Spearhead of the Fifth Army - the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Italy, from the Winter Line to Anzio, Frank van Lunteren

Spearhead of the Fifth Army - the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Italy, from the Winter Line to Anzio, Frank van Lunteren

This is the author’s third book on the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, following on from two that traced the same unit’s experiences in north-western Europe in 1944-45. This time he had gone back to their time in Italy, to cover the period between their arrival in Naples and the battle of Anzio. For some reason he skips over their experiences on Sicily and at Salerno, perhaps saving them for a fourth book, and begins the detailed narrative as they took part in the Allied occupation of the port of Naples. We then follow the 504th during the fighting on the approaches to the Gustav Line and the battles for the Bernhardt Line. They were then selected to take part in the landings at Anzio, and this fills the largest part of the book.

The text is based around a series of eyewitness accounts from veterans of the 504th, including one Italian volunteer, Tony Taurelli, who fought alongside the unit at Anzio and ended up settling at Nettuno! As a result the book is excellent on the day-to-day experiences of the infantry - their experiences in combat, life between the battles and so forth, and we get a really vivid picture of the constant stress inside the Anzio beachhead. This section also makes you realise just how closely entwined the US and British forces were at Anzio, with the 504th fighting alongside British units for long periods of time (this also makes General Clark’s determination to make sure that no British troops took part in the liberation of Rome even less acceptable). The one flaw in this type of book is that we are so close to the front line that it becomes difficult to get a grip on the wider picture.

The most valuable part of this book is the section on Anzio, giving a really vivid picture of the fighting within the beachhead, even after the main German attacks had ended and the battle had entered the ‘siege’ period.

1 - Entering a Ghost Town: Naples, September 28-October 25, 1943
2 -Across the Matese Mountains: Valle Agricola, Letino, and Gallo, October 26-November 3, 1943
3 - Conquering the Volturno Valley: Macchia, Fornelli, Isernia, November 4-8, 1943
4 - Breaching the Barbara Line: Colli, Hill 1017, and Rocchetta, November 9-30, 1943
5 - Battle for the Bernhard Line, Hills 610, 687, 877, 950 anmd 954, December 1-31, 1943
6 - Reaching the Breaking Point: Hills 710 and 1205, December 9-31, 1943
7 - Planning Operation Shingle: Naples, January 1-21, 1944
8 -Landing on Red Beach: Anzio Beachhead, January 22, 1944
9 - Battle at Bridge No.2: Anzio Beachhead, January 23-24, 1944
10 - Disaster at Borgo Piave: Anzio Beachhead, January 25-27, 1944
11 - Last Attempt to Break Out: Anzio Beachhead, January 28-31, 1944
12 - The Factory: Anzio Beachhead, February 1-6, 1944
13 - The Grenadier Guards Gully: Anzio Beachhead, February 7-8, 1944
14 - Battle for Carroceto: Anzio Beachhead, February 8-10, 1944
15 - The Mussolini Canal: Anzio Beachhead, February 1-15, 1944
16 - Operation Fischfang and Deadly Patrols: Anzio Beachhead, February 16-29, 1944
17 - Journey to the Line: Anzio Beachhead, March 1-9, 1944
18 - Battle Experience: Anzio Beachhead, March 10-21, 1944
19 - Relief at Anzio: Anzio Beachhead and Naples, March 22-April 9, 1944
20 - Postscript: Postwar Careers

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