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May 11, 1944 — Every man on Anzio could feel that they were the next to breakout

On the night of 11-12 May, the U.S. Fifth Army launched its spring offensive against the Gustav Line in the south so as to breakout and then race to liberate Rome.[1]

After the failure of the Cassino assaults in February, the Fifth Army boundary had been moved southwestward toward the coast, and the British Eighth Army took command on the Cassino front.

In the new offensive, Fifth Army attacked from its bridgehead north of the Garigliano into the hill masses between the Liri Valley and the sea; while the Eighth Army, heavily reinforced, at the same time launched its attack on the Cassino front.

Cassino and the dominant mountains to the north fell only after a week of heavy fighting, and the Eighth Army pushed on slowly up the Liri Valley against strong German opposition.

Meanwhile, after three days of stubborn fighting, Fifth Army’s two corps—the French Expeditionary Corps on the right, and II Corps on the left along the coast—broke through the Gustav Line positions and started the rapid drive northward that was not to be halted until Rome was entered on 4 June.[1]


The men heard on May 11 that their Fifth Army colleagues had launched their spring offensive, Operation Diadem, against the Gustav Line in the south. After only three days of stubborn fighting, two of the Fifth Army’s corps broke through the Gustav Line positions and started a rapid drive northward toward Rome.

By then, every man at Anzio knew it. They could feel it in their bones—they were next to break out.

Everyone was preparing—studying area maps and working on tactics in sandbox models. The men cleaned their weapons and made certain they were ready for action. Sergeants made sure everyone had bayonets, knives, hand grenades, and plenty of ammo.

This was going to be a do-or-die operation. Phil and his men were anxious to get going and get the thing over with, and yet fearful of what might happen.[2]

[1] American Forces in Action. Anzio Beachhead (22 January-25 May 1944). The Breakthrough.

[2] At First Light, page 103.

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