Common John P. Lucas, commanding the Allied troops at Anzio, has been criticized for his choice to delay the advance on Rome.
By Steve Ossad
Hitler referred to as it an “abscess.” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the chief sponsor and loudest cheerleader for the endeavor, grudgingly proclaimed it “a catastrophe.” Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, commander of the U.S. Fifth Military, described it as a “strip of hell.” American GIs, their British brothers-in-arms, and their German adversaries had extra profane and ugly descriptions, most of which might by no means cross a censor or editor’s evaluate.
The bloody four-month agony of Anzio was one of the crucial troublesome campaigns ever fought by an Anglo-American military. Regardless of its finally disappointing outcomes, it was additionally a heroic stage upon which the grim willpower, bravery, and sacrifice of Allied troopers was displayed. By Mark Clark’s calculation, multiple in 5 Medals of Honor awarded to floor troopers of the U.S. Military throughout World Struggle II went to males who fought at Anzio.
Even earlier than the top of the battle, nevertheless, arguments about duty for its disappointing consequence had begun, they usually have continued ever since. Whereas the phrases and tenor of the talk have diversified through the years, there’s one fixed aspect within the dialogue: whether or not or not the precept duty for the failure to outflank the enemy belongs to American VI Corps commander Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas or elsewhere. Ought to Lucas have moved aggressively instantly after the profitable touchdown to grab the Alban Hills and reduce the German strains of communication and provide, or was he proper to consolidate the beachhead, construct up his forces, and shield the port that was essential to his survival? As historian Martin Blumenson framed the query, had Lucas been “prudent” or just “paralyzed.”
John Lucas first gained notoriety early within the 20th century throughout a fabled episode that also stirs America’s creativeness and influenced its insurance policies and leaders for many years. Late on the night of March eight, 1916, 2nd Lt. Lucas, then machine-gun troop commander of the 13th Cavalry Regiment, acquired off the “drunkard particular,” the practice connecting his obligation station at Columbus, New Mexico, with free-wheeling El Paso, Texas, the place he had spent the earlier week enjoying within the inter-regimental polo matches. A hunch had moved him to return residence after the final match fairly than the subsequent morning. Now, bone drained, he was able to collapse in his bunk.
Yet one more chore remained. His roommate, fellow West Pointer 2nd Lt. Clarence C. Benson, had gone on maneuvers and had swiped a lot of the revolver ammunition. Lucas needed to ensure his .38 was loaded—a second hunch or maybe a premonition of hazard. He lastly drifted off to sleep properly previous midnight. At four:30 am, he was woke up by the sound of a galloping rider passing his cottage. He appeared out the window and immediately realized that Pancho Villa’s outlaws had surrounded his home and have been shifting in town.
He grabbed his pistol and took a place in the midst of the room, the place he might command the door and window. He absolutely anticipated to die however was decided to “get a number of of them earlier than they acquired me.” A sentry posted close by—who paid for his bravery together with his life—saved Lucas by capturing a bandit about to enter the bungalow. The outlaws scattered. Hurrying outdoors, Lucas joined them, counting on the darkness to cover his id. After slipping away and rallying his males, Lucas helped safe their weapons, and his troop unleashed a terrific barrage, serving to to rout the invaders out of city. Lucas emerged from the fracas a hero, however in a stroke of dangerous luck his commander’s suggestion for a Distinguished Service Cross was mishandled and he acquired no official recognition.
John Porter Lucas was born on January 14, 1890, in rural West Virginia. After commencement from West Level in 1911, he was commissioned into the cavalry. After a number of years of obligation within the Philippines, he served within the Mexican Punitive Expedition to chase down and get rid of his erstwhile nemesis, Pancho Villa. When America entered the Nice Warfare, he took command of the alerts battalion of the 33rd Division and in June 1918 was wounded in the course of the Amiens marketing campaign. Despatched again to the Uunited Staes for convalescence, he was transferred to the Subject Artillery, and for the subsequent 20 years his profession adopted the traditional sample of area and employees assignments, stints as scholar and teacher on the Military’s faculties, and glacially sluggish promotion.
