President Franklin D. Roosevelt with Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill at Shangri-La, the presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains, during an interlude in the TRIDENT conference, mid-May 1943. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library)
The president and prime minister with their Combined Chiefs of Staff at the White House on May 24, 1943, the last day of the TRIDENT conference. Standing from left to right: Field Marshal Sir John Dill, the senior British officer stationed in Washington; Lieutenant General Sir Hastings L. “Pug” Ismay, chief of staff to Churchill; Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles F.A. Portal, chief of the British air staff; General Sir Alan Brooke, chief of the Imperial General Staff; Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, the British First Sea Lord; Admiral William D. Leahy, Roosevelt’s chief military adviser; General George C. Marshall, the U.S. Army chief of staff; Admiral Ernest J. King, the U.S. chief of naval operations; Lieutenant General Joseph T. McNarney, an Army Air Forces pilot who served as Marshall’s deputy chief of staff. The senior AAF commander, General H.H. “Hap” Arnold, spent the conference in the hospital for treatment of a heart condition. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library)
Allied troops boarding assault craft in a North African port, apparently Bizerte, Tunisia, en route to Sicily for Operation HUSKY in early July 1943.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower (left) and General George C. Marshall during a meeting in Algiers in September 1943.
Vice Admiral H. Kent Hewitt (right), who commanded American naval forces during the invasions of Morocco, Sicily, and Salerno, on the deck of his flagship with the war correspondent Quentin Reynolds. (U.S. Navy, National Archives)
Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen (left) commander of the 1st Infantry Division, studies a map with the man who became his nemesis, Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley, commander of the U.S. II Corps. Censors have inked out a landmark between the two to avoid pinpointing their location in Sicily.
Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., assistant commander of the 1st Infantry Division during the invasion of Sicily, shown here with his jeep in January 1944. An admirer described him with four adjectives: “Bald, burnt, gnarled, and wrinkled.”
Axis aircraft attack Allied invasion ships in the anchorage off Gela, Sicily, on July 11, 1943. After bombs struck the Liberty ship S.S. Rowan in this area on the same day, one witness described “a flat sheet of crimson fire in a frame of black smoke…Pieces of the twisted metal and flaming wood hissed into the water as far as a mile distant.”
Dead and dying Italian soldiers lie in a road near Palermo in July 1943, after their truck inadvertently hit an Italian mine while being pursued by U.S. troops. Near a jeep in the background, medics dress the wounds of an American lieutenant.
Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr. (right), commander of the U.S. Seventh Army, at the Royal Palace in Palermo with his rival, General Bernard L. Montgomery (center), commander of the British Eighth Army, and Major General Geoffrey Keyes, Patton’s deputy.
Company A of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, on July 28, 1943, moving toward Troina, the highest and perhaps most fiercely defended town in Sicily. “Troina was the toughest battle Americans have fought since World War I,” one general concluded, “and there were very few in that war which were its equal.”
Major General Matthew B. Ridgway (left), commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, with a Signal Corps cameraman in central Sicily, July 25, 1943. “Hard as flint and full of intensity, almost grinding his teeth from intensity,” one subordinate said of Ridgway. His paratroopers added: “There’s a right way, a wrong way, and a Ridgway.”
Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, the senior German commander in the Mediterranean, was a former artilleryman who had learned to fly and had transferred to the German Luftwaffe. An exceptional tactician who believed that most of Italy could be defended, Kesselring argued for a strategic concept that involved keeping the war as far from the German Fatherland as long as possible. (U.S. Army Military History Institute)
Riflemen from the 143rd Infantry Regment, 36th Infantry Division, wade toward the beach at Paestum, south of Salerno, at the start of Operation AVALANCHE on September 9, 1943. The milky haze from artificial smoke was intended to blind German gunners on the high ground ringing the landing sites.
U.S. Navy sailors and Coast Guardsmen hug the shingle during a German air raid on the anchorage at Salerno. Debris from an exploding bomb can be seen in the background. The wire mesh laid across the beach was intended to improve traction for military vehicles.
Major General Ernest J. Dawley commanded the U.S. VI Corps during the landings at Salerno in September 1943. A stocky, cautious artilleryman from Wisconsin who had been described in his West Point yearbook as “a quiet lad that one seldom sees or hears of,” Dawley had warned his superiors before Salerno, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and chew damn well.”
Lieutenant General Richard L. McCreery commanded the British X Corps at Salerno, anchoring the Allied left flank. A pious, blunt Anglo-Irish cavalryman—“tall, lean, and vague,” as one American described him—McCreery still limped from a World War I wound and tended when aggravated to lower his voice to a near-whisper.
