Po Valley, the Final Campaign in Italy

Posted on May 4th, 2016 by:

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Po Valley, the Final Campaign in Italy

The Po Valley was the last barrier for Allied Victory in Italy.

After nineteen months of bitter fighting in Italy, the Allies had slugged their way from the beaches of Salerno, across the Volturno River, to Cassino, Anzio, Rome and over the Apennine mountains. Now they were about to enter the Po Valley, the heart of Northern Italy.



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Field Marshal Harold Alexander

In 1942, Winston Churchill had proclaimed Italy to be the “Soft underbelly of the Axis” but in 1943 and 1944, the Germans, under Field Marshall Albert Kesselring, put up a staunch and stubborn resistance, checking Allied advances and dashing any hopes of a quick Allied victory.

Allied soldiers discovered the term “sunny Italy” to be misleading as they slogged their way through frigid winter temperatures and rains that turned roads into muddy quagmires.

Throughout the fighting in Italy, the Germans held the high ground and forced the Allies to fight them through a series of heavily fortified defensive lines over a seemingly endless number of mountains.  The proudly mechanized American Army found itself relying on mules to haul supplies up steep, winding mountain roads.

In Italy, Allied commanders led a multinational force more diverse than in any other theater of the war. Field Marshal Harold Alexander, the Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean, called on fighting men from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, India, Brazil, France, North Africa, liberated Italy and America, including a division of African-Americans, a regiment of Japanese-Americans and a brigade of Jewish soldiers from Palestine.



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German soldiers surrender in the Po Valley

From September 1943 to March 1945, the Allies had suffered nearly 300,000 casualties, of which nearly two thirds were American.  But, they had inflicted heavy losses on German and remaining fascist Italian forces. By April, the Allies were gearing up for their final offensive to destroy the severely weakened Axis army in Italy. Nearly 1,000,000 Allied soldiers were poised to capture the iconic Italian cities of Trieste, Venice, Bologna, Milan and Genoa.

In preparation for the battle, Field Marshal Harold Alexander sent out a special order of the day to encourage and inspire his men but also to warn them of the dangers that still lay ahead.



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Field Marshal Harold Alexander’s Special Order of the Day.

The Allied final offensive was launched with a diversionary attack on April 5, 1945 followed by major attacks on April 9 and 11. By April 29, the defeated German military in Italy signed a surrender document and hostilities formally ceased on May 2, 1945.

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General von Senger surrenders to American General Mark Clark

Harold Alexander’s message reminds us how much the Allies had achieved in over a year and a half of bloody fighting in Italy and of how close they were to achieving final victory. A victory that 2,860 Allied soldiers killed in the Po Valley during the final month of the War in Italy would never see.



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