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The Soft Underbelly of Europe. From North Africa, the plan was to invade Sicily and then on to mainland Italy and move up the so-called “soft underbelly”

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Presentation on theme: "The Soft Underbelly of Europe. From North Africa, the plan was to invade Sicily and then on to mainland Italy and move up the so-called “soft underbelly”"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Soft Underbelly of Europe

2 From North Africa, the plan was to invade Sicily and then on to mainland Italy and move up the so-called “soft underbelly” of Europe. Victory in the region would also do a great deal to clear the Mediterranean Sea of Axis shipping and leave it more free for the Allies to use.

3 Sicily, invasion of (1943). HUSKY had been on the agenda ever since the Casablanca Conference of January 1943.

4 The success of the TORCH landings in French North Africa the previous November had encouraged Franklin D. Roosevelt and Churchill to plan for a seaborne assault as soon as the Axis had been defeated in Tunisia.

5 Although TORCH had been virtually unopposed, Sicily was reckoned to be a tougher nut to crack, with the Italians fighting on their home ground, stiffened by good German troops. But the mood was optimistic.

6 A blend of the battle-hardened men of Eighth Army under Montgomery, the profusion of US war matériel, and American troops of the Seventh Army under Patton were considered enough to overwhelm the island garrison and bring the war to mainland Italy.

7 Amphibious ships and landing craft were the resource that defined Allied military strategy in 1943-44, and it took six months to assemble enough for the main component of HUSKY, an operation involving 150, 000 men and 3,000 ships

8 The two Allied armies were to attack on 10 July, landing on two separate 40 mile (64 km) strips of beach, in Sicily a mutually supporting operation.

9 July 5, 1943—U.S. under Patton and British under Montgomery invade Sicily. Was the largest amphibious operation to that date in the war.

10 Difficult undertaking—Sicily fortified with 300,000 German and Italian troops. After a successful landing on July 9, German counterattacks with Panzer Tanks…were beaten back by U.S. and British Destroyers.

11 Patton attacked west—in two weeks the U.S. had captured the city of Palermo.

12 Montgomery, after taking Syracuse in the east, gets bogged down versus the Germans. Patton and Montgomery driving toward the most important strategic point on the island…Messina.

13 Messina is heavily defended by the Germans in vicious fighting as they give ground. Patton becomes frustrated due to the slowness of the campaign toward Messina.

14 Patton cursed and berated, finally slapping and threatening to shoot a private in a field hospital. Thought the private was a coward—actually had malaria and fever. Patton was to be in trouble, but the incident was covered up until after he had beaten Monty to Messina.

15 The Sicily Campaign had yielded 31, 158 Allied casualties.

16 The Italian Campaign—July 1943-May 1945 Allies had begun heavy bombing raids over Italy— including Rome in 1943.

17 The Italians had become sick of Mussolini’s military government. In August, 1943, Mussolini was removed from power, then arrested and imprisoned. King Victor Immanuel becomes Italy leader. Mussolini with Victor Immanuel III

18 New Italian (King Victor Emmanuel) leaders wanted to sign a peace agreement with the Allies. Surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on Sept. 8, 1943 Germans refused to leave. Occupied Italy as they readied for a defense of Italy at all costs.

19 British invade Southern Italy first on September 3, 1943 and swept easily northward.

20 September 9, 1943—Americans and British attack at Salerno along Italy’s western coast. Met with heavy tank and artillery—vicious fighting resulting in heavy losses. U.S. troops under General Mark Clark nearly withdrew.

21 U.S. fighter’s and bombers attached to the Tuskegee Airmen arrive and hammer German artillery emplacements. Germans withdrew by September 15, 1943.

22 Following victory at Salerno, the Allies moved north and take Naples unopposed. Monty’s British forces capture airfields at Foggia and turn them into Allied airfields.

23 Along the Italian west coast—Germans now stiffen. Encountered fierce resistance by Germans dug into rocky hillsides. Decision was made to try to flank the Germans 30 miles south of Rome.

24 During the early morning hours of 22 January 1944, troops of the Fifth Army swarmed ashore on a fifteen- mile stretch of Italian beach near the prewar resort towns of Anzio and Nettuno.

25 The landings were carried out so flawlessly and German resistance was so light that British and American units gained their first day's objectives by noon, moving three to four miles inland by nightfall.

26 The ease of the landing and the swift advance were noted by one paratrooper of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division, who recalled that D-day at Anzio was sunny and warm, making it very hard to believe that a war was going on and that he was in the middle of it.

