The Americans decided the next thing to do, since the Americans had control of Africa, was an invasion of Italy. The only way to do this was through Sicily. There was only one way to find out if it would work; try it out.
Sicily lies southwest of Italy between North Africa and Italy. Sicily had some land barriers such as the volcano Etna, and the Nebrodici and Madonie mountains. Palermo was the capital of Sicily and a major port. Plus, Sicily was a key point into and out of the Mediterranean.
The defenses on the island were great. About 405,000 men, 9 Italian and 4 German divisions, were smothering the island. These men were under Field Marshal Albert Kesselring... On the island, it would resemble a Japanese fortrified island. Pillboxes, mazes of barbed wire, and many obstacles(some land, some built), posed the greatest threat for the Allied armies.
Over 3,000 American ships, 160,000 troops, 14,000 vehicles, 600 tanks, and 1,800 giant guns were ready to be used. The attack was with the U.S. Seventh Army and the British Eighth Army. The air was taken care of. American and British airplanes would provide the air cover. The British would be doing most of the Naval cover. The attack was coming.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower and General Sir Harold Alexander were head of all the troops. They were ordered to make it a smooth operation and to coordinate the men into a swift hard blow against the Axis. If the attack would come, the island of Pantelleria(44 miles from Africa, 60 miles from Sicily) would have to be taken. This was a heavily fortified island with a strategic air base. Although heavily defended, Eisenhower decided to go for it expecting little losses.
Operation Husky was underway. During early June of 1943, Allied planes dropped 5,000 tons onto the small island. The land invasion came on June 11, 1943. There was no resistance at all, and the Italians surrendered. Over 11,000 prisoners were taken. Soon the Lampedusa and Linosa island were taken by the Allies. Now a Sicilian invasion could be waged.
Allied air power was directed at Sicily and Sardinia, and talk was to take Greece. This was only to trick the Axis in believing the wrong plan. The attack was ready, then bad weather hit. The Italians thought, there isn't any way that the Allies would attack in this bad of conditions. Boy were they wrong.
The Americans landed their crafts on the beaches and deployed their payload of troops. The parachutists that landed the night before killed communications and tried to take some valuable airfields. The resistance was on the western end of the island, but the invasion was on the southern and eastern coasts. It was a perfect surprise.
The Italians were sick of war. They dropped their guns and many surrendered. The Allies also had to fight the Germans, who were overlooking their positions from Mount Etna. Malaria was also a big threat for both sides.
The British army took Syracuse. The British then stopped on Catanian plain on July 27, 1943 to stop to rest and await help. On July 31, 1943, help arrived. American and British forces met up and planned to deliver the blow. The Germans had left Mt. Etna in a frantic retreat. Bridges, roads, and other desperate Allied means of transportation were destroyed by the retreating Germans. The Allies worked frantically to get these repaired.
On August 17, 1943, the Battle for Sicily was over. The Italians and Germans lost 162,000 men combined. The Allies lost 31,158 men. The remaining Germans retreated across the Strait of Messina with 60,000 of their men. The Battle for Sicily was a success.
People were getting sick of Mussolini. The Italians blamed him for their failures, their devestated economy, and their dead comrades. Mussolini was still bent on getting his new Roman Empire, but in reality all was lost. Air power was crippling Italy, riots broke out, and food was scarce.
Mussolini and Hitler were no longer smiling. They were on the verge of cracking. Mussolini asked for help, but Hitler couldn't give it to him because of his fight in Russia. Rome was being bombed.
On July 25, 1943, Victor Emmanuel III was called on by the Duce. On this occasion, Mussolini learned he was not liked anymore and that many wanted him dead. The King said his soldiers did not want to fight and his country was dying.
Mussolini was later arrested and taken to Ponza Island. The King claimed control of Italy and the army and told the nation that Marshal Badoglia would make the new cabinet. The Italians reaction? Pure Joy. They came out, ripped down Fascist symbols, tore down Mussolini's pictures and celebrated. Fascist leaders disposed of the evidence of their past and disappeared.
The Allies hesisitated to act, which gave the Germans time to build up the Italian forces. The new ruler had it tough also. Badoglio secretely met with the Allies. The Allies demanded a compromise, but Badoglio insisted on no unconditional surrender. He also wanted the Allies to invade Italy when the surrender came, and wanted to know all the details of the invasion. Nevertheless, on September 3, 1943, Badoglio signed the unconditional surrender. The Italians had little to lose, and the Italians soldiers layed down their arms. The Italians were to destroy Fascism and hold Rome until the Allies arrived.
On September 9, 1943, the battleship Roma was sunk by the Germans near Sardinia. The leader Badoglio declared war on Germany on September 16th, but it wasn't official until October 13, 1943. But bad news came.
