Our first full day on the Italian mainland. Before leaving Morano Calabro, we visited the mountain-top Norman castle overlooking the town. We then continued to Salerno where we visited the famous battle locations.
|The Norman Castle, built on the site of a Roman fort, towers over the ancient town of Morano Calabro. It was quite a bit higher than the hotel and we were grateful for Tony driving us up there.
|Considerable reconstruction has taken place and the castle is easily accessible.
|Our group wanders around the castle, taking in the incredible views. The road leading out of town is clearly visible. Soon we would be traveling it on our way to Salerno.
|On 9 September 1943, the first American troops, along with units of the British Army, landed on the Italian mainland at Salerno. A week earlier, the British Army landed in Calabria and began slugging their way Northward in hopes of linking up with the Allied force in Salerno. In the ensuing 3 weeks of hell at Salerno, attacks and counterattacks marked a vicious seesaw battle to break out of the beach and take the port of Naples. Our group approached Salerno from the North, taking the road South from Eboli to Persano and the Tobacco Factory. This period photo shows the circular complex of the Tobacco Factory which for three weeks stood directly on the front line. Three times it lie on the German side of the line and three times on the American side. Many men, on both sides lost their lives with each turnover.
|With the destroyed Tobacco Factory in the background, Tony lectures us on Salerno. As usual, Coach takes careful notes. The German strategy in Italy was not to anticipate where a landing would take place and build a static defense. Instead, they waited for the landing, and when the site was known, rushed their divisions to the landing area to push the invaders into the sea. American forces, after savage fighting to overcome beach defenses, were within days, able to establish a perimeter in the foothills some 10 miles inland, the left flank was just North of the Tobacco Factory.
|The American beaches were at Paestum, a restored Greek city. British troops and American paratroopers and rangers landed further north. The first Americans ashore was the 36th Infantry Division, as yet untested in combat. Savage fighting to overcome minefields, machine gun and mortar emplacements on the beaches rapidly transformed them to seasoned veterans. The 45th Infantry Division, veterans of Sicily, waited aboard transports and followed when the beaches were secure. British and American forces were to move in a pincer action, linking up in the "U" shaped hills surrounding the Salerno coastal plain and then drive on Naples. Capturing the port of Naples was the objective to the early Italian campaign. The plan called for another division, the 3rd Infantry, also to land at Salerno but sufficient transports were not available for the entire force. Operation Overlord, the invasion of France, was given priority for personnel, equipment and ships - the Italian campaign had to make due with what they could scrounge.