U.S. infantrymen push past the Temple of Neptune at Paestum, center of the American sector during the landings around Salerno Bay. Still the grandest complex of Doric temples outside Athens, Paestum had been a 6th century B.C. Greek colony, famed in antiquity for roses and violets.
The Tabacchificio Fioche, known to American troops as the the Tobacco Factory, just north of the Sele River at Salerno. A stronghold of five brick buildings with massive walls, red tile roofs, and small windows resembling gun ports, the complex changed hands repeatedly during the battle.
The cruiser U.S.S. Savannah, on fire and down in the bow on September 11, 1943, after a German radio-controlled bomb, known as a Fritz-X, punched through No. 3 turret and detonated belowdecks, killing more than two hundred sailors. No U.S. Navy warship in World War II would be struck by a larger bomb. One witness reported, “That hit wasn’t natural.”
Benito Mussolini on September 12, 1943, just before climbing into the cockpit of the Storch airplane that will carry him from the Gran Sasso ski resort where he had been imprisoned by Italian authorities following his arrest. On Hitler’s orders, more than one hundred German paratroopers, led by Captain Otto Skorzeny, landed by glider on the mountaintop to free the Duce without firing a shot.
Naples and its famous bay, with Vesuvius in the background. Captured on October 1, 1943, the city for Allied soldiers soon became “the nearest symbol of every man’s immediate aspirations,” one British officer wrote, “a fairyland of silver and gold.” Salerno Bay lay south across the Sorrento Peninsula, seen in the upper right.
American infantrymen in an assault boat haul themselves across the Volturno River in mid-October 1943 during the first major river crossing in Europe by Allied troops. By moving quickly on a broad front, and by leaving the main roads to infiltrate around enemy strongpoints, Allied forces advanced thirty-five miles past Naples before rain and stiffening German resistance slowed the pace.
A wounded German prisoner awaits medical treatment along the bank of the Volturno on October 17, 1943.
A U.S. soldier north of the Volturno disables a mine, which has been discovered by the engineer holding his metal detector. “All roads lead to Rome,” quipped General Harold Alexander, the commander-in-chief of Allied forces in Italy, “but all the roads are mined.”
Lieutenant Colonel John Toffey, Jr., as a battalion commander in the 3rd Infantry Division after the Volturno crossing. A combat commander since the invasion of North Africa, Toffey possessed “the bones and confirmation of a steeple-chaser rather than a racehorse,” according to the combat artist George Biddle, who made this sketch on October 30, 1943. (Courtesy of John J. Toffey IV and Michael Biddle)
A Harvard-educated, World War I veteran, George Biddle was a fine writer as well as a talented draftsman. Of the Italian campaign he wrote, “I wish the people at home, instead of thinking of their boys in terms of football stars, would think of them in terms of miners trapped underground or suffocating to death in a tenth-story fire.”
Ships ablaze in Bari harbor after German bombers struck the Adriatic port in a surprise raid on December 2, 1943. Seventeen Allied ships were sunk in what was described as the “costliest sneak attack since Pearl Harbor.” The explosion of a munitions ship secretly carrying mustard gas caused mass casualties among servicemen and Italian civilians.
British infantrymen in early December 1943 cling to the face of Monte Camino, described by one Tommy as a “steep solid rock leading God knows where.” Stone breastworks offered little protection against German mortar fragments or the frigid cold. “A small earthquake added to the unpleasantness,” a Scots Guard account noted.
Eisenhower (left) and Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, commander of the U.S. Fifth Army, near the Mignano Gap in central Italy in December 1943. A few days later, Eisenhower would leave the Mediterranean to take command of OVERLORD, the invasion of France.
Italian women washing clothes in a village trough in central Italy as an Allied convoy crawls through mud that seemed to grow thicker and deeper by the day.
Fifth Army engineers finish a bridge across a streambed in central Italy to replace the span destroyed by German demolitionists. In twenty months of fighting in Italy, the Allies would erect three thousand spans, with a combined length of fifty-five miles. This one took ten hours to build.
The view of Monte Sammucro from German positions on Monte Lungo. Highway 6 runs across the bottom of the photo, while a secondary road angles around Dead Man’s Curve toward San Pietro, seen clinging to the lower slopes of the massif. The pinnacle of Sammucro, nearly four thousand feet high, was known as Hill 1205.
In covering the fighting at San Pietro, Ernie Pyle wrote about the death on Monte Sammucro of Captain Henry T. Waskow. “Beloved Captain,” his most famous dispatch, was perhaps the finest expository passage of World War II. But Pyle told a friend, “I’ve lost the touch. This stuff stinks.”
