 
man commander in Italy, he turned 
attention away from the Northern 
Apennines, in keeping with his plan to 
stand instead in the south. L'ntil the 
spring of 1944 little of the Gothic Line 
existed except as pencil markings on 
maps in the German headcjuarters; but 
the rapid collapse of the front south of 
Rome in late May and early June, as 
well as instructions from the high com- 
mand, finally prompted Kesselring to 
refcxrus on the Northern Apennines. In 
early summer antitank defenses on the 
more exposed sectors of the projected 
line were strengthened with mine fields 
and the civilian population was evacu- 
ated from a "dead zone" 2()-kil()meters 
deep in front of what would become 
the main line of resistance. Within that 
zone all roads, bridges, and communi- 
cations facilities were either to be de- 
stroyed or prepared for demolition. 

After the U.S. Fifth Army broke 
through the Caesar Line in June, Hitler 
had ordered construction work on the 
Northern Apennines positions acceler- 



ated. B\ July the western portion of the 
Gothic Line had been completed. That 
that segment was finished first was 
attributable not to the impcjrtance with 
which the Germans viewed the western 
portion but to its relative unimj3(jrtance, 
so that the positions there were less 
complex. A breakthrough in the west 
would be no real attraction to the Allies, 
the Germans reasoned, since it would 
cut off no large bodies of German 
troops from their lines of communica- 
tions with Germany. Moreover, few- 
roads traversed the sector. The two 
most important, Highways 12 and 64, 
crossed the mountains, respecti\eh', at 
Abetone Pass, about twent\-three miles 
northeast of Lucca, and at Porretta, 
some seven miles north of Pistoia. The 
Serchio River xallev north of Lucca, the 
Reno valley north of Pistoia, and the 
Arno-Savio valley, all penetrating deep 
into the region, were narrow and easily 
defended, thus unlikeh a\enues of Al- 
lied attack. 

The two most \ulnerable sectors of 
the Apennines defensive zone were to 
be found in the central sector north of 
Florence, where the range is at its 
narrowest, and on the eastern sector 
south of Rimini, where the mountains 
fall away into low foothills and to a 
narrow coastal plain. In the central 
sector north of Florence, Highway 65 
linked that cit\ with Bologna — 55 miles 
awa\ — across two passes, the Futa and 
the Radicosa; and a good secondar\ 
road from Florence \ia Firenzuola to 
Imola, in the Po Valle\ twenty miles 
southeast of Bologna, crossed the 
inountains over II Giogo Pass. On the 
eastern sector the coastal corridor of- 
fered a wider choice of passage to the 
Po Valley. 



PLANNINC; FOR THE OFFENSIVE 



30 



Akhougli Kesseliing had long re- 
garded those two sectors as the most 
likeh targets of an Allied offensive, 
construction on defensive works in both 
sectors fell behind schedule until well 
into the summer ol 1944. On the 
eastern sector, an inspection in Julv ol 
antitank defenses between Monte Gri- 
dolfo and the Adriatic port of Pesaro 
disclosed serious deficiencies. Although 
a complex series of antitank mine fields 
had been planned, onlv 1 7,()(){) mines, 
mostly of Italian manufacture, were in 
place b\ mid-Jul\. Low brush-co\ered 
hills in that sector afforded excellent 
concealment and \alleys and ravines at 
right angles to the line of defense 
pro\ided co\ered routes of approach 
for troops coming from the south, \et 
only one antitank position had been 
completed. With time running out, Kes- 
seliing decided to rely instead upon a 
combination of antitank emplacements 
within the main line of resistance and a 
mobile reserve of self-propelled anti- 
tank guns, a tactic that hacl worked well 
in the Caesar Line south of Rome. Yet 
it had one serious shortcoming: \ulner- 
abilitx to Allied airpower. Since the 
Allies dominated the skies, shifting anti- 
tank guns or anything else during dav- 
light was always hazardous. Ftnther- 
more, about 150 88-mm. guns would 
be needed and it was doubtful whether 
that many would be available in time."' 

That this and other deficiencies were 
not corrected immediately was con- 
firmed by a second inspection of the 
line in early August. Many defenses in 
no way met recjuirements, and a num- 
ber of terrain features which permitted 
hostile observation deep into the defen- 



sive zone and which should have been 
incorporated into the main line of re- 
sistance were left undefended forward 
of it. In many areas no fields of fire 
had been cleared and, in some cases, 
access roads constructed in order to 
build the defenses would actually aid 
the Allies in getting into German posi- 
tions.^ 

Later in the month when Ke.sselring 
himself inspected the vulnerable sectors 
of the line, he found that considerable 
late progress had been made, especially 
on the Adriatic flank, which earlier had 
bothered him so much. Yet as he 
pointed out to the Tenth Army com- 
mander, V' ietinghoff, the antitank 
ditches and wire entanglements, most 
of which had been constructed far to 
the front of the main line of resistance, 
would have been of more \alue if 
incorporated into the main defensive 
zone so as to be a surprise to attacking 
troops.'' 

The Germans continued to improve 
the defenses during the last weeks of 
August. On the Tenth Army front an 
Italo-German engineer force under 
army command completed positions in 
a so-called adxance zone (Vorfeld) of the 
Gothic Line, k)cated ak)ng high lidges 
between northeastward flowing ri\ers, 
the Foglia and the Metauro. On the left 
flank engineers worked on a coastal 
defense position, the Galla Placidia 
Line, named by a whim of an imagina- 
tive German staff officer after the B\- 
zantine princess whose tomb was an 
artistic treasure of nearbv Ravenna. 
The line extended in a westerlv direc- 
tion from the Adriatic resort town of 



'MS # C-()95c (Senger), CMH. 



\4()K H. la KTB S'r. 4. 1 Aug. 44. AOK H, 
62241/1 

■'MS# (:-()64 (Kessclring). CMH. 



302 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Cattolica, ten miles northeast of Pesaro, 
westward for ten miles to the eastern 
boundary of the neutral cit\-state of 
San Marino, whose neutrality Field 
Marshal Kesselring had instructed Gen- 
eral Vietinghoff to respect. From the 
northwest corner of the miniature state, 
the line continued seven miles in a 
northwesterly direction through the 
town of" Sogliano to the Sa\io Ri\er 
three miles to the west, thence along 
the Savio valley northeastward to the 
Adriatic ten miles south of" Ravenna. 
Although the line was primarilv in- 
tended as a defensive zone against an 
attack from the sea, in some sectors, 
especiallv between Cattolica and the 
Savio River, it could also be used as a 
switch position for the Gothic Line. 
That possibility was important, for al- 
though a switch position designated 
Green Line II had been reconnoitered 
about eight to ten miles behind the 
Gothic Line, little work had been ac- 
complished on it.*' 

German Dispositions 

Following withdrawal behind the 
Arno, and to deploy their units to best 
advantage, the Germans shifted some 
corps and divisions, especially in the 
sector held by Vietinghoffs Tenth Anny 
and on Army Group Cs flanks. On 8 
August the Te7ith Amiy^s two corps ex- 
changed places in line. Feuerstein's LI 
Mountain Corps moved into the moun- 
tainous sector on the army right wing 
adjacent to the Fourteenth Anny^s I Para- 
chute Corps, and Herr's LXXVI Panzer 
Corps moved to the Tenth Armys left 
flank where the low hills of the coastal 
corridor were better suited to the corps' 



long experience in operations with mo- 
bile formations."^ 

In the mountains east of Florence the 
LI Mountain Corps commanded fi\e di\i- 
sions: the 715th, 334th, and 305th Divi- 
sions and the 1 1 4th Jaeger Division; the 
44th Division was in c(3rps reserve. Man- 
ning the LXXVI Panzer Corps front were 
three divisions: the 5th Mountain and 
the 71st and 278th Divisiom. When the 
panzer corps fell back into the Gothic 
Line, it was to take control also of 
Group Witthoeft's 162d Turkomen and 
98th Divisions, in reserve positions 
guarding the coastal flank south and 
north of Rimini, (iuarding the coastal 
regions at the head of the Adriatic 
northeast of Venice were the 94th Divi- 
sion at Udine and the I88th Reserve 
Division on the Istrian peninsula. The 
15th Panzer Grenadier Division and 1st 
Paraihute Division were in arm\ reserve 
on the Romagna Plain north of High- 
way 9." 

To the Tenth Anny's right, between 
Florence and Pisa, Lemelsen's Fourteenth 
Anny still had two corps: Schlemms / 
Parachute from Florence to Empoli, and 
von Senger s XIV Panzer westward from 
Empoli to the sea. The parachute corps 
controlled the 4th Parachute and 356th 
and 362d Infant^ Dii>isions: the panzer 
corps, the 65th Infantry and 16th SS 
Panzer Grenadier Divisions. In armv re- 
serve near Bologna were the 29th Pan- 
zer Grenadier and 26th Panzer Divisions, 
and along the coast fourteen miles 
northwest of Pisa, the 20th Luftieaffe 
Field Division. ■' 



"Col Horst Pretzell, Battle of Rimini, MS. CMH. 



•AOK 10, Ka KTB, Anl. <V. Aug 44, AOK 10. Dcks. 
61437/1 and 61437/2. 

'AOK 14, la KTB .Vr. 4. Aug 44, AOK H. Doc. 
62241/1. 



PLANNINC; FOR THK OFFENSIVE 



303 



Presence of the L/friniau Army under 
Italian Marshal (ira/iani along the coast 
farther north was testament to Kessel- 
rings continuing concern for his vul- 
nerable western flank. Created on 3 
August, this new army replaced the 
former Armcc AbtcHung von Zangcn, 
which earlier in the campaign had 
operated on the Adriatic flank oi Army 
Group C. Ciraziani's L/f^onm Army con- 
sisted of" two corps: Korps Ahtcihmg Lich, 
a provisional corps head(|uarters — un- 
der the command of the 34th Division 
commander, Cieneralleutnant Theobald 
Lieb — which, in addition to Lieb's divi- 
sion, also controlled the Italian Dix'ision 
"San Marco,'' the 4tli Mountain Battalion, 
and the Mittcmvald Mountain Warfare 
School Battalion. The second headcjuar- 
ters, Cieneralleutnant Ernst Schlemmer's 
LXXV Infantiy Corps, originally created 
to guard the Franco-Italian frontier, 
commanded the 42d Jaeger and 5th 
Mountain Divisions and the Italian Moun- 
tain Division ""Monte Rosa/' By mid- 
August (iraziani's Ligurum Army had 
responsibilitv for the coastal defenses 
from the \icinitv of the naxal base of La 
Spezia northwestward past (ienoa to the 
frontier.'" 

In mid- August, as the Allied forces 
Ix'gan advancing up the Rhone Valley 
after Dra coon's successful landings on 
the Mediterranean coast of France, Field 
Marshal Kesselring shifted the 90th 
Panzer Greiuidier Division to the Franco- 
Italian border to secure the Alpine 
passes there, for over those passes 
French armies under two Napoleons 
had invaded Italv to win control of 



Loinbardy on the battlefields of Mar- 
engo and Magenta. Yet in late August 
of 1944 Fielcl Marshal Kesselring was 
more concerned about extricating from 
France two divisions — the 757//? Moun- 
tain and the l4Hth Resen'e — which OKW 
had transferred from Generaloberst Jo- 
hannes Blaskowitz's Army Group G to 
Army Group C. Early in September Kes- 
selring would relieve the 90th Panzer 
Greiuidier Division with the 5th Mountain 
Division from the Tenth Army. The pan- 
zer grenadier division was then moved 
into Army Group C reserve along the 
Adriatic coast east of Venice. Until 
winter snows closed the passes from the 
Haute Savoie into the Italian Piedmont, 
the Ciermans would keep a watchful eye 
on the Franco- Italian frontier, tor Kes- 
selring believed that the Allies in France 
might be tempted to follow the ancient 
invasion trail and descend upon the 
Turin-Milan industrial complex of 
northwestern Italy." 

Changes in Allied Strategy 

E\en as Kesselring's engineers rushed 
to put finishing touches to their defen- 
sive works in the Apennines, Field 
Marshal Alexander decided upon sig- 
nificant changes in his plan to break 
through the defenses. That decision 
was made on 4 August at a conference 
among the senior British commanders 
gathered in the shadow of a wing of a 
Dakota aircraft on the Orvieto airfield 
at Eighth Arm\' headcjuarters. The pro- 
posal to change the earlier plans had 
come from the armv's commander. 



'"(ieneralleutnant Hans Roettigei and Oberstleut- 
nant von Cannstein, Feldzug in Italien, II Ted, Band 
I. KapiUd 6; Clrciner and Schramm, t-ds., OKW I 
WFSt, KTB, IV (1), pp. 537-38. 



"MS # C-()64 (Kesselring), CMH; (ireiner and 
Schramm, eds., OKW/WF.St, KTB, IV (1), pp. 583- 
84. See also Smith, MS, Riviera to the Rhine, App. 
A, Operations Along the Franco-Itahan Frontier. 



304 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



General Leese, and "arose," as Field 
Marshal Alexander later described it, 
"from his [Leese's] Judgment of his 
army's capabilities and the manner in 
which it [the army] could best be 
employed." '- 

Alexander had originally planned for 
the Fifth and Eighth Armies, their 
strength concentrated on contiguous 
wings, to launch a joint offensiye by 
four army corps, controlling fourteen 
divisions, against the Gothic Line's cen- 
tral sector north of Florence. The ar- 
mies were to attack simultaneously 
along parallel axes: the Eighth along 
the main routes between Florence and 
Bologna and the Fifth from either 
Lucca or Pistoia (preferably the latter) 
toward Modena, in the Po Valley 
twenty-five miles northwest of Bologna. 
Since Alexander doubted that Clark's 
forces would be strong enough to ex- 
ploit much beyond Modena, and since 
the Eighth Army was the larger, the 
Allied armies commander had given 
Leese's army the task of exploiting to 
the Po. 

Yet as the pause along the Arno 
lengthened into weeks. General Leese 
became convinced that the geogiaphi- 
cally vulnerable Adriatic flank and not 
the central sector north of Florence 
would be the most favorable point for 
the main attack against the Gothic Line. 
Kesselring had reached a similar con- 
clusion and had shifted the center of 
giavity of his army group to a 20-mile- 
wide sector on the Tenth Army's left 
wing. '^ 

General Leese's argument ran some- 

'2SAC Despatch, 13 Aug- 12 Dec 44; Alexander 
Despatch, pp. 65-66. Unless otherwise cited the 
following is based upon these sources. 

'3MS # T-Ib (Westphal et ai), CMH. 



thing like this: with the departure of 
the French Expeditionary Corps, units 
in the Allied armies trained and experi- 
enced in mountain warfare were few. 
An offensive concentrated not in the 
mountains but against the eastern flank 
of the Apennines chain, where the 
mountains give wa\ to a low range of 
foothills overlooking a narrow coastal 
plain, would offer terrain better suited 
to the Eighth Army's mobile capabili- 
ties. There Leese also could better 
exploit the advantage of his superior 
firepower in support of a series of set- 
piece attacks against successixe positions 
in the low hills between the Metauro 
and Foglia Rivers. Furthermore, a 
breakthrough in that sector would cam 
Allied troops more cjuickly onto the 
plain north of the Aj^ennines than in 
the central sector north of Florence; 
and General Leese believed, erro- 
neously, that Kesselring expected no 
major Allied effort in the east. An 
attack in the east would also reduce the 
forces needed for flank protection, for 
Clark's Fifth Army represented suffi- 
cient protection for the left flank of the 
main attack, and shifting eastward to- 
ward the coast would enable General 
Leese to rely on the coast itself for right 
flank protection, plus a small fleet of 
destroyers and gunboats. The new plan 
called for naval bombardment and 
small-scale amphibious assaults against 
the enemy's Adriatic flank. '^ 

Although unstated at the time, the 
shift of the main offensive would also 
harmonize more closeh with the stra- 
tegic goals e\en then being persistenth 
upheld in Allied councils bv Prime 



'^Alexander Despatch, pp. 65-66: S.A^C Despatch. 
Aug-Dec 44, pp. 5-6; Xicolson, .-Ifcx, p. 263. 



PLANNINC; FOR THE OFFENSIVE 



305 



Minister Cliuichill: a thrust Ironi north- 
eastern Italy through Slovenia, toward 
which Tito and liis \'ugosla\ partisan 
arnn were moving, and into the \alley 
ot the mid-Danube, objective oi the 
southern wing of" the Red Army. Later 
in the month, after the Russians over- 
ran Rumania, the military logic of 
Clunxhiirs arguments and Alexander's 
eastward shilt of the locale of his main 
offensive would seem in British eyes 
compelling.'-^ To what degree, if anv, 
C^hurchilfs \iews influenced, or indeed, 
determined Alexander's decision to 
change his original plans for the Gothic 
Line offensive, can, at best, only be 
inferred. 

In any case, Leese's argument ap- 
pealed to Alexander, who readily ac- 
cepted it."^ Yet when he hrst submitted 
the new concept to the theater com- 
mander for approN'al, General Wilson's 
Joint Planning Staff, strongly influenced 
b\ General Dexers, was less than enthu- 
siastic. The staff, for example, consid- 
ered the naval and amjJliibious opera- 
tions planned against the enemv's left 
flank too ambitious. Neithei the conflg- 
m at ion of the coast in the Ravenna 
area nor the resources a\ailable would 
permit significant oj^erations along the 
coast. Only two gunboats with 6-inch 
guns could be made axailable to supple- 
ment a small destroyer force ahead) in 

^■''F.hrman, Grand Strategy, vol. \', pp. 39()-93. 

'"Whether, as has been suggested, only because 
of a tendency to "see the other man's point of view" 
seems difficult to determine, for Alexander himself 
has written little about the decision other than to 
note his own concern "at the prospect of extensive 
operations in the mountains without mv best moun- 
tain troops, the French." Yet he hacl known for 
some time that these troops would not be available 
for the Gothic Line offensive. See Douglas Orgill. 
rfu' Gothic Line: The Italian Gampaign, Autumn, 194-f 
(New York: W.W. Norton 8c Co., 1967), p. 32. 



the Adriatic. Nevertheless, since most 
operational requirements, including air 
supj3ort, seemed well within the thea- 
ter's capabilities, Wilson approved the 
plan in principle, and on 6 August 
Alexander issued orders for prelimi- 
nary operations designed to set the 
stage for the main offensive to be 
mounted from the right flank instead 
of the center. Yet right up to the e\'e of 
the offensive many doubts as to the 
plan's feasibility lingered on at Allied 
headcjuarters, especially among the 
American members of Wilson's Joint 
Planning Staff. '" 

Preliminary Moves 

On the Eighth Arm\ front the most 
important problem raised bv the new 
plan was how to continue operations in 
such a wav as to conceal the change 
from the Germans. For this reason ' 
General Leese directed General Anders, 
the II Polish Corps commander, to 
resume those operations northeast of 
Ancona that had been interrupted on 4 
August b\ a counterattack against the 
Polish bridgehead across the Misa 
River. The Misa was the first of a series 
of parallel rixers — the Cesano, the Me- 
tauro, and the Foglia — which the 
Eighth Armv would have to cross in the 
coastal corridor. Those rivers and the 
militar\ problems of crossing them had 
been a factor in Alexander's original 
decision to attack in the mountains, and 
changing the plan did nothing to make 
the problems go awav. '" 



"■SAC Despatch, Aug-Dec 44, pp. 5-6; Devers 
Diary, vol. II; Alexander Di'spatch, pp. 65-66; 
Nicolson, .4/^'x, pp. 263-64. 

'"Operations of the British, Indian, and Domin- 
ion Forces in Italy, Part III, Sec. F, The 2 Polish 
Corps. 



306 

Holding the high ground north of 
the Misa was the 278th Infantry Dhnsion. 
Concern about how much longer that 
division could withstand pressures from 
the two-di\ision Polish corps and suspi- 
cions that General Leese might even 
increase those pressures had been be- 
hind General Vietinghoff s shift of Hei- 
drich's 1st Parachute Division from army 
reserve into backup positions behind 
the division. 

