The Rock of Anzio: From Sicily to Dachau, a History of the 45th Infantry Division

The Rock of Anzio: From Sicily to Dachau, a History of the 45th Infantry Division

The Rock of Anzio: From Sicily to Dachau, a History of the 45th Infantry Division

The Rock of Anzio: From Sicily to Dachau, a History of the 45th Infantry Division


Anzio was one of the greatest battles of World War II-a desperate gamble to land a large amphibious force behind German lines in Italy in the hope that the war could be shortened by capturing Rome. It also turned out to be one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. military history. Based on extensive research into archives, photos, letters, diaries, previously classified official records, & scores of personal interviews with surviving veterans of the 45th Division, The Rock of Anzio is written with an immediacy that puts the reader right onto the battlefield & shows us war through the eyes of ordinary men called upon to perform extraordinary deeds. Contents: Introduction. Early History & Training. The Invasion of Sicily. Saving the Salerno Beachhead. Ordeal in the Apennines. Agony at Anzio. Breakout from the Beachhead. The Liberation of Rome. The Invasion of Southern France. Cracking the Maginot & Siegfried Lines. Into the Heart of Germany. The Liberation of Dachau. Epilogue & Postscript.


During the Second World War, the United States Army fielded ninety-one combat divisions. Of these, fifty-two were deployed to the European and Mediterranean theaters of operation. And, of the Army's ninety-one divisions, eighteen were National Guard divisions -- originally and primarily composed of nonprofessional "citizen soldiers" who voluntarily joined their local units before Pearl Harbor for a variety of reasons: the camaraderie, the extra pay that came in handy during the final years of the Great Depression, the manly pursuits of military training, and, not inconsequentially, because it was the patriotic thing to do.

This book is the story of one of those eighteen National Guard divisions -- the 45th Infantry Division, nicknamed the "Thunderbirds." The 45th initially was made up of men from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma - men who grew up in lean times and under hard conditions. The men who joined its ranks were tough, and the Army's grueling training regimen and spartan living conditions made them tougher. For the most part, they were men who never shirked an assignment, no matter how difficult. They were men who never whined when the burden of battle fell on their shoulders, as it did so often. They were men who never asked, "Why us?" or complained that life had dealt them a bad hand. They just did their job, and they did it well.

Generally regarded as the Army's "poor stepchildren," the National Guard outfits, prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, were a very secondary second line of defense, shackled with obsolete equipment and hamstrung with substandard training. Army Chief of Staff George Catlett Marshall would change all that. Streamlining the Army for the war he saw coming, Marshall made sure that the National Guard divisions would be as strong, as well trained, and as well equipped as the Regular Army divisions. In the case of the 45th, it was fortuitous that the men were the equal of those in any other division in the Army, for their valor and determination would be tested on numerous occasions, not the least of which was the struggle for the beachhead at Anzio.

While doing research for an article on Anzio for the January 1994 issue of World War II magazine, I was struck by a simple fact -- had the men of the 45th not held their ground in February 1944 when the Germans launched their furious counterattack against them, the Anzio beachhead, in . . .

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