World War Two: Mediterranean (1-3); Allied Preparations and Preliminaries 1943

The Beginnings: In directing General Eisenhower to execute an amphibious operation to seize Sicily, the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Casablanca had in mind securing Allied sea lanes through the Mediterranean, trying to knock Italy out of the war, and diverting German strength from the Russian front. Whereas almost any objective in the Mediterranean might have contributed equally well to the last of these aims, the very location of Sicily made the island a particularly likely target for contributing to the other two. For Sicily lies only ninety miles across the Sicilian channel from the tip of Africa at Cape Bon and a scant two miles across the Strait of Messina off the southwestern tip of the Italian peninsula.

The Greeks had a word for Sicily, Trinacria, the three-cornered, a great triangle encompassing an area of approximately 10,000 square miles, roughly the size of the state of Vermont. The northern side measures some 180 miles; the southwestern side is almost as long, approximately 170 miles; the eastern edge, running in a general north-south direction, is considerably shorter, about 125 miles.

Of strategic importance since the earliest history of migrations and wars in the Mediterranean, a steppingstone for Romans, Carthaginians, and Moors, Sicily in the modern age of air power had assumed new significance. When Mussolini was building up the Italian Fleet, he made no provisions for aircraft carriers because he felt that Italy already had them in the existence of the southern extremity of the Italian peninsula, Sardinia, and, above all, Sicily. Sicily and its airfields had forced Britain to abandon the direct Mediterranean route for maritime traffic with the Near and Middle East and had compelled the Admiralty to maintain two fleets in the Mediterranean, one based on Gibraltar, the other on Alexandria and Port Said. Sicily, together with the small island of Pantelleria, which lies between the western tip of Sicily and Cape Bon, had given the Axis a domination of the air over the central Mediterranean that might have been complete had not the British held on to Malta, some 55 miles off the southeastern tip of Sicily.

Scalloped with wide, sweeping bights separated by capes, the coast of Sicily has numerous beaches of sand and shingle. They range in length from less than a hundred yards to several miles. A narrow coastal plain backs the beaches in the blunt northwestern corner of the island, then widens somewhat midway along the southwestern coast opposite the Gulf of Gela and maintains this width on either side of the sharp southeastern corner, the Pachino peninsula. Less than halfway up the cast coast ncar the port city of Catania the plain widens into the only sizable stretch of flat land in Sicily, the plain of Catania, the island’s airfields were located on the coastal plains, none more than fifteen miles inland. [N3-1AF] From Catania northward on the east coast and all along the north coast, steep slopes and precipitous cliffs face the sea. In the northeastern triangle stand the highest and most rugged mountains of the island whose surface is almost all mountainous, the Caronia Mountains with peaks from 4,500 to 5,400 feet, and massive Mount Etna itself, 10,000 feet high and twenty miles in diameter at its base.

Throughout the island the more important and better roads were close to the coast, including those riding a narrow shelf between beach and mountain in the north and northeast. In the interior the roads were poorly surfaced and narrow, with sharp curves and steep grades. The roads were particularly difficult for military traffic in the towns and small cities, for most of the settlements were established in classical or medieval times, and they were built on hilltops for the sake of defense, with steep, winding approaches and narrow streets designed not for trucks and tanks but for pedestrians, chariots, and mule carts. The bulk of the island’s dense population of some four million was located in the towns and cities.

[Note 3-1AF: The listing of airfields and seaplane bases on Sicily is contained in S.S.O. 17/3 (Final), par. II, and mentions nineteen known airfields and landing grounds in Sicily (Salmon Files, 5-G-3. item 5). Likewise the same figure of nineteen known airfields, later raised to thirty at the time of the Allied attack, is mentioned in The Conquest of Sicily. 10 July 1943-17 August 1943,Despatch by His Excellency Field Marshal the Viscount Alexander of Tunis (cited hereafter as Alexander Despatch), p. 2, in ARS, The figure of thirty at the time of the Allied attack is not borne out by enemy accounts and is probably achieved by counting landing strips, Cf. Samuel Eliot Morison, “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.” vol. IX, Sicily-Salerno-Anzio, January 1943-June 1944 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1954), p, 2n. For information on the Sicilian ports see Alexander Despatch, p. 65. and S.S.O.1 (Final), par. 10.]

The major ports were Messina near the northeastern tip, Catania and Syracuse on the eastern side, and Palermo near the western end, each with a daily capacity of more than 1,000 tons. Messina, the largest port, was closest to the mainland. There, ferry service across the strait to Calabria connected the Sicilian railroads with the continental system. Messina was clearly the most strategic objective on the island, for, as the link with the mainland, its capture by an invading force would seal off the island’s defenders and deny them reinforcement or resupply. Catania, with a port capacity somewhat less than Messina and Palermo, was scarcely less important by virtue of its location and its relative proximity to the Italian mainland.

The problem of attacking Sicily had been blocked out in a general way in London and submitted to the CCS at the Casablanca Conference. The ground forces to be committed, the planners predicted, would have to be in sufficient strength to attain a decisive superiority over an Axis force estimated to have a maximum potential of eight divisions. If Axis strength did not reach this figure by the time of the invasion, the rate of build-up was calculated at one German or one and a half Italian divisions per week by the Messina ferry service alone. On the other hand, Messina was vulnerable to air attack and might be eliminated or severely crippled before the invasion. Of the eight Axis divisions likely to be defending Sicily, the planners estimated, four could be concentrated against anyone allied landing within two or three days. The Allied forces, it appeared, would have to total at least ten divisions, and if separate landings were made, each would have to be strong enough to defeat a force of four enemy divisions.

The heavy fortifications known to exist along the strait ruled out a direct blow against Messina. Similar defenses excluded direct assaults against the naval bases of Syracuse, Augusta, and Palermo. Admiral Horatio Nelson’s adage, “A ship’s a fool to fight a fort,” was as relevant for battleships and modern harbor defenses as it was in the days of wooden vessels and stone forts. Because the technique of bringing supplies across the assault beaches was still only theoretical, the Allies would have to secure ports at once. They would have to come ashore along the relatively unfortified stretches of coast line close to one or more major ports.

Another reason militating against a direct assault on Messina was its distance from fighter aircraft bases on Malta and in North Africa. The range of the planes would preclude adequate fighter protection of an amphibious landing. The Catania area, within the extreme range of fighter aircraft, was also more attractive because of the assault beaches and a nearby group of airfields, but the port could be expected to handle initially the needs of only four divisions and later, after expansion of the port facilities, only six, four less than the ten needed for Invasion. Palermo was adequate to supply ten divisions, but a landing near Palermo alone would leave the enemy in possession of the two other major ports Messina and Catania-and a majority of the airfields. Also, it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to land at Palermo alone forces superior to those that the Axis might quickly concentrate. The London planners thus suggested two simultaneous assaults in the general areas of Palermo and Catania. Landings there would deny the Axis two of the island’s major ports and most of the airfields; would block the major routes to Messina; and would reduce the enemy’s ability to concentrate against a single landing.

The disadvantages of the Palermo-Catania scheme derived primarily from the great resources required. The two areas would not be mutually supporting. Each attacking force would have to be in sufficient strength to avoid defeat in detail. The forces and shipping required would be greatly increased over those for a single, concentrated attack. And unless the Italian Fleet were driven back into the Adriatic before the assaults, two naval covering forces would be required. Nevertheless, the planners concluded that a single assault would be feasible only if the Axis forces in Sicily numbered distinctly less than eight divisions, and only if enemy ability to make rapid reinforcements within the island and from the mainland were drastically reduced. If these conditions prevailed, a single assault could be considered in the Catania area.

Sicily also established the chain of command and determined the organization for planning. General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander had the ultimate responsibility. General Alexander, named Deputy Commander in Chief, was charged “with the detailed planning and preparation and with the execution of the actual operation when launched,” in effect, the ground command. Admiral Cunningham was to command the naval forces; Air Chief Marshal Tedder the air forces. Contemplating the use of two task forces, one American, the other British, the Combined Chiefs directed General Eisenhower to recommend the officers to be appointed to the subordinate command positions. Because the Tunisian campaign was still under way and attracted the major energies of AFHQ, the CCS also directed Eisenhower, in consultation with Alexander, to set up a special operational and administrative staff, separate from AFHQ, to plan the invasion.

To command the British task force in the invasion, Eisenhower settled quickly on General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery, the experienced Eighth Army commander. To lead the American force, he gave serious consideration to General Clark, who commanded the Fifth U .S. Army in French Morocco and who had demonstrated great diplomatic skill. But because Clark and his army, organized only in early January 1943, were charged with keeping French Morocco under control and with being ready to invade Spanish Morocco should Spain become less than neutral, Eisenhower turned instead to Major General George S. Patton, Jr. Having commanded the Western Task Force in the North Africa can invasion, having gained considerable combat experience in North Africa, and soon to be promoted to lieutenant general, Patton was, moreover, free for a new assignment. As commander of the U.S. I Armored Corps, not actively engaged in Tunisia, Patton had a staff already available to plan the American role in the Sicily invasion. CCS approval of Eisenhower’s nominations set the scene for the contrasting operations of two of the most highly individualistic ground commanders of World War II. Patton was of the “rough and ready” school, Montgomery the” tidy” type. These differences in temperament, technique, and personality, to become markedly apparent ill northwest Europe in 1944, were not pronounced during the early days of planning for Sicily; but before the campaign was over, the differences would be more than noticeable.

In conformity with the CCS instructions to set up a separate headquarters to plan the invasion of Sicily, General Eisenhower in late January 1943 established in Algiers the nucleus of what became known as Force 141-from the number of the room in the St. George’s Hotel where the originally assigned officers first met. The headquarters eventually moved into the Ecole Nonnale in La Bouzarca. Without administrative responsibilities, the staff remained a part of the AFHQ G-3 Section until the end of the Tunisian campaign, when, on 15 May, it became an independent operational headquarters. American officers assigned to Force 141 came for the most part from the United States, though some were transferred from the Fifth Army headquarters and others from the I Armored Corps. British personnel came largely from the United Kingdom and the Middle East. At the end of the Tunisian campaign, Alexander’s 18 Army Group headquarters was deactivated and merged into Force 141; and on D-Day of the Sicily invasion the whole organization became the 15 Army Group headquarters, commanded by Alexander and with a staff of American and British officers who had served together and could make a combined headquarters work.

As deputy chief of staff and senior American representative in Force 141, General Eisenhower initially appointed Maj, General Clarence R. Huebner, who soon found himself in a situation of friction. In this period of the war, in February 1943, General Alexander had a rather low estimate of the combat effectiveness of American troops. Though he considered the material, human and otherwise, magnificent, he deemed the American troops inexperienced and of little value in combat. Even at the end of the Tunisian campaign, Alexander would still consider them below the standard of the British fighting man. Apparently resenting this attitude, Huebner felt impelled to become the protector of American interests. Not until Brigadier General Lyman L. Lemnitzer succeeded Huebner in July 1943 would American relations with Alexander show marked improvement.

Force 141 had difficult problems to solve. Lacking a G-2 Section, the force had to co-ordinate intelligence matters with AFHQ. Commanders who had been selected for roles in the invasion were actively engaged in Tunisia (Patton commanded the U.S. II Corps during most of March and April I943) or scattered on three continents. Units were coming from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East. Because all the key personnel involved in the ground, sea, and air planning could not be gathered in one place, co-ordination of some aspects of the operation would still be somewhat lacking even on D-day.

Designating Patton’s I Armored Corps to head the American forces led to some confusion in command relationships, for another corps headquarters was also scheduled to take part in the operation. To clarify command channels and also to match the British organization, the I Armored Corps (Reinforced), known as Force 343 during the planning phase, would become the Seventh U.S. Army headquarters on D-day of the invasion.

The major elements under Seventh Army control were to consist of one corps headquarters and six divisions; four infantry (one to be the follow-up force), one armored, and one airborne. Because of the desire to employ experienced units, the II Corps headquarters replaced the VI Corps, which had been originally assigned, and the 1st Infantry Division replaced the 36th Infantry Division. The British force, known as Force 515, as well as the Twelfth Army during the planning period, was somewhat larger. Under Eighth Army there would be two corps headquarters, the 13th and the 30th (a third, the 10th, was held in Tripoli), six infantry divisions, one armored division, one airborne division, a tank brigade, and an infantry brigade.

Detailed planning started on 12 February when Force 141 distributed copies of the basic design formulated by the London planners before the Casablanca Conference and accepted by the CCS. Since General Alexander and his staff had not had an opportunity to study the plan in detail, Alexander accepted it as preliminary and tentative, recognizing the need of some modification. This plan sought to secure adequate port facilities and sufficient airfields by means of two simultaneous assaults: one in the west, the other in the southeast. Subsequent landings closer to the principal objectives were to follow at Palermo and Catania. Ten divisions were to be ashore in a week.

Though this plan in some respects looked like an intended double envelopment of the enemy forces in Sicily, it was in reality focused less on enemy troops than on the ports of Palermo and Catania. A provision for the immediate seizure of all the important airfields would add to the dispersal of the assault forces because the airfields were widely scattered throughout the island. The great disadvantage, as already mentioned, was the fact that the two task forces would not be mutually supporting. Thus, the enemy might concentrate against either one and roll it back into the sea.

Though General Alexander considered landing both task forces together in a concentrated assault against the southeastern corner, he rejected the idea temporarily because his staff believed that the port facilities that could be seized in a single assault (Catania, Syracuse, and Augusta) would be inadequate to support the total Allied forces required for the operation.

The commander of the British invasion force, General Montgomery, found the CCS concept objectionable on another ground. His Eighth Army was to land in a great arc around the southeastern tip of Sicily, with part coming ashore on the southwestern side near the ports of Gela and Licata, the remainder on the eastern face. Those forces landing on the eastern side were more important because they were oriented toward the ports of Syracuse and Augusta as immediate objectives.

Yet the CCS had designated only about a third of the initial British assault force of one division plus a brigade-to make these landings. This seemed hardly enough, and in mid-March Montgomery emphatically indicated that he could not accept the plan as presented. To Montgomery the plan was valid only against weak Italian opposition. Against German troops, or against Italian troops backed by Germans, the plan seemed to be of little value. Montgomery wanted another division in his main assault on the eastern face of Sicily, and to get it he recommended elimination of the landings in the Gela-Licata area.

Not only would this make his main landings stronger, but his army would be united, an important point in Montgomery’s concept of any tactical operation, Though he realized that his substitute plan did not provide for the seizure of some airfields, it seemed to him that even if he took the airfields, he would be unable to hold them with the two divisions allotted for that task.

Air force and naval commanders immediately raised a hue and cry. Air Chief Marshal Tedder pointed out that failure to land in the Gela-Licata area and to occupy the group of airfields there would not only “gravely affect the whole air situation in the Southeast corner of Sicily” but would also “seriously increase the risk of loss of the big ships involved in certain of these assaults.” To Tedder, this was intolerable, even when he made allowance for the weakening of the enemy air strength which Tedder was “determined to achieve before the assault takes place.” To the Allied air commander, air superiority was as vital as securing the ports and the only sure way to weaken air opposition critically was to capture the enemy’s airfields; Admiral Cunningham agreed with Tedder.

He preferred attacking with widely dispersed forces instead of concentrating against what Cunningham considered the most strongly defended part of the island. Furthermore, Montgomery’s plan would involve a large number of ships lying offshore with protection against air attack severely lessened by failure to take the airfields in the Gela-Licata area.

While General Alexander recognized as valid the points raised by the air and naval commanders, he nevertheless accepted Montgomery’s modification “from a purely military point of view.” He agreed to transfer the British forces from the Gela-Licata landings to strengthen those on the east coast. But to satisfy the air and naval requirements, Alexander reached into the U.S. task force and plucked the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division for use in the British sector under Montgomery’s command. The 3rd division, scheduled for a D-day landing far up the southwestern coast near the western end of the island, was to side-;lip southeastward to make the Gela-Licata landings. To compensate in some degree for this weakening of the American assault, he proposed that the American landings be delayed several days until the British were ashore and thus, presumably, had attracted the bulk of the opposition.

General Patton objected to the loss of the 3rd Division. The Montgomery plan assumed, Patton felt that enemy airfields in the American sector would be so neutralized prior to the invasion that adequate air support for the main American landings would be assured. But since the same thesis when applied to the Gela-Licata airfields had been acceptable neither to the air forces and Navy, nor “presumably” to Montgomery and Alexander, it was “no less unacceptable” to Patton when applied to the Palermo airfields.

For under the Montgomery plan, the American assault on Palermo could be made only if the British were highly successful, that is, if the enemy defenders cracked completely. Furthermore, withdrawal of a division from the U.S. troop list would not only weaken the American assault force but also would deprive the Americans of close air support from the airfields the 3rd Division was to have taken. If the British were stopped after getting the bulk of their divisions ashore, would all the forces be withdrawn from Sicily? Or would Patton continue trying to carry out an operation predicated on prior British success? Under Montgomery’s plan, Patton believed, the Americans were provided with inadequate forces.

Despite Patton’s protest, General Eisenhower approved the new plan became of “the obvious fact that initial success in the southeast is vital to the whole project.” Even though the change made the later U.S. landings more difficult because air support expected from Montgomery’s area would not equal that which the original plan had contemplated, as Eisenhower admitted, “the decision must stand, under the existing circumstances.” At the same time, Eisenhower began to seek another division he could assign to Montgomery in order to move the U.S. division back to its original landing area. The problem was less that of finding additional troops than of finding the shipping necessary to transport an additional division to Sicily.

When the British eventually provided another division and the necessary shipping for Montgomery’s assault, Alexander on 6 April returned the U.S. 3rd Division to Patton, But he still retained the features of staggered landings. The 3rd Division was to assault on D plus 2 rather than on D-day as originally planned, and the other American landings in the Palermo area were moved back to D plus 5, by which time the 3rd Division would have secured the airfields in its zone, thereby affording air support for the Palermo landings.

None of the ground force commanders selected for the Sicily operation could, in this early period, devote much attention to planning. Alexander was busy with ground operations in Tunisia. Patton had been shifted on 7 March to temporary command of the U.S. II Corps, also in Tunisia. Montgomery’s attention was devoted to the immediate task of commanding the British Eighth Army. It was, as Montgomery subsequently put it, a period of “absentee landlordism.” The planning staffs of Forces 343 and 545 largely functioned without benefit of the views of those on whom the responsibility for successful execution of the plan would fall.

For all their inability to devote full attention to the Sicilian planning, few of the commanders involved were satisfied with Alexander’s latest solution. Still concerned over what he considered too dispersed landings, Montgomery sent his own chief of staff, Major General Francis de Guingand, to Cairo to serve at Force 545 headquarters as his deputy and chief of staff. Arriving in Cairo on 17 April, de Guingand for the next several days carefully studied the 6 April outline plan, and discussed it with Lieutenant General Miles C. Dempsey, commander of the British 13 Corps, earmarked to participate in the operation. De Guingand’s analysis of the new plan agreed with that of his chiefs much greater concentration would be required if the Allies were to overcome resistance on a scale similar to that encountered in North Africa.

His reasoning having been confirmed, Montgomery himself flew to Cairo on 23 April for additional study and consultation. Though Montgomery appreciated the need to seize ports and airfields, he considered the plan to be based on an underestimate of enemy capabilities. “To spread four divisions, with a relatively slow build-up of forces behind them, between the Gulf of Catania and the Gulf of Gela,” he wrote later, “obviously implied negligible resistance to our assault and a decision by the enemy not to send reinforcements from Italy to oppose us.” On 24 April he made known his objection in a message to Alexander. “Planning so far has been based on the assumption that the opposition will be slight and that Sicily will be captured rather easily,” he wired. “Never was there a greater error. The Germans and also the Italians are fighting desperately now in Tunisia and will do so in Italy.”

What Montgomery wanted was to confine the British landings within a much more restricted area in order to give his force more strength in the assault. He urged that his landings be restricted to the Gulf of Noto (south of Syracuse) and the two sides of the Pachino peninsula. Since this area was within range of fighter planes based on Malta, the landings would have adequate air cover. From a beachhead in the Gulf of Noto, the port of Syracuse might be captured rapidly, and operations could then be extended northward to secure Augusta and Catania. Most important of all, his whole force would be concentrated. Montgomery’s proposed plan received no enthusiastic reception in Algiers. Alexander again faced conflicting army and air-naval demands. Tedder and Cunningham still pointed to additional airfields (at Ponte Olivo, near Gela, and Comiso) which they wanted included in the beachhead. Montgomery countered by asking for two more assault divisions. Only with additional strength, he said, could he extend the beachhead as far as Gela.

Though Alexander called a new conference for 27 April in Algiers to iron out the differences, it had to be postponed two days when Montgomery’s representative, de Guingand, suffered injuries in an aircraft crash en route to the conference. Lieutenant General Oliver Leese, commander of the British 30 Corps, took his place.

The conference at Algiers of 29 April was less than conclusive. After ably presenting Montgomery’s arguments, Leese introduced a new concept. He proposed that the basic design of the two-pronged attack be abandoned and that both the United States and the British forces assault the southeastern corner, the British along the Gulf of Noto and the Americans close by on both sides of the Pachino peninsula. Admiral Cunningham at once demurred, citing his conviction that amphibious landings should be dispersed, not concentrated, and that the enemy airfields had to be taken at the earliest possible moment in order to protect the shipping which would be lying off the beaches, less than thirty miles away. Air Chief Marshal Tedder objected even more vigorously. He pointed out that the new plan would leave thirteen airfields in enemy hands, far more than could be neutralized by air action alone. Tedder declared he would oppose the whole operation unless the plan included prompt seizure of the principal Sicilian airfields. The deadlock was now complete. The contradictory demands of army, navy, and air could not be reconciled on the plan proposed either by Alexander or by Montgomery.

