“The 5th American Army fiercely fighting at Monte Cassino was held at check by the Germans and the Allies decided to execute a landing at the rear of the enemy lines. For the landing, the Allies chose the coasts around the small port of Anzio, some 30 miles south of Rome. The landing was executed in the early hours of January 22, 1944, under the protection of two naval forces of cruisers and destroyers, one American ad one British. The operation had been preceded by intensive air bombings of the enemy transport lines and on the eve of the landing the allied ships bombed the coastal gun batteries of the area.
The Allies were not expecting a serious reaction of the enemy air force, because the Germans had withdrawn from Italy most of their bombers, while the Allies disposed about 700 aircrafts based in the area of Naples.
Indeed, the enemy air force did not appear when the amphibious force was approaching the landing area. That force sailed from Naples and was formed by 243 allied ships – among which were several Greek – of all types, war ships, troop transport ships, landing crafts, etc. and carried about 50,000 men and 2,700 vehicles.
The reaction of the enemy was very feeble at the time of the landing and from January 22, an allied bridgehead had stabilized at a depth of 4 miles from the coast. From the next day however, the German air force started attacking with ever increasing intensity, the Germans having recalled air force units from the Balkans. These attacks caused several losses to the allied ships. Thus, on January 23 and 24, 1944, 1 British destroyer and 1 floating hospital were sunk and 1 destroyer and 1 floating hospital suffered damages. In addition, 1 minesweeper was sunk and another 2 ships were damaged by hitting on mines.
While the landing was executed with ease, the further advance proved very difficult and didn’t produce the expected result, to force the enemy to withdraw from the line of Monte Cassino. Hitler ordered his army to keep this line no mater at what price and the Germans assembled important forces around the allied bridgehead of Anzio, in spite the continuous air and sea bombing of the transport routes. The allied forces that had landed were tied down in that bridgehead for almost 4 months. Towards the end of February, especially, the situation had become so critical that the Allies faced the eventuality to withdraw.
During the whole period, the supply of the allied forces was executed by sea from Naples. Precious ship displacement was used for that purpose, right when any available ship was being gathered for the landing in Normandy. During these missions, the British cruiser HMS SPARTAN, 1 destroyer and 1 cargo ship were sunk by teleguided air bombs and the cruiser HMS PENELOPE by a submarine inside the gulf of Naples.
The maintenance of the isolated allied troops in Anzio would have become problematic, if the Allies were not disposing absolute supremacy in the sea. Thus, they succeeded by the end of May to execute a victorious general attack against the Italian front that led them to Rome on June 4, 1944. Concerted chase of the enemy followed and in September the allied troops were reaching the gothic line north of Pizza and Florence.
During the allied advance, naval forces were supporting her sides from the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Adriatic Sea, interrupting coastal transports and having frequent encounters with small enemy ships. On June 17, the port of Livorno was seized, badly damaged by the retreating Germans. The port installations were soon repaired and Livorno was used as a supply base.”