World War Two: Aitape-Prelude to the Battle of the Driniumor (AP-5)

While operations at Hollandia were rapidly drawing to a successful conclusion, another action was just beginning at Aitape, 125 miles to the southeast. The PERSECUTION Task Force, with the 163rd Regimental Combat Team of the 41st Infantry Division as its combat nucleus, landed near Aitape on 22 April, D Day for Hollandia as well.

The principal objective of General Doe’s PERSECUTION Task Force was the seizure and rehabilitation of the Japanese-constructed Tadji airstrips, eight miles east-southeast of Aitape. These fields were to provide bases from which Allied aircraft could support ground operations at Hollandia after the Fifth Fleet’s carriers left the latter area. General Doe’s command was also to provide ground flank protection for Hollandia by preventing westward advance of the Japanese 18th Army, assembling some ninety miles southeast of Aitape at Wewak.[N5-1]

Securing the Airfield Area:The Tactical Plan

Knowledge of beach conditions in the Aitape area was obtained principally from aerial photographs, and the PERSECUTION Task Force landing beach was chosen with reference to beach exits and shore objectives as they appeared on these pictures. The shore line opposite the Tadji airfields, which lay only 1,000 yards inland, was uniform and sandy for long distances. There were clear approaches to the beach, which had a medium rise. The selected landing point was located at Korako, a native village on the coast at the northeast corner of the airfield area. From this point, which was designated Blue Beach, a track passable for wheeled vehicles ran directly inland to the Tadji strips.[N5-2]

The PERSECUTION Task Force was to begin landing at 0645, high tide time in the Aitape area. In charge of the amphibious phases of the operation was Captain Albert G. Noble (USN), whose command, the Eastern Attack Group (Task Group 77.3), was part of Admiral Barbey’s Task Force 77.

Close air support operations at Aitape were primarily the responsibility of planes aboard eight CVE’s and were similar to the air support activities carried out by Task Force 58 at Hollandia. Initially, last-minute beach strafing at Blue Beach was planned to continue until the leading wave of landing craft was within 300 yards of the shore. But General Doe believed that such close-in strafing would endanger the troops aboard the landing craft. It was therefore decided that strafing would begin when the leading boat wave was 4,500 yards from shore (expected to be at H minus 15 minutes) and would end when that wave approached to within 1,200 yards of the shore, timed for about H minus 4 minutes.[N5-3]

[N5-1 The decision to seize Aitape and the organization of the PERSECUTION Task Force are described in Chapter II, above.]

[N5-2 CTF 77 Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt Bay-Aitape, p. 29; CTG 77.3 [Eastern Attack Group] Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 1-2.]

The Allied Air Forces also had important air support missions at Aitape. A squadron of attack bombers (A-20’s or B-25’s) was to be in the air over the landing area from 0830 to 1030 on D Day. After 1030, if no earlier calls for bombardment had been made, these planes were to drop their bombs on targets on both flanks of Blue Beach. Two squadrons of attack bombers were to be maintained on daily alert at a field in eastern New Guinea for as long as the situation at Aitape required, and additional air support at Aitape would be provided upon request from ALAMO Force.[N5-4]

Naval fire support for the landings on Blue Beach was to be executed by 5 destroyers, 9 APD’s, and 1 AK. This was the first time that APD’s or AK’s had been assigned fire support missions in the Southwest Pacific. Targets for the destroyers were similar to those assigned naval fire support vessels at Tanahmerah and Humboldt Bays. Six APD’s were to fire on St. Anna and Tadji Plantation (west of the airstrips), on enemy defensive installations at or near Aitape town, and on the offshore islands—Tumleo, Ali, and Seleo. The AK was to aim its 5-inch fire at Tumleo and Ali Islands. Close-in support was to be provided for the leading landing waves from 0642 to 0645 by rocket and automatic weapons fire from two submarine chasers. All destroyers, submarine chasers, and the AK were to deliver fire upon call from forces ashore after H Hour. [N5-5]

[N5-3 CTF 77 Opn Plan 3-44, 3 Apr 44, and Change 1, 10 Apr 44, thereto, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 4-5 Apr 44; CTF 78 Opn Plan D2-44, 12 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 25 Apr 44. The CVE’s operated as TF 78, which was under the command of Admiral Davison. Although Admiral Davison was the senior officer present, Captain Noble retained command in the area during the amphibious phases. This was accomplished by personal agreement between the two officers. Tel conv, author with Vice Admiral Albert G. Noble, 3 Jan 51.]

[N5-4 AAF SWPA OI 49 (Rev), 28 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 28 Mar 44.]

At 0645 the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 163rd Infantry, were to land abreast on Blue Beach. As soon as a beachhead had been secured the 1st Battalion was to land and, aided by the 2nd, was to initiate a drive toward the Tadji strips. After the airfields had been captured, the 2nd Battalion was to defend the task force’s western flank, the 1st was to establish defenses along the southern edge of the airfield area, and the 3rd was to defend the eastern flank. On D plus 1 the 127th Regimental Combat Team, 32nd Division, was to reach Blue Beach. Then patrols west and east of the beachhead were to begin seeking out Japanese forces, and, as soon as possible, Aitape town was to be captured. Field and antiaircraft artillery going ashore on D Day were to protect and support the infantry’s operations and the engineers who were to start work on the airfields immediately after they were secured. Engineers and other service troops not assigned to airfield construction tasks were to unload ships, improve roads and tracks, build or repair bridges over streams in the beachhead area, and find and clear dump and bivouac sites.[N5-6]

The Capture of the Airfields

At 0500 on 22 April, after an uneventful trip from the Admiralties, the Eastern Attack Group convoy arrived in the transport area off Blue Beach.[N5-7] The assault troops of the 163rd Infantry, Colonel Francis W. Mason commanding, immediately began debarking into LCPR’s from the APD’s which had brought them to Aitape. Naval gunfire and aerial support was carried out almost exactly as planned, and the first wave of LCPR’s hit the shore on schedule at 0645. It would have been a model landing except for one thing—it didn’t take place on Blue Beach.

D Day had dawned dull and overcast, making for poor visibility in the landing area. Heavy smoke from fires set in Japanese supply dumps by pre-assault bombardments further obscured the coast line. With no landmarks to guide them, the coxswains of the leading boat wave missed Blue Beach and the landing took place at Wapil, a small coastal village about 1,200 yards east of Korako. The accident proved a happy one, for it was soon discovered that the Wapil area was much better suited to beaching LST’s and large landing craft than any other in the Aitape region.

For the assault troops the change in beaches created little difficulty, since the Wapil area had been adequately covered by support fires and there was no opposition from the Japanese. Tactical surprise was as complete as that achieved the same day by the RECKLESS Task Force at Hollandia. Leaving breakfasts cooking and bunks unmade, the Japanese at Aitape had fled in panic when the naval support fire began.

The 2nd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, had landed on the right, or west. The unit immediately swung west along the beach to find Korako and the trail leading inland to the Tadji strips. This task was accomplished by 0800 and the two battalions quickly expanded the beachhead to a depth of 500 yards and westward about 2,500 yards from Wapil to Waitanan Creek. This area, occupied by 1000, marked the limits of the task force’s first phase line. So far, opposition had consisted of only a few rifle shots. Three Japanese prisoners had been captured and over fifty Javanese laborers had willingly given themselves up. The two assault units now waited for the landing of the 1st Battalion and for an order from General Doe to move on the Tadji strips.

[N5-5 CTF 77 Opn Plan 3-44, 3 Apr 44; CTG 77.3 Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 2-3.]

[N5-6 PTF FO 1, 6 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 5-6 Apr 44.]

[N5-7 Information in this subsection is based on: CTG 77.3 Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 4-5; CTF 77 Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt Bay-Aitape, p. 31; 163rd Inf Jnl, Aitape; 163rd Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, p. 2; PTF G-3 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, pp. 2-3; Ltr, General Doe to Gen Ward, 4 Dec 50, no sub, in OCMH files.]

The 1st Battalion was assembled ashore by 1030 and, passing through the 3rd, started moving inland toward Tadji Bomber Strip at 1100. Simultaneously, the 2nd Battalion began advancing on Tadji Fighter Strip, north of the bomber field. The 3rd Battalion remained at the beach area. The advance inland was slow and cautious but by 1245 the 2nd Battalion had cleared its objective and the 1st soon secured Tadji Bomber Strip against no opposition. The 2nd Battalion then moved across Waitanan Creek to Pro and Pro Mission, which were found clear of Japanese. The battalion command post was set up at Pro before dark, while the rest of the unit bivouacked along trails leading inland to the fighter strip. The 1st Battalion settled down for the night at the west end of the bomber field. During the afternoon the 3rd Battalion sent patrols east from Wapil to the coastal villages of Nor, Rilia, and Lemieng, noting no enemy activity. Three miles east of Wapil, at the mouth of the Nigia River, an outpost was set up. The bulk of the battalion bivouacked along the eastern edges of the two captured strips.

By dark on D Day the principal objectives of the PERSECUTION Task Force had been secured. Work could be started on the airfields, needed to insure land-based air support for both the Aitape and Hollandia beachheads. The strips had been secured at an amazingly low cost—two men of the 163rd Infantry had been killed and thirteen wounded.

Airfield Construction and Supporting Arms

No. 62 Works Wing, Royal Australian Air Force, had come ashore at Blue Beach during the morning and had been able to start work on Tadji Fighter Strip at 1300. Repairs continued throughout the night under floodlights, the lack of Japanese opposition and the urgency of the task prompting General Doe to push the work. Although it had been hoped that the strip would be ready for use on D plus 1, terrain conditions were such that necessary repairs were not completed on schedule. Thus it was 0900 on 24 April before the Australian engineers, who had worked without break for almost forty-eight hours, could announce that the airstrip was ready. At 1630 twenty-five P-40’s of No. 78 Wing, Royal Australian Air Force, landed on the field, and the balance of the wing arrived the next day.[N5-8]

The ground on which the fighter strip was located was so poorly drained that it was not until 28 April, after steel matting had been placed on the field, that it could be used continuously.[N5-9] The works wing then moved to Tadji Bomber Strip to aid the 872nd and 875th Engineer Aviation Battalions. The latter two units passed to the operational control of Wing Commander William A. C. Dale (RAAF), who, besides commanding the works wing, was PERSECUTION Task Force Engineer. Extensive repairs were necessary at the bomber strip and that field was not ready for use by fighter and transport planes until 27 May and for bombers until early July.[N5-10]

[N5-8 Ltr, Flight/Lieutenant Arthur L. Davies [RAAF], Officer-in-Charge, War Hist Sec., Hq RAAF, to author, 8 Mar 48, in OCMH files.]

[N5-9 PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, p. 5; PTF Engr Rpt, Pt. IV, p. 2, copy in files of OCE GHQ AFPAC. The strip was 4,000 by 100 feet. It was used until 12 July, when it was declared unserviceable and converted to an emergency field. Proper drainage could not be obtained at the site, but the strip had well served its intended purpose—quick provision of land-based air support for Hollandia and Aitape.]

Other engineer units ashore on D Day directed their energies to ship unloading, road and bridge construction, and dump and bivouac clearance. By 1930 the 593rd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment (the Shore Party) and the Naval Beach Party had unloaded all D-Day LST’s. The next day one AKA and seven more LST’s were discharged. Unloading of the two AK’s did not proceed as rapidly as expected, for neither ship had been properly combat loaded. The AK which arrived on D Day was only 65 percent discharged when, during the night of 27-28 April, it was hit by a bomb dropped from a lone Japanese plane flying in from an unknown base in western New Guinea. The other AK, undamaged, towed the first back to Finschhafen, returning then to Blue Beach to complete its own unloading. No other untoward incident marred the debarkation of troops and supplies. [N5-11]

[N5-10 ALAMO Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, p.50; PTF Engr Rpt, Pt. VI, pp. 2-3; Ltr, Flight/Lieutenant Davies to author, 8 Mar 48.]

American engineers constructed roads inland from Blue Beach to the airstrips and improved the coastal roads. Light Japanese culverts and bridges in the area had collapsed under the weight of American and Australian heavy equipment or had been damaged by preassault bombardment, making repairs a pressing problem. Australian engineers bridged Waitanan Creek while American engineers threw a bridge across the Nigia River, on the east flank. Pending completion of other bridges, American engineers maintained ferry services across the main streams. On 2 May heavy rains flooded all streams in the area, wiping out much bridge construction already accomplished, damaging ferry stages, and making necessary extensive repairs or new construction. Continued rain during May made road maintenance so difficult that engineers working on airstrips or bridges had to devote much time to the roads. [N5-12]

Artillery moved ashore on D Day without difficulty. The 167th Field Artillery Battalion, supporting the 163rd Infantry, was in position and registered on check points by H plus 4 hours but fired no support mission while in the Aitape area. On D plus 1 the 190th Field Artillery Group assumed command of all field artillery, and on the same day the 126th Field Artillery Battalion of the 32nd Division arrived. Anti-airciaft artillery came ashore rapidly on D Day and set up positions along Blue Beach and around Tadji Fighter Strip.[N5-13]

Securing the Flanks

While engineers continued work through the night of 22-23 April, other elements of the task force made preparations to expand the perimeter.[N5-14] About 0800 on the 23rd, the 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry, started westward over inland trails to the Raihu River, six miles beyond Blue Beach.

A tank of the 603rd Tank Company, which was supporting the advance, broke through a Japanese bridge over Waitanan Creek, but the infantry continued westward and within an hour had secured incomplete Tadji West Strip. The 2nd Battalion pushed west along the coastal track and by noon reached the mouth of the Raihu. Both battalions bivouacked for the night on the east bank, the 1st at a point about 4,000 yards upstream. During the day the 3rd Battalion (which had been relieved on the east flank and at Blue Beach by elements of the 127th Infantry) moved forward with regimental headquarters to Tadji Plantation, 1,200 yards east of the Raihu and about 2,000 yards inland. So light had Japanese opposition been that the 163rd Infantry had suffered but two casualties—one man wounded and another missing.