To break the deadlock, General Eisenhower called another conference in Algiers on 2 May. Though Alexander was unable to attend because of bad flying weather, Montgomery appeared in person to state his views. On the following day, Eisenhower accepted the new Montgomery proposal. The invasion of Sicily, the first large-scale amphibious assault to be made by the Allies against a coast line expected to be staunchly defended, was to be a concentrated thrust limited to the southeastern part of the island.

Alexander’s plan of 3 May, issued as an order later that month, embodied Montgomery’s strategic conception. The independent American assault on the western corner of Sicily was discarded. The whole weight of the U.S. force was shifted to the southeastern corner with landings to be made along the Gulf of Gela from Licata eastward to the Pachino peninsula. The whole weight of the British force was concentrated on the coastal sector from the Pachino peninsula almost to Syracuse. The new plan did not embody such a radical bunching of assaults as General Leese had proposed on 29 April because the American sector was considerably extended to the northwest.

Moving the entire assault to the southeastern corner of Sicily in effect rejected the CCS concept of the necessity to take major ports and airfields quickly. For the Americans, it meant no major port at all- they would have to rely for their supplies on maintenance over the beaches for an indefinite period of time. The exclusion as immediate objectives of both the cluster of airfields in the southwest and the complex in the Catania-Gerbini area disturbed air officers, as well as Admiral Cunningham, who continued to have misgivings on what he considered the sacrifice of the tactical advantage of dispersion. Whatever the merits of dispersion versus concentration, there was no gainsaying the loss of airfields. And this led to a new Allied focus on the island of Pantelleria.

(NOTE:12 Hq Force 343, FO I , 20 Jun 43, a n. II , Seventh Army Rpt of Opns, p . d-7ff ; Alexander Despatch , pp. 15-16. For some time, Allied intelligence officers mistakenly believed that the 103rd ( Piacenza ) Infantry Division was south of Catania . The mistake, as Alexander stated , ” was discovered before it could have any untoward effect.”)

Other Factors

One of the major questions that concerned the planners was whether the Axis would reinforce the island defenders beyond Allied expectations. According to Allied estimates the Axis garrison consisted of three major elements: Italian coastal divisions, Italian field divisions, and German units. All were under the Italian Sixth Army headquarters at Enna which controlled two corps and four Italian field divisions. The XII Corps commanded the 28th (Aosta ) and the 26th ( Assietta ) Infantry Divisions in the northwest corner of the island. The XVI Corps controlled the 4th (Livorno ) and the 54th (Napoli ) Infantry Divisions, in position to counter a landing on both sides of the Pachino peninsula in the southeast. Five or six coastal divisions added to this strength.

How well would the Italian units fight? A few bold spirits among Allied planners predicted that the Italians would be a pushover. Their arms and equipment were well below the standards of German, British, and American divisions. The Sixth Army had no combat experience. Sicilians made up a high proportion of all units. “Ersatz stuff, all of it,” one American officer said. “Stick them in the belly and sawdust will run out.” But no one really knew. Fighting on home soil, they might have higher morale than in North Africa. To be safe, the Allies assumed that the Italians on Sicily would resist strenuously.

Allied intelligence discovered two German divisions in support of the Italians. Though definite data on the German order of battle in Sicily was hard to come by, the information was accurate. Not until the approach of D-day, however, did a relatively clear picture emerge. Of the two German divisions identified in Sicily, the 15th Panzer Grenadier and the Hermann Gӧring, the latter was somewhat puzzling, for it had been destroyed in Tunisia. Apparently, then, it had been reconstituted. The 15th Panzer Grenadier Division was divided into three battle groups, one in the extreme western part of the island, the second near the center (together with division headquarters), the third near Catania. Shortly before D-day, division headquarters and the center battle group moved to the west.

The Hermann Gӧring Division was also divided, but into only two battle groups, one in the Catania area, with supervision over the panzer grenadier battle group already there, the other poised for action in the southeast and capable of operating against the Gela and Comiso airfields. The distribution of forces indicated that the enemy anticipated landings on the southwestern corner, along the Gulf of Gela, near Catania, and along the Gulf of Noto. The Germans had not reinforced Sicily to the extent possible, a failure the Allies correctly attributed to their cover plan.

The efforts of the Allies to disguise their intentions were based in the main on a central cover plan requested by Force 141 and developed in London by British intelligence. One part of this plan, known as Operation MINCEMEAT, was designed to convince the enemy high command that the objectives of the impending Allied offensive in the Mediterranean were Sardinia and the Peloponnesus rather than Sicily. The plan itself was simple but highly imaginative. With painstaking care a counterfeit letter from “Archie Nye” of the British War Office in London was drawn up and addressed to General Alexander. Indicating that a feint against Sicily would be a deception maneuver to screen an invasion of Sardinia, the letter suggested that General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, the British commander in chief in the Middle East, veil his thrust against the Greek mainland by simulating action against the Dodecanese islands.

To get this letter into Axis hands, British intelligence obtained with great difficulty the body of a service man who had been a victim of pneumonia. Endowed with the fictitious personality of Major Martin of the Royal Marines, the corpse, whose lungs and general condition would indicate death by drowning, was carried in a sealed container by a British submarine to the coastal waters of Spain.

With a courier’s briefcase realistically chained to the wrist, the body was cast adrift at a predesignated spot where tide and current would carry it to shore. Three days after the submarine accomplished its mission, London received a telegram from the British Naval Attache in Madrid to the effect that the counterfeit body of Major Martin, “the man who never was,” had been picked up by friends of the Axis, who believed him to be an official messenger drowned after an aerial mishap. Subsequent scrutiny of the contents of the brief case, after the body had been duly transferred to British authorities in neutral Spain, indicated that Archie Nye’s letter had been opened, then refolded and replaced. The information reached the Germans who accepted it as authentic. On 12 May the OKW directed that measures to be taken in Sardinia and the Peloponnesus were to have priority over any others.

The other part of the HUSKY cover-plan, Plan BARCLAY, sought to inspire the Axis to give priority to maintaining and reinforcing its sizable forces in southern France and in the Balkans. If these areas appeared subject to imminent attack, the Germans would be loath to weaken them in favor of reinforcing Sicily. By the end of June, German intelligence could not yet decide the ultimate purpose of bogus shifts of Allied troop, along the North African coast and other signs of impending invasion. Corsica seemed in no immediate danger, but whether the Allies would attack the Balkans, Sicily, Sardinia, or any combination of targets was far from clear.

Not all the Axis commanders were deceived. To some the signs were unmistakable. Increased Allied air attacks, increased naval activity, and the concentration of ground forces near North African ports of embarkation argued for the contention that Sicily was next. While Allied feints were in process, some Allied planners began to wonder whether an earlier invasion of Sicily might be advantageous. If the Axis forces on Sicily were actually as confused and unprepared as they seemed, would it not be better to strike at the island just as soon as the Allies destroyed the Axis armies in North Africa? The prospect particular attracted planners in Washington. Several times during April and May they raised the question of the feasibility of what would be in effect an ad hoc planners were working on a plan for a surprise landing in Sicily in conjunction with an amphibious assault-Operation VULCAN-against the remaining Axis forces still holding out on Cape Bon.

To General Eisenhower and his principal subordinate commanders, however, an ad hoc HUSKY seemed impractical and almost impossible. As Eisenhower informed the Combined Chiefs in April, AFHQ was finding it difficult enough to meet the requirements of a formal invasion in the time required. To prepare alternate plans would undoubtedly cause a delay.

In response, General Marshall suggested that “your planners and mine may be too conservative in their analyses.” The element of surprise contained in a modified HUSKY, Marshall continued, and the lack of time afforced the enemy to strengthen his forces in Sicily lent tremendous advantages to an early HUSKY and “may justify your accepting calculated risks.” Planners were notoriously orthodox, Marshall added. They lacked the boldness and daring “which won great victories for Nelson and Grant and Lee.” Eisenhower’s conclusion, he noted, might “suggest a lack of adaptability.”

General Eisenhower was quick to reply. AFHQ planners were continually searching, he said, for ways to exploit success. Quite obviously, stronger invasion forces would be necessary after the Axis had had two months to prepare Sicily’s defenses. “I am willing,” he wrote,to take the risk of capturing important Southeastern airfields with no greater strength than that necessary to hang on to a bridgehead while all of the later strength is brought along to exploit the initial success.” But AFHQ was having enough trouble getting the ground, naval, and air commanders to agree on the landing sites; securing their agreement on an earlier operation would be almost impossible. Making his final decision on 10 May, Eisenhower concluded there would be no impromptu invasion to try to exploit the confusion among the Axis forces incident to their final defeat in North Africa. He so informed the Combined Chiefs on the following day. “We have not sufficient landing craft at the moment,” he wrote, “to carry a total of more than one division and, of this, assault landing craft for one regimental combat team only reconsider an attack with less than two divisions…too great a risk….” The prospect of having more landing ships and craft later in the year made a thoroughly planned operation infinitely more desirable.

Hardly had this matter been settled when a new CCS directive arrived. It embodied the decision reached at the TRIDENT Conference: to continue Mediterranean operations after Sicily with the purpose of eliminating Italy from the war and containing the maximum number of German forces. While Mr. Churchill was in Algiers immediately after TRIDENT, AFHQ continued its planning of future operations in the Mediterranean. Despite Churchill’s efforts to badger General Eisenhower and his staff into a direct attack on the Italian mainland, AFHQ studied several alternative courses: attacks against Sardinia and Corsica, followed by an invasion of the Tyrrhenian coast, and attacks against the toe and sale of the Italian boot. The chief tangible result of Churchill’s visit was his definite offer to make some eight British divisions then in the Middle East available to AFHQ.

General Rooks, the AFHQ G-3, on 3 June outlined the general scheme of AFHQ’s alternative operations. It differed from earlier plans drawn in May only in its elimination of MUSKET (an amphibious attack against Taranto) as a possibility. BUTTRESS, an assault on the toe near Reggio, and GOBLET, an assault near Crotone, were the operations proposed. Provided that conditions were auspicious, the two assaults would be closely correlated and the objective would he, not the mere occupation of the Calabrian peninsula, but the seizure of Calabrian ports and airfields to enable Allied forces to march overland and gain control of port facilities adequate to maintain a larger force in southern Italy. An advance up the west coast to Naples or a drive to Taranto and the southern Adriatic ports in the heel were alternatives.

Invasions of Sardinia and Corsica were considered to be easier. The Allies would need a separate headquarters to plan and execute the operation, though follow-up forces might be drawn from Sicily. The U.S. Fifth Army, under General Clark, appeared to be the logical headquarters for the task, which might be launched by 1 October. It was also decided that the Fifth Army would be directly under AFHQ’s command.

On 10 June, therefore, General Eisenhower directed General Clark to prepare plans for seizing Sardinia, a task Fifth Army completed by the end of the month. Eisenhower also asked General Giraud, French commander in North Africa, to name a commander and a staff to plan an assault on Corsica as a purely French operation.

The plans for seizing Sardinia and Corsica at this time were alternative courses to be followed in case AFHQ judged an attack on the Italian mainland too risky. This denoted a change in AFHQ strategy. Before the Casablanca Conference, General Eisenhower would have preferred Sardinia over Sicily if, at that time, the ultimate objective had been fixed as; the invasion and occupation of the Italian mainland. In early May, likewise, Eisenhower endorsed Rooks’ strategic concept that the next operations after Sicily should be the occupation of Sardinia and Corsica. Once the Allies controlled the airfields on those islands, they would be able to mount amphibious attacks against southern France or against any point along the western coast of Italy. But since the CCS after the TRIDENT Conference had defined AFHQ’s mission as eliminating Italy from the war, the occupation of Sardinia and Corsica and intensified aerial bombing attacks hardly seemed likely in June to be sufficient to force the Italian Government out of the war. The considered opinion of AFHQ’s intelligence agencies was that Italy would collapse only after the Allies had invaded the mainland and were marching on Naples and Rome.

By the last week of June, AFHQ had delegated the detailed planning of mainland operations to 15 Army Group (still using the code name Force 141), while the Fifth Army worked on the invasion of Sardinia. By then, BUTTRESS, the invasion of the toe, had been assigned to the British 10 Corps, and GOBLET, the invasion of the sole, to the British 5 Corps. No time schedule for these operations could be forecast, but their sequence seemed evident. BUTTRESS would have to wait one month after Sicily and GOBLET one month after BUTTRESS. Thus, if the Sicilian Campaign ended 1 August, BUTTRESS might be launched 1 September, GOBLET the following month. If no mainland operations were undertaken, the assault on Sardinia might be launched, Eisenhower believed, by 1 October.

These cautious plans for attack on the Italian mainland inspired little enthusiasm at AFHQ. BUTTRESS and GOBLET promised only a toe hold on the Calabrian peninsula. They offered small hope of striking a blow to Italy capable of eliminating it from the war; they did not even guarantee an area suitable as a base for future large-scale operations. What the Allies needed was a strike at Rome. But such a step demanded the prior seizure of ports. And this in turn led to preoccupation with Naples. Various proposals for overland approaches ran into the problem of the intervening terrain—the ground in southern Italy favored the defense. Until there were more definite indications of a weakening of Italian morale, Allied commanders fitted all the schemes for gaining adequate ports on the mainland into a cautious framework–capturing the toe of Italy first. The Allies were aware, however, that success in Sicily might open new and exciting courses of action.

SOURCE: Sicily and the Surrender of Italy: BY; Lieutenant Colonel Albert Nutter Garland & Howard McGaw Smyth (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Mediterranean (1-4); Axis Situation-Italy

World War Two: Mediterranean (1-2) Axis on the Defensive 1943

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World War Two: Bougainville Counterattack (17)

By March 1944 the Japanese were clearly beaten in the Southeast Area. With air and naval strength gone, the ground troops were stranded, immobilized, incapable of affecting the course of the war. Only at Rabaul were the Japanese strong, and that strength could not be employed unless the Allies chose to attack. But among the characteristics that made the Japanese a formidable opponent was his refusal to accept defeat even in a hopeless situation. If beaten, he knew it not. Thus it was that Generals Imamura and Hyakutake designed the destruction, in March, of the XIV Corps at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville.

Preparations : The Approach

When in late 1943 the Japanese commanders had finally concluded that the invasion of Empress Augusta Bay was actually the Allied main effort at Bougainville, they began making plans for their counterattack. Unfortunately for him, Hyakutake’s intelligence estimate was as inaccurate as most other Japanese estimates during World War II. He placed Allied strength at Empress Augusta Bay at about 30,000 of whom 10,000 were supposed to be aircraft ground crews. His figure for General Griswold’s total strength was too low by half. Against the XIV Corps he planned to use the main strength of the 17th Army, which consisted principally of General Kanda’s 6th Division and several battalions of the 17th Division that Imamura had sent down in November. Total Japanese strength involved is variously reported as 15,000 to 19,000 men.

[N17-2: ACofS G-2 XIV Corps, History of the “TA” Operation, a careful, conservative study written after the counteroffensive from prisoner-of-war interrogations, captured documents, and G-2 periodic reports and summaries, gives 15,400 men as the total. In 1949 General Kanda, speaking from memory, said there were 19,000 men involved plus about 2,000 sailors. He may have included all troops in rear areas in his figure. ]

During the early part of 1944 Japanese engineers built or improved roads, trails, and bridges so that the 17thArmy could move from north and south Bougainville to assembly areas in the hills inland from the XIV Corps’ perimeter. By mid-February the enemy soldiers were all on their way, and Hyakutake left Erventa to supervise the action himself.

The Japanese had hoped to launch an amphibious assault against the Americans, coupled with an attack from inland. A shortage of landing craft made the amphibious assault impossible, but barges, operating on moonless nights to avoid Allied aircraft and PT boats, transported heavy equipment, including artillery, to a point east of Cape Torokina from where it was laboriously hauled inland to the hills. Packhorses and trucks carried supplies part of the way on the overland routes.

The infantry regiments of the 6th Division advanced along both coasts, the 13th and 23rd Infantry Regiments on the west, the 45th Infantry up the east coast to Numa Numa, thence southwest by the Numa Numa Trail. The 17thDivision battalions also marched along both coasts from their positions in the north.

Such a move could hardly go unnoticed. Coast-watchers , radio intercepts, long- and short-range ground patrols, interrogation of prisoners and even of a few deserters, Japanese activity near the Fiji outpost at Ibu, interpretation of aerial photographs, and air and naval searches told General Griswold that the Japanese were on the move all over the island, and that attack was imminent. Allied planes regularly bombed all suspected troop movements, bridges, and assembly areas. When the Japanese launched strong attacks at Ibu in mid-February, the corps commander ordered the Fijians back to the perimeter. Four hundred and fifty Fiji soldiers and two hundred Bougainville natives made their way to Cape Torokina. Two Fijians were slightly wounded during the withdrawal.

Patrol clashes and fire fights in the hills north and northeast of the XIV Corps’ perimeter indicated that the Japanese were concentrating there. Further, Japanese carelessness in safeguarding important documents played into General Griswold’s hands. Papers taken from enemy corpses gave him a precise idea of Hyakutake’s plan of attack, told him exactly which Japanese units were about to attack him, and gave him the general location of the enemy artillery units. Information about the attack was posted on the American units’ bulletin boards.

XIV Corps’ Defenses

At the beginning of March the XIV Corps’ perimeter was somewhat larger than it had been when Griswold took over. It included, in a horseshoe-shaped line on the inland side, some 23,000 yards of low hills and jungle. The beach frontage totaled 11,000 yards. Depth of the position was about 8,000 yards. The main ground combat elements of the corps were the Americal and 37th Divisions, which numbered about 27,000 men. Altogether, 62,000 men, including naval units, were attached or assigned to the XIV Corps.

All the infantry regiments were placed on the front lines. A total of twelve rifle battalions held frontages varying from 2,000 to 2,400 yards. Usually each regiment held one battalion in reserve. The 37th Division defended the left (northwest) sector from a point on the beach 5,500 yards northwest of Cape Torokina to the area of Hill 700, about 2,000 yards east of Lake Kathleen. The 148th Infantry, on the division left, and the 129th Infantry, in the center, held low ground. The 145th Infantry, on the right, held Hill 700, the highest ground possessed by the Americans. The Americal Division’s line ran from just east of Hill 700, where the 164th Infantry’s left flank tied in with the 145th’s right, over Hills 608, 309, and 270, then along the west bank of the Torokina River. Near its mouth the line crossed over to the east bank.

The 182nd Infantry, in the division’s center, held Hills 309 and 270 on the main perimeter line. The 132nd Infantry on the right held low ground. In addition a detachment of the 182nd Infantry, plus artillery and mortar observers, maintained an outpost on Hill 260, an eminence which was some distance east of the main line of resistance and overlooked the Torokina River. Griswold had ordered this hill held so that it could be used as an American artillery and mortar observation post, and so that the enemy could not use it to observe American positions.

[N17-3: The 132nd Infantry, Americal Division, had seized this area in an action in January wherein Staff Sergeant Jessie R. Drowley fought so valiantly that he was awarded the Medal of Honor. WD GO 73, 6 Sep 44.]

All units had been developing and strengthening positions on the main line of resistance, which now consisted of rifle pits and earth, log, and sandbag pillboxes, wired in behind double-apron or concertina barbed wire. In front of the wire were minefields. Various devices were employed to give illumination at night: searchlights, either shining directly or reflecting a spread beam off clouds; flares tied in trees and set off by pull wires; flashlights; thermite grenades; and cans full of sand and gasoline. Grenades, with wires attached, were set up as booby traps along obvious approach routes. Oil drums, each with scrap metal packed around a bangalore torpedo, were wired for electrical detonation. Fields of fire fifty yards or more deep, deep enough to prevent the enemy from throwing hand grenades at the American positions from cover and concealment, had been cleared.

Almost all the infantry regiments possessed extra machine guns, and had issued two BAR’s to each rifle squad. All regiments had constructed reserve positions. The naval construction battalions, the 3rd Marine Defense Battalion, Army engineer units, and others maintained provisional infantry units as part of the corps reserve, which also included the 82nd Chemical Battalion, the 754th Tank Battalion, and the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry. [This unit had served on Bougainville since 30 January, chiefly as a labor battalion. See Ulysses G. Lee, Employment of Negro Troops, a volume in preparation for the series UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. ]

Artillery support for the perimeter, though below American standards, was stronger than the enemy’s supporting artillery. The XIV Corps still had neither organic artillery nor an artillery commander. Serving as corps artillery commander was General Kreber, artillery commander of the 37th Division. Under General Kreber’s command were the eight (six 105-mm. and two 155-mm.) howitzer battalions organic to the two divisions, plus the provisional corps artillery. This consisted of two 155-mm. gun batteries of the 3rd Marine Defense Battalion; four 90-mm. antiaircraft batteries of the 251st Antiaircraft Artillery Regiment; and four 90-mm. antiaircraft batteries of the 3rd Marine Defense Battalion, of which one, D Battery, 70th Coast Artillery (Antiaircraft) Battalion, was attached from the Army. Gun power of the XIV Corps units was augmented on 3 March when six cannon companies, with 75-mm. pack howitzers, reached Bougainville and joined the infantry regiments.

The XIV Corps’ positions were strong, and since he possessed interior lines General Griswold could easily switch his reserve units back and forth. But the positions were not ideal. The corps lacked enough men, by American standards, to hold all the high ground in the vicinity. Beyond the coastal plain the ground rises abruptly from ridge to ridge, each higher than the preceding one, up to the summits of the Crown Prince Range. Thus the Americans on Hills 608 and 700 held positions that were dominated by the higher ground in Japanese hands—Blue Ridge, three thousand yards north of Hill 700, and Hills 1000 and 1111, just southeast of Blue Ridge. These hills gave the enemy an excellent view over all the perimeter except the reverse slopes of the American-held hills. By 1 March, however, General Griswold was sure that “the perimeter was as well organized as the personnel and the terrain would permit.”

