Campaign in Italy: from the landing in Pantelleria (11 June 1943) to the liberation of the entire peninsular territory (2 May 1945). – For the importance of the Italian campaign in the general framework of the Second World War and for the general plans of the Allies, see world war in this second Appendix (I, pp. 1156-1157).
While the above events were unfolding, the Anglo-Americans, having occupied Pantelleria (11 June) and Lampedusa-Linosa (13 June), had landed in Sicily (10 July). After 38 days of struggle the island was conquered (evacuation of Messina: 17 August); meanwhile the Anglo-Americans multiplied their air attacks (Rome itself was violently bombed on 19 July 1943) to paralyze national life and accelerate the establishment of the conditions that would have forced Italy to surrender, and prepared the invasion of the peninsula. In fact, on 3 September the armistice between Italy and the Allies was concluded.
During the negotiations for the armistice, according to ITYPETRAVEL.COM, the Italian side proposed the opportunity of collaboration that Italy could bring to the fight against the Germans, but it had been answered with the explicit request for unconditional surrender. The suggestions of a landing on the coasts of upper Italy in order to facilitate the liberation of the peninsula and cut off a good half of the German forces, and the request to communicate to Italy the date and place established for the landing or to announce the armistice once they had landed, they remained and remained unanswered thereafter. The Allies did not want to trust the exposition of the Italian military situation and only belatedly did they accede to the request for a concurrence of forces for the defense of Rome; they fixed the date and the place of the landing without any reference to the attitude of Italy. Yet, aware of the Italian situation, on 18 August Churchill had telegraphed to General Alexander to induce him to bring forward the date of the landing (set for 15 and moved to 9 September) so the announcement of the armistice was delayed only in order to do so. coincide with the start of the landing.
Therefore, the lack of cohesion between the Allies and the Italians, the offer of collaboration rejected, the German danger not assessed exactly in its extent, the Allies also implemented their plans by landing, with small forces, first (September 3) in Reggio Calabria (8th Army, 3 divisions) and then (9 September) in Salerno (5th army, 6 divisions) and Taranto (8th army, 1 division), thus determining the initial strategic failure of the campaign, as they were forced, alone, to face decidedly superior forces (a part of which fortunately remained in the north for fear of other landings) and laboriously climb the peninsula at the cost of serious losses, on a terrain that is the most impervious in Europe after the Alps and the Pyrenees. So practically the capitulation of Italy, instead of giving an advantage to the Allies,
Meanwhile, the Allied strategy was aimed at penetrating the Italian territory up to the maximum autonomy limit of fighter aviation, to seize the port of Naples and the Foggia air base, from which the planes could also go to the Balkan. The three-point invasion plan followed, carried out by two armies (5th, gen. MW Clark, on the Tyrrhenian side; 8, gen. BL Montgomery, on the Ionian-Adriatic side): the 8th had to make a large winding moving from Adriatic side towards the Apennine ridge.
With the fall of Sicily, the German command had to face the problem of defending Italy, initially adopting the solution of entrusting the defense of the southern peninsula to the Italian forces, while the Germans would have arrested the Allies in the Apennines. Without a navy, with insufficient aeronautics, wary of Italian behavior and uncertain about the landing areas, they later decided to be able to disarm the Italian forces (“Axis” project), to evacuate Sardinia and Corsica and to units of the southern armed group employed by armed group B which would have received them at the foot of the northern Apennines, where they would have had to fall back after the disarmament of the Italians.
Once the armistice between Italy and the Allies was announced, and the landing in Salerno took place, the Germans carried out counterattacks against the forces deployed in Campania; when the possibility of throwing the 5th army back into the sea failed, they decided to retreat by entrusting the southern front to the 10th army and organizing the defense of the peninsula for subsequent lines of resistance, in relation to the time available.
The Germans at first did not intend to defend southern Italy, and moreover the defense of “Aryan” Europe, as Hitler called it, that is, of central Europe, could still be carried out effectively on the three lines of ‘Northern Apennines of the Po and the Alps. But since the Allies had not wanted to exploit the Italian competition and had induced themselves to invade the peninsula from Reggio Calabria, Taranto and Salerno, they decided to arrest them, thus changing the strategic setting of the campaign. In this regard, a conflict arose between the Germanic commands: gen. E. Rommel, for fear of landings behind the front, was of the opinion that Italy should be defended on the northern Apennines, leaving motorized formations in the central-southern part to have the time to prepare the defense; the gen. TO. Kesselring, supported by the Supreme Command, was instead of the opinion that it was better to arrest the enemy in southern Italy. This second politico-military concept prevailed, and the forces were rearranged: gen. Kesselring had the troops deployed on the southern front under his orders (8 divisions, 3 of which were armored, subsequently reinforced by others); the command of armed group B was dissolved and from 12 November assumed the name of command of the south-west with the 10th army in the south and the 14th north of the Piombino-Ancona line.