Anzio (1968)

 

 

Director:  Edward Dmytryk.

Starring:   Robert Mitchum (war correspondent Dick Ennis), Peter Falk (corporal Rabinoff), Robert Ryan, Arthur Kennedy (over cautious general), Earl Holliman, Mark Damon.

Invasion of Italy takes place with the landing at the beaches of Anzio.  

 

It becomes a bloody fight because the general allows the Germans time to erect the defensive Caesar Line around Rome.

This story is not really much about the Battle of Anzio itself.  The action occurs at the Battle of Anzio, but it is a story that could have been set in almost any battle.  It actually is more a story of a unnamed Ranger group (armed only with tommy guns and rifles) sent out toward Cisterna only to come face to face with a German outfit with tanks and flame throwers.  (The story actually is that of Colonel Darby and his Darby's Rangers. See Darby's Rangers, 1958.)

Peter Falk as Corporal Rabinoff provides some levity to a serious situation and tends to dominate as the most colorful of a bunch of relatively colorless characters.   

The story is a sad one with the Rangers taking a real beating, while the American commander acts like a "beached whale" as Churchill said.  Don't despair, however, because there is a happy ending.  After all, the Nazis do bite it in the end.   Dr. Patrick L. Cooney.    

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

The Battle of Anzio (January 22 to May 24, 1944)

Anzio is 33 miles south of Rome. 

The Allied forces took the island of Sicily.  The next step was to attack continental Italy. 

end of 1943  --  Allied forces got bogged down at the Winter Line; a German defensive line across Italy south of Rome. 

1944 (January 16)  --  the US Fifth Army attacked the German Gustav Line at Monte Cassino.  They did not capture Monte Cassino but General Heinrich von Vietinghoff called for reinforcements and General Kesselring transferred the 29th and 90th Panzergrenadier Divisions from Rome.

1944 (January 22)  --  in what was known as Operation Shingle, Allied forces made an amphibious landing in the area of Anzio and Nettuno, Italy.  The Allied commander was Major General John P. Lucas.  The plan was to outflank the German forces of the Winter Line and open the way to an attack on Rome.  The ensuing battle took four months to complete. 

There was little opposition at first.  Some 36,000 Allied soldiers made the landing.  The first division penetrated 3 km inland, while the third division penetrated 5 km inland. General Lucas, rather than taking the offensive as expected of him, concentrated on creating a better defensive position. 

Gen. Kesserling had twice or three times as many troops as those of the Allies.  And he called immediately for reinforcements.  He was further emboldened by the lack of any Allied offensive moves. 

1944 (January 25)  --  the German Fourteenth Army, commanded by Gen. von Mackensen, assumed control of the defense.

1944 (January 28)  --  the Germans originally planned an attack on the Allies at Anzio on this day, but they changed the date to February 1.  

1944 (January 29)  --  the Battle of Cisterna launched as part of Operation Shingle. It was a disaster with large losses for the Allies. 

1944 (January 30)  --  Gen. Lucas started a two-pronged attack on the Germans.  It had limited success, but they did not capture Cisterna. Allied reinforcements brought their strength to 100,000.

1944 (February 3-4)  --  German five-day counter-attack, but they could not break through the Allied defensive lines. 

1944 (February 18)  --  the Germans almost broke through the Allied lines. But Lucas ordered Col. William O. Darby to take command of the unit in the area and prevent any further German encroachment, (which he was able to do).    

1944 (February 23)  --  Lucas was relieved of his command; he was replaced by General Lucian Truscott. 

1944 (May 5)  --  Gen. Clark gave Gen. Truscott orders for a new offensive, code-named Buffalo, to accomplish an Allied breakout. 

1944 (May 23)  --  the offensive began on the Cisterna front. 

1944 (May 25)  --  the town of Cisterna finally fell to the Allies. 

1944 (May)  --  Allied breakthrough to Rome. 

In the four months battle, the Allied VI Corps suffered 4,400 killed, 18,000 wounded, and 6,800 prisoners/missing.  There were also 37,000 non-combat casualties.  The German 14th Army lost 5,500 killed, 17,500 wounded, and 4,500 prisoners/missing.

The offensive was largely a failure.  The resources devoted to the campaign were just  too little to deal effectively with the large number of German troops in the area.

 

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