Leese meanwhile had assigned An- 
ders' corps a twofold task: to clear the 
giound as far as the Foglia River and 
to screen the assembly of the two 
assault forces, the Canadian 1st Corps 
and the British 5 Corps. With the 3d 
Carpathian Division on the right and 
the 5th Kresowa Division on the left, 
the Polish corps on the 9th began to 
expand the bridgehead beyond the 
Misa. Supported by generous allotments 
of artillery fire and aerial bombardment 
of enemy artillery positions by the Des- 
ert Air Force, the Polish corps by 
nightfall had cleared the five miles 
between the Misa and the Cesano Riv- 
ers and established modest bridgeheads 
beyond the Cesano, but most of those 
were lost the next day. The Polish 
troops could go no farther against well- 
organized resistance along high giound 
overlooking the Cesano from the north. 
Yet the attack had achieved a consider- 
able advantage in placing the main 
lateral highway south of the Misa River 
well beyond the range of German artil- 
lery, making it available to the two 
assault corps for their assembly for the 
main offensive. 

Conference With Clark 

Until that point the discussion and 
the decision to change Alexander's orig- 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 

inal strategy had been limited io the 
British half of the Allied command in 
Italy. General Clark still had to be 
consulted and his co-operation ob- 
tained. When General Alexander re- 
quested the Fifth Army commander to 
come to Leese's headquarters for a 
conference on the afternoon of 10 
August, he flew in with his chief of 
staff, General Gruenther, his G-3, Gen- 
eral Brann, and Alexander's American 
deputy chief of staff. Brig. Gen. Lyman 
L. Lemnitzer. Already familiar with 
broad details of the new plan, Lem- 
nitzer briefed Clark during the flight so 
that upon arrival Clark was no stranger 
to it.'« 

At General Leese's suggestion, the 
conference convened in a pleasant 
gi'ove of trees near the headcjuarters. 
In that bucolic setting the senior .'\Ilied 
commanders and their chiefs of staff 
settled comfortablv in the shade to hear 
General Alexander outline his new 
strategy. Essentially, he expanded on 
those arguments that Leese had used 
earlier. The heavy dissipation of Allied 
strength over the past few months, 
especiallv the U.S. Fifth Arm\'s loss of 
two corps and several divisions to An- 
vil-Dragoon, Alexander declared, had 
greatly reduced the chances for success 
of a joint attack b\ both armies against 
the sector north of Florence. With the 
shift of the main attack from the cen- 
tral to the eastern sector on the Eighth 
Army's right flank, the U.S. Fifth 
Army, rather than attack as originalh 
planned toward both Pistoia and Lucca, 
was to move only against Pistoia, for an 
attack against both objectives would 



'*'Clark Diary, 10 Aug 44. Unless otherwise 
indicated, the following is based upon this refer- 
ence. 



PLANNINC; FOR IHK OFFKNSIVP. 



307 



luilhcr dissipate C^laik's ahead) gieatly 
reduced resources. 

Leese's Eighth Army was to make the 
main Allied eifort beginning on 25 
August with a three-corps attack against 
the German left wing along the Ad- 
riatic, to be followed at a date to be 
determined by Alexander by the Fifth 
Arm\''s attack against the central sector 
of the Ciothic Line. Clark's attack would 
Ixfgin after Alexander had determined 
that Kesselring had weakened the cen- 
tral sector by shifting forces to check 
Leese's attack. The operation was to be, 
the Allied commander observed as he 
had when planning the offensive south 
of Rome, "a one-two punch." 

General Clark readily agreed that the 
new concept, especially on the matter of 
timing, seemed sound. He could easily 
hold on his left flank with the few 
forces he had there, even if the Pisano 
massif remained in enemv hands, and 
shift the rest to the central sector for 
the attack. His only concern was his 
right flank, where the distance and 
possible lack of co-ordination between 
an American attack toward Pistoia and 
that of the British 13 Corps on the 
Eighth Army's left flank constituted, in 
Clark's opinion, a real hazard to the 
success of operations in the central 
sector. 

In raising the objection, Cllark 
shrewdly saw an opportunity to trade 
off a shift of the Allies' main effort 
from the center to the British-con- 
trolled right for Anglo-American unity 
of command in the center. He ap- 
peared to be intent upon reconstructing 
in his own sector the concept that 
Alexander had just abandoned for the 
army group. An effective operation 
against the enemy's center, even if 



secondary, would require that both 
Clark's army and the British 13 0)rps 
be under the operational control of one 
commander and that their axes of 
attack be along the shortest distance 
across the mountains, that is, from 
Florence to Bologna. 

While Clark outlined his reservations 
with his usual earnestness, Leese lay 
relaxed on the ground with his arms 
akimbo behind his head. Turning to 
Clark, he offered to meet his reserva- 
tions by making McCreery, the 13 
Corps commander, a provisional group 
commander over both 10 and 13 
Corps, which would enable Clark to 
deal with McCreery on ecjual terms and 
thus facilitate co-operation between the 
two. General Leese carefully avoided 
any mention of placing British tr(K)ps 
once again under Fifth Army com- 
mand. Yet that was exactly what Clark 
was after. 

Several minutes of verbal sparring 
followed, during which General Leese 
rose to his feet to argue vehementh 
that ultimate control of his divisions 
had to remain with the Eighth Armv. 
At that point, Alexander intervened. 
The debate, he said, reallv seemed to 
be one of cold, logical military reason- 
ing on Clark's part, versus strong psy- 
chological and sentimental reasoning on 
Leese's part, which, of course, was not 
to be ignored. Leese finally yielded. 
Thus again, as during the winter offen- 
sive of 1943-44, an entire British corps, 
the 13 Corps, came under the Fifth 
Army's command. 

Clark agreed that the new strategy 
promised to be far more effect i\e than 
the old. The onl) remaining drawback 
as he saw it, was the additional delay 
that would be im{)osed upon the Fifth 



308 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Armv's attack. The American com- 
mander felt keenly the glowing pres- 
sure of criticism from others in the U.S. 
military establishment who had long 
opposed extension of military opera- 
tions north of Rome. Almost a month 
had elapsed since the Fifth Army had 
arrived at the Arno, and e\'er\' day that 
passed with no effort to continue the 
drive bevond the river increased the 
urgings from the partisans of Dragoon 
that the Italian campaign be abandoned 
altogether. The Eighth Army, the the- 
ory had it, could take over the entire 
front while the Fifth Army moved to 
France. Foremost spokesman of that 
viewpoint in the Mediterranean theater 
was General Devers, who had been 
named commander-designate of the 6th 
Armv Group to assume command in 
southern France. A long-time opponent 
of British strategy in the Mediterra- 
nean, he had frequently recommended 
to General Marshall that the Italian 
venture be dropped. That the cam- 
paign seemed to have bogged down at 
the Arno reinforced his argument.-" 

The Allied Plan 

On 13 August Alexander's headcjuar- 
ters distributed to the army command- 
ers the plan for the Gothic Line offen- 
sive (Operation Olive) and three days 
later the final order. As during the 
spring offensive south of Rome, Gen- 
eral Alexander envisioned turning the 
Tenth Army's flank, this time the left and 
this time with the Eighth Army rather 
than the Fifth. Controlling 1 1 divisions 
on a relatively narrow front, Leese's 



^"Ltr, Gen Devers to General Marshall, 9 Aug 44, 
CCS 603/16, in ABC 384, Eur, Sec. 9-A; See also 
Devers Diary, vol. II. 



army was to drive through the Rimini 
Gap, consisting of approximately 8 
miles of coastal plain between Rimini 
and the foothills of the Apennines. 
Once through the gap the Canadian 1st 
Corps and the British 5 Corps were to 
deploy onto the Romagna Plain, a low- 
lying triangular-shaped area cut by 
many streams and drainage ditches and 
boimded on the south by Highway 9, 
on the east by Highway 16, paralleling 
the coast between Rimini and Ravenna, 
and to the west by Highway 67, extend- 
ing in a northeasterly direction from 
Forli on Highway 9 to Ravenna. From 
the Romagna the two corps were to 
launch a twopronged dri\e to roll up 
the enemy's left flank toward Bologna 
and Ferrara. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fifth 
Army, with three corps controlling nine 
divisions on an extended front, was to 
move generalh northward from Flor- 
ence toward the Po \'alle\. Both armies 
were in time to converge on Bologna 
and then exploit toward the Po. Only 
light forces, the British 10 Corps with 
the ecjuivalent of one and a half di\i- 
sions, were to operate in the mountain- 
ous terrain between the two armies. On 
the Fifth Army's left, between the cen- 
tral sector and the Ligurian Sea, the 
U.S. IV Corps with the ecjuivalent of 
two divisions on line and one in reserve 
was considered to be strong enough to 
serve as a covering force.-' 

Alexander's resources no longer af- 
forded the luxury of an arm\ gioup 
reserve with which to influence the 
offensive at a critical point. Yet that 
seemed no serious problem at the time, 
for both of his armies were to fight 
essentially separate battles. Moreover, 



'^ Alexander Despatch, pp. 65-66. 



PLANNINC; FOR THE OFFENSIVK 



309 



each army had strong corps with vvhk h 
to lead the assaults and sufficient forces 
in reserve. In a verv real sense Alex- 
ander looked on the Fifth Army as his 
army group reserve, since under his 
one-two punch strategN he was to with- 
hold Clarks arm\ until he decided 
upon the most opportune moment to 
strike the second blow. The Fifth Army 
was to be prepared to move on 24- 
hoins notice anv time after D plus 
tive." 

As had been the case south of Rc:)me, 
there was also to be a deception plan 
with the Fifth Armv playing the majcjr 
role. Before the Eighth Army's attack, 
Clark's forces were to distract the en- 
emv b\ simulating an imminent attack 
by both Allied armies along the 25-mile 
front flanking Florence. The fact that 
Alexander had originally planned to 
attack in that sector would lend cre- 
dence to the deception. In preparation 
for attack along lines of the original 
plan, considerable shifting of troops 
and ecjuipment had already taken place. 

As hacl Alexander's strategy south of 
R(mie, the strategy in the new offensive 
would require the closest co-operation 
between the two Allied armies and their 
commanders. Otherwise, Kesselring 
would once again be able to extricate 
his forces as he had in June. 

Allied Regrouping 

Alexander's decision to shift the main 
attack necessitated large-scale movement 
of troops and ecjuipment to the right 
flank. The movement began on 15 
August with long convoys of trucks and 
tracked vehicles passing eastward 
through Foligno, the main road junc- 



tion on Highway 3, sixty miles south- 
west of Ancona. In eight days six 
thousand tanks, guns, and vehicles 
moved through the town. 

By the last week of August the 
Eighth Army was deployed across a 25- 
mile front: from the coast inland, the 2 
Polish Corps, the brigade-sized Italian 
Corps of Liberation, the Canadian 1st 
Corps, the British 5 Corps, and the 
British 10 Corps. The entire force 
totaled eleven divisions plus nine sepa- 
rate brigades.-'^ 

Although Alexander's decision meant 
the scrapping of Clark's earlier plans 
based upon a joint effort with the 
Eighth Army in the central sector, the 
Fifth Army commander still wanted the 
II Corps to make the main attack cjn 
the army's front. After Kirkman's 13 
Corps had been assigned to the Fifth 
Army, Clark shifted the focus of his 
offensive eastward to a sector between 
Florence and Pontassieve, ten miles to 
the east, hoping thereby to facilitate co- 
operation between the American and 
British corps. He intended that those 
contingents of the 13 Corps within and 
east of Florence remain in place as a 
screening force for Keyes' II Corps 
until the Fifth Army offensive began, 
but when it became apparent that the 
Germans were withdrawing into the 
mountains to the north, Clark ordered 
Kirkman to cross the Arno and to 
regain contact. 

As the II Corps relieved those Eighth 
Army units west of Florence, Clark also 
extended the IV Corps right flank 
eastward to afford the II Corps an even 
narrower front for the attack. The shift 



"Ibid. 



-•'Operations of the British, Indian, and Domin- 
ion Forces in Italy, Part III, The Campaign in the 
Northern Apennines, Sec. B, The Eighth Armv. 



310 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



left Crittenbergers IV Corps holding a 
60-mile front with only the 1st Ar- 
mored Division and the newly formed 
Task Force 45, but Clark reinforced the 
corps with the 6th South African Ar- 
moured Division from the 13 Corps. 
That left the 13 Corps with three 
di\isions and a brigade — the British 1st 
InfantiT and 6th Armoured Divisions, 
the 8th Indian Division, and the 1st 
Canadian Army Tank Brigade. During 
the first phase of the offensive, Clark 
planned for Crittenbergers corps to 
simulate a crossing of the Arno, but 
only after the main effort was well 
under way was the corps actually to 
cross: the 1st Armored Division to drive 
the enemy from the Monte Pisano 
massif and the area eastward to Empcjli, 
and the South Africans to occupy the 
high ground just beyond the river 
between Empoli and the intercorps 
boundary. ^^ 

Doubts on Both Fronts 

Although both the Fifth and Eighth 
Army commanders had enthusiastically 
endorsed the new concept for the 
Gothic Line offensive (Operation Ol- 
ive), a noticeable feeling of uneasiness 
persisted at the Allied Force Head- 
quarters in Caserta. Less than a week 
before the offensive was to begin. Gen- 
eral Devers, the deputy theater com- 
mander, had been disturbed by the 
jitteriness he had observed at Wilson's 
headquarters, "especially among the 
junior officers on the British side."-^ 

'^''Fifth Army History, Part VII, pp. 21-33; Hqs. 
AAI, Opns Order No. 3, 16 Aug 44, AFHQ AG 
Sec. 0100/21/2845. 

^^ Devers Diary, 20 Aug 44. Devers failed to note 
that the American officers on the J PS had opposed 
the plan when first submitted to AFHQ. 



There seemed to be widespread con- 
cern that the Americans would soon be 
withdrawn from Italy, leaving the Brit- 
ish Eighth Army with a task well be- 
yond its capabilities. At General Clark's 
headquarters too. General Devers had 
noted little optimism. Matching concern 
of the British at AFHQ alxjut American 
intentions was a widespread lack of 
confidence at the Fifth Army headquar- 
ters in the British, a concern that they 
would "not fight hard enough to make 
a go of it."-*^ That kind of mutual 
distrust hardly boded well for the com- 
ing offensive. 

On the German side also arose a 
crisis of confidence. Why defend the 
Northern Apennines, some asked, 
when they might develop a line far 
shorter by withdrawing to the Alps 
between Switzerland and the Adriatic? 
Well entrenched in a similar line during 
World War I, the Ciermans and their 
Austrian allies had held the Allies at 
bay for several years, even launching a 
successful counteroffensive at Caporetto 
and driving the Italians back into the 
Po Vallev. Withdrawal into those same 
alpine positions would, in the opinion 
of General Wentzell, the Tenth Army's 
chief of staff, enable the Germans to 
free three to four divisions. In a con- 
versation with Colonel Beelitz, Kessel- 
ring's operations officer, earh in August, 
General Wentzell let his frustrations 
show: 

There is no insight. All is lunacy. With 
one wing we are up in Finland, with the 
other down at Rhodes; in the center the 
enemy is in Germany. . . . It is incompre- 
hensible. There is an old farmers saving 
that in a emergency everybody rallies 
around the flag. We do not even think of 



-" Wid. 



PLANNINC. FOR I HE OFFENSIVE 



31 



this. The enemy is in Germany, the war is 
coming to an end, but we are still up at 
Murmansk. Instead of rallying around the 
flag the wings are extended who knows 
how far. I cannot understand it anymore.""^ 

Wentzell's cry of despair found no 
echo among German commanders. 
Pield Marshal Kesselring had his orders 



-'AOK 10. la KTB Mr. S, 5-8 Aug 44, AOK 10, 
Doc. 61437/3. (Telephone conversations, 31 Jul and 
6 Aug 44.) 



to hold indefinitely in the Gothic Line. 
Months of planning and preparation 
had gone into its construction, and 
veteian divisions were deployed within 
it. To the German rear lay the rich 
agricultural and industrial hinterland of 
northern Italy, the last stronghold of 
Mussolini's reconstituted Fascist Repub- 
lic. The German armies in Italy quite 
obviously would stand and fight again, 
this time among the rocks and crags of 
the Northern Apennines. 



CHAPTER XVIII 



The Gothic Line Offensive Begins 



Alexanders shift of the main offen- 
sive from the central to the eastern 
sectt)r created sexeral logistical problems 
for the Eighth Army. In addition to 
combat divisions, considerable (juantities 
of stores and ammunition that had 
already been amassed behind the cen- 
tral sector had to be moved eastward. 
That the Polish corps on the Adriatic 
flank, up to that time maintained as an 
independent force, passed to Eighth 
Army control added another responsi- 
bilit). To support the British 5 Corps 
and the 1st Canadian Corps, which 
were to operate on the Adriatic flank, 
the Eighth Army early in August had 
taken over and expanded the Polish 
corps" line of communication, while the 
army's original line of communication, 
supporting the central sector, was to be 
maintained to support the British 10 
and 13 Corps.' 

The Fifth Army too had to realign 
and reorganize its lines of communica- 
tion based on the newly captured port 
of Leghorn, to which the main part of 
the Peninsular Base Section (PBS) had 
moved.- Shortly after the capture of 
Leghorn on 19 July, engineers from 
PBS arrived to begin the hazardous task 
of removing approximately 25,000 
mines from the harbor and nearby 
ruins. A man-made harb(jr, capable of 



'Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Part III, Sec. B; SAC Despatch, 
Aug-Dec 44. 

^Mayo MS and Meyer MS. Unless otherwise 
noted the following is based upon these references. 



accommodating ships with a 25-foot 
draft, Leghorn had been the prewar 
Italian navy's main base and thus had 
abundant facilities for the storage and 
distribution of petroleum products. On 
3 September the first convoy of sexen 
Liberty ships entered the harbor. As 
reconstruction proceeded, unloading 
was slow at first, only 4,242 tons of 
cargo during the first week of Septem- 
ber, but in the last week of the month, 
those figures were to rise to 45,328 
long tons. The first tankers entered the 
port in mid-month, bv which time 
storage facilities for 275,000 barrels of 
gasoline were ready. The amount of 
storage for fuel would e\entuall\ almost 
double. Throughout this period both 
American and British port battalions 
were assigned to Leghorn, each han- 
dling ships of their respecti\e nationali- 
ties. -^ 

While developing Leghorn as a major 
port, logisticians backing up the Fifth 
Army could make onlv minimum use 
of Fk)rence, the major communications 
center on the Fifth Army front. Both to 
conceal troop movements from the en- 
emy and to protect the cit\'s historical 
and cultural monuments, supply offi- 
cers located most facilities outside the 
city. A Class I dump, for example, 
containing a million rations, was estab- 
lished in an olive grove several miles 
south of the city, while a few miles 
farther down the road a million gallons 

^Bykofsky and Larson, The Tramportation Corps: 
Operations Overseas, pp. 21 1-32. 



THE C.OTHIC LINK OFFENSIVE BEC.INS 



313 



of gasoline were assembled in con- 
tainers concealed in a xinevaid. * 

In the final weeks before the tall 
offensive, the Fifth Army's combat 
troops spent much of their time in rest 
areas behind the front, there to enjo\ 
amenities so often missing at the front. 
Refrigerator \ans brought in large sup- 
plies of fresh meats, butter, and eggs to 
supplement regular rations. Shower 
units enabled men to dis})ose of long- 
accumulated grime. Field laundries 
handled over two million pounds of 
wash. Clothing was replaced, repaired, 
salvaged. It would be a well-supplied, 
well-fed, freshly scrubbed army that 
would again take the field in Septem- 
ber.-^ 

Preliminary Operations 

Meanwhile, the 2 Polish Corps, 
which since 10 August had been halted 
along the Cesano River, prepared to 
resume its advance as a screen for the 
assembly of the Eighth Army's two 
assault corps. The corps was to cross 
the Metauro River and establish bridge- 
heads to be used by the assault corps as 
jump-off points for the main offensive. 
Although little ground action had 
erupted since the Poles halted on the 
10th, fighter-bombers of the British 
Desert Air Force in a week had flown 
392 sorties against German troops in 
the main line of resistance and support- 
ing artillery- positions. 

