A Walking Tour of Italy’s WWII Battlefields: From the Salerno Landings to San Pietro Infine


Frank de Planta de Wildenberg (Lead subject-matter-expert historian for Italian Campaign tours)

Series: Europe: Past, Present and Future;  Homeland Security and Safety
BISAC: HIS027100, HIS020000


The Italian Campaign is truly an amazing, and often heartbreaking, story, and it certainly generates sympathy as well as respect for the soldiers who fought there, particularly the sacrificed Texas and Polish soldiers as well as the British “D-Day Dodgers.” In addition to the British soldiers, you gain a new and far greater appreciation of the men in the 36th Texas and Polish Divisions because of their commitment, heroism and sacrifice in these battles, much less the many others from multiple nations who fought in Italy in 1943 and 1944. This book is the first title in the NOVA Science Publishers Homeland Security Series presenting a walking tour of World War II battle sites in mainland Italy:

  1. A Walking Tour of Italy’s WWII Battlefields: From the Salerno Landings to San Pietro Infine
  2. A Walking Tour of Italy’s WWII Battlefields: Breaking the Gustav and Hitler Lines
  3. A Walking Tour of Italy’s WWII Battlefields: From the Anzio Landings to Rome.

These books were derived from the sights and sounds I experienced while on Marty Gane’s South Mountain Expeditions tour called WWII Invasion of Italy: From Sicily to Rome, which she conducted in September 2014. The late Edwin Cole Bearss was the lead South Mountain historian for the tour, and helped select our expert history guide British Lt Col (Retd) Frank de Planta de Wildenberg, a deservedly renowned Italian battlefield tour leader. Franks designed the tour route, providing the specific strategic and tactical on-the-ground details we experienced at each stand (tour location) we visited. Ed Bearss provided insightful color commentary and likened situations to his own combat experience as a Marine in the WWII Pacific theater.

This book provides the images and narration of Frank and Ed as we were taken from the Allied seaborne landings at Salerno to the fights for the high ground surrounding the beachhead to the devastation wrought at San Pietro Infine, the subject of a well-known period film by John Houston. During the development of the Ed Bearss memoir trilogy books, I created the preliminary Italian tour history that has been reviewed, vastly improved and supplemented by Frank de Planta, necessarily and deservedly the book’s first author. Working with someone like Frank de Planta, as with both Ed Bearss and Barney Nolan in their memoirs, has proven (almost) as enjoyable as touring the Italian battlefields. Creating this book series brought back many emotive sights, sounds, stories and emotions (unfortunately, not the food) I felt while on the tour. We hope it provides some sense of that experience for the reader.

Many excellent academic books have been written explaining Italian battlefield events to the detail, and we include these books in Frank’s exhaustive bibliography. However, this book brings the tour experience, being there on the ground, as close as possible to reality for the reader by showing you many images from where the armies fought and died to set Italy free and attack the “soft underbelly” of the Third Reich. Its purpose is to have the reader experience the tour as we did, incorporating images from the extensive video I took that September in Italy. It was hard to imagine the violence that happened there over 75 years ago. Our tour guide, Frank de Planta, with color commentary from Ed Bearss, provided an emotive and accurate explanation of the events, the scenes, and the sacrifice. We hope this book provides at least a fraction of the experience many on this tour experienced there.

Table of Contents

Lt Col (Retd) Frank de Planta de Wildenberg
Robert Irving Desourdis
Michael Kelly
Giovanni Lisciotto
Editor’s Note

Part I Preface
Why This Book
Frank de Planta de Wildenberg
A History Tour “Fanatic”
Guided tour of Pompeii
The Italian Campaign: Part I – Salerno to San Pietro Infine
The High Ground in Italy
Before the Invasion
Giovanni Lisciotto’s Story
The Family and Its Business
War Declared
German Occupation
The Bombings
Allied Occupation

Chapter 1 The Landing at Salerno
Overview from Arechi Castle
Allied Invasion Planning and German Defenses
(1) Rome and Terracina
(2) Gulfs of St Euphemia & Gioia
(3) Salerno
Lack of Lift
Who’s in Charge
Clark, not Patton
Walker and McCreery
Too Far Out
Seven Bells
The Landing Plan
Paestum: Texas Invades Italy
Piegolelle: A Legend of Salerno
Texas on the Beaches at Paestum
Paestum Remembers

Chapter 2 Taking the Salerno Plain
Altavilla 69
The Burned Bridge
Tobacco Factory
Chapter 3 San Pietro Infine
The Road to Rome
The 36th Texas at San Pietro Infine
Foreseeing Tragedy: The Rapido Crossing

Part II Preface
The Little I Knew
The Ground
Chapter 4 The Four Battles for the Gustav Line
The First Battle
Security, Surprise, Simplicity, Concentration of Force, Maintenance of Momentum
The Rapido – Another Suicide Creek
36 US Infantry Division Memorial from the First Battle
Monte Cassino
The Second Battle
The Atina Alternative – Ignored
The Monastery at Monte Cassino
Bomb, or not to Bomb
The Giant Pincer Movement
The Monastery
The Third Battle 196
View from Above Caira
The Cavendish Road
The Third Battle’s Diversionary Attack on Snakeshead Ridge
The Doctor’s House
The Vital Ground of 593
The Fourth Battle
The Cunning Plan
The Battle Starts
The Amazon Crossing

Chapter 5 The Hitler Line
Piedimonte San Germano
Canada at the Hitler Line
The Ground
The Plan
The Wheat Field
Killing Areas
Sacrifice for Victory

Chapter 6 The Monte Cassino Cemeteries
Cassino British Cemetery
Commonwealth Cemeteries
The Polish Cemetery
Little Known Fifth Battle for Monte Cassino
Polish Sacrifice
Polish Plight
Buzuluk 94
German Cemetery at Cassino
Part III Preface
… and It Would Get Worse
Vineyards and Grandfather
The Nettuno Cemetery Talk

Chapter 7 Landing at Anzio and Nettune
Nettuno Cemetery talk
The Terrain
Why Anzio?
The Invasion
Anzio Landing Logistics
Lucas and Darby

Chapter 8 The Anzio-Albano Road
Final Defense Line
The British Breakout
Smelly Farm
Point 105

Chapter 9 Cisterna and the Pantano Ditch 182
The Plan 183
The Ditch 186
The Attack Goes In
Conca-Cisterna Road
Ranger Style
Special Units
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Isola Bella
Defense to the End

Chapter 10 Pincer the Lozenge
Buonriposo Ridge
The Gully
The Flyover
The Caves

Chapter 11 The Lobster Claws
The Misery of the Wadis
Surviving the Hell

Chapter 12 The Allies Break Out 240
The Options
The View from Cori
The Velletri Gap

Chapter 13 Allied Victory in Italy 269
Passing the Caesar Line 269
The Eternal City 275

Chapter 14 Summary of the Italian Campaign: The Nettuno Cemetery Wall Maps 277
Sicily and Foggia
Breaching the Gustav Line
Anzio-Nettuno Landings
Alban Hills

Chapter 15 The Nettuno and Anzio Cemeteries
The Rome-Sicily American Cemetery at Nettuno
British Beach Head CWGC Cemetery
Military Tribalism
Addendum: The Pompeii Tour

Reading List for Regiments & Corps involved in the Italian Campaign (alphabetical order
Reading List for generalist books on the Italian Campaign


Additional information


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