Original U.S. WWII 5th Army Italy Africa Officer Class A Uniform Jacket
Original Item: Only One Available.
An extremely rare ITALY AFRICA insignia is found above the 5th Army patch on the left shoulder of the class A uniform jacket. This officer tunic is a size 40 and is offered in very good condition. It features engineering collar tabs a ruptured duck patch and four service bars on left sleeve which represent 24+ months of service overseas.
The United States Fifth Army was one of the principal formations of the U.S. Army in the Mediterranean during World War II, and was the first American field army ever to be activated outside of the United States. It was officially activated on 5 January 1943 at Oujda, French Morocco and made responsible for the defence of Algeria and Morocco. It was also given the responsibility for planning the American part of the invasion of mainland Italy, and therefore was not involved in the Allied invasion of Sicily (codenamed Operation Husky), where it was instead assigned the role of training combat troops destined for Sicily. The United States Fifth Army was initially commanded by Lieutenant General Mark Wayne Clark, who would lead the Fifth Army for nearly two years, and was to experience some of the toughest fighting of World War II, where it was engaged on the Italian Front, which was, in many ways, often more reminiscent of the trench warfare of the Western Front in World War I. Writing to Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers (American deputy to Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, Mediterranean Theater commander) in late March 1944, Clark explained the difficulties of the fighting in Italy so far, which could be said of the whole campaign. They were, he claimed, "Terrain, weather, carefully prepared defensive positions in the mountains, determined and well-trained enemy troops, grossly inadequate means at our disposal while on the offensive, with approximately equal forces to the defender."
The Fifth Army first saw action during the Salerno landings (Operation Avalanche), the assault landings at Salerno, part of the Allied invasion of Italy, in September 1943. Due to the comparatively low numbers of American troops available in the Mediterranean Theater it was made up of one American and one British corps. They were the U.S. VI Corps, under Major General Ernest J. Dawley and the British X Corps, under Lieutenant-General Richard L. McCreery. At Salerno, VI Corps landed on the right flank, and X Corps on the left flank. Progress was initially slow, due in part to a lack of initiative by Dawley, the VI Corps commander, and due also to heavier than expected German resistance. However, heavy naval and air bombardment, along with a parachute drop by elements of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, had saved the forces from any danger of being driven back into the sea, combined with the approach of the British Eighth Army, under General Bernard Montgomery (the Eighth Army had landed further south in Operation Baytown, six days before Avalanche), the German 10th Army began to retreat. On 20 September, by which time the Fifth and Eighth Armies had linked up, Major General Dawley, VI Corps commander, was relieved of his command by Clark. Dawley was temporarily made deputy army commander, and was soon replaced in command of VI Corps by Major General John P. Lucas.
Mark W. Clark, pictured here in 1942 as a major general, was destined to command the Fifth Army throughout most of its existence.
Progress was then good for a couple of weeks and the Fifth Army crossed the Barbara Line and the Volturno Line until the Germans turned, stood and fought. They had established a position on the Winter Line (also known as the Gustav Line), which included the formidable defensive positions at San Pietro Infine in the Liri Valley and at Monte Cassino. By this point, Fifth Army had been reinforced by a second American corps, II Corps, commanded by Major General Geoffrey Keyes. By the end of November Clark's Fifth Army had almost doubled in size, with the addition of French General Alphonse Juin's French Expeditionary Corps, from 130,247 men to 243,827. With the failure of the first operations to capture Monte Cassino, an attempt was made to exploit the Allied preponderance in seapower before the coming invasion of Normandy robbed the Mediterranean of the naval forces necessary for an amphibious assault to seize Rome.
VI Corps, with its experience of amphibious landings at Salerno, was chosen for the assault and withdrawn from the line, replaced by the French Expeditionary Corps. They made a second attempt to capture Monte Cassino in conjunction with the amphibious assault by VI Corps, which again failed. VI Corps landed at Anzio, unopposed, on 22 January 1944 in Operation Shingle, and suffered many of the same problems as had been seen at Salerno. A perceived lack of initiative on the part of the commander, Major General Lucas, combined with worries about the Germans catching VI Corps off balance if it advanced too far inland resulted in the beachhead being bottled up. The Germans launched a series of attacks and counterattacks, with both sides sustaining heavy losses, and nearly breached the last beachhead defences before again being driven off by heavy naval and air support. The fault, however, "was not due to Lucas's incompetence; it was due instead to wishful thinking, faulty operational planning, and the German army's ability to respond forcefully and aggressively."
After the failure of Shingle, a large reorganisation took place. Previously the Apennines had been the rough dividing line between Fifth and Eighth Armies. However, the dividing line was shifted westwards, to allow the contingent of both armies on the western side of Italy for maximum firepower to break through to Rome. British V Corps was left on the Adriatic coast to pin down any German units there. Fifth Army was relieved of responsibility for Cassino and the final phases of that battle saw Indian, New Zealand and finally Polish troops thrown against the fortress. Fifth Army also lost McCreery's British X Corps at this time, since it was felt that having exclusively American-organised units under Fifth Army and British-organised units under Eighth Army would ease logistics.