The Japanese Plan of Attack

 General Hyakutake organized most of his infantry into three forces, each named for its commander. The Iwasa Unit, under General Iwasa, consisted of the 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry; the 23rd Infantry; and two batteries of field artillery, some mortars, and engineers and other supporting troops. The Magata Unit, led by Colonel Isaoshi Magata of the 45th Infantry, whom Kanda considered to be a crack regimental commander, included nearly all the 45th Infantry plus mortars, field artillery, and engineers.

The third unit, under Colonel Toyoharei Muda, who had succeeded the late Tomonari in command of the 13th Infantry, consisted of the remainder of the 13th plus engineers. Supporting the attacks of the three infantry units was an artillery group commanded by a Colonel Saito. This consisted of four 150-mm. howitzers, two 105-mm. howitzers, and a number of smaller pieces.[N17-6 ] Artillery ammunition supply totaled three hundred rounds per piece, of which one fifth was to be used for direct support of the infantry, the rest for interdicting the airfields.

[N17-6 General Kanda specified 18 70-mm. battalion guns; ACofS G-2 XIV Corps, History of the “TA” Operation lists 168 75-mm. mountain guns. The Japanese 105 is often called a 10-cm. piece.]

Also present were elements of the 1st and 3rd Battalions, 53rd Infantry, and part of the 81st Infantry, all from the 17th Division. At first these were either placed in 17th Army reserve or were assigned diversionary missions against the northwest part of the XIV Corps’ beachhead.

The Iwasa Unit assembled behind Hill 1111, the Magata Unit behind Mount Nampei, a shoulder-shaped ridge extending outward from the Crown Prince Range just northwest of Blue Ridge. The Muda Unit assembled at Peko, a village on the East-West Trail about 5,400 yards east-northeast of Hill 260. The artillery group emplaced in the vicinity of Hill 600.

The plan of maneuver involved two thrusts from the north coupled with an attack from the northeast, all on a complicated schedule. Briefly, the Iwasa Unit was to attack and secure Hill 700 on Y Day (set, after some delays in moving into position, for 8 March), reorganize on 9 and 10 March, and advance to the Piva airfields. During this period the Muda Unit was to capture Hills 260 and 309, whereupon it and one battalion of the Iwasa Unit were supposed to attack Hill 608 from the southeast and northwest on 12 March. All these attacks were preliminary to an effort which was to be delivered, starting 11 March, by the Magata Unit against the 129th Infantry in its low ground west of Hill 700.

Magata’s men, after cracking the 129th’s line, were to advance against the Piva airstrips in conjunction with Iwasa’s advance. Then all units were to drive southward on a broad front to capture the Torokina fighter strip by 17 March. Haste was essential, since the 17th Army had brought with it but two weeks’ rations.

Hindsight indicates that the Japanese plan was unsound. Even had Hyakutake’s estimate of American strength been correct, he still lacked enough strength in manpower and in artillery (he had no air support whatever) to attack prepared positions, and under the actual circumstances he was hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. If his object had been to inflict maximum damage regardless of his own losses, he might have achieved a larger degree of success by concentrating his forces from the first in order to overwhelm a narrow portion of Griswold’s front, break through, and spread destruction throughout the rear areas until Griswold could redeploy his infantry regiments. Of course, Hyakutake might have achieved more success had the American soldiers elected to turn and run instead of standing their ground, but that was an imponderable that he could not count on. The Americal and 37th Divisions were veteran units.

[N17-7 Hyakutake, in 1942, had delivered a similar, unsuccessful, counterattack against Vandegrift’s positions on Guadalcanal. See Miller, Guadalcanal: The First Offensive]

By 8 March almost everything was ready. The rhetorical manifestoes by which Japanese officers exhorted their troops were issued. General Hyakutake expressed himself along these lines: The time has come to manifest our knighthood with the pure brilliance of the sword. It is our duty to erase the mortification of our brothers at Guadalcanal. Attack! Assault! Destroy everything! Cut, slash, and mow them down. May the color of the red emblem of our arms be deepened with the blood of the American rascals. Our cry of victory at Torokina Bay will be shouted resoundingly to our native land. We are invincible! Always attack. Security is the greatest enemy. Always be alert. Execute silently.

[N17-8 Quoted in Frankel, The 37th Infantry Division in World War II, pp. 142-43. The “red emblem” referred to was probably the shoulder patch of the 6th Division. ]

Not to be outdone, General Kanda had this to say: We must fight to the end to avenge the shame of our country’s humiliation on GUADALCANAL. . . . There can be no rest until our bastard foes are battered, and bowed in shame—till their . . . blood adds luster … to the badge of the Sixth Division. Our battle cry will be heard afar. . . .Again, the most apt comment is in Proverbs XVI: 18.

Hill 700

At 0545, shortly after daybreak of 8 March, Hyakutake’s artillery heralded the opening of his counteroffensive by firing on all parts of the beachhead, with especial attention to the Piva airfields.

American observers on the ground, in artillery liaison planes, and on board destroyers, aided by information gained from documents, quickly determined the general location of the Japanese artillery, and counterbattery fire by the corps artillery and the organic division artillery battalions began at once. The Americal Division artillery put its fire on hills to the east and east-northeast, the 37th on those to the northeast. Smoke shells were fired at suspected enemy observation posts to blind the enemy. In the 37th’s sector the 6th Field Artillery Battalion, supporting the 129th Infantry, and the lagth Infantry Cannon Company were so situated that they could shoot directly at enemy gun flashes. The other battalions fired by forward observer.

[Throughout the operation U.S. destroyers also fired counterbattery fire and against suspected enemy assembly areas and approach routes. ]

At 1045 twenty-four SBD’s and twelve TBF’s of the 1st Marine Air Wing dropped fourteen tons of bombs on Hills 250 and 600. A strike against Hill 1111 was planned for the late morning but was postponed when a sudden cloud screen obscured the hilltop. Finally, at 1600, fifty-six SBD’s and thirty-six TBF’s, guided by artillery smoke shells, dropped 100- and 1,000-pound bombs on Hill 1111 and environs.

In the course of the day’s firing the Japanese destroyed one B-24 and three fighters, and damaged nineteen planes on Piva strips. Before nightfall all bombers except six TBF’s which remained for local support left for New Georgia to escape destruction. The enemy also damaged one 155-mm. gun and several tanks. Early next morning, the 9th, the enemy guns turned their attention to the Torokina fighter strip and forced its planes to take to the air for safety. Almost no shells fell on the front lines except in the 145th Infantry’s area, where shellfire and mortars caused several casualties.

The sector of the 145th, now commanded by Colonel Cecil B. Whitcomb, extended from low ground in the vicinity of the Numa Numa Trail eastward past the south shore of Lake Kathleen and up along the military crest of Hill 700, a frontage of about 3,500 yards. The 3rd Battalion, on the left (west), held the low ground just south of Lake Kathleen and Cannon Hill, an eminence slightly lower and to the west of Hill 700. On the right the 2nd Battalion held Hill 700 with two rifle companies (E and G) and machine gun sections of H Company in line, F Company in reserve, and H Company’s 81-mm. mortars grouped on the reverse (south) slope.

Hill 700, which commanded the entire beachhead, was steep, with slopes of 65 to 75 percent in all directions. American intelligence estimates, though not ruling out an enemy attack here, had tended to discount its probability. The steepness that increased the difficulty of attack also complicated the defense, for the forward (north) slope fell away too sharply to permit it to be completely covered with grazing fire. Thus the 2nd Battalion had an extra allotment of machine guns. Its pillboxes housed 37-mm. antitank guns, light and heavy machine guns, BAR’s, and rifles. The front was wired in, with some mines in front. In direct support were the 105-mm. howitzers of the 135th Field Artillery Battalion and, starting on 8 March, the 4.2inch mortars of D Company, 82nd Chemical Battalion. [This company also supported the 129th Infantry. ]

That the 145th Infantry was in danger of attack had become obvious on 6 March when patrols reported the presence of large numbers of Japanese about fourteen hundred yards north of Hill 700. Additional ammunition was made available to the troops, and two days’ C rations, ammunition, and a five-gallon can of water were stocked in each pillbox against a breakdown in supply. For nocturnal illumination each machine gun section was issued four incendiary grenades and a gallon can of flame thrower fuel.

On 7 March Japanese wire-cutting parties started work in front of the 145th. Next day patrols in front of Hill 700, Cannon Hill, and along Lake Kathleen’s shores kept running into enemy troops. At the same time 129th Infantry patrols reported many enemy contacts, and Americal Division patrols also observed enemy troops east of the Torokina River, along the East-West Trail, and around Hills 250 and 600. In front of the 145th fire fights and skirmishes went on all day. When patrols reported that the enemy was massing, the 37th Division artillery, the 145th’s Cannon Company, and the 4.2-inch mortars fired a counter preparation twelve hundred yards wide and two thousand yards deep in front of the 2nd Battalion. Japanese orders had called for an attack on 8 March, but none developed.

The 23rd Infantry had spent the day moving into position in front of the 145th; the 2nd Battalion reconnoitered Cannon Hill, the 3rd, 700, but for some reason the regiment did not assault. Rain fell throughout the night of 8-9 March. Shortly after midnight, concealed by darkness, rain, and mists, about two companies of the 23rd Infantry attacked up the north slope of Hill 700 against the 1st Platoon, G Company, 145th, which held a level saddle between the topmost eminence of the hill and a rise to the left (west) dubbed Pat’s Nose. Other elements of the 23rd put pressure on E Company, 145th, on the highest point of 700. This attack was repulsed.

About 0230, 9 March, the 23rd Infantry attacked G Company’s 1st Platoon again, this time in column of battalions. The 2nd Battalion, in the lead, blew up the barbed wire, knocked out a pillbox, and through the gap its forward elements moved onto the saddle and set up machine guns. American mortars and artillery opened up and appear to have severely punished the 3rd Battalion, which was following the 2nd.

When day broke the Americans were not sure of the extent of the enemy penetration, as mists and enemy fire hampered reconnaissance. Some local counterattacks, largely un-co-ordinated, were attempted but all failed. Soldiers of the 145th tried to attack northward up the south slopes of Hill 700, but the Japanese drove them back by rolling down grenades.

By noon the situation was clarified. The Japanese had made but a minor penetration; about one company held a salient on the saddle about one hundred yards from east to west and fifty yards deep. It had captured seven pillboxes, plus observation posts, in the 1st Platoon’s line and had set up light and heavy machine guns.

General Beightler released the 1st Battalion, 145th, from division reserve to Colonel Whitcomb, who attached it to the 2nd Battalion, and elements of the 117th Engineer Battalion took up positions in the 145th’s regimental reserve lines south of Hill 700.

About noon C Company, 145th, started northward up Hill 700 toward the saddle in frontal assault while two F Company platoons attacked the saddle from the east and west. By 1530 the platoon attacking from the east had recovered some of the lost ground but C Company had been halted about two thirds of the way to its objective.

Two light tanks of the 754th Tank Battalion, released out of corps reserve by General Griswold, tried to support an attack later in the afternoon, but the hill proved too steep for them. The F Company platoons pressed their attack anyway and by 1735 had retaken five pillboxes. By nightfall a solid line had been established in front of the Japanese. It ran along Hill 700 south of the crest in the region of the penetration and joined its flanks with the original main line of resistance. B and C Companies and one platoon of D Company held the new line.

During the day the Japanese used their point of vantage on the saddle to put mortar and machine gun fire on McClelland Road, a lateral supply route south of the crests of the hills, roughly parallel to the main line of resistance. This fire halted the ¾-ton trucks and half-tracks that were used to bring up ammunition and required the use of hand-carrying parties, which hauled ammunition forward and took out the wounded under Japanese fire.

Neither Japanese nor Americans made any aggressive moves on the night of 9-10 March, but it was a noisy night. The Japanese laid mortar and small arms fire on the American lines, while the 37th Division artillery and mortars put close in and deep supporting fires in front of the 2nd Battalion, 145th.

At 0645 the next day, 10 March, while the Muda Unit began its attack against the Americal Division troops on Hill 260, the 23rd Infantry troops on the saddle renewed their attack and other elements of the Iwasa Unit attempted to get through the curtain of American artillery and mortar fire to reinforce the saddle. The Americans on Hill 700 responded with fire and local counterattacks. There was no change in the location of the front lines.

During the morning Griswold released the Provisional Infantry Battalion, 251st Antiaircraft Artillery Regiment, from corps reserve; it proceeded to the 145th’s regimental reserve line. Elements of the 117th Engineer Battalion thereupon made ready to destroy the Japanese positions with bangalore torpedoes and pole charges of TNT. But this came to naught when four engineers, trying to snake a torpedo into a pillbox, were killed outright by the torpedo, which either exploded prematurely or was detonated by a Japanese shell. A Japanese-speaking American soldier brought a loud-speaker up close to the enemy and urged immediate capitulation; the Japanese responded with a mortar shell which knocked the loud-speaker out of action.

By afternoon of this day of pattern less and ineffective action (which also featured enemy fire on McClelland Road and a 36-plane strike against Japanese positions), the American units in contact with the enemy had become intermingled. Sorting and reorganizing them consumed much of the afternoon, so that it was 1700 before elements of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 145th, after a ten-minute mortar preparation, delivered a co-ordinated attack. The Americans used bangalore torpedoes, rocket launchers, and pole charges in the face of artillery, mortar, machine gun, and rifle fire. The fighting was close work; several pillboxes were recaptured and then lost. As darkness fell, however, the Americans had achieved some success. The Japanese penetration was now reduced by more than half. By 1930, G, F, A, C, B, and E Companies held the line; the 37th Reconnaissance Troop, which General Beightler attached to the 145th at 1815, was in reserve.

During the night, as Colonel Magata prepared to deliver his attack against the 129th Infantry, General Iwasa sent the rest of his command against the 145th’s front from Cannon Hill to the crest of 700. The Japanese came in closely packed waves, shouting, the 37th Division reported, imprecations in Japanese. The fields of fire at Cannon Hill and Pat’s Nose were better than at 700, and the 145th, heavily supported by artillery and mortars, handily repulsed Iwasa everywhere except on the saddle, where the Japanese captured one more pillbox.

As dawn broke on 11 March, a day on which Muda was active at Hill 260 and the Magata Unit began its attack against the 129th Infantry, General Beightler was obviously concerned over the 145th’s failure to reduce the enemy salient. The night before he had ordered the 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, to move from its regimental reserve positions to the 145th’s sector. To replace it General Griswold placed the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, at Beightler’s disposal. Beightler also dispatched his assistant division commander, Brigadier General Charles F. Craig, to the 145th’s sector to observe operations and keep him informed. The regimental commander was suffering, Craig reported later, from extreme battle fatigue and was relieved. Colonel Freer, who had been serving as executive of the 145th, took his place.

In the meantime the Japanese made valorous efforts to put more troops onto the saddle. The Americans resisted with vigor and with all the fire power at their disposal. Charging, literally, over the piled heaps of their dead comrades, the enemy soldiers fought hard but vainly, and failed either to budge the Americans or to strengthen the saddle. The 2nd Battalion, 148th, reached its assembly area behind the 145th at 1115. Colonel Radcliffe, its commander, reconnoitered in preparation for an afternoon attack. Three 105-mm. howitzer battalions, the 145th Infantry Cannon Company, 4.2-inch chemical mortars, the 81-mm. mortars of D, H, and M Companies of the 145th, and the 60-mm. mortars of all the rifle companies of the 2nd Battalion, 148th, fired a preparation from 1320 to 1330. Then elements of the 148th attacked.

Two platoons from E Company moved east from Pat’s Nose in an effort to envelop the saddle from north and south while a third platoon delivered a holding attack westward from the crest of Hill 700. The whole target was blanketed by artillery smoke shells. The 145th supported the attack with overhead fire. The platoon making the envelopment from the north gained the crest, losing eight dead, whereupon the platoon leader and four enlisted men seized a communication trench, then a pillbox. But the Japanese killed the five men and the attack halted about 1900. The troops dug in on the ground they had gained. During the night the Japanese harried the Americans but failed to penetrate the line.

The attack on 12 March followed the previous day’s pattern. While intense local battles raged in the 199th Infantry sector and on Hill 260,E Company continued its attack and F Company attacked northwestward from the top of 700. Using grenades, rifles, flame throwers, and rocket launchers, the 148th soldiers methodically reduced the pillboxes one by one. When nearly all the officers in both companies were wounded, sergeants took over command. By 1300 the Japanese held but one pillbox; by 1317 they had lost it, and by 1530 mopping up was completed, all the Japanese save two wounded prisoners were dead, the 145th’s line was restored. Three hundred and nine enemy corpses were counted in the immediate area. During the next day the Iwasa Unit, which had suffered heavily in its unsuccessful attack, withdrew behind a screen of combat patrols and fire.

During the period 8-13 March the 37th Division lost five officers and seventy-three enlisted men killed. The artillery expended a considerable amount of ammunition in defense of Hill 700: 20,802 105-mm. rounds; about 10,000 75mm. rounds; 13,000 81-mm. and 811 4.2inch mortar shells.

[N17-15 On 14 March General Kreber ordered 90-mm. antiaircraft guns to supplement certain 40-mm. guns already in use on the front lines. Thereafter these flat-trajectory weapons sniped at enemy guns emplaced on the forward slopes of the hills to the north and northeast. ]

Hill 260

While General Iwasa was meeting defeat at Hill 700, Colonel Muda was attacking the American outpost on Hill 260 in preparation for operations against Hills 309 and 608 in the Americal Division’s sector. The Muda Unit—principally one battalion and two companies of the 13th Infantry—completed its assembly at Peko and moved forward. On the night of 9-10 March small enemy forces infiltrated between Hill 260 and the main line of resistance, while an assault force assembled east of 260 and made ready to attack.

Some 800 yards east of the main perimeter line and 7,500 yards north of the Torokina’s mouth, Hill 260 is shaped like an hourglass. Its long axis runs from northwest to southeast. The two ends of the hourglass are rises called North Knob and South Knob. Each knob is about half the size of a football field. The handle between them is slightly lower and so narrow that there was room for only a trail. North and South Knobs lie so close together—less than 150 yards apart—that to hit one knob with artillery or mortar fire inevitably showered the other with fragments. The slopes to the east and west are very steep.

The East-West Trail crossed the Torokina just east of 260 and, bending south of South Knob, entered the main perimeter line between Hills 309 and 608. A small north-south stream, called the Eagle River by the Americans, flowed between 260 and the main perimeter before running into the Torokina River. In the early part of March only one trail led from the main line to South Knob. The last hundred yards to the top consisted of a steep stairway revetted into the southwest slope. A small vehicular bridge had been built over the Eagle. The entire area, including the east and west slopes of 260, was heavily jungled.

From a platform on a 150-foot-high tree (“OP Tree”) on South Knob, American mortar and artillery forward observers could view the banks of the Torokina below, the East-West Trail, and Hills 250 and 600 to the northeast. Conversely, in Japanese hands Hill 260 would have provided good observation of Hills 608 and 309 and of the corps’ rear area between them. On 10 March the American garrison on 260 consisted of about eighty men including forward observers and a reinforced platoon from G Company, 182nd Infantry, which regiment held the main perimeter west of 260. It was “a sore thumb stuck out into the poison ivy.” Defenses, all on South Knob, consisted of pillboxes and bunkers inside barbed wire and defensive warning devices arranged in a triangle around OP Tree. Fire lanes faced northeast, east, and southeast.

The Americans had been maintaining ambushes on the northeast and southeast approaches to South Knob but on 9 March withdrew them to put harassing and interdictory fires over the whole area from 1830 to 2330, 9 March, and again from 0415 to 0500, 10 March. A few minutes after 0600 on 10 March, during the 182nd’s normal stand to for the two hours before daylight, fire from Japanese mortars, machine guns, and rifles began striking the American positions on 260. At 0638 an officer of the 246th Field Artillery Battalion, Americal Division, reported from his post in OP Tree that the Japanese had attacked and were all around the base of his tree. He was not heard from again.

The attack, which the Americans estimated was made by one company, was actually delivered by all or part of the 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry. It overran most of the American positions, captured OP Tree, and drove the survivors of the American garrison to North Knob. One six-man group from the mortar and artillery observation teams took refuge in two pillboxes and put up such stout-hearted resistance that they held their positions in spite of the fact that the Japanese had surrounded them.18

When the enemy attack was reported to General Griswold, he ordered General Hodge, the Americal Division’s commander, to hold 260 at all costs. This order came as a surprise to the Americal’s officers, who had not expected to be required to hold 260 in the face of a strong enemy attack.19 Colonel William D. Long, commanding the 182nd, promptly released two companies—E and F—of his 2nd Battalion from regimental reserve and placed Lieutenant Colonel Dexter Lowry, commander of the 2nd Battalion, in charge of operations. F Company left the perimeter, crossed the Eagle River and pushed northward through virgin jungle to North Knob, made contact with the G Company soldiers who had made their way there, and established a perimeter defense. At 0845 E Company was ordered to advance east over the trail to attack the South Knob from the southwest in conjunction with a southward move by one platoon of F Company.

By 1045, when E Company reached the base of Hill 260’s southwest slope, the troops on North Knob had become aware that some Americans on South Knob were still alive. The attack began immediately after E Company’s arrival. One E Company platoon started up the steep slope as the F Company platoon attempted to move south, but after a gain of about thirty-five yards both platoons, now coming into the cleared areas, halted under enemy fire. Shortly after 1300 Long authorized Lowry to contain the Japanese at the base of OP Tree until he could send flame throwers forward.

