The Royal Navy and Maritime Power in the Twentieth Century

By Ian Speller | Go to book overview

5

AMPHIBIOUS OPERATIONS

The Italian campaign, 1943-1945

Christopher Tuck

In the Italian campaign, maritime power was the vital enabler for victory. Though the outcome of the Italian campaign would depend on the actions of armies and land-based air forces, the contribution made by the allied navies generally, and the Royal Navy specifically, constituted the sine qua non for eventual success. This chapter will examine one of the important roles played by the Royal Navy through an examination of amphibious operations in the Italian campaign: predominantly, though not exclusively, the landings at Sicily, Salerno and Anzio. The chapter will first present an overview of amphibious operations during the campaign, before going on to examine the theatre and tactical level issues that shaped the impact of these operations. It will highlight the successes achieved by the Royal Navy in these operations, but also the failures and debates over lost opportunities. The Italian campaign has particular utility in illuminating the challenges of amphibious warfare. A combination of the well-developed existing Allied amphibious capability and theatre geography broadly sympathetic to the conduct of landings promised an important, perhaps even decisive role, for forces landed from the sea. Yet the historical outcome was ambiguous. The Italian landings demonstrate in full measure the range of problems that can confront amphibious planning and execution in the unforgiving environment of actual conflict. An analysis of amphibious operations during the Italian campaign is of more than just historical interest: it provides a fruitful case study of the challenges that face navies in conducting complex joint and combined operations in a littoral environment; in parallel, it also has much to say about the synergistic relationship between land, sea and airpower.


The Italian campaign

In successive summit meetings from early 1941 onwards Winston Churchill had argued that the Allies lacked sufficient shipping or forces for an invasion of northern France and that instead the focus should be the Mediterranean, the Axis' 'soft underbelly'. Indeed at the Cairo conference in November 1943 Churchill was willing to see plans for an invasion of northern Europe pushed back in order to ensure that resources were made available for operations against Italy. 1 He saw in

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The Royal Navy and Maritime Power in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Transition to War 13
  • 2 - Sea Control in Narrow Waters 33
  • 3 - Sea Denial, Interdiction and Diplomacy 50
  • 4 - Air Power and Evacuations 67
  • 5 - Amphibious Operations 88
  • 6 - Maritime Power and Complex Crises 108
  • 7 - Quarantine Operations 129
  • 8 - Maritime Jurisdiction and the Law of the Sea 148
  • 9 - Naval Diplomacy 164
  • 10 - Operations in a War Zone 181
  • 11 - From Peacekeeping to Peace Enforcement 197
  • Select Bibliography 209
  • Index 215
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