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February 17, 2014

Rare Photos of Italy Campaign From World War II in 1944

On January 22, 1944, six months after the Allied invasion of Sicily, American and British troops swarmed ashore at Anzio, roughly 30 miles south of Rome. The brainchild of Winston Churchill and dubbed Operation Shingle, the attack caught German troops stationed along the Italian coast largely by surprise; but after the initial onslaught, the Germans dug in. The next four months saw some of the fiercest, most prolonged fighting in World War II’s European Theater, as the Allies — including Canadians and French alongside the British and Americans — battled German troops for control of the region.

LIFE photographer George Silk, a New Zealand native who covered the war from the North African desert, through Rome, up to Belgian’s forests and into Germany itself, spent months with the Allies after they landed at Anzio, chronicling what LIFE magazine at one point characterized as a “slow, maddening, fruitless battle.” In late May, the Allies finally managed a breakout assault, supported by artillery and air power; in early June, Allied troops entered Rome virtually unopposed.

Here, a series of Silk’s photographs — many of them never published before — that graphically illustrate the grueling stalemate, accompanied always by lethal violence, that defined the operation.

American hospital tents being erected below ground level for protection from enemy shelling, Anzio, 1944.

In ruined Anzio American and British soldiers gather around man who has just been hit by fragments of a shell bursting in the street. Casualty had come ashore from the harbor 40 seconds before.

In a riddled tent five men were killed and eight wounded by a German shell. The tent is a ward in the beachhead hospital.

Aerial view of beachhead hospital. It has been shelled, bombed, strafed by Germans.

American soldiers relax with their mascot, "Axis Sally," which was "liberated" during the battle for control of the Anzio beachhead, 1944.

Amphibious trucks ferry supplies from cargo ship to Anzio beach. A few minutes before, a number of them had been sunk in attack by German fighter-bombers.

American Military Policeman Ray E. Kellogg directs traffic in bomb-shattered Anzio, 1944.

Troops from M Company attend to a wounded comrade, Anzio, 1944.

Sign posted at intersection in the American sector during Battle of Anzio, 1944.

American commanders in underground headquarters, housed in a centuries-old network of catacombs, Anzio, 1944.

LST's nuzzle up to shore in Anzio harbor to unload fresh American troops.

American troops, Battle of Anzio, 1944.

Medic, Pvt. E. Armitage, from Massachusetts, laps up sunshine after winter months at the mouth of his foxhole, Anzio, 1944.

American soldiers sight a mortar from a dugout behind road embankment during the fight for Anzio, 1944.

Ducking to avoid German fire, Anzio, 1944.

From photographer George Silk's notes: "William P. Chirolas displays things that men in M Company don't like: Dextrose tablets . . . Barbasol . . . Fleetwood cigarettes . . . processed American cheese . . ."

Wounded American soldier treated at battalion headquarters while awaiting an ambulance during the fighting to take Anzio, 1944.

Wounded soldier and chaplain, Anzio, 1944.

Private Robert Scullion holds the Purple Heart he was awarded after being wounded by shellfire while in the hospital, Anzio. (Note shrapnel holes in tent wall.)

Smoke rises from the German lines during the fight for Anzio, 1944.

At a rest camp only 2,000 yards from the front veterans are entertained by a band. Located in woods, camp is one of few places on the beachhead even partly screened from German observation. Men are generally sent for 48 hours of relief from the ceaseless shel

Preparing for a medal ceremony, Anzio, 1944.

American cemetery on the beachhead is neat and bare. Little metal tags on white crosses bear name and rank of the dead. An occasional Star of David stands among the rows of crosses placed there by U.S. Army's conscientious Graves Registration Service.

(Photos by George Silk – Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)


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