[N5-11 CTG 77.3 Opns Rpt Aitape, p. 7; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, p. 3. The loss of the AK Etamin was grim justification of Admiral Barbey’s reluctance to send AK’s forward in early convoys to a combat area. See Ch. II, above. According to Admiral Noble, the loss of the Etamin was “. . . very keenly felt for several months to come.” Ltr, Rear Adm Noble to General Ward, 18 Dec 50, in OCMH files.]

[N5-12 ALAMO Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, p. 50; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, pp. 2-6; PTF Engr Rpt, Pt. IV, pp. 2-3.]

[N5-13 PTF G-3 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; 167th FA Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 3-6.]

[N5-14 Information on west flank operations is from: 163rd Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 2-3; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, pp. 3-6; 163rd Inf Jnl Aitape; PTF G-3 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44.]

The next day the 1st and 2nd Battalions resumed the advance at 0730. The 1st crossed the Raihu and pushed northwest over ill-defined tracks to establish contact, about 0930, with the 2nd Battalion at the mouth of a small creek 1,800 yards west of the Raihu. Colonel Mason now halted the 1st Battalion and ordered it to patrol the trails radiating south and west from its new position. The 2nd Battalion moved on along the coast to Aitape, securing that town and the near-by dominating height at Rohm Point by 1100. The unit had met no Japanese and was preparing to push on when, early in the afternoon, Colonel Mason ordered it to stop. The 3rd Battalion was ready to pass through the 1st and move forward over inland trails, but the regimental commander suddenly ordered both it and the 1st to retire to the east bank of the Raihu for the night. It is not clear why this withdrawal was ordered. Japanese opposition had been almost nonexistent and the 163rd Infantry had lost only one man killed during the day.

General Doe was by now dissatisfied with the pace of the westward advance, and he therefore suggested to ALAMO Force that the 163rd’s commander be relieved. This step was approved by General Krueger, although the regimental commander remained in control of his unit until 9 May, only two days before the 163rd Infantry began loading for another operation.[N5-15]

For the next few days there were no major changes in the dispositions of the 163rd Infantry as patrolling inland and along the coast west of Aitape continued. Patrol bases were set up at inland and coastal villages to hunt down Japanese attempting to escape westward from the Aitape area. At the Kapoam villages, about twelve miles up the Raihu, elements of the 3rd Battalion encountered the only signs of organized Japanese resistance found in the Aitape area to 4 May. At one of these villages—Kamti—outpost troops of the 3rd Battalion were surrounded by an estimated 200 Japanese who made a number of harassing attacks on 28 and 29 April. These skirmishes cost the battalion 3 men killed and 2 wounded, while it was estimated that the Japanese lost about 90 killed. On 30 April the men at Kamti withdrew while Battery A, 126th Field Artillery Battalion, fired 240 rounds of 105-mm. ammunition into the village and its environs. The next morning Company L, 163rd Infantry, moved back to Kamti against no opposition. There were few further contacts with the Japanese on the west flank and all outposts of the 163rd Infantry were relieved by 32nd Division troops early in May.

The 127th Regimental Combat Team (less the 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, and Companies F and G of the same regiment) had unloaded at Blue Beach on 23 April.[N5-16] About 0700 the same morning, after an air and naval bombardment, Companies F and G landed on Tumleo and Seleo Islands off Blue Beach, securing them against minor opposition by 1400. On 25 April Company G occupied the third large offshore island, Ali, without difficulty. The 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, arrived at Blue Beach on 26 April and established its headquarters near Korako. The 2nd Battalion relieved the 3rd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, on the east flank, and the 3rd Battalion, 127th Infantry, established a defense line along the southern and eastern edges of Tadji Bomber and Fighter Strips.

[N5-15 The circumstances surrounding this relief are found in: Rad, PTF to ALAMO, AE-72, 24 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 25-26 Apr 44; Rad, ALAMO to RTF [I Corps], WF-4652, 29 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 29-30 Apr 44; Ltr, General Doe to Gen Ward, 4 Dec 50, in OCMH files. ]

[N5-16 Information on 127th Infantry activities is based on: 127th Inf Jnl, 23 Apr-4 May 44; PTF G-3 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, pp. 3-6.]

Patrols of the 2nd Battalion moved east along the coastal track to the mouth of the Driniumor, about twelve miles beyond Blue Beach; up the banks of the Nigia River five miles to Chinapelli; and up the west bank of the Driniumor about six miles to Afua. From Afua a trail was found running westward through dense jungle to Chinapelli by way of a village called Palauru. From Chinapelli one track ran north to the mouth of the Nigia and others wandered off in a westerly direction toward the Kapoam villages. From the Driniumor two main trails were found leading eastward—one the principal coastal track to Wewak and the other a rough inland trace originating at Afua.

The latter trail paralleled the coast line and ran along the foothills of the Torricelli Mountains. North of the trail was a flat coastal plain, generally forested with dense jungle growth and containing numerous swampy areas and a multitude of small and large streams. The plain narrowed gradually from a depth of about ten miles at the Nigia River to less than a mile at the Danmap River, flowing into the Pacific about forty-five miles east-southeast of Aitape. Beyond the Danmap, toward Wewak, was more rolling terrain where hills descended from the Torricelli Mountains down to the sea. The trail east from Afua crossed the many streams between the Driniumor and the Danmap at points three to five miles south of the coast.

It was essential to the security of the newly won Tadji strips that any Japanese movements westward from Wewak along both inland and coastal trails be discovered and watched. Therefore, it was decided to send Company C, 127th Infantry, reinforced by part of Company D, by boat to Nyaparake, a coastal village about seventeen miles east of the Nigia River. There the reinforced company, known as the Nyaparake Force, was to set up a patrol base and report and delay Japanese movements in the vicinity.

On 28 April the unit boarded small boats at Blue Beach and sailed eastward along the coast, missing its objective and landing near the mouth of the Dandriwad River, about eight miles east of Nyaparake. This error was quickly discovered but the force remained at its position for three days, sending out patrols in all directions. Few signs of enemy activity were observed, and the five Japanese killed in the area appeared to be stragglers rather than representatives of any organized unit of the 18th Army. On 1 May the unit moved by water back to Nyaparake.

Outposts were established about four miles inland at Charov and Jalup, where the principal inland trail crossed the Drindaria River, and patrols were sent to the east and west over the inland trail and in both directions along the coastal track. The Nyaparake Force noticed no signs of organized enemy activity in the areas patrolled during the next few days.

Meanwhile, patrols of the 2nd Battalion had moved along the coast from the Driniumor River to Yakamul, four miles west of Nyaparake. Elements of the 1st Battalion maintained a patrol base at Afua for four days, and 3rd Battalion patrols scouted trails from Chinapelli to the Tadji strips and the Kapoam villages. No signs of organized enemy movements were discovered, and only weary Japanese stragglers attempting to make their way inland and westward were encountered. This complete lack of organized Japanese operations in the area patrolled by the 127th Infantry to 4 May, together with the surprisingly easy seizure of the Tadji strips by the 163rd Infantry, contradicted preassault estimates of the enemy situation in the Aitape area.

The Enemy Situation to 4 May

Prior to 22 April the Allies had estimated that 3,500 Japanese, including 1,500 combat troops of the 20th Division, were based at Aitape. The indications are that not more than 1,000 Japanese of all arms and services were actually in the Aitape area on D Day.[N5-17] These troops comprised mostly antiaircraft artillerymen and service personnel who fled inland when Allied landing operations began. No organized resistance was encountered except for the skirmishes at Kamti, and the only evidence of centralized command in the area was a captured report, dated 25 April, from the Commander, Aitape Garrison Unit, to the 18th Army.

The document told of the Allied landings, described operations to 25 April, set the strength of the Aitape Garrison Unit at 240 troops, and outlined a grandiose plan of attack, which probably culminated in the action around Kamti. Unknown to the Allies, there had been a small scouting party of the 20th Division at Aitape on D Day, but after the landings this group withdrew eastward to rejoin the main body of the 18th Army. Other Japanese survivors in the Aitape area tried to make their way westward to Vanimo, a minor enemy barge hideout on the coast between Aitape and Hollandia.[N5-18]

Between 22 April and 4 May, Japanese casualties in the Aitape area were estimated at 525 killed, and during the same period 25 of the enemy were captured. Allied losses were 19 killed and 40 wounded. All the Allied casualties were American, and with but two or three exceptions all were suffered by the 163rd Infantry.[N5-19]

There were a few signs that the 18th Army might be initiating a movement westward from Wewak toward Aitape, since interrogations of natives and aerial reconnaissance produced indications of organized enemy activity far beyond the east flank of the PERSECUTION Task Force. The Japanese were reported to be bridging the Anumb River, about fifteen miles east of the Danmap. Motor vehicles or their tracks were observed along the beach and on the coastal trail from Wewak west to the Anumb, and aerial observers and Allied ground patrols found that enemy parties were reconnoitering the coastal track from the Danmap River west to the mouth of the Dandriwad. Natives reported that organized Japanese groups were bivouacking at various coastal villages between the Dandriwad and Danmap.

Intelligence officers of the PERSECUTION Task Force and ALAMO Force interpreted these activities as indicating that an organized westward movement by 18th Army units was under way. Whether or not this movement presaged an attack on the PERSECUTION Task Force was not yet clear, but it seemed certain that Allied troops on the east flank might soon meet strong Japanese units.[N5-20]

[N5-17 Rad ALAMO to GHQ, WF-3714, 22 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 21-22 Apr 44; GHQ SWPA, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit, PERSECUTION, 24 Jan 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 26 Jan 44; PTF G-2 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEI’s 710-61, 1 Mar-22 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnls, 1 Mar-22 Apr 44.]

[N5-18 PTF G-2 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; Rad, PTF to ALAMO, AE-220, 29 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 29-30 Apr 44; 18th Army Opns, III, 47, 55-56.]

[N5-19 PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, p. 6; PTF G-1 and G-2 Jnls, 22 Apr-4 May 44.]

[N5-20 Rads, PTF to ALAMO, KL-748 and AE-373, 3 May 44, Rad, PTF to ALAMO, AE-406, 4 May 44, and Rad, ALAMO to GHQ SWPA, WF-617, 4 May 44 all in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 4-5 May 44.]

Contact with the 18th Army on the East Flank

While the PERSECUTION Task Force was accomplishing its primary mission—seizure and repair of the Tadji strips—final plans were being made at higher headquarters for another operation in the Wakde-Sarmi area of Dutch New Guinea, 250 miles northwest of Aitape. The 163rd Regimental Combat Team and General Doe with most of his staff were to participate in the new advance, which was scheduled for mid-May. General Krueger therefore directed that the 163rd Regimental Combat Team of the 41st Division be relieved of combat in the Aitape area and concentrated at Blue Beach by 6 May to begin staging for Wakde-Sarmi.[N5-21]

Reorganization of the PERSECUTION Task Force

The 32nd Infantry Division, less two regiments, was to move from Saidor in eastern New Guinea to Aitape to relieve the 163rd Regimental Combat Team. The 127th Regimental Combat Team of the 32nd Division had already arrived at Aitape. Initially, the 128th Infantry was to remain at Saidor as part of the ALAMO Force Reserve for Wakde-Sarmi. The remainder of the 32nd Division, consisting of the 126th Regimental Combat Team and division troops, arrived at Blue Beach on 4 May. Major General William H. Gill, the division commander, immediately assumed command of the PERSECUTION Task Force and two days later his division staff, after becoming acquainted with the situation in the Aitape area, began activity as Headquarters, PERSECUTION Task Force.[N5-22]

Just before the Wakde-Sarmi operation began, it was decided to move the 128th Infantry from Saidor to Aitape so that the unit would be closer to its potential objective area in case of need. Noncombat ships being available, the 128th Infantry (less the 3rd Battalion) was shipped to Blue Beach, where it arrived on 15 May. The rest of the regiment, together with rear echelons of other 32nd Division units, arrived at Aitape later in the month. Early in June the 128th Infantry was released from its ALAMO Force Reserve role for Wakde-Sarmi and reverted to the control of the 32nd Division and the PERSECUTION Task Force.[N5-23] As soon as General Gill assumed command of the PERSECUTION Task Force, defenses in the Aitape area were reorganized.

The area west of Waitanan Creek, designated the West Sector, was assigned to the 126th Regimental Combat Team. To the east, the 127th Regimental Combat Team was to operate in an area named the East Sector. A series of defensive lines in front of a main line of resistance around the airstrips covered the approaches to the vital fields. Positions on the main line of resistance were to be constructed rapidly but were to be occupied only on orders from task force headquarters. Beyond the main line of resistance there were set up a local security line, an outpost line of resistance, and an outpost security patrol line. The latter, lying about ten miles inland, was to mark the general limits of patrolling.[N4-24]

[N5-21 ALAMO Force FO 15, 29 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 29-30 Apr 44; Rad, PTF to ALAMO, R-103, 4 May 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 6-7 May 44.]

[N5-22 ALAMO Force FO 15, 29 Apr 44; 32nd Div FO 1, 30 Apr 44, and PTF FO 2, 6 May 44, both in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-3 May 44.]

[N5-23 Rad, PTF to ALAMO, AE-840, 17 May 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 16-18 May 44; Rad, ALAMO Adv Hq to PTF, WH-271, 8 Jun 44, in ALAMO Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 7-8 Jun 44.]

The 126th Infantry completed relief of the 163rd Infantry’s outposts and patrol bases on the west flank by 8 May. Thereafter, outpost troops were rotated from time to time, and gradually many outposts were closed out, as Japanese activity on the west ceased. On 29 May, because Japanese pressure was increasing on the east flank, the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 126th Infantry, were transferred to the East Sector, and responsibility for patrolling and defending the West Sector (which had been extended in mid-May to the eastern edge of Tadji Fighter Strip) passed to the 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry. Patrolling by all elements of the 126th Infantry in the West Sector accounted for a few Japanese killed, found dead along inland trails, or captured.[N4-25]

On 10 June boundaries between various elements of the PERSECUTION Task Force were again changed and redispositions were effected. A new defensive area, designated the Center Sector, was established between the West and East Sectors to cover the ground between the eastern edge of the Tadji airstrips to a line running southwestward inland from Pro. The new sector became the responsibility of the 128th Infantry, while the 126th Infantry retained control in the West Sector and the 127th continued operations in the East Sector.

