Welcome to the Italy Star Association 1943-1945 website
Whether you are a veteran of the Italian Campaign in the Second World War, a related family member, ally, supporter, or not, please accept a warm and timely welcome of thanks for visiting us.
The Association was founded in 1987 by the late brothers, Eric and Maurice Cheadle, veterans of the North African and Italian campaigns.
Amongst its constitutional goals are to give a true history of the Italian Campaign and, perhaps most importantly, to keep alive that special bond of comradeship which existed during the Campaign.
Within the pages of our site, you will find more detailed information, such as reports on events, photographs, personal histories and reminiscences from members and families, about the Association, the Italian Campaign itself and its impact on history. On reading, we hope you will sense encouragement, discovery, truthful representation as well as deep satisfaction in what is written.
In thanking you for taking the time to view our site, there are several ways to leave you with meaningful thoughts about what the Association stands for and what drives us on; its epitaph and own special prayer are both moving and soul-searchingly apt, but perhaps some of the most poignant and powerful words come from the gently self-mocking parody, the “D-Day Dodgers” song (to the tune of “Lili Marlene”):
look around the mountains in the mud and rain; see the scattered crosses, some which bear no name; the heartbreak and sorrow are all gone, the boys beneath them slumber on; they are the D-day dodgers, who’ll stay in Italy.
Operation Avalanche – The Salerno Landings September 1943
After defeating the Axis forces in Sicily, the Allies turned their attention to mainland Italy. This would involve several landings in southern Italy. Operation Baytown (3th September 1943) was to tie down German troops in southern Italy and away from the Salerno area. British and Canadian troops of General Bernard Montgomery’s XIII Corps (part of Eighth Army) landed at Regio Calabria at the south-western tip of Italy. The German Commander-in-Chief, Albert Kesselring, had realised that the main Allied target was further up the coast and pulled back most of the crack troops of his LXXVI Panzer Corps, leaving one regiment and some Italian units to meet the Baytown invasion.
Also on 9th September 1943 troops of the British 1st Airborne Division spearheaded Operation Slapstick which saw amphibious landings at Taranto and Brindisi in south-eastern Italy. The two port cities had actually been made available to the Allies by the Italians during secret armistice negotiations, but Allied Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower nevertheless decided to land large numbers of troops there, again to draw German attention away from Salerno, both landings met little resistance as Kesselring had pulled his troops back prior to the landings.
Salerno, south-east of Naples, as the point where the main invasion force would land in Operation Avalanche on 9th September 1943. Salerno was chosen because it had landing beaches nearby airfields and major roads that could be used by Allied forces after a successful invasion. Operation Avalanche the invasion at Salerno was conducted by 165,000 Allied troops of the US Fifth Army, under Lieutenant General Mark Clark. Comprising of Major General Ernest Dawley’s US VI Corps and Lieutenant General Richard McCreery’s British X Corps. The aim of Operation Avalanche was to seize Naples and drive to the east coast to cut off enemy forces to the south. Involving landings on a 35-mile front to the south of Salerno. The responsibility for the initial landings fellen to the British 46th and 56th Divisions to the north of the Sele River and the US 36th Infantry Division to the south. A small force of US Rangers and British Commandos would land northwest of the British beaches to secure the roads leading to Naples up the coast.
Opposing the Allies stood several German divisions, all of which were well prepared for any attack.
The Salerno landings on 9th September 1943 the day after the announcement of an armistice between the Allies and Italy. (Under the armistice Italian units ceased combat and the Navy sailed to Allied ports to surrender. However, German forces in Italy were prepared for this and moved swiftly to disarm Italian units and occupy important defensive positions.)Stiff German resistance was met at Paestum but the Americans succeeded in holding the beachhead until the next wave of troops arrived. Further to the north British forces were able to push inland for between five and seven miles.
The next three days saw both sides building up their strength but on 13th September the Germans counter-attacked in the region of Battipaglia, with the intention of dividing the British and American forces. The Americans suffered particularly heavy casualties as the Allies were pushed back, to the extent that at one stage Lieutenant General Mark Clark even considered evacuating his forces. It wasn’t until 15th September mainly as a result of heavy naval and aerial bombardment that the German advance was slowed. On the 16th September the Germans launched a fresh attack against British X Corps, but made little headway.
The same day British forces taking part in Operation Baytown had reached Sapri, less than 60 miles south-east of Salerno. Realising that the two Allied forces were on the brink of linking up, Kesselring called off the German offensive and ordered his forces to pull back destroying bridges and other means of transportation as they did so. Although this meant surrendering Salerno, Kesselring planned to form a new defensive line, using Italy’s mountainous terrain to frustrate any future Allied advance.
On the 19th September British and American troops of US Fifth Army began marching on Naples. By the end of the month the southern part of Italy was under Allied control, including the strategically important airfield at Foggia. Despite this success Avalanche had failed in its objective of achieving a lightning-quick seizure of Italy. The time taken over the build-up of men and equipment for the invasion of mainland Italy after the success of the campaign in Sicily had also given the Germans time to formulate their plan for the defence of Italy. This meant the Allies were now committed to a long hard slog fighting up the boot of Italy from toe to top. The long hard fight was to continue until May 1945.
We shall never forget them.
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