USA launching an invasion of Sicily | July - September 1943 | World War II
foreign as World War II progressed into its fifth year the German war machine which for Adolf Hitler had once seen so assured military Supremacy was well and truly faltering defeat at Stalingrad in February 1943 had cost the Nazis deer the Allies were well placed to capitalize on their advantage however the Allied leaders were all too aware the endangered still to be overcome and they proceeded with the utmost caution beginning to take tentative but very positive steps towards victory [Music] by July 1943 progress was very definitely evident at Sea the Allies were winning the battle of the Atlantic measures agreed by British prime minister Winston Churchill and U.S President Franklin D Roosevelt at the Casablanca conference seven months previously to beat the U-Boat Menace were now yielding results for the Germans with morale plummeting among the U-Boat Crews their Commander Grand Admiral Carl Donuts had no choice but to order them to withdraw from the main Convoy routes in the North Atlantic for the Allies it was just the Boost that they needed success against the U-boats meant that the British and the Americans could proceed to build up forces for Operation Overlord the invasion of Western Europe [Music] in the Skies over Europe operation Point Blank the code name given the Casablanca conference for a round-the-clock bombing campaign against Nazi Germany and fascist Italy was underway American Army Air Force pounded targets all over Western Europe by day while the Royal Air Force continued by night [Music] in the meantime the campaign in North Africa had ended in a total Allied victory [Music] by mid-may 1943 nearly a quarter of a million German and Italian soldiers in Tunisia had passed inter-allied captivity [Music] in Germany it was a bigger military disaster than Stalingrad had been British and American Military planners were now busy preparing for the next stage agreeing on a Hitler first policy in May 43 Churchill Roosevelt and their military staff met in Washington DC in a conference code named trident with the whole of North Africa about to fall into their hands the Allies agreed an invasion of Sicily codenamed operation husky was the next logical step but over where to go after that there was no consensus the Americans wanted to invade northern France in order to secure a rapid end to the war British too wanted a cross-channel Invasion but only after Nazi Germany's powerful forces had been worn down elsewhere they feared a bloodbath similar to the slaughter in the trenches of the first World War [Music] the British argued that toppling Benito Mussolini's fascist regime knocking Italy out of the war and making the Enemy Fight for southern France the Balkans or Greece would be the best way to guarantee success for Overlord the Americans strongly disagreed arguing that such a strategy would be a diversion of resources and effort they were pushing for an early cross-channel Invasion as it would take the pressure off the Red Army on the Eastern Front because all the while lurking at the back of their minds was the fear that if they didn't the Russians might do a deal with Adolf Hitler as had been the case in August of 1939. Nazi Germany still possessed huge swathes of Soviet territory as the snow melted with the return of spring Hitler's generals looked forward to avenging the disaster at Stalingrad [Music] so as preparations for operation husky fell into place with Hitler convinced that his enemies were targeting an attack on Sardinia thanks to the efforts of Allied intelligence the battle to regain control of Mainland Europe began in earnest Trident conference in Washington DC the previous month the combined U.S and British Chiefs of Staff had actually set a date for Operation Overlord for the 1st of May 1944.