At the same time, the main line of resistance was drawn in toward the airfields from a previous eastern extension along the Nigia River, and the earlier inland defensive lines were either abolished or withdrawn. Troops of the West and Center Sectors continued patrolling in the areas for which they were responsible. Only a few enemy stragglers were encountered, and no signs of organized Japanese activity were discovered in those sectors.[N5-26]

East Sector Troops Meet the Enemy Colonel Merle H. Howe, commanding the 127th Infantry, was assigned to the command of the East Sector on 6 May. His missions were to maintain contact with the enemy on the eastern flank, to discover enemy intentions, and to delay any westward movement on the part of elements of the 18th Army. He was ordered to maintain outposts and patrol bases at Anamo and Nyaparake on the coast and at Chinapelli and Afua inland. When he took over his new command, Colonel Howe had little information concerning the Japanese on the east flank beyond the fact that elements of two of the 18th Army’s three divisions had been identified far east of the Nigia River.

Troops of the 20th Division had been discovered building defensive positions on the east bank of the Danmap River and elements of the 41st Division were thought to be in the same general area. Finally, air observers had discovered concentrations of Japanese troops at coastal villages between the Danmap and Wewak. There seemed to be definite indications that large elements of the 18th Army were beginning to move westward from Wewak.[N5-27] Colonel Howe subdivided his East Sector into battalion areas. The 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, was to maintain a reinforced rifle company at Nyaparake and an outpost at Babiang, to the east near the mouth of the Dandriwad River. The battalion was to patrol up the Dandriwad and along the coast east to the Danmap River.

[N5-24 PTF FO 2, 6 May 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-3 May 44.]

[N5-25 126th Inf Jnl, 4 May-27 Jun 44; 1st Bn 126th Inf Jnl, 4 May-27 Jun 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 3-10.]

[N5-26 PTF FO 4, 10 Jun 44, atchd to PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 126th Inf Jnl, 4 May-27 Jun 44; 128th Inf Jnl, 4 May-Jun 44.]

[N5-27 PTF FO 2, 6 May 44, and G-2 Annex thereto, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-3 May 44; 127th Inf Jnl file, 4-15 May 44.]

The 2nd Battalion was made responsible for inland patrols to Chinapelli, Palauru, and Afua. The 3rd Battalion was to maintain permanent outposts at Anamo, near the mouth of the Driniumor River, and at Afua, six miles up that stream. Some of these dispositions were already in effect, with the Nyaparake Force on station and 2nd Battalion units operating in the Palauru area. The other dispositions were completed by mid-May. [N5-28]

The Nyaparake Force, comprising Company C and elements of Company D, and commanded by Captain Tally D. Fulmer of Company C, 127th Infantry, started patrolling to the east and inland on 7 May. [N5-29] On that day, patrols pushed across the mouth of the Dandriwad River to Babiang and Marubian. After clashing with a well-organized Japanese patrol, the Nyaparake Force elements withdrew to the west bank of the Dandriwad and spent the next day patrolling up that river and questioning natives concerning enemy movements. On the 8th a rifle platoon and a light machine gun section from Company A arrived to strengthen the Nyaparake Force.

The advance eastward was resumed the next day along two routes beyond Babiang. One was the coastal trail and the other the “Old German Road,” a name presumably referring to the days of German occupation of this part of New Guinea before World War I. The Old German Road paralleled the coastal track at a distance of about 300 yards inland. Supported by Seventh Fleet PT’s based at Aitape, Nyaparake Force patrols pushed almost 5,000 yards east of the Dandriwad during the day, encountering some resistance along both routes. At dusk all patrols retired to Babiang, and Captain Fulmer re-examined his situation in the light of information obtained during the day. Large enemy groups had been reported to the west of Nyaparake at Yakamul and even as far distant as the Driniumor River, over halfway back to the Tadji perimeter.

To the east, Japanese opposition gave every indication of increasing. Finally, it appeared that the Nyaparake Force was being outflanked to the south. Reports had come in that enemy parties were moving along the foothills of the Torricelli Mountains immediately south of the main inland east-west trail, which crossed the Dandriwad and Drindaria Rivers about four miles upstream.

Captain Fulmer strengthened the outpost at Charov, up the Drindaria, in order to keep closer watch on the enemy reported south of that village. At the same time he requested that aircraft strafe the coastal trail and the Old German Road east of Babiang before any further attempt to advance eastward was made. Colonel Howe agreed to request the air support mission, and he ordered the Nyaparake Force to continue pushing eastward after the air strike was completed.

Eight P-40’s of No. 78 Wing, Royal Australian Air Force, bombed and strafed the two roads east of Babiang at 1130 on 10 May. Marubian, thought to be a Japanese assembly point, was also attacked. After the air strikes Captain Fulmer sent the 1st Platoon, Company C, forward from Babiang while the 3rd Platoon moved on to take Marubian without opposition. A defensive perimeter was set up around Marubian and an ambush was established on the Old German Road south of that village. No contacts were made with the enemy during the day. The advance continued on the 11th and the two forward platoons had reached a point about two miles beyond Marubian by early afternoon when they were halted by Japanese machine gun and small arms fire. The 3rd Platoon, on the coastal trail, pulled back about six hundred yards from the point of contact and watched a party of about fifty-five well-equipped Japanese proceed southwestward off the trail and disappear inland. The 3rd Platoon dug in for the night on the beach, while the 1st Platoon, on the Old German Road, returned to Marubian.

[N5-28 127th Inf Jnl file, 4-15 May 44.]

[N5-29 Information in the remainder of this subsection is based principally upon: 127th Inf Jnl files, 5-15 and 15-31 May 44; 1st Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 3-10; PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 127th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 1-2.]

Captain Fulmer decided to move the rest of Company C, 127th Infantry, to Marubian on 12 May. Since this would practically denude the base at Nyaparake of combat troops, the Charov outpost was ordered to return to the base village. These redispositions were accomplished during the morning of the 12th, and the advance eastward beyond Marubian was resumed about 1300 the same day.

The 3rd Platoon of Company C, in the lead, soon encountered rifle and machine gun fire from Japanese positions at a stream-crossing near which the advance had stopped the previous afternoon. In an attempt to outflank the Japanese, the 1st Platoon moved inland about 300 yards and into line south of the 3rd. This maneuver led the 1st Platoon into dense jungle where it was stopped by determined enemy small arms fire. Further probing of the enemy defenses proved fruitless and, as night was approaching, Captain Fulmer pulled the platoon out of action. The unit moved back to the beach and dug in about 600 yards west of the stream crossing, where the 3rd Platoon had already set up defenses.

About 1100 on the 13th the 2nd Platoon, with a section of 81-mm. mortars and another of .50-caliber machine guns attached, arrived in the forward area. The riflemen of the 2nd and 3rd Platoons then joined forces and pushed on down the coast through the scene of the previous afternoon’s encounter until held up at another stream by new enemy defenses. The 1st Platoon remained behind to protect the mortars and machine guns. Scouts having reported that the Japanese were firmly entrenched at the new crossing, Captain Fulmer used his heavy weapons to soften the opposition. The 81-mm. mortars and the .50-caliber machine guns fired for about twenty minutes on the enemy defenses, and a section of 60-mm. mortars joined in the last ten minutes of the barrage. Under cover of this fire the 2nd and 3rd Platoons formed along the west bank of the small stream on a front extending 300 yards inland. The 3rd Platoon was on the beach and the 2nd on the right. At 1400, as preparation fire ceased, the two platoons started eastward. The 3rd crossed the small creek near the mouth without difficulty and pushed eastward nearly 500 yards before encountering any resistance.

The situation in the 2nd Platoon’s sector was quite different. There the ground was covered with sago palms, underbrush, and heavy jungle growth which limited visibility to five or ten yards. The platoon ran into concentrated rifle and machine gun fire immediately after starting its attack and was unable to force a crossing of the small stream. The platoon leader disengaged his force and tried to cross the creek farther inland.

But the enemy refused his left flank and the maneuver failed. Because the dense rain forest masked their fires, mortars and heavy machine guns could not support further advances in the inland sector. Captain Fulmer therefore pulled the platoon out of action on the right flank, drew it back to the beach, and sent it across the stream along the route taken by the 3rd Platoon. After crossing the creek and drawing abreast of the 3rd Platoon, the 2nd Platoon again attacked in a southeasterly direction.

The unit overran a small Japanese supply dump and aid station and advanced 50-100 yards inland but was again pinned down by enemy machine gun fire. One squad attempted to find the left of the enemy’s defenses by moving 100 yards deeper into the jungle. This effort proved futile. Since the platoon’s forward elements were now being fired on from both the south and the east and because it was again impossible to support the unit with mortar or machine gun fire, no further progress could be expected. The 3rd Platoon had been forced to halt because of the danger of being cut off by the Japanese opposing the 2nd Platoon. Captain Fulmer called off the attack to set up night defenses.

The 3rd Platoon anchored its left flank on the beach at a point about 150 yards east of the small stream, extending its lines about 50 yards inland and westward another 75 yards. The 2nd Platoon tied its left into the right of the 3rd and stretched the perimeter west to the mouth of the creek. About 200 yards beyond the eastern edge of this perimeter was an outpost of eight men, including mortar observers who were in contact with the main force by sound-powered telephone.

Inside the larger perimeter were 60-mm. mortars, light machine guns, .50-caliber machine guns, and an aid station. Since the 81-mm. mortars could not obtain clearance in the area chosen for the main force, they remained under the protection of the 1st Platoon in a separate perimeter about 500 yards to the west. It seemed certain that the Japanese who had been holding up the advance during the day would attack during the night, and it was considered probable that such an attack would come through the heavy jungle at the southern, or inland, side of the main perimeter, where visibility was limited to five yards even in daylight. The expected attack was not long in coming, although not from the direction anticipated.

Shortly after 0200 on 14 May, after a short preparation by grenades, light mortars, and light machine guns, 100 to 200 Japanese of the 78th Infantry, 20th Division,30 attacked from the east against the coastal sector of the perimeter. This assault was broken up by rifle and automatic weapons fire and by lobbing mortar shells to the rear of the advancing enemy group. The Japanese disappeared into the jungle south of the narrow beach. For the next hour Captain Fulmer’s mortars placed harassing fire into suspected enemy assembly points east of the small stream. Meanwhile, the eight man outpost reported that many small parties of Japanese were moving up the beach within 300 yards of the main perimeter and then slipping southward into the jungle. Such maneuvers seemed to presage another attack.

The second assault came about 0330, this time against the eastern and southeastern third of the defenses. The Japanese were again beaten back by small arms and mortar fire, but at 0500 they made a final effort which covered the entire eastern half of the perimeter. This last attack was quickly broken up and the Japanese quieted down.

[N5-30 This identification is from 18th Army Opns, III, 83-84.]

About 0730 on the 14th, elements of Company A, 127th Infantry, began moving into the forward perimeter to reinforce Captain Fulmer’s beleaguered units. The 1st Platoon of Company C and the 81-mm. mortar section also moved forward in preparation for continuing the advance.

But now questions arose at the headquarters of the East Sector and the PERSECUTION Task Force concerning the feasibility of further advance. Captain Fulmer was willing to continue forward if he could be reinforced by a rifle platoon of Company A, another section of heavy machine guns, and another section of 81-mm. mortars. Colonel Howe and General Gill looked on the matter from a different point of view. It would be extremely difficult, they realized, to establish an overland supply system for the advancing force and they knew that there were not enough small boats available in the Aitape area to insure over water supply. Further advance would accomplish little unless a large base for future operations could be established well beyond the Marubian area, a project for which insufficient troops and amphibious craft were available.

Moreover, the principal mission of the PERSECUTION Task Force was to protect the Tadji airfields, not to undertake large-scale offensive operations. General Gill finally decided to withdraw the Nyaparake Force’s advance elements from the Marubian area and replace it with Company A, under the command of Captain Herman Bottcher,[N5-31] who was to carry out a holding mission on the west bank of the Dandriwad. Withdrawal from Yakamul

On 13 May the bulk of Company A arrived at Ulau Mission, just west of the Dandriwad’s mouth.32 Company C remained at Marubian temporarily. There was little action on the 13th, but events the next day prompted General Gill to change his plans again. On the 14th Japanese patrols moved between Company C and the Dandriwad River, cutting the company’s overland line of withdrawal. At the same time strong enemy patrols harassed Company A’s positions at Ulau Mission. It seemed apparent that the American outposts could not long withstand this pressure and, therefore, both the Ulau and Marubian units were picked up by small craft on the 15th and taken westward to Nyaparake, whence the advance eastward had begun a week earlier.

[N5-31 Captain Bottcher had been awarded a DSC and a battlefield promotion from the ranks during the Papuan Campaign. His exploits there are recounted in Milner, Victory in Papua.]

[N5-32 Information in this subsection is based on: 127th Inf Jnl files, 15-31 May and 1-11 Jun 44: 1st Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 32nd Rcn Tr Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 6-14; PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 4-9; 1st Bn 126th Inf Jnl, 4 May-27 Jun 44; 127th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 2-7; PTF FO 3, 19 May 44, in PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 2nd Bn 80th Inf, Field Diary, 31 May-14 Jul 44, as translated in 32nd Inf Div G-2 files, in ORB RAG AGO collection; 18th Army Opns III, 84-88; Incl 2, Comments and Observations, pp. 1-2, to Ltr, Major General Clarence A. Martin to General Ward, 12 Nov 50, no sub, in OCMH files. The latter document is hereafter cited as Martin Comments.]

During the next few days the Nyaparake Force continued patrolling, making contacts with well-organized enemy units which appeared to be more aggressive and larger than those previously encountered in the East Sector. Companies C and D returned to Tadji Plantation on 19 May and were replaced at Nyaparake by the 32nd Reconnaissance Troop. On the same day Brigadier General Clarence A. Martin, Assistant Division Commander, 32nd Division, was placed in command of the East Sector and charged with the missions previously assigned to Colonel Howe—to maintain contact with and delay enemy units moving westward. General Martin was directed to move all East Sector troops except the Nyaparake Force to the west bank of the Driniumor River. The Nyaparake Force, now comprising the 32nd Reconnaissance Troop and Company A, 127th Infantry, was placed under the command of Captain Bottcher, who was transferred from Company A to the command of the reconnaissance unit. To render the force more mobile, all its heavy equipment was sent back to Blue Beach, and the unit was instructed to retire to the Driniumor River in case Japanese pressure increased.

