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Russian History: XX century

Russian History: XIX сentury

The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II

As the Allies advanced up the mountainous spine of Italy, they confronted a series of heavily fortified German defensive positions, anchored on rivers or commanding terrain features. The brilliant delaying tactics of the German commander in Italy, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, exacted a high price for every Allied gain. The campaign in Italy became an endless siege, fought in rugged terrain, in often appalling conditions, and with limited resources.
Moving north from Naples, the Allies forced a crossing of the Volturno River in October 1943 and advanced to the Winter Line, a main German defensive position anchored on mountains around Cassino. Repeated attempts over the next six months to break or outflank it failed. An amphibious end run, landing the U.S. VI Corps under Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas at Anzio in January 1944, failed to turn the German flank, for Lucas waited too long to build up his reserves before moving aggressively against the German defenses. Kesselring had time to call in reinforcements, including artillery, which soon brought every inch of Allied-held ground under fire. As the defenders dug in, the end run turned into another siege, as American and British troops repulsed repeated counterattacks.
Meanwhile, an American attempt to cross the Rapido River, timed to coincide with the Anzio landing, miscarried with heavy casualties. Allied efforts to blast a way through the enemy's mountain defenses proved futile, despite the use of medium and heavy bombers to support ground attacks around Cassino. Finally, in May 1944, a series of coordinated attacks by the Fifth Army and Eighth Army pried the Germans loose, and they began to fall back. On 4 June 1944, two days before the Normandy invasion, Allied troops entered Rome.
The Normandy invasion made Italy a secondary theater, and Allied strength there gradually decreased. Nevertheless, the fighting continued. The Allies attacked a new German defensive line in the Northern Appenines in August but were unable to make appreciable headway through the mountains. Not until spring of 1945 did they penetrate the final German defenses and enter the Po valley. German forces in Italy surrendered on 2 May 1945.
The Cross-Channel Attack
Preparations for an attack on German-occupied France continued as did the campaigns in the Mediterranean. The defeat of the German U-boat threat, critical to the successful transport of men and materiel across the Atlantic, had been largely accomplished by the second half of 1943. The success of the war against the U-boats was immeasurably aided by secret intelligence, code-named ULTRA, garnered by Anglo-American breaking of German radio communications codes. Such information also proved valuable to the commanders of the ground campaign in Italy and France.
By early 1944 an Allied strategic bombing campaign so reduced German strength in fighters and trained pilots that the Allies effectively established complete air superiority over western Europe. Allied bombers now turned to systematic disruption of the transportation system in France in order to impede the enemy's ability to respond to the invasion. At the same time, American and British leaders orchestrated a tremendous buildup in the British Isles, transporting 1.6 million men and their equipment to England and providing them with shelter and training facilities.
Detailed planning for the cross-Channel assault had begun in 1943 when the American and British Combined Chiefs of Staff appointed a British officer, Lt. Gen. Frederick E. Morgan, as Chief of Staff to the as yet unnamed Supreme Allied Commander. When General Eisenhower arrived in January 1944 to set up Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), Morgan's work served as the basis for the final plan of assault. The Allies would land in Normandy and seize the port of Cherbourg. They would establish an expanded lodgment area extending as far east as the Seine River. Having built up reserves there, they would then advance into Germany on a broad front. Ground commander for the invasion would be General Montgomery. The British Second Army would land on the left, while the American First Army, under Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, landed on the right. Intensive exercises and rehearsals occupied the last months before the invasion. An elaborate deception plan convinced the Germans that the Normandy landings were a feint, and that larger, more important landings would take place farther east, around the Pas de Calais. Here the Germans held most of their reserves, keeping their armored formations near Paris.
Developments on the Eastern Front also aided the success of the invasion. In early 1943 the Russians destroyed a German army at Stalingrad. The Germans tried to regain the initiative in the summer of 1943, attacking a Soviet-held salient near the Russian city of Kursk. In the largest tank battle known to history, they suffered a resounding defeat. Henceforth, they remained on the defensive, in constant retreat, while the Soviets advanced westward, retaking major portions of the Ukraine and White Russia during the fall and winter and launching an offensive around Leningrad in January 1944. By March 1944 Soviet forces had reentered Polish territory, and a Soviet summer offensive had prevented the Germans from transferring troops to France.

"Sherman Tanks Passing Stream of German Prisoners" by Ogden Pleissner. After seven weeks of slow, costly advances against determined German defenders in the hedgerows, Army armored formations seized the initiative at St. Lo and made rapid advances against a demoralized enemy. (Army Art Collection)

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