Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

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Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

Post by aurora » Mon Dec 08, 2014 5:48 pm

There's no question that Gen.Clark (GOC US 5th Army) made at least a tactical blunder - he was expected to have cut off a large part of the retreating German army sfter breaking out of the Anzio Beachhead- had he not been so fixated on getting to Rome first and claiming the prestige that that would bring. In any case the liberation of Rome was overshadowed by events in Normandy. Many allied commanders found Clark's decision to focus on Rome to be a massive blunder-almost a betrayal of British 8th Army which had fought at Monte Casino;-so extending the war for another year- which turned a potential German disaster into no more than a minor strategic defeat.
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Re: Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Dec 09, 2014 8:52 pm

When I was in secondary school one of my instructors used the term "Mark Clark the Stupid". I then made the mistake of repeating this phrase in front of my uncle who served under Clark in N Africa and Italy. Boy did I get chewed out! I was told how Clark actually fought in the fox holes with his men and what a stand up guy he was. He probably blundered there, but his men loved him. It did not hurt his career and he did a good job in Korea.
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Re: Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

Post by aurora » Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:44 am

Dave Saxton wrote:When I was in secondary school one of my instructors used the term "Mark Clark the Stupid". I then made the mistake of repeating this phrase in front of my uncle who served under Clark in N Africa and Italy. Boy did I get chewed out! I was told how Clark actually fought in the fox holes with his men and what a stand up guy he was. He probably blundered there, but his men loved him. It did not hurt his career and he did a good job in Korea.
The commander of Allied forces in Italy, General Sir Harold R. L. G. Alexander, already had indicated how the Fifth and Eighth Armies were to capitalize on the early successes of the offensive. While the Eighth Army and the bulk of the Fifth were to continue to push northwestward in the general direction of Rome, the VI Corps from the Anzio beachhead was to strike northeastward to seize the town of Valmontone, astride Highway 6, the line of communications to the German Tenth Army, which was opposing the main Allied attack farther south. Thus the VI Corps was to block the Tenth Army's logical route of withdrawal, possibly trapping the main body of the enemy, but certainly embarrassing further enemy operations on the southern front. This strike to Valmontone, General Alexander believed, was the most rewarding possibility open to the VI Corps for making a sizable contribution to the big offensive.

The commander of the U.S. Fifth Army, Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark, whose command included the VI Corps, was not so sure. General Clark's doubts about the Valmontone maneuver dated back to the period of planning before the start of the offensive when the Allied commander first had indicated his broad concept of the operation. Unlike Alexander, Clark had believed that the decisive role would fall, not to the Eighth Army attacking frontally against the main enemy defenses in the Liri Valley, but to the Fifth Army, attacking through mountainous terrain west of the Liri and thereby outflanking German strength in the valley. Clark also disagreed with Alexander's estimate of what the VI Corps, with limited forces, could accomplish by a strike into the enemy's rear and flank. In keeping with his doubts, Clark early had instructed the VI Corps commander, Maj. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, to draw up alternate plans. Now, on the morning of 25 May, as forces from Anzio and from the south made contact and as the VI Corps reached positions from which the strike to Valmontone might be launched, the time for a final decision on the form and direction of the VI Corps exploitation was at hand.

The decision facing General Clark was no ordinary command decision. Indeed, since the views of the army group commander, General Alexander, had been spelled out so specifically, some army commanders would have considered that there was no room for decision at an army level at all. Yet Clark was determined that the action of the VI Corps should not be compromised by some predetermined concept but that the corps should be utilized in what he considered the most advantageous manner in keeping with the situation at the time.
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Re: Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

Post by Carl Schwamberger » Fri Oct 05, 2018 12:12 pm

The German 10th Army was using three highways to retreat north. Capturing Valmonte would cut only Route Six. The other two roads were on the east side of a spine of the Appinne mountains and impractical for the VI corps to reach. WGF Jacksons 'The Battle For Italy' has a map illustrating this. I am unsure why so many historians leave the other retreat routes out of their consideration & off their maps.

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Re: Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

Post by RF » Tue Oct 09, 2018 7:48 am

aurora wrote:
Mon Dec 08, 2014 5:48 pm
There's no question that Gen.Clark (GOC US 5th Army) made at least a tactical blunder - he was expected to have cut off a large part of the retreating German army sfter breaking out of the Anzio Beachhead- had he not been so fixated on getting to Rome first and claiming the prestige that that would bring. In any case the liberation of Rome was overshadowed by events in Normandy. Many allied commanders found Clark's decision to focus on Rome to be a massive blunder-almost a betrayal of British 8th Army which had fought at Monte Casino;-so extending the war for another year- which turned a potential German disaster into no more than a minor strategic defeat.
Whilst it was a tactical blunder it was nothing more than that. The Italian campaign was only a sideshow at that stage and had Clark ''done the right thing'' it would not have shortened the war.
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Re: Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

Post by aurora » Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:00 pm

On the whole, historians have not been kind to General Mark Clark and his handling of the Italian camp

aign. He wavered at Salerno, say his detractors, sent the Texans of the US 36th Division to needless deaths across the River Rapido, and most heinous of all, disobeyed General Alexander’s orders to cut off the retreating German 10th Army at Valmontone during the DIADEM Battle for Rome, and instead turned the bulk of his forces through the Alban Hills in an effort to reach the Italian capital more quickly.