Captain Bottcher’s patrols soon found that enemy pressure was indeed increasing. Some Japanese patrols were active to the east while others outflanked the force to the south and, about 1850 on 22 May, attacked from the west. During the following night the Nyaparake Force fought its way out of this encirclement and retired two miles along the beach to Parakovio. The next day General Martin sent most of Company A back to Tadji and that night and during the morning of the 24th the remaining elements of the Nyaparake Force withdrew along the beach to good defensive positions at the mouth of a small creek about 3,000 yards west of Yakamul. The Japanese followed closely, occupying Yakamul and sending scouting parties westward along inland trails toward Afua and the Driniumor River.

By now it was evident that the Japanese had crossed the Drindaria in some force and it appeared that the aggressive enemy patrols had missions other than merely screening movements far to the east in the Wewak area. Deeming the Japanese movements a threat to the security of the Tadji airfields, General Gill decided to make an effort to drive the enemy’s forward units back across the Drindaria. For this purpose he assigned the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, to the East Sector. The battalion was to move forward to the Nyaparake Force’s perimeter, where Company G, 127th Infantry, was to relieve Captain Bottcher’s men. The 126th Infantry’s unit was to be supported by Battery C, 126th Field Artillery Battalion, from positions at the mouth of the Driniumor and by Battery B from the perimeter of Company G, 127th Infantry.

Company G completed the relief of the now misnamed Nyaparake Force on 31 May, and about 1100 on the same day the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, reached the forward position. Lieutenant Colonel Cladie A. Bailey’s battalion pushed rapidly onward through Yakamul, from which the enemy withdrew hurriedly, and moved on to Parakovio against little opposition. Despite the lack of determined resistence on 31 May, it was soon to become evident that one battalion was not going to be strong enough to drive the Japanese forces already west of the Drindaria back across that stream. By this time elements of the 78th and 80th Infantry Regiments, 20th Division, had been definitely identified west of the Drindaria. Although the PERSECUTION Task Force did not yet know it, large segments of both regiments were operating in the Yakamul area, where they were supported by a few weapons of the 26th Field Artillery Regiment, 20th Division. These Japanese forces now began to strike back at the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, which, on 1 June, was able to advance only 400 yards beyond Parakovio before it was stopped by enemy machine gun and artillery fire. At 1115 General Martin ordered the unit to retire to Yakamul. Using Yakamul as a base, the battalion was to develop the enemy situation along the Harech River from the coast to the foothills of the Torricelli Mountains, five miles inland.

During the night of 1-2 June, Japanese artillery shelled the battalion command post and enemy patrols drove in outposts which had been set up just east of Yakamul. The next morning the battalion was divided into two parts. At Yakamul was stationed Company A, Headquarters Company, and part of Company D. This combined group, numbering about 350 men, was put under the command of Captain Gile A. Herrick of Company A and designated Herrick Force. The rest of the battalion, now called Bailey Force, moved south down the trail from Yakamul to patrol along the Harech River.

The Japanese soon became very active around the perimeter of Herrick Force. On 3 June the enemy launched a series of minor attacks against Company A, which was separated from the rest of Herrick Force by a small, unbridged stream about four feet deep and varying in width from ten to fifty yards. Under cover of these attacks, other Japanese groups bypassed Herrick Force to the south and on the next morning appeared west of Yakamul, between Herrick Force and the two-mile distant perimeter of Company G, 127th Infantry.

Sporadic small arms fire, intensifying during the afternoon, was directed at all parts of the Herrick Force perimeter during 4 June. About 1640 this fire was augmented by mortar and artillery shells, a development which seemed to presage an imminent Japanese infantry attack. At 1830 an enemy force of more than company strength surged out of the jungle on the southeast side of the American perimeter in an apparent attempt to drive a wedge between Company A and the rest of Herrick Force. The attack was halted by automatic weapons fire and the barrier presented by the small stream. The enemy then turned northeast from the creek against Company A. Simultaneously, a small group of enemy attacked west along the beach.

Because Company A was in danger of being surrounded, Captain Herrick ordered the unit to withdraw across the small stream to Yakamul. Since the Japanese had the stream covered with small arms and at least one well-concealed machine gun, the withdrawal was a slow process and consumed over an hour. During the movement the Japanese continued to attack and, toward the end of the hour, succeeded in overrunning some of Company A’s automatic weapons positions. Deprived of this support, most of the remaining troops retreated rapidly across the stream, leaving behind radios, mortars, machine guns, and twenty to twenty-five dead or wounded men. Most of the wounded managed to get across the stream after darkness, which was approaching at the time of the enemy’s final attack.

By 1940 the Japanese were in complete possession of the Company A position, whence they could send flanking fire toward the Yakamul perimeter. Captain Herrick ordered his men to dig in deeply. He reorganized his positions and even put some of the lightly wounded on defensive posts. Japanese ground attacks kept up until 2200, and sporadic bursts of mortar, grenade, and machine gun fire continued throughout the night.

When he learned of the situation at Yakamul, General Martin ordered Bailey Force to return to the coast and relieve Herrick Force. Radio communication difficulties prevented delivery of this order until 2000 and it was 2200 before Colonel Bailey could organize his force in the darkness and heavy jungle and start it moving north. By that time the Japanese had a strong force blocking the trail to Yakamul. Bailey Force therefore had to swing northwest toward the perimeter of Company G, 127th Infantry, two miles west of Yakamul. After an arduous overland march through trackless, heavily jungled terrain, the leading elements of Bailey Force began straggling into Company G’s perimeter about 1130 on 5 June.

General Martin then ordered Bailey Force to move east and drive the Japanese from the Yakamul area, but this order was changed when the East Sector commander learned that Bailey Force had been marching for over thirteen hours on empty stomachs and was not yet completely assembled at Company G’s perimeter. Bailey Force was thereupon fed from Company G’s limited food supply and sent west along the coastal trail to the Driniumor River. Company G and the battery of the 126th Field Artillery Battalion which it had been protecting moved back to the Driniumor late in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the evacuation of Herrick Force from Yakamul had also been ordered, and about 1115 on 5 June small boats arrived at Yakamul from Blue Beach to take the beleaguered troops back to the Tadji area. Insofar as time permitted, radios, ammunition, and heavy weapons for which there was no room on the boats were destroyed.

As this work was under way, a few light mortars and light machine guns kept up a steady fire on the Japanese who, now surrounding the entire perimeter, had been harassing Herrick Force since dawn. At the last possible moment, just when it seemed the Japanese were about to launch a final infantry assault, Captain Herrick ordered his men to make for the small boats on the run. The move was covered by friendly rocket and machine gun fire from an LCM standing offshore, while the Japanese took the running men under fire from the old Company A positions. So fast and well organized was the sudden race for the boats that the Japanese had no time to get all their weapons into action, and only one American was wounded during the boarding. The small craft hurriedly left the area and took Herrick Force back to Blue Beach, where the unit was re-equipped. By 1500 the troops had rejoined the rest of the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, on the Driniumor River.

Losses of the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, during its action in the Yakamul area were 18 men killed, 75 wounded, and 8 missing. The battalion estimated that it had killed 200 to 250 Japanese and wounded many more.[N4-33] Operations Along the Driniumor While the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, had been patrolling in the Yakamul area, elements of the 127th Infantry had been operating to the west along the Driniumor River from the coast six miles upstream to Afua.34 Until the end of May little Japanese activity had been noted in the Anamo-Afua area, but on the 31st of the month a ration train carrying supplies up the west bank of the Driniumor to two platoons of Company L, 127th Infantry, at Afua was ambushed and forced back to the coast. Later in the day a party of Japanese estimated to be of company strength was seen crossing the Driniumor River from east to west at a point about 1,000 yards north of Afua. By dusk it appeared that at least two companies of Japanese had crossed the river near Afua and had established themselves on high, thickly jungled ground north and northwest of the village.

[N5-33 A Japanese postwar estimate sets Japanese losses in the Yakamul area from 31 May through 6 June at 100 men killed or wounded. Whatever the true figures, the estimate of the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, appears rather high.]

[N5-34 Unless otherwise indicated, material in this subsection is from: PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 3-10; PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 127th Inf Jnl files, 15-31 May, 1-11 Jun, 12-18 Jun, and 19-27 Jun 44; 1st Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 3rd Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 127th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 4-9; Martin Comments, pp. 2-4.]

During the next four days elements of the 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, maneuvered in fruitless attempts to drive a Japanese group, 75 to 100 strong, off a low, jungled ridge about a mile and a half north of Afua. Colonel Howe, concerned about the lack of success of his troops, early on the morning of 5 June radioed to the battalion commander: “This is the third day of maneuvering to drive the enemy off that ridge. So far today we have had no report of enemy firing a shot and we are not sure they are even there. I have been besieged with questions as to why we don’t fight the enemy. Unless we can report some accomplishment today I have no alibis to offer. Push either Fulmer [Company C] or Sawyer [Company B] in there until they draw fire.” [N5-35] During the morning Companies B and C organized a final attack and occupied the ridge, which the Japanese had abandoned during the night.

Meanwhile the PERSECUTION Task Force had decided to establish an outer defensive line along the Driniumor River. Originating in the Torricelli Mountains south of Afua, the river ran almost due north through many gorges and over steep falls to a sharp bend at Afua. From Afua to its mouth, a six-mile stretch, the river had an open bed varying from 75 to 150 yards in width. Except during tropical cloudbursts, this section of the river was not much more than knee deep. Dense rain forests extended to the river’s banks at most places, although there were some areas of thinner, brush like vegetation. Islands, or rather high points of the wide bed, were overgrown with high canebrake or grasses, limiting visibility across the stream.

The 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, dug in for 3,600 yards along the west bank of the river north from Afua, while the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, covered the same bank south from the river’s mouth about 2,000 yards. A gap of some 3,000 yards which was left between the two units was covered by patrols. On 7 June, when the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, replaced the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, on the northern portion of the defense line, a company of the former unit was strung out along some 500 yards of the gap.

On the same day Japanese activity broke out anew in the Afua area, this time about 1,300 yards west of Afua on the Afua—Palauru trail, which had now become a main supply line for troops stationed in the Afua area. Two days later the Japanese had disappeared from the Afua-Palauru trail, much to the surprise of the PERSECUTION Task Force. The task force G-2 Section decided that the enemy had withdrawn when his ration and ammunition supply was depleted, and this belief was strengthened during the next day or so when, contrary to previous sightings, all Japanese patrol movements in the Driniumor River area seemed to be from west to east.

[N5-35 Msg, 127th Inf to 1st Bn 127th Inf, 5 Jun 44, in 127th Inf Jnl file, 1-11 Jun 44.]

 For a couple of days some thought had been given to withdrawing the 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, from Afua because of the apparent threat to the Afua-Palauru supply line, but on 10 June Headquarters, PERSECUTION Task Force, decided to leave the battalion in place. On the same day the East Sector was ordered to speed development of strong defensive positions along the Driniumor. The river line was to be held as long as possible in the face of a Japanese attack and, if forced back, the East Sector troops were to delay enemy advances in successive positions—one along the line X-ray River-Koronal Creek, about halfway to the Nigia River, and the other at the Nigia itself—before retreating to the main line of resistance around the airfields. The East Sector was to patrol east of the Driniumor in order to maintain contact with the enemy.[N5-36]

After 10 June Japanese patrols in the Driniumor area became less numerous and less aggressive, but more determined enemy parties were located in hilly and heavily forested terrain along the southern branches of Niumen Creek, which lay about 3,000 yards east of the Driniumor. The Japanese appeared to be forming a counter-reconnaissance screen along Niumen Creek in order to prevent East Sector troops from finding out anything about deployments farther east. So successful were the enemy efforts that few patrols of the 127th Infantry (the 3rd Battalion replaced the 1st at Afua on 22 June) managed to push beyond Niumen Creek.

In the area covered by the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, some patrols were able to move east along the coast as far as Yakamul, but about 20 June the Japanese put more forces into the Yakamul area and stopped American patrolling in the region. In an attempt to gather additional information, one patrol was carried far down the coast to Suain Plantation. There a landing was made in a veritable hornet’s nest of Japanese activity and the few men who reached the beach were hurriedly withdrawn. No more such long-range efforts to obtain information were made.

The closing days of June found the PERSECUTION Task Force still in firm possession of the Tadji airfield area. Operations on the west flank had overcome all Japanese opposition in that region, and no more enemy activity had been encountered there after early May. On the east flank, however, the situation was far different. All elements of the PERSECUTION Task Force which had moved east of the Driniumor River had been gradually forced back until, at the end of the month, even small patrols were having difficulty operating east of the river. As the month ended, the task force’s eastern defenses were along the west bank of the Driniumor, where the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, and the 3rd Battalion, 127th Infantry, were digging in, anticipating future attacks by elements of the 18th Army. Except for minor outposts, the rest of the PERSECUTION Task Force was encamped behind the Tadji airfield main line of resistance.

[N5-36 PTF FO 4, 10 Jun 44, in PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; Martin Comments, pp. 2-3.]

