Southern Italy: Strategic Confusion, Operational Frustration
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES
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Fifty years ago, in one of the most controversial campaigns of World War II, the Allies swept out of Sicily into southern Italy with high strategic hopes but vague operational objectives. After attaining a bitterly contested amphibious lodgement at Salerno on September 9, 1943, and the subsequent capture of Naples, the campaign turned into a succession of difficult and bloody battles that still resonate with frustration the Volturno and Rapido Rivers, San Pietro, Operation Strangle, and most anguishingly Monte Casino and Anzio. Even the final battles that broke the German Winter Line and liberated Rome on June 4, 1944, remain controversial. Military historians debate if capturing the retreating Germans--not Rome--should have been the overriding Allied objective of this concluding phase of the campaign. During the campaign for southern Italy, Allied land, sea, and air forces fought as members of a joint and combined command, under first General Dwight Eisenhower and then General Sir Harold Alexander. In retrospect these leaders prosecuted the campaign based on what we today refer to as the foundations of the joint operational art air and maritime superiority, forcible entry, transportation, direct attack of enemy strategic centers of gravity, and sustained action on land. Eisenhower and Alexander also relied on what Joint Pub 1 calls leverage among forces for the joint combat power that ultimately yielded a hard-fought victory. This analysis examines the southern Italian campaign in terms of current doctrine to reveal how its lessons influenced the development of military operations.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics