Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

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merdiolu
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Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by merdiolu » 13 Aug 2011 20:27

Lately I finished reading "Italy's Sorrow" written by James Holland. Both he and several Axis commanders like Kesselring ( though he is very biased and unreliable in his memories ) and Senger Von Etterlin agree that with the limited forces available for Operation Shingle it would be a grave mistake for Allies to extend the beachead as soon as they landed without any preparation. If they try to advance without defensive preparations on the beachhead , entire VIth Corps would be destroyed by a massive counter attack Germans were excelled. Forces avaible for Shingle were too weak to capture Rome on their own. Indeed this shows that General John Lucas commanding VIth Corps which landed Anzio made a sound tactical decision by waiting for all his forces to deembark , preparing defensive positions then walk over Rome. He was pessimistic about whole Shingle operation anyway..So by being a beached whale maybe Lucas saved his entire corps. ( Though I think he should have captured at least Alban Hills as soon as possible. That would give his forces much better defensive depth )

At the other hand Germans would have to transfer at least seven more divisions from other fronts to contain and counter attack Anzio bridgehead. ( It was 1944 and Wehrmacht could hardly bear transfer of such a large force to one point without limiting resources and reserves in other critical fronts ) German counterattacks also failed. So whole Italian front turned to some kind of "Spanish (or Italian in this case ) Ulcer" for Hitler like it had been for Napoleon in Spain as more men and material was sucked to Italian peninsula which resource lacking Germans could hardly afford. while Allies were finishing final touches for landing in France and Red Army was getting ready for Operation Bagration....

What is your opinion ?

JonS
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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by JonS » 13 Aug 2011 22:31

It may help to understand the provenance of Churchill's 'wildcat/whale' one-liner.

Some time after the initial landings, Churchill was informed that (I forget the exact numbers, take these ones as indicative) 150,000 men had been landed, and 75,000 vehicles. He was, understandably, outraged that the small bridgehead apparently had one vehicle for every two men there. What he wasn't told, though, was that the vast majority of those 75,000 vehicles were duplicates.

VI Corps set up a re-supply shuttle involving 1,500 trucks in three lots of 500. The first 500 were in Naples loading up for their next trip north. The second 500 were either on board LSTs heading north with supplies, or on board heading back to Naples with salvage. The last 500 were in the Anzio bridgehead offloading their supplies and picking up salvage to take away.

Every 3 or 4 days they swapped around one position. The ones on board heading north drove straight off the LSTs and off to supply dumps. The ones in the bridgehead drove on, and the LSTs were able to get underway again within an hour or two. The system worked really well, maximised use of the few LSTs available, and minimised their exposure while beached or alongside at the port in Anzio. But, by counting each arrival of 500 trucks as 500 new trucks, without discounting all the ones that had left, it vastly inflated the apparent number of trucks in the bridgehead.

With regards to Op SHINGLE, I think it was a great idea that was terribly under-resourced when it fell through the cracks at the end of 1943. Pretty much the entire top-level command echelon departed the Med to head for England and OVERLORD, taking with them a significant amount of combat force, and as many landing craft as they could lay their hands on. V Corps, when it landed with just 2.5 divisions just wasn't strong enough to do everything expected of it. There is a great quote at the end of Morrison's volume that covers Anzio: 'they set a boy to do a man's job.'

With regards to Italy, I have a lot of sympathy for the strategy that Brooke managed to force through there. By actively engaging the Germans in Italy the Allies tied down and destroyed forces that the over-stretched Germans weren't able to then use elsewhere. The campaign probably wasn't as well run as it could have been (Clark, I'm looking at you), but the objective of engagement and wearing out did succeed. Unfortunately, the US never quite seemed to 'get' the link between what they were doing in Italy, and how much it improved the chances for success of OVERLORD.