As struggle preparations and the enlargement of the Military gained momentum, he was promoted to brigadier basic in 1940 and a number of other years later took command of the third Infantry Division. Because of the vigorous coaching packages he initiated throughout this era, Lucas gained a fame as one of many few senior American officers with experience in amphibious operations. He had already attracted the eye of Military Chief of Employees George C. Marshall, who described him as possessing “army stature, status, and expertise.”
Dispatched in 1943 to North Africa as a headquarters observer, Lucas returned to the USA to take over III Corps however was quickly ordered again to the Mediterranean, this time as lieutenant basic and theater commander Dwight Eisenhower’s deputy or, in his phrases, Ike’s “private consultant with the fight troops” in Sicily. After that marketing campaign and a quick task main II Corps, he relieved Maj. Gen. Ernest J. Dawley and took command of VI Corps on September 20, 1943, simply 10 days after the Allied invasion of the Italian mainland at Salerno.
Affectionately referred to as “Sugar Daddy,” “Cunning Grandpa,” or “Corncob Charlie,” Lucas carried out nicely regardless of nice difficulties, solidifying his popularity as a gentle, unflappable, and skilled fight chief. His boss, Mark Clark, noting Lucas’s efficient employment of artillery and progressive use of pack mules for provide within the impassable terrain, advised him in admiration, “You understand how to battle within the mountains.” 4 months of grueling mountain warfare, nevertheless, had exacted a excessive private value. Lucas was exhausted, dispirited, and discouraged, and he emerged from the battle “wanting far older than his 54 years.” Had his fight profession ended at this level, his place among the many small group of universally revered wartime American corps commanders would have been assured. In reality, he absolutely anticipated to be relieved and dispatched residence to a coaching command, a prospect he quietly welcomed. Occasions, nevertheless, would quickly overtake his pressing and apparent want for an extended relaxation.
By late 1943, the Italian marketing campaign had settled right into a bloody stalemate with the Allies unable to interrupt by means of the German Gustav Line north of Naples. Among the many options thought-about by the senior theater commanders, Eisenhower and 15th Military Group commander Sir Harold R.L.G. Alexander, was an amphibious operation to outflank the robust enemy defenses. The planners quickly targeted their consideration on Anzio, a small fishing and resort city on the Tyrrhenian Sea simply 32 miles south of Rome.
Numerous traits made it a horny selection. Most essential was the supply of a functioning port, first constructed by Anzio’s most well-known native son, the primary century adEmperor Nero and rebuilt on the finish of the 17th century. The Allied specialists have been sure the round facility would have the ability to maintain a serious amphibious pressure working behind enemy strains. Moreover, the encompassing terrain was appropriate for a large-scale touchdown and subsequent enlargement of the beachhead. Lastly, Anzio was nicely inside vary of Allied floor help plane based mostly close to Naples.
On November eight, 1943, Eisenhower ordered Alexander and his American subordinate, Mark Clark, commanding the U.S. Fifth Military, to start lively planning for the touchdown code named Operation Shingle and tentatively scheduled for December 20, 1943. For numerous logistical causes, that plan was quickly scrubbed however was later resurrected after a command reorganization of the Mediterranean Theater. That change shifted the decision-making initiative to the British, whose enthusiasm and strategic curiosity in operations in Italy, together with Operation Shingle, far exceeded that of their American allies. The British—impressed by Churchill—felt that the oblique strategy by means of the delicate underbelly of Nazi Germany and an important political-military goal—Rome—might greatest and most shortly be achieved by way of an amphibious touchdown at Anzio. That maneuver would scale back the strain on the primary Fifth Military entrance stalled on the fortified Gustav Line and permit a decisive breakthrough proper to the gates of the Everlasting Metropolis.
A victory would additionally reassert the significance of the British, whose international affect was quickly waning beneath the regular buildup of American and Soviet energy. Churchill wielded his appreciable affect to safe the required help, particularly scarce touchdown craft, to make a touchdown in late January attainable. He smothered any opposition to the plan by drive of character and channeled his power to encourage his senior commanders, particularly Alexander and Clark, whose reservations quickly evaporated within the face of the prime minister’s eloquent fervor.
