Posted on January 20th, 2017 by:

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With the Allied drive in Italy halted on the heavily defended German Gustav Line, Prime Minister Winston Churchill devised a plan to invade the resort town of Anzio to liberate the Italian capital only 38 miles away.

The plan, code-named Operation Shingle, would bypass the Gustav Line and allow Allied troops a quick route to the Italian capital. It was believed that the plan would force German troops stationed on the Gustav Line to move north to meet the Allied invasion force, thus weakening the Gustav Line enough for Allied troops to advance in the south. If the German troops did not move north, the Anzio force would face little opposition on its march to Rome.

The Anzio invasion force consisted of two infantry divisions, the American 3rd and the British 1st along with attached Ranger and Commando units. Some Allied commanders, including General Mark Clark, had deep reservations about the plan, believing the force was too small to accomplish its goal.  However, Allied resources in Italy were already stretched too thin to provide any more men or war material.

The command of the invasion force was given to General John P. Lucas, a methodical and cautious commander who himself had grave reservations about the operation.

The Allies landed in Anzio on January 22, 1944 against little opposition. Fearing a quick and strong German counterattack, Lucas chose to consolidate the beachhead instead of pushing inland and taking the high ground of the Alban Hills. Within three days, the Germans had brought in re-enforcements and surrounded the beachhead with parts of 8 divisions with 5 more on their way to the Anzio area. Without serious reductions to its strength on the Gustav Line.

By February, the Germans had brought in over 100,000 troops to counter the 76,000 Allied soldiers in Anzio. Outnumbered and under constant artillery fire and observation, the Allies clung desperately to their beachhead, repelling fierce German counterattacks.

It would take the Allies five long months of bitter fighting and 43,000 casualties before they could finally make a break for Rome.

For More on the Battle of Anzio Check Out:

Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome

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