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Wednesday, August 5, 2015 ..:: OPERATION AVALANCHE: THE LANDING AT SALERNO ::.. Register  Login
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The Battlefield Today



 Many controversies surround the Italian campaign – missed opportunities, rivalries, flawed decisions. It was seen by some as a sideshow to the battles in NW Europe, and yet it still played an important role in the final German defeat. It was fought over difficult and demanding terrain and often in harsh weather conditions. It was also an immensely costly campaign and, during our tour, we will take the opportunity at the war cemeteries we visit to pay tribute to the fighting spirit and the sacrifices made in Italy during WW2.

For group and individual personalized battlefield tour in Salerno, Caserta and sorroundings area please enquire:




Salerno is today a busy commercial Port but for the undiscerned eye there are many traces of WWII which can be easily identified. The town of Salerno was badly dameged in September 1943 but not completely destroyed so many buildings are exactly the same, traces of the landing are visible every bench of the road with German fortifications, bukers adpted to other use, it wouldn't be difficult for people who fought here to recognize them.


The Carnale Fort at Salerno

The fort dating to 1563 was part of a defensive system against the Saracen invasions. According to historians the name was given to the fort following a Saracen massacre which took place on the headland in 872. Originally the fort stood on the headland but following the construction of the Highway 18, it was cut back. The presence of iron in the walls and its position lead one to believe it was a so called “cavalry tower". Men on horseback who lived in the tower would warn the towns people in case of attack. Around about the 1600s the tower was used by Ippolito from Pastena as a base during the anti Spanish revolt against the french invasion, thereby preventing Salerno from surrendering. During the Second World War, the fort was used as a gun post by the Germans; traces of the fortifications and bunkers still exist today.

     The Duke of Wellington and the hill of the Pimple

Captain Herny Valerian George Wellesley, 6th Duke of Wellington who died on 16 September 1943 at Salerno age 31. He was in charge of 2 troop with orders to attack and take the village of Piegolelle. This was heavily defended by the Germans firing from the heights called 'the Pimple'. He was killed during this action. Today is possible to visit the battleground where he was killed with special pre-arrangements.

The mouth of the River Sele

The Sele is a river in southwestern Italy. Originating from the Monti Picentini in Caposele, it flows through the region of Campania, in the provinces of Salerno and Avellino. Its mouth is in the Gulf of Salerno on Tyrrhenian Sea, at the borders between the municipalities of Eboli and Capaccio (not too far from Paestum).
The river Sele was the natural border and devided the two Allied Beach Heads: The X Briish Corps was to land north of River Sele with two divisions, the 46th and 56th Infantry Division; and US 6th Corps south of that river with one, the 36th Infantry Division. American Rangers and British Commandos were to secure the northern flanks. Floating reserve consisted of two regional combat teams of the US 45th Infantry Division.  


The tower of Paestum

 A medieval watch-tower, is a 50-foot stone structure with excellent view of the VI Corps beaches. From the balcony at its top German machine gunners and snipers fired on the troops of the 36th Division. 


The Temples of Paestum

US Army troops camped among the ruins of the ancient Greek Temple of Hera at Paestum. The greek temples of Paestum, built by the Greek Colonists around 6th centry BC, are the best preserved in Europe and a major tourist attraction.

The Tobacco Factory at Fiocche


The Tobacco factory at Fiocche, in the American sector, 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 Commonwealth War Cemetery at Pontecagnano

The War Cemetery lies between Battipaglia and Pontecagnano on the north side of the main SS18 coast road, leading south from Salerno. Salerno War Cemetery contains 1,846 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 107 of them unidentified. One casualty of the First World War is also commemorated in the cemetery by special memorial, his grave in a local civil cemetery having been lost. During our tour, we will take the opportunity to pay tribute to the fighting spirit and the sacrifices made in Italy during WW2 and among them is buried HENRY Valerian George, 6th Duke of Wellington, (London 14 July 1912-k.a. Salerno 16 September 1943).   


 Slideshow: Salerno Battlefield Tour Minimize




 The LANDING at Salerno - 9th September 1943


The Invasion of the Italian Mainland.

Naples was the original target, but was out of range for fighter aircraft based in Sicily and very difficult to assault. Allied planners therefore decided on Operation AVALANCHE, the first landing in Italy, at Salerno, fifty miles south of Naples, within fighter range and relatively lightly defended. First, however, German forces in Calabria, the toe of the Italian boot, would have to be confronted.

At 0430 on 3 September 1943, British and Canadian troops of the Eighth Army under General Bernard Montgomery executed Operation BAYTOWN, crossing the Strait of Messina into Calabria.

The Badoglio government, in response to an Allied ultimatum, signed a secret armistice agreement on 3 September, the day of the BAYTOWN landings. On 8 September 1943, formal announcement of the Italian surrender was made. The Germans quickly disarmed the Italians and took control of the defense of the Italian peninsula. Hitler gave Field Marshal Albert Kesselring responsibility for defending southern Italy.

On 9 September, in a hastily planned operation named SLAPSTICK, with the collaboration of the Italians, 3,600 men of the British 1st Paratroop Division landed unopposed at the port of Taranto in the Italian heel.

BAYTOWN went smoothly. Supported by a secure chain of supply, and capitalizing on German withdrawals, Eighth Army slowly cleared the toe of the Italian boot and by 14 September was moving up the Italian east coast. The Salerno landing, on 9 September, in conjunction with the Italian capitulation, drew German forces northward away from Eighth Army.

