"...why was the 504th Regiment of paratroopers not used
""at Anzio as proposed..."

.. ...Churchill to General Wilson C-in-C, Mediterranean - February 6, 1944

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Lt General Mark W Clark 
                    (from USD History Department) General Mark W Clark


Gen Mark W Clark

Colonel Reuben H.Tucker

Gen James M Gavin

Gen Matthew B Ridgway

Benito Mussolini


USAAF Airborne Troop Carriers in World War II

3rd Infantry Division

36th Infantry Division

The Drop Zone


The 82nd Airborne (CMH) Center for Military History

Salerno (CMH)

Naples Foggia (CMH)

Anzio (CMH)

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The Drop Zone: Letter from Jump School -
Fort Benning, GA

Hitler's Decision to defend Italy (CMH)

Italy Surrenders

Stalemate in Italy

The Drop Zone: Memories of the Italian Campaigns

General Lucas at Anzio (CMH)
The 82nd Airborne during World War II
Campaigns - Naples-Foggia, Anzio

ack in North Africa, replacements arrived, training resumed, and 3rd Battalion of the 504th PIR was again detached, this time to Bizerte for special beach assault training with the 325th Glider Infantry and the Rangers. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 504th PIR and the 505th PIR moved back to Sicily and trained for a drop at Capua -- in vain, however, because the enemy had been tipped off and was waiting on the drop zone. Another† disappointment followed with the cancellation of the drop on Rome. Last minute intelligence disclosed that "negotiations" between General Taylor and Marshal Badoglio were a trap. Finally, in early September, the 3rd Battalion of the 504th PIR rejoined the 325th and the Rangers, boarded landing craft, and set out to sea. The men knew they were going to Italy, but little else. Troopers from H Company, with a group Rangers, made the initial landing on 9 September on the Italian coast at Maiori. They quickly advanced inland to seize the see map)

Field Marshall Albrecht Kesselring 
               (from USD History Department) On 11 September, the 3rd Battalion Headquarters and G and I Companies of the 504th PIR, along with the remainder of the 325th Combat Team, swerved south and landed on bloody Salerno beach. The military situation deteriorated with each passing hour as German Field Marshal Albrecht Kesselring (pictured right) began rushing troops and panzers toward the Salerno beachhead. Major elements of seven of the eight German divisions in southern Italy began a constant bombardment of the bottlenecked Allied units on the beach. The Allied hold on the beachhead became tenuous when, on 12 September, the Germans launched a successful counterattack. The situation became so critical that Gen. Mark Clark ordered the 82nd to prepare to drop directly on the beachhead.

September 12th 1943 marked a turning point for the Allied forces. Savage fighting had erupted and raged all day. The dead and wounded began to pile up as the Allied front crumbled in places and units were cut off, overrun, and wiped out. By night fall the Germans had advanced to within 6 miles of the shore at all points.

By September 13th 1943, General Mark Clark's Fifth Army had held tenaciously to the Salerno beachhead for four days but needed immediate assistance otherwise they were in danger of being pushed backed into the sea. Realizing the precariousness of his situation General Clark sent a message to Major General Ridgway requesting a drop that night.

Immediately, a plan was conceived to drop the 504th PIR several miles from the embattled beachhead. Pathfinders would drop in first to mark the DZ by setting ablaze cans filled with sand and gasoline arranged in the shape of a "T".

Meanwhile, on standby at airfields in Sicily, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 504th were alerted, issued chutes, and loaded on aircraft without knowledge of their destination. Receiving their briefing aboard the plane, the men were told that the 5th Army beachhead was in danger and they were needed to jump in behind friendly lines. Flying in columns of battalions, they exited over the barrels of gasoline-soaked sand that formed the flaming "T" in the center of the drop zone. The regiment assembled quickly and moved to the sounds of cannon and small arms fire within the hour. The plan worked nearly flawlessly with the exception of one company that landed ten miles off target. By dawn, all the units of the 504th were firmly set in defensive positions. The next night the 505th PIR led by Colonel Gavin arrived in a similar manner.

The days that followed were, in the words of General Mark Clark, Commander of the 5th Army, "responsible for saving the Salerno beachhead." As the 504th (minus 3rd Battalion) took the high ground at Altavilla, the enemy counterattacked and the Commander of 6th Corps, General Dawley, suggested the unit withdraw. Epitomizing the determined spirit of the Regiment, Colonel Tucker vehemently replied, "Retreat, Hell! -- Send me my other battalion!" The 3rd Battalion then rejoined the 504th, the enemy was repulsed, and the Salerno beachhead was saved.

The operation secured the flanks of the 5th Army, allowing it to break out of the coastal plain and drive on to Naples. On 1 October 1943, the 504th became the first infantry unit to enter Naples, which it subsequently garrisoned. The operation was not only a success, but it also stands as one of historyís greatest examples of the mobility of the airborne unit: within only eight hours of notification, the 504th developed and disseminated its tactical plan, prepared for combat, loaded aircraft and jumped onto its assigned drop zone to engage the enemy and turn the tide of battle.

During the next several months in Central Italy, the 504th fought in difficult terrain against a determined enemy. On steep, barren slopes, the Regiment assaulted one hill after another. Mule trains aided in the evacuation of wounded to some extent, but casualties were often carried for hours down the steep hillsides just to reach the road.

Finally, the 504th PIR was pulled back to Naples on 4 January 1944 as rumors of another parachute mission spread. The operation was to be called "Shingle," and it involved an airborne assault into a sector behind the coastal town of Anzio, 28 miles south of Rome. It seemed, however, that even the locals in Naples knew of the operation,so the 504th was glad that the beach would be assaulted from troop-carrying landing craft.

