“When planning the next allied operations in the Mediterranean, it was decided that if they were only limited to an invasion in Calabria through the Messina Strait, the advance would necessarily be slow. It was thus decided to also land northward in the gulf of Salerno, with first objective target the port of Naples that offered many facilities. Momentarily, consideration was given to executing a landing in the area of Rome, but this idea was finally rejected because that region was off the action range of all allied fighters and large German reinforcements were arriving from the north.
In the meantime, in Italy the fascist regime was overthrown on July 25, the Italian King had assumed the Command in Chief of the armed forces and Marshal Badoglio. At the disappointment of the people who desired the end of the war, the new prime minister declared that the war will go on. In reality however efforts were made to gain time, since the Italians from the beginning of August had started negotiating for armistice with the Allies.
At that time in the Italian peninsula around 35 Italian divisions were available, insufficiently armed and out of which 3 only were armored or motorized. There were also 17 German divisions, of which 7 motorized or armored. The Axis Air force disposed in Italy around 700 Italian air planes, many of which unusable, and 600 German. The Italian Navy still disposed an important number of units, many of which were undergoing repairs.
The allied bombings had disrupted everything: transports and war industries. The Navy’s morale was still good, but the Army’s was low. The population’s morale was still lower; they didn’t like the Germans that were behaving with arrogance and were realizing that the war was being carried on their land.
If the still available Italians forces fighting in mountainous northern Italy, along the Germans who were putting up a fierce resistance, were doing so with determination, the Allied advance in that part of the peninsula would have been significantly slow-down. The political and military leadership of Italy were foreseeing that the Axis would finally lose the war and therefore continuing the war effort would only cause unnecessary sacrifices. According to the German-Italian treaty of 1939, Italy had the obligation not to sign an armistice or peace without the agreement of her ally. The Italians to explain their unilateral exit from the war effort they advanced the argument that the Germans had prematurely declared war and were not keeping their allies informed on their intentions –as in the case of the attack against Russia- and had not therefore respected the form and the spirit of the Treaty. They thus took the decision to capitulate.
After seizing Messina, the Allies started preparing for landing -through the Strait- on the opposite shore of the Italian peninsula. Among other measures taken, they installed a large number of guns in the area of Messina.
The landing too place at dawn of September 3, 1942, under coverage of an exceptional volume of fire from the guns around Messina and the ships. Two divisions landed and the operation was bloodless, as the enemy didn’t put up any resistance. The Germans had already departed towards the north and the Italians had seized to fight.
In parallel, the landing in Salerno scheduled for September 9, was being prepared. In planning that last operation, a difficulty arose, because the landing area was only in the range of the most recent American fighters. Even those could not stay over the battle field more than 20 minutes. The solution was given by the Navy. In addition to the strong naval force made available to cover the landing from the sea, a force of 5 aircraft carriers was made available, from which the fighters needed to support the landing would operate, till the seizure or construction of airfields on the land.
In the meantime, since mid-August, an Italian General had been sent to Lisbon with instructions to secretly negotiate an armistice with the Allies. He met with the Chief of Staff of General Eisenhower who gave him a list with demands of the Allies. From the discussions it turned up that the Italians absolutely wished a seize fire, but didn’t know how to proceed, fearing the Germans that had infiltrated all the echelons of the Command.
The Italians however, didn’t believe that armistice was possible if it was combined with a large scale landing on the Italian peninsula. After 15 days of negotiations, a preliminary Armistice Agreement was signed on September 3, on the same day of the landing in Calabria. That Agreement provided for the complete surrender of all the Italian armed forces, wherever positioned on the night of September 8, i.e. the night before the Allied landing at Salerno. On that same night a simultaneous announcement by Eisenhower and Badoglio of the armistice was planned”