“He was never young,” a school classmate once said of Henry Waskow, “not in a crazy high school-kid way.” To his family in Texas, Waskow wrote, “If I failed as a leader, and I pray God I didn’t, it was not because I did not try.” (Texas Military Forces Museum)
In the mountains near Venafro, an Italian mule skinner (right) helps secure the body of a dead American soldier for removal to a temporary military cemetery. Blood stains can be seen on the stretcher.
U.S. troops from the 504th Airborne Infantry Regiment and 143rd Infantry climb through the rubble of San Pietro on December 17, 1943. A gunner described the village as “one large mound of desolation.”
Christmas dinner 1943, on the hood of a jeep. The striped unit patch on the sleeve and helmet of the soldier on the right shows the he belongs to the 3rd Infantry Division; the other two men served in the 163rd Signal Company.
After a near-fatal bout of pneumonia, Winston S. Churchill rose from his sickbed in Tunisia for a Christmas lunch with Eisenhower (left) and Alexander (center). The prime minister, who is wearing his “siren suit” and Chinese dressing gown with blue-and-gold dragons, had begun pressing for a surprise Allied landing behind enemy lines at Anzio.
Mortar crewmen drop another round down the tube near the Rapido River on January 24, 1944. Before the attack, the 36th Division commander, Major General Fred L. Walker, had scribbled in his diary, “We are undertaking the impossible, but I shall keep it to myself.”
Two signalmen use a pig sty as a message center during the battle for the Rapido, January 23, 1944. A censor has marked through the sign indicating that the men belong to the 143rd Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division. Observed one sergeant, “Anybody who had any experience knew this ain’t the place to cross the river.”
Before leaving the Mediterreanean for Britain, Patton (left) in mid-January 1944 made a final trip to Italy to see his former deputy, Major General Geoffrey Keyes, now commanding the U.S. II Corps. “The impetuous, vitriolic, histrionic Patton is considerably leavened by the calm, deliberate, circumspect Keyes,” a War Department observer had reported to Washington.
Once described as an “amiable mastiff,” Major General Fred L. Walker had been Mark Clark’s instructor at the Army War College in the 1930s. As the Rapido attack turned into a debacle, Walker’s disaffection increased. “The stupidity of some higher commanders seems to be profound,” he wrote. (Texas Military Forces Museum)
Anzio was the birthplace of two notorious Roman emperors, Nero and Caligula. Her sister city, Nettuno, can be seen down the coastline (center right), just beyond the dark patch of the Borghese estate; the seventeenth-century villa commandeered by Mark Clark as a Fifth Army command post is also visible in the center of the estate. Beyond the coast, the Pontine Marshes stretch to the distant hills.
The Pontine Marshes for centuries had been a malarial dead zone until Mussolini transformed the region into “smiling fields” with enormous pumps, ten thousand miles of irrigation canals and ditches, and other reclamation efforts. As the Allied armies neared Rome, German demolitionists flooded 100,000 acres of farmland to make the area both impassable and hospitable to malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Colonel William O. Darby, seen here as a regimental commander in the 45th Division in April 1944, listened on the radio as much of the Ranger force he had built and led was destroyed at Cisterna a week after the Anzio landings.
Major General John P. Lucas in his VI Corps office in Nettuno on February 10, 1944, shortly before the German counterattack that nearly shattered the Allied beachhead. Regarding the Anzio invasion, “Old Luke” told his diary, “This venture was always a desperate one and I could never see much chance for it to succeed, if success means driving the Germans north of Rome.”
Four pilots from the 99th Fighter Squadron on January 29, 1944, shortly after each had shot down a German plane over Anzio—among a dozen Luftwaffe aircraft bagged by the Tuskegee airmen in a two-day spree above the beachhead. From left: Lieutenant Willie Ashley, Jr., Lieutenant W.V. Eagleson, Captain C.B. Hall, and Captain L.R. Custis.
In Hell’s Half Acre at Anzio, troops in early April 1944 dig in another hospital tent against German artillery and air attacks. In a single episode two months earlier, a Luftwaffe pilot jettisoned his bombs during a dogfight over the beachhead and the blasts killed twenty-eight people—including three nurses, two doctors, and six patients.
Major General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., (left) commander of the U.S. VI Corps, and Lieutenant General Ira Eaker, the senior U.S. air commander in the Mediterranean, inspect sandbag-and-wine barrel fortifications around the Anzio airfield on April 6, 1944.
American soldiers march in step with their shadows toward Cassino along Highway 6, north of the Mignano Gap.
An Army chaplain baptizes a corporal in the ornate fountain at Caserta, the mammoth eighteenth-century palace where both Mark Clark and Harold Alexander kept headquarters among the twelve hundred rooms. A nearby reflecting pool was large enough to accommodate landings by Clark’s pontoon airplane.
