Italian Campaign (World War II)
Overview
 
The Italian Campaign of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 was the name of Allied
Allies
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

 operations in and around Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, from 1943 to the end of the war in Europe. Joint Allied Forces Headquarters AFHQ was operationally responsible for all Allied land forces in the Mediterranean theatre, and it planned and commanded the invasion of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 and the campaign on the Italian mainland until the surrender of German forces in Italy in May 1945.

It is estimated that between September 1943 and April 1945 some 60,000 Allied and 50,000 German soldiers died in Italy.
Encyclopedia
The Italian Campaign of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 was the name of Allied
Allies
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

 operations in and around Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, from 1943 to the end of the war in Europe. Joint Allied Forces Headquarters AFHQ was operationally responsible for all Allied land forces in the Mediterranean theatre, and it planned and commanded the invasion of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 and the campaign on the Italian mainland until the surrender of German forces in Italy in May 1945.

It is estimated that between September 1943 and April 1945 some 60,000 Allied and 50,000 German soldiers died in Italy. Overall Allied casualties during the campaign totaled about 320,000 and the corresponding Axis figure (excluding those involved in the final surrender) was about 336,650. No campaign in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 cost more than the Italian campaign in terms of lives lost and wounds suffered by infantry forces.

The independent states of San Marino
Battle of San Marino
The Battle of San Marino was an engagement on 17–20 September 1944 during the Italian Campaign of the Second World War, in which German Army forces occupied the neutral Republic of San Marino, and were then attacked by Allied forces...

 and the Vatican
The Bombing of The Vatican
The Bombing of The Vatican during World War II happened on 5 November 1943 when an Italian aircraft, launched from Viterbo, dropped five bombs on Saint Peter's Basilica. Only four out of the five bombs detonated....

, both surrounded by Italian territory, also suffered damage during the campaign.

Strategic background

Even prior to victory in the North African Campaign
North African campaign
During the Second World War, the North African Campaign took place in North Africa from 10 June 1940 to 13 May 1943. It included campaigns fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts and in Morocco and Algeria and Tunisia .The campaign was fought between the Allies and Axis powers, many of whom had...

, there was disagreement between the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 on the best strategy to defeat the Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

.

The British, especially Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, advocated their traditional naval-based peripheral strategy. Even with a large army, but greater naval power, the traditional British strategy against a continental enemy was to fight as part of a coalition and mount small peripheral operations designed to gradually weaken the enemy. The United States, with an even larger army, favoured a more direct strategy of fighting the main force of the German Army in Northern Europe
Northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

. The ability to launch such a campaign depended on first winning the Battle of the Atlantic.

The strategic disagreement was fierce, with the US service chiefs arguing for an invasion of France as early as possible, while their British counterparts advocated a Mediterranean strategy. There was even pressure from some Latin-American countries to stage an invasion of Axis-aligned Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. The American staff believed that a full-scale invasion of France as soon as possible was necessary to end the war in Europe, and that no operations should be undertaken which might delay that effort. The British argued that the presence of large numbers of troops trained for amphibious landings in the Mediterranean made a limited-scale invasion possible and useful.

Eventually the US and British political leadership made the decision to commit to an invasion of France in early 1944, but with a lower-priority Italian campaign reflecting Roosevelt's desire to keep U.S. troops active in the European theatre during 1943 and his attraction to the idea of eliminating Italy from the war. It was hoped that an invasion would knock them out of the war, or provide at least a major propaganda blow. The elimination of Italy as an enemy would also enable Allied naval forces, principally the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, to completely dominate the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

, massively improving communications with Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, the Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

, the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and India. It would also mean that the Germans would have to transfer troops from the Eastern Front to defend Italy and the entire southern coast of France, thus aiding the Soviets
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. The Italians would also withdraw their troops from the Soviet Union to defend Italy.

Invasion of Sicily

A combined British-Canadian-American invasion of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 began on 10 July 1943 with both amphibious and airborne landings at the Gulf of Gela (American 7th Army, Patton) and north of Syracuse (British 8th Army, Montgomery). The original plan contemplated a strong advance by the British north along the east coast to Messina with the Americans in a supporting role along their left flank. When 8th Army were held up by stubborn defences in the rugged hills south of Mount Etna
Mount Etna
Mount Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, close to Messina and Catania. It is the tallest active volcano in Europe, currently standing high, though this varies with summit eruptions; the mountain is 21 m higher than it was in 1981.. It is the highest mountain in...

