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The result was the most destructive air raid on Allied shipping since the attack on Pearl Harbor in December Hits were scored on two ammunition ships and a tanker. Burning oil and exploding ammunition spread over the harbour. Some 16 ships were sunk and eight damaged, and the port was put out of action for three weeks. Moreover, one of the ships sunk, SS John Harvey , had been carrying mustard gas , which enveloped the port in a cloud of poisonous vapours. The first Allied attempt to break through the Gustav Line in the Battle of Monte Cassino in January met with early success, with the British X Corps breaking through the line held by the 94th Infantry Division and imperilling the entire Tenth Army.
Hans Speidel - Wikipedia
They were able to stabilise the German position there but left Rome poorly guarded. Kesselring wrote that he felt that he had been out-generalled when the Allies landed at Anzio. OKW contributed some troops from other theatres,  and by February Kesselring was able to take the offensive at Anzio.
His forces were unable to crush the Allied beachhead , and in his memoirs Kesselring blamed himself, OKW and von Mackensen for avoidable errors. Meanwhile, costly fighting at Monte Cassino in February , brought the Allies close to a breakthrough into the Liri Valley. One disadvantage of the geography of the Italian peninsula that otherwise favoured the defence was that it constricted the German line of communication.
The Allies took advantage of this with Operation Strangle , an intensive air interdiction campaign. This left Army Group C critically short of fuel and ammunition. For this failure, Kesselring relieved von Mackensen of his command, replacing him with General der Panzertruppe Joachim Lemelsen. Clark , commander of the U. Fifth Army, obsessed with the capture of Rome, failed to take advantage of the situation. Kesselring diverted troops to oppose Clark's attack, and the result was three days of bloody and fruitless American assaults, while the gap between the Tenth and Fourteenth Armies was poorly defended.
In the end, it was an advance in this sector that opened the gate to Rome, and Tenth Army was able to link up with the Fourteenth Army, and conduct a fighting withdrawal to the next line of defence, the Trasimene Line. Robert Citino noted that: "Slithering out of a trap by the skin of their teeth was just another day at the office for German commanders by In Italy, facing two Allied armies coming on from opposite directions, the Wehrmacht did it again, surviving yet another near death experience and living to fight another day.
Kesselring, during the campaign, as far as he was able, attempted to avoid the destruction of many artistically important Italian cities, including Rome, Florence, Siena and Orvieto. In some cases, historic bridges — such as the Ponte Vecchio — were booby trapped rather than blown up. However, other historic Florentine bridges were destroyed on his orders and, in addition to booby-trapping the old bridge, he ordered the demolition of the ancient historical central borough at its two ends, in order to delay the Allied advance across the River Arno.
Kesselring supported the Italian declaration of Rome as an open city on 14 August ,  after Rome was bombed for the first time on 19 July with over civilian deaths. The unilateral declaration was never accepted by the Allies as the city remained centres of government and industry, and while the Americans supported accepting the open city status of Rome, the British remained implacably opposed. The replacement of the American Eisenhower with the British General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson as theatre commander loosened restrictions at that level.
For Kesselring, the open city status held many advantages, as it promised a means of quelling unrest in Rome and scored a propaganda triumph. Moreover, as Operation Strangle took its toll, trains ceased to move through Rome and German vehicle convoys routinely bypassed the city.
After the Allies occupied Rome, the open city declaration was disregarded, and they made full use of Rome for military purposes. Kesselring tried to preserve the monastery of Monte Cassino by avoiding its military occupation even though it offered a superb observing point over the battlefield. Ultimately this was unsuccessful, as the Allies believed the monastery would be used to direct the German artillery against their lines.
On the morning of 15 February , B Flying Fortress , 47 B Mitchell and 40 B Marauder medium bombers deliberately dropped 1, tons of high explosives and incendiary bombs on the abbey, reducing the historic monastery to a smoking mass of rubble. Kesselring received regular updates on efforts to preserve cultural treasures and his personal interest in the matter contributed to the high proportion of art treasures that were saved. Kappler was concerned about a rise of anti-German sentiment among the Italian population.
He noted that he was about to go to Kesselring to suggest that the Jews should rather be used for forced labor on fortifications in Rome as he had done with those in Tunisia. If Kesselring would agree to that solution, Kappler would consider his orders to be countermanded. Upon hearing how many men Kappler would need for the roundup, Kesselring declared, he could not spare a single man, and approved of the idea of using Jewish labor in Rome. On 16 October 1, Jews were rounded up in Rome. On 18 October 1, of them were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp.
Upon arrival all but Jews were immediately gassed. Only 15 of the were to survive the war.
