Battle of Garfagnana

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Battle of Garfagnana
Part of the Italian Campaign of World War II
Gothic Line - Concept of OperationOlive 1944.png
The Gothic Line, in red. Garfagnana was in the most western section, next to Lucca and Massa
Date 26–28 December 1944
Location North of Lucca, Italy
Result Tactical Axis victory
Territorial
changes
Territory in northern Tuscany falls back into Axis hands.
Participants
 United States
 United Kingdom
 India
Flag of Italian Committee of National Liberation.svg Italian partisans
 Nazi Germany
 Italian Social Republic
Commanders and leaders
United States Lucian Truscott
United States Edward Almond
United Kingdom Dudley Russell
Italian Social Republic Rodolfo Graziani
Nazi Germany Otto Fretter-Pico
Italian Social Republic Mario Carloni
Strength
18,000 men
120 tanks
140 artillery pieces
9,100 men
100 artillery pieces
Casualties and losses
nearly 1,000 killed/missing in action
300+ prisoners taken
about 1,000 killed/missing in action

The Battle of Garfagnana (Italian: Battaglia della Garfagnana) was known to the Germans as Operation Winter Storm (Unternehmen Wintergewitter) and nicknamed the "Christmas Offensive" (Italian: Offensiva di Natale).

It was an attack of Axis forces on the western sector of the Gothic Line during World War II. It happened in December 1944 in the north Tuscan Apennines, near Massa and Lucca.[1]

In late December 1944 the German 14th Army under General Kurt von Tippelskirch attacked the left side of the U.S. Fifth Army in the Serchio valley. He wanted to make the U.S. forces stay there.

The Allies had ordered two brigades from Indian 8th Infantry Division to be moved to help the U.S. 92nd Infantry Division. By the time they had arrived the Germans and Italians had captured Barga. U.S. soldiers had intended to retreat to Lucca.[2] The German / Italian force stopped the attack and withdrew.

Barga was recaptured one week later by the New Year[3]. The western Gothic Line remained in place until late March 1945.

Historical background[change | edit source]

Benito Mussolini and his Defense Minister, Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, wanted to create an Italian Army. They did not want this army to be under German control. They wanted some of the newly created Italian Divisions to attack the Allies in the Italian peninsula.

They planned an attack in Garfagnana for two of their new Divisions. There would be 40,000 men and airplanes. Their goal was recapturing Lucca, Pisa and Livorno in Tuscany from the Allies. But the Italians lacked arms, tanks and airplanes.

The Germans created their own attack, With 9,000 soldiers (mostly Italians), they attacked in Garfagnana a small area of the Gothic Line. They wanted to move the Allies back 25 kilometres (16 mi).

Groups from the U.S. 92nd Infantry Division moved near Garfagnana sector in November 1944. They did not capture Castelnuovo di Garfagnana.

The battle[change | edit source]

Following the Ardennes Offensive in mid-December, the Allies thought the Axis might try an attack in Northern Italy. The 19th and 21st Brigades of the Indian 8th Infantry Division were moved to help the U.S. 92nd Infantry Division in front of Lucca.[4][5]

On 26 December, several RSI military did the "Operation Winter Storm" (Wintergewitter) attacks with three German battalions.

This was a German and Italian attack against the American 92nd Infantry Division. A total of 9,100 Axis troops (of which 66% were Italians), with 100 artillery pieces but no tanks attacked. There were 18,000 Allied troops with 140 artillery batteries and 120 tanks.

Their goal was to capture the small towns of Barga, Sommocolonia, Vergemoli, Treppignana, Coreglia, Fornaci di Barga, Promiana, Castelvecchio and Calomini. These were all north-west of Lucca.[6] By 27 December the attack was over. In the morning, the German troops entered Pian di Coreglia.

The next morning, the Axis troops occupied Piano di Coreglia. The Axis troops got more than 25 kilometres inside the Allies lines.

References[change | edit source]

  1. Oland, pp. 25-26
  2. Pellegrinetti, p. 79
  3. Moseley, page 156
  4. Oland, p. 25
  5. Jackson, pp.126 & 127.
  6. Fiaschi, p. 93