For five days beginning on 18 Au- 
gust the 3d Carpathian and 5th Kre- 
sovva Divisions giound steadih forward 
in the kind of fighting that had come to 
characterize action on this part of the 

*Ross and Romanus, The Quartermaster Corps: 
Operations in the War Against Germany, pp. 96-1 14. 



front. The Poles giaduallv pushed back 
the enemy's 278th Infantry Division be- 
yond the Metauro River,' and by the 
evening of 22 August both divisions 
had drawn up to the river. The Poles 
counted 300 enemy dead and took 273 
prisoners, but bridgeheads over the 
Metauro, to be exploited in the Eighth 
Army's main offensive, remained out of 
reach. ** 

Leese's Plan 

Troops of the 1st Canadian and 
British 5 Corps moved on 24 August 
into assembly areas behind the Poles a 
little over a mile short of the Metauro. 
In hope of achieving surprise and mak- 
ing up for the lack of bridgeheads 
beyond the river. General Leese di- 
rected that the artillery remain silent 
until assaulting elements had crossed 
the river. The offensive was to t)egin an 
hour before midnight on 25 August. 

General Leese's plan was cjuite sim- 
ple. Both the 1st Canadian and British 
5 Corps were to pass through positions 
of the 5th Kresowa Division on the left 
wing of the Polish corps. Once past the 
lines, the Polish division was to shift 
toward the coast and join the 3d Carpa- 
thian Division in a drive on the minor 
port of Pesaro, eastern anchor of the 
Gothic Line. There the Polish troops 
would be pinched out by the generally 
northwestward advance of the Canadi- 
ans toward Rimini, while the 5 Corps 
protected the Canadian left by clearing 
a range of low hills. Farther west the 
British 10 Corps, with a strength of 



® Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Part III, Sec. F, 2 Polish Corps. 



314 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



onh 1 V2 divisions, was to follow up the 
enemy withdraw al in the mountains. " 

German Preparations 

Rather than withdraw voluntarily into 
the Gothic Line's main zone of resist- 
ance, the commander of the LXXVI 
Panzer Corps, General Herr, had estab- 
lished his divisions along a series of 
ridges north of the Metauro whence he 
could better observe Allied movements 
and make up for the shortages of 
reconnaissance aircraft. Once he had 
determined that the main British offen- 
sive had begun, he intended to fall back 
in good order into the shelter of the 
Gothic Line. Yet Herr ran the risk of 
his units being overwhelmed before 
they could retire should the British 
achieve sufficient surprise. So confident 
were the Germans that they would have 
adequate warning that General von 
Vietinghoff, the Tenth Army com- 
mander, and General Schlemm, the 1st 
Parachute Corps commander, went on 
leave beginning 24 August.^ 

It remained to be seen whether Gen- 
eral Leese could develop in the region 
of the little Metain'o River the same 
kind of decisive victory that Roman 
legions of the Consul Nero in 207 B.C. 
had achieved against a Carthaginian 
army in winning the 2d Punic War in 
Italy. The Metaiu'o river itself and a 
succession of parallel ridges and rivers 
between the Metauro and the Romagna 
Plain clearly would have an important 
bearing on the outcome. Thirty miles 
separated the Metauro from the Marec- 

^Operations of the British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Part 111, Sec. B, The Eighth Army — 
the Gothic Line and Romagna Battles. 

"AOK 14, la KTB Mr. 4, 25 Aug 44. AOK 14 Doc. 
62241/1. 



chia River, marking the southern edge 
of the Romagna Plain, the Eighth 
Army's objective. Within that area Al- 
lied infantrymen and tankers whose 
task it was to cross the rivers and drive 
the Germans from the ridges beyond 
were to become obsessed with a kind of 
bitter refrain: "one more river, one 
more ridge." 

The Offensive Begins 

When the Eighth Army attacked on 
schedule an hour before midnight on 
25 August, the stratagem of artillery 
silence paid off. Both the 1st Canadian 
and British 5 Corps crossed the Me- 
tauro against little resistance. An hour 
later as the troops prepared to push out 
from their bridgeheads, the massed 
guns of fifteen artillen battalions fired 
a covering barrage. By dawn on 26 
August all divisions were well bevond 
the river and advancing steadih behind 
heavy artilley fire and aerial bombard- 
ment directed mainlv against enemv 
infantn.^ 

Throughout the day, planes of the 
Desert Air Force flew 664 sorties, 
mostly against Pesaro. Fighter-bombers 
also attacked enemy armor and artillery 
positions, while bombers hit coastal for- 
tifications between Pesaro and Rimini as 
well as railroad marshaling yards to the 
north and northwest of Cesano, Budrio, 
and Rimini. Offshore two gunboats 
opened fire with 6-inch guns against 
enemy left flank positions. Even dark- 
ness brought the Germans little relief; 
that night, the 26th, and the next three, 
bombers continued to attack lines of 
communication around Rimini, Ra- 



"Alexander Drspatdi. p. B8. 



THE GOTHIC LINE OFFENSIVE BEGINS 



315 



venna, Prato, and Bologna.'" By night- 
fall on the 27th the Allied divisions had 
cleared all enemy south of the Arzilla 
River and prepared to continue five 
more miles to the northwest to reach 
the Foglia River, last of the waterlines 
b)efore the main defenses of the Gothic 
Line. 

German Countermeasures 

The Allied offensive clearly had 
achieved tactical surprise. Reacting 
nervously to a report on 24 August of 
an Allied landing in the Ravenna area, 
Field Marshal Kesselring had canceled 
entrainment of the 3d Panzer Grenadier 
Division for movement to France and 
ordered a withdrawal of the 26th Panzer 
Division from army group reserve to 
become the Tenth Anny's reserve. Even 
after the Germans learned later in the 
day that the basis for the landing 
reports was the exceptionalh heax") air 
attack on Ravenna, Kesselring allowed 
the shift of the panzer division to the 
eastern sector to continue. But that was 
more a precaution than recognition that 
the offensive had begun. Not until 26 
August, after the Allied troops had 
reached the Arzilla River, did General 
Vietinghoff cut short his leave and 
hurry back to Tenth Army headcjuarters, 
where his staff briefed him on the 
developing situation. The long-awaited 
Allied offensive, General Vietinghoff 
discovered, had indeed begun. Vie- 
tinghoff immediately informed Kessel- 
ring of his conclusion. Believing the 
Allies had other surprises up their 
sleeve, Kesselring preferred to wait to 
see what those might be before decid- 
ing to react to what might be an 



opening or diversionary maneuver. ' ' 

As additional reports of Allied ad- 
vances along the Adriatic flank contin- 
ued to reach Army Group C headcjuar- 
ters during the 28th, Field Marshal 
Kesselring at last concluded that Gen- 
eral Alexander had indeed launched his 
main offensive. He authorized General 
Vietinghoff to withdraw Herr s LXXVI 
Panzer Corps into the G(3thic Line be- 
hind the Foglia River and enlist from 
army reserve the 26th Panzer Division to 
back up the Gothic Line defenses in 
that sector. That night the Germans 
opposite the Eighth Army right wing 
began to fall back in some disorder into 
the Gothic Line. Opposite the Eighth 
Army's left wing. General Feuerstein's 
LI Mountain Corps withdrew into the 
mountains to conform with Herr's ma- 

,- 12 



neuver 



Tfie Assault 



Late on the 29th, across a 17-mile- 
wide front, the British and the Canadi- 
ans reached the crests of the last hills 
overlooking the valley of Foglia, while 
patrols from the Polish corps entered 
the southern outskirts of Pesaro. That 
night the last of the German troops 
south of the Foglia retired. The next 
morning Allied patrols found that in 
many places the river was shallow 
enough for fording and that a hard 
gravel bottom was free of mines. A 
study of aerial photographs and other 
intelligence sources indicated that the 
main German defenses were on a ridge 



'" Craven and Gate, eds., AAF III, pp. 443-44. 



''AOK 14, la KTB Nr. 4, 25 Aug 44, AOK 14 Doc. 
62241/1; AOK 10, la KTB Anl. 8, 27 Aug 44, AOK 
10 Doc. 61437/1: Pretzell, Battle of Rimini, MS in 
CMH. 

'■'AOK 10. la KTB Aril. S, 28-29 Aug 44, AOK 10 
Doc. 61437/1. 



316 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



paralleling the river about three miles 
to the north. Key strongpoints ap- 
peared to ha\e been developed around 
the towns of Montecalvo, Monte Gri- 
dolfo, and Tomba di Pesaro. 

During the night of 30 August, the 
assault troops began crossing the river 
to move at dawn against the Gothic 
Line. First evidence of German reserves 
developed in the zone of the British 5 
Corps at Monte Gridolfo where ar- 
mored infantry units from the 26th 
Panzer Division had occupied the town a 
short time before the British arrived. 
Poorly oriented in their new surround- 
ings and exposed to the tremendous 
weight of Allied firepower, the armored 
infantnmen were unable to hold. 

That was the story almost every- 
where. Outflanking the eastern anchor 
of the Gothic Line, Pesaro, the Polish 
corps impelled the Germans in the 
town to withdraw on 2 September. The 
Canadian corps had, in the meantime, 
taken Tomba di Pesaro to open a gap 
between the 26th Panzer and 1st Para- 
chute Divisions and on 3 September to 
advance ten miles and pinch out the 2 
Polish Corps against the coast. On the 
Canadians' left the 46th Division of the 
5 Corps kept pace. 

With the defenses of the (iothic Line 
behind, months of hard work by (Ger- 
man engineers had gone for naught. It 
was hardly surprising that a feeling of an 
imminent and far-reaching break- 
through permeated Eighth Army head- 
c|uarters. (ieneral Leese ordered forward 
the 1st British Armoured Division to join 
the 5 Corps and prepare to follow up a 
German withdrawal. 



Early on that same day, 2 September, 



General Vietinghoff sent his chief of 
staff, General Wentzell, to General 
Herr's headquarters to evaluate the 
situation on the Tenth Arrny^ left wing. 
At the command post of the LXXVI 
Panzer Corps Wentzell found the situa- 
tion even more alarming than he and 
others at the army headquarters had 
realized. After trying without success to 
reach army headquarters for approval 
to commit the 29th Panzer Grenadier 
Division to close the gap between the 1st 
Parachute and the 26th Panzer Divisions, 
Wentzell on his own authority ordered 
it done. General Hbrr in turn brought 
forward his corps reserve, the 98th 
Division, to help close a second gap that 
had developed between the 26th Panzer 
and 71st Divisions. Along the coastal 
sector held by the 1st Parachute Division, 
General Herr formed to the rear of the 
parachutists a blocking position made 
up of miscellaneous elements from the 
162d Turkomen Division, with two artil- 
lery battalions in support.''^ 

By that time it was nevertheless 
doubtful whether those moves would be 
sufficient to enable Herr's corps to 
hold, for they ate up the last of his 
reserve. Fighting for over a week 
against greatly superior Allied forces, 
the troops of the LXXVI Panzer Corps 
were close to exhaustion. The corps 
commander knew that for additional 
reinforcement he would have to de- 
pend upon General Vietinghoff s ability 
to persuade Kesselring to shift units 
from the army group center, where the 
Allies as yet had made no move. '^ 

The Coriano Ridge 

The line General Herr was attempt- 



'""Ibid., 2-3 Sep 44. 

'*lbid.\ MS # T-lb (Westphal et al.). CMH. 



IHE (;OTHIC l.INE OFFENSIVE BECilNS 



317 



ing to hold ran along the Coriano 
Ridge, which constituted the more 
prominent of two remaining hill fea- 
tures short of the Eighth Army's objec- 
tive of the Romagna. When during the 
afternoon of 2 September the Canadian 
corps burst from a small bridgehead 
beyond the Conca River in the direction 
of the ridge, expectations at General 
Leese's headquarters of an imminent 
breakthrough burgeoned. Yet mixed in 
with reports of progress were discjuiet- 
ing indications of growing resistance. 
To beat back a tank-led counterattack, 
for example, the Canadians asked assist- 
ance from the 46th Infantry Division of 
the 5 Corps, whose troops crossed the 
intercorps boundan to help drive the 
enemv from high giound overlooking 
the Canadians' left flank. In the center 
and on the left wing of the 5 Corps the 
56th Division and the 4th Indian Divi- 
sion had throughout been moving with 
considerably less s|3eed aganst the en- 
emy located in the Apennine foothills, 
and were becoming echeloned faither 
and farther to the left rear. 

These setbacks were nonetheless in- 
sufficient to justify failure to try to turn 
what was clearly a deep salient in the 
enemy lines into a breakthrough, and 
General Leese ordered the British 1st 
Armoured Division into action. The ar- 
mored division was to seize what ap- 
peared to be the keystone of the Cori- 
ano position, the village of Coriano. 

Everything turned upon the timely 
arrival of the armor, yet when the 
division left its assembly area south of 
the Foglia, eventhing seemed to con- 
spire against achieving that goal. The 
footing on the rain-soaked trails leading 
to the front was so poor that a score of 
vehicles broke down, and the rest, 



grinding forward much of the way in 
low gear, failed to reach the south bank 
of the Conca River until late on 3 
September. It was midmorning of the 
next day before the first tanks began 
passing through the ranks of the 46th 
Infantry Division. 

Even then the armor had to extem- 
porize, because the 46th Division had 
not yet captured the planned jump-off 
line in a village just over two miles short 
of the Coriano Ridge. By now the 
weary tankers had fought for five hours 
just to reach their starting line and by 
the time the move against the ridge 
began, the sun was in their eyes and 
behind defending German gunners. As 
night fell, the assault bogged down a 
mile short of the Coriano Ridge, while 
fire from the ridge also brought troops 
of the adjacent 1st Canadian Corps to a 
halt. The delays had given the Germans 
time to bring up tanks and assault guns, 
and the moment when breakthrough 
might have been achieved — if indeed 
such a possibility had ever existed — had 
passed.''^ 

For three more days repeated efforts 
to gain the ridge got no place, partly 
because of the German commitment of 
the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division in the 
gap between the 75/ Parachute and 26th 
Panzer Divisions and of an infantry 
division, the 356th, and partly because 
the rains came. Starting on 3 Septem- 
ber while the British armor was moving 
from its assembly area, rain fell off and 
on for a week. Flash floods washed out 
tactical bridges along inland roads, leav- 
ing onlv the coastal highway as an 
artery for supporting those troops be- 



'■'^Oj)erati()n,s of the British, Indian, and Domin- 
ion Forces in Itah, Part III, Set. B. 



318 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



\ond the Foglia River. Until the flood- 
ing receded, operations on the Eighth 
Armv front sloshed to a halt. While 
waiting for a break in the weather, 
General Leese could only ponder a 
resumption of his offensive toward 
Rimini and the Po Valley, and l(x;ate 
some 8,000 replacements for the casual- 
ties incurred since the offensive began 
on 25 August. German losses for the 
same period were approximately a 
thousand less. ^*^ 

The Eighth Army's offensive had 
penetrated the Gothic Line but had 
fallen short of a breakthrough to the 
Romagna. The Germans had paid the 
penalt) of early setbacks almost always 
exacted by surprise, but by shifting 
reinforcements — an infantry division 
and the 26th Panzer and 29th Panzer 
Grenadier Divisions — they had prevented 
disaster. Yet those shifts, however essen- 
tial from the German viewpoint, fitted 
in perfectly with General Alexander's 
concept of a one -two punch. The time 
was approaching for Clark's Fifth Army 
to execute a left hook against the 
German defenses in the central sector. 

Tlie Fifth Army — Plans and Regrouping 

The Fifth Army was to launch a two- 
phase attack against the Gothic Line 
north of Florence. During the first 
phase Clark planned for Keyes' II 
Corps to attack through the left half of 
the zone of the British 13 Corps to 
seize a line of hills some eight miles 
north of Florence, just short of the 
valley of the Sieve River. The 1 3 Corps 
was to assist on the right. In the second 
phase, the II Corps was to attack across 



^*' Ibid., App. (;; Vcrlustc dn- Wihrmadit his 1944, 
Monatsmeldungm ah I. VII. 43, Hlll76(i, CMH. 



the Sieve and advance astride Highway 
65, with the 13 Corps following several 
miles to the east of Highway 65 astride 
Route 6521, the Borgo-San Lorenzo- 
Imola road. Meanwhile, west of Flor- 
ence on the left of the II Corps, the IV 
Corps was to simulate a crossing of the 
Arno and be prepared to follow up an 
enemy withdrawal. '^ 

The weakest point topographically in 
the Gothic Line in the Fifth Army's 
zone of operations was along Highway 
65, which crosses the Apennines at 
1,200-foot Futa Pass, about twenty miles 
north of Florence. That fact was as 
apparent to German engineers as to the 
Fifth Army planners: the strongest 
man-made defenses were there, consist- 
ing of concrete pillboxes, gun emplace- 
ments, and troop shelters. In an out- 
post line were numerous fire trenches, 
barbed wire obstacles, antitank ditches, 
and mine fields. A ridge two miles 
south of the pass and the high ground 
flanking it were similarly fortified. 
Strong defenses also covered a second- 
ary route paralleling Highway 65 sev- 
eral miles to the west, the Prato-Bo- 
logna road, on Highway 6620, and at a 
similar distance to the east, II (iiogo 
Pass, which carried Route 6524 across 
the mountains to Firenzuola. 

The sudden German withdrawal dur- 
ing the latter days of August northward 
from Florence toward the Gothic Line 
obviated the planned first phase of the 
Fifth Army's offensive. Once the British 
in the Adriatic sector had begun to 
attack on 25 August, the German Four- 
teenth Army commander. General Lemel- 
sen, had fully expected something to 



■' H(|s Fifth Armv, Opns Instrs 32. 17 Aug 44, 
in Fijth Army History, Part MI, Annex 1 C 



THE (;OTHIC LINE OFFENSIVE BE(;iNS 



319 



happen on his front. Kessehing's order 
to Lemelsen to pull back came on 29 
August, and the withdrawal lx\gan two 
days later.'* 

IV Corps Crosses the Arno 

In ordering the British 13 Corps to 
follow up the German withdrawal. Gen- 
eral Clark, in effect, canceled the first 
phase of his planned offensive, no 
doubt gratified that he would be spared 
hard fighting on the approaches to the 
Apennines. He also ordered the IV 
Corps to cross the Arno and advance as 
far as the German withdrawal permit- 
ted. 

When patrols during the night of 3 1 
August found no enemy along the 
river, General Crittenb)erger ordered 
his forces to cross soon after daylight.'^ 
As the 1st Armored Division, in the 
center, with the 92d Division's 370th 
Regimental Combat Team attached, set 
out in midmorning, at only one point 
was there opposition and that only 
scattered small arms fire from less than 
determined rear guards. The armor 
headed for the first of the two hill 
masses dominating the plain north of 
the Arno, the Monte Pisano massif, and 
the city of Lucca at the foot of the 
mountains ten miles northeast of Pisa. 

That afternoon the 6th South Afri- 
can Armoured Division began crossing 
the river on the right wing of the IV 
Corps, aiming at the other hill mass on 
the Arno plain, the Monte Albano 
Ridge, and to the city of Pistoia, sixteen 
miles to the north. The South Africans 
encountered some long-range artillery 

'"Greiner and Schramm, eds., OKWIWRSt, KTB, 
IV(1), pp. 550-51: AOK 14, la KTB, Anl. 4, 1 Sep 
AA.AOK 14, Doc. 62241/1. 