Actresss Marlene Dietrich, who frequently entertained Allied troops in the war zone, stands in a mess line while visiting the 47th Bombardment Group in this undated photograph. After meeting Patton in Sicily, Dietrich described him as “a tank too big for the village square.” (Courtesy of Russell H. Raine)
Fifth Army soldiers lined up outside the San Carlo Opera House in Naples to see “This Is the Army,” a musical comedy by Irving Berlin.
U.S. Army military policemen toasting bread over molten lava from Vesuvius. The volcano’s spectacular eruption, which began on March 18, 1944, would be the last of the twentieth century.
Artillery fire rakes Castle Hill above Cassino town on February 6, 1944. The famous Benedictine abbey looming on Monte Cassino would survive another nine days before Allied bombers pulverized the building.
Lieutenant General Oliver W.H. Leese (left), who succeeded Montgomery as commander of the British Eighth Army, was described by one American officer as “a big ungainly bruiser.” In this photo, taken near Cassino on February 17, 1944, he stands next to the gallant Polish commander, General Wladyslaw Anders.
A former dentist who had become one of the British empire’s most celebrated soldiers, Lieutenant General Bernard C. Freyberg commanded the New Zealand Corps at Cassino. An acquaintance suggested, “His great fearlessness owed something to a lack of imagination.”
A German propoganda leaflet at Cassino, depicting the slow pace of the Allied advance in Italy. (Courtesy of Major R.C. Taylor)
“Sprout after sprout of black smoke leapt from the earth and curled upward like some dark forest,” one journalist wrote after watching the obliteration of Cassino town, by air and artillery bombardment, on March 15, 1944. Castle Hill can be seen through the smoke and dust in the upper right.
Lieutenant General Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin, commander of the XIV Panzer Corps at Cassino, had studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar before World War I. His high forehead, hooked beak, and sunken cheeks gave Senger the air of a homely ascetic, although his long fingers and aesthete’s mannerisms suggested a man “more French really than Prussian,” as his daughter later claimed. (U.S. Army Military History Institute)
The senior U.S. air commander in the Mediterranean, Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, flying toward Anzio on April 15, 1944. “In the air in Italy,” Eaker declared of the enemy, “the Hun is absolutely flat on his back.”
Tanks from the 1st Armored Division roll from an L.S.T. in Anzio harbor on April 27, 1944, among the reinforcements preparing to blast out of the beachhead after four months’ confinement.
Audie Murphy, a Texas sharecropper’s son and fifth-grade dropout who became the most celebrated soldier in the U.S. Army, seen here as a lieutenant in 1945 with the Congressional Medal of Honor around his neck. (Texas Military Forces Museum)
“Radiate confidence, and enjoy taking risks,” advised Gen. Alphonse Pierre Juin, commander of the French Expeditionary Corps, who believed that the formidable enemy defenses in the Gustav Line could be outflanked only by “invading the mountains.”
One of the twelve thousand goumiers in the French corps, irregular Berber tribesmen known for their agility and ruthlessness.
Allied soldiers carry a dead comrade from the rubble of Monte Cassino, shortly after the abbey finally fell to Polish troops on May 18, 1944. Dead German defenders, including one stripped of his hobnail boots, lie along the trail.
Beneath the masonry shards atop Castle Hill, South African engineers clear Highway 6 through Cassino town on May 21, 1944.
Major General Keyes (left) with Lieutenant General Clark and Brigadier General Robert T. Frederick (right), commander of the 1st Special Service Force, outside Rome in early June 1944.
An Italian woman and a young girl cover dead G.I.s with cuttings from a rose bush on June 4, 1944, the day Rome fell.
American infantrymen shelter behind the turret of a Sherman tank on June 5, 1944. Note the sniper’s bullet hole beneath the “o” on the sign.
Jubiliant Romans throng the streets to greet Clark, the conquering general, on June 5, 1944, as his driver wanders through the city in search of the Capitoline. In the rear seat behind Clark are the Fifth Army chief of staff, Major General Alfred M. Gruenther (left), and Keyes, the II Corps commander.
G.I.s near Rome read of the Normandy invasion in The Beachhead News. “How do you like that?” Clark complained. “They didn’t even let us have the newspaper headlines for the fall of Rome for one day.”
An American column snakes through Rome’s Piazza del Popolo before pressing north in pursuit of the retreating German armies.
From a window sill above a Roman street, Mark Clark watches his troops sweep across the capital in early June. “You ask the question, ‘What after Italy?’” he wrote his wife. “Perhaps you can tell me.”