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Débâcle at Anzio...

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by Friedrich, Aug 30, 2003.

  1. skunk works

    skunk works Ace

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    Knew about Clark/Rome/Glory/Cassino/Rapido River, did not know Alexander, total weather ignorance (from the get-go), and all to hold 56 LSTs. The ol Hail-Mary play (cures everything...right?) Bigger Splash/more Headlines. Sad....again....for the little guy....and my Uncle was one of em.
    Perhaps that's why he fishes alone, everyday, nowadays.
     
  2. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    I studied this one a bit thirty years ago. Jacksons "the Battle for Italy' still sits on my shelf. Ancient, but a excellent refrence if you can find a copy.

    A few randoom items from my dim memory:

    Lucas corps staff included veterans of Salerno, and a few from Sicilly. They had a strong collective memory of nasty German counter attacks, even as the landings were being made. This influenced them and Lucas into carefully presenting a strong front and methodically keeping the battalion closelly supporting each other. As it was they were some 48 hours off on the counter attacks. The Geman reserves were much further away than anticipated.

    It is incorrect to think that there were no German reserves & the way open to Vienna. Between 25% & 35% of Kesselrings combat units were distributed through central and northern Italy. Most of this was garrisoning the transportation centers, ports like Genoa, or in reserve imeadiatlly behind the Gustav Line. True Rome it self was lightlly garrisoned but further south lay several armored and motorized divsions., plus corps artillery units.

    Back in those days I plotted out the forces the Germans reacted with, their locations, the time it took them to reach the Anzio battlefield, the alternate routes they could have used, the other divsions that were not imeadiately committed, and tried to determine where the German supply actually lay. Stacking all that up against the Allied landing force it looks ugly. It looks uglier when that landing force marches off to Rome. 72 hours after the landing the Germans are arriving faster than the Allied reinforcements. Some 96 hours after the intial landing the landing force is outnumbered and still more Germans are on the way. Lucas simply did not have enough combat power to hold Rome, his LoC to Anzio, and protect the beachhead.

    The pressure for the Anzio landings seems to have derived from wishfull thinking by the senior Allied leaders. There also seems to have been a intel failure in estimating the size of Kesselrings reserve, and his abilty to quickly move units bout. I cant see blaming Lucas for stalling on the beachhead. Blame Clark for thinking he could pull it off with inadaquate resources. But, better yeet blame Alexander for ordering a inadaquate attack forward. He had the responsibility for ensuring such an important attack succedded, or for canceling it if it was not viable.
     
  3. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    I studied this one a bit thirty years ago. Jacksons "the Battle for Italy' still sits on my shelf. Ancient, but a excellent refrence if you can find a copy.

    A few randoom items from my dim memory:

    Lucas corps staff included veterans of Salerno, and a few from Sicilly. They had a strong collective memory of nasty German counter attacks, even as the landings were being made. This influenced them and Lucas into carefully presenting a strong front and methodically keeping the battalion closelly supporting each other. As it was they were some 48 hours off on the counter attacks. The Geman reserves were much further away than anticipated.

    It is incorrect to think that there were no German reserves & the way open to Vienna. Between 25% & 35% of Kesselrings combat units were distributed through central and northern Italy. Most of this was garrisoning the transportation centers, ports like Genoa, or in reserve imeadiatlly behind the Gustav Line. True Rome it self was lightlly garrisoned but further south lay several armored and motorized divsions., plus corps artillery units.

    Back in those days I plotted out the forces the Germans reacted with, their locations, the time it took them to reach the Anzio battlefield, the alternate routes they could have used, the other divsions that were not imeadiately committed, and tried to determine where the German supply actually lay. Stacking all that up against the Allied landing force it looks ugly. It looks uglier when that landing force marches off to Rome. 72 hours after the landing the Germans are arriving faster than the Allied reinforcements. Some 96 hours after the intial landing the landing force is outnumbered and still more Germans are on the way. Lucas simply did not have enough combat power to hold Rome, his LoC to Anzio, and protect the beachhead.

    The pressure for the Anzio landings seems to have derived from wishfull thinking by the senior Allied leaders. There also seems to have been a intel failure in estimating the size of Kesselrings reserve, and his abilty to quickly move units bout. I cant see blaming Lucas for stalling on the beachhead. Blame Clark for thinking he could pull it off with inadaquate resources. But, better yeet blame Alexander for ordering a inadaquate attack forward. He had the responsibility for ensuring such an important attack succeded, or for canceling it if it was not viable.
     