nevertheless the British were Keen to gain a foothold in Europe much much sooner Sicily was just the first step the whole of Italy was the real prize so Churchill and his military advisers argued but General George C Marshall U.S army chief of staff and the real driving force behind America's war effort was under great pressure from General Douglas MacArthur commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific to give him more resources for the war against Imperial Japan Marshall was prepared only to commit U.S forces to an invasion of Sardinia and instructed General Dwight D Eisenhower to only Mount such operations in exploitation of the attack on Sicily as might be calculated to eliminate Italy from the war once the Trident conference was over Churchill and his senior most military advisor General Sir Alan Brooke chief of the Imperial general staff flew to North Africa to try and persuade Eisenhower that Marshall was being short-sighted to ask for his support for their call for an invasion of Italy under pressure from Marshall Eisenhower was forced to be cautious he told the British leaders that if operation husky was successful he would then lend his support for moving on into Italy but not before while the Allies remained tentative for Hitler's axes Powers a major political and strategic crisis was developing inside Italy there was now a real fear that the Allies would topple the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler looked on events in the Mediterranean with increasing anxiety as a result of the huge burden placed on German forces by the fighting in Russia and the loss of eight axes divisions in Tunisia earlier in the year the cupboard the Mediterranean so to speak was practically bare [Music] the big strategic question now facing the fuhrer was where would the Allies strike next his Mediterranean theater Commander field Marshall kesselring and the Italian Army Chiefs all believed that an invasion of Sicily was imminent but Hitler wasn't so sure [Music] blinded by the complete lack of reliable intelligence he believed that the Allies would land in Sardinia from there they would logically take Corsica which would be a stepping stone for southern France or Italy alternatively the Allies might invade Greece [Music] the Beast is thinking on information gleaned from Top Secret documents found on a royal Marine officer whose body had been washed up on a beach in southern Spain back in April 1943. Spanish authorities who found the body believed that the Royal Marine had drowned in an aircraft crash in the Mediterranean copies of the original documents passed on to German intelligence by a pro-nazi Spanish naval officer appeared to show that Sardinia and Greece were next on the Allies list Hitler therefore ordered the dispatch of a Panzer Division to Greece another motorized Infantry Division to Sardinia and two Elite parachute divisions to Southern France to be ready for any invasion in fact the whole Affair was the product of a remarkable British intelligence operation it was the royal Marine in question had actually died of pneumonia back in Britain his body had been dropped into the sea very close to the Spanish Coast by a royal Navy submarine and all the documents and letters planted on him were of course fake thanks to this clever deception the half million strong anglo-american Army assigned to operation husky would outnumber the axis troops left to defend Sicily by nearly two to one the Germans in fact had only two under strength formations with which to repel the onslaught no less than eight British American and Canadian divisions were set to attack on the first day of operation husky making it the biggest military operation undertaken by the Allies to date in the war [Music] in fact more men would land on Sicily in the first 24 hours of this Invasion the Woodland on the Normandy beaches in a comparable period on D-Day almost a year later what's more to further divisions one British and one American would then reinforce the Allied beachhead on Sicily once it was Secure as the sun rose on the 5th of July 1943 five Invasion fleets under the overall command of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham steamed towards Sicily from opposite ends of the Mediterranean thank you [Music] off the Fortress island of Malta less than 24 hours before the actual Landings The Fleets formed two groups the first was the Eastern Task Force Under Royal Naval vice admiral Bertram Ramsey made up of almost 1700 warships troop transports and landing craft complete with four British and Canadian divisions under the command of General Sir Bernard Montgomery the second group was the Western Task Force Under U.S Navy vice admiral Kent