"*IV Corps Rpt of Opns, Sep 44. Unless other- 
wise noted the following is based upon this refer- 
ence. 



fire but found no enemy troops. Gen- 
eral Rutledge's erstwhile antiaircraft bat- 
talions turned infanti7. Task Force 45, 
also crossed the river to occupy that 
part of Pisa lying on the north bank. 

For the troops the advance was a 
pleasant interlude, an unanticipated res- 
pite from the rigors of fighting. They 
moved easily as if on autumn maneu- 
vers through countryside dotted with 
ocher-colored villages set amid ripening 
grain fields, orchards, and vineyards. 
On 3 September when approaching the 
four-lane autostrada running along the 
base of the Apennines, the South Afri- 
cans came upon some mines, demoli- 
tions, and scattered artillery fire, while 
the 1st Armored Division also found 
demolitions and an occasional smatter- 
ing of small arms fire. That night 
enemy aircraft, making a rare appear- 
ance, bombed two crossing points on 
the Arno but did little damage and 
caused no casualties. 

On the next day, the 4th, indications 
developed that the unobstructed road 
marches might soon ccjme to an end, 
but there still was no regular pattern to 
the enemy's resistance. Here, where the 
Germans might have turned to fight 
back sharply, the)' were nowhere to be 
seen. Southwest of Pistoia, the South 
Africans brushed aside half-hearted re- 
sistance to come within a mile of the 
autostrada, but a strong enemy rear 
guard denied a reconnaissance com- 
pany of the 1st Armored Division entrv 
to a town alongside the autostrada eight 
miles east of Lucca until late afternoon 
when the enemy withdrew. Farther 
west the 11th Armored Infantry Battal- 
ion crossed the autostrada against slight 
opposition, and on the division's left 
wing the attached 37()th Infantry, near- 



320 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



ing the autostrada just south ot Lucca, 
met with some small arms and artillery' 
fire. Continuing beyond Pisa, a patrol 
of Task Force 45 that crossed the little 
Serchio River was pinned down by 
heavy fire and succeeded in pulling 
back only after nightfall. 

Nevertheless, by 5 September the IV 
Corps had occupied three of its four 
objectives: the Monte Pisano massif on 
the left, the Monte Albano Ridge on 
the right, and the walled city of Lucca, 
while Pistoia remained in enemv hands. 
When on the 6th heavy rains began, 
soon washing out tactical bridges span- 
ning the Arno, General Crittenberger 
accepted growing evidence that the 
Germans had ^\■ithdrawn as far as thev 
intended and ordered a halt. He di- 
rected a general regrouping along a 
line running from the Serchio River 
through Lucca to the Monte Pisano 
massif, thence along the autostrada to 
the Monte Albano Ridge. Here the 
corps would hold until ordered to re- 
sume its advance in keeping with prog- 
ress of the II Corps in the assault on 
the Gothic Line. 

Having already established a bridge- 
head north of the Arno, the 13 Corps 
meanwhile had sitnply pushed forward 
in keeping with the rate of German 
withdrawal. That rate was considerably 
less precipitate than in front of the IV 
Corps, for the apparent recognition of 
the importance of Highwa\ 65 to any 
thrust against the Gothic Line made the 
Germans fall back slowly. By 4 Septem- 
ber patrol contacts provided no indica- 
tion of further enemy withdrawal, so 
the line of the 13 Corps stabilized 
roughly as an extension of that of the 
IV Corps from five to ten miles north 
of the Arno. 



Between the two C(jrps, apparently as 
a preliminary to the planned passage of 
the II Corps through the 13 Corps, 
General Clark had assigned a narrow 
sector to the II Corps. The 442d 
Regimental Combat Team foHowed up 
the German withdrawal there until re- 
lieved the night of 2 September by a 
regiment of the 88th Division. The 
442d was heading for southern France. 

As these moves proceeded. General 
Clark took another look at his plan of 
attack on the Gothic Line. Word had 
just reached him through British Intelli- 
gence that Hitler had ordered Kessel- 
ring to concentrate his defense astride 
Highway 65 at the Futa Pass. The same 
message had also disclosed that the 
interarmy Ix^undar) between the Tenth 
and Fourteenth Armies, and generalK the 
weakest point in the enemv front, la\ 
some six miles east of the Futa Pass at 
II Giogo Pass. Military k)gic suggested 
that the main effi:)rt could be more 
profitablv made at the latter pass. A 
breakthrough at II Giogo Pass would 
outflank the strong defenses at the Futa 
Pass and most likely force a German 
withdrawal there. From Firenzuola, five 
miles bevond II Giogo Pass, he might 
proceed either up Highwa\ 65 through 
the Radicosa Pass to Bologna or along a 
secondan road northeastward to Imola. 
Furthermore, b\ shifting his main ef- 
fort to the right wing, the Fifth Armv 
commander might achieve better co- 
ordination with the supporting attack of 
the British 13 Corps.-" 

The II Corps commander. General 
Keyes, planned to ad\ance toward the 
Gothic Line with the 34th and 9 1st 



2" See Winterbotham. The L'ltm Secret, p. 160. 



THE C;OTHIC LINE OFFENSIVE BECilNS 



32 



Divisions on either side of Highway 65 
in what could appear to tlie Germans as 
merely a continuation of the follow-up 
of German withdrawal. It would also 
give an impression of a main effort at 
the Futa Pass. Yet once the 91st Divi- 
sion on the right came into contact with 
the main defenses of the Gothic Line, 
the 85th Division was to pass through 
and make the main effort against II 
Giogo Pass. Keyes' reserve, the 88th 
Division, was to be prepared to pass 
through either the 91st Division along 
Highway 65 or the 85th Division. To 
meet special supply problems to be 
expected in the mountains, the corps 
had nine Italian pack mule companies, 
each with 260 mules. 

Despite problems posed by heavy 
rains and flooding, the Fifth Army by 7 
September was ready, awaiting only the 
signal from General Alexander. "The 
fate of the Fifth Army," General Clark 
confided to his diary, was "tied up with 
that of the Eighth Army." Clark as- 
sumed that Alexander would delay the 
Fifth Army's attack until General Leese 
could get a renewed effort going 
against the troublesome Coriano Ridge, 
whereupon Clark would be prepared to 
attack "about 48 hours later."^' "We are 
all set," wrote Clark, "for the thrust 
over the mountains toward Bologna. It 
is hard to wait, for we are ready and 
eager to go. General Alexander is hold- 
ing the lanyard, and when he pulls it 
we will be able to jump off with less 
than 24 hours' notice."^^ 

General Alexander was indeed about 
ready to pull the lanyard. On 8 Sep- 
tember he visited Leese 's headquarters 



to get a closer look at the stalemate at 
the Coriano Ridge. It would take two 
or three more days, he deduced, for 
Leese to get his stalled offensive moving 
again. Meanwhile, Kesselring had ap- 
parently shifted as much strength to his 
Adriatic flank as he could afford so that 
there was no point in delaying the Fifth 
Army's attack in hope of further shifts. 
Indeed, attack by the Fifth Army might 
loosen up the front opposite Leese's 
army. He told General Clark to begin 
his offensive on 10 September, with the 
Eighth Army to renew its attack two 
days later.^^ 

The German Situation 

Of the three divisions that Field 
Marshal Kesselring had shifted to meet 
the Eighth Army's offensive, only one, 
the 356th, had been drawn from the 
Fourteenth Army in front of Clark's Fifth 
Army. Even so, committing the 26th 
Panzer Division and the 29th Panzer 
Greiuidicr Division from the Tenth Armys 
reserve had tied up two units that 
might otherwise have been used in the 
central sector. Pulling out even one 
division seriously weakened the defen- 
ses, for it left the / Parachute Corps 
'only one division, the 4th Parachute, 
with which to cover both the Futa and 
II (iiogo Passes in front of the U.S. II 
Corps, and the LI Mountain Corps only 
one division, the 715th, to oppose the 
British 13 Corps. Almost on the eve of 
the Fifth Army's attack, Lemelsen's 
Fourteenth Army incurred another loss 
with departure of the 16th SS Panzer 
Grenadier Division on orders from OKW 
to France. ^^ 



2' Clark Diary, 7 Sep 44. 
« Ibid. 



" Alexander Despatch, p. 69. 

■''AOK 14, la KTB Nr. 4, 6-9 Sep 44, AOK 14, 
Doc. 62241/1. 



322 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



E\en had there been no threat of a 
Fifth Army offensive. General Lemel- 
sen would have been disturbed by the 
shortage of troops, for partisan activity 
in the Fourteenth Army's rear was increas- 
ing, particularly between the Ligurian 
coast and Highway 9, Army Group Cs 
main lateral line of communication. 
Almost ever)' day some partisan band 
demolished a railroad, a bridge, a high- 
way. To provide vitally needed security, 
Lemelsen transferred to the rear one 
battalion from each division in the less 
threatened XIV Panzer Corps opposite 
the U.S. IV Corps." 

In addition to harassment by parti- 
sans, the Germans were plagued by 
Allied bombers and fighters. Medium 
bombers again struck the Po River 
crossings to destroy bridges repaired 
since Operation Mallory Major in 
July. They also attempted to seal off 
the industrial area of northwestern Italy 
from the front by bombing five railroad 
bridges. Fighter-bombers harassed 
roads and rail lines on both sides of the 
Po.2« 

On 9 September the mediums, in an 
effort to isolate the immediate battle 
area planned for the Fifth Army, 
shifted their attacks to railroad lines 



leading into Bologna. By nightfall the 
next day they had cut all four main 
lines.^^ 

Meanwhile, the bulk of the fighter- 
bombers hit the Gothic Line itself. 
Beginning on 9 September and contin- 
uing through the 20th, when weather 
would restrict operations, fighter-bomb- 
ers would fly an average of 240 sorties 
daily against bivouac areas, command 
posts, and supply depots in the vicinity 
of Futa and II Giogo Passes. For three 
days, beginning on the 9th, mediums 
joined the attack, flying 339 sorties 
against barracks, supply points, and gun 
positions between the front and Bo- 
logna. ^^ 

As the 4th Parachute and 715th Divi- 
sions resumed their withdrawal into the 
main Gothic Line defenses, General 
Lemelsen grew increasingly disturbed 
over his chances of holding the line. On 
9 September his chief of staff recjuested 
Kesselring to transfer at least one de- 
pleted division from the Tenth Army to 
replace the departing 16th SS Panzer 
Grenadier Division. Although Kesselring 
agreed, he added that he saw no reason 
for immediate concern, for in his opin- 
ion, the Fourteenth Army faced no imme- 
diate attack.29 



25 Ibid. 

2« Craven and Gate, eds., AAF III, pp. 445-46. 



2' Ibid. 

2« Ibid. 

^^AOK H, la KTB Sr. 4, 6-9 Sep 44, .-iOK 14. 
Doc. 62241/1. 



CHAPTER XIX 



Battle for the Pass 



The Approach 

With the 34th Division on the left 
and the 91st Division to the right of 
Highway 65, General Keyes' II Corps 
on 10 September began to advance on 
a 15-niile front from a line of hills eight 
miles north of Florence toward the 
Sieve River, four miles away. To the 
right of the American corps the 1st 
Division of the British 13 Corps moved 
astride the Florence-Borgo-San Lor- 
enzo road toward the Sieve. Since pa- 
trols had determined that the enemy 
had already departed, the first day's 
operation was little more than an ap- 
proach march. Long columns of infan- 
try moved in relative silence through 
narrow valleys and along crooked 
ridges. Ahead, shrouded in the blue 
haze of early autumn, were the shad- 
owv outlines of the Northern Apen- 
nines, on whose slopes a watchful en- 
emy lay concealed in hundreds of well- 
camouflaged firing trenches, gun pits, 
and concrete bunkers. That night the 
Allied troops crossed the easily fordable 
Sieve unopposed. ' 

Elsewhere other troops of the Fifth 
Army also stirred. On the coastal flank 

'II Corps AAR. Sep 44; Sidney T. Mathews, 
"Breakthrough at Monte AUuzzo." in Charles B. 
Ma( Donald and Sidney T. Mathews, Three Battles: 
Arnaville, Altuzzo, and Schmidt, UNITED STATES 
ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1952): 
Chester G. Starr, From Salerno to the Alps (Washing- 
ton: Infantry Journal Press, 1948), pp. 311-24. 
Unless otherwise cited the following sections are 
based upon these sources. 



of General Crittenberger's IV Corps, 
Task Force 45 followed up the enemy's 
withdrawal fourteen miles beyond the 
Arno to the vicinity of the prewar 
beach resort of Viareggio. Inland the 
1st Armored Division and the 6th 
South African Armoured Division con- 
tinued abreast on broad fronts. No- 
where were the Germans in evidence. 
Occupying Pistoia, abandoned by the 
enemy, the South Africans pushed on 
into the hills north of the city. 

On the 11th the II Corps continued 
its approach march, but as the day 
wore on, indications grew that an alert 
enemy waited not far ahead. An occa- 
sional burst of long-range machine gun 
fire; a cluster of exploding mortar 
shells that sent forward-patrols scurry- 
ing for cover; an isolated explosion 
revealing a hidden mine field. The 
troops were obviously nearing an out- 
post line somewhere in low hills front- 
ing dominating peaks overlooking the 
Futa and II Giogo Passes. 

Plans and Terrain 

Commanded since mid- 1943 b\ Gen- 
eral Livesay, a 49-year-old West Point 
graduate, the 91st Division after cross- 
ing the Sieve veered away froin High- 
way 65 to follow the secondary road, 
Route 6524, toward the main objective 
of the II Corps, II Giogo Pass. 

Under General Keyes' plan, once the 
91st Division had fully developed the 



324 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




II Giogo Pass 



enemy's outpost line. General Coulter's 
85th Division was to relieve those ele- 
ments of the 91st Division east of 
Highway 65. The two divisions then 
were to move against the two terrain 
features commanding II Giogo Pass. 
These were the 3,000-f()ot Monticelli 
massif on the left of the pass and the 
equally high Monte Altuzzo on the 
right. General Keyes had also directed 
General Livesay to deploy one of his 
regiments west of Monticelli in con- 
junction with a holding attack toward 
the Futa Pass by General Bolte s 34th 
Division astride Highway 65. In addi- 



tion to taking the kev height of Monte 
Altuzzo, the 85th Division was also to 
seize neighboring Monte Verruca and 
other heights to the east adjoining the 
sector of the British 13 Corps. {Map XI) 
To defend II Giogo Pass the Ger- 
mans had constructed their Gothic Line 
positions so as to take full adxantage of 
a watershed 3,000 feet high. On the 
forward slopes, streams flowing south- 
ward into the Sieve River had cut a 
series of sharp irregular parallel ridges 
and ravines. Except where rockv out- 
crops and cliffs pro\ided no ftx)thold 
for vegetation, stunted pines and scat- 



BATTLE FOR THE PASS 



325 



tered patches of brush covered the 
narrow ridges, while lower slopes were 
generally well concealed by thick gioves 
of chestnut and pine. 

As was so often the case in the Italian 
Campaign, the nature of the terrain 
would impose strict limitations on the 
tactical choices open to the various 
commanders. Route 6524, for example, 
had to serve as a line of communication 
for both the 85th and 91st Divisions. At 
best the road resembled a two-lane, 
asphalt-covered American countiy road. 
Since its many sharp curves were under 
direct observation of gunners on the 
slopes of Monticelli and Monte Altuzzo, 
those portions close to the front would 
be unable to sustain much daylight 
traffic until heights flanking the II 
Giogo Pass were in hand. 

The Monticelli massif southwest of 
the pass consists of a long, steep back- 
bone ridge with a concave southern 
slope. Slightly higher than Monticelli, 
Monte Altuzzo is a conical peak with a 
main north-south ridge extending 
southward for 2,500 yards from its 
summit. Numerous narrow wooded 
draws cut the slopes of the ridge and 
offered covered routes of approach for 
attacking troops. 

II Giogo Pass had indeed been well 
chosen for the American main effort, 
for General Lemelsen, the Fourteenth 
Army commander, and Field Marshal 
Kesselring shared a conviction that the 
Americans would concentrate on the 
Futa Pass and the principal crossing of 
the Apennines, Highway 65. Although 
the 4th Parachute Division of Schlemm's / 
Parachute Corps was responsible for de- 
fense of b(3th passes, two of its regi- 
ments focused on the Futa Pass, leaving 
only one, the 12th Parachute Regiment, to 



hold II Giogo Pass, including both Mon- 
ticelli and Monte Altuzzo, plus the 
other heights eastward to a boundary 
with the 715th Division of the U Moun- 
tain Corps. Reduced by heavy losses 
during the fighting south of Rome to a 
small cadre of combat-experienced 
troops, the 4th Parachute Division had 
been fleshed out in recent weeks by 
inexperienced replacements, many of 
whom had yet to fire live ammunition. 
Two other divisions to the west oppo- 
site the 34th U.S. Division and the 6th 
South African Armoured Division were 
responsible for sectors of the Gothic 
Line averaging ten miles each, so that 
there was little possibility of drawing on 
them for reserves in the main battle. 
General Schlemm's corps reserve con- 
sisted of only two battalions of the 
Grenadier Lehr Brigade. - 

Along that sector of the Gothic Line 
about to feel the main weight of the 
Fifth Army's assault, the attacking 
forces would enjoy a three-to-one supe- 
riority over the defenders. Before II 
Giogo Pass General Keyes had concen- 
trated half of his infantry strength, and 
each of the attacking divisions would 
have the support of an entire corps 
artilleiy group. Given those conditions, 
the Americans had eveiy right to view 
the task ahead with confidence, in spite 
of the mountainous and forbidding 
terrain pocked with well-camouflaged 
positions manned by a foe with orders 
to defend to the last bullet. 

First Contacts 

During the afternoon of the 12th, 
Col. W.F. Magill's 363d Infantry led the 

-AOK 14, la KTB \'r. 4. 6-8 Sep 44, Doc 
62241/1. See also Filth Army Hislon. Fart VII, pp. 
53-54 and 72. 



326 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



91st Division toward II Giogo Pass. 
Although the volume of enemy fire was 
steadily increasing, the 91st Division 
thus far had run into only sporadic 
opposition, prompting Cieneral Keyes to 
delay ordering forward General Coul- 
ter's 85th Division. The absence of 
determined resistance reinforced a 
widelv held opinion in the 91st Division 
headcjuarters that the objective was only 
lightly manned. Colonel Magill, for his 
part, thought his regiment could seize 
both Monticelli and Monte Altuzzo 
without help from the 85th Division. 

Late in the day Colonel Magill sent a 
battalion against each of the two objec- 
tives. Faced by the heaviest fire yet 
encountered north of the Arno and 
advancing in growing darkness over 
unfamiliar ground against defenses that 
would eventually absorb the efforts of 
two divisions, neither battalion under- 
standably made much headway. That 
night local counterattacks drove one 
company back along the main road. 
Radio communication in the convoluted 
terrain was poor, and deployed on 
slopes with few features recognizable on 
maps. Colonel Magilfs troops were una- 
ble to advise their commanders of their 
exact whereabouts. About all that was 
certain as daylight came on the 13th 
was that the advances had come to a 
halt and that both Monticelli and Monte 
Altuzzo were sdll the province of the 
12th Parachute Regiment. Until the k)ca- 
tion of the forward formations could be 
pinpc:)inted, their presence was bound 
to inhibit the use of supporting ardllery 
fire. ^ 



The Attack on the Monticelli Ridge 

The principal objective of General 
Livesay's 91st Division, Monticelli, was 
in effect a ridge line, forming a huge 
amphitheater whose two wings ex- 
tended south from the main east-west 
divide. The west wing is Monte Calvi, a 
smooth dome-shaped hill. Monticelli it- 
self is a long, steep-sided 3,000-foot 
ridge running in a northwest-southeast- 
erlv direction and forming the east 
wing ot the amphitheater overlooking II 
Giogo Pass. Stretching southward from 
the main ridge are two spurs, below 
which Route 6524 runs through II 
Giogo Pass. Between those spurs are 
two deep, steep-sided ravines offering 
the only covered routes of approach to 
the upper slopes. On Monticelli's north- 
western arms, scrub brush and a grove 
of chestnut trees near the hamlet of 
Borgo offered the only concealment. 
Narrow foot trails led to Borgo from 
the mountain's lower slopes, but beyond 
Borgo there were no trails, and the 
steep upper slopes would make supply 
and evacuation of wounded extremely 
difficult. ^ 

So cleverly concealed were the Gothic 
Line defenses that they were almost 
invisible to the approaching troops. 
Many had been constructed of rein- 
forced concrete or blasted into the rcx:k. 
Roofed with three feet of logs and 
earth, each position could accommodate 
five men. In front of the defenses the 
Germans had strung at 100-yard inter- 
vals bands of barbed wire a foot high 



^363d Inf Jnl and Opns Rpt, Sep 44. 



