The Italian Campaign and the Road to Rome in rare color photos, 1943-1945

The Italian Campaign of World War II was the name of the Allied operations in and around Italy from 1943 until the end of the war. Following the victory in the North African Campaign, there was disagreement among the Allies over the next steps they should take.

The decision to invade Italy was made in January 1943 at the Casablanca Conference, the first war conference between the Allied Powers held in Casablanca, Morocco. The conference between Roosevelt and Churchill took steps towards planning the Allied strategy and the end of the war. It also established conditions for unconditional surrender.

Even as the Allies were preparing to invade Sicily, the Italian people and their government were still disillusioned with the war. Allied forces hoped that an invasion would pull Italy out of the war completely.

The elimination of Italy as an enemy would enable the Royal Navy to completely dominate the Mediterranean Sea, leading to vast improvements in communications with Egypt, the Far East, the Middle East and India. Capturing Italy would also provide airspace closer to Germany and the Balkans.

Before dawn on 10 July that year, 150,000 American and British troops, as well as Canadians, liberated French and other allies, and 3,000 ships, 600 tanks, and 4,000 aircraft made for the southern shores of the largest island in the Mediterranean. Gaya: Sicily.

The goal was to remove the island as a base for Axis shipping and aircraft, to allow free passage for Allied ships in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as to pressure the Italian regime to pull out of the war. The Germans were unable to stop the Allied occupation of the island, but they managed to evacuate most of their troops to the mainland, the last sailing on August 17, 1943.

The American forces fighting in Sicily were far more sophisticated than those that went to war in North Africa. The new landing craft, capable of carrying tanks, made the coast much faster and safer.

In addition, the new amphibious trucks eased the supply problem on the beaches. The commanders were also cautious to avoid the mistake of parceling out divisions in small increments across North Africa.

On September 3, 1943, British forces landed on the "toe" of Italy. The Italian government surrendered almost immediately, but the German army was prepared to fight without their assistance.

American forces landed at Salerno and additional British forces at Tarnato. While the rough terrain prevented rapid advances and proved ideal for defence, the Allies continued to push the Germans north throughout the year.

Thousands of soldiers on both sides were listed as killed or missing, while hundreds of thousands were wounded. And, of course, like almost every major campaign of war, hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed, while countless were wounded, raped, left homeless, and otherwise traumatized.

In this article, we present a series of color photographs, both rare and classic, created throughout the Italian campaign by LIFE photographer Carl Maidans. It is worth noting that, within a few weeks of the start of the invasion of Sicily, the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who had ruled Italy for more than two decades, was removed from power and arrested.

"Il Deuce" later escaped with German help, and then fled or hid without stopping for nearly two years. He was captured by Italian partisans at the end of April 1945, briefly executed, and literally hung by his heels, in public, for all to see, along with his mistress and several other fascists.

In the spring of 1945 Allied forces entered that last German defensive line to enter the fertile plains of the Po River valley. On May 2, the Germans in Italy surrendered. Less generally acclaimed than the other phases of World War II, the campaign in Italy nonetheless played a significant role in the overall conduct of the war.

The Italian campaign included some of the toughest fighting in the war and resulted in approximately 114,000 casualties to the United States Army. But the campaign was important in determining the final outcome of the war as the Allies engaged German forces which could potentially upset the balance in France.

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