, Patton amplified the American role by a wide advance northwest toward Palermo
Palermo
Palermo is a city in Southern Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Province of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old...

 and directly north to cut the northern coastal road. This was followed by an eastward advance north of Etna towards Messina supported by series of amphibious landings on the north coast propelling Patton's troops into Messina shortly before the first elements of 8th Army. The defending German and Italian forces were unable to prevent the Allied capture of the island, but succeeded in evacuating most of their troops to the mainland, the last leaving on 17 August 1943. Allied forces gained experience in opposed amphibious operations, coalition warfare and mass airborne drops.

Invasion of continental Italy

Forces of the British Eighth Army landed in the 'toe' of Italy on 3 September 1943 in Operation Baytown
Operation Baytown
Operation Baytown was a part of the Allied invasion of Italy during World War II on 3 September 1943.The operation consisted of the landing by sea of the British 13th Corps of British 8th Army at Reggio di Calabria...

, the day the Italian government agreed to an armistice with the Allies. The armistice was publicly announced by Italy on 8 September by two broadcasts, one by Eisenhower and the second by Marshal Badoglio
Badoglio Proclamation
The Badoglio Proclamation was a speech read on Ente Italiano per le Audizioni Radiofoniche at 19:42 on 8 September 1943 by marshal Pietro Badoglio, Italian head of government, announcing that the Cassabile armistice between Italy and the Allies signed on 3 September had come into force. It...

. Although the German forces prepared to defend without Italian assistance, all of their divisions but two opposite the Eighth Army and one at Salerno
Salerno
Salerno is a city and comune in Campania and is the capital of the province of the same name. It is located on the Gulf of Salerno on the Tyrrhenian Sea....

 were tied up disarming the Italian Army.

On 9 September forces of the U.S. Fifth Army, expecting little resistance, landed against heavy German resistance at Salerno
Salerno
Salerno is a city and comune in Campania and is the capital of the province of the same name. It is located on the Gulf of Salerno on the Tyrrhenian Sea....

 in Operation Avalanche and additional British forces at Taranto
Taranto
Taranto is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base....

 in Operation Slapstick
Operation Slapstick
Operation Slapstick was the code name for a British landing from the sea at the Italian port of Taranto during the Second World War. The operation, one of three landings during the Allied invasion of Italy, was undertaken by the British 1st Airborne Division in September 1943.Planned at short...

, which was almost unopposed. There had been a hope that with the surrender of the Italian government, the Germans would withdraw to the north, since at the time Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 had been persuaded that Southern Italy was strategically unimportant. However, this was not to be although Eighth Army were able to make relatively easy progress for a while up the eastern coast capturing the port of Bari
Bari
Bari is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas...

 and the important airfields around Foggia
Foggia
Foggia is a city and comune of Apulia, Italy, capital of the province of Foggia. Foggia is the main city of a plain called Tavoliere, also known as the "granary of Italy".-History:...

. No reserves were made available from the north to the German Tenth Army which nevertheless came close to repelling the Salerno landing, thanks to the overly cautious command of General Mark Clark. The main Allied effort in the west initially centered on the port of Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

. Naples was selected because it was the northernmost port city that could be taken while under cover of Allied fighter aircraft operating from Sicily.

As the Allies advanced north, they encountered increasingly difficult terrain: the Apennine Mountains
Apennine mountains
The Apennines or Apennine Mountains or Greek oros but just as often used alone as a noun. The ancient Greeks and Romans typically but not always used "mountain" in the singular to mean one or a range; thus, "the Apennine mountain" refers to the entire chain and is translated "the Apennine...

 form a spine along the Italian peninsula offset somewhat to the east. In the most mountainous areas of Abruzzo
Abruzzo
Abruzzo is a region in Italy, its western border lying less than due east of Rome. Abruzzo borders the region of Marche to the north, Lazio to the west and south-west, Molise to the south-east, and the Adriatic Sea to the east...

 more than half the width of the peninsula comprises crests and peaks over 3000 feet (914.4 m) which are relatively easy to defend and the spurs and re-entrants to the spine confronted the Allies with a succession of ridges and rivers across their line of advance. The rivers were subject to sudden and unexpected flooding which constantly thwarted the Allied commanders' plans.