Mussolini was rescued by the Germans only seven weeks after he was thrown out of power. The Germans took him from Ponza on July 26, 1943, took him to La Maddalena and then to Abuzzi in Italy. In September, German paratroopers landed on Abuzzi and took Mussolini off in a small plane. Mussolini reestablished his Fascist government and said, "I, Mussolini, resume supreme direction of Fascism in Italy."
Italy was going down. Although the Allies thought it would be an easy fight, it wasn't. The rest of the Italians welcomed the Allies as liberators, but did little to help. After Mussolini fell, Germans were rushed into Italy and retook the country. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was once again in charge of the Germans.
When the Allies landed, they met little resistance, but the resistance increased when they met the Germans. The Alps, Lombardy, Venetia Plain, the Apennire Range, the Apuan Alps, the Basin of the tiber, the Roman Apennines and the Volcano Compayna were all major land barriers that the Allies had to deal with in blood. The Germans bombed bridges, set up traps, layed out mazes of land mines and other obstacles. Germans were set back in Italy, however, when Allied bombers took out airfields and communications on August 19, 1943.
On September 3, 1943, Montgomery lead his British forces across the Straight of Messina onto Reggio di Calabria. Although they met heavy resistance, Reggio, Catona, and San Giovanni were taken. Bagnera and Melito were taken by commandos.
On September 9, 1943, Operation Avalanche was underway. This operation was the American invasion to take Naples. The Fifth Army under Lieutenant General Mark Clark stormed ashore on Salerno. The Allies landed 135,000 troops, 100,000 tons of supplies, and 300,000 vehicles. The Germans took Rome and Vatican City, Padia, Parma, Cremona and Bergamo.
The Germans were also waiting for the Americans at Salerno. The Germans counterattacked and took some ground from the Fifth Army. The Allies bombed the German Salerno positions from Sicily. Meanwhile Montgomeries army advanced 150 miles north of Reggio di Calabria. With this movement, the Germans moved to Naples on September 15, 1943. On September 9, the First British Airborne Division took the naval powers at Taranto and Book Bari. To sum it up, the lower boot of Italy was the Allies.
Sardinia was evacuated by the Germans and the French took Gorsica. On October 1, 1943, General Clark with his Fifth Army, went into Naples. The city was a complete wreck. The harbor was wrecked, and so was their aqueduct. Disease strived, and people were starving. Germany had clearly put this city in ruin. Even prisons with psychos and killers were opened. The city of Naples was a disaster zone.
The Germans retreated out of Naples and left a tragic scar. Allied engineers worked day and night to repair the scar left on Naples. Harbors were repaired, submarines supplies electricity, and supplies continually poured into the city. A lot of airstrips were repaired for Allied air use. After Naples was put back on it's feet, the British Eighth Army took Foggia and it's airfields. Soon there were 35,000 Allied air personnel in that area. With Foggia in Allied hands, the Allies could now strike deep into the heart of Italy.
Field Marshal Albert Kesselring of Germany set up defenses on the north bank of Volturno River. The Allies then traveled up northward, avoiding disease, terrible conditions(rain, mud, snow), and the Germans. The Allies had to get accustomed to hiding in caves, behind rocks, and other land barriers. Dwight D. Eisenhower was called out of Italy to plan D-Day, along with Montgomery and other Generals. Alexander was left in command. Clark was still in charge of the Fifth army and Lieutenant General Sir Olivery Leese was now in charge of the British Eighth Army. Rommel for the Germans was moved to France, and Kesselring started command for the Germans. The Germans, with their new command, set up the Gustav Line around Cassino in January of 1944. Hitler said to hold it at all costs.
The Gustav Line was feared by the Allies, so a new plan was launched. Operation Shingle was underway, and with cover from American bombers, the beaches of Anzio were taken. The Allies were now only 33 miles from Rome. About 70,000 men and 18,000 vehicles were pumped onto the beaches of Anzio. The Germans pounded the Allies to bits when they learned of the plan, but it didn't fade the Allies. They kept pressing. It took four months to get out of Anzio, but they finally made it. Under terrible conditions, the Allies had to turn to the Gustav Line and turned to the city of Cassino. There lying on Hill 516, Monta Cassino, the famous monument lay. The Germans had control of the hill, but not the monument. In January, the attack on Cassino came to help the landings of Anzio. In February, Allied troops took several points around Hill 516, and about a third of Cassino.
On February 15, 1944, B-17 Flying fortresses and other Allied planes dropped 576 tons of bombs on Monte Cassino. The Cathedral and German troops lay in ruin. The Germans held on, and did not budge however. The Cathedral was destroyed, and only the cell of St. Benedict was spared.
During March 15 of 1944, the Allies made another bombing attack by 500 planes. This time more bombs were used totally 1,400 tons. The Germans still pressed on. It was almost getting hopeless. Now 75 percent of the town was taken. The town was eventually taken and set a key point for the Allies.
When the Allies took the key positions, the Germans and Italians were forced back. Now the Allies were ready to make a big move, but it wouldn't be till later.