Michael E Haskew relates his numerical perspective on Operation Shingle, the landings and subsequent operations at Anzio, 80 years ago


The Allied Fifth and Eighth Armies came ashore at three points on mainland Italy in 1943, attacking what Winston Churchill opined was the “soft underbelly” of occupied Europe, and a possible second front to relieve pressure on the Soviets.

Rather than the rapid movement some envisioned, the Italian campaign developed into a slog and the soft underbelly was more rightly described as a “tough old gut”. While the Allies advanced as far as the Gustav Line, a costly stalemate ensued.

Churchill again advocated a bold stroke, an operation to outflank the Gustav Line by landing on the 15-mile long strand of beach astride the Anzio and Nettuno resort towns. Anzio was only 33 miles from Rome, and with aggressive command, the Allies might rapidly liberate the ‘Eternal City’, which would become the first Axis capital to fall.

The landings, Operation Shingle, took place on January 22, 1944 and VI Corps, comprising the British 1st and US 3rd Infantry Divisions, stormed ashore. The corps put 36,000 men ashore by midnight, with 3,200 tanks and vehicles. An encouraging 90% of the invasion force had landed while just 13 men had been killed, with 227 Germans – many from unsuspecting patrols – captured.

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