^Capt. Lloyd J. Inman. Int., The Operation of 
Company B, 363d Infantrv. in the Attack on 
Monticelli, Study, The Infantrv School. Ft. Ben- 
ning, Cia. Unless otherwise indicated the following 
is based upon this source. 



BATTLE FOR THE PASS 



327 




CAPTURE OF MONTE ALTUZZO 
AND MONTICELL 

16-18 September 1944 

^ Allied AXIS OF ATTACK, 16 SEP 

Allied axis of attack, it sep 
Allied positions, is sep 
Enemy mlr 
Enemy movement, i6-i7 sep 



MAPS 

and twenty-five feet deep. They had 
also placed mines in the two ravines 
leading to the upper slopes, for they 
too saw the ravines as logical routes of 
approach. On the reverse slope the 
Germans had built large dugouts ex- 
tending seventy-five feet or more into 
the mountain, capable of accommodat- 
ing up to twenty men, and 300 yards 
north of the Monticelli ridge they had 
blasted a 50-man shelter out of the 



H. C. Brewer.Jr 



solid rock.' 

On 13 September two battalions of 
the 363d Infantry began to climb to- 
ward Monticelli's western ridge. Heavy 
and accmate enemy mortar concentra- 
tions, punctuated by machine gun fire, 
soon slowed the advance and caused so 
many casualties that the regimental 
commander committed his reserve. The 



^91si Div Opns Rpt, Sep 44. 



328 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Artillery Battery in Action 



pattern of the fighting for II Giogo Pass 
was set that first day on the slopes of 
both Monticelli and Monte Altuzzo and 
those less towering crests to right and 
left. 6 (Maps) 

The terrain and the nature of the 
enemy's defenses, the men soon discov- 
ered, would permit no giand over-the- 
top assault by co-ordinated formations. 
Of a mighty attacking army numbering 
over 262,000 men, those who would 



**Maj. John Brock, Inf., Operations of the 363d 
Infantry at Monticelli, Monograph, The Infantry 
School, Ft. Benning, Ga. The following section is 
based upon this source. 



bear the brunt of the fighting at critical 
points sometimes constituted a platoon 
or less, seldom more than a company 
or two. Little clusters of men struggled 
doggedly up rock\ raxines and draws 
separated by narrow fingers of forested 
ridges, isolated, climbing laboriouslv 
squad by squad, fighting their wav 
forward \ard by yard, often not even 
knowing the location of the closest 
friendly unit. Onl) a massi\e fire sup- 
port, provided b\ the artiller\ of di\i- 
sion, corps, and arm\, bv the tubes of 
tanks and tank destrovers firing in 
batterv in the manner of artillery and 



BATTLE FOR THE PASS 



329 



by fighter-bombers, gave to the many 
isolated firefights any real unity; but it 
was that ven unity, however ditficult to 
discern, that was in the end to decide 
the battle. 

The experience of Company B, 363d 
Infantry, commanded by Capt. Lloyd J. 
Inman, was indicative of the kind of 
fighting that characterized the struggle 
for II Giogo Pass. As the 363d Infantry 
renewed the attack on 14 September, 
Captain Inman's company was to lead 
one of two attacking battalions behind a 
rolling barrage fired by the 34th Field 
Artillerv Battalion. The initial objective 
was the hamlet of Borgo on Monticelli's 
southwestern slope. From there the 
compan\' was to gain the crest of the 
western ridge and push on to the 
summit. 

A platoon of heavy machine guns 
from Company D was to support the 
attack with overhead fire from positions 
on one of the lower ridges extending 
southeastward from the Monticelli hill 
mass. When those fires became masked, 
the platoon was to displace forward one 
section at a time. Starting 20 minutes 
before the ground attack, the support- 
ing artiller) and 81 -mm. mortars were 
to fire twenty minutes of preparatory 
fire against predetermined targets. 
Thereafter the artilleiy was to shift its 
fires to the base of the mountain, then 
commence a rolling barrage, lifting it 
100 yards per minute as Company B's 
leading platoons followed at a distance 
of a hundred vards. 

At 1400 Company B, with Technical 
Sgt. Charles J. Murphy's 1st Platoon on 
the left and 1st Lt. Bruno Rossellini's 
2d Platoon on the right, crossed the 
line of departure. Off to the right 
Company C began to move. For the 



first half hour all seemed to go well as 
Captain Inman's men filed slowly up 
narrow trails. Suddenly a voice claiming 
to be that of the Company C com- 
mander broke into the battalions SCR- 
300 channel, complaining bitterly that 
friendly artillery fire was falling on his 
troops. Although both Captain Inman 
and his artillery forward observer could 
see from their observation post that that 
was not the case, they were unable to 
convince the artillery battalion com- 
mander, who immediately halted the 
barrage. It was obviously an enemy 
ruse. No sooner had the barrage lifted 
than Germans who had been taking 
shelter in the innermost recesses of 
their dugouts returned to their guns 
and opened fire on Company B's for- 
ward platoons. 

Yet in spite of that fire men of the 
two platoons, using every fold and 
wrinkle of the ground for cover, man- 
aged to reach Borgo and b\ nightfall 
had moved beyond the hamlet about a 
third of the way up the mountain. 
There grazing machine gun fire at 
relatively close range stopped them. In 
the deejDening twilight it was impossible 
to locate well-camouflaged enemy posi- 
tions. With ammunition running low 
and casualties heavy. Captain Inman 
ordered his men to dig in for the night. 
In the darkness the wounded made 
their wa\ or were carried to the rear, 
while p(Hters struggled forward with 
ammunition and rations. 

Determined to locate the guns that 
had stopped his company, Captain In- 
man sent 1st Lt. John C. Kearton and 
six volunteeis from the 3d Platoon in 
search of the enemy positions. Con- 
cealed by darkness, the seven inched up 
the mountainside until halted by barbed 



330 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



wire. Suspecting that the goal was near. 
Lieutenant Kearton wormed his way 
through twenty-five yards of barbed 
wire to the base of an enemy bunker 
before hand grenades drove him back. 
Satisfied that he had found the exact 
location of the enemy machine guns, 
Kearton withdrew with his men to 
report his find to his company com- 
mander. 

The following morning — 15 Septem- 
ber — as soon as it was light enough to 
observe, Inman called in artillery fire 
on the enemy position. Firing a few 
rounds to adjust for range, the Com- 
pany B forward observer brought in 
the fires of a battery of 155-mm. guns, 
partially destroying the enemy gun em- 
placement and breaching the wire en- 
tanglements before it. Hardly had the 
firing stopped when Lieutenant Rosse- 
lini and ten of his men assaulted the 
bunker and forced five dazed occupants 
to surrender. Accompanied bv Sergeant 
Murphy's 1st Platoon, the rest of Rosse- 
lini's men came forward and both pla- 
toons deployed beyond the captured 
enemy position. 

In that isolated little action, Company 
B had scored the first important breach 
in the defenses of Monticelli and the 
first in that sector of the Gothic Line. 
Although flanking units had failed to 
keep pace, the company pushed 
doggedly on toward the crest of the 
Monticelli ridge, but with both flanks 
exposed casualties were heavy, among 
them the company executive officer 
and the forward observers for both 
artillerv' and 81 -mm. mortars. 

By 1800 Murphy's and Rosselini's 
platoons nevertheless reached the com- 
parative safety of a low embankment a 
few yards from the crest of the ridge. 



Only a foot high on the left where 
Sergeant Murphy's platoon sought 
cover, the embankment gradually in- 
creased in height as it extended to the 
right at a slight angle to the crest until, 
in Rosselini's sector, it reached a height 
of three feet. Sergeant Murphy realized 
that his platoon, huddled behind the 
lowest part of the embankment, had to 
move quickly or else risk certain disco\- 
ery by the enem) . Ordering his men to 
fix bayonets. Murphy led them in an 
assault up the last fifty yards to the 
crest of the ridge. There they routed 
enemy soldiers from two dugouts and 
took five prisoners. Pinned down by 
heavy flanking fire from the right and 
the right front, Rosselini's platoon re- 
mained in -the shelter of the embank- 
ment. 

Captain Inman and his radio opera- 
tor followed Murphy to the crest and 
immediately began adjusting artiller\ 
fire on gioups of enemv soldiers with- 
drawing down the reverse slope. When 
Murphy drew his companv com- 
mander's attention to a group of Ger- 
mans to the right, apparently assem- 
bling for a counterattack, Inman called 
for artillery fire, but hardlv had he 
asked for the support when enemy 
machine gun fire damaged his radio 
and drove him and the radio operator 
to cover. 

Compan\ B had reached its objective, 
the northwestern end of the Monticelli 
ridge, but enemy fire had reduced the 
company strength to about seventv men 
and again ammunition was running 
low. Committing his 3d Platoon to 
extend and cover his right flank, Inman 
ordered his men to dig in and defend 
in place. The attached machine gun 
platoon, following the assault platoons, 



BATTLE FOR IHE PASS 



33 



hdd alreadv come forward and began 
to set lip firing positions along the edge 
of tlie embankment just below the crest 
while Captain Inman signaled his battal- 
ion heackinarters for a new radio bat- 
tery, ammunition, and reinforcenients. 
The men were still digging in when 
approximately a score of Germans 
launched a small counterattack against 
Sergeant Murphy's positions on the 
company's left flank on the northwest- 
ern end of the ridge. In apparent 
response to Captain Inman's call for 
reinforcements, a 17-man detachment 
from Company A, consisting of rifle- 
men and a light machine gun section 
under 1st Lt. Ross A. Notaro, arrived 
just in time to help repulse the enemv 
thrust. An hour later another small 
gi'oup of Germans mounted a second 
counterattack, but by that time Lieuten- 
ant Notaro and his men were well dug 
in on Murphy's left and halted the 
move before it could gain momentum. 
Earh that eyening the Germans 
mounted their third and heaviest coun- 
terattack. Following a mortar and artil- 
ler\ barrage, the enem\ scrambled over 
the ridge and headed again toward 
Company B's left flank. Inman called 
for previously registered defensive fires 
from the 81 -mm. mortars, the regimen- 
tal cannon company, and supporting 
artillery. As the counterattacking Ger- 
mans neared his foxholes, Inman ad- 
justed the fires so closely that occasional 
rounds fell within the company's perim- 
eter. Although the Americans suffered 
ncj casualties, the fire took a hea\') toll 
of the Germans, some of whom were so 
near that when hit their momentum 
carried them into the American j)osi- 
tions. Anticipating hand-to-hand fight- 
ing, Inman ordered his men to fix 




Carrying Suppijes to Mountain Positions 

bayonets, but the artillery barrage in- 
sured that no live enemy got inside the 
perimeter. 

Individual soldiers using their own 
weapons aggressively and courageously 
also played a major role in checking the 
counterattack. On the company's far 
left flank Lieutenant Notaro's detach- 
ment was particularly hard pressed, but 
suddenly, Sgt. Joseph D. Higdon, Jr., 
section leader of the light machine 
guns, leaped to his feet and, cradling a 
light machine gun in his arms, ran 
toward the enemy, firing as he went. 
That bold and unexpected action sent 
the Germans fleeing back down the 
reverse slope. Severely wounded. Ser- 
geant Higdon tried to return to his own 
position but collapsed thirty yards short 
of it. When his companions reached 
him, he was dead. 



332 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



The counterattacks halted, Company 
B, despite severe casualties, continued 
to hold on the western end of the 
Monticelli ridge. To conserve his com- 
pany's dwindling strength. Captain In- 
man consolidated his force, pulling back 
Murphy's platoon from its exposed po- 
sition and placing it nearer Rosselini's 
platoon, but Notaro and his small de- 
tachment remained for the night in 
their exposed positions on the left. 
Throughout the night, by the light of 
German flares, the two sides exchanged 
small arms fire and hand grenades. 

At dawn on the 16th, men whom 
Inman had sent back during the night 
for supplies returned with ammunition 
and a new battery for the company 
radio, which despite three bullet holes 
in its chassis had continued to function. 
As yet no battalion carrying party had 
reached the company. Although two 
attached litter bearer teams worked all 
night trying to evacuate the wounded, 
morning found some wounded still in 
the company area. The large number 
of casualties and a long trek over 
rugged terrain to the battalion dressing 
station had been more than the two 
teams could handle. 

Meanwhile, to Company B\s right. 
Company C, after breaching a mine 
field and overcoming an enemy posi- 
tion bypassed earlier by Inman's com- 
pany, had reached a point within 200 
yards of Company B, while on the left. 
Company G, attached from the 2d 
Battalion, took up position to Company 
B's left rear. That was the situation 
when soon after daylight a sudden 
burst of enemy small arms fire struck 
and wounded Captain Inman. Com- 
mand of Company B passed to Lieu- 
tenant Rosselini. 



The coming of daylight revealed that 
during the night the Germans had 
moved into the positions on the left 
flank held previously bv Sergeant Mur- 
phy's platoon. That made Lieutenant 
Notaro's detachment on the extreme 
left flank even more vulnerable than 
before and also jeopardized Murphv's 
platoon. Reduced to 17 men. Sergeant 
Murphy gained reinforcements by inte- 
grating into his defenses seven men of 
a mortar section that had fired all its 
ammunition. 

Throughout the 16th and well into 
the following day, the Germans at- 
tacked again and again against Com- 
pany B's vulnerable left flank in desper- 
ate attempts to regain control of the 
ridge. Yet somehow the little band of 
Americans held. The successful defense 
owed much to Pfc. Oscar G. Johnson, 
one of the seven mortarmen that Ser- 
geant Murphy had deployed as rifle- 
men. Standing at times to get a better 
view of the enemv. Private Johnson 
directed a steady stream of fire at each 
of the counterattacks. During lulls in 
the fighting he crawled around the area 
gathering up all available weapons and 
ammunition from the dead and 
wounded and then returned to his own 
position to resume firing. When weap- 
ons malfunctioned, he cannibalized 
those he had collected for replacement 
parts. By the afternoon of the 16th 
Johnson was the onlv man left in his 
squad alive or unwounded. Neverthe- 
less, he continued to fight through the 
night, beating back several attempts to 
infiltrate his position. Twice the intense 
fire drove back or wounded men sent 
to help him. Not until the next morn- 
ing did help finallv arrive. For his 
steadfast defense of Companv B"s left 



BATTLE FOR THE PASS 



333 




Captured German Position in Gothic Line 



flank Private Johnson later received the 
Medal of Honor. ' 

Early on 17 September two enemy 
soldiers (Carrying a white flag emerged 
from an emplacement a hundred yards 
away. Ordering his men to cease fire. 
Lieutenant Rosselini went forward to 
meet them. Identifying himself as com- 
manding officer of the paratroopers 
defending that sector of Monticelli, one 



' See The Medal of Honor of the United States Army 
(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1948) 
p. 343. 



of the Germans requested a truce so 
that the wounded of both sides might 
be evacuated. Rosselini immediately got 
in touch with his battalion headcjuarters 
for a decision, but before he received 
an answer, two dozen German soldiers, 
apparently unaware of the purpose of 
their commander's parley with the 
Americans, came down the slope and 
gave themselves up. Seeing his men 
surrender, the officer too submitted. 
That obviated any need for a truce. 

Although the surrender took some of 
the pressure off (Company B, reduced 



334 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




85th Division Troops on Mt. Verruca 



at that point to 50 men, heavy fire still 
prevented Rosselini and his men from 
clearing and occupying all of the Monti- 
celli ridge in their sector. That after- 
noon after making plans with Capt. 
Edward J. Conley, commander of the 
neighboring Company G, for a final 
assault to sweep the ridge, Lieutenant 
Rosselini was returning to his command 
post when enemy fire cut him down. 
Since Rosselini had been Company B's 
last surviving officer. Captain Conley 
absorbed the remnants of Company B 
in his own command. 

For four days all the 363d Infantry's 
rifle companies had at one time or an- 
other been drawn into the fighting, yet 
the Germans still held Monticelli's sum- 
mit. From there they could fire not 
only on men of the 363d Infantry but 



could pour flanking fire on men of the 
85th Division struggling slowly up the 
slopes of Monte Altuzzo. ^ 

After holding the 3d Battalion in 
reserve for three days. Colonel Magill 
had committed it during the afternoon 
of the 16th to move up the eastern 
slope of the Monticelli ridge, only to see 
the battalion seriously disrupted by 
heavy enemy fire, minefields, and the 
broken terrain. By dawn on the 17th 
the battalion was so thoroughly disor- 
ganized that the division commander 
himself. General Livesay, felt impelled 
to go to the battalion command post in 
an effort to restore control and morale. 
Yet so reduced in strength were the 
other two battalions that the 3d re- 
mained the only hope for responding 
to pressure from the II Corps com- 
mander. General Keyes, to get on with 
the task of securing Monticelli's crest. 

A rolling artilleiy barrage again was 
to precede the assault. Just at dawn, 
Compan) K, commanded b\ Capt. Wil- 
liam B. Fulton, led off while an anxious 
General Livesay waited in the back- 
ground. Because the hard-pressed 
troops on Monticelli's western ridge 
could cover Company K's left flank, the 
task was easier than that faced earlier 
by Companv B. Within half an hour 
after the jump-off Captain Fulton's 
company was within 600 \ards of the 
summit but receiving hea\'\ fire. \ot 
until midafternoon of the 17th was 
tension in Colonel Maffill's command 
post eased with word that Fulton and 
six of his men, including a radio opera- 



» 361st Inf Regt Hist, Sep 44; 363d Int Hist. Sep 
44. Unless otherwise indicated the following is 
based upon these references. 



BATTLE FOR THE PASS 



335 



tor, were at the top ot the summit. An 
hour later the rest of Fulton's company 
and of the 3d Battalion also made it. 

Taking advantage of the excellent 
observation atop Monticelli, Fulton di- 
rected artillery fire that broke up a 
series of counterattacks while the rest of 
the regiment giadually consolidated its 
grip on the mountain. After nightfall, 
as wounded were still being evacuated, 
a company of the 361st Infantry, which 
had been attacking west of Monticelli, 
arrived to clear the enemy from Monti- 
celli's western crest, where the intrepid 
Private Johnson was still holding almost 
single handedly what had once been 
Company B's left flank. Denied the 
honor of reaching Monticelli's summit. 
Company B had nevertheless played 
the key role in the breakthrough, fcjr 
the company's determined advance up 
the mountain's western ridge and its 
dogged defense had made possible the 
3d Battalion's final and successful as- 
sault on the summit. 

More than 150 enemy dead were to 
be counted in Company B's sector 
along with at least 40 attributable to 
Private Johnson's steadfast defense of 
the company's left flank; the company 
also took 40 enemy prisoners. Company 
B lost 14 men killed and 126 wounded. 

