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(1939-1945) WWII
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George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10976
Fall of Rome
Posted on: 6/5/2020 1:41:26 PM

June 4, 1944

The blood of allied troops including Brits, Americans, New Zealanders, South Africans, Poles and Canadians was spilled on the approaches to Rome.

And on June 4, the Americans were the first to enter a city that had been abandoned by the Germans. There was some controversy over the entry of the Americans as the British and Canadians and the French were very close to Rome as well. The Americans were at Valmontone and the Canadians were at Anangi on June 3. Everyone wanted the opportunity to enter Rome first.





The liberation won the new cycle for a couple of days and then, D-day. Forgotten.

How important was the liberation of Rome? Was it tactically or strategically significant?
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Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4652
Fall of Rome
Posted on: 6/5/2020 3:55:29 PM

George,

Very important for the inflated ego of Mark Clark, if folklore is correct !

There was a surplus of prima donnas in that theatre of war.

He gave priority to the symbolic and prestigious prize of the Eternal City, and in so doing allowed the German army to escape and consolidate to the North.

Not a good move.

Regards , Phil



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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10976
Fall of Rome
Posted on: 6/5/2020 4:37:54 PM

Phil, how much influence did Alexander have on Mark Clark?

As well, so the saying goes, "all roads lead to Rome" and it was certainly a bit crowded as British, French, Canadian (with South Africans attached) headed toward the eternal city.

I recall that the Canadians were all excited about heading to Rome and then disappointed when they were pulled out just past Frosinone into reserve. That would have been on June 3 and by that time the US forces had occupied the hills to the south of Rome (Alban Hills???).

Was it in the plans that Clark would take Rome or was it a race and whomever was closest would enter?

Cheers,

George
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Brian Grafton
Victoria
BC Canada
Posts: 3204
Fall of Rome
Posted on: 6/5/2020 10:50:50 PM

Oh, Phil, how right you are. I haven't spent a great deal of time on the Italian Campaign, so I may not be right up to scratch on current thinking. But even the kindest of studies mention Mark Clark's ego – how he knew his "good" profile for the cameras and how his decisions and despatches often were somewhat skewed.

That said, I can't recall anyone coming out and saying "he was a bad, incompetent, dangerous commander". Even Rick Atkinson, in The Day of Battle, while talking of his ego and the impact it may have had on relations with other self-centred commanders in Italy, never actually said he was incompetent.

IIUC, it was not only the taking of Rome he was concerned about, but also the taking of Rome before the Normandy landings.

So, we had our Montys and our Pattons and our Clarks and MacArthurs; we had our Harrises and our Mountbattens and Halseys and de Gaulles. The Germans had their share of prima donnas as well. Whether the Japanese did is a different matter, except when considering Tojo; largely, It was not ego but "face" that was at issue. And I'm certain those Marshalls of the USSR who survived long enough to turn the tide received not just adulation but probably more tangible gifts from a thankful nation.

I wouldn't have wanted to sail under Mountbatten (I know someone who did) or under Halsey (a great cheerleader, but no evident sense of tactics!) I would rather serve under George C. Scott than Gen. Patton. But aren't they the very kind of men we need as combat leaders? Charismatic; larger than life; almost bigger than death?

Interesting turn in a thread. Thanks to both you and George for adding spice!

Cheers, and stay safe,
Brian G
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"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly. "The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4652
Fall of Rome
Posted on: 6/6/2020 4:40:45 AM

More enthusiasm than knowledge on my part.....what an interesting campaign !

George, you mention the Allied contingents that fought in Italy, but I would like to add that one of the most distinguished cohorts was General Juin’s French Corps that relied on the skills of its Algerian and Moroccan soldiers who knew how to fight in mountains. They were perhaps the most successful, and the least acknowledged, of all Allied troops who fought in Italy . There was an unedifying problem with allegations of rape......North African men were said to have been notoriously licentious : but their martial achievement was spectacular in the hardest terrain and in the face of desperate resistance . I’ve read that they, more than anyone else, broke the German resistance in the battles of May and June 1944.

There was even a Brazilian presence in this campaign.

Mark Clark had a reputation for outstanding physical courage.

Forgive me if I pitch in random impressions rather than disciplined narrative. I would like to do proper justice to your cogent and informed comments, George and Brian, so I’d better do some more reading !

In the meantime, as the son of a “D-Day Dodger” - as you are, too, George ? - let me say how much I look forward to continuing this thread.


Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4652
Fall of Rome
Posted on: 6/6/2020 3:40:38 PM

Lo and behold ....some wonderful lockdown reading - BRITAIN’S WAR : A NEW WORLD 1942-1947.

This is magisterial , and quite a challenge, about one thousand pages, being the second part of Dan Todman’s tour de force on the Second World War.

It’s not so much a military history, as a survey of social, economic and diplomatic aspects, with enormous geo political expanse and, I have to say, it’s quite a lot to swallow. I’ve been reading it relentlessly , but have only got half way through.

It cites a lot of vignettes from Mass Observation, and gives you a real feeling for how the British people were perceiving events.

It certainly doesn’t eschew the story of the battlefield , and the military content is always balanced and discerning .

Here’s what Todman has to say about the subject of this thread :

...General Clark directed the Anzio breakout towards Rome rather than to block Kesselring’s retreat. Contrary to accusations of glory hunting often levelled at Clark, this was quite a sensible military decision to protect the flank of the Allied exploitation as the German Tenth Army disintegrated. With the troops that escaped, however, Kesselring was able to reorganise his defences to the north of Rome.

