Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Rapido -necessary?

Discussion in 'North Africa and the Mediterranean' started by bronk7, Oct 24, 2015.

  1. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2015
    Messages:
    1,747
    Likes Received:
    634
    Exactly, the route further north across the fordable portion of the Rapido at Monte Villa had its own problems. If anything, German observation of the crossing points was even better than for those of the 36th Division. For another, once across, the division was presented with the massif of Monte Castellone to its front and Abbey Hill to its left. Given the difficult mountain battles of November and December, Clark's decision to make the main effort up the Liri Valley makes sense - a successful penetration there would compromise the entire Gustav line.

    However that being said, Clark did little to ensure the operation would actually succeed or to make it in terms of combat power his true main effort. Aside from having most of II Corps artillery in support, there was little to ensure the 36th Division attack had the strength required for what was very obviously a dangerous job. Although many Chemical units were available, smoke operations were perfunctory. Although many Engineer units were available, only a single Engineer Combat Regiment, with two battalions, a Separate Engineer Combat Battalion, and two companies of the 16th Armored Engineer Battalion were attached to the 36th Division, but NO BRIDGING UNITS or equipment (other than the materiel for two Class 40 Bailey bridges... hardly stuff appropriate for an "assault" crossing) were made available! It seems hard to believe, but there was no assault bridging materiel provided to the division...the infantry footbridges employed (planned for four, but only enough materiel was found for two) were all IMPROVISED! In contrast, the 5th Infantry Division's crossing of the Mosselle at Arnaville in September 1944, arguably as difficult on operation, was supported by extensive smoke operations, an entire Chemical company was attached to the division, and engineer support included the attachment of an entire Engineer Combat Group with three Combat and one Heavy Ponton battalion, along with a Treadway Bridge and a Light Ponton company. While difficult, the operation there succeeded.

    Just as bad, the practice runs were done on the Volturno River, in conditions very different from those at the Rapido. Even worse than that, while the 142d and 143d Infantry were chosen to do the dry runs at the Volturno each married up with a support battalion of the 19th Engineers, General Walker changed his mind at the last moment and selected the 141st and 143d Infantry for the actual assault. I suspect by this time General Walker, the 36th ID commander, was burning out, while an excellent commander up to that time, he failed badly at the Rapido. He dealt only perfunctorily with the problematic engineer plan and instead complained the support given him by Fifth Army was inadequate, but then failed to do anything about it. If anyone other than Clark is to "blame" for what happened on the Rapido, it is Walker.
     
    TD-Tommy776, lwd and rkline56 like this.
  2. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2013
    Messages:
    3,009
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    MIDWEST
    great information...very good input.....I have the book 3 Battles Arnaville, Altuzzo, and Schmidt, which they tell much on the Chemical Smoke company, and even show pics of the smoke action [IIRC]..I'll have to look again .....were they available in time for the Rapido crossing? wasn't the German arty pre-registered? would the smoke have made a difference? with the many difficulties already stated?
    I use the word ''dynamic' a lot, but a lot of situations--as in today's ''problems'' are dynamic....time is a factor, logistics, transportation, etc....much, thanks...as usual, concise but much, great information your post!
     
  3. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2015
    Messages:
    1,747
    Likes Received:
    634
    Pre-registered artillery and mortars is all well and good, but cannot be adjusted. So if they fire it becomes a matter of avoiding where the fire is falling. Artillery smoke was employed at the Rapido, but relatively ineffectively. Smoke pots were used to obscure the MSR leading to the river and three companies of the 2d Chemical Mortar Battalion fired WP in support of the crossing, but it was poorly coordinated with the supporting artillery and mostly served to obscure American observation. Again a failure of planning and preparation.

    Yes Clark was to blame, but mostly for insisting on the schedule. Keyes (commanding II Corps) and Walker were also to blame. When the British 46th Division delayed its crossing of the Garigliano by a day it affected the American crossing, but Clark refused to allow a similar delay for the 36th ID. Worse, Walker failed to tell Keyes of his misgivings about the last minute change and instead gave him the indication he was okay with it. Keyes in turn failed to press Walker about his misgivings and failed to express his own concern that the 46th Division attack plan did not actually provide the support the 36th ID expected.