Lowry therefore held up the attack, received the flame throwers, and by 1420 was ready to go again. This time he planned a double envelopment from 260’s southwest spur. One platoon of E Company was to move left (north) to make contact with the F Company platoon advancing south while a second E Company platoon moved right to attack from the south and southeast. The platoons moved out and began their attack at 1445. The Japanese quickly halted the northern attack. The southern platoon started up South Knob, met grazing fire, retired, moved to the right, and assaulted again. This time, using flame throwers and grenades, the platoon drove up onto a shelf on the southern edge of South Knob that protected it from small arms fire. It was within earshot of the trapped Americans. Colonel Lowry, now estimating that at least two enemy companies held South Knob, reported that his and the enemy’s forces were too close for him to use 60-mm. mortars safely. The attack was renewed at 1800, but by then battle casualties and exhaustion had reduced E Company’s strength by one half. Lowry and Colonel Long, who had arrived at South Knob at 1715, decided to hold their present positions. The six Americans in the pillboxes thought E Company had secured the hill, and stayed where they were. Active operations for the day were concluded by an enemy bayonet assault which F Company repulsed by fire.

Early next morning the Japanese, apparently strengthened during the night, struck at E Company in a quick attack. The company turned back the attackers, but of its 7 officers and 143 enlisted men who had left the perimeter the day before, only 1 wounded officer and 24 enlisted men remained at the front. Colonel Long therefore ordered G Company (less its original outpost platoon) out of the main perimeter to relieve E.

As G Company advanced up the west slope of South Knob it ran into enemy troops attacking from the east, southeast, and south. Colonel Lowry reported his troops in distress as the enemy threatened to encircle his position on South Knob and began driving E Company off. But there was almost no way to strengthen him. General Hodge was required to hold one battalion available for service in corps reserve, and there were few other troops that could be committed without weakening the main line of resistance, which was now under attack on Hill 700 and in the 129th’s sector.

With the foothold on South Knob practically lost, and because South Knob could be neutralized from North Knob, Hodge and Long decided to pull E and G Companies off South Knob and send them to North Knob, and to send B Company forward to assist them in breaking contact. The Japanese, failing to follow up their advantage, did not pursue E and G Companies as they retired toward the Eagle River, where they were joined by B Company. All companies proceeded to North Knob. B Company, cutting a trail from the old trail northward parallel to the north-south axis of 260, led the way. When a larger perimeter on North Knob was completed, G Company went back to the main line of resistance.

In midafternoon, Brigadier General William A. McCulloch, the Americal’s assistant commander, arrived at the 182nd Infantry command post and assumed command of operations at Hill 260. In late afternoon B and F Companies, reinforced by a provisional flame thrower platoon from the 132nd Infantry, attacked again. F Company pushed front ally while B Company attempted a flanking movement around OP Tree. This time flame throwers burned out two Japanese positions and B Company managed to drive onto South Knob. The six trapped Americans successfully sprang for safety, but at 1915 both companies withdrew to North Knob. B Company established a trail block on East-West Trail, but unlike Magata and Iwasa in the 37th Division’s sector, Muda attempted neither night attacks nor harassing infiltration.

The next day, 12 March, was subsequently referred to by the 182nd Infantry as “Bloody Sunday.” By now all combat elements of the Muda Unit were emplaced on South Knob. Operations on Bloody Sunday opened about 0700 when the Japanese put artillery and mortar fire on the Americal’s main perimeter and the rear areas. Before 12 March the presence of American troops on both knobs had inhibited the employment of American artillery and mortars, but now that the Americans were off South Knob the supporting weapons could shoot with a little more freedom.

The Americal Division, using OP Tree as a registration point, replied therefore to the Japanese with artillery and mortar fire on targets of opportunity, especially on South Knob and the approaches to Hill 260. This fire, like all similar fire, forced the Americans on North Knob to move back to avoid being hit by fragments from the shells landing on South Knob.

Meanwhile supplies on North Knob were running low, and getting more food, ammunition, and water to the companies there was proving difficult The only supply route was the trail B Company had cut northward from the old trail, and it was a footpath too narrow for vehicles. Carrying parties on the north leg of the trip encountered so much fire from the Japanese on South Knob and on the west slopes that they made the trip by running in spurts while covered by riflemen. This, to phrase it mildly, was tiring. But by noon these methods had succeeded in amassing enough ammunition to mount an attack, and the American commanders decided to deliver one and so capitalize on the advantages they presumed the morning bombardment had given them. [Later, when more troops became available, a trail wide enough for jeeps was built from the perimeter directly to North Knob. ]

The plan of attack called for F Company, 182nd, to provide a base of fire from the perimeter on North Knob while B Company, with six flame throwers attached, moved south and west to attack South Knob from the west and northwest. [Colonel Lowry, lightly wounded and weary, had by this time been temporarily replaced in command of the 2nd Battalion by Lieutenant Colonel William Mahoney, until then the regimental executive officer. ]

In column of platoons, B Company started off North Knob at 1300. The 2nd Platoon, in the lead, tried to storm the crest of South Knob from the northwest, but as it moved across a small gully two new Japanese pillboxes on the west slope opened fire and it halted. The enemy had revealed his positions, and 81-mm. mortars and machine guns opened up on the pillboxes. Under cover of this fire, and freely using flame throwers, the next platoon in column (the 3rd) crossed the gully and moved as far as the top of South Knob without losing a man.

It had reached a point southwest of OP Tree when fire from Japanese positions on the east slope struck and the soldiers hit the ground. Every attempt to maneuver brought down enemy fire, but when American mortars struck the Japanese positions the 3rd Platoon renewed the assault with grenades and flame throwers, with the latter protected by BAR men who blazed away almost continuously at the enemy. The fearsome sight of the flame is reported to have caused some Japanese soldiers to throw down their arms and flee.

At this point, when victory seemed almost won, the 3rd Platoon was struck by machine gun fire from the east of OP Tree and from a machine gun at the base of the tree itself. The day was nearly gone; it was 1620, and the attackers’ ammunition was running low. No fresh troops were immediately available on Hill 260. The 1st Battalion (less C and D companies), 132nd, had been attached to the 182nd and A Company was alerted for movement at 1515, but it was 1600 before A Company reached the 182nd’s main line of resistance.

Hoping to hold the ground gained, McCulloch and Long decided to send A Company, 132nd, along the old trail to attack the South Knob from the southwest, make physical contact with B Company, 182nd, and establish a defensive position on the crest of South Knob. Time was running out. Another hour went by before A Company began its move, and as it neared Hill 260 it received enemy gunfire which killed the company commander. There was confusion and further delay until order was restored. By now it was obvious that A Company would not reach B before dark. Thus, because there were not enough men to hold the ground B Company had gained, the American commanders reluctantly made the “painful decision” to order B Company to return to North Knob, A Company to the main perimeter.

The fight for Hill 260 had gone on for three days. Continued bombardments and attacks had failed to dislodge the Japanese. No reinforcements were available. The supply line to Hill 260 was tenuous, and it seemed that a resolute attack from the north might cut off the two-company garrison. In view of these factors, and perhaps because the cost of holding a small hill a half-mile in front of the main perimeter seemed disproportionately high, the Americal Division asked permission to pull off the hill. Corps headquarters refused.

The 13th of March was largely a repetition of the previous day’s action, except that different companies were involved. To improve the supply situation and prevent the Japanese from severing the old trail by attacks from South Knob, a more direct trail from the main perimeter was cut to North Knob. At 1000 A Company, 132nd, relieved E Company, 182nd, on North Knob. Additional flame throwers, this time a provisional platoon from the 164th Infantry, were attached to the 182nd. During the morning about one thousand 105-mm. and another thousand 4.2-inch mortar rounds hit the enemy on South Knob.

[NOTE: As Colonel Long put it in his comments, “Artillery with its dispersion and range had to be used on South Knob carefully. Artillerymen were strong for an impact fuse which gave a treetop burst of help to the observer in adjusting fire. I wanted the artillery to dig after the Japanese with delayed action fuses. I think we finally compromised on 50-50.” And “you can work up a healthy argument on the type of fuse to be employed in any Officers’ Club throughout the world. The Artillery like to get it in the air where their FO’s can see it, and the Infantry likes to get it down into the ground where the enemy can feel it.”]

 At 1400, B Company, 132nd, having moved out from the main perimeter, attacked up the southwest slope toward OP Tree after an artillery and mortar preparation. On North Knob A Company, 132nd, provided a base of fire; B Company, 182nd, was in reserve. The uphill attack succeeded in getting two platoons abreast on the southwest and west slopes of South Knob but halted in the face of grenades and rifle fire. The Japanese then retaliated with a counterattack against the left flank of B Company. A Company pushed one platoon toward OP Tree to relieve the pressure on B but it too was quickly stopped. B Company’s reserve platoon drove off the attacking Japanese, whereupon the American units withdrew.

Next day the American commanders considered using tanks against the Japanese but decided against it because the vehicles could not ford the Eagle River over the new trail and the hill was too steep for them to climb. After one more unsuccessful effort to capture OP Tree, the American commanders changed their plans. Patrols to the northeast of 260 had failed to find any large bodies of the enemy. Since the Japanese apparently had no more reserves to commit in that sector, and were obviously incapable of driving beyond Hill 260 against the main perimeter, the Americans decided to reduce their casualties by halting general attacks against South Knob, but to harry the enemy and reduce his strength by raids and combat patrols, by sapping forward from North Knob, and by extensive artillery and mortar fire.

Ironically enough, on 15 March, after the Americans had made their decision, the Japanese commanders made a similar one. As Colonel Magata’s main attack against the 129th Infantry had gone badly, Hyakutake and Kanda decided to send Muda’s main strength to reinforce Magata, leaving only a screening force on South Knob.

From then until 18 March, when General McCulloch launched a series of coordinated attacks, the Americans shelled South Knob heavily and made several ingenious attempts to burn out the Japanese with gasoline. They threw gallon cans of gas by hand and tried to ignite them with white phosphorous grenades.

They jury-rigged a 60-mm. mortar for throwing cans. Finally they took two hundred feet of flexible pipe and snaked it to within nine feet of an enemy emplacement; with oxygen pressure they pumped gasoline from a drum through the pipe and over the enemy, and ignited it with a white phosphorous grenade.

All the while mortars and artillery hammered away, the artillery firing at the reverse slopes while the mortars covered the hilltop. The 182nd Infantry’s Cannon Company emplaced its 75-mm. pack howitzers on Hill 309 for direct fire and did its best to knock down OP Tree. By 14 March South Knob, jungled no longer, was a bare, blasted slope. At 1900, 17 March, OP Tree fell to the ground. During the action more then ten thousand 105-mm. rounds struck South Knob. When all was over, the Americans reported counting 560 enemy dead. American casualties totaled 98 killed, 24 missing, and 581 wounded.

[N17-29 These figures come from Griswold, Bougainville, p. 120. The 182nd Infantry’s report gives figures which differ slightly from these. Colonel Long later wrote, in his comments, that the wounded-in-action figure was somewhat inflated because fatigue cases had been diagnosed with “unreasonable freedom” and counted among the wounded. ]

Action by the Creeks

The sector of the 37th Division’s 129th Infantry, where Colonel Magata delivered his attack, was generally flat and low. In contrast with the Iwasa Unit, which assaulted up very steep slopes, Magata’s soldiers possessed easy routes of approach along Numa Numa Trail and various streams. The 129th, in the center of the 37th Division’s line, held about 3,900 yards of curving front from a point slightly east of the Numa Numa Trail west and southwest to the right flank of the 148th Infantry. Several small streams, all tributaries of the Koromokina River, flowed through the area in a generally southerly direction. Taylor Creek cut through the 129th’s lines less than 1,000 yards west of Numa Numa Trail. Cox Creek entered the line about 750 yards southwest of Taylor Creek’s penetration. The Logging Trail, cut and used extensively by XIV Corps engineers in the relatively peaceful days before March, entered the main perimeter just west of Taylor Creek.

The 129th Infantry, commanded by Colonel John D. Frederick, held its front with two battalions in line. The 2nd Battalion, on the right, faced north, its left (west) flank joined to the right of the 3rd Battalion between Cox Creek and another branch of the Koromokina River.

In general, the 129th’s positions were stronger than the 145th’s, since the terrain permitted grazing fire except in the numerous ravines and gullies that were scattered throughout the area. Earth-and-log-pillboxes, mutually supporting and arranged in depth, formed the backbone of the main line of resistance, which was wired in behind single barbed wire and double-apron barbed wire fences. Antipersonnel mines had been laid in front of the wire. The entire front was covered by interlocking bands of machine gun fire. Additional rows of double-apron barbed wire extended diagonally from the main line of resistance to channel Japanese attacks into the machine gun fire lanes. In addition to division artillery, mortars, and the 75-mm. pack howitzers of the 129th’s Cannon Company, the front was supported by 37-mm. antitank guns (firing canister) and 40-mm. antiaircraft guns.

The 2nd Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel Preston J. Hundley, had in line three rifle companies, F, G, and E from left to right. Cox Creek lay in F Company’s sector, the Logging Trail and Taylor Creek in G’s, and the Numa Numa Trail in E’s.

During the early days of the 17th Army’s attack the 129th Infantry received mortar and artillery fire, engaged in fire fights and patrol clashes, and strengthened its positions, but was not heavily engaged in battle. But on 11 March Colonel Magata moved forward from his assembly area behind Mount Nampei to begin the attack that was designed to pierce the 129th Infantry and capture the Piva airfields not far away. Outposts and patrols reported increasing numbers of Japanese troops in front of the 129th, and the artillery fired on them off and on all day. When an antipersonnel mine in front of E Company was exploded about 1600, Colonel Frederick ordered in the outposts. Shortly afterward Japanese troops were reported advancing down the Logging Trail toward the perimeter. Starting at 1800, when all outposts and patrols had come in, division artillery and mortars laid a ten-minute concentration to the front of Colonel Hundley’s battalion. A patrol from G Company went out to examine the impact area, now cleared of underbrush and foliage, but came under Japanese fire and returned to the perimeter to report that it had located no less than fourteen enemy machine guns.

In the gathering dusk Magata’s troops —the 1st Battalion, 45th Infantry, on the left (east) and the 3rd Battalion on the right—opened up on the 2nd Battalion, 129th, with machine guns and rifles. The Americans replied with rifles, mortars, machine guns, and a 40-mm. antiaircraft gun, which along with a .50-caliber machine gun put searching fire up the Logging Trail. Machine guns in the front-line pillboxes abstained from firing so as not to reveal their locations to the enemy. This fire fight continued until 1920, then died down to flare up sporadically throughout the night.

General Beightler, at 2100, ordered his regimental commanders to keep their troops alert, for documents captured that day (apparently on Hill 700) indicated that the Japanese planned to attack in strength the next day. At the same time, as Japanese soldiers began working their way through the American wire, C Company, 82nd Chemical Battalion, was attached to the 129th Infantry, and at 0420 the next morning its 2nd Platoon moved its 4.2-inch mortars into position behind the Antitank Company, 129th, which was supporting the rifle companies.

By dawn of 12 March, though the Japanese had made earnest efforts to get through the lines, they found they had been held for very small gains. As the coming of daylight clarified the situation, the 2nd Battalion, 129th, found that the Japanese had succeeded in cutting through G Company’s wire and effecting two minor penetrations. In the 2nd Platoon sector, where Taylor Creek and the Logging Trail entered the perimeter, the Japanese had captured two pillboxes (one an alternate, unoccupied position), and to the right (east) they had seized five pillboxes.

The Japanese tried to exploit their penetrations and break out to the south but were held back by American artillery, mortar, machine gun, and rifle fire. Then the 129th prepared to counterattack and restore the line. Colonel Frederick ordered C Company out of regimental reserve and forward to support G Company at 0723. By 0810, when C Company moved into position behind the 2nd Platoon of G Company, one platoon of the Antitank Company had at tacked the western penetration and retaken one pillbox. During the rest of the morning another Antitank Company platoon moved in behind E Company; 81-mm. mortars of D Company, 129th, took up positions to support the 2nd Battalion; and B Company moved forward behind C.

At 1255, after a mortar concentration, three rifle platoons (two from C and one from G), plus two flame throwers, attacked the western penetration and by 1405 had retaken the second pillbox. The Japanese retaliated with a counterattack that was promptly repulsed. By the end of the day the Japanese still held the five pillboxes, which the Americans had not attacked, in the 3rd Platoon’s sector. Two Americans had been killed, twenty-two wounded in the day’s action as compared with one killed and six wounded the day before.

American artillery and mortars shelled the enemy during the night. Searchlights tried to illuminate him with direct beams, but failed as he took refuge in the ravines and draws. The searchlights then achieved more success by raising their beams so that they were reflected from the clouds.

The 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 45th Infantry struck again at G Company about 0400 of 13 March and gained one more pillbox before they were stopped. To eliminate this penetration, Colonel Frederick requested tanks. Corps headquarters, at 0815, released the 1st Platoon of C Company, 754th Tank Battalion, to the 129th. General Griswold released the tanks with the express proviso that they could not be used as stationary defenses, but must be employed in an attack to recapture the lost pillboxes. At 0812 General Beightler ordered the 129th not to deliver any piecemeal infantry attacks but to wait for the tanks and organize a coordinated tank-infantry assault He issued this order just fifteen minutes after C Company, 129th, made a local counterattack which regained one pillbox.

Four tanks and elements of B, C, and G Companies attacked at 1000 after a ten-minute artillery preparation. Although the ground was generally level, the tanks had difficulty in bringing their guns to bear because the Japanese were down in ravines with steep slopes. After two pillboxes had fallen, the tanks withdrew. The attack was renewed at 1315.

After another hour the tanks had almost exhausted their fuel and ammunition, and the attack was suspended while the 2nd Platoon, C Company, 754th Tank Battalion came up to replace them. [N17-31] The new tanks and the same infantry units attacked at 1730. This time the tanks and infantry managed to demolish all the Japanese-held pillboxes. By 1930, at a cost of eighteen wounded, the original line was almost restored. Colonel Magata withdrew his battalions to rest, reorganize, reconnoiter, and make ready for another attack.

[N17-31 During the afternoon XIV Corps headquarters assigned one battalion of the 131st Engineer Regiment to buttress the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, on the 129th regimental reserve line. A Company of the 131st had been assigned the day before. ]

On the 14th, a day that was quiet except for small arms fire and occasional shelling, the 2nd Battalion repaired its positions, strung new wire, planted mines in the ravines that provided covered routes of approach, and fired its mortars. Patrols went out and reported the presence of strong bodies of the enemy not far from the perimeter. Thus the Americans were sure that the Japanese withdrawal was only temporary.

Temporary it was, for at 0400 of 15 March the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 45th Infantry and the 2nd Battalion, 81st Infantry, renewed the assault. They again achieved a small local success in the Cox Creek sector held by the 2nd Platoon of F Company. By dawn they had seized one pillbox and penetrated to a depth of about one hundred yards. F Company, supported by one platoon of C Company and aided by a 36-plane air strike in front of the battalion line, counterattacked with flame throwers and bazookas to recapture the pillbox by 1153. But the enemy, still holding a salient in the line, was digging positions in the roots of banyan trees and appeared to be pushing in reinforcements and more weapons.

General Craig, arriving in the sector to observe and inform General Beightler, as he had on Hill 700, asked for tanks. General Griswold sent a platoon. A tank-infantry attack, delivered at 1500 with artillery and mortar support, made small gains. A second, at 1635, killed or drove off all the enemy at a cost of seven killed, fifty-six wounded, and one tank damaged. One hundred and ninety Japanese corpses lay within the American lines, and four enemy soldiers were captured. The Japanese suspended their assaults on 16 March but renewed them on the 17th and effected a small penetration in F Company’s sector which tanks and infantry promptly eliminated.

This was the last attack for several days, for the Japanese overhauled their plans. They had decided to abandon the attacks on Hills 260 and 700 in favor of a massed attack by the depleted regiments of the 17th Army against the 129th Infantry. While the survivors of the Muda and Iwasa Units, except for the screening forces on Hill 260, moved through the jungles to Magata’s position, the front lines remained static. Artillery and mortar fire, patrol skirmishes, and fire fights continued, especially in the sector of the 2nd Battalion, 129th Infantry. By 23 March the 13th and 23rd Regiments had joined Magata and the attack was ready. But captured documents and reconnaissance enabled the Americans to divine Japanese intentions, so that in late afternoon of the 23rd Beightler warned his troops to expect a general attack at dusk.

After dark the Japanese shelled the American positions. As before, sporadic fire fights went on all night and, concealed by the darkness, nearly all Hyakutake’s remaining units attacked through the ravines. [NOTE: In 1949 Kanda asserted that on his recommendation Hyakutake had called off this attack, but the validity of his assertion is belied by American experience and by contemporary Japanese documents.]

The 37th Division artillery and the various mortars promptly opened fire and largely broke up the Japanese assault before it got started. But the enemy succeeded in again piercing the 1st Platoon of F Company in the Cox Creek area, this time a little to the west of the earlier penetration. [Also defending this sector, in supporting positions, were platoons of B and C Companies. ] About one hundred Japanese soldiers captured four pillboxes and pushed to a low ridge about twenty-five yards from the battalion command post. When dawn broke a fire fight was raging throughout the entire area as the Japanese unsuccessfully attempted to enlarge their holdings.

