Italy 1943 – 1945: Blood in the mountains

Seth Gitell has a post on his father’s service in Vietnam and his grandfather’s service in Italy during World War 2. Coincidentally, my father-in-law and my wife’s grandfather served in those campaigns as well, the former in 101st Airborne and the latter in 10th Mountain Division.

The campaign in Italy isn’t exactly the forgotten war, but it is usually overshadowed by other campaigns, especially when considering that Italy was one of the three nations that made up the Axis. One of the two main reasons for the short shrift given to the Italian campaign today is probably that Italy was a weak bit player compared to Germany and Japan. The other is that the campaign wasn’t very successful. It was by and large a repeat of the Winston Churchill’s horrifically costly 1915 Gallipoli adventure, and based on the same idea of attacking the supposedly soft belly of the continental beast. There was nothing soft about the Turkish soldiers in World War I and Italy’s topography does not lend itself to dashing breakthroughs and encirclements. The allied offensive in 1944 bogged down in the Italian mountains and the battles of Anzio and Monte Cassino turned into brutal slugfests that weren’t much different from the trench warfare of World War I.

The 10th Mountain Division lost a quarter of its men as it battled its way through the Italian mountains in 1945, including almost one thousand dead.