The spring 1945 offensive in Italy, codenamed Operation Grapeshot,was the final Allied attack during the Italian Campaign in the final stages of the Second World War. The attack into the Lombardy Plain by the 15th Allied Army Group started on 6 April 1945, ending on 2 May with the formal surrender of German forces in Italy.
The Allies had launched their last big offensive on the Gothic Line in August 1944, with the British Eighth Army (Lieutenant-General Oliver Leese) attacking up the coastal plain of the Adriatic and the U.S. Fifth Army (Lieutenant General Mark Clark) attacking through the central Apennine Mountains. Although they managed to breach the formidable Gothic Line defences, the Allies narrowly failed to break into the Po Valley before the winter weather made further progress impossible. The Allied forward formations spent the rest of the winter in highly inhospitable conditions while preparations were made for a spring offensive in 1945.
When Field Marshal Sir John Dill, the head of the British Mission in Washington, died on 5 November, Field Marshal Sir Maitland Wilson was appointed his replacement. General Harold Alexander, having been promoted to Field Marshal, replaced Wilson as Allied Supreme Commander Mediterranean on 12 December. Clark succeeded Alexander as commander of the Allied forces in Italy (renamed 15th Army Group) but without promotion. Lieutenant General Lucian Truscott the commander of the U.S. VI Corps from the Battle of Anzio and the capture of Rome to Alsace, having landed in the South of France during Operation Dragoon, returned to Italy to assume command of the Fifth Army.
On 23 March Albert Kesselring was appointed Commander-in-Chief Army Group West, replacing General-Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt. Heinrich von Vietinghoff returned from the Baltic to take over from Kesselring and Traugott Herr, the experienced commander of the LXXVI Panzer Corps took over the 10th Army. Joachim Lemelsen, who had commanded temporarily the 10th Army, returned to the command of the 14th Army.
Allied manpower shortages continued; in October 1944, the 4th Indian Infantry Division had been sent to Greece and the British 4th Infantry Division had followed them in November, with the 139th Brigade of the British 46th Infantry Division. The rest of the division followed in December along with the 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade. In early January 1945 the British 1st Infantry Division was sent to Palestine and at the end of the month the I Canadian Corps and British 5th Infantry Division were ordered to North West Europe, reducing the Eighth Army, now commanded by Lieutenant-General Richard McCreery, to seven divisions. Two other British divisions were to follow them to North-West Europe but Alexander was able to keep them in Italy.
The U. S. Fifth Army had been reinforced between September and November 1944 with the 1st Brazilian Division and in January 1945 with the specialist U.S. 10th Mountain Division.Allied strength amounted to 17 divisions and eight independent brigades (including four Italian groups of volunteers from the Italian Co-Belligerent Army, equipped and trained by the British), equivalent to just under 20 divisions. The 15th Army Group ration strength was 1,334,000 men, the Eighth Army having an effective strength of 632,980 men and the Fifth Army 266,883.
The Axis had 21 much weaker German divisions and four Italian Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano (ENR) divisions with about 349,000 German and 45,000 Italian troops on 9 April. There were another 91,000 German troops on the lines of communication and the Germans commanded about 100,000 Italian police.Three of the Italian divisions were allocated to the Ligurian Army under Rodolfo Graziani guarding the western flank facing France and the fourth was with the 14th Army, in a sector thought less likely to be attacked.
Clark set out his battle plan on 18 March. Its objective was "...to destroy the maximum number of enemy forces south of the Po, force crossings of the Po and capture Verona."In Phase I the British Eighth Army would successively cross the Senio and Santerno rivers and then make a dual thrust, one towards Budrio parallel to the Bologna road, Route 9 (the Via Emilia) and the other north west along Route 16, the Via Adriatica, towards Bastia and the Argenta Gap, a narrow strip of dry terrain through the flooded land west of Lake Comacchio. An amphibious operation across the lake and parachute drop would bring pressure to bear on the flank and help to break the Argenta position. Depending on the relative success of these actions a decision would be made on whether Eighth Army's prime objective would become Ferrara, on the Via Adriatica, or remain Budrio. Meanwhile, it was intended for U.S. Fifth Army to launch the Army Group's main effort at 24 hours notice from two days after Eighth Army's attack and break into the Po valley. The capture of Bologna was given as a secondary task.
In Phase II, the Eighth Army was to drive north west to capture Ferrara and Bondeno, blocking routes of potential retreat across the Po. U.S. Fifth Army was to push past Bologna north to link with Eighth Army in the Bondeno region to complete an encirclement of German forces south of the Po. The Fifth Army was also to make a secondary thrust further west towards Ostiglia, the crossing point on the Po of the main route to Verona.Phase III involved the establishment of bridgeheads across the Po and exploitation north.