The breakthrough was achieved during the spring of 1944. Coordinated assaults by all the Allied forces, except V Corps, which was confined to a holding action, broke through. II Corps attacked along the coast, the French Expeditionary Corps, in a classic demonstration of mountain warfare, broke through on the right flank of Fifth Army, and VI Corps, now commanded by Major General Lucian K. Truscott, broke out of the Anzio beachhead. By early summer, Allied forces were well on their way to capturing Rome.
At this point, one of the more controversial incidents in the history of Fifth Army occurred. The strategic conception of General Sir Harold Alexander, commanding the Allied Armies in Italy (later redesigned 15th Army Group), was that the forces of VI Corps, coming out of Anzio, would trap the retreating German forces, and leave them to be annihilated by the advancing Fifth and Eighth Armies. However, in contravention of orders, Clark diverted units of VI Corps towards Rome, leaving a small blocking force to attempt to stop the Germans. It failed to do so, and the German forces were able to escape and reestablish a coherent line to the north of Rome. Clark claimed that there were significant German threats which necessitated the diversion, but many believe that he was primarily glory-seeking by being the first to liberate Rome.
Two days after Rome fell, on 4 June 1944, Operation Overlord was launched. The strategic conception of Overlord called for a supporting operation to be mounted by invading southern France. In order to do so, forces would have to be withdrawn from the Allied Armies in Italy. In the end, VI Corps was withdrawn, forming the nucleus of the field forces of the U.S. Seventh Army for the invasion of the French Riviera, Operation Dragoon. The French Expeditionary Corps was also withdrawn, to allow its men to be used to for the French First Army, a follow-up formation for Dragoon. In slightly less than two months, the strength of the Fifth Army dropped from 248,989 down to 153,323. However, the 25,000-strong Brazilian Expeditionary Force, under Marshal J.B. Mascarenhas de Morais, as well as other divisions had arrived to align with U.S. IV Corps (which had arrived in June) under Major General Willis D. Crittenberger, so two corps were maintained within Fifth Army.
In the second half of 1944, the Allied forces fighting on the Italian Front within the U.S. Fifth Army and British Eighth Army resembled more a multi-national force being constituted by: Americans (including segregated African/and/Japanese-Americans), British, French, members of French and British colonies (New Zealanders, Canadians, Indians, Gurkhas, Black Africans, Moroccans, Algerians, Jews and Arabs from the British Mandate in Palestine, South Africans, Rhodesians), as well as Brazilians and exiled forces from Poland, Greece, former Czechoslovakia and anti-fascist Italians.
The Germans reestablished their line across Italy at the level of Pisa and Rimini. The Allied forces spent another winter, after fierce fighting in the summer and autumn in front of the Gothic Line, frustrated at their lack of ability to break through. This time Fifth Army, with British XIII Corps under command, led by Lieutenant-General Sidney Kirkman (whose relationship with Clark was apparently very stormy) was straddling the Apennines, with many of its units occupying high, exposed positions which were miserable to garrison. That winter also saw a significant change of command. Lieutenant General Clark moved to command 15th Army Group (previously styled the Allied Armies in Italy), and Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott was appointed to command Fifth Army in his place. Truscott would command the Army from 16 December 1944 until the war's end. Another change came in January 1945 when XIII Corps reverted to control of British Eighth Army, which had also seen many changes in composition and command, and was now commanded by Lieutenant-General Richard L. McCreery.
In the final offensive of the Italian campaign, launched in April 1945, against the German Army Group C, the Eighth Army initiated the main offensive on the Adriatic coast, and then the Fifth Army also broke through the German defenses around Bologna. The German units, in the main, were pinned against the Po River and destroyed, or at the very least deprived of their transport and heavy weapons, which effectively made many of them useless. II Corps units raced through Milan towards the French frontier and the great port of Genoa. IV Corps pushed due north through Verona, Vicenza and as far as Bolzano and to the Brenner Pass, where they linked up with elements of the U.S. Seventh Army, under Lieutenant General Alexander Patch.
Its role in Italy cost Fifth Army dearly. It suffered 109,642 casualties in 602 days of combat, of which 19,475 were killed in action. The Fifth Army headquarters returned to the United States in September 1945. Fifth Army was deactivated on 2 October 1945 at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts.
In the informal athletic competitions held between units of the European and North African theaters, the Fifth Army was among the most successful, winning titles in baseball, boxing, swimming and football during the 1944 season. The football championship was gained after a victory over 12th Air Force in the Spaghetti Bowl on January 1, 1945.
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