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STOPPED IN THEIR TRACKS: THE ALLIED LANDINGS AT ANZIO

 A good example of differences between the German and the Allied way of operating are the landings at Anzio on 22 January 1944. Although there was some opposition, as at Salerno in 1943, the landings initially met little resistance, with the exception of a number of attacks by the Luftwaffe. The Allied units at the beach were, however, pinned down by the 71. Infantry Abteilung  and the Aufklärungs Abteilung of the 29. Panzer Division who were there with leave from Monte  Cassino, totalling a few hundred men. In the well-known German way, they gave the landed forces  the impression that they were confronted with a major fighting force. As a result, the little experienced Americans gave way to the almost unsuppressable reflex to dig in on the beach, bringing the offensive to an immediate standstill.  

 

By midnight there were already 36,000 soldiers and 3200 vehicles landed on the beaches at Anzio. The allied losses ammounted to thirteen dead and ninety-seven wounded soldiers. The Allies succeeded in advancing 3 km and on some places 5 km inland and conquered the harbour of Anzio, before stopping their offensive and digging in. The ultimate goal of this operation was either to lure German troops away from the southerner Winterlinie, or to use the weakness in the areas behind the German lines to advance south and attack the Germans in the back. A flank movement in the true sense of the word. What the American General Lucas did, however, was pumping more and more people and material into the small bridgehead and reinforcing his defense, that is digging foxholes. With Rome only 50 kilometers away - a reconnaissance unit had traveled to Rome shortly after the landings, had circeled the Colosseum and returned without a problem – he had been able to take Rome the same day. This missed opportunity led to protracted and pointless fighting and lenghtened of the struggle for Italy. It is a good example of the timidness of American leadership, the speed of decision making and missed opportunities, or in other words: Sitzkrieg versus Blitzkrieg.

 

The lack of any form of initiative on the Allied side under the leadership of Lucas elicited Churchill the remark that "I had hoped we were hurling a wildcat into the shore, but all we got was a stranded whale".