The Eighth Army plan (Operation Buckland) had to deal with the difficult initial task of getting across the Senio, with its raised artificial banks varying between 6 metres (20 ft) and 12 m (40 ft) in height, honeycombed with defensive tunnels and bunkers front and rear. V Corps were ordered to make an attack on the salient formed by the river into the Allied line at Cotignola. On the right of the river's salient was 8th Indian Infantry Division, reprising the role they played crossing the Rapido in the final Battle of Monte Cassino. To the left of the 8th Indian Division, on the left of the salient, the 2nd New Zealand Division would attack across the river to form a pincer. To the left of V Corps, on Route 9, the Polish II Corps would widen the front further by attacking across the Senio towards Bologna. The Poles had been desperately under strength in the autumn of 1944, but had received 11,000 reinforcements during the early months of 1945, mainly from Polish conscripts in the German Army taken prisoner in the Battle of Normandy the previous summer .
Once across the Senio the assault divisions were to advance to cross the Santerno. Once the Santerno was crossed, British 78th Division would also reprise their Cassino role and pass through the bridgehead established by the Indians and New Zealanders and drive for Bastia and the Argenta gap, 23 kilometres (14 mi) behind the Senio, where the dry land narrowed to a front of only 5 km (3 mi), bounded on the right by Lake Comacchio, a huge lagoon running to the Adriatic coast, and on the left by marshland. At the same time British 56th Division would launch the amphibious flank attack along Lake Comacchio. On V Corps' left flank the New Zealand Division would advance to the left of the marshland on the west side of Argenta while the Indian Division would pass in Army Reserve.
The Fifth Army plan (Operation Craftsman) envisaged an initial thrust by IV Corps along Route 64 to straighten the army front and to draw German reserves away from Route 65. II Corps would then attack along Route 65 towards Bologna. The weight of the attack would then switch westward again to break into the Po valley skirting Bologna.
In the first week of April, diversionary attacks were launched on the extreme right and left of the Allied front to draw German reserves away from the main assaults to come. This included Operation Roast, an assault by British 2nd Commando Brigade and armour to capture the seaward isthmus of land bordering Lake Comacchio and seize Port Garibaldi on the lake's north side. Meanwhile, damage to other transport infrastructure having forced Axis forces to use sea, canal and river routes for re-supply, Axis shipping was being attacked in bombing raids such as Operation Bowler.
The build-up to the main assault started on 6 April with a heavy artillery bombardment of the Senio defenses. In the early afternoon of 9 April, 825 heavy bombers dropped fragmentation bombs on the support zone behind the Senio followed by medium and fighter bombers. From 15:20 to 19:10, five heavy artillery barrages were fired, each lasting 30 minutes, interspersed with fighter bomber attacks. In support of the New Zealand operations, 28 Churchill Crocodiles and 127 Wasp flamethrower vehicles were deployed along the front. 5.6 km (3.5 mi) beyond, by dawn on 11 April. The New Zealanders had reached the Santerno at nightfall on 10 April and succeeded in making a crossing at dawn on 11 April. The Poles had closed on the Santerno by the night of 11 April.The 8th Indian Division, 2nd New Zealand Division and 3rd Carpathian Division (on the Polish Corps front at Route 9) attacked at dusk. In fighting in which there were two Victoria Crosses won by 8th Indian Division members, they had reached the Santerno,
By late morning of 12 April, after an all night assault, the 8th Indian Division was established on the far side of the Santerno and the British 78th Division started to pass through to make the assault on Argenta. In the meantime the British 24th Guards Brigade, part of the 56th Infantry Division, had launched an amphibious flanking attack from the water and mud to the right of the Argenta Gap. Although they gained a foothold, they were still held up at positions on the Fossa Marina on the night of 14 April. The 78th Division was also held up on the same day on the Reno River at Bastia.
The U.S. 5th Army began its assault on 14 April after a bombardment by 2,000 heavy bombers and 2,000 artillery pieces, with attacks by the troops of U.S. IV Corps (1st Brazilian, 10th Mountain and 1st Armored Divisions) on the left. This was followed on the night of 15 April by U.S. II Corps striking with 6th South African Armoured and 88th Infantry Divisions advancing towards Bologna between Highway 64 and 65, and 91st and 34th Infantry Divisions along Highway 65.Progress against a determined German defence was slow but ultimately superior Allied firepower and lack of German reserves told and by 20 April both corps had broken through the mountain defences and reached the plains of the Po valley. 10th Mountain Division were directed to bypass Bologna on their right and push north leaving U.S. II Corps to deal with Bologna along with Eighth Army units advancing from their right.