27 The location of the Allied landings, thirty miles south of Rome and fifty-five miles northwest of the main line of resistance running from Minturno on the Tyrrhenian Sea to Ortona on the Adriatic, surprised local German commanders, who had been assured by their superiors that an amphibious assault would not take place during January or February.

28 Thus when the landing occurred the Germans were unprepared to react offensively. Within a week, however, as Allied troops consolidated their positions and prepared to break out of the beachhead, the Germans gathered troops to eliminate what Adolf Hitler called the "Anzio abscess." The next four months would see some of the most savage fighting of World War II....59,000 U.S. casualties.

29 During March, all of April, and the first part of May 1944, recalled one veteran, the Anzio beachhead resembled the Western Front during World War I. The vast majority of Allied casualties during this period were from air and artillery attacks, including fire from "Anzio Annie," a 280-mm. German railway gun which fired from the Alban Hills.

30 During March, shrapnel caused 83 percent of all 3d Division casualties, and other units experienced similar rates. The Anzio beachhead became a honeycomb of wet and muddy trenches, foxholes, and dugouts.

31 In the winter of 1943-44, the Allies found themselves confronting the Gustav Line, which crossed Italy south of Rome.

32 For much of its length the line ran along rivers, with the Garigliano, Gari and Rapido strengthening its southern sector. It crossed Route 6, the Rome-Naples highway, which ran on to Rome along the Liri valley, between the Abruzzi and Aurunci mountains.

33 The entrance to the Liri valley was dominated, then as now, by the great bulk of Monte Cassino which is crowned by an ancient Benedictine monastery. Behind the monastery, the ground rose even more steeply to form what the military historian John Ellis has called 'a vile tactical puzzle'.

34 In front of the hill stood the little town of Cassino, and the rivers Gari and Rapido. On the Allied side was Monte Trocchio which was known as ‘Million Dollar Hill' for the fields of view it offered to artillery observers.

35 It takes about two hours to reach its summit, and the view is staggering. It was one of the strongest natural defensive positions in military history, with the monastery, like some great all-seeing eye, peering down on everything.

36 The Allied plan for the breaching the Gustav line was hurriedly conceived. On Churchill's insistence, it would use an amphibious hook round the German flank, to be launched before the landing craft were withdrawn for use in Normandy.

37 American divisions of 5th Army would attack at Cassino to draw German reserves southwards. This accomplished, an Anglo-American corps would land at Anzio, about 30 miles south of Rome. It was expected that the shock would provoke the Germans into giving up the Gustav Line and falling back north of the Eternal City.

38 The first phase of the operation (the First Battle of Cassino) comprised an attack across the Gari south of Cassino by the US 36th Division, which was savagely repulsed.

39 Then a longer thrust into the mountains north of Cassino by the US 34th Division, and a heroic attack by the North African troops of the French Expeditionary Corps on the high ground further north.

40 With German reserves duly drawn south, on 22 January 1944 Major General John Lucas's US VI Corps landed at Anzio and Nettuno.

41 The First Battle of Cassino dragged on until mid-February. 'It was more than the stubble of beard that told the story; it was the blank, staring eyes. The men were so tired that it was a living death. They had come from such a depth of weariness that I wondered if they would quite be able to make the return to the lives and thoughts they had known.'

42 The second battle began on 15 February, with the controversial destruction of the monastery by heavy and medium bombers. On the one hand, it seems likely that there were no Germans in the monastery at the time. Furthermore, the nearest Allied troops were too far away to take advantage of the shock of the bombing.

43 It was not until May that the Allies at last brought their full might to bear on Cassino. They did it by moving much of the 8th Army from the Adriatic coast, while 5th Army shifted its weight to reinforce the Anzio beachhead, now under the command of Major General Lucian Truscott.

44 The new offensive, Operation Diadem, smashed through the neck of the Liri valley by sheer weight, and the Polish Corps took Monte Cassino Between the Liri and the sea, the French Corps made rapid progress through the Aurunci Mountains, and by the third week in May the Germans were in full retreat.

45 Although the Gustav Line was broken and Rome was liberated, the hard-fought battle of Cassino was indeed a hollow victory.

46 “Soft Underbelly”Operation HUSKY 7 th ArmySicily PalermoMessina PattonVictor Emmanuel Mark ClarkSalerno Anzio AbscessAnzio Annie Tuskegee AirmenMillion Dollar Hill Monte CassinoLucian Truscott Operation DiademCasablanca Conference Gustav Line

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