  4. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    The Germans did not seem to be in that good order at the time though which does not surprise me:

    http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/brochures/anzio/72-19.htm

    "Despite these additions, the Fourteenth Army outnumbered the Allies at Anzio by 4 February. But the German force was a hodgepodge of rapidly thrown together units. All were critically short of ammunition, training, qualified leaders, and reserves. Allied air attacks had disrupted communications, hampered troop and supply movements, and caused morale problems. From the outset Mackensen had doubted the available force could eliminate the Anzio beachhead, but he prepared a forceful counterattack nonetheless."

    If it was not for Hitler´s attitude it might be that the German forces would have started retreating after the Anzio invasion. Now they were once again fighting a battle where they lost invaluable material and men. However big the so-called propaganda victory.
     
  5. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    That brief paragraph does not do the Germans justice. Jackson describes how Kesslering sorted out the command elements in the first four days and shifted his best corps & army HQ to control the critical areas of the Gustav Line and the new Anzio area. The "hodgepodge" had as much to do with the ability of the German corps & division commanders to form mission taylored units with the battalions at hand rather than cling to TO/TE by the book.

    The German reacted reacted with both speed & mass. On the 23rd both the HG and 3rdPG div were assembling south of the Alban Hills and by the 25th side by side blocking the advance of the US 3rd Div. The I Para Corps was assembled on the NE side of the beachhead. I'm really skeptical of the ability of the Allied infantry divsions to both retain the Alban Hills and protect their beachhead in the first week against the two corps that responded in the first five days.

    Also Jackson notes that Rome was not undefended. A large group of FLAK battalions were stationed there. A portion of these were desiganted as "Alarm" uits and were imeadiately sent to reinforce the defense between Rome & Anzio.
     
  6. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Since early 1944 I would think the Allied air power was enough to slow down the German troop movements but it seems (?) maybe there was some wrong calculations as well:

    http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/cc/renner.html

    Allied planners for Operation SHINGLE, the invasion of Anzio on 22 January 1944, expected airpower would delay German reinforcements from reaching the beachhead. In fact, General Alexander’s Allied Force Headquarters counted on airpower alone to slow the movements of the 29th and the 90th Panzer Grenadier Divisions, in reserve near Rome, making them unable to effectively oppose the SHINGLE landing.

    Major General Wolf Hauser, the German 14th Army Chief of Staff, believed the Allies "had not reckoned on meeting resistance from more than advanced German units" because they had "relied too much on the effectiveness of their air attacks on railways." Instead of being a failure of airpower’s capabilities, SHINGLE’s failure reflected inadequate operational research. Allied intelligence estimated German static divisions needed 4,000 tons of supplies daily, meaning the railroads could meet the 10th Army’s logistical requirements functioning at only 5% capacity! In addition, during the German build-up at Anzio from 24 January to 4 February, the Germans re-opened marshalling yards in 1-3 days, whereas the average interval between Allied air attacks on marshalling yards was 12.2 days.

    While unable to prevent German reserves from reaching the Anzio beachhead, interdiction did logistically constrain the German army. Attacks on bridges and marshalling yards forced German railheads back from the front, straining the inadequate motor transport. Further, strafing fighters roaming behind the battlefield during daylight hours obliged German convoys to travel at night, effectively doubling motor transport requirements. Simultaneous with the Anzio invasion, the Allied offensive at Cassino increased demands on the German supply system. The result of interdiction combined with this increased demand was "logistical constriction, the chief manifestation of which was a critical shortage of artillery ammunition." At Anzio, the Germans estimated they fired one artillery round for 12-15 Allied shells. The reduced artillery support, along with a complete lack of CAS, gave the Allies enough breathing room to survive at Anzio and Cassino.
     
  7. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    I dont think all Allied leaders bought off on the claims of the air commanders. Lucas's staff, and Fifth Armys staff took a more conservative view of how things were going to progress. While interdiction efforts like Operation Strangle contributed signifiicantlly to the collapse of the German defense in Central Italy in May-June 1944, it did not have the quick and painless result some of the air commanders predicted. Like I wrote earlier I traced the movements of the German reserves from 20 through 30 January and they could move quickly enough, and so could their supplys from the forward depots south of Rome and the army depots around and north of Rome. The Germans can build up way to fast, with some very good quality units.

