On September 8th 1943 the convoy began to converge towards Salerno Bay, and some 700 ships carried over 30,000 men. The Luftwaffe began making serious attacks on the convoy, and were countered by Royal Navy Â‘SeafiresÂ’, and AA gun fire from the main ships.
The ships in the Northern (British) attack force began turning towards the coast when it reached the island of Capri. The Southern task force (American) kept Point Licosia off their starboard bow and headed for the beaches. Ahead of these convoys Minesweepers began sweeping the Bay of Salerno for mines.
The British and American commands were split in their choice of Italy for the initial landing on the Europe mainland. However, as with many aspects of warfare both at the time, and subsequently, the political factors have often outweighed the military planning. Therefore the result was a political compromise, and resulted in the choice of Salerno Bay. (For full details see Calculated Risk. M. Clark).
It should be noted that the American 5th Army was formed in January 1943 and this was to be its first combat experience as a combined Allied force. The commander was Lt. Gen. Mark Wayne Clark, a close personal friend of Eisenhower, who gave Clark the command of the 5th Army upon its creation.
US 5th Army
The 5th Army was divided at this time into two Army Corps
(1 British and 1 American) with :-
British 10 Corps (X)
Contained two divisions and special forces
46 Infantry Division. and 56 Infantry Division.
Both of these divisions were fairly new to war meeting their first combat in North Africa. The experienced 7th Armoured Div.(Desert Rats) was available as backup after the beach head was secured. A contingent of Commandos both marine and army from Britain, and 3 Battalions of US Rangers made up the British X Corps.
American 6 Corps (VI)
Comprised of the following :-
36 US Infantry Division.
This was one of the first National Guard Divisions to be mobilised and were often referred to as Â“T PatchersÂ” and had no combat experience
US 45th Infantry Division
Â“Thunderbirds Â“ from Oklahoma
US 3rd and US 34th Infantry Divisions
These were to be used as support once the beach head had been secured for a push inland.
US 82 Airborne Division
These were also available to Clark if required.
6 Corps was commanded by 57 year old Maj. Gen. E. J. Dawley. He was, greatly respected by Mc.Nair and Marshall who were also Clarks patrons. However, Clark at 46 decided that this was Â“A young manÂ’s warÂ” .
The 10th Army was garrisoned in the mountains of Calabria, alongside the Italian forces. The 10th Army was a new force formed on the 8th August 1943 under HitlerÂ’s sanction. It was commanded by Generaloberst Von Vietinghoff, whose combat experience was extensive, and included Panzer Division in Poland and the Balkans, Corps commander in Russia and then the Occupation Army Commander in France and finally Italy.
An Italian coastal fortress division was given the responsibility for the Salerno Bay defence. In the same area the Wehrmachts 16th Panzer Division was present . This unit had fought to its own near destruction on the Russian Front at Stalingrad. The unit was reformed in France in March 1943 from the Stalingrad survivors, veterans from other formations and new draftees.