Operation Shingle - Battle - Response of Axis Forces

Response of Axis Forces

Kesselring was informed of the landings at 03:00 on January 22. Although the landings came as a surprise, Kesselring had made contingency plans to deal with possible landings at all the likely locations. All the plans relied on his divisions each having previously organised a motorised rapid reaction unit (Kampfgruppe) which could move speedily to meet the threat and buy time for the rest of the defenses to get in place. At 05:00 he ordered the Kampfgruppe of 4th Parachute Division and the Hermann Göring Panzer Division to defend the roads leading from Anzio to the Alban Hills via Campoleone and Cisterna whilst his plans expected some 20,000 defending troops to have arrived by the end of the first day. In addition, he requested that OKW send reinforcements, and in response to this they ordered the equivalent of more than three divisions from France, Yugoslavia, and Germany whilst at the same time releasing to Kesselring a further three divisions in Italy which had been under OKW's direct command. Later that morning, he ordered General Eberhard von Mackensen (Fourteenth Army) and General Heinrich von Vietinghoff (Tenth Army - Gustav Line) to send him additional reinforcements.

The German units in the immediate vicinity had in fact been dispatched to reinforce the Gustav Line only a few days earlier. All available reserves from the southern front or on their way to it were rushed toward Anzio; these included the 3rd Panzer Grenadier and 71st Infantry Divisions, and the bulk of the Luftwaffe's Hermann Göring Panzer Division. Kesselring initially considered that a successful defence could not be made if the Allies launched a major attack on January 23 or January 24. However, by the end of January 22, the lack of aggressive action convinced him that a defence could be made. Nevertheless, few additional defenders arrived on January 23 although the arrival on the evening of January 22 of Lieutenant General Alfred Schlemm and his 1st Parachute Corps headquarters brought greater organisation and purpose to the German defensive preparations. By January 24, however, the Germans had over 40,000 troops in prepared defensive positions.

Three days after the landings, the beachhead was surrounded by a defence line consisting of three divisions: The 4th Parachute Division to the west, the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division to the center in front of Alban Hills, the Hermann Göring Panzer Division to the east.

Von Mackensen's 14th Army assumed overall control of the defence on January 25. Elements of eight German divisions were employed in the defence line around the beachhead, and five more divisions were on their way to the Anzio area. Kesselring ordered an attack on the beachhead for January 28, though it was postponed to February 1.

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