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CusterMen MENU Italian Campaign
At The Front Books Armies Maps 85th Division GI Biographies Websites

Dated: Nov 6, 2008


THE ITALIAN CAMPAIGN
OF WORLD WAR 2
June 1944 - May 1945

    This web site contains information on the Italian Campaign in World War 2.  The primary focus of my website will be the period after the capture of Rome in June 1944, because most history books do not cover the last year of the war in Italy.  This period is after the front opened in France and Italy became known as as the "forgotten front".
    The Overview, below, is a brief outline of the battles in Italy from the time of the Allies invaded Sicily on July 9, 1943 until the end of the fighting on May 2, 1945.   Later, I plan to have a time-line with maps that will illustrate the advance of Allied forces across Italy.

    
  
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OVERVIEW  OF THE ITALIAN CAMPAIGN
(More history and maps to be added later)
See also Maps of Italian Campaign

The Allies wanted to establish a position in Italy so they could attach the German territories and resources and relieve the Soviet Union from the German advance.  The secondary purpose was to tie up German forces that might be used to resist the channel invasion.  The captured airfields in Italy were of great importance in the strategic bombing of Germany territories, such as the oil fields in Polesti.  Churchill and many commanders didn't think the Germans would defend Italy and assumed the campaign would be completed by end of 1944.  There were even plans to move the troops around Alps and into Vienna.

CHRONOLOGY OF BATTLES
Outline of the Italian Campaign in 6 parts
General Map of Italy and area.

(1) Sicily Campaign,  July 9 - August 1943.  The 5th US and 8th British Armies landed on Sicily on July 9, 1943.  General Patton was selected to lead the secondary attack on the left flank, around General Montgomery.  Patton beat the British to Messina.  On 25 July, the King Emanuele overthrew Mussolini.  The monarchy tried to make an armistice with the Allies.  The Germans rescued Mussolini from prison and set him up as a puppet leader over a new Republic.

(2) Invasion of Italy,  September 3 & 9.   On 3rd, Montgomery landed at the toe of Italy after an extensive artillery bombardment.  Just before the 5th US Army landed at Salerno, below Naples on the 9th, the Italian government had surrendered and ordered Italians not to resist.  Soon, both armies had captured the lower part of Italy, including the Foggia airfield and the valuable port of Naples.  By December, the Germans had retreated to the natural fortresses along the Liri Valley just south of Rome.  The Allies were about to attempt something that had only been done once in Rome's history; capture the Eternal city from its southern approaches .
    Map of Salerno - Landing by 36th 'Texas' Division.

(3) GUSTAV Line & Battles for Cassino - Jan  - May 1944.  An estimated 180,000 men were killed or wounded during this 4-month period.  The British had a hard time on the east coast because of the many rivers and ridges that crossed their paths.  On the Cassino front, or GUSTAV Line, the US had a set back at the crossing of the Rappido River. The II Corps were landed further north behind German lines at Anzio.  Both fronts became a stalemate after 3 attacks were made against the GUSTAV Line.   The Allies made a controversial decision to bomb the abbey Monte Cassino.
      Anzio Diary - Day-by-day experiencies of a soldier who was on the Anzio beach.

  (4) Spring Offensive & Capture of Rome, May - June 1944.   After receiving more fresh troops, the Spring offensive came on May 11.  The GUSTAV Line was broken and by June 4, 1944, the allies on the two fronts had linked up and advanced into Rome, as the Germans gave it up without causing further damage. The Germans were fighting a delaying action as they retreated north of the ARNO RIVER Line  and into their major defense line in the mountains.
      Map of Gustav Line - Positions of all Allied units on May 11, 1944.
      Hill 69   -  Brief description of combat of 2nd Battalion, 339th Regiment on May 12.
      Pursuit to Arno - Advance from Rome to Arno River(3 parts).  Summer 1944

(5) GOTHIC Line in the North Apennine Mtns.  Germans set up a defense line north of Rome along the backbone of the northern Apennine Mountains.  Again, the British attacked along the east coast.  The main crossing of the Apennines was atIl Futa pass.  This was heavily defended, so the main attack was at IL Giogo Pass to the east.  This fighting was described as an all up-hill battle as several large peaks had to be assaulted.  Both the 5th & 8th Armies were drained of men as units were pulled out for the invasion of Normandy and southern France.  Without sufficient reserves, the fighting drew to a stalemate as the second winter in Italy set in.
      Map of Gothic Line  -  II Corps attack on the Gothic Line, 10 - 18 September, 1944.
      Battle Mountain - One lone company of 88th Division holds a hill with heavy losses.

(6) Rapid advance into Po Valley.  Feb-April 1945.   A few more units arrived, most notably, the 10th Mountain Division, which was used effectively during late winter operations.  On April 19, the British initiated an attack towards Bologna.  This was followed by the 5th Army attack that had been delayed by a couple of days.  After fall of Bologna, the allies pushed out of the mountains and raced across the Po River valley.   Amid much confusion, the Allies advanced rapidly and chased the retreating Germans into the Alps.  Mussolini and 15 other Fascist leaders were executed by the partisans.
    Po Valley Map -  Map of Final drive across the Po Valley.  21 April - 2 May.
    Liberation of Vicenza - Two US divisions advance thru Po Valley amid confusion and chaos.
    Capture of Imola, April 9-15, 1945 - Initial attack by British 8th Army.
    Execution of Mussolini -  The last days of IL Duce.  Where there American witnesses to his execution.

