Anzio landing

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In the early hours of 22 January 1944 a convoy of 374 ships disembarked the 1st British Division on the coast running from Tor Caldara to Tor San Lorenzo just north of Anzio, while the 3rd American Division landed on the beaches between Nettuno and Torre Astura, named Peter Beach and X Ray Beach by the Allied forces.


This was the beginning of operation "Shingle" which had been so strenuously promoted by Winston Churchill and approved at the Marrakesch conference on 7-8 January. The two divisions were reinforced by units of the Engineer Corps and an assault group of Rangers who were the first soldiers to establish a beach head, occupying the port, whilst two warships offshore brought concentrated fire to bear on the beaches where the landing was to take place.

It was a clear rather chilly night, as is often the case along the Tyrrhenian coast in January and, at dawn with the sun warming both body and spirit, optimistic sailors call this period “spring at sea”. A few days later it was unfortunate that torrential rains set in, flooding La Moletta causing troops no end of discomfort and creating enormous difficulties in carrying the operation through. Today much is still being written and debate
continues as to why the invading forces landing at Anzio did not press on to occupy Rome without delay, as there were practically no German combat troops in the area, though a German armoured division had been in the Anzio area up till only 48 hours before the landing, being then transferred to Cassino. Official documents on this subject have obtained general consensus regarding the fact that orders, albeit vague, given to Gen. John P. Lucas, commander of the VI Corp. which disembarked at Anzio (part of the V Army led by Gen. Mark Clark, whilst all allied troops in Italy were commanded by Gen. Alexander), were firstly to “set up and consolidate a beach head near Anzio” and secondly, in accordance with Alexander’s operative orders, to “cut the main lines of communication (occupation of the Alban Hills) and threaten the XIV German Army Corp at Cassino from the rear. Why was it that this strategic objective was only reached at the end of May, given that only a few piecemeal units of convalescent or leave taking German soldiers were sent out to oppose the beach head, leaving the few remaining aircraft the job of attacking allied ships anchored off the coast or in the harbour? Certain facts demonstrate the rapidity and efficiency with which the German Command was able to organize its defence. As a diversion but perhaps also in the hope of outflanking the Gustav line centred on Montecassino, the Allies attempted to cross the Rapido river before the Anzio landing, but the 36th American Division was forced to withdraw with grave losses (20 January); three battalions of Rangers entered Cisterna by night but, notwithstanding the outstanding valour of these special troops; very few found their way back to the rear (29-30 January); forces of the 1st British Division reached Campoleone but the Sherwood Foresters battalion was sacrificed to no avail (31 January-4 February). Lastly, after reoccupying Aprilia on 9 February, the Allied Forces ran the serious risk of being thrown back into the sea or being destroyed on the beach head (16-19 February), were it not for the support received from the battleships off Tor San Lorenzo in bombarding the Germans incessantly day and night, with the aviation backing these bombardments up with incursions when weather conditions permitted flight operations.

This means that the divisions landed at Anzio were clearly insufficient to fulfil the objectives contained in orders, let alone take Rome, infact, the Gustav line did not budge a single inch. Heavy reinforcements were brought up with great urgency, bringing the total allied force deployed up to 3 US and 3 British Divisions during January and April, together with other special forces such as the First US/Canadian Special Force which held the front line alone along the Mussolini Canal. Due to this particularly difficult situation almost the entire population of Anzio and Nettuno, Ardea and the Pontine plain were embarked on allied vessels at Anzio to be shipped to Naples for transfer to safer regions in Southern Italy, with their children, the few most cherished belongings allowed, and above all, a terrible, desperate misery. Saldy, there were also civilian victims but not so many as would have been expected given the narrow beach head where soldiers and the civilian population were forced to live side by side, easy targets for both enemy artillery and occasional air raids.
The historical picture of the landing at Anzio is completed by the occupation of Cisterna (25 May), the reoccupation of Aprilia (28 May), the occupation of Velletri (1 June) and finally on 4 June Gen. Mark Clark’s entry into Rome flanked by Gen. Lucian Truscott who succeeded
to Lucas.

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Anzio BeachHead Museum
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Gold Med. Civil Contribution town of Anzio


On 25 April 2004 during a solemn ceremony at the Quirinale Palace Banner of the City of Anzio was awarded the Gold Medal of Civil Merit.

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