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World War II Europe: Fighting in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy

To the End in Italy

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World War II Europe: Fighting in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy

The men of the 370th Infantry Regiment move through Prato, Italy, April 9, 1945.

Photograph Courtesy of the National Archives & Records Administration
Previous: The Eastern Front | World War II 101 | Next: The Battle for Western Europe

Breakout and the Fall of Rome

Through the spring of 1944, four major offensives were launched along the Winter Line near the town of Cassino. The final assault commenced on May 11 and finally broke through the German defenses as well as the Adolf Hitler/Dora Line to their rear. Advancing north, US General Mark Clark's 5th Army and Montgomery's Eighth Army pressed the retreating Germans, while the forces at Anzio were finally able to break out of their beachhead. On June 4, 1944, US forces entered Rome as the Germans fell back to the Trasimene Line north of the city. The capture of Rome was quickly overshadowed by the Allied landings in Normandy two days later.

The Final Campaigns

With the opening of a new front in France, Italy became a secondary theater of the war. In August, many of the most experienced Allied troops in Italy were withdrawn to take part in the Operation Dragoon landings in southern France. After the fall of Rome, Allied forces continued north and were able to breach the Trasimene Line and capture Florence. This last push brought them up against Kesselring's last major defensive position, the Gothic Line. Built just south of Bologna, the Gothic Line ran along the tops of the Apennine Mountains and presented a formidable obstacle. The Allies attacked the line for much of the fall, and while they were able to penetrate it in places, no decisive breakthrough could be achieved.

Both sides saw changes in leadership they prepared for the spring campaigns. For the Allies, Clark was promoted to command of all Allied troops in Italy, while on the German side, Kesselring was replaced with von Vietinghoff. Beginning on April 6, Clark's forces assaulted the German defenses, breaking through in several places. Sweeping onto the Lombardy Plain, Allied forces advanced steadily against weakening German resistance. The situation hopeless, von Vietinghoff dispatched emissaries to Clark's headquarters to discuss terms of surrender. On April 29, the two commanders signed the instrument of surrender which took effect on May 2, 1945, ending the fighting in Italy.

Previous: The Eastern Front | World War II 101 | Next: The Battle for Western Europe
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