World: Up the Boot

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"Smiling Albert" Kesselring had good reason to be serious. His quick abandonment of Rome had not helped him a bit. His Tenth and Fourteenth Armies, tumbling back over roads constantly strafed by Allied airmen, were in a desperate fix.

It was perfectly plain that General Sir Harold R.L.G. Alexander was still striving mightily to destroy them. He could be balked only if the Germans could somehow get back to manned and prepared positions where they could stop, regroup and get back into the fight.

The German right was scrambling up the Italian boot so rapidly that the pursuing Allies—making 15 miles a day along the flat Tyrrhenian coastal plain—had trouble keeping contact. The German center in the hills and the left along the Adriatic, falling back more slowly, faced dire peril. Through the flagging right the Allies might knife suddenly eastward, surround the rest of the Germans.

On the Right. After the fall of Rome, Alexander smashed the German right with a brilliant trick. Through the tired formations of the Allied Fifth Army he secretly slipped an entirely fresh unit—the 6th South African Armored Division (veterans of Ethiopia and East Africa). The maneuver was a stunning success. The exhausted German Fourteenth Army collapsed before the new well-organized strength.

Said an Allied spokesman: "Scattered remnants of the German Fourteenth are mainly engaged in stealing one another's transport, to get away as fast as possible."

The revitalized Allied force along the Tyrrhenian coast first rounded up 2,000 dazed, stranded Germans at the mouth of the Tiber, sent them to the rear. They raced almost 40 miles more, occupied one of Rome's ancient ports, Civitavecchia. Eighty miles north of Rome—25 miles ahead of Allied land patrols—Allied minesweepers poked into the harbor of San Stefano, found that it too had been evacuated.

Farther inland the Allies swung around craterlike Lake Bracciano, dashed into walled Viterbo, classical home of hand-ome fountains and beautiful women. More than 400 smashed Nazi vehicles strewed Highway No. 2 from Rome. Near Highway No. 3, outside Civita Castellana, General Mark Clark's men found the tunneled underground stronghold where Kesselring had joked with his staff, studied his maps.

Midway between the Tyrrhenian and the Adriatic the Germans seemed firmer. Mines, demolitions, difficult country, stubborn rear guards impeded pursuit of the long, weary German columns winding up the rutted mountain roads. But General Sir Oliver Leese's Eighth Army slogged steadily at their heels, captured Avezzano, virtually cleared the lateral highway from Rome to the Adriatic.

On the Left. The German left fell back of its own accord along the Adriatic—a necessary corollary to retreat in the west. Allied troops advanced without cost, occupied the port of Pescara, the capital of Chieti province, took over the coastal end of the lateral highway to Rome. The German left seemed to be having trouble disengaging itself for fast retreat.

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