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Written By: Peter Ayers Wimbrow III
*Click images below to view larger versions.
American soldiers welcomed by happy Romans on their entry in the Eternal City.
Star jeep, June 5, 1944. Behind him sits Maj. Gen. Alfred M. Gruenther, his Chief of Staff and Maj. Gen. Geoffry Keys.
Pope Pius XII
Qerman tank on June 5, 1944. Note the sniper’s bullet hole beneath the “o” on the sign.

    THIS WEEK, 70 years ago, units of the U.S. 5th Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, occupied the Eternal City, after most of the German forces had been withdrawn. Clark had been ordered by his superior, Allied Supreme Commander in Italy, Gen. Sir Harold Alexander, to drive the forces he commanded at Anzio - VI Corps, commanded by General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr. - behind the German defenses along the Gustav Line, to trap the German Army.  Instead, seeking the publicity that the capture of Rome would bring, he ignored his commanding officer’s order and directed that General Truscott’s VI Corps turn left and head north for Rome, thereby eliminating the possibility of trapping and capturing Heinrich von Vietinghoff’s Tenth German Army defending the Gustav Line. Instead General von Vietinghoff’s Tenth German Army was able to retire in good order behind its next defensive position - the Gothic Line, north of Rome - when it might have been eliminated and the war shortened. It was described by American historian, Lt. Col. Carlo D’Este, “ militarily stupid as it was insubordinate.” Actions like these earned Gen. Clark the sobriquet “Marcus Aurelius Clarkus.”
    The Allied High Command had determined that the honor of entering the “Eternal City” first should go to the Canadians, because they had suffered the highest proportion of casualties of any nationality in the Allied army. Instead General Clark sent them through the city at 3:00 A.M. on June 5!
    After General Truscott’s VI Corps had been engaged in the breakout of the Anzio beachhead for several days, and was making progress toward trapping General von Vietinghoff’s Tenth German Army, General Clark ordered it, on May25, to turn its main line of attack 90 degrees to the left, and head for Rome. General Clark informed General Alexander the next day - after it was a fait accompli! General Truscott was amazed and disgusted. General Alexander, ever the gracious Englishman, ordered Eighth Army to pass east of the city, so that Clark would have it all to himself.
    On May 27, soldiers of the 36th Division - “The Texas Division - commanded by Fred L.Walker, discovered a gap between the Hermann Göring Panzer Division and the 362nd Infantry Division, atop Monte Artemisio, bringing the main German supply line - Highway 6 - under fire. When the Americans could not be dislodged, 14th Army’s commander, Eberhardt von Mackensen was discharged and replaced by Lt. Gen. Joachim Lemelsen.
    On June 2, der Führer informed Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, Wehrmacht Commander-in-Chief in Italy, that there would be, “... no defense of Rome.” He did not want another Stalingrad, nor did he want to offend the remaining few Italians loyal to Mussolini’s puppet government, although Il Duce wanted the capital which had betrayed him destroyed. After the war, Field Marshal Kesselring took credit for saving the city.
    As the First Special Service Force, under Brigadier General Robert Frederick, was advancing toward Rome, on June 3, 1944, it encountered resistance from the German Rear Guard on Rome’s outskirts. Aware of the pending invasion of Normandy, and knowing that the publicity from that event would overtake his, General Clark, and wanting to enter Rome during daylight hours so that his photographers could take good pictures, he was a man in a hurry. He and his II Corps Commander, Major Gen. Goeffrey Keys, went forward to meet with General Frederick, to determine the reason for General Frederick’s “lethargy.” Generals Clark and Keys encountered Gen. Frederick near the “ROMA” sign on the road to Rome.  General Clark declared that he would like to have that sign for his office. At that time, a German sniper began firing at the three generals. While they were pinned down by the sniper, General Frederick told his commander, “That is what is holding up the 1st Special Service Force!” But General Clark got his sign - and the glory of liberating Rome!
    Later that evening, General Frederick´s men began entering the city. One Thomas Garcia, upon seeing the Colosseum for the first time, exclaimed, ¨My God, they bombed that, too!¨ Most of the Americans arrived the next day, and were bombarded with flowers.
    General Clark held his first press conference in the Italian capital on the morning of June 4 on the steps of the Capitoline Hill. He had ordered that no troops other than Americans enter the city, and posted guards at all of the city’s entrances to enforce it. He wasn’t sharing! In his speech, he noted that, “This is a great day for the Fifth Army and for the French, British, and American troops of the Fifth who have made this victory possible," omitting any reference to Eighth Army! At 6:00 P.M., more than 300,000 gathered in St. Peter’s Square to hear Pope Pius XII thank God for sparing the city and implored Romans to not seek vengeance.”
    American casualties, since the start of the operation on May 11, were 17,931, with total Allied casualties totaling more than 43,000 The Germans suffered 53,606 casualties during the same time frame.
    Events in France soon moved the Italian Campaign off the front page. By the time President Roosevelt announced Rome’s fall, Allied soldiers were storming the Normandy beaches.
Mr. Wimbrow writes from Ocean City, Maryland, where he practices law representing those persons accused of criminal and traffic offenses, and those persons who have suffered a personal injury through no fault of their own.  Mr. Wimbrow can be contacted at
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