Mediterranean Campaign and Invasion of Italy

To alleviate the stresses on his forces in the east, Stalin had been pressing the Americans and the British to open a second front against the Axis forces. Believing that an invasion of France was impractical at that time, Churchill and Roosevelt decided to do this in North Africa, with the goal of invading Italy from North Africa. The Brits and U.S. troops landed on the coast of Morocco (Casablanca) and Algeria (Algiers) in November 1942. The campaign was called “Operation Torch” and was the largest amphibious military landing to that date. In some places, the invasion force was met with strong opposition from the Vichy French forces, who were fighting for the Germans who occupied France. In other locations, the French offered no resistance, and, in fact, joined with the Allies.

Operation Torch cost the Allies around 480 killed and 720 wounded. French losses totaled around 346 killed and 1,997 wounded. Allied troops advanced east into Tunisia where they met German forces under famed General Erwin Rommel. Fighting through the spring of 1943, the Allies finally drove the Axis from North Africa in May 1943, with 250,000 German troops surrendering in North Africa. Significant battles were El Alamein, October 23-24, 1942, and Kasserine Pass, February 19-22, 1943, an Allied defeat. With the Allies in control of North Africa and with a secure naval position in the Mediterranean, the scene for the invasion of Italy was set. (Id.)

Here is “El Alamein, by Decaying from their album “The Last Days of War” (2013). (

Taking over the charge of the 15th panzer division
Fighting over Libya with Afrika Korps
To assist the demoralised Italian troops
The siege of Tobruk goes soon wrong
But the thrust concentrates on Gazala
The outcome brings an havoc to the British armour
Rommel crowned as the Desert Fox
The allied forces not all-out defeated
They’re still firmly in the game

Advancing toward the sands of El Alamein
The steady drive for Egypt

Bringin in Bernard Montgomery
To ease this expanding pain
Now the British Army prevails at Alma Halfa
Forcing the Fox to think again
The second Battle of El Alamein commences
Ultimately bringing the Axis to defeat

Orders from Hitler not to back down
But this is lost, Germans on the run

Sealing the North African Theatre
The oil fields are now lost
They are lost

In the summer of 1943, the Allies invaded and conquered Sicily in six weeks (July 9-August 17) and then advanced on southern Italy. Control of Sicily gave the Allies naval control of the Mediterranean. After amphibious landings in Salerno and other locations, the Allied forces proceeded north against combined resistance from Italian and German troops. As result of the Allied success, the Italians overthrew Mussolini in a coup, and Italy surrendered to the Allies on September 8. The German forces in Italy were prepared for this. They disarmed Italian units and occupied important defensive positions. The Germans proceeded to offer stiff resistance to the Allied advance in Italy until their surrender in May, 1945. (;

The Allies marched north through central Italy toward Rome. The Germans dug defensive lines south of Rome. It took four major Allied offensives between January and May 1944 before the German lines were eventually broken by a combined assault of the Fifth and Eighth Armies (including British, American, French, Polish and Canadian Corps) concentrated along a 20-mile front between Monte Cassino and the western seaboard. The major battles during this phase were Moro River Campaign, Battle of Monte Cassino and Battle of Anzio. Rome had been declared an open city by the German Army so no resistance was encountered there. The Allied forces took possession of Rome on June 4, 1944. (Id.)

During the fall of 1944, the winter of 1944-45 and the spring of 1945, the Allies, often with the help of Italian Partisans, pushed the German forces ever northward. As April 1945 came to an end, the Axis forces in Italy, retreating on all fronts and having lost most of its fighting strength, were left with little option but surrender. General Heinrich von Vietinghoff signed the instrument of surrender on behalf of the German armies in Italy on April 29. Hostilities formally ended on May 2, 1945. (Id.)

It is estimated that between September 1943 and April 1945, some 60,000 Allied and 50,000 German soldiers died in Italy. Overall Allied casualties during the campaign totaled about 320,000 and the corresponding Axis figure (excluding those involved in the final surrender) was about 336,650. In the West, no other campaign cost more than Italy in terms of lives lost and wounds suffered by infantry forces of both sides. (Id.)

“D-Day Dodgers, sung by the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, whose version differs a bit from the lyrics listed here (, was originally written by Harry Pynn. Hamish Henderson collected different versions of the song, and it is often attributed to him. “D-Day Dodgers” is a term for those Allied servicemen who fought in Italy. A “dodger” is someone who avoids something; the soldiers in Italy felt that their sacrifices were being ignored after the invasion of Normandy, and a “D-Day Dodger” is a reference to someone who was supposedly avoiding real combat by serving in Italy. The reality was anything but. Reference to a “D-Day Dodger” was bitingly sarcastic, given the steady stream of allied service personnel who were being killed or wounded in combat on the Italian front. Reference to Lady Astor in the song, relates to the belief that she, as a member of the British Parliament, made remarks critical of British troops in Italy on the floor of the Parliament. Those rumors were apparently without basis.

We’re the D-Day Dodgers out in Italy
Always on the vino, always on the spree.
Eighth Army scroungers and their tanks
We live in Rome among the Yanks.
We are the D-Day Dodgers, over here in Italy.

We landed at Salerno, a holiday with pay,
Jerry brought the band down to cheer us on our way
Showed us the sights and gave us tea.
We all sang songs, the beer was free.
We are the D-Day Dodgers, way out in Italy.

The Volturno and Cassino were taken in our stride
We didn’t have to fight there. We just went for the ride.
Anzio and Sangro were all forlorn.
We did not do a thing from dusk to dawn.
For we are the D-Day Dodgers, over here in Italy.

On our way to Florence we had a lovely time.
We ran a bus to Rimini right through the Gothic Line.
On to Bologna we did go.
Then we went bathing in the Po.
For we are the D-Day Dodgers, over here in Italy.

Once we had a blue light that we were going home
Back to dear old Blighty, never more to roam.
Then somebody said in France you’ll fight.
We said never mind, we’ll just sit tight,
The windy D-Day Dodgers, out in Sunny Italy.

Now Lady Astor, get a load of this.
Don’t stand up on a platform and talk a load of piss.
You’re the nation’s sweetheart, the nation’s pride
We think your mouth’s too bloody wide.
We are the D-Day Dodgers, in Sunny Italy.

When you look ’round the mountains, through the mud and rain
You’ll find the crosses, some which bear no name.
Heartbreak, and toil and suffering gone
The boys beneath them slumber on
They were the D-Day Dodgers, who’ll stay in Italy

So listen all you people, over land and foam
Even though we’ve parted, our hearts are close to home.
When we return we hope you’ll say
“You did your little bit, though far away
All of the D-Day Dodgers, way out there in Italy.”