Gustav Line Anzio Salerno Rome



Gustav Line Anzio Salerno Rome
World War II: North Africa and
WWII History, Week #8 Part II
People, Places and Concepts to
• Anzio, Clark, Gustav Line, Kasserine
Pass, Kesserling, LSTs, Lucas,
Montgomery, Operation Torch, Rome,
Rommel, Salerno, Sicily, “soft underbelly”
North Africa
Italian Presence in North Africa
• Since before World War II, Italy had been occupying
Libya and had over a million soldiers based there
• In neighboring Egypt, the British Army had only 36,000
men guarding the Suez Canal and the Arabian oilfields
• On Sept 13, 1940, the Italians advanced into Egypt but
halted in front of the main British defenses at Mersa
• On Dec 9, the British counterattacked and pushed the
Italians back more than 500 miles, inflicting heavy
• British troops then moved along the coast and on Jan
22, 1941, they captured the port of Tobruk in Libya
Germany to the Rescue
• In response to Italian
failure, Germany sent
forces across the
Mediterranean to Tripoli
– The Afrika Corps
commanded by Erwin
• Italy’s disasters in North
Africa and elsewhere
(i.e., Greece) were
threatening to undermine
the Axis position in the
Balkans and the
Mediterranean Sea.
Germany command
takes over.
• Characteristically Rommel attacked and drove
the British Commonwealth forces out of Libya
except for Tobruk
• With the situation in North Africa stabilized, Hitler
turned his attention to shoring up Italy, leaving
Rommel to deal with North Africa
• One of Rommel’s biggest challenges would be
his long, tenuous supply line
– Between Oct and Nov the Allies sank nearly 80% of
Axis supply ships crossing the Mediterranean
• Rommel pushed the British deep into Egypt but
British General Bernard Montgomery stopped
Rommel at El Alamein in July 1942
Operation Torch
• While this was going on in Egypt and Libya,
Americans acquiesced to British pressure and
began planning Operation Torch– landings to
occupy Algeria and Morocco and co-opt the
Vichy French
– The “Vichy French” had reached an agreement with
the Germans allowing a French government headed
by Marshall Henri Pétain to govern the French
colonies and those parts of France not occupied by
the Germans
– The “Free French” established their own government
in exile led by Charles de Gaulle
Operation Torch
• The Anglo-American forces landed at
Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers and then
advanced by land and sea to Tunisia
Operation Torch
• At first the Vichy French resisted,
but eventually surrendered
• Hitler began rushing troops to
Tunis before the Allies could get
• Hitler was successful in winning
“the race to Tunis” and therefore
denying the Mediterranean to Allied
– However, he did so at a great
price, committing Italian and
German troops to an ultimately
hopeless fight when they could
have been better used
Admiral Francois
surrendered the
Vichy forces in
North Africa
Kasserine Pass
• After El Alamein, Montgomery had
been unable to cut off Rommel and
Rommel was able to retreat across
Egypt, into Libya, and eventually
reach Tunisia
• Rommel developed a plan to sweep
up from southern Tunisia and
destroy the Allied supply dumps in
eastern Algiers
• Rommel attacked on February 14
and punched his way through the
Kasserine Pass
• It was a tactical victory, but Rommel
was unable to continue with his
larger plan and began withdrawing
on Feb 22
• First real battle for the American
Germans Defeated
• Rommel then turned
south against the British
who were arriving from
• Montgomery dealt
Rommel a stunning
defeat and Rommel
personally left Africa
• The Axis position in North
Africa steadily
deteriorated and in early
May the Allies controlled
American soldiers enter
Kasserine Pass
First Battle
• The Americans did
not perform very well
in their first combat
experience and senior
leadership was
– General Eisenhower
was forced to relieve
Lloyd Fredendall of
command and replace
him with George
Lloyd Fredendall, commander
of the American II Corps
Results of North Africa
• The Germans had wasted valuable
resources in an indecisive theater
• Mussolini was severely weakened
• The Americans learned from their poor
performance and made the necessary
• The British and American coalition
weathered a potentially threatening storm
Casablanca Conference
• After the Axis surrender
in Tunisia, the Allies
began planning the next
phase of the war
• Roosevelt and Churchill
met in Casablanca,
Morocco in January
– Stalin had been
invited, but declined
to attend because of
Second Front
• Since July 19, 1941,
Stalin had been
demanding the Allies
open up a second
front to relieve the
German pressure
Russia was facing
• Invading Italy would
help meet Stalin’s
Strategic Differences
• US advocated a
cross channel
invasion to
directly attack
• Churchill
preferred an
through the “soft
underbelly of
British Approach
American Approach
Casablanca Conference
Jan 1943
• Britain
– “the control of the
meant… control of
the Western world.”
