THE WINTER LINE campaign ended in mid-January with Allied gains on both sides of the Apennines. To the east, the British Eighth Army had crossed the Sangro and Moro rivers and made a thirteen-mile advance, principally in the area near the Adriatic coast. On a thirty-five mile front, Fifth Army had forced the enemy back into his Gustav Line and reached the edge of the Liri Valley, main corridor for advance to Rome from the southeast. In both zones, a stubborn and skillful enemy had limited the Allied success, and his defense had never disintegrated; neither Fifth nor Eighth Army had been given an opportunity to make the hoped-for breakthrough, either by opening up the Liri Valley or by a northeast flanking maneuver past Ortona toward Rome.
Nevertheless, in view of difficulties faced, Fifth Army's accomplishment was notable. Measured in miles of advance the gain may not seem great for two months of fighting. But this progress had been made against an enemy who was defending with his main forces the strongest system of fortifications yet encountered in Italy. The enemy had been defeated on ground of his own choosing, whatever difficulties this ground presented. He would have plenty of opportunity, in the rugged mountains of central Italy, to stand and fight on other organized defensive systems, but the Allies had shown their determination to assault such lines, and their ability to carry them under the most adverse conditions of weather and terrain.
Winter, ideal defensive ground, and the enemy's hard fighting made the Winter Line operations not only slow but costly. Combat units paid heavily for local successes, which they could not exploit fully because reserves were never sufficient to force a breakthrough.
Fifth Army battle losses from 15 November to 15 January were 15,930 men. Over half this numberó8,844ócame from American divisions and represented a casualty rate of ten percent. Non-battle casualties were much higher, numbering nearly fifty thousand for all the American elements of Fifth Army.
Enemy strength had been even more severely taxed, the two thousand prisoners taken in this campaign by Fifth Army representing only a small part of German losses. Their local reserves had been used to the point where the Germans could not mount a counteroffensive; moreover, their defense of Rome and central Italy became
increasingly difficult, however strong the defensive lines. The value of the Allied effort and the damage done to German military strength became clearer in the course of 1944. In the larger background of the European theater, every victory by the Allies in Italy, every increase in pressure on the Germans holding the Italian front, made it less and less possible for Hitler's high command to draw from Kesselring's twenty-two divisions for reinforcement of other fronts against the mounting Allied threat. The enemy having decided to fight it out in Italy, Allied armies were waging offensive warfare calculated to make him pay a maximum price for his decision.
|INSIGNIA OF ARMY, CORPS AND DIVISIONS IN THE WINTER LINE
Insignia of the 1st, 3d, and 4th Ranger Battalions, 201 Guards Brigade, 23 Armoured Brigade, and French and Italian Forces not shown.
|II Corps||36th Division||3d Division||1st Armored Division||1st Special Service Force||82d Airborne Division|
|VI Corps||45th Division||34th Division||10 Corps||56 Division||46 Division|
ORGANIZATION OF FIFTH ARMY
(15 November 1943 - 15 January 1944)
page created 20 July 2001
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