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by canambridge » 14 Aug 2011 08:20

Even striking out for the Alban Hills may have resulted in too long a front to be adequately covered. Lucas si quoted as saying: "I thought I was winning something of victory" [at Anzio]. He was probably right.
Basically Anzio (and the whole Italian campaign) was a double edged sword for the Allies. Anzio, inadequately supported as it was if the objective was Rome, still resulted in a drain of LST, LCT and LSI that probably greatly contributed to the delay of Overlord from May to June. It also meant that Anvil would have to be postponed from contemporous with Overlord to August 44.
Allied forces in Italy steadily rose from September 43 (about 12 divisions) until July 44 (about 29 divisions), there was no vast drain of divisions at the beginning of 1944, although there was a large transfer of landing craft. The "big" draw down was in Ausgust 1944 when three US and five French divisions were shipped to Southern France and Allied forces returned to about 20 divisions, the Feb 44 levels. The Allies were in any case constrained by supply needs in Italy as well as in North-West Europe. Supportying a larger ground force as well as the large air forces present would have been difficult.
The Germans moved nearly as many divisions into Italy, they were not massively outnumbered by the Allied forces they faced. In September 43 they had about 16 divisions in Itlay, including the norrth. By July 44 that was about 26. And these included 6-7 Panzer/Panzer Grenadier and 2 FJ divisions, not all second rate units. By comparison, there were 10 Panzer/PG and 2 FJ divisions in France in June 1944.
I think the Italian campaign was a clear cut Allied victory, not a draw as it usually portrayed. Possesion of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica made the invasion of Southern France possible and opened up much needed port capacity for the "main effort". Basically the Allies could not have supported, and thus not used, the 20+ divisions in Italy in NWE due to supply constraints. The Germans certianly could have used their forces in far more critical areas than Italy. Imagine the impact of those 20 German divisions in Normandy or at some critical juncture of the Eastern Front.

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by JamesL » 14 Aug 2011 17:25

My father in law was at Anzio-Nettuno. His engineer aviation company was attached to the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division. They were charged with building an airfield at Nettuno. The thing he remembered was the rain and mud and German artillery. I believe Gen. Alexander visited the area and commented that it reminded him of a World War I battlefield.

Except for the first day or so of the invasion the first month saw much rain. Coupled with the poor drainage of the area and the shell holes left by German artillery, the result was an area which would not support tanks and rapid movement. Once my f-i-l had to help retrieve 2 American Shermans stuck in the mud with a D-9 bulldozer while under German mortar fire. His company suffered about 35 KIA/WIA in January-February.

The rain and shellfire eventually caused them to abandon the airfield at Nettuno. In the first week or so they lost 16 fighter planes (American and British Spitfires). Lacking the necessary aircraft and being restricted from flying the remainders because of poor weather, I don't think we had adequate air superiority over German forces. The battle settled down into an artillery dominated stalemate with the Germans in superior positions having bigger guns.

One note regarding the trucks. I gather it was American policy for a truck to drive off of a LST and then proceed to where the supplies were needed most. A truck full of small arms ammo or mortar shells would drive directly to the front lines, and try to dump its load among the infantrymen before German shells started to land. Think of a grossly overloaded truck, driven by an American with a lead foot at breakneck speed, bouncing through shellholes in the road to the front lines. Many trucks were wrecked or broke axles under such conditions.

Humorous note: when my father in law boarded H.M. LST-324 in Naples, Italian sidewalk vendors were selling picture postcards of Anzio and Nettuno. So much for secrecy!

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by JonS » 14 Aug 2011 23:34

canambridge wrote:Allied forces in Italy steadily rose from September 43 (about 12 divisions) until July 44 (about 29 divisions), there was no vast drain of divisions at the beginning of 1944
Both the US and the UK transferred at least a corps-worth of experienced troops out of the Med and back to the UK in late 43/early 44. I'm not aware of any divisions - experienced or otherwise - that moved from the UK to the Med after Sept 43.