Allied advance to Rome

In early October 1943 Adolf Hitler was persuaded by his Army Group Commander in Southern Italy, Field Marshal Kesselring
Albert Kesselring
Albert Kesselring was a German Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall during World War II. In a military career that spanned both World Wars, Kesselring became one of Nazi Germany's most skilful commanders, being one of 27 soldiers awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords...

 that the defense of Italy should be conducted as far away from Germany as possible. This would make the most of the natural defensive geography of Central Italy
Central Italy
Central Italy is one of the five official statistical regions of Italy used by the National Institute of Statistics , a first level NUTS region and a European Parliament constituency...

 whilst denying the Allies the easy capture of a succession of airfields each one being ever closer to Germany. Hitler was also convinced that yielding southern Italy would provide the Allies with a springboard for an invasion of the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 with its vital resources of oil, bauxite and copper.

Kesselring was given command of the whole of Italy and immediately ordered the preparation of a series of defensive lines across Italy south of Rome. Two lines, the Volturno Line
Volturno Line
The Volturno Line was a German defensive position in Italy during the World War II.The line ran from Termoli in the east, along the Biferno River through the Apennine Mountains to the Volturno River in the west....

 and the Barbara Line
Barbara Line
During World War II, the Barbara Line was a series of German military fortifications in Italy, some south of the Gustav Line, and a similar distance north of the Volturno Line. Near the eastern coast, it ran along the line of the Trigno river. The line mostly consisted of fortified hilltop...

, were used to delay the Allied advance to buy time to prepare the most formidable defensive positions which formed the Winter Line
Winter Line
The Winter Line was a series of German military fortifications in Italy, constructed during World War II by Organisation Todt. The primary Gustav Line ran across Italy from just north of where the Garigliano River flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west, through the Apennine Mountains to the...

, the collective name for the Gustav Line and two associated defensive lines on the west of the Apennine Mountains
Apennine mountains
The Apennines or Apennine Mountains or Greek oros but just as often used alone as a noun. The ancient Greeks and Romans typically but not always used "mountain" in the singular to mean one or a range; thus, "the Apennine mountain" refers to the entire chain and is translated "the Apennine...

, the Bernhardt Line
Bernhardt Line
The Bernhardt Line was a German defensive line in Italy during World War II. Having reached the Bernhardt Line at the start of December 1943, it took until mid-January 1944 for U.S. 5th Army to fight their way to the next line of defenses, the Gustav Line. The line was defended by XIV Panzer Corps...

 and the Hitler Line
Hitler Line
The Hitler Line was a German defensive line in central Italy during the Second World War. The strong points of the line were at Aquino and Piedimonte. In May 1944, the line was re-named the Senger Line, after General von Senger und Etterlin, one of the generals commanding Axis forces in the area...

.

The Winter Line proved a major obstacle to the Allies at the end of 1943, halting their advance on the Fifth Army's front, the western side of Italy. Although the Gustav Line was penetrated on the Eighth Army's Adriatic front and Ortona
Battle of Ortona
The Battle of Ortona was a small, yet extremely fierce, battle fought between a battalion of German Fallschirmjäger from the German 1st Parachute Division under Generalleutnant Richard Heidrich, and assaulting Canadian forces from the 1st Canadian Infantry Division under Major General Chris Vokes...

 taken, blizzards, drifting snow and zero visibility at the end of December caused the advance to grind to a halt. The Allies focus then turned to the western front where an attack through the Liri
Liri
The Liri is one of the principal rivers of central Italy, flowing into the Tyrrhenian Sea a little below Minturno under the name Garigliano....

 valley was considered to have the best chance of a breakthrough towards Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. Landings at Anzio
Anzio
Anzio is a city and comune on the coast of the Lazio region of Italy, about south of Rome.Well known for its seaside harbour setting, it is a fishing port and a departure point for ferries and hydroplanes to the Pontine Islands of Ponza, Palmarola and Ventotene...

 during Operation Shingle
Operation Shingle
Operation Shingle , during the Italian Campaign of World War II, was an Allied amphibious landing against Axis forces in the area of Anzio and Nettuno, Italy. The operation was commanded by Major General John P. Lucas and was intended to outflank German forces of the Winter Line and enable an...