By 1 8 September the -western height 
overlooking II Giogo Pass was firmly in 
American hands, while in the meantime 
just to the east of Highway 6524 the 
85th Division's 338th Infantry had 
reached the top of Monte Altuzzo after 
a five-day fight similar to that experi- 
enced by the 363d Infantiy. Farther to 
the east, the 339th Infantry had by 
noon of the 17th captured the neigh- 
boring peak of Monte Verucca and 
during the afternoon the 337th Infan- 



tn on the corps right flank occupied 
Monte Pratone." 

Once the 363d Infantry had cap- 
tured the summit of Monticelli, the 
361st Infantry followed enemy with- 
drawal onto the hills west of Monticelli. 
Meanwhile, slightly farther to the west, 
a two-regiment containing attack had 
carried the 34th Division to within 
striking distance of the Futa Pass. By 
fostering the illusion that the Futa Pass 
was the focus of the Fifth Army offen- 
sive, as noted earlier, the 34th Division 
had assured that no enemy forces from 
that sector would be shifted to II Giogo 
Pass. That ruse undoubtedly contrib- 
uted to the breakthrough at II Giogo 
Pass.i" 

East of II Giogo Pass and the II 
Corps sector the British 13 Corps, con- 
stituting the Fitth Army right wing, had 
played a similar role by pinning down 
enemy troops that might otherwise have 
been shifted westward to oppose the 
army's main effort. As were units west 
of the pass, the British corps was 
echeloned to the rear of the II Corps. 
The flank units nevertheless had ad- 
vanced sufficiently to afford favorable 
jump-off positions for exploiting what 
amounted to a breakthrough of the 
Gothic Line seven miles wide astride II 
Giogo Pass, and troops on the Fifth 
Army's extreme west wing had drawn 
up to the line. 

The six-day fight had taken an inevi- 
table toll of the three assault div isions of 



" See Mathews, "Breakthrough at Monte Altuzzo," 
in Three Battles for a detailed account of the 
breakthrough operation in the 85th Division sector. 

'" In the course of the attack, 2d Lt. Thomas W. 
Wigle, C-ompany K, 135th Infantry, distinguished 
himself in action on 14 September on Monte 
Frassino. He was posthumously awarded the Medal 
of Honor. 



336 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 




Looking North From Futa Pass 



the II Corps: a total of 2,731 casualties. 
Yet those could be considered light in 
view of the results achieved. German 
losses, although unrecorded, were un- 
questionably far greater. While the iso- 
lated, fierce little engagements at close 
quarters between opposing infantrymen 
on the steep slopes and mountaintops 
were costly to both sides, the Germans 
lost considerably more men to Ameri- 
can supporting fires. Hardly any of the 
little batch of reinforcements moving 
into the line got through unscathed. 
From the first the Germans had been 



faced with a dilemma. St^ great was the 
pressure exerted bv General Bolte's 
34th Division in what was actually a 
holding attack against the Futa Pass that 
German commanders never divined 
that the main effort was directed 
against II Giogo Pass. The Fourteenth 
Army commander. General Lemelsen, 
and the / Parachute Corps commander. 
General Schlemm, saw the main effort 
extending across a nine-mile front en- 
compassing both passes. Yet even had 
thcN discerned the American plan from 
the start, they could have done little 



BATTLE FOR THE PASS 



337 



about it. Once the 4th Parachute Division 
had committed every possible man to 
the fight as infantry — antitank gunners, 
engineers, even men of an untrnstwor- 
th\ Lithuanian Labor Battalion — all that 
was left were the two battalions of the 
Grenadier Lehr Brigade. Although Field 
Marshal Kesselring on 15 September 
authorized commitment of those battal- 
ions to help defend II Giogo Pass, he 
stipulated that they had to he released 
three days later to reinforce the Ad- 
riatic front. *^ 

In thus displaying greater concern 
for the Adriatic front, Kesselring re- 
vealed a recognition that a break- 
through by the British Eighth Army 
might have a more far-reaching effect 
than one bv the American Fifth Armv. 



There were other positions in the 
mountains that still might be used to 
delay the Fifth Army, but a break- 
through by the British might outflank 
the entire German arm\ gioup. 

That the German command recog- 
nized that American penetration at II 
Giogo Pass was inevitable became ap- 
parent in early evening of 17 Septem- 
ber when General Lemelsen ordered 
the / Parachute Corps to abandon the 
Gothic Line and fall back to build a 
new defense in the heights north of 
Firenzuola. '- That move meant that 
General Clark's plan had succeeded. A 
breakthrough at II Giogo Pass had 
indeed outflanked the more utilitarian 
Futa Pass and prompted German with- 
drawal from the Futa Pass. 



'' AOK 14, la KTB, 12-18 Sep 44, AOK 14, Doc. 
62241/1. 



' •i Ihid. 



CHAPTER XX 



A Diversionary Operation 



Having breached the Gothic Line, 
Allied commanders were confident that 
they would soon sweep a broken and 
defeated enemy into the Po Valley. 
They were soon to learn that, to the 
contrary, heavy fighting still lay ahead. 
Even before the Fifth Army had begun 
its assault on II Giogo Pass, the Eighth 
Army got its first bitter taste of what lay 
ahead as the army attempted to exploit 
its penetration of the Gothic Line on 
the Adriatic flank. 

Since the start of the Eighth Army's 
phase of the offensive on 25 August, 
the Germans, skillfully defending along 
a series of ridges extending in a nor- 
theasterly direction from the Apen- 
nines, had exacted for each ridge a 
heavy toll in Allied personnel and mate- 
riel. Yet General Leese still had a 
reserve of uncommitted units: the Brit- 
ish 4th and the 2d New Zealand Divi- 
sions and the 3d Greek Mountain and 
British 25th Tank Brigades. He also 
had ample reserve stocks with which to 
replenish materiel losses. 

The Eighth Army nevertheless con- 
tinued to be plagued by the superior 
armor and firepower of German tanks. 
Even the introduction of ammunition 
that increased the firepower of the 
British tanks failed to compensate for 
their deficiencies vis-a-vis the heavier 
armor and more powerful guns of the 
German Panther. During the lull after 
the futile attempt to take the Coiiano 



Ridge, Eighth Army logistical staffs had 
made strenuous efforts to bring for- 
ward new heavy British Churchill tanks, 
which were just beginning to arrive in 
Italy. At the same time, new 76-mm. 
U.S. Sherman tanks and 105-mm. self- 
propelled guns were aniving from the 
United States. Although U.S. units had 
priority on deliveries, the British re- 
ceived some of the new equipment. 
However, it would take considerable 
time to forward replacements to units 
still in close contact with the enemy. 

When the heavy rains of the first 
week in September and a determined 
enemy had brought the Eighth Army 
to a halt before the Coriano Ridge, the 
army was still eight miles short of the 
Marecchia River, which marks the 
southern boundary of the Romagna 
Plain for which the British were striv- 
ing. Ahead of the army lay three more 
of the northeastward extending ridges 
or spurs that had been serving the 
Germans as alternate lines of defense: 
the Ripabianca, a mile north of the 
Coriano Ridge, covering the crossings 
of the Formica Creek; the San Patrig- 
nano, from which the enemv could 
dominate the crossings of the Marano, 
two miles beyond the Formica; and two 
miles farther, the San Fortunato Ridge 
overlooking the Ansa River. Eighth 
Army aerial reconnaissance indicated 
that the enemv had developed field- 
works only on the latter ridge and thus 



A DIVERSIONARY OPERATION 



y^9 



could be expected to conduct onl\ 
delaying operations on the Ripabianca 
and the San Patrignano Ridges. ' 

To the fieldworks along the San 
Eortunato Ridge the Germans had 
given the designation, the Rimini Line. 
The positions included dug-in tank tur- 
rets reminiscent of the fortifications of 
the Hitler Line in the Liri valley. 
Because the Rimini Line was the last 
possible defensive position short of the 
Romagna plain, the Germans could be 
expected to defend it stubornly. 

Leese's Plan 

Since 8 September General Leese 
had shifted the burden of operations to 
the 5 Corps on his left flank, in order 
to permit the 1st Canadian Corps to 
lest and regioup, for he planned to use 
the latter to make the main assault on 
the Coriano Ridge, the key to Rimini. 
Extending northeastward for five miles, 
from the village of San Savino to a 
pcnnl on the coast five miles southeast 
of Rimini and near the fishing village 
of Riccione, the C-oriano Ridge covered 
the southern approaches to Rimini. To 
assist the Canadian corps. General 
Leese had reinforced it with three of 
his four reserve units; the British 4th 
Division, 3d Greek Mountain Brigade, 
and British 25th Tank Brigade. The 
fourth, the 2d New Zealand Division, 
was to remain in reserve with the 2 
Polish Cc3rps. 

On 9 September the Eighth Armv 
commander outlined a revised plan of 



'Operations of British, Indian, and Dominion 
Forces in Italy, Part III, Sec. B, The Eighth Army 
and the Gothic Line and Romagna Battles. Unless 
otherwise noted the following is based upon this 
source. 



operations designed to cany the army 
northward thirty miles beyond Rimini 
to Ravenna and provide control of the 
Romagna Plain. Erom there Cieneral 
Leese expected to be able to turn the 
German Tenth Army's left flank and roll 
it up toward Bologna and to make a 
junction with Clark's Fifth Army. 

In the first phase of the revised plan 
Leese intended both the British 5 Corps 
and 1st Canadian Corps to converge 
upon the Coriano Ridge — the British 
from the left and the Canadians fron- 
tally. During the lull General Leese had 
reversed the operational roles of the 
British 5 and 1st Canadian Corps. The 
5 Corps was to work its way around the 
western flank of the ridge to divert 
enemy attention from preparations 
being made by the Canadian corps to 
make the major assault against its east- 
ern extremity. The 700 guns that had 
signaled the opening of the Gothic Line 
offensive on 25 August were to fire in 
support of the 5 Corps' three infantry 
divisions as they advanced beyond the 
Conca River toward the town of Croce, 
five miles southwest of Coriano, while 
the 1st Canadian Corps' 5th Canadian 
and British 1st Armoured Divisions 
were to exploit capture of the ridge and 
secure bridgeheads over the Marano 
River. During the third phase the 
Eighth Army (the 1st Canadian Corps 
then leading the way) was to cross the 
Marecchia and deplov onto the Rom- 
agna Plain. The 1st Canadian Corps 
commander. General Burns, planned at 
that time to empk)V either the 2d New 
Zealand Division or the 5th Canadian 
Armoured Division as an exploiting 
force. To help the main effort by the 
Canadians, General Leese impressed 
upon the 5 Corps commander, General 



340 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Sir Charles Allfrey, the importance of 
maintaining enough pressure in his 
sector to prevent the enemy from shift- 
ing forces to check the Canadian thrust 
on the coastal flank. - 

Resuming the Offensive 

Even as the Fifth Army's II Corps on 
12 September began its assault against 
the Gothic Line north of Florence, the 
British 5 and 1st Canadian Corps — 
their way prepared by the fires of the 
700 guns supplemented by an offshore 
naval force of gunboats and destroyers 
and by hundreds of sorties by bombers 
of the DAF — resumed the Eighth Army 
offensive on the Adriatic flank. Al- 
though priority on air support had 
been shitted to the central sector to 
support the Fifth Army, the Eighth 
Army still had the full support of the 
DAF. On 13 September that consisted 
of more than 500 tons of bombs during 
900 sorties, 700 of which were flown in 
close support of ground operations. 

Helped by that firepower, the Cana- 
dian infantry and armor managed dur- 
ing the first day to establish a secure 
foothold on the Coriano Ridge just 
south of the town of Coriano. 
Throughout the 13th and on into the 
night, troops of the Irish Regiment of 
Canada drove a battalion of the 29th 
Panzer Division from the town, house by 
house. Many of the defenders withdrew 
only to fall into the hands of troops 
from the British 5 Corps' 4th Division, 
coming up on the left of the ridge. 



^General Leese had earlier placed the New Zea- 
land division and the 3d Greek Mountain Brigade 
under the Canadian corps for planning purposes. 
See Nicholson, The Canadians in Italy, pp. 532-35. 
Unless otherwise indicated the following is based 
upon this reference. 



Without pausing to consolidate their 
newly-won positions, the Canadians has- 
tily tackled their next objective, marking 
the seccjnd phase. By evening of the 
14th they had reached the south bank 
of the Marano River, two miles north- 
west of the Coriano Ridge, and during 
the night established several bridge- 
heads beyond the river. 

Despite having to relinquish the Cori- 
ano Ridge, General Herr, LXXVI Panzer 
Corps commander, still maintained the 
integrity of his front b\ withdrawing his 
troops to delaying positions along the 
San Patrignano Ridge, midway between 
the Marano and Ausa Rivers. There the 
Germans delayed the Canadians 
throughout the 15th and gained time to 
improve fieldworks along the Rimini 
Line, especially those on the San For- 
tunato Ridge, two miles north of the 
Ausa. As at Coriano, the Germans 
turned the village of San Fortunato into 
a strongpoint. South of the Ausa River 
and three miles from the San Fortunato 
strongpoint, the Germans developed a 
second strongpoint around the monas- 
tery of San Martino, situated on a small 
knoll overlooking Route 16, the coastal 
road leading to Rimini from the south- 
east. Well-concealed artillen in defilade 
behind the San Fortunato Ridge sup- 
ported the positions.'^ 

Since the main highwa\ and railway 
serving the coastal flank and connecting 
with the major routes across the Rom- 
agna Plain had to be cleared b)efore anv 
large-scale operation could be under- 
taken beyond the Marecchia River. 
General Burns directed his attention to 



MOK 10, la KTB Anl. 8. 17-18 Sep 44, AOK 10 
Doc. 61437/1; Horst Pretzell MS, The Battle of 
Rimini, in CMH files. 



A DIVKRSIONARY OPERATION 



34 



llic San MaitiiK) slrongpoint. As the 
Canadian armor and infantry ap- 
proached on the 16th, defending troop- 
ers ot the 1st Parachute Division, veterans 
of the Cassino battle many months 
before, disappeared into we 11 -pre pa red 
bunkers and called down heav'\ artillery 
fire immediately in front of their lines. 
Caught in the oj^en plain between the 
Marano and the Ansa, the Canadians 
had to fall back to their starting point, 
the bridgeheads over the Marano. 

The action was costly. Instead of 
renewing the assault immediately. 
Burns spent the next day regrouping 
and reorganizing. Trusting to darkness 
to conceal the next assault, he attacked 
again during the night of the 17th. A 
diffused light, created by beams from 
searchlights on the reverse slope of the 
Coriano Ridge thrown against low- 
hanging clouds, helped troop com- 
manders maintain control. Yet so well 
registered were the German guns on 
open ground over which the attackers 
had to pass that the darkness was but a 
small handicap. The fire left the Cana- 
dians "sweating and bleeding on the 
low ground" south of the Ausa River. ^ 

For all the damage inflicted by Ger- 
man artillery, the two successive Cana- 
dian assaults had taken a sharp toll 
among the defenders. Lacking replace- 
ments, the German commanders real- 
ized that they would soon have to vield 
the positions south of Rimini, regardless 
of whether artilleiy support remained 
intact.-^ 

Along the entire Pisa-Rimini line the 
battle of attrition, for such it had 
become, had reached a climax. The 



^Nicholson, The Canadians in Italy, pp. 550-51. 
"■AOK 10, la KTB Anl. Nr. H, 17-19 Sept. 44, AOK 
10 Doc. Nr. 61437/1. 



U.S. II Corps had broken through II 
Giogo Pass across a seven-mile front on 
the 18th, and the next day the neigh- 
boring British 13 Corps stood on the 
threshold of a breakthrough of both 
the Casaglia and San Godenzo Passes, 
on the Faenza and Forli roads. Along 
the Adriatic front, as well as in the 
Apennines, the Allies had pushed back 
both flanks of the Tenth Army, so that, 
to General Vietinghoff, the army's front 
resembled a dangerouslv bent bow. 
Doubting that the bow could bend 
much further without breaking, the 
Tenth Army commander urged Kessel- 
ring to allow him to relieve tension by 
withdrawing in the center. With units 
thus made available, Vietinghoff ex- 
pected to shore up the army flanks. 
Although Kesselring agreed in princi- 
ple, he told Vietinghoff that an authori- 
zation to withdraw would be given only 
if the situation grew worse. That af- 
forded little consolation for the Tenth 
Aimy commander.*^ 

As it turned out, neither Kesselring 
nor Vietinghoff had long to wait for 
the situation to worsen. During the 
night of the 19th the 1st Canadian 
Corps, behind a heavy bombardment 
from land, sea, and air, crossed the 
Ausa River and stormed the slopes of 
the San Fortunato Ridge to seize Villa 
Belvedere, a large country mansion 
only 600 yards from the village of San 
Fortunato and cominand center of the 
enemy strongpoint. Bypassed by the 
successful Canadian assault to the west, 
the paratroopers abandoned the San 
Martino position and slipped away. 
Again it seemed as if the bow would 
snap and the Canadians break through. 



•■Ihnl.. 19 .St-p 44. 



342 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



but again the elements were destined to 
intervene. In a heaw rain the Germans 
broke contact and withdrew beyond the 
Marecchia, some four miles away. 
Bogged down bv muddv roads and 
halted by swollen streams, the Canadian 
armor was unable to exploit the capture 
of the San Fortunato Ridge. " 

TJie Capture of Rimini 

Over the next forty-eight hours the 
waters of the flood-swollen Marecchia 
and its muddy flood plain became more 
effecti\e barriers to Allied forces than 
anything the Germans were capable of 
throwing in their path. The loss of the 
San Fortunato Ridge and the San Mar- 
tino strongpoint, last German defenses 
south of Rimini, meant nevertheless 
that General Herr could no longer 
expect to hold the city. On the 19th 
Kesselring authorized Vietinghoff to 
withdraw Herrs left wing beyond the 
Marecchia and evacuate Rimini the next 
night. In doing so, the Tenth Army 
commander, perhaps moved by the 
aura of history which permeated the 
peninsula, elected to forfeit some of the 
flooded Marecchia's tactical advantages 
by sparing the only remaining bridge 
across it, a 1 ,900-year-()ld stone struc- 
ture built during the reign of Emperor 
Tiberius but still usable in 20th century 
warfare. ^ 

As troops of the 3d Greek Mountain 
Brigade, operating on the coastal flank 
of the Canadian corps, prepared to 
enter Rimini's outskirts, the men could 
hear through the darkness the sound of 
heavy explosions as the Germans aban- 



doned the city. Early on the 21st a 
motorized patrol from the Greek bri- 
gade entered. By 0800 the Greeks had 
reached the main square to raise their 
battle standard over the town hall.*^ 
Seventy-five percent of the city lay in 
ruins, but among the surviving struc- 
tures stood the Triumphal Arch of 
Augustus built in 27 B.C. With multiple 
bridges soon spanning the Marecchia, 
the Canadians the next day deployed 
onto Highway 9 and the Romagna 
Plain, "the plains so long hoped for and 
so fiercely fought for . . . [whose] 
clogging mud and brimming water- 
courses" would soon confront the 
Eighth Army with obstacles as challeng- 
ing as the mountains and ridges.^'' 

By 21 September the Eighth Armv, 
having covered over thirty miles in 
twenty-six days, hardly a pell-mell pur- 
suit, was well established in the eastern 
terminus of the Pisa-Rimini line. Opera- 
tion Olive, which General Alexander 
had outlined to his armv commanders 
in early August, had been completed 
but far behind schedule. After the fall 
of Rome in early June Allied com- 
manders had confidentlv expected to 
reach that line b\ the end of July, but, 
in the months since then, the transfer 
of much Allied strength to other fronts 
with higher priorit) as well as a series 
of skillful enemv defenses had caused 
both the Fifth and Eighth Armies to lag 
behind projected timetables. To make 
matters worse, the hea\T rains soaking 
the k)w-lving plains in the Eighth Armv 
sector would soon turn to ice and snow 
in the Apennines where the Fifth Armv 



'Nicholson, Tlw Canadians in Italy, pp. 356-57. 
nbid., p. 558; AOK 10, la KTB Anl. 8, 21 Sep 44, 
AOK 10, Doc. 63437/1. 