In Rome on 23 March , 33 policemen of the Police Regiment Bozen from the German-speaking population of the Italian province of South Tyrol and three Italian civilians were killed by a bomb blast and the subsequent shooting. The result was the Ardeatine massacre. The fall of Rome on 4 June placed Kesselring in a dangerous situation as his forces attempted to withdraw from Rome to the formidable Gothic Line north of Florence. That the Germans were especially vulnerable to Italian partisans was not lost on Alexander, who appealed in a radio broadcast for Italians to kill Germans "wherever you encounter them".
In response, Kesselring rescinded his order and issued another edict to his troops on 21 August, acknowledging incidents that had "damaged the German Wehrmacht ' s reputation and discipline and which no longer have anything to do with reprisal operations", and launched investigations into specific cases that Mussolini cited. Between 21 July and 25 September , Germans were killed, wounded and missing in partisan operations, while some 9, partisans were killed.
Throughout July and August , Kesselring conducted a stubborn delaying action, gradually retreating to the Gothic Line. There, he was able to halt the Allied advance.
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Four days later Kesselring instructed Wolff to conduct an "anti-partisan week". By the end of October, 1, partisans were dead, another 1, were captured, 1, suspects had been arrested, and 2, had been handed over to Organisation Todt. A further blow to the partisans came from Alexander. In a radio broadcast on 13 November, he conceded that the Germans would not be driven from their positions until spring, and asked the partisans to lay down their arms until then.
On 23 October , his car, travelling at night under blackout conditions, collided with a towed artillery piece coming out of a side road.
Kesselring suffered serious head and facial injuries. He was taken to hospital in Ferrara , and did not return to his command until January Mark Clark . As he later wrote, after he recovered from the car accident, Kesselring was summoned by Hitler to relieve now Generalfeldmarschall von Rundstedt as Commander-in-Chief West on 10 March , following the disastrous loss of the intact Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine during the Battle of Remagen.
Given the desperate situation of the Western Front, this was another sign of Kesselring's proverbial optimism. Kesselring still described Hitler's analysis of the situation as "lucid", according to which the Germans were about to inflict a historical defeat upon the Soviets, after which the victorious German armies would be brought west to crush the Allies and sweep them from the continent.
Therefore, Kesselring was determined to "hang on" in the west until the "decision in the East" came.
75 personal life changing war stories
When a staff officer sought to make him aware of the hopelessness of the situation, Kesselring told him that he had driven through the entire army rear area and not seen a single hanged man. The Western Front at this time generally followed the Rhine with two important exceptions: the American bridgehead over the Rhine at Remagen , and a large German salient west of the Rhine, the Saar — Palatinate triangle.
In his memoirs, Kesselring stated that he gave consideration to evacuating the triangle, but OKW ordered it held. General der Infanterie Hans Felber of the Seventh Army considered the latter the most likely outcome. Nonetheless, Kesselring insisted that the positions had to be held. The German position soon crumbled and Kesselring later wrote that Hitler reluctantly sanctioned a withdrawal.
Nonetheless, they had avoided encirclement and managed to conduct a skilful delaying action, evacuating the last troops to the east bank of the Rhine on 25 March Known as Operation Sunrise , these secret negotiations had been in progress since early March Kesselring was aware of them, having previously consented to them, although he had not informed his own staff. Lemelsen initially refused, as he was in possession of a written order from Kesselring which prohibited any talks with the enemy without his explicit authorisation. By this time, Vietinghoff and Wolff had concluded an armistice with Alexander, who was now a field marshal and the Allied Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Theatre.
The armistice became effective at on 2 May. Lemelsen reached Bolzano , and Schulz and Wenzel regained control, this time agreeing with the officers pushing for a quick surrender. The German armies in Italy were now utterly defeated by the Allies, who were rapidly advancing from Garmisch toward Innsbruck. Kesselring remained opposed to the surrender, but was finally won over by Wolff on the late morning of 2 May after a two-hour phone call to Kesselring at his headquarters in Pullach.
According to his memoirs, Kesselring now decided to surrender his own headquarters. He ordered Hausser to supervise the SS troops to ensure that the surrender was carried out in accordance with his instructions.
Kesselring then surrendered to an American major at Saalfelden , near Salzburg , in Austria on 9 May He was taken to see Major General Maxwell D. Taylor , the commander of the US st Airborne Division , who treated him courteously, allowing him to keep his weapons and field marshal's baton, and to visit the Eastern Front headquarters of Army Groups Centre and South at Zeltweg and Graz unescorted.
Taylor arranged for Kesselring and his staff to move into a hotel at Berchtesgaden. In his post-war memoirs, Kesselring claimed he envisioned making a start on the rehabilitation of Germany following the end of the war. On 15 May , Kesselring was taken to Mondorf-les-Bains where his baton and decorations were taken from him and he was incarcerated.