In the course of the course of the stop-and-go planning effort, two distinct approaches to the last word goal of the touchdown had emerged. The British view was that the Anzio operation must be the primary strategic focus. Alexander believed that seizing the Alban Hills was important to chopping provide arteries to the Gustav Line and forcing a German withdrawal. Whereas he by no means issued an unequivocal order that specified his needs, his directions to Fifth Military on January 2, 1944, got here shut. Clark was instructed to “perform an assault touchdown … with the item of chopping the enemy strains of communication and threatening the rear of the German XIV Corps.” On January 12, 1944, Alexander repeated that the thing was to “minimize the enemy’s principal communications within the Colli Laziali [Alban Hills] space.”
The American view was that the primary goal ought to be forcing the Gustav Line, anchored in town of Cassino. The aim of the Anzio touchdown, subsequently, was to attract off enemy forces from the primary entrance, enhancing the potential of a breakthrough and subsequent linkup. Political strain, particularly from the British, smothered any try and reconcile the 2 views. This inherent battle of objective simply beneath the floor would assist stoke the recriminations and many years of debate that adopted the battle.
All that remained to place the plan into impact was the choice of the touchdown forces and commander. Regardless of reservations about his bodily stamina and aggressiveness, Clark shortly settled on Lucas and his American VI Corps, constructed across the U.S. third (Maj. Gen. Lucian Okay. Truscott) and British 1st (Maj. Gen. W.R.C. Penney) Infantry Divisions. Alexander expressed his settlement, describing Lucas as “one of the best American corps commander” and probably the most skilled in amphibious operations, a person in whom he had “each confidence.”
The endorsement was disingenuous. Alexander seen Lucas as he did most People, as a light-weight, and his British colleagues, most of whom have been uncomfortable with Lucas’s fashion, shared his opinion. British guests to Lucas’s headquarters described it as a “debating society” that lacked agency course, confidence, and readability of function. What his American admirers considered a prudent and deliberate nature, his English colleagues seen as “pathological slowness.” One younger officer thought that they have been “commanded by an expensive previous pussy-cat.” Most troubling of all, nevertheless, was the shortage of Maj. Gen. Penney’s confidence.
Whereas Clark’s selection of Lucas was affordable on its face and never controversial, it was definitely not inspiring. Stolid, methodical, cautious, and cautious, Lucas was nobody’s concept of the aggressive, decisive commander suited to a determined enterprise and more likely to be confronted with many harmful selections alongside the best way. Small in stature, sluggish of gait, and searching very very similar to a village librarian or accountant, he was already visibly previous at 54. Simply eight days earlier than the touchdown, he marked his birthday, writing in his diary, “I’m afraid I really feel yearly of it,” and a British soldier famous that he acted as if he have been “10 years older than Father Christmas.”
From the beginning, Lucas was brazenly skeptical of the Anzio plan and believed he lacked the lads and ships to conduct a profitable touchdown, maintain the beachhead, and mount a critical menace to the German rear. Technically, the mission was particularly formidable. As a joint American-British enterprise, the particular logistical issues of an amphibious operation have been much more difficult than regular. He was particularly postpone by the bravura and overconfidence of the British, notably Churchill and Alexander. The specter of the 1915 catastrophe on the Dardanelles, of which the prime minister had been the chief proponent, haunted Lucas, as the overall’s diary makes plain: “The entire affair has a robust odor of Gallipoli and apparently the identical newbie was nonetheless on the coach’s bench.”
Additional, there had not been sufficient time to plan and put together, as a disastrous rehearsal on January 19, 1944, made plain. Lucas’s entreaties for extra time have been summarily rebuffed, and he felt that his superiors knew greater than they have been revealing, writing in his diary, “Apparently everybody was in on the key of the German intentions besides me…. I want the upper ranges [of command] weren’t so overoptimistic.” Lucas’s instinct was vindicated with the a lot later revelation of the position Extremely intelligence performed within the overconfidence of the Allied excessive command.