**Nicholson, The Canadians in Italy, p. 558. The 
Greeks gallanilv requested the Canadians to furnish 
a Canadian flag to be tloun alongside their own. 

'"Alexander /)fi/)a/f/;, pp. 7(V7l. 



A DIVERSIONARY OPERATION 



343 




Generals Clark and Keyes Study the II Corps Situation Map Near Firen- 
zuoLA, September 1944. 



was resolutely fighting from one moun- 
tain to another. 

Toii'ard I mala 

Even as the Eighth Army crossed the 
Marecchia and deployed onto the Rom- 
agna Plain, Clark's Fifth Army moved 
through II Giogo Pass and prepared to 
exploit its capture. Keyes' II Corps soon 
cro3sed the Santerno River and ad- 
vanced to the road junction at Firen- 
zuola, five miles north of the pass. The 
once formidable defenses of the Futa 



Pass, thus outflanked, lay five miles to 
the southwest, so that not onh Highway 
65 but also Highway 6528, a secondary 
road five miles to the east that led from 
Firenzuola down the \alle\ of the San- 
terno to Imola on Highway 9 in the Po 
Valley, would soon be oj^en. 

The situation offered General Clark 
a choice between two courses of action: 
either to concentrate, as originally 
planned, all of the II Corps' efforts 
along the axis of Highway 65 toward 
Bologna via the Radicosa Pass, seven 
miles beyond the Futa Pass, or divert a 



344 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



portion of the corps northeastward to- 
ward Imola. The breakthrough at II 
Giogo in itself pointed to a change in 
that it suggested a very real weakness 
along the boundaiT between the Tenth 
and Fourteenth Armies, which roughly 
followed the Firenzuola-Imola road. A 
rapid descent into the Po Valley in the 
vicinity of Imola, General Clark de- 
duced, might take advantage of that 
weakness and assist the Eighth Army's 
operations along Highway 9 where 
General Leese's troops were at that 
point heavily engaged seventeen miles 
northwest of Rimini. Once established 
in Imola, the Fifth Army units could, 
Clark believed, "dispatch forces as far to 
the east as possible to gain contact with 
the rear of the German elements, de- 
molish roads and cover other Fifth 
Army units that must be immediately 
sent out to take positions across the 
main highways to prevent the with- 
drawal of German forces." General 
Clark's projected plan envisioned even- 
tual debouchment into the Po \'alle\ at 
Imola of at least two American divi- 
sions, heavily reinforced with tanks and 
artiller)', although the size of the force 
would depend upon the condition of 
the road.'^ 

As it turned out, the condition of the 
Santerno valley road was to be the 
determining factor. Route 6528 was an 
inferior road, capable in the autumn of 
1944, Clark soon learned, of serving as 
a line of communication for not more 
than one division under combat condi- 
tions. Although Clark told General 
Keyes to divert a division toward Imola, 
Bologna and not Imola remained the II 



Corps' main objective. The bulk of the 
II Corps — the 34th, 91st, and 85th 
Divisions — would continue along the 
axis of Highway 65 via the Radicosa 
Pass. As a possible reinforcement to 
exploit beyond Imola should the lone 
division moving along Route 6528 get 
there quickly, he shifted the 1st Ar- 
mored Division's CCA from the IV 
Corps to army control. 

In turn. General Keyes selected Brig- 
adier General Kendall's 88th Division, 
which since early September had been 
in corps reserve, to undertake the drive 
to Imola. Kendall was to attack earl\ on 
21 September through the right wing 
of Coulter's 85th Division. Attached to 
the 88th Division for the operation 
were the 760th Tank Battalion and a 
company each of the 805th Tank De- 
stroyer and 84th Chemical Battalions. 
Because of the paucity of roads and 
trails in the region, Keyes also gave the 
division two and a half pack-mule com- 
panies. '- 

The 88th Division's left flank was to 
tie in with the right flank of the 85th 
Division, west of and parallel to the 
Imola road. The 88th Division would 
advance at first on a three-mile front 
that would widen to five miles at the 
critical point just before descent into the 
Po Valley. The remainder of Keyes' 
forces — the 85th, 91st, and 34th Divi- 
sions, in that order from a point just 
east of Highway 65 westward to the 
FYato-Bologna highwav — was to bypass 
the Futa Pass, if possible, and concen- 
trate on capturing the Radicosa Pass. 
The 91st Division's 363d Infantrv 



'- Fifth Army Hutory, Part VII, pp. 89-91. Unless 

" Clark Diary, 21 Sep 44; Jackson, Tfw Battle of otherwise indicated the following is based upon this 
Italy, p. 276. source. 



A DIVERSIONARY OPKRA HON 



345 



would, in the meantime, deal with any 
enemy troops still left around the out- 
flanked Futa Pass. 

For all the promise afforded by the 
Santerno valley and Route 6528 as a 
route over which the Fifth Army might 
come more cjuickly to the aid of British 
forces east of Cesena, the mountainous 
terrain flanking the valley soon proved 
to be the most formidable the 88th 
Division had yet faced in the Italian 
Campaign. For over half of the thirty 
miles between Firenzuola and Imola the 
black-topped road followed the winding 
Santerno River through a narrow gorge 
flanked by high mountains with steep 
slopes cut by narrow ravines through 
which small streams descended to the 
river. As far as the village of Castel del 
Rio, ten miles northeast of Firenzuola, 
and a road junction beyond it, the last 
important road junction before Imola, 
only a few trails led from the main 
road into the mountains. 

Since passage through the Santerno 
valley hinged upon control of Castel del 
Rio, General Kendall, who had been in 
command of the division since July 
when an ailing General Sloan had re- 
turned to the United States, focused 
from the first on taking the village and 
nearby road junction. That feat de- 
pended on gaining the flanking high 
ground, a task which he assigned to 
Colonel Fry's 350th Infantry and to 
Colonel Crawford's 349th Infantry. The 
high giound in hand, Kendall planned 
to send Colonel Champeny's 351st In- 
fantry down the main road to Castel 
del Rio.''^ 



"* 88th Division Opns Rpt and Jnl, Sep 44. 
Unless otherwise indicated the following is based 
upon this source. 



Battle For the Mountains 

During the night of 20 September, 
Colonel Fry's and Colonel Crawford's 
regiments moved through the 85th Di- 
vision right wing from an assembly area 
near Monte Altuzzo. At dawn on the 
21st the two regiments, in columns of 
battalions, began advancing over nar- 
row mountain trails generally toward 
Castel del Rio, ten miles away. An 
intermittent misty rain, interspersed 
with patches of fog, made movement 
difficult and at times hazardous for 
men, mules, and vehicles. Under those 
conditions it was particularly fortunate 
that neither regiment encountered sig- 
nificant resistance. Indeed, the two regi- 
ments forged so far ahead of the 
British 1st Division, the adjacent unit of 
the 13 Corps, as to expose the 88th 
Division's right flank. That night an 
infiltrating enemy patrol taking advan- 
tage of the gap surprised and captured 
an enUre battalion command post. 

Despite that incident Colonel Fry's 
troops, by the 23d, had captured Monte 
della Croce, three miles southeast of 
Castel del Rio, and to the left Colonel 
Crawford's regiment held Monte la 
Fine, three miles west of the village. 
Those successes prompted General 
Kendall to release Colonel Champeny's 
351st Infantry and send it down the 
main road with the mission of by- 
passing Castel del Rio and taking the 
road junction beyond the village. Dawn 
on the 24th found all three of the 88th 
Division's regiments deployed across a 
five-mile front from Monte La Fine to 
Monte della Croce. {Map XII) 

The Tenth Army left flank had been 
pushed back to within fifteen miles of 
the Po Valley, yet there had been no 



346 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



breakthrough. Despite dhe American 
success, the enemy still held Castel del 
Rio and some of the high ground 
flanking the village and appeared deter- 
mined to hold. Until the high ground 
was cleared there could be little addi- 
tional progress toward Imola. 

Just how determined were the Ger- 
mans began to become apparent on the 
afternoon of the 24th when the 35()th 
Infantry's 3d Battalion, from positions 
on Monte della Croce, two miles east of 
Route 6528, attempted to occupy 
Monte Acuto, 1,200 yards to the north. 
For the first time since the operation 
had begun three days before, heavy fire 
forced the men to ground. As the 
fighting intensified. Colonel Fiy moved 
his command post onto Monte della 
Croce for better control of his forward 
units in the rugged terrain. Although 
General Kendall pressed for speedier 
progress, a chill and damp darkness 
found the 3d Battalion still well short of 
its objective. Litter bearers, hampered 
by uncertain footing on the rain-soaked 
mountain trails, could scarcely keep up 
with the battle's casualties.'^ 

The Germans Reinforce 

The unexpected stiffening of the 
enemy defense resulted from General 
Lemelsen having persuaded Field Mar- 
shal Kesselring to shore up an admit- 
tedly weak sector astride the interarmy 
boundary, where, since 19 September, 
contact between the Tenth and Four- 
teenth Armies had been limited to radio 
and telephone. The left wing of the 
Fourteenth Army was in a particularly 



difficult situation. For a week it had 
borne the full weight of the Fifth Army 
offensive, which, in the words of Le- 
melsen, the Fourteenth Army com- 
mander, had "sucked the army dry of 
available reserves." Unless Army Group C 
provided reinforcements to the / Para- 
chute Corps on the Fourteenth Army's left 
wing, that corps would have to yield 
more ground.'^ 

No doubt remained that all or part 
of three German divisions then man- 
ning the parachute corps front were 
insufficient to hold much longer against 
the U.S. Fifth Army's offensive. The 
334th Division held the right wing west 
of Highway 65; in the center was the 
4th Parachute Division, hard hit in de- 
fending II (iiogo Pass; and astride the 
Imola road, bearing the brunt of the 
88th Division's attack, were elements of 
the 362c^ Division, which Lemelsen had 
shifted from the XIV Panzer Corps. All 
three divisions were sorely in need of 
rest and replacements.'" 

The situation was serious enough to 
convince Kesselring to authorize trans- 
fer of two additional divisions from the 
Tenth Army to the Fourteenth Army. For 
the Tenth Army their loss at that time 
would not be critical, for the di\isions 
were to come from the relati\eK quiet 
mountainous sector of the LI Mountain 
Corps opposite the British 10 Corps on 
the Eighth Army's left wing. The two, 
the 715th Infantry and 44th Reichsgrena- 
dier Divisions, began mo\ing westward 
between 19 and 21 September. Mean- 
while, Kesselring extended the left 
flank of the parachute corps eastward 



'^ 350th Inf Opns Rpt, Sep 44; 88th Div Opns Doc. 62241/1. 
Rpt, Sep 44. '« Ibid. 



AOK 14, la KTB Anl. 4, 20-21 Sep 44. AOK 14. 



A DIVERSIONARY OPERATION 



347 




German Prisoners Captured Near Castel del Rio 



in an effort to close the gap between 
the Fourteenth and Tenth Armies. '' 

Those measures, however, had come 
too late to prevent the American 88th 
Division from thrusting seven miles 
north-northeastward from Firenzuola to 
capture the heights of Monte la Fine 
and Monte della Croce. By 25 Septem- 
ber the 351st InfantiT had pushed to 



'^ Ibid. A veteran of the Stalingrad and Cassino 
battles, the 44th Division was made up largely of 
Austrian levies. In recent months it had been 
brought up to strength with replacements from 
Germany. The 713th Division had experienced 
heavy losses the previous May and June in the 
battles for the Anzio beachhead. 



within two and a half miles south of 
Castel del Rio to take the village of 
Moraduccio. Meanwhile, a battalion 
each from the 362d and 44th Reichsgren- 
adier Divisions were in place on the 
summits of hills overlooking the village 
from the north. *^ 

On the same day. General Keyes 
widened the neighboring 85th Division's 
front two miles to include Monte la 
Fine, thereby relieving Colonel Craw- 
ford's regiment of responsibilit\ for that 
feature and slightly narrowing the 88th 



'^AOK 14, la KTB Anl. 5, 26 Sep 44, AOK 14, 
Doc. 62241/1. 



348 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



Division's front. The corps com- 
mander's action underlined for the divi- 
sion commander the determination at 
both corps and army that his troops 
reach their objective quickly. General 
Kendall that afternoon sent General 
Ramey, his assistant division com- 
mander, to Colonel Fry's command 
post to emphasize the importance at- 
tached to a rapid descent into the Po 
Valley before the Germans could move 
sufficient reinforcements to parry the 
thrust. In short, keep moving. 

Possibly in reaction to the command 
pressure, the 350th Infantry the next 
day captured not only Monte Acuto but 
also Monte del Puntale on the inter- 
corps boundary, which would facilitate 
contact with the British 1st Division. 

West of the Imola road Colonel 
Crawford's 349th Infantry captured 
Monte Pratolungo, then moved a mile 
northward to take another height west 
of Castel del Rio. With so much of the 
flanking high ground in American 
hands, the Germans had no choice but 
to abandon Castel del Rio. On their 
heels, troops of the 351st Infantry 
moved into the village. ^^ 

An even more impressive gain devel- 
oped the next day when men of Lt. 
Col. Corbett Williamson's 2d Battalion, 
350th Infantry, moved two miles be- 
yond Monte Acuto to Monte Carnavale, 
there to surprise an enemy company 
digging in on the reverse slope. Driving 
the Germans from the mountain, the 
battalion continued toward Monte Bat- 
taglia, a mile and a half to the north- 
east. Passing the night short of the 
objective, the men on the next day, the 
27th, encountered a group of partisans 

'988th Div Opns Rpt, Sep 44; Fifth Army History, 
Part VII, pp. 93-94. 




MONTE BaTTAGUA 

who claimed to be already in possession 
of Monte Battaglia. Guided by the 
partisans along a narrow mule trail, the 
battalion saw no evidence of the enem\ 
other than sporadic artillery fire. 

Reaching Battaglia's crest in mid- 
afternoon. Colonel Williamson estab- 
lished his command post on the reverse 
slope. Because he was well in front of 
the rest of the division, he posted only 
one company on the summit and de- 
ployed the rest to cover a long and 
tenuous line of communications to the 
regimental command post. While a few 
of the partisans remained with the 
Americans, the others vanished into the 
mountains, presumably to harass the 
enemy. From the II Corps commander 
came the message, "Well done," to 
which General Kendall and Colonel Fn 
added their congratulations. Of the 



A DIVERSIONARY OPLKATION 



349 



high ground in the vicinity of Castel del 
Rio, there remained to the enemy only 
Monte Capello, two miles west of 
Monte Battaglia. 

The surprising ease with which the 
2d Battalion, 350th Infantr)', had occu- 
pied Monte Battaglia quickly proved 
deceptive. Hardly had Williamson's bat- 
talion consolidated its positions than the 
Germans, supported by mortar and 
artillery fire, launched two successive 
counterattacks. By dark both were re- 
pulsed, but through the night enemy 
artillery fire continued to pick at the 
American positions. 

The gains of the past two days had 
extended the gap between the 350th 
Infantry and the adjacent unit of the 
British 1st Division. Dismounted tank 
crews of the 760th Tank Battalion, 
which since the 21st had been engaged 
in covering the II Corps right flank, 
tried unsuccessfully to close the gap, 
which by nightfall on the 27th had 
grown to almost 5 miles. To close it and 
assure the integrity of the 350th Infan- 
try's supply lines. General Keyes had to 
draw upon two armored infantry battal- 
ions of the 1st Armored Division's 
CCA, made available from the Fifth 
Army reserve. 

However vulnerable the open flank, 
the Germans were unable to take ad- 
vantage of it. Except for Monte Ca- 
pello,' the Americans at that point held 
all the dominating heights around the 
Castel del Rio road junction, and from 
Monte Battaglia northward the ground 
descended as the Santerno threaded its 
way to the Po Valley. In the German 
rear, partisan units, such as the one that 
had led the way to Monte Battaglia, 
increased the tempo of their harass- 
ment with each passing day, briefly 



knocking out communications between 
the parachute corps and Fourteenth Army 
headquarters. Everything seemed to fa- 
vor the notion that the admittedly di- 
versionary operation might produce an 
Allied breakthrough to the Po Valley, a 
view widely held at Clark's headquar- 
ters. -*^ 

Meanwhile, the main effort of the II 
Corps had made gratifying, though less 
dramatic, progress. There the 34th, 
85th, and 91st Divisions had gained an 
average of sLx miles to close with the 
high ground flanking the Radicosa 
Pass. To the east of the II Corps sector, 
the British 13 Corps' 1st Division, 8th 
Indian Division, and British 6th Ar- 
moured Division, all echeloned to the 
southeast of the II Corps, pressed on at 
a somewhat slower pace toward Castel 
Bolognese and Faenza, four and nine 
miles respectively southeast of Imola.^* 

Like the Eighth Army, the Fifth 
Army seemed again to be on the 
threshold of a breakthrough, but the 
change in the weather that had brought 
the Eighth Army to a halt was to have a 
similar effect on the Fifth Army. For 
several days rain and fog grounded 
virtually all Allied aircraft, especially the 
ubiquitous artillerv' spotter planes, and 
sharply limited the effectiveness of Al- 
lied artillery fire. The / Parachute Corps 
and Fourteenth Army commanders, as 
had their colleagues on the Adriatic 
flank, quickly took advantage of the 
fortuitous break in the weather to rein- 
force their front. -- 



-"Clark Diary, 21 Sep 44. 
-'Ibid. 

"AOK 14, la KTB Anl. 5, 28 Sep 44, AOK 14, 
Dot. 62241/1. 



350 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



The Defense of Battle Mountain 

With a battalion each atop Monte 
Carnevale and Monte Battaglia, or "Bat- 
tle Mountain" as the troops called it, 
Colonel Fry's 350th Infantry remained 
slightly ahead of the rest of the 88th 
Division. To the left, about a mile 
beyond Castel del Rio, Colonel Cham- 
penv's 351st Infantry had been stalled 
for several days, and for the next two 
would try in vain to drive the Germans 
from Monte Capello, two miles north- 
east of the road junction. Farther to the 
left, a mile west of Castel del Rio, 
Colonel Crawford's 349th Infantry had 
no more success in its efforts to push 
fonvard.'-^ 

To Colonel Fr)' the 2,345-foot Monte 
Battaglia seemed at first an excellent 
position; its northwestern slopes and 
those of a northeastward extending 
spur, the directions from which the 
enemy might be expected to counterat- 
tack, were quite steep. Yet there were 
some disturbing features. Deeply in- 
dented by ravines and gullies, a grass- 
covered eastern slope seemed to invite 
the infiltration tactics at which the en- 
emy was so adept. Monte Battaglia's 
treeless summit offered little cover or 
concealment; holes and trenches hacked 
out of the thin soil and an ancient ruin 
afforded the only shelter from either 
the elements or enemy fire. Almost 
from the moment of arrival on the 
summit. Colonel Williamson's men had 
spent their time between enemy artil- 
lery' barrages and counterattacks in dig- 
ging dugouts and fire trenches. Each 
passing hour made it clearer to Colonel 
Fry how difficult Monte Battaglia might 




" 350th Inf S-3 Jnl, Sep 44. Unless otherwise 
cited the following is based upon this source. 



Men, Mules, Mud 

prove to hold. Well ahead of the other 
regiments and leading the remaining 
battalions of the 350th Infantrv, the 2d 
Battalion was exposed to fire from 
three sides. Supplies and reinforce- 
ments could reach the men only over 
the narrow mule trail along a steep- 
sided ridge connecting Monte Battaglia 
and Monte Carnevale. To insure use of 
that trail. Colonel Fr\' had to deploy his 
other two battalions along it, enabling 
the 2d Battalion to concentrate on the 
summit. This left him little with which 
to reinforce if the 2d Battalion got into 
trouble. Rain and fog closing in on the 
high ground increased the likelihood of 
enemy infiltration and made footing on 
the steep trail doubly hazardous. 