    Possibly the biggest problem though was Clark's desire to unleash the 1st Armored Division up Highway 6 into the Liri Valley. Even there it appears unlikely to properly coordinate with Ernie Harmon, the 1st AD commander, since the bridging preparations to support the bridgehead and the crossing of the 1st AD were completely inadequate. Clark also failed to agree to Keyes and Walker's sensible plan for concentrating British 10 Corps for a crossing of the Garigliano at Minturno along with a II Corps crossing at Sant Ambrogio, the two then wheeling north to outflank the Gustav line from the south. McCreery (commander of 10 Corps) demurred because his troops weren't equipped or trained for mountain operations (makes you wonder what they had been doing for the last two months) and Clark let him get away with it. To top that off, Clark had the two divisions and the Group Tabor of Juin's CEF that had arrived from Africa, fresh, mountain trained and equipped, ready for committment...and instead inserted them north of the 34th ID where they had to work through the worst of the mountainous terrain.

    Imagine instead of the seriatim blows across the Garigliano and Rapido from north to south over a week from 17 January, a single simultaneous blow with 10 Corps crossing with three divisions at Minturno, II Corps with two divisions at Sant Ambrogio, and the CEF with two divisions and the Goums at Monte Villa. Seven divisions hitting the 15. Pz.Gren.Div., 29. Pz.Gren.Div., and 94. Inf.Div. instead of the five actually employed one at a time, with five of them hitting the 29. Pz.Gren.Div., and 94. Inf.Div. I suspect the result would have been a German withdrawal, since the attack from the south would threaten both the coastal route and the Liri simultaneously, which I doubt the German defenses at the time could have handled.
     
  4. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2013
    Messages:
    3,009
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    MIDWEST
    much thanks....I'm reading Hyper War on the battle and they say smoke pots and shells would've probably obscured Sant Angelo, .....sorry for not getting this link out sooner

    http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-MTO-Salerno/USA-MTO-Salerno-19.html Hyper War Rapido Crossings..much interesting and more information that confirms your post...I will be studying and getting more for a long time...

    '''As early as mid-November, when the 36th Division seemed destined to have this mission, General Walker had concluded that a frontal attack across the Rapido would end in disaster. He had then recommended outflanking the valley entrance from the north by a deep enveloping movement across the high ground that would take the troops into the Liri valley far behind--six to twelve miles behind the Gustav Line.6 During much of December, when it appeared that the 3d Division would make the attack to secure a Rapido bridgehead, General Truscott also had serious doubts about undertaking the operation "until the mountain masses opposite the junction of the Liri and Garigliano Rivers''

    '
    ''The XIV Panzer Corps commander, Senger, was surprised to learn that the
    ''''Americans had chosen to launch an attack across the Rapido. Besides considering the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division his best unit, he thought its defenses along the Rapido were among the strongest on the corps front. The natural strength of these positions and the fortifications that had been added required few troops to man the line. Yet, as it turned out, the division was concentrated in the Sant'Angelo area, not because Senger expected an important Allied attempt there but because he could from there shift troops easily to other points along the Gustav Line that he judged to be more critical.'''

    ''If war is regarded as a chess game, with the rules of logic the only determining factor, the best move would probably have been to exploit the success achieved on the British 10 Corps front by committing the 36th Division or part of it, not across the Rapido but through the bridgehead already established across the lower Garigliano.'' .....

    this last quote is what I thought--in hindsight....reward--reinforce success
     
  5. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2015
    Messages:
    1,747
    Likes Received:
    634
    You're welcome. When I worked on the Rapido battle as one of the Breakpoints engagements back in 1989, what struck me most (aside from the rather cavilier attitude to planning on the part of Clark, Keyes, and Walker and the schematic nature of the engineer plan) was that while the two regiments of the 36th ID were essentially eviscerated, I had a hard time identifying more than some two-dozen casualties in the 15. Pz.Gren.Div. opposite them. The mismatch is almost hard to believe.

    Cheers!
     

Share This Page