– Had imperial
fortunes in Egypt,
the Middle East,
and India
– Felt it was the Axis’
vulnerable point
• Americans
– “periphery
pecking” would
delay the crosschannel invasion
that would strike
the German
– The Second Front
wanted by Stalin
would be pushed
back to 1944.
What They Agreed On
• Forces from Operation Torch could continue on
to Sicily once the North African Campaign was
– Churchill knew this would preclude a cross-channel
invasion in 1943
• At the end of the conference, Roosevelt
announced that “peace can come to the world
only by the total elimination of German and
Japanese military power . . . (which) means
unconditional surrender.”
Trident Conference May 1943
• Americans accepted the
strategic goal of
eliminating Italy from the
war but demanded that
the forces involved
consist only of those
already in the
• Americans and British
also agreed that planning
begin for a cross channel
invasion in May 1944
The Federal Reserve
Building in
Washington, DC, site
of the Trident
The Italian Campaign
• Three amphibious operations
– Sicily (Operation Husky)
– Salerno (Operation Avalanche)
– Anzio (Operation Shingle)
Sicily, 1943
The Attack on Europe Begins
The Commanders
General Mark
Fifth Army
General Sir
Alexander, 15th
Army Group
British Eighth
General George Patton,
Seventh Army, coming
ashore in Sicily
General Omar Bradley,
commander II Corps
• Allies enjoyed great tactical
success in capturing the
island of Sicily but did not
have a good plan for what
to do next
• Germans were able to
escape to the Italian
• The King placed Mussolini
under arrest but the Allies
were slow to exploit this
diplomatic opportunity and
Hitler shored up his
defenses in Italy
Messina: With Mainland Italy in the
So What Next ?….
• “We can’t win a war
by capturing islands.”
– General Mark Clark,
Fifth Army commander
One down, two to go:
Cartoon on jeep shows
Mussolini crossed out with
Hitler and Hirohito next
Salerno, 1943
Invading the Italian Mainland
The Commanders: Allies
General Sir Richard
McCreery, British X Corps
General Ernest Dawley,
American VI Corps
The Commanders: Axis
• Albert Kesserling
– A Luftwaffe officer
– Supreme
Commander “South”
or O.B.S.
– One of Germany’s
best generals
• With the Italian Army on the
verge of disintegrating, the
assault on Salerno was
designed to seize the port of
Naples and the airfields of
Foggia, followed by a drive to
• The Germans were ready for
the invasion and the battle
was a close call for the Allies
– Massive naval gunfire,
strategic bombers, and
determined Allied ground
forces saved the day
Gustav Line
• The Germans withdrew to
a defense centered on
Monte Cassino astride the
Liri, Sangro, Rapido, and
Garigliano Rivers
– Major position from
which to defend Rome
• Exposed the Allies to costly
and slow mountain fighting
that was getting them
– Allies needed a way to
alleviate the stalemate
Anzio, 1944
A Third Amphibious Landing
Strategic Situation in late 1943
• Campaign stalled
about 80 miles short
of Rome and was
beginning to resemble
the trench warfare of
World War I
• A landing at Anzio
would bypass German
defenses around
Cassino and put the
Allies just 35 miles
south of Rome
Gustav Line
New Commander
• Major General
John Lucas
replaced Dawley
as VI Corps
commander after
• Would prove to
not be the right
man for the job
– Tired from
warfare in Italy;
A by-pass
would prove
• The Allies surprised the
Germans at Anzio and
had immediate success
• However the close call at
Salerno had left them
with an overly cautious
attitude and they let the
Germans recover
• “I had hoped we were
hurling a wildcat into the
shore, but all we got was
a stranded whale.”
– Winston Churchill
• Alexander’s guidance was to “Carry
out an assault landing on the
beaches in the vicinity of Rome with
the object of cutting the enemy lines
of communication and threatening
the rear of the German 14 Corps”
– “Cut the enemy’s main
communications in the Colli
Laziali (Alban Hills) area
southeast of Rome, and threaten
the rear of the 14 German corps”
Legacy of Anzio
• It wasn’t until June 4 that the
Allies finally reached Rome in “a
hollow triumph”
– By then the decisive Allied
effort had shifted to France
• Most of the German Tenth Army
escaped Clark at Rome and the
Germans established a strong
defense along the Gothic Line
– Kept the Allies away from the
Italian industrial area and the
Alpine approaches to
Summary of the Italian Campaign
• Through the summer of 1943 it was an excellent
training ground for Anglo-American forces
• Casualties the Allies inflicted on German ground
and air forces in Tunisia and Sicily were a
significant return on the investment
• “After that point, however, Italy cost more than it
– Robert Doughty, American Military History and the
Evolution of Western Warfare
Next Stop: France
• Normandy
and Operation

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