    To have the desired effect operation Shingled needed to be doubled in size, and especially in the inital landing. Further more a armored divsion and its supply needed to be included in the first two days landing. In other words the bulk of the Fifth Armys strength needed to be committed if the Gustav line was to be truly flanked & interdicted in January/Febuary.
     
  8. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Strangle, the air campaign to cut off the German supply system failed as has been recounted in detail by Dupuy in particular. Shingle on the other hand was severly handicapped by the lack of transport available, particularly a very critical shortage of LSTs for which the MTO was competing with the ETO (upcomming invasion of France / Normandy) and the SWPA. There were just enough to put two divisions ashore and after the initial landings some of those LST used were returned to England leaving the operation short for reinforcement and supply. In fact, in the months leading up to Shingle it was looking like the operation might not actually be feasible based on available transport and would be cancelled. So, that it happened at all was a very near run thing. That it failed was due to a combination of slow Allied operational pace and a lack of commitment by the Allies on forcing a decisive end to operations in Italy.
     
  9. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    The lack of transport for Shingle is is significant. Perhaps the core of it. There was not enough to move an entire army to the German flank, which is what was needed for accomplishing the goal. Beyond that the senior Allied leaders misjudged their intel & convinced themselves a reinforce corps was suffcient, thought the Gustav defense was much nearer collapse, that the air support was much more effective...
     
  10. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    In one of the articles it mentiones the Termoli landing which, I presume, was the "father" of the Anzio landing. A close call there as well but the Germans were "pushed" to the next defensive line.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volturno_Line
     
  11. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Termoli to Anzio.

    Perhaps it was thought increasing the flanking force from a small corps to a large corps would ensure sucess? There were a number of other amphibious flanking attacks proposed. The Salerno attack was one of these. Originally the main attack into Italy was to be by the 8th Army with 'Giant' the para drop on Rome supporting it. The Salerno operation was 'encouraged' by Marshall who thought the 8th Army attacks proposed at the southern tip of Italy too cautious.

    Jackson mentions some others proposed but not executed.
     
  12. sunray

    sunray Member

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    What most people forget is that Anzio was the cumilation of a series of assaults on the Gustav Line. First the French Expeditionary Corps attacking through the mountains behind Cassino, then the British crossing the Garigliano followed by the blood bath of the Rapido crossing. Both the French and British were doing very well. Had they been given the resources and had the British been re-enforced by the British 46th Div and the U.S. 36th Div (instead of wasting them on the Rapido), whilst the French had been supported by the U.S. 34th Div (instead of the French being ordered to break of their attack and do the opposite), there would have been a distinct possibility that they could have broken through on either or both flanks. Then you have to ask would Anzio have been neccesary?

    On another point, look at the planning that was involved in the Garigliano and French attacks, something that was distinctly lacking at both Anzio and the Rapido.

    The third point, Why was the airborne drop on the Alban Hills cancelled?



    Finally we are having a debate on the subject on our Forum through the last week of July with some of the vets from the campaign. Why not join in?
    index
     
  13. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WWII Veteran

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    The egocentrism of the 5th Army Commander, whose decision allowed so many of the enemy to escape and fight another day, is recorded by Eric Sevareid, a well-respected American war correspondent. When 1st Special Service Force was held up on the outskirts of Rome, during the early afternoon of 4 July. Major General Geoffrey Keyes, II Corps Commander, arrived in a jeep and challenged Brigadier General Robert Frederick, 1st Special Force commander: "General Frederick, what's holding you up here?"
    "The Germans, sir," Frederick replied.

    "How long will it take you to get across the city limits?" Keyes asked.

    "The rest of the day. There are a couple of SP guns up there."

    "That will not do. General Clark must be across the city limits by four o'clock."

    "Why?"

    "Because he has to have his photograph taken." Keyes said. Frederick mulled that over briefly and replied, "Tell the general to give me an hour."

    After men of the 1st Special Service Force had silenced the guns, the way was clear for 5th Army commander to have his picture taken in the Holy City. His brief moment of glory was quickly overshadowed as, two days later, the events of D-Day unfolded.

    Cheers, Gerry
     

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