The American commanders responded promptly. Two platoons of the Antitank Company and one platoon of K Company, 129th, assembled near the 2nd Battalion command post, and General Beightler dispatched two companies of the 148th Infantry to positions behind Colonel Hundley’s battalion. The Antitank and K Company platoons, plus the 3rd Platoon, A Company, 754th Tank Battalion, attacked northwest from the command post at 0725 and within twenty minutes had gained possession of the ridge. At 0930 the attackers reorganized and drove in again, supported this time by 37th Division artillery, three battalions of the Americal Division artillery, the 129th Infantry Cannon Company, and twenty-four 4.2-inch mortars, which fired into the ravines. The Americans burned, dug, and blasted the Japanese out of their ravines, trenches, foxholes, and pillboxes while the seven artillery battalions, their fire directed by General Kreber and augmented by the heavy mortars, shelled the concentrated enemy troops in front of the American lines. By 1400 General Griswold had dispatched more reserves to the area but they were not needed. The Japanese were dead or dispersed, the line restored. Hyakutake’s counteroffensive was over.

His troops withdrew from the 129th’s front pursued by the Fijians and two American battalions from the corps reserve, and on the same day he told Imamura that further attacks would be fruitless. Imamura left the. next move to Hyakutake but ordered him to resort to guerrilla warfare and raise as much of his own food as possible. Hyakutake, though not abandoning his desire to counterattack, elected to withdraw to the posts whence he had come. The 6th Cavalry and the 2nd Battalion, 4th South Seas Garrison Unit, came north to cover the retreat which began on 27 March. South Knob of Hill 260 was evacuated; the Americans reoccupied it on 28 March. The withdrawal was an orderly affair, although wounded men and heavy equipment were abandoned along the way.

In the attack the Japanese had lost over 5,000 men killed, more than 3,000 wounded. The XIV Corps lost 263 dead in its successful defense.[N17-35] The 17th Army, in spite of its serious losses, was still an effective fighting force; late March and early April saw several sharp fights when the XIV Corps fanned out to pursue the enemy and enlarge the perimeter.[N17-36 ]

[N17-35 Griswold, Bougainville, p. 139; 8th Area Army Operations, Japanese Monogr No. 110 (OCMH), p. in. By 29 April twenty-eight 75-mm., one 105-mm., and four 150-mm. field pieces had fallen into Allied hands. ]

 [N17-36 This was done to gain commanding ground, to establish trail blocks, and, at the behest of the War Department, to give combat experience to the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, and the 25th Regimental Combat Team of the 93rd Division, which arrived in late March. ]

So ended the last Japanese offensive effort in the Solomon’s. Had it succeeded, it would have seriously affected the course of the war in the Solomon’s by requiring the commitment of more men, ships, and planes to recapture Empress Augusta Bay. But it is unlikely that it would have had any real effect on the final outcome of the war.

SOURCE: Cartwheel: Reduction of Rabaul; By John Miller Jr. (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Operation Cartwheel (18) Emiau

World War Two: Action in the Admiralties II (16)

World War Two: Bougainville (13); Exploiting the Beachhead

Korean War: American Ground Forces Enter the Battle (6)

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. (SUN TZU, The Art of War)

Across the Korea Strait events of importance were taking place in Japan that would soon have an impact on the Korean scene. In Tokyo, General MacArthur on 30 June instructed General Walker, commander of Eighth Army, to order the 24th Infantry Division to Korea at once. Its proximity to Korea was the principal reason General MacArthur selected it for immediate commitment. [N6-1] General Walker gave Major General William F. Dean, Commanding General, 24th Division, preliminary verbal instructions concerning the division.

These instructions were formalized in an Eighth Army Operation Order at 0315 1 July which provided that (1) a delaying force of two rifle companies, under a battalion commander, reinforced by two platoons of 4.2-inch mortars and one platoon of 75-mm. recoilless rifles was to go by air to Pusan and report to General Church for orders; (2) the division headquarters and one battalion of infantry were to go to Pusan by air at once; (3) the remainder of the division would follow by water; and (4) a base was to be established for early offensive operations. The mission of the advance elements was phrased as follows: “Advance at once upon landing with delaying force, in accordance with the situation, to the north by all possible means, contact enemy now advancing south from Seoul towards Suwon and delay his advance.” [N6-2] The order also stated that General Dean would assume command of all U.S. Army Forces in Korea (USAFIK) upon his arrival there.

[N6-1 Schnabel, FEC, GHQ Support and Participation in Korean War, ch. III, p. 1, citing Msg CX 56978, CINCFE to CG 8th Army, 30 Jun 50.] 

[N6-2 EUSAK WD, Opns Ord 2, 010315K Jul 50.]

In the next few days Eighth Army transferred a total of 2,108 men to the 24th Division from other units to bring it up to full authorized strength, most of them from the other three infantry divisions. The division, thus readied for the movement to Korea, numbered 15,965 men and had 4,773 vehicles. [N6-3]

[N6-3 troop list accompanying Opns Ord 2; Ibid., Prologue, 25 Jun-13 Jul 50, Incl 1, Rpt of G-1 Activities, 1-12 Jul 50, pp. 1-2.]

Task Force Smith Goes to Korea

On the evening of 30 June, Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Smith, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, went to bed at 9 o’clock in his quarters at Camp Wood near Kumamoto, Kyushu, tired and sleepy after having been up all the previous night because of an alert. An hour and a half later his wife awakened him, saying, “Colonel Stephens is on the phone and wants you.” At the telephone Smith heard Colonel Richard W. Stephens, Commanding Officer, 21st Infantry, say to him, “The lid has blown off—get on your clothes and report to the CP.” Thus began Task Force Smith as seen by its leader. Colonel Smith had been at Schofield Barracks, Oahu, on 7 December 1941 when the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor, causing him hurriedly to take D Company, 35th Infantry, to form a defense position on Barbers Point. Now, this call in the night vividly reminded him of that earlier event.

At the regimental command post, Colonel Stephens told Smith to take his battalion, less A and D Companies, to Itazuke Air Base; it was to fly to Korea at once. General Dean would meet him at the airfield with further instructions.

Colonel Stephens quickly arranged to lend Smith officers from the 3rd Battalion to fill gaps in the rifle platoons of B and C Companies. By 0300 1 July Colonel Smith and his men were on trucks and started on the seventy-five mile drive from Camp Wood to Itazuke. They rode in a downpour of rain, the same monsoon deluge that descended on General Church and his ADCOM party that night on the road from Suwon to Taejon. Smith’s motor convoy reached Itazuke at 0805.

General Dean was waiting for Smith at the airfield. “When you get to Pusan,” he said to him, “head for Taejon. We want to stop the North Koreans as far from Pusan as we can. Block the main road as far north as possible. Contact General Church, If you can’t locate him, go to Taejon and beyond if you can. Sorry I can’t give you more information. That’s all I’ve got. Good luck to you, and God bless you and your men.

Thus, the fortunes of war decreed that Colonel Smith, a young infantry officer of the West Point Class of 1939 who had served with the 25th Division in the Pacific in World War II, would command the first American ground troops to meet the enemy in the Korean War. Smith was about thirty-four years of age, of medium stature, and possessed a strong, compact body. His face was friendly and open.

Assembled at Itazuke, Colonel Smith’s force consisted of the following units and weapons of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment: 2 understrength rifle companies, B and C; one-half of Headquarters Company; one-half of a communications platoon; a composite 75mm. recoilless rifle platoon of 4 guns, only 2 of which were airlifted; and 4 4.2-inch mortars, only 2 airlifted. The organization of B and C Companies included 6 2.36-inch bazooka teams and 4 60-mm. mortars. Each man had 120 rounds of .30-caliber rifle ammunition and 2 days of C rations. In all, there were about 440 men, of whom only 406 were destined to be in the group air-landed in Korea that day.

Smith’s force had a liberal sprinkling of combat veterans from World War II. About one-third of the officers had had combat experience either in Europe or in the Pacific. About one-half of the noncommissioned officers were World War II veterans, but not all had been in combat. Throughout the force, perhaps one man in six had had combat experience. Most of the men were young, twenty years old or less.

Only six C-54 planes were available for the transport job. The first plane was airborne at 0845. The first and second planes upon arrival over the small runway near Pusan found it closed in with fog and, unable to land, they returned to Japan. Colonel Smith was on the second plane but he could not land in Korea until the tenth flight—between 1400 and 1500. Colonel Emmerich, who the previous afternoon had received instructions to have the airstrip ready, a few other KMAG officers, and a great number of South Korean civilians met the first elements when they landed about 1100. [N6-7]

[N6-7 Intervs, author with Smith, 7 Oct 51, and Emmerich, 5 Dec 51. The 24th Division War Diary, 1 July 1950, erroneously states that 24 C-54 planes were available for the airlift. Smith denies this.]

A miscellaneous assortment of about a hundred Korean trucks and vehicles assembled by Colonel Emmerich transported the men of Task Force Smith the seventeen miles from the airstrip to the railroad station in Pusan. Cheering crowds lined the streets and waved happily to the American soldiers as they passed. The city was in gay spirits-flags, banners, streamers, and posters were everywhere. Korean bands at the railroad station gave a noisy send-off as the loaded train pulled out at 2000.

The train with Task Force Smith aboard arrived at Taejon the next morning, 0800 2 July. There Lieutenant Colonel LeRoy Lutes, a member of ADCOM, met Colonel Smith and took him to General Church’s headquarters where the general was in conference with several American and ROK officers. Church greeted Smith and, pointing to a place on the map, explained, “We have a little action up here. All we need is some men up there who won’t run when they see tanks. We’re going to move you up to support the ROKs and give them moral support.”

Colonel Smith then suggested that he would like to go forward and look over the ground. While his men went to their bivouac area, Smith and his principal officers got into jeeps and set out over the eighty miles of bad, bumpy roads to Osan. All along the way they saw thousands of ROK soldiers and refugees cluttering the roads and moving south.

Three miles north of Osan, at a point where the road runs through a low saddle, drops down, and bends slightly northwest toward Suwon, Smith found an excellent infantry position which commanded both the highway and the railroad. An irregular ridge of hills crossed the road at right angles, the highest point rising about 300 feet above the low ground which stretched northward toward Suwon. From this high point both the highway and railroad were in view almost the entire distance to Suwon, eight miles to the north.

After looking over the ground, Smith issued verbal orders for organizing a position there. A flight of enemy fighters, red stars plainly visible on their wings, passed overhead, but their pilots apparently did not see the few men below. Its purpose accomplished, the group returned to the Taejon airstrip well after dark.

That night, 2 July, Smith received an order to take his men north by train to Pyongtaek and Ansong. The former is 15 miles south, and the latter 20 miles southeast, of Osan. Smith loaded his men into trains and they rolled north into the night. One company dug in at Pyongtaek ; the other at Ansong 12 miles away. Smith established his command post with the group at Pyongtaek on the main highway.

The next day at Pyongtaek Colonel Smith and his men witnessed a demonstration of aerial destructiveness. A northbound ammunition train of nine boxcars on its way to ROK units pulled into Pyongtaek . While the train waited for further instructions, four Mustangs flown by Royal Australian Air Force pilots made six strafing runs over it firing rockets and machine guns. The train was blown up, the station demolished, and parts of the town shot up. All night ammunition kept exploding. Many residents of Pyongtaek died or were injured in this mistaken air strike.

That same afternoon friendly air also attacked Suwon and strafed a South Korean truck column near the town. ROK rifle fire damaged one plane and forced the pilot to land at Suwon Airfield. There, KMAG and ROK officers “captured” a highly embarrassed American pilot. One KMAG officer with the ROK Army headquarters at Suwon said he was under attack by friendly planes five different times on 3 July. This same officer in a letter to a friend a few days later wrote of these misplaced air attacks, “The fly boys really had a field day! They hit friendly ammo dumps, gas dumps, the Suwon air strip, trains, motor columns, and KA [Korean Army] Hq.” In the afternoon, four friendly jet planes made strikes on Suwon and along the Suwon-Osan highway setting fire to gasoline at the railroad station in Suwon and destroying buildings and injuring civilians. On the road they strafed and burned thirty South Korean trucks and killed 200 ROK soldiers. Because of these incidents throughout the day, General Church sent a strong protest to FEAF asking that air action be held to Han River bridges or northward.[N6-10]

[N6-10 Ltr, Scott to friend, ca. 6-7 Jul 50; Interv, author with Hazlett, 11 Jun 54 (Colonel Hazlett was in the Suwon area on 3 July); Msg 239, 24th Div G-2 Jnl, 25 Jun-3 Jul 50.]

The next day, 4 July, Smith’s divided command reunited at Pyongtaek , and was joined there by a part of the 52nd Field Artillery Battalion. This artillery contingent comprised one-half each of Headquarters and Service Batteries and all of A Battery with 6 105-mm. howitzers, 73 vehicles, and 108 men under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Miller O. Perry. It had crossed from Japan on an LST 2 July, disembarking at Pusan late that night. Two trains the next day carried the unit to Taejon. There General Church ordered Perry to join Smith at Pyongtaek , and about 2100 that night Perry’s artillery group entrained and departed northward. Because of the destroyed railroad station at Pyongtaek , the train stopped at Songhwan-ni, where the artillerymen unloaded and drove on the six miles to Pyongtaek before daylight.

Meanwhile, the 34th Infantry Regiment loaded at Sasebo during the night of 1 July, and arrived at Pusan the next night. After Task Force Smith had left Japan the rest of the 21st Infantry Regiment, except A and D Companies which sailed from Moji, loaded at Sasebo 3 July and departed for Pusan, arriving there early the next morning.

General Dean also was on his way to Korea. Failing on 2 July to land at Taejon because his pilot could not find the airstrip in the dark, General Dean the next morning at Ashiya Air Base joined Captain Ben L. Tufts on his way to Korea by General Almond’s order to act as liaison between Army and the press. Tufts’ pilot knew the Taejon airstrip and landed his plane there about 1030, 3 July. General Dean and Captain Tufts went directly to the two-story yellow brick building serving as General Church’s ADCOM Headquarters.

That afternoon a message from General MacArthur notified General Dean that United States Army Forces in Korea was activated under his command as of 0001 4 July. General Dean assumed command of USAFIK during the day and appointed General Church as Deputy Commander. Twenty-two other officers were named General and Special Staff officers of USAFIK. [N6-14] ADCOM provided most of the officers for the USAFIK staff, but some KMAG officers also served on it. Most of the KMAG officers who had left Korea by air on 27 June returned aboard the ammunition ship Sergeant Keathley on 2 July. [N6-15] By this time the ROK Army had assembled and partly reorganized about 68,000 men.

[N6-14 24th Div WD, G-3 Jnl, Msg 242, 3 Jul 50; USAFIK GO 1, 4 Jul 50, and SO 1, 4 Jul 50.]

[N6-15 Church MS; Sawyer, KMAG MS; Schnabel FEC, GHQ Support and Participation in Korean War, ch. IV, pp. 8-9. ]

Task Force Smith at Osan

Colonels Smith and Perry, and some others, went forward in the late afternoon of 4 July to make a final reconnaissance of the Osan position. At this time Perry selected the positions for his artillery. On the road ROK engineer groups were preparing demolitions on all bridges.

Back at Taejon General Dean, a big six-footer with a bristling crew cut cropping his sand-colored hair, and beanpole General Church, slightly stooped, always calm seemingly to the point of indifference, discussed the probability of imminent American combat with the enemy. The third general officer to come to the forward area in Korea, Brigadier General George B. Barth, acting commanding general of the 24th Division artillery, now arrived in Taejon in the early afternoon. General Dean decided to send Barth forward to represent him, and with instructions for Task Force Smith. So, at 1500 4 July, General Barth started north by jeep for Pyongtaek . [N-16] When he found Smith, General Barth relayed his orders to “take up those good positions near Osan you told General Church about.” [N6-17 Interv, author with Smith, 7 Oct 51; Dean and Worden, General Dean’s Story, p. 20. Barth says Smith had already started his men forward when he arrived at Pyongtaek . MS review comments, 24 Feb 58.]

[N6-16 Brigadier General G. B. Barth, 25th Div Unit Hist, Tropic Lightning and Taro Leaf in Korea (prepared in 1951), MS in OCMH (hereafter cited as Barth MS); General Barth, MS review comments, 24 Feb 58.]

A little after midnight the infantry and artillery of Task Force Smith moved out of Pyongtaek . Colonel Smith had to commandeer Korean trucks and miscellaneous vehicles to mount his men. The native Korean drivers deserted when they found that the vehicles were going north. American soldiers took over in the drivers’ seats. General Barth and Colonel Smith followed the task force northward. On the way, General Barth tried to halt the ROK demolition preparations by telling the engineer groups that he planned to use the bridges. At one bridge, after talk failed to influence the ROK engineers, Barth threw the boxes of dynamite into the river. It was only twelve miles to Osan, but it took two and a half hours to get there because ROK soldiers and civilians fleeing south filled the road and driving was under blackout conditions.

About 0300 on 5 July, the delaying force reached the position which Smith had previously selected. The infantry units started setting up weapons and digging in at the predesignated places. Colonel Perry moved his guns into the positions behind the infantry that he had selected the previous afternoon. All units were in place, but not completely dug in, before daylight.

In seeking the most favorable place to pass through the ridge, the railroad bent eastward away from the highway until it was almost a mile distant. There the railroad split into two single-track lines and passed over low ground between hills of the ridge line. On his left flank Colonel Smith placed one platoon of B Company on the high knob immediately west of the highway; east of the road were B Company’s other two rifle platoons. Beyond them eastward to the railroad tracks were two platoons of C Company. This company’s third platoon occupied a finger ridge running south, forming a refused right flank along the west side of the railroad track. Just east of the highway B Company emplaced one 75-mm. recoilless rifle; C Company emplaced the other 75-mm. recoilless rifle just west of the railroad.

Colonel Smith placed the 4.2-inch mortars on the reverse, or south, slope of the ridge about 400 yards behind the center of B Company’s position. The infantry line formed a 1-mile front, not counting the refused right flank along the railroad track. The highway, likely to be the critical axis of enemy advance, passed through the shallow saddle at the infantry position and then zigzagged gently downgrade northward around several knoblike spurs to low ground a little more than a mile away. There it crossed to the east side of the railroad track and continued on over semi level ground to Suwon.

Two thousand yards behind the infantry, Colonel Perry pulled four 105mm. howitzers 150 yards to the left (west) off the highway over a small trail that only jeeps could travel. Two jeeps in tandem pulled the guns into place. Near a cluster of houses with rice paddies in front and low hills back of them, the men arranged the guns in battery position. Perry emplaced the fifth howitzer as an antitank gun on the west side of the road about halfway between the main battery position and the infantry. From there it could place direct fire on the highway where it passed through the saddle and the infantry positions. [N6-21]

Volunteers from the artillery Headquarters and Service Batteries made up four .50-caliber machine gun and four 2.36-inch bazooka teams and joined the infantry in their position. The infantry parked most of their miscellaneous trucks and jeeps along the road just south of the saddle. The artillerymen left their trucks concealed in yards and sheds and behind Korean houses along the road just north of Osan. There were about 1,200 rounds of artillery ammunition at the battery position and in two trucks parked inside a walled enclosure nearby. One or two truckloads more were in the vehicles parked among the houses just north of Osan. Nearly all this ammunition was high explosive (HE); only 6 rounds were high explosive antitank (HEAT), and all of it was taken to the forward gun. [N6-22] When the 52nd Field Artillery was loading out at Sasebo, Japan, the battalion ammunition officer drew all the HEAT ammunition available there—only 18 rounds. He issued 6 rounds to A Battery, now on the point of engaging in the first battle between American artillery and the Russian-built T34 tanks

[N6-21 Intervs, author with Perry, 13 Dec 51, and Eversole, 1 Aug 51; Ltr, Perry to author, 5 Dec 51. The sixth howitzer had been left at Pyongtaek because of trouble with the prime mover.]

[N6-22 Ltr, Perry to author, 5 Dec 51; Intervs, author with Perry, 13 Dec 51, and Eversole, 1 Aug 51. 23 Interv, author with 1st Lieutenant Percy R. Hare, 5 Aug 51. (Hare was Ammunition and Trains Officer, 52nd Field Artillery Battalion, when the battalion left for Korea.)].

At the Osan position as rainy 5 July dawned were 540 Americans: 389 enlisted men and 17 officers among the infantry and 125 enlisted men and 9 officers among the artillerymen. [N6-24] When first light came, the infantry test-fired their weapons and the artillerymen registered their guns. Then they ate their C ration breakfasts. In spite of the rain Smith could see almost to Suwon. He first saw movement on the road in the distance near Suwon a little after 0700. In about half an hour a tank column, now easily discernible, approached the waiting Americans. In this first group there were eight tanks. About 0800 the men back in the artillery position received a call from the forward observer with the infantry for a fire mission. [N6-25]

[N6-24 Interv, author with Smith, 7 Oct 51; Ltr, Perry to author, 5 Dec. 51. The official army records contain many inaccuracies with respect to Task Force Smith. To note only a few: one FEC G-2 report gives the date of the Osan action as 6 July, the 24th Division War Diary gives it as 4 July. Both are wrong. Several sources state that enemy tank fire destroyed all the American 105-mm. howitzers at Osan; only one was destroyed.]

[N6-25 Ltr, Smith to author, 4 May 52; Intervs, author with Smith, 7 Oct 51, and Eversole, 1 Aug 51. Eversole says he looked at his watch when the request for a fire mission came in from the forward observer and noted the time as 0745, Barth thinks the time was closer to 0800. Smith told the author he first saw the enemy column about 0700 and that it was about half an hour in moving up in front of his position. In an interview with the 24th Division G-2 on 7 July 1950, two days after the action, Colonel Smith gave the time as 0745 when the tank column approached his position. See 24th Div G-3 Jnl, 6-10 Jul 50, entry 64, 071720. A telephone call from USAFIK headquarters in Taejon to GHQ in Tokyo at 1105, 5 July, gave the time of initial contact as 0818. Memo, Gen Wright, FEC G-3, for CofS ROK, 051130 Jul 50.]

