The Anzio Bridgehead. Italy Part 2

This is part two of a two part series on the Anzio landings at Anzio. Make sure you’ve read part one before reading this one.

During the stalemate at the Anzio front, the Allied and Germans suffered huge casualties due to frostbite and diseases. The beachhead was located in a marshy area with high water levels. Trenches were flooded with water resulting in huge numbers of trench foot and malaria causing 10.000 casualties on both sides exceeding even the combat casualties.

Operation Buffalo

Allied planning resulted in four scenarios for the Allied breakout:

  • Operation Turtle: was intended as lunge for Rome along the shortest route, straight up the Via Anziate. This was considered by the troops as the stupidest plan because this route had already cost a lot of lives already.
  • Operation Crawdad: was an attack planned along the seacoast to the northwest. Although the shortest, this was not the easiest because of the marshy ground which made it inaccessible for tanks.
  • Operation Grasshopper: was an attack in opposite direction down the right flank who was intended as a supported operation for the 5th Army at the Gustav line.
  • Operation Buffalo: was aimed at rupturing the Germans lines near Cisterna. This plan had multiple advances because it was not heavily defended since it did not lead directly to Rome. This depended on the breakthrough of the Gustav line which was called: Operation Diadem.
Campo di Carne. Memorial sign at the battlefield, Anzio.

Operation Buffalo was chosen. Operation Diadem started on the night of 11-12 May 1944. After a week of fighting, the Gustav defenses were broken open. Operation Buffalo kicked of May 23nd 1944 at 05:45 hours with a 45 minutes artillery barrage. The 1st Armored Division advanced first but suffered heavily casualties due to minefields but reach the Cisterna-Campoleone railroad at evening. This devastated the German defensed with 50% losses. The British 1st and 5th Division, the US 3rd Infantry Division and the US 45th Infantry Division followed thereafter.

Cisterna was encircles by May 24th. The advance continued, capturing Cori reaching the outskirts of Vellerti and Artena. After three days of fighting, the pace slowed. The allied forces suffered heavy casualties, German causalities were even greater.

General Mark Clark was obsessed with the idea that 5th Army was to seizing Rome. He knew full well that when the Normandy landings started, the Italy Campaign became a backwater. To accommodate this, he made one of his most controversial decisions, switching from Operation Buffalo to Operation Turtle. He feared that the British would first reach Rome. 1st Armored Division and 45th Infantry Division were re-positioned to advance up the Via Anziate. German defenses in the Alban Hills held firm. Allied casualties mounted quickly. The situation brightened as the 36th Infantry Division reconnaissance patrols found an undefended corridor in the Alban Hills. Engineers were brought in to bulldoze the area so vehicles could pass through. German counter attacks were ineffective. On June 2nd 1944, the 36th Infantry Division marched through the Alban Hills toward Rome.

On June 3rd, the Germans realized defenses were broken and declared Rome an open city and ordered a withdraw to the northern part of the city. Units of the 1st Armored Division and the 36th Infantry Division tussled for control of highway 7 which led into Rome on June 4th . The 36th was ordered to clear the highway and make way for the tanks. Large portions of 1st Armored Division units reached the outskirts of Rome and ran into rearguard units which were left behind to stall the allied advance. Unwillingness to cause a high number of civilian casualties resulted in a nine hour battle. But by dark, the first allied units entered Rome. Full scale movement of allied units occurred on June 5th but were still engaging in firefights with scattered German rearguards.

Glory was short lived as on June 6th 1944, the allies landed in Normandy which caused the Italian front to be forgotten.

Historical Museum of the Liberation

This museum tells the story of the liberation Rome. The focus is on the struggle for the liberation of Rome during the period September 8th 1943 to June 4th 1944. No pictures are available at this time because I haven’t visited this yet, unfortunately. Find out more here


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