Support of East Sector Operations

East Sector forces were supplied by a variety of methods. Units along the coast were supported directly by small boat from Blue Beach or by native ration trains moving along the coastal track. Supplies to the Afua area went south from the coast along the Anamo-Afua trail or, later, over the inland track from the Tadji fields through Chinapelli and Palauru. Wheeled transport was impracticable except along short stretches of the coastal track. In early June, when the Japanese ambushed many ration parties which attempted to reach Afua, experiments were made with air supply from the Tadji strips. Breakage and loss were heavy at first, but air supply rapidly became more successful as pilots gained experience and ground troops located good dropping grounds. A dropping ground cleared on the west bank of the Driniumor about 2,200 yards north of Afua soon became the principal source of supply for troops in the Afua area.[N5-37]

Communications during operations east of the Driniumor were carried out principally by radio, but between units along the river and from the stream back to higher headquarters telephone became the principal means of communication. Keeping the telephone lines in service was a task to which much time and effort had to be devoted. The Japanese continually cut the lines, or American troops and heavy equipment accidentally broke the wires. The enemy often stationed riflemen to cover breaks in the line, thus making repair work dangerous. Usually, it was found less time consuming and less hazardous to string new wire than to attempt to find and repair breaks. As a result, miles of telephone wire soon lined the ground along the trails or was strung along the trees in the Driniumor River area and back to the Tadji perimeter.[N5-38] Before mid-June most telephone messages in the East Sector were sent “in the clear,” but evidence began to indicate that the Japanese were tapping East Sector lines. On 19 June, therefore, the PERSECUTION Task Force directed that no more clear text telephone messages be used in the East Sector. As in the case of the telephone, all radio messages, of which some concerning routine matters had been previously sent in the clear, were encoded after mid-June.[N5-39]

Radio communications presented no particular problems in the coastal region, but inland radio trouble was chronic and sometimes acute. Radio range was limited, especially at night, by dense jungle and atmospheric conditions, while almost daily tropical storms originating over the Torricelli Mountains hampered both transmission and reception. At times the only way radio could be employed in the Afua area was by having artillery liaison sets transmit to artillery liaison planes flying directly overhead. There were some indications that the Japanese tried to jam East Sector radio circuits, but there was never any proof that the suspected jamming was anything more than static caused by adverse atmospheric conditions.[N5-40]

[N5-37 PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 12-19; 127th Inf Jnl files, 1-11, 12-18, and 19-27 Jun 44; PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44.]

[N5-38 Intervs with Brig Gen Julian W. Cunningham, ex-CG 112 Cav RCT, and Capt Leonard Lowry, ex-CO Company I, 127th Inf, Apr 47, copies in OCMH files. Many of the remarks concerning telephone and radio communications in this section are based on the experience of the 112th Cavalry in operations along the Driniumor River after 28 June. According to Captain Lowry, who had been in the Aitape area since 23 April, the remarks apply equally well to the period before 28 June. The journals of all units of the PERSECUTION Task Force during the period 22 April to 28 June contain many entries concerning the difficulties of communication, especially radio, in the Aitape area.]

[N5-39 PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44.]

[N5-40 The suspicion that the Japanese tapped telephone lines and jammed radio circuits is to be found in the journals and reports of most of the American units which operated in the Aitape area. However, no Japanese documents captured at the time, no the spot interrogations of prisoners, and no postwar Japanese reports contain any evidence that the enemy engaged in either practice.]

Principal naval support for units in the Aitape area after the end of April was provided by Seventh Fleet PT’s. These speedy craft devoted most of their attention to Japanese barge traffic east of Aitape, sinking or damaging so many of the enemy craft that the 18th Army units were forced to limit their westward movements to poor overland trails. One of the largest single “bags” was obtained during the night of 26-27 June when fifteen Japanese barges were sunk near Wewak. In addition to their antibarge activity, the PT’s also undertook many reconnaissance missions both east and west of Aitape, and, from time to time, provided escorts or fire support for East Sector units operating east of the Driniumor. PT’s also carried out many daylight patrols in co-operation with Australian aircraft based on the Tadji strips. The principal targets of these air-sea operations were Japanese coastal guns and troop concentrations along the beach between the Drindaria and Danmap Rivers.[N5-41]

Close air support and other air missions requested by the PERSECUTION Task Force were carried out under the direction of No. 10 Operational Group, Royal Australian Air Force. From 24 April through 12 May this group’s combat planes comprised three P-40 squadrons of No. 78 Wing. The wing moved out of the Aitape area toward the end of May and from the period 25 May to 9 June only the 110th Reconnaissance Squadron, U. S. Fifth Air Force, was stationed at Tadji. On the 9th a squadron of Beaufighters (twin-engined fighters) of the Royal Australian Air Force’s No.71 Wing arrived at Tadji and by the 15th two more squadrons of the same wing, both equipped with Beauforts (twin-engined fighter-bombers), had reached Aitape. On the 22nd of the month, Headquarters, No. 10 Operational Group, left Tadji and control of air operations in the Aitape area passed to Headquarters, No. 71 Wing.

[N5-41 PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp.10-11.]

In May the Australian aircraft flew over 1,600 sorties and dropped almost fifty-seven tons of bombs of all types on ground targets from Aitape to Wewak. During June the pace of air operations was stepped up and from the 7th of that month until 6 July the two Beaufort squadrons alone flew 495 sorties and dropped about 325 tons of bombs. When more bombing than the Tadji-based Beauforts could provide was needed, A-20’s and B-25’s of the Fifth Air Force, flying first from Nadzab in eastern New Guinea and later from Hollandia, swung into action. The Australian Beauforts were also occasionally pressed into service as supply aircraft, dropping rations and ammunition to American forces along the Driniumor. Most supply missions were, however, undertaken by Fifth Air Force C-47’s from Nadzab or Hollandia or sometimes employing one of the Tadji strips as a staging base. Both Fifth Air Force and Australian planes also flew many reconnaissance missions between Aitape and Wewak.

These operations, together with the bombing of coastal villages occupied by the Japanese, suspected enemy bivouac areas, bridges over the many streams between the Driniumor and Wewak, and Japanese field or antiaircraft artillery emplacements, materially assisted the East Sector in the execution of its delaying and patrolling missions.

[N5-42 Ltrs, F/Lt Davies, Officer-in-Charge, War Hist Sec., Hq RAAF, to author, 2 Apr and 8 May 48, in OCMH files; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 10-11.]

Source: Approach to the Philippines: BY; Robert Ross Smith (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Aitape-Deployment for Battle; PERSECUTION Task Force (6)

World War Two: Japanese Forces From Pearl Harbor to Hollandia (4)



World War Two: Italy (3-28) The Dissolution; Ex-allies Fight

German Reaction: Like the rest of the Germans in Italy, Field Marshal Kesselring was surprised at the announcement of the armistice. While Hitler and OKW had been basing their calculations on the likelihood of Italian betrayal and were concerned chiefly with Badoglio’s suspicious behavior, Kesselring and his OB SUED staff had been primarily concerned with the Allies.

 Aerial reconnaissance reported on 5 September that Allied landing craft previously assembled between Mers-el-Kebir and Tunis were moving eastward. On 7 September it was known that large numbers of landing craft had sailed out of Bizerte and entered the latitude of southern Calabria. Because these flotilla’s appeared too large for mere tactical landings in support of the British Eighth Army, Kesselring looked for an imminent Major invasion of the Italian mainland. 

Where the Allied troops would come ashore was the question. The bay of Salerno seemed a likely place, but so did the Rome area-Anzio and Nettuno, possibly even Civitavecchia. Though the Rome area might be too far from their airfields for the Allies to gamble on, and though the Allies had until then displayed a conservative strategic approach, a landing near Rome was within the realm of possibility. So were landings near the northern ports of La Spezia, Genoa, and Leghorn, in Rommel’s Army Group B area. Nor could Kesselring ignore Puglia, the heel of Italy, for within striking distance in eastern Sicilian harbors were assembled numerous Allied landing craft. 

Still, the greatest concern was the possibility that the Allies might land near Rome. The Rome area represented the German waistline-between the hip bulge filled by the six divisions of the Tenth Army and the overdeveloped bust containing Rommel’s Army Group B. [N3-18-1] Rommel’s forces in the north and Vietinghoff’s Tenth Army in the south were strong enough to handle the Italian forces and at the same time offer effective opposition to an Allied landing. But in the center, strong Italian units outnumbered Kesselring’s relatively small forces. Despite their smaller numbers, the Germans might weIl be able to handle the Italians alone. But should the Italians join with Allied troops coming ashore near Rome, what chance would the Germans have? Around noon on 8 September, the Allies delivered a heavy aerial attack against Frascati, where Kesselring’s headquarters was located. The bombs wreaked havoc on the town, and several struck in the immediate area of the command post. 

[N3-18-1 Klinckowstroem in MS #T-1a (Westphal et al.), ch. V, pp. 3-5, 10; Westphal, Heer in Fesseln, p. 229.]

Kesselring himself was uninjured—when the last wave of bombers flew away, he crawled out from beneath the wreckage. But communications were disrupted except for one telephone line from General Westphal’s bedroom which remained in contact both with OKW and with Kesselring’s subordinate commands.!! The Germans judged correctly that the air attack, obviously meant to interrupt the exercise of command, presaged an Allied landing. After directing certain German units to help rescue civilians and clear wreckage, Kesselring sent Westphal and Toussaint to keep the appointment made earlier with Roatta.

 While Westphal and Toussaint were with Roatta, Kesselring received his first intimation of the Italian surrender. Jodl telephoned from OKW headquarters to ask OB SUED in Frascati whether the Germans in Italy knew anything about the capitulation. OKW had picked up an English radio broadcast announcing the surrender. One of Kesselring’s staff officers, knowing that Westphal and Toussaint were consulting with Roatta, phoned the deputy military attaché and suggested that he put through a call to his chief. This was the telephone call that had come into Roatta’s office. [N3-18-2] 

About an hour and a half after Jodl’s call, the German Embassy in Rome received Guariglia’s formal message from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Italy had surrendered to the Allies. The deputy military attaché telephoned the information to OB SUED, and Kesselring issued the code word ACHSE, the signal to take the offensive against the Italian forces and seize Rome. [N3-18-3]

[N3-18-2 Jane Scrivener (pseud.), Inside Rome With the Germans (New York: The Macmillan Co ..1945), p. 1; Klinckowstroem in MS #T-Ia (Westphal et al.), ch. V, p. 8; Kesselring, Soldat..pp. 241-42: WestphaL Heer in Fesseln, p. 227.] 

Since the armistice announcement Implied the close co-operation of Italian and Allied forces, the Germans expected an immediate invasion of the coast near Rome, including an airborne landing. The Germans acted with dispatch. Kesselring’s first task was to bring the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division from the area Immediately north of Rome to consolidate with the 2nd Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division, distributed for the most part south of Rome between the Tiber River and the Alban Hills. His major purpose was to seize control of the lines of communication and supply leading to the Tenth Army in the south, thereby securing the army’s withdrawal route to the north. At the same time, Kesselring sent a detachment of paratroopers to seize Roatta and the Army staff at Monterotondo in a coup de main. Attacking adjacent Italian units immediately, the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division advanced rapidly along the two highways, the Via Claudia and the Via Cassia, leading from Lake Bracciano into Rome. The 2nd Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division quickly overran some Italian defensive positions south of the city, the Piacenza Division making scarcely even a show of resistance. The paratroopers racing to ~lonterotondo had more trouble. They ran into Italian opposition, and, by the time they seized the Army headquarters the following morning, they found that Roatta and his staff had gone.[N3-18-4] 

[N3-18-3 Klinckowstroem in MS #T -Ia Westphal et al. , ch. V pp. 9-10.]

[N3-18-4 Otto milioni, p. 321: Zanussi, Guerra e II. 200; II Processo Carboni-Roatta, pp. 79-80; Klinckowstroem in MS #T-Ia (Westphal et al.l. ch. V. pp. 10-11: Kesselring, Soldat, p. 255 Carboni, L’armistizio e la difesa di Roma, p. 34].

Along with the combat, the Germans conducted a skillful propaganda campaign. Exploiting Italian confusion and lack of central direction, the Germans arranged local truces and appealed to the honor of Italian officers as former comrades for the prevention of bloodshed. They assured the Italian soldiers that the war was over and they might go home if they wished. The latter point of view seemed strangely similar to Badoglio’s announcement of the armistice, and many Italians threw away their weapons and disappeared.[N3-18-5] 

Though all proceeded favorably during the early hours of 9 September, German concern over Allied intentions continued until daylight. Only after news of the Allied invasion at Salerno came did the nightmare of an Allied amphibious envelopment vanish. The Allies had then, the Germans sighed in relief, run true to form after all. Their landing on the Italian mainland was a methodical advance beyond Sicily and well within range of Allied air cover-not an employment of their command of the sea and air that would threaten the destruction of the Tenth Army in south Italy. The invasion at Salerno was not an operation designed to take advantage of Italian co-operation. Nor was it designed, from the German viewpoint, to exploit fully the surprise and uncertainty arising from the armistice announcement. [N3-18-6]

[N3-18-5 Klinckowstroem in MS #T -Ia (Westphal et al.). ch. V, p. 13.]

[N3-18-6 Westphal, Heer in Fesseln, p. 230; Klinckowstroem in MS (Westphal et at.), ch. V, pp. 11-12.]

The Battle for Rome

At Tivoli, where Carboni arrived around 0800, 9 September, he found no orders waiting for him as he had expected. Nor could the members of the Army General Staff, who were establishing their headquarters at Tivoli, clarify the situation. 

General De Stefanis and Generale di Divisione Adamo Mariotti, immediate subordinates of Roatta, passed through Tivoli that morning en route to Pescara, but though they saw Carboni, they did not talk with him. Finding no message from Roatta at the carabinieri barracks, Carboni drove eastward along the Via Tiburtina in quest of a mission. At Arsoli, twelve miles beyond Tivoli, he learned that several automobiles containing high-ranking officers had passed through not long before. Deciding to return to Tivoli, Carboni dispatched two junior officers to find Roatta. After driving seven miles to Carsoli, they overtook the Army chief. They reported that Carboni was at Tivoli and that he had sent them to maintain communications between him and Roatta. Roatta listened but gave no orders. Leaving the problem of what to do with the forces around Rome to Carboni, Roatta-and Ambrosio–continued toward Pescara.[N3-18-7]

[N3-18-7 Carboni, L’ armistizio e la difesa di Roma, pp. 38-39; Il Processo Carboni-Roatta, p. 75.] 