Hewitt with another 1700 vessels and four American divisions led by Lieutenant General George S Patton the planners of operation husky had one other surprise ready for the axis troops on the island namely parachute and glider troops ready to land behind The Invasion beaches from the first British airborne and the U.S 82nd Airborne divisions following the successful but costly German airborne Landings in Crete in May of 41. the Allies had raised several divisions of parachute and glider troops and operation husky was set to be their baptism of Fire Eisenhower as ever the consummate professional selected his Deputy General Sir Harold Alexander widely known for his charm and coolness Under Fire to take charge of operation husky we have charm and a cool head wherever needed it was now because serving under Alexander as his principal Battlefield commanders were General Sir Bernard Montgomery famous for his Victoria Del alamine and General George S Patton Jr well known for his swashbuckling aggressive leadership style husky was the first operation in which both of these ambitious and notoriously egocentric Battlefield commanders would find themselves serving alongside each other and from the outset if ever two personalities were destined to clash it was Montgomery and patton [Music] the Allied invasion of Sicily kicked off in the early hours of 10th of July 1943. Patton's seventh Army would land on a 40-mile front on the Island's South Coast while Montgomery's eighth Army would come ashore on a 40-mile wide front on either side of Sicily's Southeastern corner in the early stages of the planning for Husky it had been intended that Patton's primary objective was to be the port of Palermo on Sicily's Northwestern Coast but allied military strategists were concerned that American troops lacked the combat experience necessary for such a bold operation instead the seventh U.S army was given the job of protecting Montgomery's Left Flank as it Advanced towards Messina to block an axis retreat thank you for the American General widely known as Blood and Guts pattern this can only be described as a red rag to a bull determined to prove the doubt is wrong about the operational value of the men under his command and as husky gathered momentum Patton soon got the chance to prove the point Beyond any possible doubt [Music] things couldn't have been better for the massive anglo-american Invasion Fleet as it was able to approach Sicily virtually unopposed despite the fact that German U-boats managed to sink six Invasion transports and landing craft there was no sign of enemy aircraft [Music] in the lead-up to operation husky Allied bombers had wrecked all the airfields on Sicily forcing the German luftwaffe and the Italian regia aeronautica to withdraw their remaining aircraft to Mainland Italy against four thousand Allied aircraft they could only muster 1500 machines [Music] in fact the main opposition to operation husky came from the weather the day before The Invasion during the afternoon of the ninth the wind whipped up a tremendous storm which resulted in many of the men in The Invasion Fleet becoming horribly seasick fortunately the strong winds abated in the final hours before the first Allied troops gone ashore but in the skies above Society there were strong air currents that played Havoc with the formations of troop carrying aircraft and gliders on route to their Drop Zones and Landing zones the paratroopers and gliders were scattered all over the south of the island 47 out of 134 British gliders ended up in the sea however the sudden appearance of airborne troops who did reach their Sicilian destination created Mayhem behind the enemy-held beaches 2 45 in the morning on the 10th of July under the cover of shattering Naval bombardment the first Allied assault troops waded ashore Eisenhower's strategy had enabled the Allies to swiftly establish their first foothold on European soil but although The Invasion Force knew full well that the enemy lay ahead of them they had little idea of how much resistance they would be facing foreign [Music] defending Italian troops encountered by Monty's eighth Army surrendered with little or no attempt to put up a fight [Music] surprisingly the majority of the men serving in these six Italian coastal defense divisions on the island were Sicilian they had little affection for Mussolini's fascist regime and less desire to see their Homeland destroyed by the ravages of War [Music] Gomery had four divisions ashore together with most of their heavy weapons however pattern and the Americans encountered much stronger opposition [Music] on the first day of the invasion Italian and then German tanks put in an appearance but the Italians were quickly sent packing later in the day though a battle group from the Hermann guring division succeeded in overrunning an American infantry battalion the next day the 11th of July General Alfredo goodsoni the Italian commander-in-chief of all axis troops on Sicily ordered the Hermann Goering division reinforced by the Italian Livorno division to drive the enemy back into the sea what's more German and Italian aircraft based on the Italian Mainland joined in the attack and the U.S troops were soon Under Siege
Patton's men fought desperately to keep the enemy at Bay as panzers advanced to within 2 000 yards of the invasion beaches eventually American Grand and Naval artillery broke up the Axis Onslaught and to the right of the seventh U.S Army's beachhead a hastily assembled force of paratroopers and infantry stopped another German counter-attack patterned seventh Army suffered 2 300 casualties during the bloodiest 24 hours in the whole of the campaign for Sicily the Americans would suffer even more heavy losses before Dawn broke on the 12th of July aircraft and gliders carrying two thousand men were ordered by Patton to reinforce the 82nd Airborne Division and although 23 aircraft was shot down killing a further 200 U.S paratroopers the threat in the American sector had passed with the beachhead secure the Allies were Swift to introduce two new American technological