Sept 43 was the very start of the invasion of mainland Italy, so it is astonishingly unsurprising that Allied forces in that country rose thereafter, in the same way that it is mind-bogglingly obvious that the Allies had more forces in NWE in May 45 than they did in June 44.

In Sept 43 the Allies had large numbers of divisions scattered in various places around the Med, in various states of forming, re-equipping and training, etc., most of which later moved to the mainland Italian theatre. The French forces, for example, were in the Med as of Sept 43, but undergoing wholesale re-equipping and training following their less-than-stellar showing with left-over 1940 kit in Tunisia. They moved to Italy in early-mid-44. The NZ Division, for example, was in Egypt, busily sending a large drafts of long-service men back to NZ, incorporating fresh men, and re-integrating the 4th Armd Bde which had been detached for re-roling since mid-42. That div moved to Italy in ~Oct 43. The US 1st Armd Division was hanging about in Morocco, training and making sure the Spanish didn't decide to get uppity. They later moved to mainland Italy too.
I think the Italian campaign was a clear cut Allied victory
Indeed :)
Last edited by JonS on 15 Aug 2011 02:20, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by Kingfish » 14 Aug 2011 23:46

JonS wrote: I'm not aware of any divisions - experienced or otherwise - that moved from the UK to the Med after Sept 43.
5th Canadian Armored Division moved from the UK to Italy in November '43

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by JonS » 14 Aug 2011 23:55

Ah, thanks. It makes sense they would send something to join 1 Div and the Armd Bde to form an operational corps. Any others?

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by Aber » 15 Aug 2011 00:46

canambridge wrote:
Allied forces in Italy steadily rose from September 43 (about 12 divisions) until July 44 (about 29 divisions), there was no vast drain of divisions at the beginning of 1944, although there was a large transfer of landing craft. The "big" draw down was in Ausgust 1944 when three US and five French divisions were shipped to Southern France .
IIRC 3 British (7th Armoured, 50th and 51st) and 4 US divsions were transferred from the Mediterranean to the UK for Overlord.

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by Kingfish » 15 Aug 2011 01:52

Aber wrote:
canambridge wrote:
Allied forces in Italy steadily rose from September 43 (about 12 divisions) until July 44 (about 29 divisions), there was no vast drain of divisions at the beginning of 1944, although there was a large transfer of landing craft. The "big" draw down was in Ausgust 1944 when three US and five French divisions were shipped to Southern France .
IIRC 3 British (7th Armoured, 50th and 51st) and 4 US divsions were transferred from the Mediterranean to the UK for Overlord.
British 1st Para was also transferred for Overlord but was held in reserve during the campaign.

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by Jon G. » 15 Aug 2011 02:00

JonS wrote:...
With regards to Op SHINGLE, I think it was a great idea that was terribly under-resourced when it fell through the cracks at the end of 1943. Pretty much the entire top-level command echelon departed the Med to head for England and OVERLORD, taking with them a significant amount of combat force, and as many landing craft as they could lay their hands on. V Corps, when it landed with just 2.5 divisions just wasn't strong enough to do everything expected of it. There is a great quote at the end of Morrison's volume that covers Anzio: 'they set a boy to do a man's job.'..
Are you sure all the landing craft used for the Anzio landings went back to the UK? I seem to recall that the size of the Shingle landing force (like everything else the Allies wanted to do in the Mediterranean) was dictated by the number of landing craft on hand - hence the circulation scheme which you outline was devised. I also seem to recall that the landing craft used at Anzio went on to Burma after a job well done; alas I don't seem to recall where I read it :|

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by JonS » 15 Aug 2011 02:02

Kingfish wrote:
Aber wrote:
canambridge wrote:
Allied forces in Italy steadily rose from September 43 (about 12 divisions) until July 44 (about 29 divisions), there was no vast drain of divisions at the beginning of 1944, although there was a large transfer of landing craft. The "big" draw down was in Ausgust 1944 when three US and five French divisions were shipped to Southern France .
IIRC 3 British (7th Armoured, 50th and 51st) and 4 US divsions were transferred from the Mediterranean to the UK for Overlord.
British 1st Para was also transferred for Overlord but was held in reserve during the campaign.
Plus a couple of armoured brigades, and several artillery regiments, and ...