On returning to Tivoli around 1300, Carboni took command. His first act was to start the withdrawal to the Tivoli area of the two most reliable mobile divisions, the Ariete and the Piave. The Ariete Division had that morning given the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division a bloody nose at Manziana (on the Via Claudia) and at Monterosi (on the Via Cassia), when the Germans had tried to rush tank columns through Italian strongpoints which were protected by well-placed road mines and well-directed artillery fire. The Germans halted, regrouped, brought up infantry, and threatened an attack. During this interval, the Ariete and Piave Divisions withdrew, replaced in line by the Re Division. Unaware of the substitution, the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division commander maintained his threatening attitude but fore bore launching an attack. By the morning of 10 September, the two mobile divisions were in the Tivoli area.[N3-18-8] 

South of Rome the Granatieri Division, unlike the Piacenza Division which no longer existed, refused two appeals from the 2nd Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division for pour-parlers to give the Germans the right of passage to the city. Exerting the strongest pressure against strongpoints guarding the Via Ostiense and the Via Laurentina, the paratroopers late in the afternoon knocked out several Italian artillery batteries. The Italians pulled back slightly but maintained a solid front. Carboni telephoned the division commander, Generale di Brigata Gioacchino Solin as, and encouraged him to continue his fight. 

Meanwhile, Carboni had been discussing with Calvi di Bergolo, the Centauro Dil;ision commander, the problem of what to do. Calvi di Bergolo suggested that the Italian forces move eastward along the Via Tiburtina toward the Avezzano River basin and into the Abruzzi Mountains, there to establish a redoubt. Vehicles might be abandoned when they ran out of gasoline, but the units, Calvi di Bergolo recommended, should be maintained intact so far as possible. 

[N3-18-8 Cadorna. La riscossa, pp. 38-46, 49. Il Processo Carboni-Roatta, p. 83.]

Calvi di Bergolo’s suggestion did not impress Carboni. What did make an impression were two other developments that afternoon. First, Calvi di Bergolo reported the erratic, disloyal behavior in Rome of Carboni’s chief of staff, Salvi. This was discouraging, for the only explanation of such behavior was a disheartening situation in the capital Carboni asked his Chief of Engineers, Colonel Giuseppe Cordero Montezemolo, to serve informally as Salvi’s replacement, an arrangement that continued even after Salvi appeared that afternoon at Tivoli. Second, a telephone call came from Generale di Corpo d’ Armata Gastone Gambarra, who commanded the XI Corps in Fiume. Gambarra asked whether the order to put Memoria 44 into effect had been issued. At Carboni’s direction, Montezemolo did not mention the lack of communication between Carboni’s forces and Comando Supremo but said that on the basis of Badoglio’s proclamation and in consequence of the German attack on Rome, Memoria 44 should go into effect. The puzzling and discouraging thing about all this was that Gambarra’s question indicated that no Italian troops except those under Carboni were actively opposing the Germans. [N3-18-10]

The Germans, meanwhile, continued their appeals to the Italian divisions to cease fighting their former comrades. These appeals had little effect on the Granatieri Division, which fought stubbornly and well. But they did find a receptive audience in the C entauro Division, which had thus far taken no part in the fighting. According to the Germans, the initiative for a truce came from the Italians. An Italian lieutenant who had known Westphal in North Africa appeared at Kesselring’s headquarters to propose Italian capitulation. Westphal worked out the terms.

[N3-18-10 Carboni, L’armistizio e fa difesa di Roma, p. 43]

[N3-18-11 Klinckowstroem in MS #T-Ia (Westphal et af.), ch. V, p. 13.] 

According to the Italians, the more plausible account, the initiative came from the Germans. At 1700, 9 September, a German parlementaire, Captain Hans Schacht, presented himself at the Centauro Division headquarters at Bagni Acque Albule, about twelve miles east of Rome. Schacht brought an oral appeal from General Student to the Italian division commander, Calvi di Bergolo. Student sent an expression of personal esteem for Calvi di Bergolo, a declaration of faith in the friendly attitude of the Centauro Division troops, and a request that Calvi di Bergolo treat his German troops as friends. Whether this constituted a demand for surrender, a request to let the German forces pass unmolested to the north, or an offer of honorable capitulation, was not clear. But Schacht, in any event, declared that “within a few hours the Germans will be unopposed masters of Rome.” [N3-18-12] 

In reply, Calvi di Bergolo sent his chief of staff, Lieutenant Colonel Leandro Giaccone, to Kesselring’s headquarters to learn exactly what terms the Germans would offer. Whether Calvi di Bergolo was preparing to surrender or whether he was trying merely to gain time is not clear. Whether Carboni knew of and approved Giaccone’s mission in advance is not clear either. In any case, when Carboni learned of Giaccone’s mission, he, as chief of intelligence, ordered Giaccone closely watched. Accompanied by a lieutenant as interpreter, Giaccone reached Kesselring’s headquarters at 2 100, 9 September. 

[N3-18-12 The German view is presented by Klinckowstroem in MS #T-Ia (Westphal et al.), page 13: the Italian view is in a statement made by Lieutenant Colonel Leandro Giaccone, the Centauro’s chief of staff, in It Processo Carboni-Roatta, page 81.]

With Kesselring, Westphal, and Student, he carried on a protracted discussion of eight points, four formulated by Giaccone, the others stipulated by Kesselring. Giaccone proposed that the Germans continue to recognize the open city status of Rome and evacuate the capital; that one Italian division and the police force remain in the city; that other Italian troops lay down their arms and be sent away on unlimited leave; and that the Italians be permitted to surrender honorably. Kesselring insisted on having German troops occupy the German Embassy, the Rome telephone exchange, and the Rome radio station; the Italian division permitted to serve in Rome was to have no artillery; he wanted the Italian officer designated as commander of the city to render a daily report to Kesselring; Italian soldiers, after their discharge from active duty, were to have the option of taking up military or labor service with the Germans. 

At the conclusion of the discussion, Kesselring said that the Italian situation was hopeless. He said he was prepared to blow up the aqueducts and bomb the city if the Italians refused his terms. Giaccone said he thought the conditions were acceptable. He proposed, and Kesselring agreed to, a three-hour truce to start at 0700, 10 September. At the end of the truce, Giaccone promised, the Italian reply would be delivered. At 0130, 10 September, he and his interpreter started back to Tivoli. 

Giaccone reported to Calvi di Bergolo, who was quite uncertain what to do. He was disappointed and annoyed because the terms brought from Frascati comprised a surrender-quite different from Schacht’s verbal message from Student. Yet Calvi di Bergolo could not overlook the difficult Italian situation, the unreliability of his own Centauro troops, and the impossibility of effectively opposing the Germans. 

Calvi di Bergolo sent Giaccone to Carboni. Though Carboni later said he refused the terms (and though Giaccone later said Carboni accepted them), Giaccone at 0530, 10 September, sent his interpreter back to Frascati with a message accepting the German conditions. He, Giaccone, would follow later. 

Whatever Carboni’s precise words to Giaccone might have been, Carboni had no intention of surrendering. Still hoping for Allied support, from sea or from air, he wished to stall by talking with the Germans, intending to break off the talks at the right time on some pretext. He told Calvi di Bergolo of his aims but the latter would have no part in this scheme. 

Giaccone returned to Frascati, reaching Kesselring’s headquarters at 0700, 10 September. Carboni, meanwhile, ordered the Ariete and Piave Divisions, assembling near Tivoli, to attack the 2nd Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division in order to relieve pressure on the Granatieri Division. While the divisions prepared to execute the attack that afternoon, Carboni left Tivoli about 0700 and went to Rome with several of his staff officers. He went in response to a telephone call from Sorice, the Minister of War. [N3-18-13] 

On his way to Rome, Carboni noted that all seemed quiet north of the city, but on the south the German paratroopers continued to press closer to the city limits. [N3-18-14] Sorice wanted to see Carboni because a peculiar situation had arisen in Rome. 

[N3-18-13 Il Proeesso Carboni-Roatta, pp. 81-90; Cadorna, La rise ossa, pp. 53-57.]

[N3-18-14 Il Proeesso Carboni-Roatta, p. 77.]

Maresciallo d’Italia Enrico Caviglia, an elderly officer who had been a rival of Badoglio for years, had taken what amounted to de facto command of the civil and military forces in the capital and had become what resembled the head of a provisional government.

 During the spring of 1943, the King had considered Caviglia as a possible successor to Mussolini, but Caviglia had made no move to further the possibility.[N3-18-15] He had maintained his contact with the crown but had remained aloof from governmental matters until the summer of 1943, when he became increasingly concerned with what he judged to be Badoglio’s mismanagement of affairs. His impatience with Badoglio’s leadership had led him to arrange for an audience with the King. 

Scheduled to see Victor Emmanuel III on the morning of 9 September, Caviglia went to Rome on the 8th. While he was having dinner with friends that evening, he heard a recording of Badoglio’s announcement of Italy’s surrender. This confirmed his worst suspicions Caviglia was certain that Badoglio had arranged to escape from Rome. But Caviglia never doubted the King and the high command. With faith that they would remain in Rome to meet the critical situation, Caviglia calmly went to bed. The next morning, 9 September, Caviglia discovered the greatest confusion in the city. Only the doormen were on duty at the Quirinal Palace no guards, no carabinieri. No responsible official was at the Ministry of War.

[N3-18-15 Enrico Caviglia, Maresciallo d’Italia, Diario (Aprile 1925-Marzo 1945) (Rome: Gherardo Casini editore, 1952), pp. 392-414.] 

Caviglia’s mounting concern was heightened when he met Generale di Corpo d’ Armata Vittorio Sogno, a corps commander stationed in Albania who had come to Rome in civilian clothes to receive orders from Comando Supremo. Sogno told Caviglia that he had looked in vain for Barbieri, commander of the Army Corps of Rome. Barbieri was not at his office. Carboni, Sogno had learned, had bcen placed in command of all the forces around Rome, but Carboni had disappeared. 

Sogno had been at Comando Supremo but had found not a single general officer. Roatta’s office was empty. And Sogno had heard a rumor that the carabinieri and the service school formations had been dissolved. At the Palazzo Caprara, Caviglia ran into Colonel Salvi. His eyes red from weeping, Salvi declared he did not know where his commander, Carboni, had gone. After further efforts to find out what was happening, Caviglia made the painful discovery that the King had fled Rome in company with Badoglio and high-ranking officers. Shocked and depressed, Caviglia went back to the Ministry of War, where he met General Sorice.[N3-18-16] 

Sorice had been having no easy time. Badoglio had instructed him the previous evening, after deciding to leave Rome, to notify the civilian ministers of the government’s move. Sorice was to inform the mlmsters to meet the King and his party at Pescara. But Sorice did not get the civilian members of the cabinet together until the morning of 9 September, when, meeting at the Viminale Palace, with Caviglia present, they were startled by the news of the departure of the King and Badoglio. The first reaction of the Minister of Propaganda, Carlo Galli, was to summon a notary public and make an official record of his complete ignorance of the armistice negotiations. When Sorice advised the Minister of the Interior, Ricci, that Badoglio had invested him with responsibility for the civil government of Rome, Ricci declined the honor. [N3-18-17] 

[N3-18-16 Caviglia, Diario, pp. 435-40; II Processo Carboni-Roatta, p. 89.] 

At this point, Caviglia stepped into the breach. He tried to send a telegram to the King for authorization to assume full powers in Rome during the absence of the Head of Government. But he could not learn precisely where the King was and undertook to act on his own responsibility, deriving his power from his prestige as a marshal of Italy.[N3-18-18] 

Caviglia’s first thought was to spare Rome and its population the devastation of battle. To that end, he felt it necessary to pacify the Germans. From Generale di Divisione Umberto di Giorgio, who seemed to have succeeded General Barbieri in command of the internal defenses of Rome, he learned not only that the Italian troops could not stand up to the Germans but also that the available supplies for the civilians were sufficient for only a few days. He made repeated attempts, but in vain, to get in touch with Carboni. He tried to negotiate with the Germans, but the German Embassy staff had gone and Kesselring’s headquarters outside the city was hostile. To tranquilize the civil population, Caviglia had the Minister of Propaganda, Galli, issue bulletins over the radio and post billboard notices calling on the people to remain calm and assuring them that negotiations were being carried on with the Germans.[N3-18-19] 

[N3-18-17 Senise, Quando era Capo della Polizia, p.249; Maugeri, From the Ashes of Disgrace, p.185; Guariglia, Ricordi, pp. 714, 717.]

[N3-18-18 Caviglia, Diario, p. 44 I; Ii Processo Carboni-Roatta, p. 90.]

[N3-18-19 Caviglia, Diario, pp. 439-41.]

When the broadcasts and public notices appeared on the morning of 10 September, they undermined whatever spirit remained among the civil population and the troops. Carboni’s plan for continued opposition to the Germans thus received a check even before Carboni could move over to the offensive. 

When Carboni arrived at Sorice’s office in the Ministry of War that morning, he was ushered in immediately to see Caviglia. Out of respect to Caviglia, Sorice took no part in the discussion.[N3-28-20] Caviglia had never seen Carboni before, and even though Carboni, now in uniform, made a favorable impression, Caviglia was prepared to dislike him. Caviglia had not thought very much of the military articles Carboni had written for the daily press; Sorice had described him as headstrong and willful. And, finally, Carboni was a product of the Badoglio era of the Italian Army.

 Despite these handicaps, Carboni persuaded Caviglia of his competence and of the sincerity of his intentions. He briefed Caviglia on the military situation, explained how he had received from Roatta the order to withdraw his forces to Tivoli for no apparent reason, and indicated that he could not simply leave the troops in Tivoli indefinitely. He had insufficient fuel to move into the Abruzzi Mountains. He was therefore turning the Ariete and Piave Divisions back to Rome to fight to save the capital from the Germans. Still without authorization from the King for his assumption of quasi command, Caviglia expressed rather unclearly what Carboni construed as approval of Carboni’s intention to continue the fight. Sorice agreed that Carboni’s course of action was correct. [N3-18-21]  

[N18-20 Carboni, L’armistizio e la difesa di Roma. 044; II Processa Carboni-Roatta, p. 80.]

Carboni then set up his command post in a private apartment in Rome-at Piazza dello Muse 7-which belonged to an employee of the intelligence bureau. Equipped with two telephones and with good observation of strategic streets, the apartment was well located for Carboni’s purpose. There Carboni began to urge civilian resistance against the Germans and to direct the operations of the military units. 