This decision, it has been argued, was motivated largely by personal vanity and an unchecked arrogance that corrupted his military judgement.
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Re: Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Feb 06, 2019 9:52 pm

Yet it never resulted in retarding his career or anything. Did he have Ultra Intel that resulted in his actions but that could not be used in his defense in the public histories? I seem to recall something like that but can't find the source at the moment.
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Re: Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

Post by aurora » Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:20 pm

Dave--Nor do I have any knowledge of Intel which resulted in Clark;s decision to disobey his superior FM Alexander-nor do I know if it would have shortened the war.General Clark CHOSE to enter Rome instead for whatever reason.
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Re: Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:33 pm

Okay I found it. It was from the papers of historian Sidney Matthews who had interviewed Clark about the matter during May 1948.
…When General Clark changed the axis of
the beachhead attack on 25 May 1944, he did so because he did not
believe the attack against Valmontone would cut off the Germans and he
thought that the Germans in the Alban Hills had weakened their front so
that the attack in that direction would succeed. Also, General Clark had
received information from his G-2 that German reserves were likely to
move down and block us at Valmontone. Therefore, he decided to
change the axis of attack.
The G2 did not receive this information via Ultra, which took three days to filter through the system anyway, but by still unknown OSS agents who had infiltrated Kesselring's HQ and usually got Intel to 5th Army HQ within hours.

Essentially, Kesselring understood what the Allies were trying to do and he also knew he could destroy Clark's VI Corps if they attempted to move to cut off the German 10th Army route of escape at Highway 6. In all probability Clark could not have achieved the objective of cutting off 10th Army but would have been dealt a devastating defeat. If Clark didn't take the bait, Kesselring would withdraw his forces from the Alban hills allowing Clark to Rome but still save the 10th Army from being cut off, falling back to Gothen line.

Additionally, Alexander did not issue the order to Clark but to Truscott which could be countermanded by Clark.
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Re: Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

Post by aurora » Fri Feb 08, 2019 6:09 pm

OK Dave you win--Alexander gave the order to Truscott--Clark's subordinate--how convenient.In the end, Clark was no military genius—few commanders in history are—but he led his army as well as the difficult theater of operations and the current skill level of the U.S. Army would permit. Judging whether he was a “good” or “bad” general has to take a number of thorny and intertwined factors into consideration, but the real issue was time.

The U.S. Army, top to bottom, was going to get a lot better by 1944, and every general looks better when the formations, staff, and support systems under his command—all of an invasion force’s moving parts—are more experienced. While it’s impossible to say with certainty, Clark likely would have been no exception.
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Re: Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Feb 09, 2019 4:42 pm

It is not my intention to "win" anything or to be an apologist for Clark. I'm just pointing out that the issue may be more complicated than Clark's ego getting the better of him. Maybe it did.

I read a few dissertations at the Military Academy online library on the matter and it just seems to be an aberration from Clark's decision making before and after. One theory is that Clark was miffed that Alexander gave the order to Truscott by-passing him. Another theory blamed the different traditions and styles of command between the British and Americans. The British often did not issue direct orders to subordinates, but expected them to do the right thing on their own. Americans on the other hand did not act without orders.

Until the Ultra secret came out, the reasonable explanations to Clark's actions are that his ego got the better of him. In absence of knowledge about Ultra, or more importantly the secret about OSS agents in Rome sending information directly to 5th Army, Clark alluding to his G-2 providing information about Kesselring laying a trap just looks like excuse making. Maybe it is.

Nonetheless, both Alexander and Truscott were "dumbfounded" by Clark's actions. It could be that Clark was privy to Intel that only Marshall and Ike would normally be privy too. Specifically OSS Intel. Clark as commander of 5th Army would of necessity need to be in the loop. I think it is worth considering.
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Re: Gen.Mark Clark's Mistake at ANZIO in 1944

Post by aurora » Sun Feb 10, 2019 11:54 am

Apologies for the silly remark Dave--After the near-failure at Salerno and the debacle of the Rapido, and following the disappointments of Anzio, and now the hard-fought success of the past two weeks, there was no way Clark was going to risk a major set-back now. To his mind, AOK 14 had to be faced, and that meant continuing the pressure on Velletri.

Furthermore, Fifth Army intelligence reports suggested on 25 May that the German 362nd Division had withdrawn towards Valmontone to the east of Velletri. On the evidence of the way the Germans had fought the battle so far, Clark also suspected von Mackensen would shift units from the Alban Hills into the Valmontone gap, which would in turn then thin out the German forces along the Caeasr Line to the north.

Moreover, he was not convinced that much could be achieved by pushing across to Valmontone. It would mean overextending his line of supply from the bridgehead, and, in any case, beyond the town lay more mountains, whose valleys cut across any potential line of advance.
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