Regardless of his reservations, apprehensions, and fears, nevertheless, Lucas was a disciplined skilled and ready himself for the duty with grim resolve. The outline of a well-known dinner simply earlier than the landings illustrates his fatalism within the face of the overall consensus of what lay forward. George Patton, a pal and admirer of Lucas, warned him that he was being handed a suicidal mission and was virtually sure to face catastrophe and even dying. Lucas replied in his folksy method, “I’m only a poor working-class woman making an attempt to get forward.” What he meant, in fact, was clear to the attendees; he was knowledgeable soldier and would perform his orders regardless of how misguided or unimaginable they could be.
These orders have been, actually, deceptively easy: first, set up and shield a beachhead after which “advance on” the hills. The selection of phrases of the second a part of the mission was deliberately obscure. What does “advance on” truly imply? Does it imply, “advance towards” or “advance all the best way to”—additionally implying the seize of the heights? The number of phrases was described on the time as calculated and the results of a lot evaluation. Clark justified it by the will to supply Lucas a measure of flexibility in mild of uncertainty concerning the scale and depth of the German response.
A confidential dialogue on January 12, 1944, between Lucas and Clark’s operations officer, Brig. Gen. Donald W. Brann, advised that a lot of the Fifth Military employees believed VI Corps would have its arms full simply establishing and defending the beachhead. Though Brann’s briefing included recommendation from Clark that Lucas shouldn’t “stick his neck out,” the tactical selections have been left to VI Corps. In probably the most telling sign of all, throughout his go to to the beachhead on D-Day, Clark reminded Lucas once more that his personal aggressiveness at Salerno had almost led to catastrophe.
At 0200 hours on January 22, 1944, VI Corps landed on the seashores of Anzio and Nettuno. It was, arguably, probably the most stunningly profitable amphibious touchdown throughout World Warfare II. Even the skeptical Lucas thought so. Attaining full tactical shock and nearly unopposed, VI Corps landed virtually 50,000 troops, 5,200 automobiles, and most of its heavy weapons with the lack of lower than 150 males killed, wounded, or lacking. Two German battalions have been shortly destroyed, and for 48 hours there have been nearly no opposing enemy forces confronting the beachhead. Throughout that point, Lucas achieved all his preliminary aims, establishing a beachhead that was seven miles deep.
Greater than glad with the outcomes and feeling as if he had gained an excellent victory towards all the chances, Lucas dug in and waited for extra males, tanks, heavy weapons, and provides to strengthen his maintain on the beachhead and port. He restricted his offensive operations to small-scale patrols and reconnaissance and made no vital advance towards the Alban Hills. Throughout one ferocious German bombing raid on the port, Lucas displayed nice private braveness for which he was awarded the Silver Star. Regardless of the anticipated difficulties, Lucas had presided over a tactical triumph, and Clark and Alexander appeared to concur together with his selections.
The Germans, nevertheless, had not been idle, and the initiative and temper at headquarters, quickly shifted towards them. Their buildup of forces reverse the beachhead exceeded expectations, and Lucas’s belated makes an attempt on the finish of January to maneuver out from the beachhead met bloody failure reverse the American strains at Cisterna and on the different finish of the touchdown seashore the place the British desperately and futilely tried to carry a small group of buildings shortly dubbed “the manufacturing unit.”
Because the stalemate continued to deepen with mounting losses, the erosion of confidence in Lucas grew. He not often left his command submit, and a Maginot Line mentality quickly developed among the many senior employees. At one convention, Lucas appeared confused and forgot the identify of the essential hills dominating the terrain. In a convention with newsmen he brazenly praised the German preventing spirit, seemingly oblivious of the impression such a press release may need on his males’s morale. Clearly a change was required.
The unique plan had referred to as for Clark to show over Fifth Military to Lucas after Rome had been taken so the previous might step as much as Military Group command, however that was now unattainable. The Allied excessive command, nevertheless, was reluctant to alleviate Lucas proper in the midst of a determined battle. This was not the one time earlier than or after that such a calculation delayed a much-needed change of command. After the disastrous Ranger-led assault on Cisterna on the finish of January and the German counterattack, nevertheless, the strain mounted. Lucas needed to go. On February 23, 1944, as Basic Eberhard von Mackensen’s Fourteenth Military counterattack misplaced momentum, Maj. Gen. Truscott, the aggressive commander of the third Infantry Division, took over VI Corps on the open insistence of Alexander.