developments that would end up playing a huge part in defeating Adolf Hitler the tank Landing ship or LST as it was officially known and the amphibious two and a half ton Supply truck more confusingly known as the dukw proved invaluable in operation husky needing to get men and Munitions assure at speed the Allied invasion forces no longer had to depend upon the early capture of an enemy-held Harbor something that would be crucial when it came to Operation Overlord this planned invasion of Western Europe was already Gathering momentum under the British Engineers were busy developing an even more ambitious project to make sure that Allied troops and supplies could be put in place precisely where they were needed Mulberry code name for a pre-fabricated floating Harbor capable of rising up and down with the tides off the coast of France a great deal more work was going to be needed to turn the daring concept into a reality oh even so having succeeded getting hundreds of thousands of Allied troops safely ashore in Sicily the cracks in the Allied High command were beginning to show Canadian and British troops had quickly cleared the Island's Southeast corner but as they pushed northwards towards the port of Messina to trap all of General goodsony's axis forces they met with stiff German resistance Panzer tanks reinforced by Elite paratrooper units flown in from Southern France now stood in the way the landscape also played its part two in making things more difficult because behind the panzers was the semi-active volcano Mount Etna Rising 10 000 feet above the plane of Catania [Music] throughout flanked German positions in the foothills of Mount Etna Montgomery got Alexander to shift the boundary between his eight Army and Patton's seventh Army on the 13th of July boundary shift allowed the British to advance up Highway 124 the main road into the center of Sicily before turning Northeast at enna towards Messina [Music] was Fury many American generals he detested Montgomery by redrawing the inter Army boundary in Montgomery's favor Alexander was consigning the seventh U.S army to the role of flank shield for the eighth Army Patton decided that the best way to get back at Montgomery was the capture of Palermo Sicily's Capital as well as a major port Palermo in U.S hands and his supply line
secure he could then push East towards Messina and get there before his British rival to soften Alexander up he got him to agree to a reconnaissance towards the town of aggregento by his troops on segregento fell on the 15th of July Patton persuaded Alexander to allow him to drive for Palermo brushing aside his British superiors second thoughts Blood and Guts formed a special core of three fast-moving divisions to seize Paloma the Italian troops they encountered on the way did very little to stop them [Music] Palomo fell on the 22nd of July 58 hours later the whole Western Sicily and 53 000 Italian soldiers were in seventh U.S Army's hands [Music] in Italy news of the capture of Palermo by Patton's troops was followed Days Later by the collapse of the fascist regime although he'd been dictator of Italy since 1922 Benito Mussolini had always shared power with the Italian monarch king Victor Emmanuel III and the Italian Army the king and the Army had never liked Mussolini's alliance with Hitler now it threatened to bring them all down the Allied invasion of Sicily was a warning to the anti-fascist plotters that they were running out of time final push was provided by a big U.S bombing raid on Rome on the 19th of July the target had been the main Railway marshaling yards but many bombs fell wide killing and wounding hundreds of Italian civilians the mood in the city was now very hostile to the fascist regime on the 24th of July Mussolini summoned the fascist Grand Council in Rome to head off the growing political crisis much to Mussolini's surprise his fellow fascists informed him that they'd lost confidence in him and his leadership on the following day the king dismissed him from the post of prime minister and had him arrested without a shot being fired Mussolini's fascist regime collapsed martial Pietro bedolia a former Italian Army Chief became prime minister and somewhat anxious not to antagonize the Germans he announced that the war continues at the side of our Germanic Ally Mussolini's downfall came at a critical moment in Hitler's campaign in the east 5th of July a Titanic life and death struggle between the Vermont and the Red Army had been fought in the baking heat of the Russian steps but for the first time in the campaign on the Eastern Front anglo-american military operations would play a crucial part in deciding its outcome for most of the previous five months they'd been stalemate on the Russian theater [Music] an attempt by the Red Army to exploit their stunning victory at Stalingrad had been foiled by brilliant counter-attack of German forces scraped together by Field Marshal Eric Von manstein one of Hitler's best Battlefield Commanders [Music] foreign [Music] captured by Soviet forces in February was retaken by a Waffen SS panzerkor in March but the Red Army had managed to hang on to a bulge of territory 120 miles wide and 90 miles deep between aurel in the north and bail guard in the south at its Center was the town of Kursk as warmer weather returns to the Russian front Hitler and his generals considered what to do next on their