At 0816 the first American artillery fire of the Korean War hurtled through the air toward the North Korean tanks. The number two howitzer fired the first two rounds, and the other pieces then joined in the firing. The artillery took the tanks under fire at a range of approximately 4,000 yards, about 2,000 yards in front of the American infantry. [N6-26] The forward observer quickly adjusted the fire and shells began landing among the tanks. But the watching infantrymen saw the tanks keep on coming, undeterred by the exploding artillery shells.

To conserve ammunition Colonel Smith issued orders that the 75-mm. recoilless rifle covering the highway should withhold fire until the tanks closed to 700 yards. The tanks stayed in column, displayed little caution, and did not leave the road. The commander of the enemy tank column may have thought he had encountered only another minor ROK delaying position.

General Barth had gone back to the artillery just before the enemy came into view and did not know when he arrived there that an enemy force was approaching. After receiving reports from the forward observer that the artillery fire was ineffective against the tanks, he started back to alert the 1st Battalion of the 34th Infantry, whose arrival he expected at Pyongtaek during the night, against a probable breakthrough of the enemy tanks. [N6-27]

[N6-26 Intervs, author with Perry, 13 Dec 51, and Eversole, 1 Aug 51; Barth, MS review comments, 28 Feb 58. Knowing the action was of historic importance, Barth looked at his watch when the artillery opened fire. He says it was 0816.]

[N6-27 Barth MS; Interv, author with Captain Ben M. Huckabay, 2 Aug 51. (Huckabay was a corporal at Osan with the 52nd Field Artillery.)

When the enemy tank column approached within 700 yards of the infantry position, the two recoilless rifles took it under fire. They scored direct hits, but apparently did not damage the tanks which, firing their 85-mm. cannon and 7.62-mm. machine guns, rumbled on up the incline toward the saddle. When they were almost abreast of the infantry position, the lead tanks came under 2.36-inch rocket launcher fire. Operating a bazooka from the ditch along the east side of the road, 2nd Lieutenant Ollie D. Connor, fired twenty-two rockets at approximately fifteen yards’ range against the rear of the tanks where their armor was weakest. Whether they were effective is doubtful. The two lead tanks, however, were stopped just through the pass when they came under direct fire of the single 105-mm. howitzer using HEAT ammunition. Very likely these artillery shells stopped the two tanks, although the barrage of close-range bazooka rockets may have damaged their tracks. [N6-28]

The two damaged tanks pulled off to the side of the road, clearing the way for those following. One of the two caught fire and burned. Two men emerged from its turret with their hands up. A third jumped out with a burp gun in his hands and fired directly into a machine gun position, killing the assistant gunner. This unidentified machine gunner probably was the first American ground soldier killed in action in Korea. [N6-29] American fire killed the three North Koreans. The six rounds of HEAT ammunition at the forward gun were soon expended, leaving only the HE shells which ricocheted off the tanks. The third tank through the pass knocked out the forward gun and wounded one of its crew members.

[N6-28 Intervs, author with Smith, 7 Oct 51, and Perry, 13 Dec 51. Smith told the author that the bazooka ammunition had deteriorated because of age.]

 [N6-29 Interv, author with 1st Lieutenant Lawrence C. Powers, 2 Aug 51. Powers was Headquarters Company Communications Officer, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, at Osan, 5 July. He said he saw this action.]

The tanks did not stop to engage the infantry; they merely fired on them as they came through. Following the first group of 8 tanks came; others at short intervals, usually in groups of 4. These, too, went unhesitatingly through the infantry position and on down the road toward the artillery position. In all, there were 33 tanks in the column. The last passed through the infantry position by 0900, about an hour after the lead tanks had reached the saddle. In this hour, tank fire had killed or wounded approximately twenty men in Smith’s position. [N6-30]

Earlier in the morning it was supposed to have been no more than an academic question as to what would happen if tanks came through the infantry to the artillery position. Someone in the artillery had raised this point to be answered by the infantry, “Don’t worry, they will never get back to you.” One of the artillerymen later expressed the prevailing opinion by saying, “Everyone thought the enemy would turn around and go back when they found out who was fighting.”] Word now came to the artillerymen from the forward observer that tanks were through the infantry and to be ready for them. The first tanks cut up the telephone wire strung along the road from the artillery to the infantry and destroyed this communication. The radios were wet and functioning badly; now only the jeep radio worked. Communication with the infantry after 0900 was spotty at best, and, about 1100, it ceased altogether.

[N6-30 Intervs, author with Smith, 7 Oct 51, Perry, 13 Dec 51, and Huckabay, 2 Aug 51, and Sergeant Jack L. Ruffner, 2 Aug 51.]

The tanks came on toward the artillery pieces, which kept them under fire but could not stop them. About 500 yards from the battery, the tanks stopped behind a little hill seeking protection from direct fire. Then, one at a time, they came down the road with a rush, hatches closed, making a run to get past the battery position. Some fired their 85-mm. cannon, others only their machine guns. Their aim was haphazard in most cases for the enemy tankers had not located the gun positions. Some of the tank guns even pointed toward the opposite side of the road. Only one tank stopped momentarily at the little trail where the howitzers had pulled off the main road as though it meant to try to overrun the battery which its crew evidently had located. Fortunately, however, it did not leave the road but instead, after a moment, continued on toward Osan. The 105-mm. howitzers fired at ranges of 150-300 yards as the tanks went by, but the shells only jarred the tanks and bounced off. Altogether, the tanks did not average more than one round each in return fire.

Three bazooka teams from the artillery had posted themselves near the road before the tanks appeared. When word came that the tanks were through the infantry, two more bazooka teams, one led by Colonel Perry and the other by Sergeant Edwin A. Eversole, started to move into position. The first tank caught both Perry and Eversole in the rice paddy between the howitzers and the highway. When Eversole’s first bazooka round bounced off the turret of the tank, he said that tank suddenly looked to him “as big as a battleship.” This tank fired its 85-mm. cannon, cutting down a telephone pole which fell harmlessly over Eversole who had flung himself down into a paddy drainage ditch. A 105-mm. shell hit the tracks of the third tank and stopped it. The other tanks in this group went on through. The four American howitzers remained undamaged.

After these tanks had passed out of sight, Colonel Perry took an interpreter and worked his way up close to the immobilized enemy tank. Through the interpreter, he called on the crew to come out and surrender. There was no response. Perry then ordered the howitzers to destroy the tank. After three rounds had hit the tank, two men jumped out of it and took cover in a culvert. Perry sent a squad forward and it killed the two North Koreans.

During this little action, small arms fire hit Colonel Perry in the right leg. Refusing to be evacuated, he hobbled around or sat against the base of a tree giving orders and instructions in preparation for the appearance of more tanks. [NOTE: Intervs, author with Eversole, 1 Aug 51, and Huckabay, 2 Aug 51. Special Order 76, 20 September 1950, awarded Colonel Perry the Distinguished Service Cross. ]

In about ten minutes the second wave of tanks followed the last of the first group. This time there were more—”a string of them,” as one man expressed it. They came in ones, twos, and threes, close together with no apparent interval or organization.

When the second wave of tanks came into view, some of the howitzer crew members started to “take off.” As one present said, the men were “shy about helping.” The officers had to drag the ammunition up and load the pieces themselves. The senior noncommissioned officers fired the pieces. The momentary panic soon passed and, with the good example and strong leadership of Colonel Perry and 1st Lieutenant Dwain L. Scott before them, the men returned to their positions.

Many of the second group of tanks did not fire on the artillery at all. Again, the 105-mm. howitzers could not stop the oncoming tanks. They did, however hit another in its tracks, disabling it in front of the artillery position.[N6-37] Some of the tanks had one or two infantrymen on their decks. Artillery fire blew off or killed most of them; some lay limply dead as the tanks went by; others slowly jolted off onto the road. Enemy tank fire caused a building to burn near the battery position and a nearby dump of about 300 rounds of artillery shells began to explode. The last of the tanks passed the artillery position by 1015. These tanks were from the 107th Tank Regiment of the 105th Armored Division, in support of the N.K. 4th Division. [N6-40]

[N6-37 Intervs, author with Eversole, 1 Aug 51, and Perry, 13 Dec 51. The 24th Division General Order 111, 30 August 1950, awarded Lieutenant Scott the Silver Star for action at Osan, 5 July 1950.]

Colonel Perry estimates that his four howitzers fired an average of 4 to 6 rounds at each of the tanks, and that they averaged perhaps 1 round each in return. After the last tank was out of sight, rumbling on toward Osan, the score stood as follows: the forward 105mm. howitzer, and 2.36-inch bazookas fired from the infantry position, had knocked out and left burning 1 tank and damaged another so that it could not move; the artillery had stopped 2 more in front of the battery position, while 3 others though damaged had managed to limp out of range toward Osan. This made 4 tanks destroyed or immobilized and 3 others slightly damaged but serviceable out of a total of 33.

For their part, the tanks had destroyed the forward 105-mm. howitzer and wounded one of its crew members, had killed or wounded an estimated twenty infantrymen, and had destroyed all the parked vehicles behind the infantry position. At the main battery position the tanks had slightly damaged one of the four guns by a near miss. Only Colonel Perry and another man were wounded at the battery position.

Task Force Smith was not able to use any antitank mines—one of the most effective methods of defense against tanks—as there were none in Korea at the time. Colonel Perry was of the opinion that a few well-placed antitank mines would have stopped the entire armored column in the road. [N6-42]

 [N6-40 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 4 (Enemy Forces), p. 37.]

After the last of the tank column had passed through the infantry position and the artillery and tank fire back toward Osan had subsided, the American positions became quiet again. There was no movement of any kind discernible on the road ahead toward Suwon. But Smith knew that he must expect enemy infantry soon. In the steady rain that continued throughout the morning, the men deepened their foxholes and otherwise improved their positions.

Perhaps an hour after the enemy tank column had moved through, Colonel Smith, from his observation post, saw movement on the road far away, near Suwon. This slowly became discernible as a long column of trucks and foot soldiers. Smith estimated the column to be about six miles long. [N6-43] It took an hour for the head of the column to reach a point 1,000 yards in front of the American infantry. There were three tanks in front, followed by a long line of trucks, and, behind these, several miles of marching infantry. There could be no doubt about it, this was a major force of the North Korean Army pushing south—the 16th and 18th Regiments of the N.K. 4th Division, as learned later. [N6-44]

[N6-42 Intervs, author with Perry, 13 Dec 51, and Powers, 2 Aug 51: Ltr, Smith to author, 4 May 52.]

 [N6-43 Interv, author with Smith, 7 Oct 51.]  

[N6-44 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 94 (N.K. 4th Div), p. 45. The division’s third regiment, the5th, remained behind in Suwon.]

Whether the enemy column knew that American ground troops had arrived in Korea and were present in the battle area is unknown. Later, Sr. Colonel Lee Hak Ku, in early July operations officer of the N.K. II Corps, said he had no idea that the United States would intervene in the war, that nothing had been said about possible U.S. intervention, and that he believed it came as a surprise to North Korean authorities. [N6-45]

With battle against a greatly superior number of enemy troops only a matter of minutes away, the apprehensions of the American infantry watching the approaching procession can well be imagined. General MacArthur later referred to his commitment of a handful of American ground troops as “that arrogant display of strength” which he hoped would fool the enemy into thinking that a much larger force was at hand.[N6-46]

When the convoy of enemy trucks was about 1,000 yards away, Colonel Smith, to use his own words, “threw the book at them.” Mortar shells landed among the trucks and .50-caliber machine gun bullets swept the column. Trucks burst into flames. Men were blown into the air; others sprang from their vehicles and jumped into ditches alongside the road. The three tanks moved to within 200-300 yards of the American positions and began raking the ridge line with cannon and machine gun fire. Behind the burning vehicles an estimated 1,000 enemy infantry de-trucked and started to deploy. Behind them other truckloads of infantry stopped and waited. It was now about 1145.[N6-47]

[N6-45 ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 9 (N.K. Forces), pp. 158-74, Interrog of Sr Col Lee Hak Ku.]

 [N6-46 Senate MacArthur Hearings, pt. I, p. 231.]

 [N6-47 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 94 (N.K. 4th Div), p. 45; 24th Div G-3 Jnl, Rpt of Interrog of Col Smith, 071720, entry 64; Interv, author with Smith, 7 Oct 51.]

The enemy infantry began moving up the finger ridge along the east side of the road. There, some of them set up a base of fire while others fanned out to either side in a double enveloping movement. The American fire broke up all efforts of the enemy infantry to advance frontally. Strange though it was, the North Koreans made no strong effort to attack the flanks; they seemed bent on getting around rather than closing on them. Within an hour, about 1230, the enemy appeared in force on the high hill to the west of the highway overlooking and dominating the knob on that side held by a platoon of B Company. Smith, observing this, withdrew the platoon to the east side of the road. Major Floyd Martin, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, meanwhile supervised the carrying of available ammunition stocks to a central and protected area back of the battalion command post. The 4.2-inch mortars were moved up closer, and otherwise the men achieved a tighter defense perimeter on the highest ground east of the road. [N6-48] In the exchange of fire that went on an increasing amount of enemy mortar and artillery fire fell on the American position. Enemy machine guns on hills overlooking the right flank now also began firing on Smith’s men.

Earlier, Colonel Perry had twice sent wire parties to repair the communications wire between the artillery and the infantry, but both had returned saying they had been fired upon. At 1300 Perry sent a third group led by his Assistant S-3. This time he ordered the men to put in a new line across the paddies east of the road and to avoid the area where the earlier parties said they had received fire.

[N6-48 21st Inf Regt WD, 5 Jul 50; Intervs, author with Smith, 7 Oct 51, and Powers, 2 Aug 51.]

About 1430, Colonel Smith decided that if any of his command was to get out, the time to move was at hand. Large numbers of the enemy were now on both flanks and moving toward his rear; a huge enemy reserve waited in front of him along the road stretching back toward Suwon; and his small arms ammunition was nearly gone. A large enemy tank force was already in his rear. He had no communications, not even with Colonel Perry’s artillery a mile behind him, and he could hope for no reinforcements. Perry’s artillery had fired on the enemy infantry as long as the fire direction communication functioned properly, but this too had failed soon after the infantry fight began. The weather prevented friendly air from arriving at the scene. Had it been present it could have worked havoc with the enemy-clogged road.

Smith planned to withdraw his men by leapfrogging units off the ridge, each jump of the withdrawal covered by protecting fire of the next unit ahead. The selected route of withdrawal was toward Osan down the finger ridge on the right flank, just west of the railroad track. First off the hill was C Company, followed by the medics, then battalion headquarters, and, finally, B Company, except its 2nd Platoon which never received the withdrawal order. A platoon messenger returned from the company command post and reported to 2nd Lieutenant Carl F. Bernard that there was no one at the command post and that the platoon was the only group left in position. After confirming this report Bernard tried to withdraw his men. At the time of the withdrawal the men carried only small arms and each averaged two or three clips of ammunition. They abandoned all crew-served weapons—recoilless rifles, mortars, and machine guns. They had no alternative but to leave behind all the dead and about twenty-five to thirty wounded litter cases. A medical sergeant, whose name unfortunately has not been determined, voluntarily remained with the latter. The slightly wounded moved out with the main units, but when enemy fire dispersed some of the groups many of the wounded dropped behind and were seen no more.

Task Force Smith suffered its heaviest casualties in the withdrawal. Some of the enemy machine gun fire was at close quarters. The captain and pitcher of the regimental baseball team, 1st Lieutenant Raymond “Bodie” Adams, used his pitching arm to win the greatest victory of his career when he threw a grenade forty yards into an enemy machine gun position, destroying the gun and killing the crew. This particular gun had caused heavy casualties.

About the time B Company, the initial covering unit, was ready to withdraw, Colonel Smith left the hill, slanted off to the railroad track and followed it south to a point opposite the artillery position. From there he struck off west through the rice paddies to find Colonel Perry and tell him the infantry was leaving. While crossing the rice paddies Smith met Perry’s wire party and together they hurried to Perry’s artillery battery. Smith had assumed that the enemy tanks had destroyed all the artillery pieces and had made casualties of most of the men. His surprise was complete when he found that all the guns at this battery position were operable and that only Colonel Perry and another man were wounded. Enemy infantry had not yet appeared at the artillery position.

Upon receiving Smith’s order to withdraw, the artillerymen immediately made ready to go. They removed the sights and breech locks from the guns and carried them and the aiming circles to their vehicles. Smith, Perry, and the artillerymen walked back to the outskirts of Osan where they found the artillery trucks as they had left them, only a few being slightly damaged by tank and machine gun fire.

Perry and Smith planned to take a road at the south edge of Osan to Ansong, assuming that the enemy tanks had gone down the main road toward Pyongtaek . Rounding a bend in the road near the southern edge of the town, but short of the Ansong road, Smith and Perry in the lead vehicle came suddenly upon three enemy tanks halted just ahead of them. Some or all of the tank crew members were standing about smoking cigarettes. The little column of vehicles turned around quickly, and, without a shot being fired, drove back to the north edge of Osan. There they turned into a small dirt road that led eastward, hoping that it would get them to Ansong.

The column soon came upon groups of infantry from Smith’s battalion struggling over the hills and through the rice paddies. Some of the men had taken off their shoes in the rice paddies, others were without head covering of any kind, while some had their shirts off. The trucks stopped and waited while several of these groups came up and climbed on them. About 100 infantrymen joined the artillery group in this way. Then the vehicles continued on unmolested, arriving at Ansong after dark. There was no pursuit. The North Korean infantry occupied the vacated positions, and busied themselves in gathering trophies, apparently content to have driven off the enemy force.

The next morning, 6 July, Colonel Smith and his party went on to Chonan. Upon arrival there a count revealed that he had 185 men. Subsequently, Captain Richard Dashmer, C Company commander, came in with 65 men, increasing the total to 250. There were about 150 men killed, wounded, or missing from Colonel Smith’s infantry force when he took a second count later in the day. The greatest loss was in B Company. [N6-55] Survivors straggled in to American lines at Pyongtaek, Chonan, Taejon, and other points in southern Korea during the next several days. Lieutenant Bernard and twelve men of the reserve platoon of B Company reached Chonan two days after the Osan fight. Five times he and his men had encountered North Korean roadblocks. They arrived at Chonan only half an hour ahead of the enemy. A few men walked all the way from Osan to the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. One man eventually arrived at Pusan on a Korean sampan from the west coast. [N6-56]

[N6-55 Interv, author with Smith, 7 Oct 51. Smith estimated his losses at 155 men. A verbal report by the 24th Division G-1, recorded in a penciled journal entry in the division G-3 Journal, entry 71, 071500, gave the total missing from the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, as 148 enlisted men and 5 officers. This total included 63 enlisted men and 2 officers from B Company, and 32 enlisted men and 2 officers from C Company.]

None of the 5 officers and 10 enlisted men of the artillery forward observer, liaison, machine gun, and bazooka group with the infantry ever came back. On 7 July 5 officers and 26 enlisted men from the artillery were still missing. [N6-57]

[N6-56 Bernard, MS review comments, 24 Feb 58; Lieutenant Bernard as told to Sergeant Al Mullikin, “The First Brutal Weeks in Korea,” the Washington Post, June 24, 1951; Interv, author with Smith, 7 Oct 51.]

[N6-57 Ltr, Perry to author, 25 May 52; Interv, author with Huckabay, 2 Aug 51; 24th Div G-3 Jnl, Msg 67, 071935; 24th Div G-2 PW Interrog file, 6-22 Jul 50 (Paik In Soo); New York Times, July 6, 1950. One group of 36 Americans led by 2nd Lieutenant Jansen C. Cox was captured on 6 July southeast of Osan.]

The N.K. 4th Division and attached units apparently lost approximately 42 killed and 85 wounded at Osan on 5 July. [N6-58] A diary taken from a dead North Korean soldier some days later carried this entry about Osan: “5 Jul 50 … we met vehicles and American PWs. We also saw some American dead. We found 4 of our destroyed tanks. Near Osan there was a great battle.” [N6-59]

[N6-58 ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 4 (Enemy Docs), p. 3, Casualty Rpt for 16th, 17th, 18th Regts, Arty Regt and attached units, 25 Jun-10 Jul 50. A few of the enemy casualties given for Osan may have occurred at Pyongtaek the next day, but their losses at the latter place could not have been numerous. ]

[N6-59 24th Div G-2 PW Interrog File, 6-22 Jul 50. On 11 July an enemy radio broadcast from Seoul first used PW’s for propaganda purposes. Captain Ambrose H. Nugent, of the 52nd Field Artillery Battalion, read a statement of about a thousand words in English. The Seoul radio said Nugent was one of seventy-two Americans captured at Osan from the 21st Infantry and the 52nd Field Artillery Battalion. See New York Times, July 6, 1950, and the New York Herald-Tribune, July 12, 1950.]

SOURCE: South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu; BY: Colonel Roy E. Appleman (United States Army Center of Military History)

Korean War: Delaying Action: Pyongtaek to Chochiwon (7)

Korean War: North Koreans Cross the Han River (5)

World War Two: Mediterranean (1-2) Axis on the Defensive 1943

In October 1942, when OKW began to be apprehensive over the possibility of an Allied move in the Mediterranean, Hitler gave Kesselring command over all the German armed forces in the Mediterranean, with the exception of the German-Italian panzer army in North Africa. General von Rintelen was made subordinate to Kesselring for all his command functions, but as the immediate OKW representative in Italy, Rintelen retained the right of direct communication with that staff. Kesselring thereby became and remained the only German to hold a unified theater command. He moved his headquarters to Frascati, near Rome, to facilitate close co-operation with Comando Supremo. The size of his staff increased not only through the addition of a small operations group but also by the attachment of Italian air force and naval liaison officers.

