Battle of Anzio Facts
Anzio ’44 – Forgotten D-Day in Italy
- Anzio ’44 – Forgotten D-Day in Italy
- Battle of Anzio Background
- Battle of Anzio Commanders
- Anzio Order of Battle
- Battle of Anzio Casualties
- Battle of Anzio Map (Pre-Breakout)
- Battle of Anzio Map (Post-Breakout)
- Battle of Anzio Video
- Battle Of Anzio Summary
- Battle of Anzio Conclusions
- Battle of Anzio Memorial
- Anzio Beachead Video
- Battle of Anzio References
After the Allies invaded Italy in 1943, they stopped at the Gustav Line at Cassino. Once they realized that they wouldn’t be able to penetrate it, the commander of the Allied forces in Italy began thinking about alternatives and what he could do. Winston Churchill suggested they launch an operation that would move troops behind the Gustav Line at Anzio, resulting in what we know today as the Battle of Anzio. The battle would be fought after the Allies conducted an amphibious landing in the area of Anzio known as Operation Shingle. The battle occurred between January 22nd, 1944 and June 5th, 1944.
Battle of Anzio Background
While the U.S. military initially ignored the suggestion, it was later adopted after Churchill talked to President Roosevelt. The US Fifth Army planned to attack the Gustav Line and draw the opposing forces south while the VI Crops land at Anzio. A big problem with the plan soon emerged; the orders given to the commander of what would become the battle of Anzio didn’t reflect the absolute urgency of the attack. His orders were to plan the attack flexibly; this was probably because General Mark Clark didn’t have much faith in the operation; he thought that for an operation like this to be successful more forces were required, at least an entire army. The commander heading the process, Major General John P. Lucas, shared the same view as he thought that he was being sent into battle without enough force.
Battle of Anzio Commanders
- John P. Lucas (US)
- Harold Alexander (UK)
- Mark W. Clark (US)
- Lucian Truscott (US)
- Albert Kesselring
- Eberhard von Mackensen
Anzio Order of Battle
- Initially: 36,000 soldiers and 2,300 vehicles
- Breakout: 150,000 soldiers and 1,500 guns
- Initially: 20,000 German soldiers + five Italian battalions (4,600 soldiers)
- Breakout: 135,000 German soldiers + two Italian battalions
Battle of Anzio Casualties
- 43,000 casualties
- (7,000 killed, 36,000 wounded or missing)
- 40,000 casualties
- (5,000 killed, 30,500 wounded or missing, 4,500 prisoners)
Battle of Anzio Map (Pre-Breakout)
Battle of Anzio Map (Post-Breakout)
Battle of Anzio Video
Battle Of Anzio Summary
Despite the reservations of the senior commanders of the operation, it was launched on January 22, 1944, with the British 1st Infantry landing on the north, the 3rd US Infantry on the south, and the 6615th Ranger Force attacking the port. When they first landed, the Allies didn’t find much resistance, allowing them to secure a significant beachhead (about 3 miles deep). Still, instead of moving quickly to attack the Germans, Lucas waited to want to first secure the perimeter to the annoyance of Alexander and Churchill.
While most people believe that Lucas should have tried to gain more ground and attack further inland, his caution wasn’t without merit; he did far a superior force. They took immediate action when the Germans got wind of the Allied landings. They first sent a mobile reaction unit and then an additional six divisions. On January 24, Lucas had a force of 40,000 men, and the battle of Anzio would soon begin.
On January 30th, the Allied forces launched the first attacks since the landings; the British attacked the Via Anziate heading to Campoleone while the American forces attacked Cisterna. The Americans at Cisterna were repelled, and the Rangers were left with heavy losses, but the British gained some ground at Via Anziate but ultimately couldn’t take the town.
By February, the German forces outnumbered the Allies and attacked their lines with the first goal of driving them out of Via Anziate. After a few days of heavy fighting, they pushed the British out of the ground they had gained, and by February 16th, the Germans attacked again and pushed the Allied forces back to their beachhead.
After a change of command, offensive operations were suspended until spring, and during that time, a new defensive line was created between the beachhead and Rome. In May, a new offensive was prepared, and its first move was to trap the German Tenth Army, and the second would be to advance through Albano to Rome. After a few successful battles, which resulted in the fast advance of the Allied forces, they were given orders to divert their attack to Rome and march on Valmontone with a weaker force.
The Germans were quick to exploit the sudden slowdown in the Allied advance, and because of this, the Allies couldn’t attack Rome until May 29. When they arrived at the front lines of Rome, the Allies exploited a weakness in the German defenses and soon marched into the city, and this was the end of the battle of Anzio.
Battle of Anzio Conclusions
At the end of the bate, the Allies lost around 7,000 soldiers, and an additional 36,000 were wounded or missing. The Germans had around 5,000 dead, some 30,500 wounded or missing, and 4,500 were captured. Even though the campaign was successful years later, it was criticized for its poor organization and execution. While Lucas should have been more aggressive in the execution of the plan, his force was small, especially when one considered the task he was given to perform. Many people also blame Clark for his change of strategy during Operation Diadem, which led to the escape of the German Tenth Army; because of this escape, the Tenth Army continued to fight in battles for the rest of the year. Despite being heavily criticized, Churchill always defended the battle of Anzio, with the reasoning that even though the operation failed, it achieved tactical goals, and it successfully held the German forces in Italy from reaching Normandy.
Battle of Anzio Memorial
The battle is commemorated by the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial, located near the town of Nettuno, close to the site of the Anzio beachhead. The Anzio War Cemetery contains the graves of over 7,800 American soldiers who died in the campaign.
Anzio Beachead Video
Battle of Anzio References
- “A German defense Area on the Anzio Front”. Intelligence Bulletin (U.S. Military Intelligence Service) 2 (11). July 1944. Last accessed April 10th, 2013
- Kappes, Irwin J. (2003). “Anzio — The Allies’ Greatest Blunder of World War II”. militaryhistoryonline.com website. Last accessed April 10th, 2013.
- Anzio Beach head – contemporary film footage, last accessed April 9th, 2013.
- The Battle for Anzio – Woodruff, William, last accessed April 10th, 2013.