The landing on Red Beach went smoothly -- at least until enemy planes started their strafing runs on the landing craft. The unit disembarked under fire and was sent shortly thereafter to patrol in force along the Mussolini Canal. After several days of intense German artillery fire, the enemy launched his main drive to push the Allies back into the sea. The 3rd Battalion was committed with the British First (Guards) Division in the heaviest fighting, with the paratrooper companies reduced in strength to between 20 and 30 men. H Company drove forward to rescue a captured British General and was cut off. I Company broke through to them with their remaining 16 men. For its outstanding performance from 8 to 12 February 1944, the battalion was presented one of the first Presidential Unit Citations awarded in the European Theater of Operations.

For the remainder of their eight week stay on the Anzio beachhead, the men of the 504th found themselves fighting defensive battles instead of the offensive operations for which they were better suited. For the first time the men were engaged in trench warfare like that of the First World War, with barbed wire entanglements and minefields in front and between alternate positions. It was during this battle that the 504th acquired the nickname "The Devils in Baggy Pants," taken from the following entry found in the diary of a German officer killed at Anzio:
American parachutists -- devils in baggy pants -- are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I canít sleep at night; they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next. Seems like the black-hearted devils are everywhere...
On 23 March 1944, the 504th was pulled out of the beachhead by landing craft and returned to Naples. The campaign had been costly, but enemy losses exceeded those of the Regiment by over tenfold, and the Allies maintained control of the beachhead. Shortly thereafter, the 504th boarded the "Capetown Castle" and steamed to England.

R E L A T E D   B O O K S

Annussek, Greg Hitler's Raid to Save Mussolini: The Most Infamous Commando Operation of World War II. Sept 1, 2005, Da Capo Press, 353 pp. ISBN: 0306813963
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Blumenson, Martin  Anzio: The Gamble That Failed Greenwood Publishing Group,Inc. 1978. ISBN:03113200939
Blumenson, Martin  Sheehan Fred  Anzio: Epic of Bravery 239p 7/94. ISBN: 0 806 126787
Breuer, William B  Agony at Anzio: The Allies Most Controversial and Bizarre Operation of WW II Jove Publishing, 1989 ISBN: 0515102113
Breuer, William B Geronimo! American Paratroopers in WWII. New York: St. Martin Press, 1989 621 p. ISBN: 0-312-03350-8
Breuer, William B Drop Zone Sicily: Allied Airborne Strike,July 1943. Novato, CA: Presidio, c1983. 212 p. ISBN: 089 141 1968
Breuer, William B  They Jumped at Midnight Jove Publishing, (P) c1990 ISBN: 0515104256
Burriss, T Moffatt  Strike and Hold: A Memoir of the 82nd Airborne in WW II Brasseys, Inc, 256 pp August,2000 ISBN: 1574882589
Carter, Ross S  Those Devils in Baggy Pants  Buccaneer Books, Reprint,1996 ISBN: 0899666132
D'Este, Carlo  Patton: A Genius for War 1024 pp ISBN: 0060927623
Devlin, Gerard S  Paratrooper! St Martin's Press, (P) c1976 ISBN: 0312596529
Falerios, Kenton J.  Give Me Something I Can't Do: The History of the 82nd Military Police Company, WW 1 to Iraq Nov 2007, Authorhouse, 192 p ISBN: 1434337197
Fox, Tyler  Our Salvation : The 504th PIR Legendary Fight At Altavilla ISBN: 0692781676
Gavin, James M.  On to Berlin : Battles of an Airborne Commander, 1943-1946 ISBN: 0670525170
Keegan, John The Second World War Penguin (P), 708 p. ISBN: 014011341X
Megallas , James All the Way to Berlin: A Paratrooper at War in Europe 336p., Presidio Press, March, 2003. ISBN: 0891417842
Messina , Phillip Anzio: Song of Destiny A.G.Halldin Publishing Company, 1992. ISBN: 0 935 64838 0
Nigl, Dr Alfred J & Charles A Nigl  Silent Wings - Savage Death Santa Ana, CA: Graphic Publishing, Dec 3,2007. 288 p. ISBN: 1882824318
Nordyke , Phil All American All the Way: Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II Zenith Press, April 2005. 880 pgs ISBN: 0760322015
Nordyke , Phil The All Americans in World War II: A Photographic History of the 82nd Airborne Division at War Zenith Press, May 2006. 192 pgs ISBN: 0760326177
Nordyke , Phil Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II Zenith Press, November 2006. 480 pgs ISBN: 0760326649
Ospital, John  We Wore Jump Boots and Baggy Pants Willow House, 1977. 118 p. ISBN: 0912450150
O'Donnell, Patrick K. Beyond Valor  Free Press, 2001, 384 p. ISBN: 0684873842
Ruggero, Ed  Combat Jump: The Young Men who Led the Assault into Fortress Europe, July, 1943  HarperCollins, 10/21/2003. 388 p. ISBN: 0060088753
The Center of Military History  The War in the Mediterranean: A WWII Pictorial History Brasseys, Inc., 465 p. ISBN:1574881302
Turnbull, Peter I Maintain The Right: The 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion in WW II Authorhouse, Oct 31,2005. 204 p. ISBN: 1420871447
Van Lunteren, Frank The Battle of Bridges: The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Operation Market Garden Casemate, June 1,2014. 336 p. ISBN: 1612002323
van Lunteren, Frank Spearhead of the Fifth Army: The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Italy from the Winter Line To Anzio Casemate, Sept 16,2016. 320 p. ISBN: 161200427X
Verier, Mike  82nd Airborne Division in Colour Photographs  (Europa Militaria, No 9) ISBN: 187 200 4857
Wildman, John B All Americans 82nd Airborne. Meadowlands Militaria, 6/83 ISBN:091 208 1007

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