This week, we celebrate Veteran’s Day. Since my articles typically concern Italy, I thought it appropriate to honor those who fought in the costly Allied battle for Italy during World War 2. During the battles fought to defeat the Germans and to liberate Italy, over 150,000 Allied soldiers lost their lives to take Italy from the Axis powers.
In July 1943, the Allies made their first foray into Italy as they invaded Sicily. By the end of August, Germany and Italy were able to evacuate most of their troops to the Italian mainland, leaving Sicily to the Allies. We had gained a foothold!
But, then began a long and costly mainland march to the north for the Allies.
Allied forces landed on the ‘toe’ of Italy on September 3, which was interestingly enough, the same day that the Italian government agreed to an armistice with the Allies. Though we were no longer at war with Italy, we had to march through their country to extract the Germans. So, while the Germans were busy disarming the Italian army, the allied forces continued to invade the south of Italy with landings at Salerno and Taranto. It wasn’t easy, as heavy resistance was encountered along the way north.
As the Allies advanced, they encountered increasingly difficult terrain in the form of the Apennine Mountains, which form a spine along the Italian peninsula offset somewhat to the east. In the most mountainous areas of Abruzzo, more than half the width of the peninsula comprises crests and peaks over 3,000 feet that were relatively easy for the Germans to defend; and the various spurs of this spine confounded the Allies with its succession of ridges and rivers. The rivers were subject to sudden and unexpected flooding, which constantly thwarted our Allied plans.
At the end of 1943, the winter halted our advance on the western side of Italy as blizzards, drifting snow and zero visibility caused our advance to grind to a halt. Landings at Anzio behind enemy lines were intended to destabilize the German defenses, but the early thrust inland became bottled up in the beachhead.
It took four major offensives between January and May 1944 before a twenty-mile front between Monte Cassino and the western seaboard was breached.
By 25 April, the Italian Partisans' Committee of Liberation declared a general uprising, and on the same day, our forces advanced north and took the German Army of Liguria by surprise, causing its collapse.
As April came to an end, the Axis forces in Italy were left with little option but surrender.
The several battles to secure Italy cost the Allies 152,000 lives, while the Axis lost 311,000 lives.
Our thanks to all who have served in the uniform of the United States of America.
Ciao for now,
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