Months of exhausting preventing adopted till the Allies lastly broke by means of the Gustav Line and marched into Rome on June 5, 1944. Even that victory was scant reward for all of the struggling. The Normandy landings utterly overshadowed the occasion, robbing Clark of glory and Churchill of his strategic and political victory. The price of Anzio had been horrible; Allied losses have been estimated at 7,000 killed in motion, 36,000 wounded and lacking, and one other 44,000 noncombat casualties. Area Marshall Albert Kesselring estimated the Germans had misplaced 5,000 killed and 34,000 wounded and lacking.
Lucas was promoted to deputy commander of Fifth Military after which quietly despatched house, the place he carried out nicely in a collection of coaching instructions. His profession was not formally marked with a failure, and his superiors, particularly Clark, tried to spare his emotions and had solely constructive feedback about his efficiency. The judgment of historical past, nevertheless, has not been so beneficiant, and opinions have diversified whereas the extent of depth surrounding the talk has not. Lucas died an exhausted and disenchanted man in 1949 on the age of 59. Till the top of his life he believed that he had been given an unimaginable activity after which deserted—betrayed will not be too robust an outline—by his superiors. His diary is filled with self-justification and provides a bitter commentary on the battle and his notion of the perfidy of those that ordered him to do the unattainable.
Within the years since, two factors of view have emerged. The aggressive faculty of thought posits that Lucas ought to have gone for the Alban Hills and Rome, if not instantly, definitely inside the first few days of the touchdown. Even the Germans have been stunned by his lack of aggressiveness. On the very least, he ought to have mounted a reputable menace by taking a number of goals past the beachhead. The prudent evaluation is that the mission was flawed from the start, taking and holding the hills have been past the capabilities of VI Corps, and Lucas did what was essential to protect the beachhead. Whatever the solutions to the lingering questions, there are all the time classes in failure. What have been they?
First, the selection of a subject commander for a troublesome mission ought to by no means be based mostly on expedience, political acceptability, or the trail of least resistance. It have to be based mostly on health for command, a radical understanding of the mission and its necessities, and a perception in its possibilities for fulfillment. Mark Clark ought to have realized that Lucas was exhausted and each bodily and mentally unfit for the trials of an amphibious touchdown behind enemy strains. If he didn’t, then he was both negligent or willfully ignored the potential penalties of his selection. Additional, Lucas had been frank in his criticism of the idea of the operation, its timetable, allocation of assets, and its possibilities for fulfillment. He did every thing in need of publicly predicting a catastrophe and was clearly saying (in so many phrases) that he must be reassigned.
Second, whereas Lucas was a poor selection for command, the failure of the operation can’t be laid at his ft. Nobody might have completed the mission. Why? For one factor, it’s nonetheless not clear what the mission was. On the degree of operational aims, there was a elementary disconnect among the many objectives of the British, the People, and the army realities within the subject. Every Ally had a unique and primarily contradictory view of the operation and its function. The British hoped to drive the collapse of the Gustav Line by slicing the strains of communication on the hills. The touchdown was, subsequently, the primary effort. The People needed to divert the Germans from their assault on the Gustav Line, draw off forces, and ease the best way for the drive throughout the Rapido River and past, which Clark considered the primary effort. The last-minute cancellation of a scheduled paratroop drop on the Alban Hills should have appeared to Lucas much more proof that the excessive command didn’t view the hills as an goal for which extreme dangers ought to be taken.
Third, whatever the goal, the touchdown was doomed from the beginning. The trouble was far too weak to mount a decisive blow—or perhaps a credible menace—towards the German strains of communication, nor was it robust sufficient to ease the best way for the drive towards Cassino. As Lucas himself famous, the touchdown of two divisions was not more likely to ship the Germans operating in a panic, notably since Clark had made no progress in denting the Gustav Line, supposedly a needed precondition for the touchdown.
