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Memorandum for the President
January 28, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
Subject: Operations in Italy.
I thought you would be interested in the following estimate of the situation that is developing in the operations in Italy:1
The enemy along the original front of the Eighth and Fifth Armies has continued to resist our advances with violent counterattacks. This is normal German procedure.
General Kesselring has utilized the following procedure in opposing our landing forces: instead of withdrawing divisions from the Fifth and Eighth Army fronts he has “milked” practically every division of a few organizations, usually those that were in reserve. Infantry regiments, artillery battalions, engineer battalions and companies, anti-tank units, division staffs, corps artillery, etc., are in process of movement or have arrived to face our troops south of Rome. By this procedure he has been able to carry out the movements more rapidly and at the same time has not ripped up the defensive deployment of the divisions on the Eighth and Fifth Army fronts.2
He has provided more divisional and corps headquarters than would seem normal but apparently this has been done to meet the inevitable difficulties of handling a hurriedly concentrated collection of separate units.
The enemy is apparently engaged in two purposes, an immediate resistance to further penetrations by our troops approaching the Appian Way and the highway to the north, while at the same time he is gathering a counteroffensive group to the east of Rome.
The enemy is apparently determined to hold the front of the right Corps facing the Fifth Army but there are evidences of his willingness to give ground in the center Corps and the Corps facing the British Eighth Army.
Only one enemy unit facing the Anzio beachhead has been identified as coming from the north.
At the present time the enemy has built up a force approximating about 21/2 divisions. We have ashore a larger force but of a much more homogeneous nature.
We have gotten ahead of schedule in supplies for the landing forces and are increasing these from the previously planned eight-day reserve supplies to fourteen days, which places us in a more secure position while the Fifth Army is endeavoring to crash through and form a junction.
The weather the past two days has been unfavorable but we are now given a promise of favorable weather. Yesterday was a good day and today and tomorrow should also be fair with only occasional rains. Incidentally, the advance forecasts have been remarkably accurate. I attach the most recent. The pencil figures indicate the degree of overcast represented by the color.3
Note: The basis for the data regarding the German method for building up resistance against the Anzio beachhead is of an ultra-secret nature and therefore has to be handled very carefully.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. The Sixth Corps, commanded by Major General John P. Lucas and consisting of American and British troops, had landed at Anzio, Italy (Operation SHINGLE), on January 22, catching the Germans by surprise and consequently meeting little opposition during the assault phase. The corps’ mission once ashore, however, was vague as to whether it should take the offensive by immediately striking out of the beachhead for the Alban Hills—fifteen miles south of Rome and the last good defensive position available to the Germans if they elected to defend the city—or maintain a defensive posture and content itself with drawing off German reserves from Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark’s Fifth Army front sixty miles to the south on the Garigliano-Rapido river line. Lucas did not attempt to assault the hastily established German lines opposite his position until January 29-30. By this time the Germans were able to contain the Sixth Corps’ advance, and on February 16 they launched their own offensive against the Anzio beachhead. (Martin Blumenson, “General Lucas at Anzio,” in Command Decisions, ed. Kent Roberts Greenfield [Washington: GPO, 1960], pp. 323-50.
Clark’s offensive over the Garigliano-Rapido river line met with mixed success. The British Tenth Corps managed to get over the Garigliano River and the French Expeditionary Corps made progress against German positions around Cassino, but the U.S. Second Corps proved unable to get across the Rapido River and maintain itself on the far side. The U.S. Thirty-sixth Infantry Division suffered particularly heavy casualties attempting to cross the Rapido River on January 20 and 21, 1944. For a detailed discussion of the operations at Anzio and the main front at the Garigliano-Rapido river line, see Martin Blumenson, Salerno to Cassino, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1969], pp. 293-396, 419-32. Clark gives his account in Mark W. Clark, Calculated Risk (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950), pp. 262-310.
2. Field Marshal Albert Kesselring had commanded Luftflotte 2 (Second Air Fleet) during the summer of 1940, and in 1941 he had been at the Russian front. In December 1941 he was appointed Axis commander in chief in the Mediterranean, and he took part in the campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Kesselring’s reaction to the Allied landing at Anzio is discussed in Blumenson, Salerno to Cassino, pp. 360-65, 392-93. The field marshal gives his account in Albert Kesselring, Kesselring: A Soldier’s Record, trans. Lynton Hudson (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1954), pp. 230-36.
3. The attachment is not in the Marshall papers. For more information on the Italian operations, see Marshall to Devers, February 18, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-263 [4: 311-12].
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 254-256.