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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Spring Offensive in Italy

9 April to 2 May 1945

Theatre: Mediterranean
Location: Northern Italy
Players: Allies: Lieutenant-General Richard McCreery's 8th Army (consisting of 5th Corps, 10th Corps, 13th Corps and 2nd Polish Corps); General Lucian Truscott's US 5th Army (consisting of 2nd Corps and 4th Corps). Axis: General Traugott Herr's German 10th Army; General Joachim Lemelsen's 14th Army.
Outcome: The unconditional surrender of German forces in Italy.

A soldier throws a hand grenade while attempting to clear an Italian town of remaining German forces
A soldier throws a hand grenade while attempting to clear an Italian town of remaining German forces©
The final offensive of the Italian campaign found the German forces in naturally favourable positions: the east of their line was protected by the Apennines, the west by an expanse of flooded land.

The German strategy was to stall the Allies while preparing for their withdrawal north across the River Po. However, German mobility was limited, both by fuel shortages and by orders from Hitler to stand fast.

Following General Harold Alexander's promotion to Field Marshal, General Mark Clark now commanded Italian operations and Truscott had the US 5th Army command. Clark launched a massive and daring attack on 9 April 1945. Following aerial and artillery bombardment, British, Polish, Indian and New Zealand 8th Army troops attacked the centre of the German line and pushed it north west, towards Bologna.

Meanwhile, the British 56th Division attacked in the east through partially flooded terrain, making innovative use of amphibious vehicles.

On 14 April Truscott's 5th Army attacked the west of the line in the eastern Apennines. Six days later, 5th Army cut the road west of Bologna; on 21 April Bologna fell to the Poles of 8th Army.

The two armies met at the village of Finale, north of Bologna, on 23 April. Two days later, 5th Corps crossed the River Po, cutting off the German retreat. The Germans surrendered on 2 May.

Innovative tactics, an efficient combination of infantry and artillery, and the courage and perseverance of two battle wearied armies brought the Italian campaign to a victorious end.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.


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