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Purpose of Italy Campaign

Discussion in 'Western Europe' started by Motorstreet, Jun 11, 2021.

  1. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    .....I thought Husky was not that much smaller...?..Sicily more troops?...but, I agree, it was ''practice''/training/experience/etc ...and that is very important
     
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  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Alll of that and more.

    Going to normandy without the experiences the slaughter might have beeen worse to Omanaha.
     
  3. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    Do you think they could have invaded Southern France only, as they did in August 1944, and still liberated all of France? The Allies had the Mediterranean secured as a staging area.
     
  4. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    Husky was actually the largest sea-borne invasion in terms of troop numbers and beach-landing area. Overlord involved far more naval and air power.
     
  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The allies did not make a rational decision to undertake the Italian Campaign. There was a collective decision by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at the Casablanca Conference to invade Sicily to make the Mediterranean safe for merchant shipping, releasing shipping for Op Bolero, the build up of US troops in the UK. .

    The decision to invade Italy was made by Eisenhower to exploit the opportunities offered by the Italian desire to end their participation in the war. There were a series of less than well connected operations to take advantage of an Italian Armistice, that promised more than it delivered. Montgomery noted in his diary that Op Baytown, the landings by Eighth Army on the toe of Italy would be the first landing on the mainland of Europe by Allied Forces, yet he had not been given any plan of campaign or any objectives. Op Avalanche at Salerno was supposed to be greeted by cheering Italians and not Germans. There were plans to send the US 82nd Airborne Division to Rome to support the Italians - mercifully aborted. The Italian Armistice did not deliver the territorial gains that the Allies expected, and a disaster for Italians.

    The Italian Campaign is an example of the strategy theory concept of emergent strategy, a strategy that emerges rather than is planned. The Italian Campaign brought several benefits.

    1. The Italian surrender eliminated Italy as a combatant, removing their troops from the Axis order of battle. Whatever the limitations of the Italian Armed Forces, their surrender required the Germans to take over Italy and many parts of the Balkans.

    2. Italy was a useful strategic sideshow. It tied down German troops that would otherwise be available to defeat a cross channel assault. It made sense for the allies, who had a material advantage to try to engage the Germans on as many fronts as possible. It was the same in the US Civil War, where the Union with superior numbers and material opened multiple fronts against the Confederates. I recall a phrase "those that ain't skinning grab a leg." It is true that the allied troops in Italy were also unavailable for Op Overlord, but that was irrelevant as the build up of troops in Op Overlord was constrained by shipping and not the number of troops available. The Italian campaign took out 20 divisions on each side before the battle started.

    3. Italy did provide air bases to bomb Germany from the South and to support the partisan war in the Balkans.

    4. At the cost of some 400,000 casualties the Allies liberated Italy and inflicted around 500- 700,000 casualties on the Germans and Fascist Italians, as well as taking the surrender of about one million in April 1945. Arguably it did not matter on which front the Germans were killed or wounded.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2022
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  6. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Besides what you say, the Allies seem to have not understood the harshness of Italy's terrain. In the rush to give Clark a victory, they ignored the difficulties of landscape. I'm currently reading Cassino by Matthew Parker, who seems to have no love for Clark. There seems to have been a disconnect between the aims of the British and the aims of the Americans. Yes, they expected the Italians would flock to their side, but never considered the difficulties presented by the mountains, valleys, and ridges of Italy's interior. Despite the German's defense, the Allies continued to attack over those nearly impenetrable physical obstacles.

    My father fought in Italy from Salerno on. While his initial attachment was the 900th AA/AWB, he was later converted to infantry and his unit became the 473rd Infantry regiment. Unfortunately he died long before my interest was aroused. It seems from my reading (which I admit is not as extensive as others) that there was no clear objective for the Allies. While Clark was in overall command, little thought was given to the pressing needs of smaller units.

    In short, it appears the the Italian Campaign was a s*itshow from the outset.
     
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  7. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    If I recall correctly Churchill wanted to make an invasion to Yugoslavia but cannot recall why. Maybe he wanted to cut the German troops in Greece without connection to main Germany?
     
  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Except for the Rhone valley, most of southern France is mountainous, the Massif Central and the French Alps, favoring the defense, with limited scope for deploying large mechanized forces or for a rapid advance (the Dragoon forces did advance rapidly, but that was because the Allied breakout from Normandy threatened to cut off German forces in the south).

    The Mediterranean was a useful staging area, but England was better, and closer to the landing beaches and the battle zone ashore. In particular the massive Allied air forces were closer to the front lines and could support the armies more effectively.

    I've suggested before that the Allies might have landed in southern France in lieu of Anzio, but the initial objective would be to secure a lodgement area and develop the ports. Historically, even with Marseilles not captured until late August 1944, it received about half the American troops shipped to Europe after that date and was a major supply port. Although I would not envision a major Allied offensive until after the Normandy landings, they would be tying down German forces, reducing the defenders and reserves available to resist those landings; and if Hitler insisted on trying to destroy the [Dragoon] beachhead, the Allies could fight on the defensive, so much the better.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2022
  9. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    One reason was to pre-empt Soviet occupation of the Balkans, which would have been obvious to Stalin.
     
  10. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Not sure if panzer division das Reich had made any difference but it was stationed in South France from early 1944 until Overlord when they start moving to Normandy.
     
  11. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Perhaps. But when FDR was considering Stalin a great friend Winston put on paper the dividing of Balkan countries after war and showed it to Stalin who nodded autumn 1944.
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Das Reich arrived in France in April 1944, so that particular unit would not be present if our early Dragoon occurred in place of Anzio (January 1944). Someone here can probably dig up exact information for that time. There certainly would have been German units in place to oppose a landing or respond to it. It's an interesting question; on one hand, there were fewer German divisions in France in Jan 1944 than there would be in June or August; on the other hand, those that were in southern France would not have been pulled away to respond to Overlord as they were historically.
     
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  13. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The plans to advance on Vienna via the Ljubljana Gap was created by HQ 15th Army on the Summer 1944. Generals are appointed to take aggressive action. Those that are happy to sit back and do nothing may save the lives of their soldiers, but are likely to be sacked for inactivity. The plan was put forward as Alexander's, but was probably written by John Harding, his Chief of Staff. In Brooke's diary there are some rude comments about Harding's judgment, as he judged it impractical. It did however resonate with Churchill who was keen to support military operations in the Balkans as a way to obtain leverage over Stalin. The idea of beating Stalin to Vienna was attractive however impractical it might have been.
     
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