Operation Shingle

Operation Shingle (January 22, 1944), during the Italian Campaign of World War II, was an Allied amphibious landing against Axis forces in the area of Anzio and Nettuno, Italy. The operation was commanded by Major General John P. Lucas and was intended to outflank German forces of the Winter Line and enable an attack on Rome. The resulting combat is commonly called the Battle of Anzio.



At the end of 1943, following the Allied invasion of Italy Allied forces were bogged down at the Winter Line, a defensive line across Italy south of the psychologically important objective of Rome. The terrain of central Italy had proved ideally suited to defence, and Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring had proved more than able in exploiting it. A number of Allied proposals were made to break the stalemate, but Winston Churchill's idea for "Operation Shingle" was accepted by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin. A major attack in the South by U.S. Fifth Army and the British Eighth Army would draw Germany's depleted forces away from the areas around Rome, and from the hills between Rome and the coast. This would make possible a surprise landing by the U.S. VI Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. Lucas in the Anzio/Nettuno area, and a rapid advance into the Alban Hills to cut German communications and "threaten the rear of the German XIV Corps".

The Plan

Planners argued that if Kesselring (in charge of German forces in Italy) pulled troops out of the Gustav Line to defend against the Allied assault, then Allied forces would be able to break through the line; the planners felt that if Kesselring did not pull troops out of the Gustav Line, then Operation Shingle would threaten to capture Rome and cut off the German units defending the Gustav Line. Should Germany have adequate reinforcements available to defend both Rome and the Gustav Line, the Allies felt that the operation would be a success in engaging forces which could otherwise be committed on another front. The operation was disbanded on December 18, 1943, however, it was later reselected and executed.

Lucas did not have full confidence in his superiors or the operational plan. A few days prior to the attack, he wrote in his diary, "Unless we can get what we want, the operation becomes such a desperate undertaking that it should not, in my opinion, be attempted." and "[The operation] had a strong odor of Gallipoli and apparently the same amateur was still on the coach's bench." The 'amateur' can only have referred to Winston Churchill, architect of the Gallipoli landings and personal advocate of Shingle.

Availability of Naval forces

One of the problems with the plan was the availability of landing ships. The American commanders in particular were determined that nothing should delay the Normandy invasion and the supporting landings in southern France (Operation Dragoon). Operation Shingle would require the use of landing ships necessary for these operations. Initially Shingle was to release these assets by January 15. However, this being deemed problematic, President Roosevelt granted permission for the craft to remain until February 5.

Only enough Tank Landing Ships (LSTs) to land a single division were initially available to Shingle. Later, at Churchill's personal insistence, enough were made available to land two divisions. Allied intelligence thought that five or six German divisions were in the area.

Allied Force Composition

Allied forces in this attack consisted of 5 cruisers, 24 destroyers, 238 landing craft, 62+ other ships, 40,000 soldiers, and 5,000+ vehicles.

The attack consisted of three groups:

British Force

This force attacked the coast 10 km north of Anzio.

Northwestern US Force

This force attacked the port of Anzio. There had been plans to use the 504th Parachute Infantry Battalion in an airborne attack north of Anzio, however these plans were scrapped.

Southwestern US Force

This force attacked the coast 6 km east of Anzio.

The Southern Attack

The Fifth Army's attack on the Gustav Line began on 16 January 1944 at Monte Cassino. Although the operation failed to capture its target, it did succeed in part in its primary objective. General Heinrich von Vietinghoff, commanding the Gustav Line, called for reinforcements, and Kesselring transferred the 29th and 90th Panzergrenadier Divisions from Rome. For more details of this actions see Gustav Line.

Initial Landings

The landings began on January 22 1944.

Although resistance had been expected, as seen at Salerno during 1943, the initial landings were essentially unopposed, with the exception of Luftwaffe strafing runs.

By midnight, 36,000 soldiers and 3,200 vehicles had landed on the beaches. 13 Allied troops were killed, and 97 wounded; about 200 Germans had been taken as POWs. The 1st Division penetrated 3 km inland, the Rangers captured Anzio's port, the 509th PIB captured Nettuno, and the 3rd Division penetrated 5 km inland.

After the landings

It is clear that Lucas's superiors expected some kind of offensive action from him, possibly even an assault on Rome. The point of the invasion was to either divert German strength from the Winter Line, or take advantage of German weakness in the rear areas. However what Lucas actually did was to pour more men and material into his tiny bridgehead, and to strengthen the defences.

Winston Churchill was uncontestably displeased with this action. "I had hoped we were hurling a wildcat into the shore, but all we got was a stranded whale." he said.

Lucas decision remains a controversial one. John Keegan considers that "Had Lucas risked rushing at Rome the first day, his spearheads would probably have arrived, though they would have soon been crushed. Nevertheless he might have 'staked out claims well inland'". We have already seen that Lucas did not have confidence in the strategic planning of the operation. Also his order from Clark told him to "land, secure the beachhead and advance". With two divisions landed, and facing two or three times that many Germans, it would not have been unreasonable for Lucas to consider the beachhead insecure. Again according to Keegan, Lucas's actions "achieved the worst of both worlds, exposing his forces to risk without imposing any on the enemy". Lucas was relieved of his command on 23rd February, to be replaced by General Lucian Truscott.

Kesselring's Response

Kesselring was informed of the landings at 03:00, on the 22nd. At 05:00 he ordered the 4th Fallschirmjäger and replacement units of the Hermann Göring Division to defend the roads leading from Anzio to the Alban Hills. In addition he requested that OKW send reinforcements from France, Yugoslavia, and Germany. Later that morning he would order Generaloberst Eberhard von Mackensen (14th Armee) and Gen. von Vietinghoff (10th Armee - Gustav Line) to send him additional reinforcements.

The German units in the immediate vicinity had in fact been dispatched to reinforce the Gustav Line only a few days earlier. All available reserves from the southern front or on their way to it were rushed toward Anzio; these included the 3rd Panzer Grenadier and 71st Infantry Divisions, and the bulk of the Hermann Goering Panzer Division. Kesselring initially considered that a successful defense could not be made if the Allies launched a major attack on the 23rd or 24th. However by the end of the 22nd the lack of aggressive action convinced him that a defense could be made.

Fourteenth Army, commanded by Gen. von Mackensen, assumed control of the defense on 25 January. Elements of eight German divisions were employed in the defense line around the beachhead, and five more divisions were on their way to the Anzio area. Kesselring ordered an attack on the beachhead for 28 January, though it was postponed to 1 February.

Lucas initiated a 2-pronged attack on 30 January. While one force cut Highway 7 at Cisterna before moving east into the Alban Hills, a second was to advance northeast up the Albano Road.

Battles of Operation Shingle

See also

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