It seem that I must keep a more open mind !

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10976
Fall of Rome
Posted on: 6/6/2020 4:23:37 PM

Phil, there are too many entries in Clark's diary that indicate:

1. He was angry that Alexander kept telling him that the goal was to block the retreat of the Germans and to trap the 10th Army and destroy them.

2. He disagreed with Alexander's assessment that cutting Hwy 6 leading to Rome was more important than Rome itself.

3. That he was a publicity hound and often expressed that he was concerned that his pursuit of glory could reflect badly on him if he wasn't careful.

As a pretext for ignoring Alexander's orders, Clark would say that Alexander's insistence on cutting off the Hwy. 6 retreat was stupid because there were other routes to the north like the highway out of Frosinone. Alexander seemed to feel that the Germans would have to use Hwy 6 if they hoped to escape an entrapment.

Is it true that in a meeting with Alexander, Clark threatened to fire upon British troops should they try to enter Rome ahead of his 5th Army?

Clark was paranoid about the British 8th and felt that it wanted Rome and was prepared to race to get. But I haven't found evidence of that.

I did read something in a PHD thesis (I'll try to find it) that Alexander felt that the US 5th Army was in the best position to take Rome once the axis of advance had secured Hwy 6 and cut the Germans off. Rome could fall after that was done.

So is there evidence that the British hoped to liberate Rome?

Cheers,

George
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Brian Grafton
Victoria
BC Canada
Posts: 3204
Fall of Rome
Posted on: 6/6/2020 6:24:57 PM

The first volume of Todman's series, IIRC, is titled Britain's War: Into Battle 1937-1941. I'm waiting for the vols to come out either in inexpensive editions or as ebooks, but the two reviews I've read of Todman's works have been very positive.

Cheers, and stay safe,
Brian G
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"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly. "The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4652
Fall of Rome
Posted on: 6/7/2020 3:08:13 AM

Quote:
The first volume of Todman's series, IIRC, is titled Britain's War: Into Battle 1937-1941. I'm waiting for the vols to come out either in inexpensive editions or as ebooks, but the two reviews I've read of Todman's works have been very positive.

Cheers, and stay safe,
Brian G


Brian,

Let me say, without a hint of exaggeration , that when I’ve been reading this Todman epic, a thought recurs ....... Brian Grafton would like this !

I bought mine on Kindle, and it probably cost me the same as a bottle of rather good wine. I feel a bit naughty going straight to the second book and not reading “ Into Battle”.

George,

Clark’s diary entries seem to bear out the charge levied against him. My only caveat is to mention that passages from Haig’s diary indicate that he sought refuge in letting off steam : he put things in writing that he might have used in a cathartic way.....nasty comments about the French being paramount. He said dreadful things about them, yet his actions belied his words, and he was a first rate coalitionist. Interesting that Clark acknowledged his own glory seeking impulse....a man that can see himself from the outside, so to speak.

Editing : Perhaps Clark’s diary was his version of the “ Memento Mori” function of the slave whispering in the victor’s ear in the Roman Triumph ! It would certainly have had a nice antiquarian ring to it as Clark enjoyed his laurel leaf crown moment on the Fourth of June 1944.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
scoucer
Berlin
 Germany
Posts: 2778
Fall of Rome
Posted on: 6/12/2020 2:59:57 PM

Quote:


George,

Clark’s diary entries seem to bear out the charge levied against him. My only caveat is to mention that passages from Haig’s diary indicate that he sought refuge in letting off steam : he put things in writing that he might have used in a cathartic way.....nasty comments about the French being paramount. He said dreadful things about them, yet his actions belied his words, and he was a first rate coalitionist. Interesting that Clark acknowledged his own glory seeking impulse....a man that can see himself from the outside, so to speak.

Editing : Perhaps Clark’s diary was his version of the “ Memento Mori” function of the slave whispering in the victor’s ear in the Roman Triumph ! It would certainly have had a nice antiquarian ring to it as Clark enjoyed his laurel leaf crown moment on the Fourth of June 1944.

Regards, Phil


Memoirs. I love these thoughts you drop into threads Phil that open up complicated lines of thought.

Trevor
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`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.
scoucer
Berlin
 Germany
Posts: 2778
Fall of Rome
Posted on: 6/12/2020 3:07:08 PM

Quote:


Here’s what Todman has to say about the subject of this thread :

...General Clark directed the Anzio breakout towards Rome rather than to block Kesselring’s retreat. Contrary to accusations of glory hunting often levelled at Clark, this was quite a sensible military decision to protect the flank of the Allied exploitation as the German Tenth Army disintegrated. With the troops that escaped, however, Kesselring was able to reorganise his defences to the north of Rome.

It seem that I must keep a more open mind !

Regards, Phil


Travelled the area extensively. Load of rubbish. Somebody is making up excuses for somebody. Highway 6 is the only major road north. There is no other military decision to make.

Trevor
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`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4652
Fall of Rome
Posted on: 6/13/2020 4:38:08 PM

It makes you wonder why Todman would defy traditional narrative and excuse Clark’s glory seeking, doesn’t it, Trevor ?

I note that Todman is generally complimentary about Montgomery , although he does acknowledge that the man could be an insufferable little squirt.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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