The main effort in the invasion of the Italian mainland was Operation AVALANCHE, at Salerno, where the US Fifth Army under General Mark W. Clark came ashore. Fifth Army was composed of the U.S. VI Corps, the British X Corps and the US 82nd Airborne Division, a total of about nine divisions. The plan called for Clark's Fifth Army to come ashore and eventually link up with Montgomery's British Eighth Army advancing north from BAYTOWN. Its primary objectives were to seize the port of Naples to ensure resupply, and to cut across to the east coast, trapping the Axis troops further south.
In the early morning hours of 9 September, the approximately 450 ships of Operation AVALANCHE assembled off the Salerno coast. Elements had sailed from Sicily and from Tripoli, Oran, and Bizerte in North Africa, some at sea as early as 5 and 6 September. To achieve surprise, there was no preliminary naval or aerial bombardment.
U.S. Rangers hit the beach unopposed at 0310, twenty minutes in advance of the main assault force, moving quickly inland to seize their objectives. British Commandos captured the town of Salerno against light opposition. The British X Corps landed under a heavy naval bombardment, meeting significant opposition as its soldiers fought their way inland. The untested men of the U.S. 36th Infantry Division came ashore at 0330 without supporting fire, hoping to surprise the Germans. Although the leading elements took heavy casualties, all six waves of the 36th Division assault element were on the beach by 0610. The Americans encountered small but intense resistance as they fought their way off the beaches. German Luftwaffe attacks against the beachhead were driven off by dawn as Allied aircraft from Sicily and supporting carriers appeared.

Germans Regroup after the Allied Landings in Italy.

While the AVALANCHE invasion force was moving ashore at Salerno, German forces in southern Italy, as planned, were conducting a deliberate withdrawal northward away from the Eighth Army landings. German General Vietinghoff was ordered to contain the Salerno beachhead until reinforced, to prevent a link up of the Allies. At first, Vietinghoff believed he could push the invasion force into the sea. Eighth Army was still 120 miles to the south beyond difficult terrain. Montgomery had halted his advance on 9 September for two days, buying more time for the German counterattacks at Salerno. The Allied positions were becoming overextended, and by 13 December the U.S. Army 36th Infantry Division was occupying a 35-mile front, much broader than a full-strength division was expected to defend. The Germans rapidly reinforced the battle area, and the Allied situation continued to deteriorate.
During 12 to 14 September, the Germans attacked the entire Allied Salerno front, searching for weaknesses, hoping to throw the beachhead into the sea before it could link with the Eighth Army. Although heavy casualties were endured by the thinly spread Allied units, the German efforts were unsuccessful. The outer perimeter of the Allied position was withdrawn, to make a more compact defense. Allied heavy bombers were diverted from strategic targets in Germany, to attack German positions and interdict German units and supplies flowing toward the beachhead. A fierce defense plus the naval, strategic and tactical air support kept the Germans from reaching the beach, although they came close in some areas.
Allied reinforcements came in by parachute drop and by further landings on the beaches. By the evening of 14 September, with more supplies ashore and reinforcements arriving, the crisis had passed. On 15 September, with the British Eighth Army still some fifty miles to the south, Kesselring ordered a final effort against the beachhead. But his attacks on 15 and 16 September failed, the Allies could not be dislodged. Kesselring directed German forces to begin an orderly delaying action and a withdrawal north.


Concluding the Campaign in Southern Italy.

With the Salerno beachhead fully secure, the Fifth Army could begin to attack northwards. The Allies gathered their strength in anticipation of the attack toward Naples. From 9 September through 1 October, 190,000 troops, 30,000 vehicles, and 120,000 tons of supplies came ashore across the Salerno beach. The remainder of the British 7th Armoured Division, the U.S. 3d Infantry Division, and the last of General Ridgway's 82d Airborne Division disembarked along with the supplies which would facilitate the attack northward.
The Eighth Army had been making quick progress from the 'toe' in the face of German delaying actions. It united its front with the Fifth Army on 16 September, and captured the airfields near Foggia, on the east coast, on 27 September. These would give the Allied air forces the ability to strike new targets in France, Germany and the Balkans. The Fifth Army captured Naples on 1 October (the first major European city to be liberated during WW II), and reached the line of the Volturno River on October 6th. This provided a natural barrier, securing Naples, the Campainian Plain and the vital airfields on it from counterattack. Meanwhile the British Eighth Army had advanced to a line from Larino to Campobasso. The whole of southern Italy was now in Allied hands, and the drive northward could begin.
The capture of Naples and the Foggia airfield formally ended Operation AVALANCHE. The Allies suffered approximately 12,500 casualties (2,000 killed, 7,000 wounded, and 3,500 missing). Foggia, captured intact, would soon be used by Allied bombers.


The Italian Campaign After the Invasion of Southern Italy.

The Germans staged a fighting withdrawal and settled into a strong defensive position at the Winter Line, a set of three defensive perimeters of interlocking bunkers and fortifications that sealed off southern Italy. The formidable and sophisticated defensive belt of interlocking positions on the high ground along the Italian peninsula's narrowest point stopped the Allied advance. Both the west coast route and the Route 6 central mountain route blocked by the Germans. In late 1943, after a fierce battle at San Pietro, a stalemate developed that would not be broken until after the battles of Monte Cassino and the breakout from Anzio.


 1943 Pictures from the past Minimize

Riflemen from the 143rd Infantry Regiment, 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. infantrymen push past the Temple of Neptune at Paestum, center of the American sector during the landings around Salerno Bay. Still among the grandest complexes of Doric temples outside Athens, Paestum had been a 6th-century b.c. Greek colony, famed in antiquity for roses and violets.



The Tobacco factory at Fiocche, in the American sector, 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.







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