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Archive for September 9th, 2008

Sicily had been secured by the Allies in August of 1943.  Thanks to some bold decisions by American commanders, the Germans had realized pretty quickly that holding the island off the boot of Italy just wasn’t practical…or safe.  So, once General Patton had swung his tanks northwest and overrun Palermo, Axis troops headed toward Messina and a “vacation” on the Italian coast.  Had Montgomery’s forces been able to move north and east more quickly, a goodly number of the enemy may have been trapped.  But such as it was…

The next logical target was Italy and, on September 9, 1943, Allied forces landed at Salerno (just south of Naples) and at Taranto (inside the heel of Italy’s boot).  The landings overall were helped somewhat by the announcement the previous day that the Italians were quitting the War, thereby breaking the long-standing Pact of Steel.  The landings at Taranto were further helped by the fact that the Germans simply weren’t there in very large numbers.

Forces landing directly at Salerno and to the west of the city also faired well, meeting little resistance and capturing their objectives rather quickly.

The beaches to the south and east of Salerno, on the other hand, proved a significant challenge.  General Mark Clark, in overall command of the invasion, had decided to try and surprise the enemy.  So the landings in the early morning were made without any naval or aerial bombardment.  Unfortunately, the enemy wasn’t the least bit surprised, and when British and American troops started coming ashore, the Germans were waiting for them.

Stiff German counterattacks inflicted heavy casualties but, fortunately, General Clark didn’t hold back the big guns once the enemy rounds started falling.  Naval gunfire and bombs were able to stave off the German Panzers and, by day’s end, the Allies had a beachhead…a tenuous beachhead to be sure, but the Allies were in Italy to stay.

Recommended Reading: The Day of Battle

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