( My plans are to expand this history using a time-line and maps for each of the above phases and more detailed history of several battles.  In the meantime, check out other menus, below. )



MAIN MENU
Generals - Photos of a few selected leaders.
Maps of Italian Campaign - Illustrated campaigns and battles.
  AND- - 
Army Maps - Maps issued in WW2.
Camp Shelby - Brief history of the basic training camp in MS.
Desert Warfare Center History and maps of training Camps in southern CA.
Unit Histories  -
Detail Histories + Organization
 85th 'Custer' Division
  + 328th Field Artillery Btln
  + 310th Engineer Battalion
-  "Minturno to the Appennines" & more
    +Units within 85th Division; photos, roster
    +Official history
 88th "Blue Devil" Division -  "Gruber to The Brenner Pass" 
 91st "Powder River" Division -  August 1944 to January 1945
 1st Armored Division - "The Story of the 1st Armored Division"
 3rd "Marne" Division -  At Sicily and Anzio
 34th "Red Bull" Division -  Division with most combat experience.  3 Parts.
 36th "Texas" Division -  A brief history of their time in Italy 
 442nd RCT -  Highly decorated unit of Japanese-Americans.
 92nd "Buffalo" Division -  Black Americans   UNDER CONSTRUCTION- SOME INFO
German Divisions -  a short unit history of each division & organization.
Luftwaffe Ground Troops - Paratroopers, Herman Goring Division, 
   Anti-Aircraft  & Luftwaffe Field Division.

     Army Organization   & General Info -
  American  British Polish German
  French Canadian
Brazilians Italian

Photos from the Front - Original photos from Veterans of 85th Division.

Stories from the Front  -  Stories collected from my Dad and veterans.

Favorite Websites  -  Good links for your WW2 research.


 
GENERAL INFORMATION

Glossary -  People and places & words related to Italian Campaign.

Units & Organization - Organization of the armies from each country: 
                                     US, British, Canadians, German, S. Africans, Polish, and Italian.

Organization Chart - Organization of a typical US Infantry Division.
                  US Infantry Divisions -  Table of regiments & battalions for all US Divisions.
                  German Divisions -  Table of regiments & battalions in Italy, late 1944.

Weapons  -   Detail info on some common weapons; mines, smoke,
                        and 'Anzio Annie'.

Uniforms -  Details on the US Army uniform, medals, insignia.

Equipment  -  Basic items used by artillery, including trucks.
                           Trucks - description of each type.


Rest Centers -  Rome, Montecatini, Florence, Caserta

List of Reference Books  -   My Library on the Italian Campaign.

Statistics -  Facts and figures about casualties, troop strength, etc.

Points  -  A scoring system used to determine who went home first.

Execution of Mussolini - Details of the last days of IL Duce.
                                             Fascists -  Overview of rise and fall of Mussolini.
                                             Italy  -  Organizations within the Italian Army.
                                             King of Italy  - The end of his reign.

War Attrocities  - A summary of attrocities & criminals that relate to Italy.

Hollywood Goes to ItalyA List of WW2 movies about Italy & historical content.

THE GREATEST GENERATION  - Biographies of Soldiers who fought in Italy.


   
RESEARCH MATERIAL

Anzio Diary of PFC Paul Brown  - Daily journal of a member of the 45th Division.

List of Killed in Action at Anzio  -  Roster of 470 soldiers from 45th Division &
                                                     other units in the area.

List of Reference Books  -   My Library on the Italian Campaign.

Army Maps -  Examples from my collection of Vintage Maps issued in WW2.

Favorite Websites   -  Only the resource sites that are useful for me and fun.


 

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    This website is a non-profit site that is dedicated to the memory of those who served in WW2.  The intent is to tell what it was like for the common soldier who served in Italy through photos and text.  This specific page provides some historical background on the campaign. Due to limited space and time, I've included material that I found interesting to me.  There is no way to cover the whole campaign in great detail, but I will try to add more material all the time.
    If a reader has a specific question, I will gladly attempt to answer it and provide information not available in my site.  I am also willing to give permission to use any material to anyone who submits a request in email.  This is to ensure they do not intend to use my material for commercial purposes.  I receive an average of one email per week from readers who stumble onto my website and write for information about someone who saw combat in Itlay.  I gladly reply to each one, individually.
   Check out my Mail Bag for latest emails and some suggestions.


 If for some reason a link doesn't work, then refer to the Site Map to find a page.  Email me any problems you find.  Check out my Mail Bag for latest emails and some suggestions.
 
  Email Comments to:
 


  Steve@custermen.com

   Mail Bag

A selection of email 
received since January 2003.


   
   Disclaimer:  This website is not associated with any veteran's organization or any official U.S. Army or Department of Defense organization.


   Copy Right Notice:  
        
  This site contains copyrightable subject matter and material that is copyrighted as a compilation and/or collective work.  No photos, text, or pages of this website may be used without prior written permission. All information contained within this website is from my private collection or records in public domain or property obtained with permission.




   Referenced Sources
    Photos in this site were collected from veterans with permission from them or their families and are copyright material.  This material can not be used without previous consent--see above Notice.  The public domain photos used herein are usually US Army photos taken from government publications or Army manuals.  These may also appear in a commericial book.
   The historical text is information gathered from my Reference Library and presented in my own wording and format.  My intent is to ensure that sources are properly acknowledged.



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CusterMen MENU Italian Campaign
At The Front Books Armies Maps 85th Division GI Biographies Websites