[NOTE 2-1KM: Vice Admiral Eberhard Weichold, commander of the German naval forces in Italy (which consisted of one destroyer, about fifteen submarines, an E-boat flotilla, about a dozen mine sweepers, and several landing boat flotillas). came under the Commander in Chief South. 1|1 Hitler Order, 13 Oct 42, ONI, Führer Directives, 1942-1945; MS #D-008, Beauftrar;unr; des Oberbefehlshabers Sued (O.B. Sued) durch “Führerweisung” im September 1942 mit dem Oberbefehl im Mittelmeerraum (General der Flieger Paul Deichmann).]

For a few months Kesselring also controlled the five and a half divisions in Greece and the Balkans. But at the end of the year (1942) Hitler created an army group headquarters under Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm List, named List Oberbefehlshaber Suedost, and removed him from any subordination to Kesselring. Kesselring, however, retained control over all German aerial warfare in the entire Mediterranean area, with the exception of the southern France-Mediterranean area, until June 1943. Hitler extended Kesselring’s command further in January 1943, when he placed him over the two German armies in Tunisia. Kesselring’s staff again increased in size.

[NOTE: See Hitler Directive 47, 28 Dec 42, and Change to Directive 47, 1 Jun 43, ONI, Führer Directives, 1942-1945.]

While Kesselring’s increasing authority represented the growing German influence, Mussolini was concluding that an Axis military victory was no longer possible. As early as December 1942, he thought that the Axis ought to make a separate peace with the Soviet Union so that Germany would be free to commit the bulk of its forces against the Anglo-Americans in the Mediterranean. To Gӧring, who was in Italy at the time, Mussolini said that if the war in the east could not be terminated by agreement with Russia, the Axis forces should withdraw to a shorter line. Because he expected the “Anglo-Saxons” to make their major effort in 1943, Mussolini thought that the Axis should defend Africa, the Balkans, and perhaps even the west with the greatest possible number of divisions.

Apparently encouraged by Gӧring, who suggested that Hitler might approve a new Brest-Litovsk, with compensation to Russia in middle Asia, Mussolini proposed a conference of the dictators. Because of the critical developments at Stalingrad, Hitler refused to leave his headquarters for a meeting with Mussolini. Because of his ulcers, Mussolini decided against taking the long trip to see Hitler. The Duce therefore entrusted the mission of persuading Hitler to make peace with Stalin to Count Galeazzo Ciano, his son-in-law and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

At Hitler’s headquarters, Ciano, who was accompanied by Cavallero, found no inclination to discontinue the war against the Soviet Union. During three days of conferences, 18-20 December, the German Führer as usual doing most of the talking, it became clear that Hitler saw no advantage to be gained by terminating the war in the east. Hitler’s strategic views were defensive in nature, designed to hold the territories overrun by the Axis armies, and Hitler thought that the Axis could do so. He had the wishful notion that the Russians would bleed to death and make it possible for the Germans to push again to the Don River, which he conceived as the ultimate barrier between Europe and the Bolshevist east. He considered it essential to hold not only a bridgehead in North Africa to protect the central Mediterranean and retain Italy’s alliance but also Greece and the Balkans for the bauxite, copper, and oil necessary for the German war machine.

[NOTE-conferences: The Italian record is found in military subjects discussed in the conversations at German General Headquarters, Comando Supremo, Rapporti, 18 and 20 December 1942, IT 107. The German records survive on microfilm only. Members of the German War Documents Project, in the course of assembling the records of the former German Foreign Office, discovered a box containing microfilm copies of memorandums summarizing conversations of Hitler and of Ribbentrop with foreign statesmen, the so-called Loesch Film. Copies of these microfilms. designated by serial and frame numbers, are deposited at the National Archives in Washington. D.C. and in the Public Record Office in London. See Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918-1945, Series D, vol. II (Washington, 1950), pp. viii. 1021, and 1041-42. The memorandums of the conversations of December 1942, all composedby Paul Otto Schmidt, the senior interpreter inthe German Foreign Office, are as follows: F-45. Hitler-Ciano conversation, 18 Dec F 20/580-626 and F 7/243-245: RAM-48, Ribbentrop-Ciano conversation, 19 Dec F 20/254-253; F-49, Hitler-Ciano conversation, 19 Dec F 20/252-248: RAM-50, Ribbentrop-Ciano conversation, 19 Dec F 20/247-242; RAM-51, Ribbentrop-Ciano conversation, 19 Dec F 20/241-237;35]

Then he returned to Rome on 22 December and reported to Mussolini the discouraging results of his mission, Ciano was not altogether displeased. He believed that if Italy collapsed through Mussolini’s failure, the Western Powers would be glad to negotiate with him as Mussolini’s successor. Count Ciano also found the occasion to disparage Cavallero, who, he said, had been servile to the Germans at Hitler’s headquarters.

Cavallero personified the policy of close integration with Germany, and the Germans regarded him highly. But at the turn of the year Cavallero began to undergo a change of heart. He resented the German accusation that Russian success at Stalingrad was largely the fault of the Italian troops there. He objected to the German proposal that the Germans, in the event of Allied landings, assume command over Italian units in the Balkans. He urged Kesselring to recall Rommel from North Africa because Rommel had embittered the Italian officer corps by his conduct toward the Italians after EI’ Alamein.

Cavallero’s change of heart came too late. Mussolini suddenly dismissed him on 1 February 1943. The day before, he had summoned Generale d’Armata Vittorio Ambrosio to the Palazzo Venezia in Rome and told him that the cycle of Cavallero was closed, the cycle of Ambrosio opening. Then Ambrosio expressed surprise and some disinclination to inherit Cavallero’s legacy, Mussolini declared, “We will divide the responsibility.” He then asked Ambrosio for his ideas. Unprepared, Ambrosio nevertheless stated three points: lighten the organization of Comando Supremo; bring back to the Italian homeland the greatest possible number of Italian divisions; and stand up to the Germans. To the last point, Mussolini exclaimed, U Benissima. Ambrosio thoroughly disliked the Germans. He had a faithful protege in Generale di Brigata Giuseppe Castellano, who not only hated the Germans violently but was predisposed to political intrigue. Ambrosio met Ciano through Castellano, and together with Generale di Corpo d’ Armata Giacomo Carboni, who was also close to Mussolini, these officers hoped that the dependence of Italy on Germany could be brought to an end.

The cordial relationship between Comando Supremo and OKW ceased withAmbrosio’s appointment, and this change was part of a general shift by Mussolini toward a greater independence with respect to Germany. The Germans regarded Ambrosio as correct, but it was a cold and formal type of correctness. The wartime spirit of comradeship in arms vanished, and Kesselring and Rintelen found Ambrosio to be a stickler who made difficulties. When it appeared to the Germans in Italy that Ambrosio hampered or frustrated the execution of Mussolini’s declared intentions, they frequently found it necessary to appeal directly over Ambrosio’s head to Mussolini.

Though Ambrosio made but few changes in Comando Supremo, retaining the basic structure and powers established by Cavallero, he made strenuous efforts to carry out the second and third points of his program. In February 1943, when Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s Foreign Minister, and General der Artillerie Walter Warlimont, Jodi’s deputy at OKW, traveled to Rome to plan the suppression of the resistance forces in Yugoslavia, Warlimont was startled to hear Ambrosio state his intention of withdrawing some Italian forces from Croatia. Throughout several conferences Ambrosio stubbornly refused to participate in measures to disarm the Mihailovitch elements. Considering the Axis forces in the Balkans inadequate to crush all the partisans completely, he preferred to use the Chetniks against the Communists. The discussions reached a degree of argument never before heard, and what seemed like obscure Italian political intentions in the Balkans first excited Hitler’s suspicions that the Italian generals were plotting “treason” against the Axis.

Italy could ill afford to provoke Germany, for Italy by this time was an economic province of the Reich. With the weakest war potential of all the states classified as great powers, Italy lacked almost all the raw materials required for warfare in the modern industrialized age. Cut off from overseas supplies of coal, scrap iron, cotton, oil, and rubber, Italian heavy industry had too narrow a base to supply the new types of aircraft engines, tanks, and guns necessary to put the Italian armed forces on a par in equipment with the leading armies of the world. The coal and iron for heavy industry and the oil for the ships and planes could come only from Germany or German-controlled areas of Europe. As the Axis shifted to the defensive, Italy faced a contraction of its war production.

Germany, too, was showing serious economic strains by the spring of 1943. After the manpower losses at Stalingrad, Germany began to draw from marginal groups. Although German production increased greatly, the increase did not equal both losses and new requirements. By March 1943 the rubber supply and the production of motor vehicles had become critical and fuel oil had to be carefully allotted.

Submarine warfare remained the only offensive German activity in the spring of 1943. Elsewhere, the Axis was on the defensive. Fully committed in support of the ground forces in the east and to convoy protection in the Mediterranean, even the once mighty Luftwaffe had ceased to be significant as an offensive weapon. But reflecting more clearly the state of affairs was the fact that the Axis no longer had the semblance of a clear strategic aim.

During February and March, 1943, tension grew between the Axis partners as Mussolini pressed for peace with the Soviet Union or withdrawal in the east, Hitler concentrated on destroying Bolshevism, Ambrosio and the OKW wrangled over the Balkans, and the Italian war machine began to sputter for lack of German supplies.

Though the German Government and high command had never entertained a high esteem for the Italian people as allies, they had placed great faith in Mussolini. After March 1943, German trust even in Mussolini began to waver. When Ribbentrop explained Hitler’s reason why a renewed offensive in the east was necessary, Mussolini promised to give energetic help, both political and military. Yet Mussolini wrote Hitler on 8 March and again on 26 March to urge a separate peace with the Soviet Union.

Klessheim Conference

Having made up his mind on a given course, Hitler was merely annoyed by advice to the contrary. This was evident early in April when the Duce and the Führer, accompanied by military and diplomatic staffs, met for three days (7-10 April) at the Castle near Salzburg, Austria, their first meeting in almost a year. Hitler’s fanatical will to concentrate all available power to destroy the Soviet Union determined all aspects of the conference, and the results of the meeting were a bitter disappointment to the Italians. Mussolini was ill during most of the time and was confined to his suite, and though Hitler visited the Duce twice a day, the Italian’s illness put him at a decided disadvantage. Germany seemed unwilling to send men or materials to support the Italian homeland threatened by direct attack. In the face of the great superiority of material the Allies enjoyed in the Mediterranean, Hitler spoke in a lofty vein: hopes for future success in submarine warfare; an iron will in the face of all obstacles; and a ruthlessness toward Greek and Yugoslav rebel forces. The only concrete offer came from ReichsFührer SS Heinrich Himmler who promised thirty-six heavy German tanks for a special division of Fascist militia to be assigned the task of preserving order in Rome.

The Klessheim Conference did not bring Italy and Germany closer together; it served only to increase the growing friction. Ambrosio, no longer believing that a separate peace could be made in the east, saw hope for Italy only in the possibility that Mussolini would be able to break the alliance with Germany.

[NOTE: ‘I” Vittorio Ambrosio, Pro memoria sui colloqui di Klessheim, 14 Apr 43, IT 109. The principal German records are the memorandums composed by interpreter Schmidt and preserved in the Loesch microfilms: RAM-19, Ribbentrop-Bastianini conversation with Mackensen and Alfieri present, 8 Apr 43, F 13/055-090; RAM-20, Ribbentrop-Bastianini conversation, 9 Apr 43, F4/51-36; RAM-20a, Ribbentrop-Bastianini conversation, 9 Apr 43, F 4135-23. See also Paolo Monelli, Roma 1943 (3d ed., Rome: Migliaresi, 1945). p. 76; Leonardo Vitetti, Notes on the Fall of the Fascist Regime, pp. 4-5. This last is a ten-page, typewritten manuscript by a high-ranking official of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, procured for the authors by the Honorable Harold C. Tittmann. in 1946 assistant to the Honorable Myron C. Taylor, Personal Representative of the President of the United States to His Holiness the Pope.]

The Disintegration of Fascism

The difficulty of breaking the alliance lay in the fact that the Fascist regime was secure only so long as the prospect of victory existed. And victory without the power of Germany was hard to image.

As early as the summer of 1942, Mussolini’s personal popularity had begun to diminish, and the Fascist party structure to crack. Mussolini was ill during much of the winter, and many Italians hoped and prayed that God might solve the country’s problems by removing the Duce. But the Duce remained alive, his capacity for work scarcely impaired in spite of his illness, even though he apparently considered giving up command of the armed forces and restricting his efforts to the political leadership of the state.

Failing at Klessheim to persuade Hitler to end the war in the east so as to make it possible for the Germans to concentrate their forces in the, Mediterranean against the Allies and in support of Italy, Mussolini apparently reached the definite conclusion that the Axis had lost the war.

He had felt this several months earlier, and he had already taken steps to tighten the reins of power over his increasingly disenchanted people. Soon after dismissing Cavallero from the Comando Supremo, Mussolini on 5 February discharged almost all the members of his cabinet and appointed new ones. The most important change was in foreign affairs-Ciano became Ambassador to the Holy See, Mussolini, himself, took the Ministry, and Giuseppe Bastianini, a faithful follower of Mussolini, became Under Secretary. Soon after his return from Klessheim to Rome, Mussolini dismissed Carmine Senise, Chief of Police and Prefect of Rome, and replaced him with a reliable Fascist. On 18 April he made Carlo Scorza, an ambitious thug, secretary of the Fascist party, and Scorza sought to rejuvenate the party by a return to the club and castor oil tactics of the early twenties.

But Mussolini was incapable of checking the decline in Italian morale. Defeatism became widespread. Clandestine political parties became more vigorous.

On 12 March, when almost 50,000 working men in northern Italy went on strike ostensibly to demand compensation payments to bombed-out families, leaflets were circulated demanding liberty and peace. Unable to cope with what was the first open labor strike under a totalitarian regime, the Fascist authorities acceded to the demands for compensation, then arrested and executed several of the reputed leaders. On 1 May, despite police prohibitions, labor unions marched in May Day demonstrations. An obvious solution was to make peace with the Allies, but two factors complicated the situation: reluctance to break the alliance with Germany and, later, disinclination to accept unconditional surrender. Though some of Mussolini’s associates urged him to find a way out of the war, Mussolini was at an impasse.

In October I942, the Honorable Myron C. Taylor, Personal Representative of the President to His Holiness the Pope, informed the Pope that Mr. Roosevelt would not receive any peace overtures made by Mussolini through the Holy See. When Count Dino Grandi, former Italian Ambassador to London, made arrangements in November 1942 to travel to Madrid in order to talk with the British Ambassador, Sir Samuel Hoare, Mussolini at first did nothing to prevent the trip, but finally refused to let Grandi leave the country. In the same month, members of the Italian embassy in Berlin drew up a plan not only to dissolve the alliance with Germany but also to secure a united withdrawal from the war by Italy, Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria.

January 1943, after the Italian minister at Bucharest had several frank discussions with Ion Antonescu, the Rumanian Prime Minister, on how Italy might take the lead in a joint peace maneuver, Ciano laid the proposal before Mussolini who listened but declined to take action. [N2-41]

[N2-41 Renato Bova Scoppa, Colloqui con due dittatori (Rome : Nicola Rufolo, [949 ), pp. 70-72 ; Ciano Diaries, p p. 572- 73 .]

By early I943, three distinct groups of Italians were trying to find a way out of the war: dissident Fascists; military officers; and underground anti-Fascist parties. The first two had the primary aim of finding a solution to end the war, and their object was to do so with Mussolini if possible, without him or even against him if necessary. The anti-Fascists wanted Mussolini’s overthrow and the end of the Fascist system as goals in themselves. With only the most tenuous connections with each other all looked to the King for initiative.

After Ciano left the cabinet, he became leader of the dissident Fascists. He had frequent contacts with Grandi, Giuseppe Bottai, Roberto Farinacci, and other Fascists who expressed criticism of the Duce’s leadership. Though Ciano himself had negotiated the German alliance, he disliked the Germans and disbelieved in the pact. He assumed it was possible to force Mussolini out of office by means of intrigue and yet maintain the Fascist party intact. Grandi, Luigi Federzoni, and others shared Ciano’s hope of tossing Mussolini overboard without swamping the Fascist boat. They could then seize the rudder and steer the ship into the port of a separate peace with the Allies. These men suddenly discovered that they were monarchists at heart, and as their contacts with the royal palace increased, they suggested themselves as successors to Mussolini.

The military party began to take form under Ambrosio, though it remained small. Most officers had neither the time nor the inclination for political activity. Their oath of office was to the King, and their stronger loyalty, in case of conflict between fascism and monarchy, was to him. Seeing no point in war for its own sake, or war by Italy for the sake of Hitler, and believing the war lost as early as February 1943, Ambrosio favored terminating the German alliance. He wanted to cut Italy’s losses and save not only the Army but the monarchy as well.

By keeping Mussolini clearly informed of the military situation, he hoped that the Head of the Government would draw the proper inference that a political solution of the war was essential. When he went further and suggested openly the suitability of terminating the German alliance, he only stirred Mussolini to vigorous reaction, Mussolini declaring fervently that he would march to the very end with his German ally.

Close to Ambrosio were Generals Castellano and Carboni, both of whom recognized far earlier than Ambrosio that any hope of getting Mussolini to break with Hitler was illusory. Castellano, in particular, rapidly added to his contacts, and he was soon on good terms with Bastianini in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with Duke Pietro Acquarone, the King’s personal secretary.

By March 1943, Castellano was so deep in intrigue that he drew up a detailed plan for a coup d’etat. He provided measures to capture Mussolini and those leading Fascists most pro-Duce, and he included steps to be taken against possible Fascist and German reactions. He submitted the plan to Ambrosio who kept it twenty-four hours. But Ambrosio thought the idea premature, and he returned the paper with the suggestion that Castellano limit himself to alerting Army commanders in a general way to the possibility of public disturbances and orienting them on their duties should such situations arise. Not satisfied, Castella no submitted the plan to Ciano, who read it, refused to commit himself, and carefully locked the treasonable paper in his embassy safe at the Holy See.

In May, Ambrosio had some rather candid discussions with Mussolini. He pointed out the Duce’s responsibility for the war and the absurdity to which the concept of a lightning war had been reduced.

But he received no favorable response. Losing hope that Mussolini would separate Italy from Germany, he began to make certain that the King received all the important papers on the state of the Italian armed forces and on the over-all military situation. Ambrosio was ready to help overthrow Mussolini if the King gave the word, but without that word, he would not act.

Castellano, meanwhile, had been busy making contacts and lining up men in key positions for his coup d’etat. He won over Bastianini, and he secured from Renzo Chierici, head of the police, assurances that there would be no interference from that quarter with a political upheaval. Then the Duke of Acquarone in mid-June hinted to several dissident Fascists that the King was thinking of replacing Mussolini as Head of Government, the isolation of Mussolini was virtually complete. By the end of June, both dissident Fascists and military party members were waiting only for a signal from the King to turn against the Duce.

As for the underground anti-Fascist parties, they gained a new lease on life during the second half of 1942-Liberals, Christian Democrats, Socialists, Labor Democrats, Communists, and the Party of Action, each of which proposed different remedies for Italy’s ills. The most conservative, the Liberals, wished the complete abolition of the Fascist system and the restoration of parliamentary government as it had existed before 1922, while the Party of Action regarded the monarchy and the church as the chief evils of Italy. Ivanoe Bonomi, a former Prime Minister, was influential in drawing the leaders of the underground parties together in a loose coalition. He was concerned in particular with restraining the Party of Action, which he feared might drive the crown to the embrace of the dissident Fascists. In March Bonomi secured agreement on a kind of party truce for the periods of wartime transition and reconstruction. Thus, despite their divergent views on the future needs of Italy, all the underground parties in the spring of 1943 were monarchical in the sense that they, too, looked to the King for action against Mussolini.

Bonomi himself expected little from the King in the way of vigorous action, and he therefore made no approach to the throne until April, when he learned that the British Minister at the Holy See had indicated the British Government’s preference for a monarchical solution to Italy’s political problem. Since the British Minister, Sir D’ Arcy Osborne, had not repulsed the efforts of Ciano and Grandi to see him, Bonomi began to be apprehensive that the Anglo-Americans might be willing to deal not only with the monarchy but even with the dissident Fascists.

He therefore made an appeal to the King through an old and retired admiral, Grand Admiral Paolo Thaon di Revel, who had an almost superstitious reverence for the crown. The elderly admiral went to church and prayed before undertaking the audience, but when he explained the tragic situation of the country to the King, the monarch revealed nothing of his thought”. The King’s sphinx like attitude came as quite a shock to Paolo Thaon di Revel’s monarchist principles.

More satisfactory was Bonomi’s secret meeting on 26 May, two weeks after the end of the Tunisian campaign, with the Duke of Acquarone. The course Bonomi urged was: arrest Mussolini; nominate a ministry headed by a prominent general and staffed by anti-Fascists; and denounce the alliance with Germany. Acquarone did little more than agree to arrange an audience for Bonomi with the King.

King Victor Emmanuel III held the pivotal position in Italy’s political situation during the spring of 1943. Having virtually withdrawn from public life during the turbulent war years, a cautious, timid, and secretive person, he disliked making decisions. First urged in November 1942 to dismiss Mussolini, he stated that he would act “when and if he thought it was necessary, and in whatever manner he himself deemed best for the country.” Yet the King had begun, it appeared, to be skeptical of Axis victory at least as early as 19 November 1942, for on that date he kept Ciano for an hour and twenty minutes at an audience and requested news of the neutral powers-Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey.

Apparently concerned over the scarcity of troops in Italy, he asked Ciano to suggest to Mussolini, without revealing that the suggestion came from the King, that some troops be brought home. Though the monarch repeated rather generic statements of faith in the progress of the war, he asked many questions about Washington and London, and he advised the Foreign Minister to cling to any thread leading in those directions, even if the thread was “as thin as a spider’s web.”