By 19 April, on the Eighth Army front, the Argenta Gap had been forced, and British 6th Armoured Division was released through the left wing of the advancing 78th Division to swing left to race north west along the line of the river Reno to Bondeno and link up with the US 5th Army to complete the encirclement of the German armies defending Bologna. 5 miles (8.0 km) upstream along the river Panaro from Bondeno. Bologna was entered in the morning of 21 April by the Eighth Army's Polish II Corps' 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division and the "Friuli" Combat Group of the Italian Co-belligerent Army advancing up the line of Route 9, followed two hours later by US II Corps from the south. On 24 April, Parma and Reggio Emilia were liberated by the partisans.On the same day, the Italian National Liberation Committee for Northern Italy, in command of the Italian resistance movement, ordered a general insurrection; in the following days, fighting between Italian partisan and German and RSI forces broke out in Turin and Genoa (as well as in many other towns across Northern Italy), while German forces prepared to withdraw from Milan. On all fronts the German defense continued to be determined and effective, but Bondeno was captured on 23 April. The 6th Armoured Division linked with US IV Corps' 10th Mountain Division the next day at Finale some
U.S. IV Corps had continued their northwards advance and reached the Po river at San Benedetto on 22 April. The river was crossed the next day, and they advanced north to Verona which they entered on 26 April. To the right of Fifth Army on Eighth Army's left wing, British XIII Corps crossed the Po at Ficarolo on 22 April, while V Corps were crossing the Po by 25 April, heading towards the Venetian Line, a defensive line built behind the line of the river Adige. As Allied forces pushed across the Po, on the left flank the Brazilian, 34th Infantry and 1st Armored Divisions of IV Corps were pushed west and northwest along the line of Highway 9 towards Piacenza and across the Po to seal possible escape routes into Austria and Switzerland via Lake Garda.On 27 April, the 1st Armored Division entered Milan, liberated by the partisans on 25 April, and IV Corps commander Crittenberger entered the city on 30 April. Turin was also liberated by partisan forces on 25 April, after five days of clashes, and on 27 April General Günther Meinhold surrendered his 14,000 troops to the partisans in Genoa. To the south of Milan, at Collecchio-Fornovo, the Brazilian Division bottled up the remaining effectives of two German divisions along with the last units of fascist army, taking on 28 April 13,500 prisoners.
On the Allied far right flank, British V Corps, met by lessening resistance, traversed the Venetian Line and entered Padua in the early hours of 29 April, to find that partisans had locked up the German garrison of 5,000.
Secret surrender negotiations between representatives of the Germans and Western Allies had taken place in Switzerland (Operation Crossword) in March but had resulted only in protests from the Russians that the Western Allies were attempting to negotiate a separate peace.
On 28 April, von Vietinghoff sent emissaries to Allied Army headquarters. On 29 April, they signed an instrument of surrender to the effect that hostilities would formally end on 2 May.Confirmation from von Vietinghoff of the arrangements did not reach Allied 15th Army Group headquarters until the morning of 2 May. It emerged that Kesselring had his authority as Commander of the West extended to include Italy and had replaced von Vietinghoff with General Friedrich Schulz from Army Group G on hearing of the plans. However, after a period of confusion during which the news of Hitler's death arrived, Schulz obtained Kesselring's agreement to the surrender and von Vietinghoff was reinstated to see it through.
The Battle of Anzio was a battle of the Italian Campaign of World War II that took place from January 22, 1944 to June 5, 1944. The operation was opposed by German forces in the area of Anzio and Nettuno. The operation was initially commanded by Major General John P. Lucas, of the U.S. Army, commanding U.S. VI Corps with the intention being to outflank German forces at the Winter Line and enable an attack on Rome.
The Bernhardt Line was a German defensive line in Italy during the Italian Campaign of World War II. Having reached the Bernhardt Line at the start of December 1943, it took until mid-January 1944 for the U.S. Fifth Army to fight their way to the next line of defences, the Gustav Line. The line was defended by XIV Panzer Corps, part of the German Tenth Army.
Heinrich Gottfried Otto Richard von Vietinghoff genannt Scheel was a German general (Generaloberst) of the Wehrmacht during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. Vietinghoff commanded the German troops in German-occupied Italy in 1945.
The Allied invasion of Italy was the Allied amphibious landing on mainland Italy that took place on 3 September 1943 during the early stages of the Italian Campaign of World War II. The operation was undertaken by General Sir Harold Alexander's 15th Army Group and followed the successful invasion of Sicily. The main invasion force landed around Salerno on 9 September on the western coast in Operation Avalanche, while two supporting operations took place in Calabria and Taranto.
Operation Baytown was an Allied amphibious landing on the mainland of Italy that took place on 3 September 1943, part of the Allied invasion of Italy, itself part of the Italian Campaign, during the Second World War.
The 2nd New Zealand Division, initially the New Zealand Division, was an infantry division of the New Zealand Military Forces during the Second World War. The division was commanded for most of its existence by Lieutenant-General Bernard C. Freyberg. It fought in Greece, Crete, the Western Desert and Italy. In the Western Desert Campaign, the division played a prominent role in the defeat of German and Italian forces in the Second Battle of El Alamein and the British Eighth Army's advance to Tunisia.
