CASSINO TO THE ALPS. By Ernest F. Fisher, Jr. (1977, 1989; 584 pages, 27 maps, 92 illustrations, appendix, bibliographical note, glossary, index, CMH Pub 6-4.)
This volume continues the story of the Italian campaign with the Allied spring offensive in May 1944 which carried two Allied armies-the U.S. Fifth and the British Eighth-to Rome by 4 June and to the final German capitulation in May 1945. Represented in these armies were Americans, Belgians, Brazilians, British, Canadians, Cypriots, French (including mountain troops from Algeria and Morocco), Palestinian Jews, East Indians, Italians, Nepalese, New Zealanders, Poles, South Africans, Syro-Lebanese, and Yugoslavians. The Fifth Army also included the U.S. Army's only specialized mountain division, one of its two segregated all-black divisions, and a regimental combat team composed solely of Americans of Japanese descent.
The campaign involved one ponderous attack after another against fortified positions: the Winter Line, the Gustav Line (including Monte Cassino), and the Gothic Line. It called for ingenuity in employing tanks and tank destroyers over terrain that severely restricted the use of mobile forces. In addition the Allied attackers constantly had to devise new methods to supply forces fighting through dangerous mountain terrain in central Italy or those fighting in flooded lowlands along the Adriatic coast.
It was also a campaign replete with controversy, as might have been expected in a theater where the presence of many nationalities and two fairly equal partners imposed considerable strain on the process of coalition command. Among the most troublesome questions was the judgment of American commander, Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, to focus on the capture of Rome rather than conforming with the wishes of his British superior who was more concerned with trapping the retreating German forces. Other issues have proved equally controversial. Did Allied commanders conduct the pursuit north of Rome with sufficient vigor? Indeed, should the campaign have been pursued all the way to the Alps when the Allies might have halted at some readily defensible line and awaited the outcome of the decisive campaign in northwestern Europe?
Just as the campaign began on a note of covert politico-military maneuvering to achieve the surrender of the Italian forces, so it ended in intrigue and secret negotiations for a separate surrender of the Germans in Italy. Nevertheless, the 570 days which the Allies battled in Italy made it the longest sustained Allied campaign of World War II. The narrative ranges from detailed descriptions of company-level tactics up through division, corps, and army with considerable tactical detail at each level of command.
1. Grand strategy from both Allied and German points of view, including opposing command structures, and operational planning at army, corps, and division level, both Allied and German (Chs. I, II).
2. Corps operations in mountainous terrain (Chs. III, IV).
3. Planning for and breakout from a beachhead underenemy observation (Chs. VI, VII, VIII).
4. Mountain warfare, including classic stratagem for breaking through mountain defenses, the use of trained mountain infantry in a flanking maneuver, and the penetration of mountain passes (Chs. X, XXIV, XXVI).
5. Pursuit operations on a two-army front (Ch. XIII).
6. Armor in rugged terrain (Chs. XIII, XIV).
7. River crossings on a broad front (Ch. XXVIII).
8. Surrender negotiations (Ch. XXX).
9. Artillery support (see Index: "Artillery").
10. Operations in adverse conditions of weather and soil (mud, cold, rain, and floods) (see Index: "Floods; Mud; Terrain; Weather").
Return to the Table of Contents