Carboni approved General Cadorna’s final orders for the Ariete Division’s attack. He ordered Generale di Divisione Ugo Tabellini, the Piave Division’s commander, who reported in person, to bring up his troops to support the hard-pressed Granatieri Division. He encouraged Generale di Brigata Ottaviano Traniello, the Re Division commander. He sent whatever separate units he could locate to reinforce the Granatieri Division, and he urged the division commander, General Salinas, to hold out at all costs. As for getting the civilians to fight in defense of the city, four days earlier, on 6 September, Carboni had secured and set aside 500 rifles, 400 pistols, and 15,000 hand grenades for distribution to the population.

[N3-18-21 Carboni, L’armistizio e la difesa di Roma, p. 44; Caviglia, Diario, pp. 44:1-44; II Processo Carboni-Roatta, p. go; Sanzi, Generale Carboni, p. 224]

Luigi Longo, leader of the Communist party, had taken charge of the distribution, and on 10 September Longo arrived at Carboni’s apartment home command post. Carboni urged him to get civilian fighters to support the Granatieri troops south of the city. A little later, around noon, Carboni sent Dr. Edoardo Stolfi to tell the Committee of National Liberation that it was time to arm the population and to help the troops resist the Germans. The committee declined to take action, though a few individual citizens joined and fought with the military, particularly at Porta San Paolo. There was nothing in Rome on 10 September even resembling a popular uprising. The Romans were disillusioned, fearful, and tired of war. They had welcomed the armistice with joy. Wanting only peace, they preferred to listen to Caviglia’s radio broadcasts and read the billboard announcements that were urging them to be quiet rather than to Carboni who offered only strenuous and dangerous adventure.[N3-18-22] 

Meanwhile, Giaccone and an aide had arrived at Frascati at 0700. Westphal met them. Giaccone stated that the Italian command had accepted the terms formulated the night before. He also complained that the Germans were not properly observing the truce, which was supposed to last for three hours, until 1000. Westphal at once dispatched two staff officers to accompany Giaccone’s aide in order to ensure observance of the truce by the German units. 

[N3-18-22 Carboni, L’ armistizio e la difesa di Roma, pp. 44-45; II Processo Carboni-Roatta, pp. 90-92; Sanzi, Generale Carboni, pp. 149-50; Scrivener, Inside Rome With the Germans, pp. 3-4] 

At this point, around 0730, Kesselring appeared. He said that Italian resistance was altogether hopeless because the Allies had confined their invasion to Salerno, thereby leaving the Italian troops near Rome to stand alone. As a result, he presented a new set of terms-drafted by Westphal during the night-considerably more severe. Undeniably, these conditions meant capitulation, nothing less. [N3-18-23] Giaccone discussed with Westphal the new terms in detail and with care. At 1000 he departed for Rome, taking with him the surrender document in the German and Italian languages, both already signed by Westphal. Giaccone arrived at the Palazzo Caprara around noon, got the telephone number of Carboni’s command post, and phoned Carboni about the outcome of his mission. 

Carboni ordered Giaccone to break off negotiations immediately. Replying that the situation was extremely delicate and serious, Giaccone requested an order in writing, or, he added, Carboni could make a direct and personal communication to Kesselring. Responding that the situation was indeed serious and delicate, Carboni declined to assume any responsibility. He recommended that Giaccone refer the problem to Sorice, the Minister of War. [N3-18-24] When presented with the problem and after listening to Giaccone’s estimate that no other course existed except to agree to Kesselring’s terms, Sorice did not feel up to the responsibility of making a decision. 

[N3-18-23] II Processo Carboni-Roatta, pp. 87-88 The authors have followed the recorded testimony as given in the trial of Carboni, Roatla, Ambrosio, et ai., in which some, but not all of the relevant facts regarding the surrender were established. German postwar writings are less valid as evidence. Note, however, that both Kesselring and Klinckowstroem assert that General Calvi di Bcrgolo and Colonel Montezemolo appeared at German headquarters early in the morning of 10 September along with Colonel Giaccone. See Klinckowstroem in MS #T – Ia (Westphal et al.), ch. V, pp. 13-14; Kessdring. Soldat, p. 255. The new set of terms may be found in II Processo Carboni-Roatta, pp. 38-89.]

[N3-18-24 II Processo Carboni-Roatta, pp. 88, 92; Carboni, L’ armistizio e la difesa di Roma, pp.46-47. Sanzi (Generale Carboni, page 157) states that it was General Calvi di Bergolo who called, not Giaccone.]

He suggested that Giaccone lay the matter before Caviglia, the highest ranking military person in Rome. Sorice had that day found out the whereabouts of the King, and he had sent a telegram requesting authority for Caviglia to become the government representative in Rome. But neither Caviglia nor Sorice ever received the King’s reply, which was actually sent and which invested Caviglia with full powers “during the temporary absence of the President of the Council who is with the military ministers.” [N3-18-25] Giaccone, after leaving Sorice, found Caviglia at the house of a friend. Soon after Giaccone’s arrival, his commanding officer, General Calvi di Bergolo, appeared in search of Giaccone to learn the results of the second discussion with Kesselring. 

All three officers discussed the problem of whether to accept the German demands and capitulate. Caviglia said he had no authority to capitulate because he had not heard from the King. But he added that if his assumption of authority had been confirmed, he would decide in favor of accepting the German ultimatum. He did not believe that the military situation permitted further resistance–and this despite his approval of Carboni’s decision to resist. Caviglia advised Calvi di Bergala to send Giaccone back to Frascati to accept the German terms.

 The discussion was still under way when other guests were announced-Ivanoe Bonomi, Alessandro Casati, and Meuccio Ruini, politicans who were members of the Committee of National Liberation, and Leopoldo Piccardi, Badoglio’s Minister of Industry. Caviglia received them and explained his views. Accepting his estimate of the military situation, for the marshal was an acknowledged military expert, they concurred in the wisdom of Caviglia’s decision.[N3-18-26]

 [N3-18-25 Caviglia, Diario .. p. 441; II Processo Carboni Roatta, p. 90; Roatta, 0 tto miLioni, p. 329; Zanussi, Guerra e catastrofe, II, 209.]

This decided, Calvi di Bergolo and Giaccone shortly after 1400 returned to Sorice at the Ministry of War, where Calvi di Bcrgolo telephoned Carboni and asked him to come over. Carboni arrived in a matter of minutes, the four officers argued over whether to accept Kesselring’s terms. Sorice and Carboni declared them unacceptable and refused to sign the documents Giaccone had brought. Calvi di Bergolo and Giaccone insisted that they had no alternative but to accept, particularly in view of Kesselring’s ultimatum. While the argument continued, machine gun fire sounded nearby. Upon investigation, they learned that German troops had made their way to the Via dell’Impero. Without further ado, Giaccone placed his signature on the documents.[N3-18-27] 

Almost immediately afterwards, Caviglia arrived at the Ministry of War. Carboni was still arguing in favor of resisting the Gernlans on the basis that the Allied invasion would soon force the Germans to withdraw north of Rome. Caviglia scoffed at the idea-such a belief, he said, was mere propaganda; the landings at Salerno could not free Rome. Only an Allied landing north of the capital, Caviglia said, could liberate Rome and northern Italy from German occupation. Carboni remained adamant. He refused to sign the capitulation papers. Saying that he knew the Germans well, he felt that they would not honor even the harsh terms that they were imposing. Calvi di Bergolo said that he trusted the German officers. He had faith in their honor, and he urged Carboni to speak directly to Kesselring and get his personal assurance

[N3-18-26 II Processo Carboni-Roatta. pp. 92-93; Caviglia, Diario, pp. 445-46; BOllomi, Diario di un anno, pp. 101-03.]

[N3-18-27 II Processo Carboni-Roatta, p. 93.: Carboni, L’armistizio e La difesa di Roma, p. 47.] 

With some bitterness, Carboni said he would do nothing of the sort. Calvi di Bergolo’s Centauro Division, he said, had stood by idly while the Granatieri, Ariete, and Piave Divisions had fought and fought with distinction. If Calvi di Bergolo had such faith in the Germans, let him take command of the city and responsibility for the armistice. The others agreed. Surprised by this turn of events, Calvi di Bergolo after considerable hesitation, acquiesced. Upon Calvi di Bergolo’s responsibility then, Giaccone returned to Kesselring’s headquarters with the surrender documents bearing his signature opposite that of Westphal. Giaccone reached Frascati at 1630, half an hour beyond the ultimatum’s expiration but in time to save Rome from bombardment and the Italian troops from further combat.[N3-18-28]

 Kesselring thus became, after two days, master of Rome. Playing his cards with great skill, he overcame more than five Italian divisions though he himself held only a pair, and in so doing he kept open his line of communications to the Tenth Army. By occupying Rome and dispersing the strong Italian forces in the area, he made possible a stubborn defense against the allies in southern Italy.

[N3-18-28 II Pracessa Carboni-Roatta, p. 93; Caviglia, Diaria, pp. 446-47; sec also Pietro Pieri, “Rama nella prima decade del settembre 1943,” Nuava Riuista Starica, vol. XLIV, NO.2 (August 1960),pp. 403-09.] 

In the meantime, the King and his party had reached Pescara on 9 September. That evening the monarch decided to continue the voyage by ship, and shortly after midnight, the party boarded a naval vessel and sailed to the south.[N3-18-29] During this time the King and his party were receiving only the vaguest kind of reports from the rest of Italy. Fighting seemed to be going on around Rome, and this caused concern. A message came in asking permission for Caviglia to assume full military and political power in the capital, and this caused puzzlement what had happened to Carboni and to Ricci? [N3-18-30] For all the confusion, someone had nevertheless had the foresight to bring the radio and code for communicating with AFHQ. On the evening of 9 September, before the King and his party went aboard the warship, a message went out to the Allies: ” We are moving to Taranto.” [N3-18-31] Around 1430, 10 September, the royal party debarked at Brindisi. There the members of the government stayed, and Brindisi became the new capital of Italy. There was some talk among the generals of sending an officer to Rome by air to discover the extent and results of the fighting. But before an officer could depart, news came that Caviglia had arranged for a cessation of Italo-German hostilities.[N3-18-32] 

[N3-18-29 II Processa Carboni-Roatta, p. 64; Badoglio, Memorie e documenti, pp. 118-19: Zanussi, Guerra e catastrofe, II, 203.]

[N3-18-30 Roatta, Otto milioni, p. 329; Zanussi, Guerra e catastrofe, II, 209.]

[N3-18-31 Capitulation of Italy, p. 379.]

[N3-18-32 Roatta, Otto milioni, p. 330.]

Dissolution of the Italian Armed Forces At La Spezia the main part of the Italian Fleet had escaped German seizure, Late in the afternoon of 8 September, the battleships Roma, Italia, and Vittorio Veneto had left the harbor, the Germans having been convinced by De Courten that the ships were steaming out to meet and destroy the Allied convoys moving toward Salerno.[N3-18-33] Joined by cruisers and destroyers from Genoa, the fleet on the morning of 9 September was sailing, in accord with Allied instructions, off the western shore of Corsica. The ships passed south of Corsica to pick up other vessels at Maddalena. That afternoon, German aircraft based on Sardinia attacked the fleet and sank the Roma, the commander, Ammiraglio Carlo Bergamini, and most of the crew were lost), and damaged the Italia. Admmiraglio Romeo Oliva took command and turned the ships toward North Africa. At 0600, 10 September, this fleet of two battleships, five cruisers, and seven destroyers met the Warspite, the Valiant, and several destroyers, which escorted the Italian ships to Bizerte. The same afternoon, the battleships Andrea Doria and Caio Duilo. Two cruisers, and a destroyer, on their way from Taranto, reached Malta. [N3-18-35] 

The capitulation of the Italian forces around Rome to the Germans, rather than the surrender of the fleet to the Allies, proved to be the main pattern of Italian action. Paucity of materiel, declining morale, and lack of direction from Rome were the reasons why the half-million troops or more in north Italy and occupied France seemingly vanished into thin air. Four divisions of Rundstedt’s on WEST -in a series of police actions rather than military operations-rounded up the Italian Fourth Army in southern France and Liguria. Some units of the 5th (Pusteria) Alpine Division resisted, but only briefly, at the Mount Cenis tunnel. A few soldiers of the Fourth Army in France accepted German invitations and volunteered to fight under German command. Some 40,000 Italians were taken prisoner and later sent north to Germany as labor troops. 

[N3-18-33 Kesselring, Soldat, p. 238: Westphal. Heer in Fesseln, pp. 226-27.]

[N3-18-35 Klinckowstroem in MS #T-Ia (Westphal et al.), ch. V, p. 21, indicates that the attack was made by the Support Aviation Win” 4. In Rome. Supermarina seems to have believed that the attack was by Allied planes (Butcher, My Three } ears With Eisenhower, p. 41:3). See also Morison. Sicily-Salerno-Anzio, pp. 242-43: Basso. L’Armistizio del Settembre 1943 in Sardegna, pp. 41, 48: Cunningham, A Sailor’s Odyssey. pp.562- 63.]

In the Brenner area, the German 44th Infantry Division, composed mostly of Austrians, redeemed the South Tyrol with avidity, overrunning General Gloria’s XXXV Corps headquarters at Bolzano on 9 September, occupying Bologna the same day. The following evening, two thousand railway workers arrived from Germany and took over the Major railroad centers in northern Italy.[N3-18-36] 

At La Spezia, German forces disrupted telephone communications, then appealed to the Italian units to disband, the men to go home. The Germans surrounded the Italian XVI Corps headquarters (which had been in Sicily), fired several machine guns, then walked into the main building and captured the corps commander and his staff. Enraged by the escape of the Italian warships, the Germans summarily executed several Italian naval captains who had been unable to get their ships out of the port and who had scuttled their vessels.[N3-18-37]

[N3-18-36 See Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, p. 144. Rossi, Come arrivammo, pp. 260-61.]

[N3-18-37 Cunningham, A Sailor’s Odyssey, p. 573; Rossi, Come arrivammo, pp. 258, 261.] 