, advocated by Churchill, behind the line were intended to destabilise the German Gustav line defences, but the early thrust inland to cut off the German defenses did not occur, thanks again to the indecisiveness of the American commander (General Lucas), and the Anzio forces became bottled up in their beach head.

It took four major offensives between January and May 1944 before the line was eventually broken by a combined assault of the Fifth and Eighth Armies (including British, US, French, Polish, and Canadian Corps) concentrated along a twenty mile front between Monte Cassino
Monte Cassino
Monte Cassino is a rocky hill about southeast of Rome, Italy, c. to the west of the town of Cassino and altitude. St. Benedict of Nursia established his first monastery, the source of the Benedictine Order, here around 529. It was the site of Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944...

 and the western seaboard. With the US Army pinned down in Anzio, the Canadian Forces had endured the toughest German opposition in the War as the task of capturing Rome was ordered as their goal. They sustained disproportionate losses, more than any other Allied country in the Campaign .

Yet they did not enter Rome first, though that had been the ordered plan. In a concurrent action, US General Mark Clark was ordered to break out of the stagnant position at Anzio and cash in on the created opportunity to cut off and destroy a large part of the German Tenth Army
German Tenth Army
The 10th Army was a World War I and World War II field army. During World War I the 10th army was stationed at the Eastern Front against Russia, and occupied Poland and Belorussia at the end of 1918 when the war ended....

 retreating from the Gustav Line between them and the Canadians. But this opportunity was lost on the brink of success, when General Clark disobeyed his orders and sent his US Forces to enter the vacant Rome instead. Rome had been declared an open city
Open city
In war, in the event of the imminent capture of a city, the government/military structure of the nation that controls the city will sometimes declare it an open city, thus announcing that they have abandoned all defensive efforts....

 by the German Army so there was no resistance encountered.

The US forces took possession of Rome on 4 June 1944. The German Tenth Army were allowed to get away and, in the next few weeks, were responsible for doubling the Allied casualties in that Campaign. General Clark was hailed as a hero in the US. The Canadians were sent through the City without stopping at 3:00AM the next morning.

Allied advance into Northern Italy

After the capture of Rome and the Normandy Invasion in June many experienced American and French
French Expeditionary Corps (1943-1944)
The French Expeditionary Corps , also known as the French Expeditionary Corps in Italy , was an expeditionary force composed of French soldiers that fought in the Italian Campaign during World War II under the command of General Alphonse Juin....

 units, the equivalent of a total of 7 divisions, were pulled out of Italy during the summer of 1944 to participate in Operation Dragoon
Operation Dragoon
Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France on August 15, 1944, during World War II. The invasion was initiated via a parachute drop by the 1st Airborne Task Force, followed by an amphibious assault by elements of the U.S. Seventh Army, followed a day later by a force made up...

, the Allied invasion in the South of France. These units were only partially compensated by the arrival of the Brazilian 1st Infantry Division, the land forces element of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force.

In the period from June to August 1944 the Allies advanced beyond Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 taking Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 and closing up on the Gothic Line
Gothic Line
The Gothic Line formed Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's last major line of defence in the final stages of World War II along the summits of the Apennines during the fighting retreat of German forces in Italy against the Allied Armies in Italy commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander.Adolf Hitler...

. This last major defensive line ran from the coast some 30 miles (48.3 km) north of Pisa
Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...

, along the jagged Apennine Mountains chain between Florence and Bologna
Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

 to the Adriatic coast
Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges...

 just south of Rimini
Rimini
Rimini is a medium-sized city of 142,579 inhabitants in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and capital city of the Province of Rimini. It is located on the Adriatic Sea, on the coast between the rivers Marecchia and Ausa...

. In order to shorten the Allied lines of communication
Lines of Communication
"Lines of Communication" is an episode from the fourth season of the science-fiction television series Babylon 5.-Synopsis:Franklin and Marcus attempt to persuade the Mars resistance to assist Sheridan in opposing President Clark...

 for the advance into Northern Italy, the Polish II Corps
Polish II Corps
Polish II Corps , 1943–1947, was a major tactical and operational unit of the Polish Armed Forces in the West during World War II. It was commanded by Lieutenant General Władysław Anders and by the end of 1945 it had grown to well over 100,000 soldiers....

 advanced towards the port of Ancona
Ancona
Ancona is a city and a seaport in the Marche region, in central Italy, with a population of 101,909 . Ancona is the capital of the province of Ancona and of the region....

 and after the month-long Battle of Ancona
Battle of Ancona
The Battle of Ancona was a battle involving forces from Poland serving as part of the British Army and German forces that took place from 16 June–18 July 1944 during the Italian campaign in World War II...