Maps they could see that the front line now ran from Leningrad in the north to rostov ondon in the south the Bulge at Kursk and the Soviet armies crammed into it seemed ripe for the plucking German Army Chief of Staff General Kurt zeitzler wanted to slice it off in a powerful pincer movement so too did two of Hitler's other key field Marshals Eric Von manstein and Hans Von klug but the fuhrer was not yet willing to commit himself after the capitulation of the last axis forces in Italy on 13th of May he now feared an anglo-american landing on Mainland Europe [Music] should the Vermont try to wipe out the Bulge at Kursk or should it wait for the Red Army to launch its main summer offensive a big preemptive strike might upset Stalin's own plans but if the anglo-americans landed in Sardinia or Greece or Sicily at the same time Hitler would have no reserves to spare for the Mediterranean theater for once the fuhrer couldn't make up his mind his inspector of Panzer troops the famous Panzer Commander General Heinz guderian was firmly against the proposal he asked Hitler is it really necessary to attack Kursk indeed in the East this year at all do you think anyone even knows where kursky is the entire world doesn't care if we capture Kursk or not the Fiora replied I know the thought of it turns my stomach codenamed operation Citadel the Kursk offensive originally planned for the 4th of May was repeatedly postponed [Music] in the meantime information passed on to the Soviet High command by British intelligence through the dummy lucy-spiring based in Switzerland and the red Army's own sources gave Stalin plenty of warning of German plans by the summer of 1943 the Vermont and the Red Army could field roughly 6 million soldiers each but Nazi Germany was losing the arms race to the Soviet Union day by day the balance of forces on the Russian front was tilting away from Hitler toward Stalin [Music] for the attack the Vermont was gathering no less than 50 divisions including 17 Panzer divisions and providing the attack with extra punch with the new tiger tanks Panther tanks and massive Ferdinand self-propelled 88 millimeter guns [Music] altogether the Germans fielded 900 000 men 3 000 tanks and nearly 2 800 aircraft earmarked for operation Citadel but the delay in starting the offensive gave the Red Army time to construct an elaborate system of minefields anti-tank ditches and anti-tank gun positions to protect the whole of the Kursk bulge up to a depth of 95 miles to prevent any Breakthrough by the enemy Stalin had committed no less than 1.3 million troops 3600 tanks 20 000 Cannon and nearly 2 800 aircraft so in addition to having lost the advantage of surprise the wehrmacht was outnumbered nevertheless on the 3rd of July with no sign of any major Allied move in the Mediterranean the fuhrer finally gave operation Citadel the go-ahead foreign [Music] troops launched probing attacks on the red Army's outer defensive perimeter next day 5th of July the main offensive began [Music] on Army group center Front the ninth Army under General Walther model forming the northern pincer of operation Citadel tanks battled to crack open the Soviet defenses on a 30-mile wide front but after four days the attack stalled in the South Fourth Panzer Army and army Detachment Kemp punched a whole 20 miles wide by the 12th of July they were on the verge of breaking through the Soviet defenses on that day the world's biggest tank battle to date occurred when two German and Soviet tank armies met to fight it out at prokorovka [Applause] [Music] [Applause] for eight hours thousands of sweating frightened men rode inside their heavily armored machines hurling steel projectiles at each other in blinding heat and choking dust their bodies by shards of molten steel or incinerated by exploding Fuel and ammunition but even as the gigantic tank battle was raging the Red Army launched an offensive against the Army group Center model's ninth Army was forced onto the defensive the next day the 13th of July Hitler reviewed citadel's progress some Grand had been gained but German casualties had been heavy 50 000 dead and wounded the anglo-american invasion of Sicily three days earlier made the fuhrer a very worried man just scraped together the reserves he needed to keep Italy in the war he ordered a halt to the Kursk offensive to the beginning of the eight for the Germans Russia from now on the initiative lay with the redder [Music] within a fortnight the Vermont was forced to abandon the Kursk battlefields and on the 5th of August 1943 Moscow celebrated the liberation of oral Land by elgarad with a huge firework display just after three weeks later the 24th of August Soviet troops recaptured Kharkov for the second and last time in the meantime Hitler was busy trying to prop up his Italian Ally IL Duce Benito Mussolini on the 19th of July Hitler flew to Italy to confer with Mussolini at a heavily guarded Villa in feltra the fuhrer talked non-stop for two hours to infuse his friend IL duche with fresh courage and resolve on the 24th Hitler's headquarters received the news of ilducha's resignation at the same time reports were coming in from Hamburg of a big air raid on the city The Raid was the first of three attacks on Hamburg in which RAF bomber command confused German radar defenses with hundreds of thousands of aluminum strips codenamed window with luftwaffe night Fighters and flak guns blinded the British dropped incendiaries onto the old center of the city setting it a light and creating a firestorm that sucked everything and everyone into its path an estimated 30 000 men women and children lost their lives half a million people were made homeless in the final days of July 1943 rumors of the destruction and death toll in Hamburg spread a wave of fear through other German cities far Untouched by Allied bombing and within the Nazi party people ask themselves for the first time would popular discontent the way the war was going caused the Hitler regime to collapse like Mussolini's in the Allied Camp General Patton was determined to get to Messina first he told one of his commanders this is a horse race in which The Prestige of the U.S army is at stake we must take