The Italian campaign of World War II consisted of Allied and Axis operations in and around Italy, from 1943 to 1945. The Joint Allied Forces Headquarters (AFHQ) was operationally responsible for all Allied land forces in the Mediterranean theatre and it planned and led the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, followed in September by the invasion of the Italian mainland and the campaign in Italy until the surrender of the German Armed Forces in Italy in May 1945.
The Gothic Line was a German defensive line of the Italian Campaign of World War II. It formed Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's last major line of defence along the summits of the northern part of the Apennine Mountains during the fighting retreat of the German forces in Italy against the Allied Armies in Italy, commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander.
The 6th South African Armoured Division was the second armoured division of the South African Army and was formed during World War II. Established in early 1943, it was based on a nucleus of men from the former 1st South African Infantry Division who had returned to South Africa after the Second Battle of El Alamein in late 1942. The division was initially transferred to Egypt for training, after which it served in the Allied campaign in Italy during 1944 and 1945. In Italy, the division was initially deployed as part of the British Eighth Army, under command of Lieutenant-General Oliver Leese, and was then transferred to the U.S. Fifth Army, under Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, for the remainder of the Italian Campaign. The division operated as a strongly reinforced division and was frequently used to spearhead the advance of the Corps and Army to which it was attached. They returned home after the end of the war in Italy and were disbanded in 1946. The division was also briefly active after the war from 1 July 1948 to 1 November 1949.
Operation Roast was a military operation undertaken by British Commandos, at Comacchio lagoon in north-east Italy, during the Spring 1945 offensive in Italy, part of the Italian Campaign, during the final stages of Second World War.
The Battle of Monte Castello was an engagement that took place from 25 November 1944 to 21 February 1945 during the Italian campaign of World War II. It was fought between the Allied forces advancing into northern Italy and the dug-in German defenders. The battle marked the Brazilian Expeditionary Force's entry into the land war in Europe. Starting in November 1944, fierce combat dragged on for three months, ending on 21 February 1945. Six Allied attacks were mounted against the German forces, four of which were tactical failures.
The 8th Mountain Division was raised as the 8th Indian Infantry division of the British Indian Army. It is now part of the Indian Army and specialises in mountain warfare.
Sir John Anthony Holt Saunders, CBE, DSO, MC was chairman of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, at a time of rapid and turbulent development of the Hong Kong economy. In his banking career, as chief manager from 1962, and chairman from 1964 to 1972, Saunders was at the helm of Hong Kong's most important financial institution at a time when the Crown Colony was rapidly changing from a trading post to a regional centre of manufacturing and finance.
The 6th Armoured Division was an armoured division of the British Army, created in September 1940 during the Second World War. The unit was initially supplied with Matilda and Valentine tanks, which were replaced by Crusader tanks and then finally with the M4 Sherman tank. The division participated in the Operation Torch assault landings in Algeria and Morocco in November 1942 and saw its first action as part of V Corps of the British First Army in the Tunisia Campaign. After Tunisia, it participated in the Italian Campaign as part of the British Eighth Army and ended the war in Austria, again under the command of V Corps.
The Battle of the Argenta Gap was an engagement which formed part of the Allied spring 1945 offensive during the Italian Campaign in the final stages of the Second World War. It took place in northern Italy from 12–19 April 1945 between troops of British V Corps commanded by Lieutenant-General Charles Keightley and German units of LXXVI Panzer Corps commanded by Lieutenant General Gerhard von Schwerin.
Lieutenant General Sir Dudley Russell KBE, CB, DSO, MC was a senior officer of both the British Army and the British Indian Army, and served during World War I and World War II, where he commanded the 8th Indian Infantry Division during the Italian Campaign from late 1943 until the end of the war.
The National Republican Army was the army of the Italian Social Republic from 1943 to 1945 that fought on the side of Nazi Germany during World War II.
The Battle of Bologna was fought in Bologna, Italy from 9–21 April 1945 during the Second World War, as part of the Spring 1945 offensive in Italy. The Allied forces were victorious, with the Polish II Corps and supporting Allied units capturing the city on 21 April.
The Eighth Army was a field army formation of the British Army during the Second World War, fighting in the North African and Italian campaigns. Units came from Australia, British India, Canada, Free French Forces, Greece, New Zealand, Poland, Rhodesia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
The 169th Brigade was an infantry brigade of the British Army that saw active service in both the First and the Second World Wars. Throughout its existence the brigade, serving under numerous many different titles and designations, was an integral part of the 56th (London) Infantry Division. It served on the Western Front and in the North African and Italian campaigns during World War II.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Spring 1945 offensive in Italy .|