, succeeded in capturing it on 18 July.

During Operation Olive
Gothic Line
The Gothic Line formed Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's last major line of defence in the final stages of World War II along the summits of the Apennines during the fighting retreat of German forces in Italy against the Allied Armies in Italy commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander.Adolf Hitler...

, the major Allied offensive in the autumn of 1944 which commenced on 25 August, the Gothic Line defences were penetrated on both the Eighth Army and Fifth Army fronts but there was no decisive breakthrough. Churchill had hoped that a breakthrough in the autumn of 1944 would open the way for the Allied armies to advance north eastwards through the 'Ljubljana Gap' (area between Venice and Vienna, modern Slovenia
Slovenia
Slovenia , officially the Republic of Slovenia , is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north, and also has a small portion of...

) to Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 and Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 to forestall the Russians advancing into Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

. Churchill's proposal had been strongly opposed by the US Chiefs of Staff who understood its importance to British post-war interests in the region but did not feel it aligned with prevailing overall Allied war priorities.

In December 1944 Fifth Army commander Mark Clark
Mark Wayne Clark
Mark Wayne Clark was an American general during World War II and the Korean War and was the youngest lieutenant general in the U.S. Army...

 succeeded Harold Alexander as commander of all Allied ground troops in Italy when he was appointed to command 15th Army Group. In the winter and spring of 1944–45, extensive partisan activity in Northern Italy took place. Because there were two Italian governments during this period, one on each side of the war, the struggle took on some characteristics of a civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

.

Continuation of the Allied offensive in early 1945 was made impractical by the poor winter weather (making armoured manoeuvre and exploitation of overwhelming air superiority impossible) and also by further requirements to withdraw British troops to Greece and the Canadian I Corps to northwest Europe as well as due to the massive losses in its ranks during the autumn fighting, the Allies adopted a strategy of "offensive defence" while preparing for a final attack when better weather and ground conditions arrived in the spring.

In February 1945 Operation Encore saw elements of U.S. IV Corps (the Brazilian Expeditionary Force
Brazilian Expeditionary Force
The Brazilian Expeditionary Force or BEF was a force about 25,700 men and women arranged by the Army and Air Force to fight alongside the Allied forces in the Mediterranean Theatre of World War II...

 and the newly-arrived U.S. 10th Mountain Division) battling forward across minefields
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

 in the Apennines to align their front with that of U.S. II Corps on their right. They pushed the German defenders from the commanding high point of Monte Castello
Battle of Monte Castello
The Battle of Monte Castello was an engagement which took place from 25 November 1944 to 22 February 1945 during the Italian campaign. It was fought between the Allied forces advancing into northern Italy and dug-in German defenders. The battle marked the Brazilian Expeditionary Force's entry into...

 and the adjacent Monte Belvedere and Castelnuovo depriving them of artillery positions which had been commanding the approaches to Bologna since the narrowly failed Allied attempt to take the city in the autumn. Meanwhile, damage to other transport infrastructure forced Axis forces to use sea, canal and river routes for re-supply, leading to Operation Bowler
Operation Bowler
Operation Bowler was an air attack on Venice harbour by Allied aircraft on 21 March 1945, as part of the Italian campaign of the Second World War...

against shipping in Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 harbour on 21 March 1945.

The Allies' final offensive commenced with massive aerial and artillery bombardments on 9 April 1945. By 18 April forces of Eighth Army in the east had broken through the Argenta Gap and sent armour racing forward in an encircling move to meet U.S. IV Corp advancing from the Apennines in Central Italy and trap the remaining defenders of Bologna. Bologna was entered on 21 April by the Polish 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division
Polish 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division
The Polish 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division , also commonly known as Christmas Tree Division due to the characteristic emblem, was an Allied unit fighting during World War II on the Italian Front...

 and the Italian Friuli Group from Eighth Army and U.S. 34th Infantry Division
U.S. 34th Infantry Division
The 34th Infantry Division is a division in the Army National Guard that participated in World War I, World War II and continues to serve today, with most of the Division part of the Minnesota and Iowa National Guard. It is staffed by roughly 2,800 soldiers from the Iowa Guard, about 350 from the...

 from Fifth Army. 10th Mountain Division, which had bypassed Bologna, reached the River Po on 22 April and Indian 8th Infantry Division, on the Eighth Army front, reached the river on 23 April.

