The Italian Campaign

Lucius

Forum Staff
Jan 2007
16,363
Nebraska
#1
As I recall, these "what if?" type questions are supposed to be posed in the Lounge, so here goes -

What do we think? Were the Allies in WWII wise to conduct the Italian Campaign as it did indeed happen? Put on your Field Marshal's cap and grab your baton. How would you have proceeded from Tunisia?
 
Jul 2006
613
Virginia
#2
Well, the threat posed by moving up the Italian peninsula tied down German divisions there. The Allies could spare troops to open up these secondary fronts. When you look at how things progressed later in the war in France and Russia, those German troops probably would've served Germany better bolstering defenses in those places. So pinning the Germans in Italy definitely helped, even if just a little bit on the other fronts.

However, I do feel the war in Italy might have been pursued a little too aggressively. A peninsula is easily defensible and also nullifies numerical advantages to an extent and driving the Germans up the peninsula only served to drive them back on their supply lines, shortening them. The Allies sustained heavy casualties slogging through the mountains and overall, was Rome really that important an objective? And Anzio was a great plan, but was executed horribly.

If I had been in the Allied commanders' boots, I would've pursued limited offensives and objectives. Keep the pressure on the Germans so that enough of a threat exists there that they'll keep divisions pinned there to deal with it. Then perhaps intensify the threat in conjunction with the Normandy invasions by pursuing a larger offensive seriously threatening the stability of the front. With any luck, the Germans will be forced to divert at least some of the forces destined for France to Italy to deal with my drives.
 

Lucius

Forum Staff
Jan 2007
16,363
Nebraska
#3
I guess I should have done some checking before I brought this up. Me and my big mouth. Apparently, it's complicated. By May of '43, the Allies in Bizerte were feeling like the pool player who has run the table but left the 8 ball waaaay down at the other end, since the plan was to land in north-west Europe and head east.

Since war is politics by other means, there is something to be said for the idea that the Allies should have next undertaken operations to drive the German invaders out of Greece and points north and to make sure the right sort of partisans came out on top (indeed, two British and one Commonwealth divisions were sent to Greece from Italy before the end to help out in the civil war there).

But the cousins were more seized of the idea of fighting just one war at a time, especially since the Japanese were still in business, and no one knew if that a-bomb thing would really work. But fighting just one war at a time implies fighting at least one war at a time. And since D-Day was a long way off, there was also a lot to be said for starting where you're at and attacking that German ally right in front of you.

Indeed, occupation of Sicily would seem to be called for if the Allies intended to do anything at all in the Mediterranean area. Also sticking out like a sore thumb was the vast complex of air fields around Foggia. So, yes, I think I would have done the same as really happened up to the gaining of the Volturno - Biferno line in October '43.

After that, I agree with Komrade, not so much in Italy. Yes, this would be dangerous, That line is very close to Foggia and to Naples. A powerful German counter-attack would have to be expected. They would see at once what I was doing. The advantage to remaining so far south is that this causes a greater percentage of the German forces in Italy to be stationed further north, since they also have to defend those parts. Whether the Germans are in the combat zone or touring the galleries of Florence, they're not fighting the Russians or manning the Westwall.

I would have had to have given consideration to the idea of landing at Split and setting up a perimeter large enough to attract the Germans, since it wouldn't matter where they were being drawn to as long as they were being drawn away from France and Russia. This would also have relieved some of the pressure on the partisans, allowing them to operate more freely, perhaps drawing away even more German forces on their own. I'd let the Brits be in charge of that though. They understand about how to talk to the vanguard of the proletariat. In any case, it'd be too good a chance to pass up. The Germans always had more guys in the Balkans than in Italy.

After Operation Dragoon went in, it'd be all over. Both sides would have bigger fish to fry and once the port of Marseilles was opened for operation just pour everyone through. The Germans could have Naples back then if they still wanted it. Sicily too.
 
Jul 2006
201
Bristol, England
#4
Most of my knowledge comes from montys memoirs for the Italian campaign. Apparently the allied high command didnt have any grand plan for pursuing the war against the germans/italians after north africa. A lot of time was wasted before and after each offensive (Tunisia/Sicily) about what their next target would be. My idea for an offensive on Italy would have been to land a small force onto Sicily first. This would have the role of tying down the German/Italian defenders but if it was only a small force they may of tried to hold on longer before starting to retreat across the strait of messina. 2 or 3 days after the initial landing 2 more forces would land, one on the other side of Sicily and the second on the 'toe' of Italy herself. This would of (hopefully) denied the Germans and Italians access to any kind of retreat and the whole german/italian garrisons would of been cut off and killed or captured. If I remember correctly there were a fair few tigers and a portion of the Herman Goering Armored Parachute Division stationed on Sicily and these were probably the best troops in the Italian Theatre. With these gone, the lines would have to be held with less and possibly under-trained troops who would be much less combat effective. This would also badly effect German morale and could also have provided the Italian defection but under more favorable circumstances (i.e they manage to capture the objectives in the plan, which they failed to do). This may seem like an ambitious plan but with the superiority in the air, the ships could easily be covered and any attempts at retreat beaten down and stopped on the sea.
 

Lucius

Forum Staff
Jan 2007
16,363
Nebraska
#5
gashead,

Good point. In the real event, withdrawing from Sicily with all their equipment was quite a coup (under the circumstances) for the Germans.
 

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