Throughout the early months of 1943 the King remained impassive. He listened discreetly to all suggestions but said nothing. To Badoglio, who gained an audience at the insistence of his friends that he explain the situation and recommend a change in political leadership, the King listened attentively but revealed nothing of his thoughts.

Bonomi had his day before the King on 2 June 1943. He drew a picture of impending disaster and suggested that the crown had the power, by the Italian constitution, to recall Mussolini. Since the alliance with Germany was a pact between National Socialist and Fascist regimes, Bonomi said, Mussolini’s dismissal would give the Italian Government a sound legal basis for denouncing the treaty. The King refused to commit himself.

Six days later, the King remained quiet during an audience with Marcello Soleri, lawyer and politician, and eight days later still, during a meeting with Badoglio, he maintained his silence. Although it was not apparent to those who sought comfort in the King, Victor Emmanuel III had in actuality come to a decision. On 15 May 1943 he presented Mussolini with three memorandums, a clear suggestion for the course the King wished the Duce to follow.

Based on the military data provided by Ambrosio, the first paper compared the military forces of the Axis and the satellite powers with those of the Allies and the Soviet Union; the second paper listed the Allied military capabilities and contrasted the scanty possibilities of Italian resistance. The third memorandum outlined a course of action: One ought now to do everything to hold the country united, and not make rhetorical speeches with a purely Fascist basis. It is necessary to maintain close contact with Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria, countries that have little love for the Germans. One ought not to neglect making whatever courtesies are possible toward the governing men of England and of America. It is necessary to consider very seriously the possibility of separating the fate of Italy from that of Germany whose internal collapse can come unexpectedly like the collapse of the German Empire in 1918.

Disliking the Germans, fearful of their reaction if he removed Mussolini, the King was also scrupulous in his conduct. He wished to terminate the German alliance, but only with German consent. Admiring, even envying Mussolini’s power and cleverness, the Italian monarch saw no one in Italy as well qualified as the Duce to solve the incredibly difficult problem of ending the alliance and withdrawing from the war. Perhaps the task was insuperable.

Mussolini had lost prestige in the eyes of his allies, his military forces, his government associates, his party members, and his people. The Fascist system was nothing more than a hollow shell. Thoroughly war-weary, the Italian people desired only an end to bombings and hardships and sorrow. The military units had lost confidence in themselves, and their commanders were without hope of victory. Defeatists staffed the foreign service, and their reports from Berlin, Budapest, Bucharest, and the neutral capitals insisted that continuing the war would bring only disaster to Italy. A considerable number of Mussolini’s personal followers, members of the Fascist Grand Council, began to see the beginning of the end.

In this situation, Mussolini could only grope for a way out. The Allies, however, blocked the way toward a separate peace with their publicly proclaimed demand for unconditional surrender.

The Allied Threat

Expecting the Allies to invade the European continent, aware of Russian demands on the Allies for a second front, and anticipating therefore that the Allies would try to time their offensive move to coincide with Russian attacks tying down German forces in the east, Axis intelligence agencies shrewdly guessed that build-up and other invasion preparations would occupy the Allies until the end of June or the beginning of July. But where the blow would strike was, of course, the other side of the coin. The likely targets in the Mediterranean were southern France, Sicily, Sardinia, southern Italy, Rhodes, Greece, and the Balkans; some reports mentioned Spain, Turkey, Sweden, the Netherlands, and northern France; and a rumor persisted that the Allies would invade the Continent by way of Norway. [N2-56]

Among the various Axis headquarters, there was no agreement on the most likely target in the Mediterranean. Armanda Supremo, in general, inclined toward Sardinia for many reasons-Allied forces could converge there from Gibraltar and North Africa; Sardinia was a necessary preliminary on the way to southern France; Allied air based on Sardinia could range over the entire Italian mainland and also over southern Germany; Sardinia was the gateway to the Po valley; Allied possession of Sardinia would bottle up the Italian Fleet in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Sicily, in contrast, would neither appreciably shorten the air distance to the industrial centers in the Po valley and southern Germany nor increase the threat to central Italy by air or ground forces.

[N2-56 Rpt, Feindlagebericht Nr. 10/43, GenStdH, Abt. Fremde Heere West to GenStdH, Op.Abt., 15 May 43, OKH.Op.Abt. (II), Feindnachrichten England, noch Rd. IV (H 2/186); Rpt, Feindlagebericht, OKW/WFSt, 10 Jun 43, and Rpt, Roenne, Chef, Abt. Fremde Heere West to Chef, GenStdH, 20 Jun 43, both in OKH /Op.Abt., Feindnachrichten Allgemein vom 6.III.43-13.I.44 (H 22/384); Rpts, Feindlageberichte Nr. 12 and Nr. 13/43, GenStdH, Abt. OKH/Op.Abt. (II), Fremde Heere, Rd. III., r.III.-15.vII.43 (H 2/ 182); Estimates of Allied Intentions, IT 106; The Trip of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to Rome and His Subsequent Report to the Führer, 12 May 1943-15 May 1943 (cited hereafter as CinC Navy Visits Italy, 12-15 May 43), pp. 44-68; Office of Naval Intelligence, Führer Conferences on matters dealing with the German Navy, 1943 (hereafter cited as ONI, Führer Conferences, 1943) . Führer Conferences is a selection of translated documents from German naval archives. The conferences cover the period from 1939 to 1945, and each ONI issue covers one year. Pietro Maravigna, “Lo sbarco Anglo-Americana in Sicilia,” Rivista Militare, vol. VIII, No. 1 (Rome, January 1952), pp. 7-31 (cited hereafter as Maravigna, Rivista Militare, (952).]

Ambrosio, chief of Comando Supremo, saw Sardinia as being important only if the Allies intended to occupy the Italian mainland, and he thought that the Allies would figure a mainland campaign too costly and time-consuming for the results they could expect. He chose Sicily, which did not necessarily presuppose a later invasion of the Italian mainland. Sicily would assure the Allies freedom of sea movements in the Mediterranean, and would prevent the Italian Navy from shifting even its small ships and submarines from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Ionian and Adriatic Seas.

Mussolini, possibly motivated by wishful thinking, expected the Allies to harass the Italian mainland by air attacks and perhaps try to occupy the major Italian islands for use as bases in future operations. But he did not believe that the Allies would attempt to invade the Italian boot. He thought that the Allies were mainly interested in free passage through the Mediterranean, a condition they would have achieved by securing the North African coast. Though doubting that the Allies would consider it imperative to occupy Sicily or Sardinia, he thought Sicily the more directly threatened. In May I943, as the Tunisian campaign drew toward its close, Mussolini was saying that the Allies would probably land in France for a direct attack on Germany, or perhaps in the Balkans.[N2-58]

[N2-58 MS # P-049 (Warlimont), p. 17 ; Msg, Mussolini to Hitler, 9 Mar 43, Oberkommando der Wehrmacht-Wehrmachtfuehrungsstab, Krieg.stagebuch (cited hereafter as OKW/WFSt, KTB) 1.-31.III.43, 14 Mar 43; Min, 6 May 43, item 138, Min of Confs, Comando Supremo, IT 26; CinC Navy Visits Italy, 12-15 May 43, ONI, Führer Conferences, 1943; MS #R-115, The Fall of Pantelleria and the Pelagian Islands, 11-13 June 1943, ch. II of Axis Tactical Operations in Sicily, July-August 1943 (Magna E. Bauer).]

Hitler expected the Allies to land in Greece or the Balkans, and his reasoning was sound. Both areas were more important to the German economy than Italy. The populations were friendly to the Allies. An Allied invasion would supplement Russian pressure, force the dispersal of Axis troops over widely separated areas, and forestall a Russian occupation of the Balkans. [N2-59]

[N2-59 Deichmann in MS #T-Ia (Westphal et al.), ch. I, pp. 7-8; Rpt, Prospettive operative, Comando Supremo, IT I 18 I.] 

Noting the movement of New Zealand troops back to the Middle East after the capture of Tunis, and inferring that the entire British Eighth Army was to follow, OKW guessed that the Allies were planning to mount an attack against Greece and the Balkans from eastern Mediterranean ports. The Germans gave credence to an Allied intelligence plant, and, as a consequence, OKW in May 1943 looked toward Greece. [N2-60]

[N2-60 Memo, Gen.St.d.H., Abt. Fremde Heere West, Nr. 874/43, g.K., 9 May 43, and Telg, Fremde Heere West, Nr. 27/43, g.Kdos.Chefs.,]

Kesselring saw the gravest threat in the western Mediterranean, and in May he was considering such places as Spain, the Balearic Islands, Sardinia, and Sicily. He ruled out southern France, northern Italy, and the Balkans as being too far removed from effective air support, a prerequisite, he figured, in any Allied planning. Guessing in mid-May from air reconnaissance photos of the distribution of Allied divisions and landing craft in North Africa, he chose Sicily first, Sardinia second.

How well prepared were the Axis nations to meet the blow?

Comando Supremo had hoped in February 1943 that the Italian Fleet, with the support of air, both German and Italian, would defeat an Allied landing before the ground troops got ashore. But a survey made early in May indicated that the Navy, whose major elements consisted of three battleships, four cruisers, and ten destroyers, did not have enough surface vessels to defeat an invasion fleet. Submarines and small craft could only harass but not deter approaching enemy convoys.

The combined German and Italian air forces m the Mediterranean early in I943 consisted of some 2,000 planes, one-half of them fighters. By May I943 the number; had dropped more than fifty percent, and of these many were obsolescent. Hundreds of planes had been destroyed on the ground because of failure to camouflage and disperse them and because antiaircraft defenses proved ineffective.

The Italian ground forces appeared completely unequal to the task of doing more than retarding or delaying an invasion. With Italian strength drained and equipment expended in Russia and North Africa, with very little having been done to improve coastal defenses, with units spread much too thin along the extensive Italian coast line, there was little hope of defensive success. “We may be able to put up an honorable defense against a large-scale landing,” a high-ranking Italian officer said, “but we have no chance to repel the enemy.”

Italy urgently needed help, not only planes, tanks, and guns, but fuel and ammunition as well. The Germans promised to deliver I66 guns to Italy during the month of March I943, but German requirements delayed the first shipment until the end of April. The Germans were ready to send planes and crews to the extent that Italy could provide airfields and ground defenses, but, while Ambrosio claimed the capacity of accommodating 2,500 aircraft, Gӧring considered the airfields unfit for immediate use and the protection offered inadequate.

Italy needed ground troops, too, but Mussolini was reluctant to request them. Concerned chiefly with his tattered prestige, he sought to deny his dependence on Germany by trying to persuade himself that the Allies would not attempt to occupy Italian territory, and at the same time that there would be an upsurge of spirit among Italian units defending the homeland. If the burden of defense fell on German units, Mussolini’s dependence on Hitler would become too obvious, and he would lose any freedom for political maneuver.

The Italian Army commander in Sicily, Generale di Corpo d’ Armata Comandante Designato d’ Armata Mario Roatta, concerned purely with his military problem, advocated the use of German divisions, welcomed German offers of assistance, and provided his superiors with arguments on why German troops should be sought.

Ambrosio adopted a middle position. From a professional point of view, he was aware that German ground forces were indispensable for the defense of Italy, and occasionally he appeared willing to accept them. But Ambrosio was very conscious of representing a break with the tradition of intrusive German ascendancy, and he wished to disentangle Comando Supremo from the influence of OKW. To obviate German help, he withdrew the Italian Army from Russia; he tried to recall to Italy some of the divisions occupying France and the Balkans; and he prevented the dispatch to North Africa of an effective unit, the 4th (Livorno) Infantry Division, which was stationed in Sicily. Unfortunately for Ambrosio, he was endeavoring to reassert Italian prestige at a time when the military need for German reinforcement was becoming irresistible. Unable to deny the need, he feared that the presence of German ground troops would make them master of the Italian house. He therefore sought zealously to guard and maintain the established principle of Italian command over the German troops stationed in Italy. But this, he recognized, was ultimately only a device to save face. Unable to take a wholly military view of Italian problems, neither did he envisage a purely military solution of the war, which he regarded as hopelessly lost.

On 4 May 1943, Kesselring met with Mussolini to discuss how to meet the next Allied move after Tunisia. Mussolini said that the Allies might try to land on Italian soil, but he doubted that they would attempt an invasion. Perhaps he was trying to distinguish between a small Dieppe-style landing and a full-scale invasion such as that in North Africa. In any case, after Kesselring presented a lucid analysis of Allied capabilities, Mussolini agreed that Sardinia and Sicily might be threatened. With this admission stated, Kesselring offered the Italians the use of one German division.[NOTE 2-G7]

Two days later, Rintelen submitted to OKW a comprehensive and devastating report on the combat effectiveness of the Italian armed forces. They “have not up to now fulfilled the missions assigned them in this war,” he wrote, “and have actually failed everywhere.” The reasons, Rintelen found, were inadequate and insufficient armament and equipment; faulty training of the officers; and a lack of spirit and élan among the troops, the latter stemming from a “disbelief in a favorable outcome of the war.” Only with German support, he affirmed, could the Italians repel a Large-scale invasion of their homeland.

[NOTE: 2-G71: Rpt, German Military Attache, Rome, on Cooperation with Italian High Command/Commitment of German Forces in Italy, 14 Jul 43, OKW, Amtsgruppe Ausland, 30Y1.43-3I.VIII.44, Wehrmacht Attache Italien (OKW 1029); OK Wi WFSt, KTB, I.-3I. VII.43, 21 Jul 43, p. 3· C,7 Min, 4 May 43, item 1:,2, Min of Confs. Comando Supremo, IT 26.

On the same day, 6 May, Kesselring again met with Mussolini. He told the Duce that Hitler had promised to send a division from Germany to Italy and that Hitler had ordered Kesselring to reconstitute into a complete unit those parts of the Hermann Gӧring Division that had not gone to Tunisia because of lack of transportation and that were, therefore, still in Italy. In addition to these two German divisions that would soon be available, Kesselring pointed out, other contingents of various German units still in I tall because they had not been shipped in time to Tunisia could be gathered together and formed into a third division. Though Kesselring insisted that Sardinia and Sicily needed immediate reinforcement, Mussolini preferred to believe that the Allies intended to land in France.

Four days later, on 10 May, Ambrosio accepted the three divisions Kesselring had offered to reinforce the defense of Italy Ambrosio planned to station one in Sicily, another in Sardinia, and a third on the mainland, stipulating carefully that they would be under his operational command.

In a subsequent discussion with Rintelen that same day, Ambrosio reiterated that the German divisions in Italy would be under Italian tactical command, and he declared unnecessary the retention of a German liaison group that had entered Italy with an Italian corps withdrawn from the Russian front. With the fall of Tunis, Ambrosio said, there would be less need for OKW liaison with Comando Supremo. Hereafter, he continued, German officers might be in contact with Superesercito, which had command in the national territory, but, in any case, he would issue the orders in this regard.

On either the same day or a day later, Hitler offered Mussolini five fully equipped German mobile divisions for the defense of Italy. Mussolini at first was ready to accept, but Ambrosio induced him to reconsider, and on 12 May, Mussolini declined the new German offer.’l Mussolini’s refusal to accept Hitler’s offer of five additional German divisions constituted an important turning point in the Italo-German alliance. Hitler considered two things essential for the defense of Germany: critical materials from the Balkans, in particular bauxite, copper, and chrome; and Italian political stability. Reports from German visitors to Italy had long warned of the possible collapse of fascism. As Hitler’s special adviser on the Mediterranean, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, embittered since his relief in Africa, excited the Führer’s suspicions of Italy as an ally.

Increasingly apprehensive of Italian defection from the alliance, Hitler was concerned because he was convinced that if Italv withdrew from the war, whether voluntarily or otherwise, he would have to give the Mediterranean front at least temporary priority over the other theaters, even the east. Thus, in February and March 1943, partly as a precaution against Italian defection, partly to holster Italy, and partly to reinforce the defenses of two of the most threatened areas in the Mediterranean, Hitler had ordered strong German elements placed on Sardinia and Sicily. He also gave high priority to Italy on the weapons being produced in Germany.

In May, speculation in the German camp on Mussolini’s intentions, as well as on his strength, was far from favorable. Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, noted that “the Duce no longer sticks to a clear line, either in his policies or in his war strategy.” Mussolini seemed unable to rely on anyone for help in waging the war or in carrying out his policies. “If it be true,” Gӧbbels remarked, “that the Führer, despite his tremendous powers, has nevertheless been lied to and cheated so often by the generals, how much more must that be the case with Mussolini!” The Duce had become “an old and tired man,” and Hitler was “not at all convinced that the Italians will stay put when the heaviest strain comes.” [N2-75]

[N2-75: Entry of 10 May 1943 from The Goebbels Diaries, by Louis P. Lochner. Copyright 1948 by The Fireside Press, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Doubleday & Company, Inc.]

On 19 May OKW submitted to Hitler a report on the defense of Italy. The situation, OKW declared, was hardly encouraging. There were no principles established to guide the co-operation of OKW and Comando Supremo. Italy demanded command and other prerogatives, yet failed to mobilize completely.

Italy could not be defended on the basis of the alliance as then constituted. What were needed were predominant German influence on the command structure and German ground troops as “corset stays” for the Italian units. The three divisions proposed by Kesselring were not sufficient. If Sardinia were lost, the threat to northern Italy would be acute, and the Po valley was the key area for the whole of Italy, for the Balkans, for southern France, and for an Allied air offensive against southern Germany. OKW recommended an immediate build-up of supplies for the defense at least of northern Italy.

A long discussion took place at the Führer’s headquarters on 20 May with Keitel, Rommel, Warlimont, and others in attendance. Like many of the conferences when Hitler was in the process of making up his mind, the talk was often desultory. Hitler listened to a description of conditions in Italy, heard how Italian commanders lacked confidence in their abilities, deliberated over the rumor that the German troops in Sicily were not well liked, learned that Italian authorities were doing nothing to check expressions of anti-German sentiment. Many Italians were apparently not to be trusted; some were Anglophiles. Rommel suggested that the Italians might suddenly close the Brenner frontier and cut off the German troops in Sicily and southern Italy. Gossip was reported that in certain circumstances the Italians might turn against the Germans. Hitler remarked that he would not be surprised if the Italian crown, with the support of the Army chiefs, tried to overthrow Mussolini and the Fascist party. At the end of the meeting, Hitler told Keitel that it would be well, in the event of Italian treachery, for Rommel to have authority to handle the situation. [N2-77]

Two days later OKW issued Plan ALARICH, a course of action to be taken if fascism collapsed or Italy defected. Essentially, the plan provided for a German occupation of northern Italy, with evacuation by German troops of the rest of the Italian boot. Initially, six or seven mobile divisions were to be withdrawn from the Eastern Front when necessary to carry out the occupation. In command of the occupation operation, Rommel expected an eventual force of thirteen or fourteen divisions. But when no Allied attack materialized and when the internal affairs of Italy seemed to quiet down, Hitler decided to launch an offensive in the east. As a consequence, the only divisions remaining to execute Plan ALARICH were a total of eight that could be withdrawn from the command of OR WEST in France.

[N2-77 Minutes of Conference 5 Between Hitler and SonderFührer von Neurath, 20 May 1943,part of the collection known as Minutes of ConferencesBetween Hitler and Members of the German Armed Forces High Command, December 1942-March 1945 (cited hereafter as Min ofHitler Confs)]

While Hitler, the OKW, and Rommel made their secret preparations, Kesselring continued to co-operate with the Italians on the defense of Italy, and Mussolini and the Comando Supremo gradually diminished their opposition to additional ground reinforcement. After Kesselring visited Sicily in May 1943 and discussed matters thoroughly with the Italian generals, Rintelen on 22 May obtained from the Italians firm agreement to employ four German divisions—a panzer grenadier division (to be known later as the 15th) to be reconstituted in Sicily by 1 June and trained by 15 June; another panzer grenadier division (eventually designated the 90th) to be expanded from a brigade stationed in Sardinia; a panzer division (the Hermann Gӧring) to be reconstituted on the mainland; and another panzer division (the 16th) to arrive after being reconstituted in France. The Italians also agreed to permit General der Panzertruppen Hans Valentin Hube and his staff of the XIV Panzer Corps to come to Italy to prepare the German divisions for combat.

Still more German troops for Italy were in the offing. Ambrosio, despite his wish to sever the German alliance, was becoming increasingly concerned by the Allied threat. And Kesselring, whose views were diametrically opposed to those of Rommel, believed that if the Italians cooperated, the Germans could defend the whole of Italy. As long as Mussolini remained in power, Hitler was willing to support him. And as the Italians demonstrated, even though reluctantly, their intention to react positively to the next Allied move, OKW made no plans to withdraw to a shorter line on the Italian mainland. Despite Rommel’s suspicions of Italian trickery, Plan ALARICH receded into the background, a vague expedient to be executed in the unlikely event of political change in Italy.

Mussolini was altogether uncomfortable. Resenting German domination of the war effort, anxious to save his Fascist regime, ambitious to restore Italy’s status and prestige, fearful of Allied capabilities and intentions, he was looking for a way out. But as hurtful as the acknowledgment of German superiority was, more painful was the acceptance of unconditional surrender. If he could, with German help, repulse an Allied invasion, if he could gain even a small moment of triumph, the conditions might be propitious for approaching the Western nations for a negotiated peace.

Italy was in a predicament. Fascist Italy, which Mussolini had advertised as a great power, was in the tragic and ridiculous position of being unable either to make war or to make peace. Exactly how ridiculous was to become apparent in June 1943 when the Allies made their next offensive move in the Mediterranean.

SOURCE: Sicily and the Surrender of Italy: BY; Lieutenant Colonel Albert Nutter Garland & Howard McGaw Smyth (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Mediterranean (1-3); Allied Preparations and Preliminaries 1943

World War Two: North Africa (7-35) Fruits of Victory