The German takeover in northern Italy proved much easier than OKW had anticipated. The initial reports showed such Italian confusion and paralysis as to make Hitler contemptuous and passionately vindictive. As early as 9 September, an order issued by Keitel on the treatment of Italian troops under German jurisdiction reflected Hitler’s feelings. Commanders in France, northern Italy, and the Balkans, the order said, could accept Italians who were willing to fight in German units but had to take all others as prisoners of war for forced labor. Skilled workers were to be assigned to the armament industry, the unskilled to help construct a contemplated East Wall. Rommel put the order into immediate effect. His subordinate commanders took Italian troops into custody, disarmed them, and prepared them for transfer to Germany.[N3-18-38] 

In southern Italy, the armistice announcement had taken the Italian Seventh Army completely by surprise. Less than six weeks earlier, when Roatta had thought that the government might decide to resist the unwanted German reinforcements, he told the army commander, Generale di Corpo d’ Armata Adalberto di Savoia Genova, the Duke of Bergamo, to react energetically in case of German violence. He had repeated the order to General Arisio, who had succeeded to the army command in August-telling Arisio to act against the Germans only if the Germans committed acts of open hostility. Beyond that, there was no warning, no indication-not even the transmittal of Memoria 44 to Arisio-to suggest that the government was thinking of changing course.

 [N3-18-38 For text of the order, see Trials of War Criminals before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. la, Nuernberg, October 1946-April 1949 (Washington, 1950), vol. XI, Doc. NDKW-898, pp. 1078-79. B. H. Liddell Hart, ed., The Rommel Papers (London: Collins, 1953), pp. 445-47. See also Caracciolo di Feroleto, “E Poi?” pp. 140-55, and Giuseppe Gariboldi-Farina, Follia delle Faile (Rome: Staderini, 1945), pp. 194-95.]

 In contrast to the developments in northern Italy and in the Rome area after Mussolini’s overthrow, there had been no acute friction between Italian and German forces in the south. The armistice announcement humiliated the Italian generals, who, led by Arisio himself, freely turned vehicles, supplies, and facilities over to the Germans and voluntarily gave German troops the good coastal positions they occupied. Only the 9th (Pasubio) Infantry Division suffered from German aggression-the division was torn to pieces as the Germans rushed toward Salerno to oppose the Allies. Only one commander suffered, General Gonzaga of the 222nd Coastal Division, who refused German demands that his troops be disarmed and was promptly shot. Only the 209th Coastal Division, stationed at Bari, remained intact. Except for this latter unit, a few elements of the 58th (Legnano) Infantry Division (in the Brindisi and Taranto area), a few units of the 152nd (Piceno) and 104th (Mantova) Infantry Divisions in Puglia, and some unspecified coastal formations-the forces under the Seventh Army, three regular divisions and six coastal divisions grouped into four corps-were disarmed, the men permitted to go home.[N3-18-39]

[N3-18-39 Vietinghoff III MS #T-Ia (Westphal et al.), ch. VI; Rossi, Corne arrivammo, pp. 257, 277; Colonel Gaetano Giannuzzi, L’Esercito vittima dell’armistizio, (Turin: P. Castello, 1946), p. 38; Nazi Conspiracy and ARgression, Office of United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality (hereafter cited as Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression) (Washington, 1946), vol. VII, trans of Doc. L-172, p. 935, shows the Pasubio Division as definitely disarmed; Msg 477, Mason-MacFarlane to Whiteley, 15 Sep 43, Capitulation of Italy, pp. 503-04.]

In the Balkans, Greece, and the Aegean, the Italian ground forces, numbering more than 600,000 men, were with but few exceptions completely dissolved by 15 September, having offered little aid to the Allies on the Italian mainland and even less resistance to the Germans. On the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, though the Italians outnumbered the Germans by more than four to one, they were unable to exert a positive influence on the war. The Germans evacuated their troops, numbering a division and a half, from Sardinia to the mainland where, a most welcome addition to Kesselring’s forces, they participated in the battles south of Rome. A significant part of the Italian 184th (Nembo) Parachute Division went over to the German side and served actively with the German forces.

 The ineptness of the Italian ground troops and the passivity of Badoglio’s government during the early and critical days of the Salerno invasion brought serious disappointment to AFHQ. During the afternoon of 10 September, General Eisenhower sent a message to Badoglio in the hope of galvanizing the Italians into action: The whole future and honor of Italy depend upon the part which her armed forces are now prepared to play. The Germans have definitely and deliberately taken the field against you. They have mutilated your fleet and sunk one of your ships; they have attacked your soldiers and seized your ports. The Germans are now being attacked by land and sea and on an ever increasing scale from the air. Now is the time to strike. If Italy rises now as one man we shall seize every German by the throat. I urge you to issue immediately a clarion call to all patriotic Italians. They have done much locally already but action appears to be uncoordinated and uncertain.

 They require inspired leadership and, in order to fight, an appeal setting out the situation to your people as it now exists is essential. Your Excellency is the one man that can do this. You can help free your country from the horrors of the battlefield. I urge you to act now; delay will be interpreted by the common enemy as weakness and lack of resolution. [N3-18-40] 

General Eisenhower also recommended that President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill call on the Italian people to oppose fiercely every German in Italy such opposition, he explained, would greatly assist Allied military operations. Accordingly, on 11 September, Roosevelt and Churchill made public a letter to Marshal Badoglio, calling on him to lead the Italian people against the German invaders. They instructed Eisenhower to convey the message directly to Badoglio.

 These efforts to prod the Italian Army into activity were like beating a dead horse. Perhaps the Allies achieved a final wiggle when on 11 September Roatta issued by radio a general order to all army commanders to consider the Germans as enemies.[N3-18-43] On the same day, Badoglio informed Eisenhower that he had, the day before, ordered all Italian armed forces “to act vigorously against German aggression.” For the Allies’ edification, he included a final appeal for an Allied landing north of Rome and an airborne drop in the Grossetto area.[N3-18-44] 

[N3-18-40 Msg 443, sent both over “Drizzle-Monkey” and by naval channels, 10 Sep 43, 1657B time, Capitulation of Italy, pp. 405-07.]

[N3-18-41 Telg W-g635 FREEDOM to AGWAR, 10 Sep 43, Capitulation of Italy, pp. 409-1O.]

[N3-18-42 Text of message in U.S. Department of Slate. United States and Italy 1936-1946: Documentary Record, p. 68; Telg 7473, President and Prime Minister to Eisenhower. II Sep 43, Capitulation of Italy, p. 414.]

[N3-18-43 Roatta, Otto milioni, p. 338; Zanussi, Guerra e catastrofe, II, 248.]

[N3-18-44 Radiograms, “Monkey” to “Drizzle,” 1 1 Sep 43, Capitulation of Italy, pp. 428, 434.]

By then it was too late. Only a few Italian commands were still functioning actively. Indecision, fear of the Germans, and lack of communication with commanders in the field had doomed the Italian Army. Not only did this inaction facilitate Kesselring’s plans and permit him to give his whole attention to the Allied invasion at Salerno, but it also deprived the King and the Badoglio government of resources they might have used to gain a better bargaining position with respect to the Allies.


Everything seemed to be going Hitler’s way except for one thing, the rescue of Mussolini. If Skorzeny, under Student’s supervision, could locate Mussolini’s prison and kidnap him, Hitler felt that he would have a good chance of restoring fascism in Italy and regaining an ally. Skorzeny had missed getting Mussolini by one day, when the Duce’s captors had moved him from the island of Maddalena back to the Italian mainland just before Skorzeny could execute his planned raid.

 Shortly thereafter, however, Skorzeny’s agents informed him that Mussolini had been moved to the Campo Imperatore on the Gran Sasso, a ski lodge completed shortly before the outbreak of the war and located on the highest peak of the Apennines. No military map carried its location. Not even mountain climbers’ charts identified the place. The only information that Skorzeny could get came from a German citizen living in Italy. He had once spent a holiday there, and he had a circular describing the hotel accommodations. This intelligence was hardly adequate for a military operation, so Skorzeny arranged to have a pilot fly him and his intelligence officer over the camp. [N3-18-45 This account of Mussolini’s liberation is based largely on Skorzeny, Geheimkommando Skorzeny. pp. 127-59] 

On 8 September, while flying over the Gran Sasso in a Heinkel 111 plane, Skorzeny located the Campo Imperatore from the air and noticed a small triangular green area behind the hotel that might serve for an air landing operation. He and his intelligence officer tried to take pictures, but the camera built into the plane froze at 15,000 feet, and it was only with great difficulty that they managed to take some photographs with a hand camera. 

This air reconnaissance was responsible for Skorzeny’s absence from frascati during the Allied air bombardment of Kesselring’s headquarters. It was fortunate for him that he had left, for his quarters were badly damaged. As a result, he had to go to Rome to have his film developed. In the capital that evening, he pushed his way through joyous crowds of civilians who were celebrating the armistice, made known not long before by Badoglio’s announcement. 

Before Skorzeny could go ahead with rescue plans, he needed confirmation of Mussolini’s presence at the ski lodge on Gran Sasso. He induced a German staff doctor to visit the lodge on the pretext that it might be suitable for use as a convalescent home for soldiers recuperating from malaria. The doctor started out that night and returned the following day. He reported he had been unable to get to the lodge itself. He had reached Aquila, the nearest village, and from there had gone to a funicular station at the base of the mountain. A detachment of Italian soldiers guarded the station. A telephone call to the lodge disclosed that Italian troops stood guard there, too. Whether M ussolini was at the lodge was uncertain. On the next day, 10 September, Student and Skorzeny discussed their problem. They felt they had to act quickly, for every hour that went by increased the possibility that the Italians might transfer Mussolini to Allied custody. Though they were not absolutely certain, they decided to act on the chance that Mussolini actually was at the lodge on Gran Sasso.

 Because the capitulation of the Italian troops around Rome that day made the 2nd Parachute Division available for the new mission, Student thought it best to send first a battalion of paratroopers into the valley at night to seize the funicular station. But a ground attack up the side of the mountain was impractical. The troops might sustain heavy losses, the attack would endanger Mussolini’s life. A parachute drop in the thin air over the Gran Sasso was also dangerous. Student therefore decided to make a surprise attack on the top of the mountain with a company of glider-borne troops. He ordered twelve gliders flown from southern France to Rome. 

Detailed planning for the operation was completed on 11 September. Paratroopers were to seize the cable car station in the valley and make a surprise landing on top of Gran Sasso. H-hour was 0600, 12 September. To help persuade the Italian guards to give up Mussolini without resistance, Skorzeny induced an Italian general to accompany him. [N3-18-46 Identified as General Soleti by Mussolini in Storia di un anno, p. 34.]Because the dozen gliders coming from France were late in arriving in the Rome area, Skorzeny postponed the operation for eight hours. The planes towing the gliders took off at 1300, 12 September.

Though the paratroopers were well equipped with light arms, Skorzeny counted most on the element of surprise. He rode in the third glider in the hope that the men in the preceding two would have the situation well in hand when he arrived. But the two leading tow planes went off course, and Skorzeny’s glider was the first to land. It crash-landed to earth less than fifty yards from the lodge. Piling out of the glider, Skorzeny and his men rushed to the hotel and scrambled to a second story window. Inside they found Mussolini. The Italian guards offered no resistance. Meanwhile four more gliders landed successfully on the little green area near the lodge. 

With Mussolini safely in hand, Skorzeny demanded the surrender of the Italian garrison. The colonel who appeared to be in command asked for time to consider. He withdrew, but he soon returned with a flask of wine and saluted his conquerors. By then, the paratroop battalion in the valley, after a show of force, was in possession of the funicular station. Skorzeny relayed a message to Student by telephone to the valley, thence by scout car radio-advising that he had accomplished the first part of his mission. This message reached Student, but subsequent communications were interrupted, and Skorzeny was unable to consult with higher authority on the best way to remove Mussolini from the Gran Sasso. 

Wishing to get Mussolini to Hitler’s headquarters as fast as he could, Skorzeny got in touch by radio with a small Storch aircraft flying overhead to observe the operation. He wanted the pilot, Captain Gerlach, to land on the mountain. With Italians assisting, the Germans cleared boulders from a short path to create a runway. Gerlach brought his small craft down safely. But he was far from pleased at the prospect of taking off from the mountain top with so precious a passenger. Skorzeny’s insistence on accompanying Mussolini increased Gerlach’s take-off problem by adding to the weight. Skorzeny reasoned that if the little plane failed to get off the ground, he would not be around to explain his failure to an enraged Führer. 

After a questioning glance at the little ship, Mussolini climbed into the Storch with Skorzeny and Gerlach. Paratroopers held the wings and tail of the plane as the pilot revved up the engine. Then, with much shaking and bouncing, the plane made its short run, barely cleared the rim of the escarpment, and leveled off only after a breath-taking drop below the mountain top. This was the last of the excitement. Without further incident, the plane proceeded to Pratica di Mare, where three Heinkel 111 aircraft were waiting to transport Mussolini to Germany. 

They took off at once, and shortly after 1930 that evening, Mussolini and Skorzeny were in Vienna. On the following day they flew to Munich; two days later, on 15 September, they were at Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia. Despite his dramatic rescue from the possibility of standing trial before the Allies, Mussolini was but a hollow shell of his former self. Eventually Hitler established him in power to govern that part of Italy under German control. There he served as Hitler’s puppet and as the facade of a new government called the Italian Social Republic, which could not conceal the German military power that supported it. 

No more than a mere symbol of the final brief revival of fascism, Mussolini, until his death in April 1945 at the hands of anti-Fascist partisans, nevertheless lightened Hitler’s problems of holding central and northern Italy. Spared the necessity of establishing a military government for the four-fifths of the Italian peninsula he occupied, Hitler, by rescuing Mussolini, also divided Italian loyalties. The Allies possessed one symbol of leadership in the King; Hitler held the other in Mussolini. The surrender of Italy achieved by the armistice of Cassibile was not much more than a paper capitulation, for the Allies had neither the Italian capital nor the administrative apparatus of government. What the Allies had was a symbol of sovereignty scarcely one whit more appealing to the Italian people than the discredited Duce.

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: Italy; The Second Capitulation (3-29)

World War Two: Italy (3-27) The Surrender