Messina before the British seventh U.S and eighth British Army found themselves pinned down in the foothills of Mount Etna and even when they succeeded in Levering out the German and Italian troops from their Hilltop positions Allied troops were held up by enemy minefields and Bridge demolitions in the first American troops entered Messina early on the 17th they found it to be deserted shortly after Patton had accepted its surrender a small British motorized column entered the port Blood and Guts had won the race but it was a hollow victory in just six days and seven nights forty thousand Germans and more than sixty thousand Italians had been evacuated Across The Straits of Messina along with most of their vehicles heavy weapons and stores with Sicily now in their hands the British and the Americans could safely direct sea convoys through the Mediterranean instead of having to send them all the way around Africa to the Suez Canal late on the 17th of August the day operation husky ended 571 Halifax and Lancaster bombers took off from bases in Lincolnshire and East Anglia to attack the top secret German experimental weapon Center at pinemunda on the Baltic in the preceding months RAF photo reconnaissance missions over pinamunda had uncovered the existence of the A4 long-range rocket and the fg76 flying bomb which Adolf Hitler hoped to use against London before the end of 1943 during the RAF attack 1600 tons of bombs and 231 tons of incendiaries were dropped destroying much of the site and killing more than 730 people including two key German scientists the British hoped that this Airaid would deal a fatal blow to the Nazi secret weapon program but as the year Drew to a close it was clear that the Germans were continuing with rocket and flying bomb trials in testing centers beyond the range of Allied bombers also on the 17th of August Churchill and Roosevelt and their military and diplomatic advisors met for the second time in three months this time on Canadian soil at Quebec the conference was codenamed quadrant on the agenda Operation Overlord Mediterranean theater the Far East and Tube Alloys the code name for the joint anglo-american project to produce an atom bomb for months the British leader had been advocating Landings on Mainland Italy because from there the Allies could strike at the Balkans or open the sea route to the Soviet Union via the Aegean if Turkey could be persuaded to abandon her neutrality Roosevelt met Churchill halfway once Allied troops were firmly established in Sicily Eisenhower was ordered to begin planning an invasion of Italy Fellini's overthrow made the project urgent but there was a time limit as many of the invasion craft provided by the Americans were due to be transferred to the Pacific however where should the Allies land Churchill was all for landing as far up the Italian Peninsula as possible starting at Rome why should we crawl up the leg like a harvest bug from the ankle upwards let us rather strike at the knee he growled Eisenhower's planners unwilling to land anywhere beyond the range of Allied Fighters settled for what they believed was a safe compromise operation Avalanche a landing of 190 000 British and American troops in the Gulf of Salerno of the west coast of Italy once safely ashore Allied troops would Advance on Naples to secure their supply lines and then move forwards to the Adriatic to trap German forces still in southern Italy [Music] Hitler informed by his intelligence agencies that the Italians wanted to defect ordered the concentration of powerful reserves outside Rome and at other key locations throughout Italy should badoglio switch sides the German command Drew up a plan codenamed axis to seize the king of Italy and the Italian government disarm all Italian troops and occupy key installations but Hitler still hesitated and in the meantime he'd not forgotten his friend Mussolini who'd been imprisoned by badaglio's government since the 25th of July SS paratroopers under the command of major Otto scorseni were given the task of finding ilducha and bringing him back to Germany on the fourth anniversary of prime minister Neville Chamberlain's declaration of war on Nazi Germany British and Canadian troops belonging to Montgomery's eighth Army crossed the Straits of Messina in an operation codenamed Baytown under the cover of a heavy artillery barrage they stormed ashore at ruggio de Calabria and encountered absolutely no resistance by Nightfall they had taken prisoner of three German stragglers and three thousand friendly Italians for the first time since April 1941 British troops were back in force