Even a cursory take a look at a map makes it obvious that the sheer mass of the target would have required many occasions the dimensions of the pressure that was dedicated. The compromise, actually the failure to agree on a single goal, resulted in two extensively separated efforts, every incapable of mutual help and neither robust sufficient to do its job. Compounding this primary confusion about the primary goal of the touchdown have been the respective attitudes of the Allies. The British have been overconfident and overoptimistic, cheered on by Churchill. The People have been unenthusiastic and skeptical. The irony is that the Gustav Line collapsed solely after the frontal assault that Anzio was alleged to keep away from. By that point, tens of hundreds of troopers had paid the worth.
Fourth, the failure of 15th Military Group and Fifth Military to succeed in settlement on the marketing campaign goal is dangerous sufficient, however Clark’s ambiguous orders to Lucas—“advance on” the Alban Hills—have been inexcusable. Whereas supposedly designed to permit freedom of maneuver, the unofficial private briefing delivered by Brig. Gen. Brann firstly of the marketing campaign left little doubt that Lucas was not anticipated to behave aggressively. When a bloody stalemate ensued, Lucas was caught between Alexander’s frustration and Clark’s indecision and ultimately turned the sufferer of his superiors’ conflicting expectations and ambitions.
A good evaluation must conclude that that the Allies couldn’t have taken and held the Alban Hills. That they had neither the assets nor the unity of command needed for such an formidable objective. Had Lucas moved aggressively inside the first few days, he may need taken a number of of the goals alongside the best way, comparable to Cisterna and Albano, heightening the menace to the German rear. Which may fairly be thought-about the least widespread denominator within the divergent British and American ideas of the operation. Whether or not even that achievement would have been decisive or prevented the massacre that resulted is way from clear.
The place, then, does the last word duty lie for the failure at Anzio? As within the earlier case of Basic Lloyd Fredendall in the course of the North African marketing campaign, the reply have to be sought at a degree greater than the sector commander. The lads liable for the Mediterranean Theater—Clark, and particularly Alexander, bear the main duty. They picked the improper man for the job, gave him primarily unimaginable orders, and refused to take duty when the inevitable catastrophe materialized. Maybe worst of all, they allowed an honorable soldier to bear the disgrace of their failure.
Within the last evaluation, the operation ought to by no means have been mounted. The excessive command ought to have directed its energies to a extra artistic plan for breaching the Gustav Line slightly than the sacrifice it precipitated. In fact, that’s straightforward to conclude in hindsight, however the reality stays that Anzio was a mistake, paid for in blood, and blamed on an honorable man.
As distinct from the aid of Fredendall after Kasserine, nevertheless, the difficulty was not the competence of the person chosen. At Anzio, Alexander and Clark—and their political masters who ratified their selections—chosen a reliable however exhausted soldier and hurled him right into a grueling and bitter struggle beneath the worst potential circumstances. It’s exhausting on reflection to know how they failed to acknowledge Lucas’s diminished situation. The standard rationalization—nobody observed he seemed previous, exhausted, and spent as a result of he all the time seemed that means—isn’t persuasive. By the point they might not ignore the consequences of their mistake and it was inconceivable to keep away from the need of a change of command, the battle had reached a essential second, and the quick aid of Lucas would have raised critical morale points. A poor determination led to indecision and much more struggling.
Had Lucas been dispatched to America after the Salerno operation, he would have been considered a serious World Conflict II hero. As an alternative, he turned deeply enmeshed in one of many bloodiest battles of the warfare and in a bitter historic debate. Nonetheless, there’s something primarily sympathetic about Lucas, and his destiny is heavy with irony. As knowledgeable soldier he had no selection however to hold out an order he considered unimaginable, and he was absolutely ready to die within the try.
The one different choice would have been to say no the task and ask to be relieved, thus ending a distinguished profession beneath a cloud. John Lucas, who had confronted Pancho Villa alone, barefoot, and in the dead of night, was not ready to try this.
Writer Steve Ossad’s biography of Common Omar Bradley shall be revealed by the College of Missouri Press. He resides in New York Metropolis.