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by JonS » 15 Aug 2011 02:16

Jon G. wrote:
JonS wrote:...
With regards to Op SHINGLE, I think it was a great idea that was terribly under-resourced when it fell through the cracks at the end of 1943. Pretty much the entire top-level command echelon departed the Med to head for England and OVERLORD, taking with them a significant amount of combat force, and as many landing craft as they could lay their hands on. V Corps, when it landed with just 2.5 divisions just wasn't strong enough to do everything expected of it. There is a great quote at the end of Morrison's volume that covers Anzio: 'they set a boy to do a man's job.'..
Are you sure all the landing craft used for the Anzio landings went back to the UK? I seem to recall that the size of the Shingle landing force (like everything else the Allies wanted to do in the Mediterranean) was dictated by the number of landing craft on hand - hence the circulation scheme which you outline was devised. I also seem to recall that the landing craft used at Anzio went on to Burma after a job well done; alas I don't seem to recall where I read it :|
Yes, you're correct, and I didn't meant to infer that Italy was completely denuded. My fault there for poor clarity.

With both Eisenhower and montgomery demanding a much larger OVERLORD, it was clear that many additional landing craft would be needed. To meet that, the target D-Day was slipped by a month to early June in order to reap an additionalmonth's-worth of production. But more were needed, so a lot of landing craft located in the Med were sent to the UK for OVERLORD. Not all though, since some were needed for supply into Italy - not least to transport fuel and bombs for 15th Airforce at Foggia. The ones that did go left fairly early - late 43 or early 44 - in order to allow sufficient time for transit, refitting, training, and then concentration in Southern England.

However, Churchill managed to get some of the craft designated for OVERLORD left in the Med temporarily in order to mount SHINGLE, on the understanding that these would be sent to England in February or March, allowing just sufficient time for transit, refitting, and training. That timescale was based on the planning assumption that 5th Army would break through at Cassino and marry up with Anzio within about 4-weeks of the landing. As it turned out 5th Army didn't arrive until late May, and so some (many? most?) of the landing craft were instead retained in the Med to assure supply to VI Corps.

The 500/500/500 truck shuttle is embedded in the pre-invasion SHINGLE plan. That is, it was always intended to be utilised, rather than being a post-invasion adaptation.

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by merdiolu » 15 Aug 2011 19:16

I think main reason for Churchill's disapointment for Operation Shingle was it resembled failed Gallipoli Campaign of WW1 (a campaign which Churchill initiated and defended ) too much in its intitial stages. Stagnated beachead , troops under enemy fire from heights for months....similiarities are too many. But battle of Anzio was actually grinded German forces too. When 5th US Army burst through Gustav Line in May 1944 VIth Corps attack proved to be invaluable. Only Clark's obsession to capture Rome before anyone else saved 14th German Army which was investing the beachead from total extinction during Operation Diadem/Buffolo

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by Jon G. » 16 Aug 2011 15:33

There are several open threads about the overall validity (or non-validity) of the Italian campaign.

For example these:

Italian Campaign (1943-1945) Strategic Waste or Success ?
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 6&t=164680

italian campaign
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 6&t=108259

Who was the Italian Theatre 43-45 a greater drain on?
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 26&start=0

This particular thread is more specific, in that it asks for input on the validity (or non-validity) of the Anzio/Shingle aspect of the Italian campaign, quite a large enough subject to warrant a thread in its own right.

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Re: Anzio : A Beached Whale or An abcess in Axis rear ?

Post by Aber » 16 Aug 2011 22:01

The thread seems to have taken a 'Did the British ever want to carry out Overlord' turn - is it possible to split it?

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