By 25 April the Italian Partisans' Committee of Liberation declared a general uprising, and on the same day, having crossed the Po on the right flank, forces of Eighth Army advanced north-north east towards Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 and Trieste
Trieste
Trieste is a city and seaport in northeastern Italy. It is situated towards the end of a narrow strip of land lying between the Adriatic Sea and Italy's border with Slovenia, which lies almost immediately south and east of the city...

. On the US Fifth Army front elements drove north toward Austria and north west to Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

. On the army's left flank the 92nd Infantry Division (the "Buffalo Soldiers Division") went along the coast to Genoa
Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 and a rapid advance on their right towards Turin
Turin
Turin is a city and major business and cultural centre in northern Italy, capital of the Piedmont region, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River and surrounded by the Alpine arch. The population of the city proper is 909,193 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat...

 by the Brazilian division took the German–Italian Army of Liguria by surprise causing its collapse.

As April came to an end Army Group C, the Axis forces in Italy, retreating on all fronts and having lost most of its fighting powers, was left with little option but surrender. General Heinrich von Vietinghoff
Heinrich von Vietinghoff
Heinrich Gottfried Otto Richard von Vietinghoff genannt Scheel was a German Colonel-General of the German Army during the Second World War....

, who had taken command of Army Group C after Kesselring
Kesselring
Kesselring is a German surname of:* Albert Kesselring , German field marshal* Fritz Kesselring , Swiss elektric engineer* Joseph Otto Kesselring , American writer* Jürg Kesselring , Swiss neurologist...

 had been transferred to become Commander in Chief of the Western Front (OB West
OB West
The German Army Command in the West The German Army Command in the West The German Army Command in the West (Oberbefehlshaber West (German: initials OB West) was the overall command of the Westheer, the German Armed Forces on the Western Front during World War II. It was directly subordinate to...

) at the end of 1944, signed the instrument of surrender on behalf of the German armies in Italy on 29 April, formally bringing hostilities to an end on 2 May 1945.

See also

Atlas of Battle Fronts from July 1943 to August 1945 in Semi-Month Intervals
Atlas of the World Battle Fronts
The public domain document Atlas of the World Battle Fronts in Semimonthly Phases to August 15 1945 was produced for the Chief of Staff of the United States Army in 1945....


1943-07-01

1943-11-01

1944-07-01

1944-09-01

1944-12-01

1945-05-01
  • Military history of Italy during World War II
    Military history of Italy during World War II
    During World War II , the Kingdom of Italy had a varied and tumultuous military history. Defeated in Greece, France, East Africa and North Africa, the Italian invasion of British Somaliland was one of the only successful Italian campaigns of World War II accomplished without German support.In...

  • Italian Co-Belligerent Army
    Italian Co-Belligerent Army
    The Italian Co-Belligerent Army , or the Army of the South , was the army of the Italian Royalist forces fighting on the side of the Allies during World War II....

  • Italian Co-Belligerent Navy
    Italian Co-Belligerent Navy
    The Italian Co-Belligerent Navy , or Navy of the South or Royal Navy , was the navy of the Italian royalist forces fighting on the side of the Allies in southern Italy after the Allied armistice with Italy in September 1943...

  • Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force
    Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force
    The Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force , or Air Force of the South , was the air force of the Royalist "Badoglio government" in southern Italy during the last years of World War II. The ACI was formed in southern Italy in October 1943 after the Italian Armistice in September...

  • Italian Social Republic
    Italian Social Republic
    The Italian Social Republic was a puppet state of Nazi Germany led by the "Duce of the Nation" and "Minister of Foreign Affairs" Benito Mussolini and his Republican Fascist Party. The RSI exercised nominal sovereignty in northern Italy but was largely dependent on the Wehrmacht to maintain control...

  • Italian resistance movement
    Italian resistance movement
    The Italian resistance is the umbrella term for the various partisan forces formed by pro-Allied Italians during World War II...


External links

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