on Mainland Europe but Montgomery had always doubted baytown's value in his view a landing by the eighth Army at the toe of Italy would not help the main Allied landing at Salerno when it occurred but he did what he was told however his troops delayed only by small German rear guards seemed to be in no hurry to advance northwards over two days from 5th of September American and British troops in the three divisions and the two Commando brigades taking part in the assault phase of operation Avalanche embarked from ports in North Africa and Sicily they belonged to the fifth U.S army under the command of General Mark Clark Mark Clark's Army was due to land on a 35-mile front in the Gulf of Salerno between Amalfi on the Sorrento Peninsula on the left and agropoli on the right of the town of solono roughly in the center Clark hoped to surprise the enemy so he dispensed with the usual preliminary aerial and Naval bombardment this was an unwise decision Clark was a courageous and charismatic officer but so far in this war he had not commanded troops in battle as The Invasion Fleet headed towards Salerno news of the signing of the Armistice with badoglio was broadcast on Allied radio the announcement took most Italians by surprise but it stirred the Germans into action troops under the command of field Marshal Kessel ring Hitler's Mediterranean theater Commander quickly implemented operation axis most of the forces bodoglio hopes to bring over to the Allied side were either disarmed or overwhelmed fortunately for the U.S 82nd Airborne Division its planned airdrop on Rome had been canceled at the last minute however the main Italian battle Fleet succeeded in putting to Sea from its base at laspesia while it was steaming past Sardinia to meet the Royal Navy the Battleship Roma was blown apart by a new German anti-shipping weapon the hs-293 glider bomb but the rest of the Italian Fleet arrived safely in Malta 11th of September Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham commander-in-chief of the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet signaled to the ability in London be pleased to inform their Lordships for the Italian battle Fleet Now lies at anchor under the guns of the Fortress of Malta the 12 hours before they landed in the Gulf of solono the 80 000 Allied troops taking part in the assault phase of operation Avalanche discovered to their dismay that the enemy knew they were on their way luftwaffe bombers launched sporadic attacks on The Invasion Fleet [Music] Before Dawn on the 9th of September the first waves of British and American troops boarded their landing craft as they approached their Invasion Beaches they came under Fierce enemy fire in the British sector warships supporting the landing by the 46th and 56th divisions bombarded enemy Coast defenses but in the American sector at paistam the commander of the 36 Texas division going into action for the first time obeyed Clark's order not to lay down the supporting artillery barrage on the shore as a result the Texans suffered heavy casualties [Music] Field Marshal Kessel ring had guessed correctly the location of the Allies main Landing in Italy and defeated he had deployed six divisions under General Heinrich Von vettinghoff commander of the 10th Army in Easy Striking Distance of Salerno but at first the Allied Landings went well American Rangers and British Army Commandos quickly captured the town of solono and seized that the mountain passes leading to Naples on the fifth U.S Army Corps Left Flank however the three assault divisions soon had a hard fight on their hands as they pushed further inland operation Avalanche began to show themselves the fifth U.S army beachhead was too wide for just three assault divisions and Von wittinghoff's combat veterans moved quickly to exploit the gap between the British on the left and The Americans on the right the Rangers and Commandos defending the mountain passes found themselves dangerously exposed to probing enemy attacks [Music] on the 12th of September the fighting at solono entered its most critical phase the Germans were determined to eliminate the fifth U.S Army's beachhead before
Montgomery's eighth Army had time to reinforce it from the south in the next 72 hours Fierce counter-attacks mounted by German battle groups almost succeeded in driving the Americans into the sea but the enemy was driven off by the fifth U.S Army's own artillery and The Guns of the Allied warships lying offshore Allied reinforcements were rushed to Salerno and the moment of Crisis passed on the 16th of September Montgomery's eighth Army finally linked up with Mark Clark's fifth U.S and on the same day Von vietinghoff ordered the German 10th Army to withdraw to the north the fifth U.S Army's ordeal at solono was finally over as usual the Germans fought a skillful withdrawal it was not until late on the 1st of October 1943 that units of the British seventh Armored Division entered Naples which of course was Operation avalanche's primary objective operation Avalanche was over it had cost the Allies more than 12 000 casualties including two thousand dead and 3 500 missing but Von vettinghoff's outnumbered and outgunned forces lived to fight another day the Allies had taken their first tentative steps onto the European Mainland but the struggle for the underbelly of Europe as Churchill was fond of calling Italy was only just beginning