Hardly had Colonel Fr\' on 28 Sep- 
tember completed moving his com- 
mand post forward — to within 400 
yards of Monte Battaglia — when a mes- 



A DIVERSIONARY OPERATION 



351 



sage from Colonel Williamson atop 
Monte Battaglia told of a "terrific coun- 
terattack" and a situation that was "des- 
perate." It was the work of troops of 
the 44th Reichsgrenadier Division, [Hoch 
und Dcutsrhmt'istcr], a competent unit 
composed largely of Austrian levies. 
Supported by intense concentrations of 
artillery fire, the grenadiers struck in 
approximately regimental strength from 
three directions. The worst of it ap- 
peared to hit Company G, whose com- 
mander, Capt. Robert E. Roeder, led 
his men in a desperate hand-to-hand 
struggle against Germans swarming 
over the positions. When Roeder fell, 
seriously wounded, his men carried him 
to his command post in the shelter of 
the ancient ruin. After allowing an aid 
man to dress his wounds. Captain Roe- 
der dragged himself to the entrance of 
the old building. Bracing himself in a 
sitting position, he picked up a rifle 
from a nearby fallen soldier and 
opened fire on attacking Germans clos- 
ing in on his position. He killed two 
Germans before a fragment from a 
mortar shell cut him down. Encouraged 
by their captain's example, the men of 
Company G rallied to drive the enemy 
off the summit and back down Monte 
Battaglia's slopes.-^ 

With reinforcement from a company 
of another battalion sent forward by 
Colonel Fry, the 2d Battalion by 1700 
had beaten back the counterattack, but 
throughout the night German artillery 
fired intermittently on Colonel William- 
son's positions. Although painful to the 
men undergoing it, the fire could in no 
way compare with that put out by 



^* Captain Roeder was posthumously awarded 
the Medal of Honor. 



American guns. The number of enemy 
rounds falling on Monte Battaglia 
rarely exceeded 200 a day or a maxi- 
mum of 400 rounds for the entire 
regimental sector. On the other hand, 
on 1 October, when clear skies permit- 
ted artillery spotter aircraft to fly, the 
339th Field Artillery Battalion alone 
fired 3,398 rounds. 

Fighting erupted again on Monte 
Battaglia on 30 September, when Ger- 
mans carrying flame throwers and pole 
charges with which to burn and blast 
paths through the American defenses 
again stormed up the mountain. For a 
second time they penetrated the 2d 
Battalion's perimeter and briefly occu- 
pied the ruins of the summit, but as 
before, Williamson's men rallied to 
drive the enemy back down the moun- 
tain. By that time the position of the 
men on Monte Battaglia had improved 
through achievements of adjacent units. 
On the 30th the 351st Infantry at last 
captured nearby Monte Capello, and 
elements of the British 1st Division 
came up on the 88th Division's right 
flank. 

The Imola Drive Abandoned 

Despite the 88th Division's improved 
position, the thrust represented nothing 
more than a narrow salient achieved at 
considerable cost. Still, if General Clark 
should choose to pour in fresh troops 
to expand the salient into a break- 
through to Imola and Highway 9, it 
could pose a genuine threat to the 
Germans. Nevertheless, the Fifth Army 
commander still saw the Firenzuola- 
Imola road as incapable of carrying the 
increased traffic reinforcements would 
generate. Nor had the thrust shown 
any indications of softening resistance 



332 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



in front of the Eighth Army, at that 
point apparently checked by deter- 
mined German defenders in the vicinity 
of Faenza. In \ievv' of that situation and 
of the limited capability of the single 
road, General Clark had no desire to 
divert strength from his main effort. 
What he apparently did not know was 
that the German command was unable 
to afford more troops to throw against 
the salient, and those that had been 
doing the fighting were close to col- 
lapse.-^ 

The 88th Division having run into 
what appeared to be serious opposition 
and reinforcements having been ruled 
out, General Clark abandoned the sec- 
ondar)' drive on Imola. He now took 
steps aimed at eventual shift of the left 
flank of General Kirkman's 13 Corps 
westward to take over the Santerno 
valley sector and enable General Keyes 
to concentrate on the capture of Bo- 
logna. The first step was to attach the 
1st Guards Brigade of the British 6th 
Armoured Division, on the 13 Corps 
right flank, to the British 1st Division to 
relieve the 350th Infantry on Monte 
Battaglia. Later the U.S. 88th Division 
was to be relieved by the British 78th 
Division from the Eighth Army sector, 
while the British 6th Armoured Divi- 
sion took its place on the Adriatic flank. 
The 88th Division was then to join the 
other divisions of the II Corps in the 
drive toward Bologna astride Highway 
65. 

Meanwhile, Colonel Fry had received 
word that relief for his men on Monte 
Battaglia was on the way. If all went 
well, the British might be able to begin 



replacing the 350th Infantr\ the follow- 
ing night. The promise of relief had 
come none too soon for the 2d Battal- 
ion: all officers of Company G had 
either been killed or wounded and the 
company was down to only fifty men; 
Companies E and F were in little better 
shape. 

Although relief was in sight, the 2d 
Battalion's ordeal was yet to end. Early 
on 1 October enemv artillery again 
began falling on Monte Battaglia. After 
twenty minutes the artillery lifted, and 
out of the semidarkness the Germans 
once again attacked up fog-shrouded 
slopes. This time, however, the sun 
soon burned off the fog, and a clear 
sky enabled artillerv' spotter planes to 
take to the air to direct defensive fires. 
With that support the 2d Battalion by 
midday was able to repel the counterat- 
tack and send some 40 enemy prisoners 
rearward. Shortly after midday officers 
from the Welsh Guards (1st Guards 
Brigade) arrived at Colonel Frv's com- 
mand post to make a reconnaissance 
before relieving the 350th Infantrv.-*^ 

With the arrival of the British ad- 
vance party, the defenders of Monte 
Battaglia had reason to expect thev 
would be off the mountain within 
twenty-four hours, but that was not to 
be. Despite aerial bombardment and 
counterbatterv fire, enemy artiller) con- 
tinued to shell the summit, seriouslv 
interfering with movement of incoming 
troops of the 1st Guards Brigade. 
Three days would pass before the relief 
was completed and the last of the 
Americans trudged wearily down the 
trail from Monte Battaglia. Before the 



" AOK 14, la KTB Anl. Nr. 5, 3-7 Oct 44, AOK 
14, Doc Nr. 65922/1. 



350th Inf Opns Rpt. Oct 44. 



A DIVERSIONARY OPERATION 



353 



last men departed on 5 October, the 
Germans delivered yet another counter- 
attack, but this time the relieving British 
troops joined in repulsing it."^ 

Reflecting not only the fighting on 
Monte Battaglia but also that in the hills 
west and north of Castel del Rio, where 
since the 28th the 349th and 351st 
Regiments had attempted with scant 
success to extend their gains beyond 
Castel del Rio, losses were high. Since 
General Kendall's division had re-en- 
tered the line on 21 September until 
the last man left on 5 October, the 88th 
Division's three regiments incurred 
2,105 casualties. That was almost as 
many as the entire II Corps had 
sustained during the six-day break- 
through offensive against II Giogo Pass 
and the Gothic Line. Losses were high 
too from injury and sickness attributed 
to the rugged terrain and inclement 
weather. Fortunately, the Fifth Army 
replacement pool system, so effective 
since the beginning of the campaign, 
still functioned well. Within a few days 
replacements and hospital returnees 
brought the 88th Division's regiments 
back up to strength .2" 

The Germans Take Stock 

On the German side, a week after 
the British 1st Guards relieved the 88th 
Division, the 98th Division, recently 
transferred from the Tenth Army, re- 
placed the 44th Reichsgrenadier Division. 
Although the 98th Division earlier had 
suffered considerable casualties during 
the battle for the Rimini Line, the 
division absorbed some replacements 
during about two weeks out of line. 



The division's low combat capability 
nevertheless remained of concern to 
General Lemelsen, the Fourteenth Army 
commander. Fortunately for Lemelsen 
and the 98th Division, General Clark's 
decision to concentrate his operations 
along Highway 65 promised some relief 
for the Fourteenth Army's hard-pressed 
left flank. The 44th Reichsgrenadier Divi- 
sion, meanwhile, was moved into army 
reserve. ^^ 

As evidence accumulated at Lemel- 
sen's headquarters that Clark had aban- 
doned the thrust toward Imola, the 
Fourteenth Army commander concluded 
that the Allied command had shifted 
the focus of its offensive from the 
Adriatic flank to the central sector 
south of Bologna, and that as a result, 
pressure from the Eighth Army might 
ease to some degree. Field Marshal 
Kesselring, for his part, was not so sure. 
He soon realized that Clark had suffi- 
cient strength within his own army to 
mount a major effort against Bologna 
without any drawing upon the Eighth 
Army.-*^" 

Shift Back to Highway 65 

Kesselring was right in any case, but 
particularly so because in blocking the 
road to Imola the Germans had gravely 
jeopardized their chances at the Radi- 
cosa Pass. There three prominent 
peaks, Monti Bastione and Oggioli west 
of the pass and Monte Cauda to the 
east, were potentially formidable defen- 
sive positions. Higher than the summits 
in the Gothic Line, they also presented 
generally bare, treeless slopes. Yet two 



Ibid. 

Fifth Army History, Part VII, p. 97. 



2" AOK 14, la KTB Anl. Nr. 5, 7 Oct 44, AOK 14, 
Doc. 65922/2. 
■'"' Ibid. 



354 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



of the three enemy divisions defending 
the pass — the 334th and 362d Infantry 
Divisions (the 4th Parachute Division was 
the third) — had taken considerable 
losses when contingents of the divisions 
had shifted hastily eastward to help 
shore up the defenses of the Imola 
sector. Thus when the three divisions 
making the American main effort — the 
34th advancing on Monte Bastione, the 
91st on Monte Oggioli, and the 85th on 
Monte Cauda — converged on the Radi- 
cosa Pass, General Schlemm, whose / 
Parachute Corps controlled the sector, 
saw no alternative to withdrawal. Tak- 
ing advantage of the fog and rain, 
which there as elsewhere enveloped the 
front, the Germans broke contact on 28 
September and fell back along the axis 
of Highway 65 to establish a new line 
based on the village of Monghidoro, 
three miles north of the pass. 

During the night the 91st Division 
occupied the Radicosa Pass without op- 
position, and for the rest of the day, on 
the 29th, two regiments pushed about 
two miles north of the pass through a 
thick fog that reduced visibility to a few 
yards. To the flanks the 34th and 85th 
Divisions kept pace in their sectors. All 
three divisions patrolled, as actively as 
the persistent fog would allow, in an 
effort to locate the enemy's new line 
and dete rmine its strength.^* 

3' Fifth Army History, Part VII, pp. 100-102; 
Starr, From Salerno to the Alps, pp. 138-40. 



By the end of September the Fifth 
Army's objective of Bologna lay a 
tempting twenty-four miles north of the 
forward positions of the II Corps as- 
tride Highway 65, and on a clear day 
the British troops atop Monte Battaglia 
could see the Po Valley only about ten 
miles away. Yet for all the strategic 
position of the II Corps, the rest of the 
Fifth Army was less well situated. To 
the right, the British 13 Corps, after 
taking over the Santerno valley sector 
from the U.S. 88th Division, held a 17- 
mile front, wider than at the start of 
the offensive and so extended that the 
corps' three divisions could make only 
limited advances. The same could be 
said of General Crittenberger's IV 
Corps with a 50-mile front. Already 
thinly spread, the corps had been weak- 
ened more when General Clark had 
withdrawn part of the 1st Armored 
Division into Army reserve. Although 
the IV Corps had been pushing ahead 
gradually, so that with the exception of 
Task Force 45 along the coast all units 
by the end of September had passed 
through the Gothic Line, the pace was 
too slow to prevent Field Marshal Kes- 
selring from shifting units from the XIV 
Panzer Corps to reinforce more threat- 
ened sectors opposite the U.S. II Corps. 
With the approach of winter weather, 
the IV Corps in the coming months 
could hardly be expected to pick up the 
pace. 



PART SIX 
IN THE NORTHERN APENNINES 



However highly we must esteem courage and firmness in war, and 
however little prospect there is of victory to him who cannot resolve to 
seek it by exertion of all his powers, there still is a point beyond which 
perserverance can only be termed desperate folly, and therefore can 
meet with no approbation from any critic .... 

Clausewitz, On War 



CHAPTER XXI 



From Ridge to Ridge 



In mid-September, while the Fifth 
and Eighth Armies were batthng 
through the Gothic Line, the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff met in Quebec for a 
second time in order to prepare plans 
for what was then thought to be the 
final phase of the war against Germany. 
The Americans, believing that Eisen- 
hower's armies in northwestern France 
stood on the threshold of victor)' over 
the Germans, were at that point in- 
clined to lend a more sympathetic ear 
to British pleas for bringing the cam- 
paign in Italy to a successful conclusion. 
General Marshall took pains to reassure 
his British counterpart, Imperial Chief 
of Staff General Sir Alan Brooke, that 
the U.S. Fifth Army would not be 
withdrawn "until General Wilson had 
completed the campaign then under 
way to defeat [Kesselring]." The Joint 
Chiefs of Staff therefore gave tacit 
support to British proposals for trans- 
Adriatic operations designed to out- 
flank the Germans in the Po Valley. 
Landing craft that had been employed 
earlier in the landings in southern 
France would be made available for an 
amphibious operation against the Is- 
trian peninsula; but since that same 
shipping would soon be needed for the 

Pacific, the Americans placed a time 
limit on its availability. For that reason, 
SACMED (General^ Wilson) had to 
make up his mind by 10 October 



whether to undertake an amphibious 
assault in the Adriatic. ' 

Heartened by the turn in the fortune 
of strategies long deferred in the Medi- 
terranean, Churchill summoned Wilson 
and Alexander to meet with him on 8 
October during a brief stopover at 
Naples en route to Moscow for a 
conference with Stalin. At Naples the 
British made a preliminary survey of 
ways to take advantage of the American 
offer to support a trans-Adriatic am- 
phibious operation. The survey dis- 
closed two possible courses of action: a 
seaborne attack on the Istrian penin- 
sula, including the capture of Trieste; 
or a landing south of Fiume followed 
by a thrust northward toward that city. 
Which to choose, the conferees agreed, 
would depend upon the situation in 
Yugoslavia and the state of Allied re- 
sources in the Mediterranean Theater. 

In Yugoslavia the military situation 
was unclear. German Army Group E, 
commanded by Generalfcldmarschall 
Maximillian von Weichs and consisting 
of about 240,000 men divided among 
15 German, Bulgarian, Croatian, and 
Cossack divisions, had withdrawn from 
Greece to hold temporarily along the 
line of the Athens-Salonika-Belgrade 
railroad. Opposing the Germans and 
their allies were approximately 180,000 



' Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 
1943-1944, pp. 510-11. 



358 



CASSINO TO THE ALPS 



guerrillas, mostly under the leadership 
of Marshal Tito.- 

As for Allied resources, the situation 
was equally obscure and full of draw- 
backs, such as a glowing shortage of 
infantry replacements and the rather 
short time limit the Americans had 
placed on the use of the sealift in the 
Mediterranean Theater. Wilson was 
asked to undertake a study concerning 
the feasibility of an amphibious opera- 
tion in the light of those factors and 
report his conclusions and recommen- 
dations as soon as possible to the CCS 
in London.^ 

Two days later Wilson submitted a 
report that offered little comfort to the 
advocates (Churchill and Alexander 
being those most prominent) of am- 
phibious operations on the Adriatic 
flank. For the next few months there 
seemed, in Wilson's view, little likeli- 
hood that the Allied armies in Italy 
could contribute directly to the outcome 
of the campaign in northwestern Eu- 
rope. It seemed more likely that a 
Russian drive into Hungary would have 
a far greater chance of forcing Kessel- 
ing's withdrawal from northern Italy 
than anything Alexander's armies might 
accomplish in the immediate future. 
Moreover, a Russian advance would 
very probably cause the Germans to 
withdraw from the Balkans as well and 
leave Tito's partisans in control of the 
Dalmatian coast. 



^ DA Pamphlet 20-243, Aug 51, German Antigwr- 
rilla Operations in the Balkans, 1941^4; Earl F. 
Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin: Tfw German Defeat in the 
East, Armv Historical Series (Washington, 1968), p. 
367. 

^ Ehrman, Grand Strategy, vol. VI, pp. 37-51. 
Unless othenvise cited the following is based upon 
this source. 



If current Allied operations in Italy 
continued at their existing pace through 
November, not imtil December at the 
earliest could troops be withdrawn from 
the front to prepare for a seaborne 
assault. In Wilson's view, an amphibious 
operation against the Istrian peninsula 
was thus out of the question before 
early spring of 1945. To mount an 
assault even at that time, Wilson be- 
lieved, would require reinforcements in 
the form of three fresh Allied divisions 
before the end of 1944; for unless the 
Russians forced Kesselring to withdraw 
during the winter, the Allies would 
have to husband existing strength in 
Italy in order to mount a spring offen- 
sive. As originally planned, an amphibi- 
ous operation against Istria was to be 
accomplished with one airborne and 
two seaborne divisions in the assault 
phase and a fourth division in the 
follow-up. 

As for the second course of action — 
landing south of Fiume followed by an 
overland advance on that city — it would 
depend largely upon German move- 
ments in Yugoslavia over the next few 
months. Even without an airborne divi- 
sion, that operation would nevertheless 
need the same amount of assault ship- 
ping, although possibly somewhat less 
than an assault against Istria. 

Wilson's rather cautious forecast was 
enough to convince the CCS that hope 
for a trans-Adriatic amphibious assault 
had to be abandoned. In the event the 
Germans failed to capitulate before the 
end of the year, Eisenhower would 
need all of his divisions for a major 
offensive in early 1945. November and 
December would therefore be crucial 
months, during which the enemv had 
to be kept fully engaged on all fronts. 



FROM RIDGE TO RIDGE 359 

It was thus vital that the armies in Italy his partisans would no longer be as 
maintain strong pressure against Kes- dependent as before upon Allied aid.^ 
selring "and that," in the words of the Acting on Churchill's instructions, Wil- 
CCS, "could be done only by continuing son proposed to the CCS on 24 Octo- 
to fight hard in the peninsula itself." ber that as soon as the U.S. Fifth Army 
Under those circumstances, troops had captured Bologna, the Allied ar- 
hardly were to be spared from the mies would pass to the defensive along 
main battlefront for a major amphibi- or near the La Spezia-Bologna-Rav- 
ous assault. enna line. Alexander then could with- 
in taking their position, the CCS draw from the front up to six divisions 
concluded "that the overland offensive with which to mount an amphibious 
in Italy should be relentlessly pursued operation or an administrative landing 
until the major offensive in northwest- along the Dalmatian coast, depending 
ern Europe had been launched, proba- upon the degree of control over the 
bly at the end of December." They area then exercised by Tito's partisans, 
recommended that the American sealift Once the Allied landing force had 
be retained no longer in the Mediterra- established a beachhead at Zara, three 
nean and that no additional divisions or four divisions could pass through to 
be moved into the theater. The latter begin, during the first week of Febru- 
point was driven home with additional ary, 1945, an overland advance on 
force two days later when President Fiume and Trieste. After the divisions 
Roosevelt personally intervened to re- captured Fiume, Wilson projected in- 
ject a request from Churchill to divert creasing the Allied force in Yugoslavia 
to Italy two, or possibly three, American to six divisions and with them continu- 
divisions about to leave the United ing northward to cut Kesselring's line of 
States for Europe. communications with Austria and 
There the matter might have rested Weichs' Army Group E in the Balkans, 
but for the Prime Min