One year after the allied landings at Anzio.
A two-year-old Italian child, Ignazzio Virzi, sits on the shell-splintered front stoop of the two-room Virzi home in Aprilla, Italy. Aprilla was one of the first objectives of the Allied troops after the landings, January 22, 1944, at Anzio.The Battle of Anzio was an important battle of the Italian Campaign of World War II that began on January 22, 1944, with the Allied amphibious landing known as Operation Shingle against the German forces in the area of Anzio and Nettuno. The operation was commanded by U.S. Army Major General John P. Lucas commanding U.S. VI Corps, which initially included the U.S. 3rd and British 1st Infantry divisions, and was intended to outflank German forces at the Winter Line and enable an attack on Rome.
The success of an amphibious landing at that location, in a basin consisting substantially of reclaimed marshland and surrounded by mountains, depended on the element of surprise and the swiftness with which the invaders could move relative to the reaction time of the defenders. Any delay could result in the occupation of the mountains by the defenders and the consequent entrapment of the invaders. Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, commander of the U.S. Fifth Army, understood that risk, but Clark did not pass on his appreciation of the situation to his subordinate, Lucas, who preferred to take time to entrench against an expected counterattack. The initial landing achieved complete surprise with no opposition and a jeep patrol even made it as far as the outskirts of Rome. Despite that report, Lucas, who had little confidence in the operation as planned, failed to capitalize on the element of surprise by delaying his advance until he judged his position was sufficiently consolidated and his troops ready.
While Lucas consolidated, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, the German commander in the Italian theatre, moved every spare unit to be found into a ring around the beachhead, where his gunners had a clear view of every Allied position. The Germans also stopped the drainage pumps and flooded the reclaimed marsh with salt water, planning to entrap the Allies and destroy them by epidemic. For weeks a rain of shells fell on the beach, the marsh, the harbour, and on anything else observable from the hills, with little distinction between forward and rear positions.
After a month of heavy but inconclusive fighting, Lucas was relieved and sent home, replaced by Major General Lucian K. Truscott, previously the commander of the U.S. 3rd Division. The Allies finally broke out in May, but instead of striking inland to cut lines of communication of the German Tenth Army's units fighting at Monte Cassino, Truscott, on Clark's orders, reluctantly turned his forces north-west towards Rome, which was captured on 4 June 1944. As a result, the forces of the German Tenth Army fighting at Cassino were able to withdraw and rejoin the rest of Kesselring's forces north of Rome, regroup, and make a fighting withdrawal to his next major prepared defensive position on the Gothic Line.
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