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In late 1943, the Allied campaign to liberate Italy from the hands of the Germans was at a stalemate along the “Gustav Line,” a natural stronghold of mountainous terrain stretching across the country; just north of Naples. General Mark Clark, commanding the American Fifth Army, was given the order to outflank the German army by landing at Anzio and clearing the road to Rome. In a textbook perfect assault, forty thousand Allied troops of the American Fifth Army, Sixth Corps and the British First Infantry Division were landed on Anzio beachhead on January 22, 1944. After initial success, the Allies were pinned down on the beachhead by a vastly superior German force. The Germans eventually committed 80,000 additional troops to the Italian campaign to “push the Allies back into the sea.” Through sheer bravery and heroism, the Allies held the beachhead. Finally, with long awaited reinforcements, the Allies broke out in late May and ultimately marched victoriously into Rome, in June 1944. The strategic importance of the Battle of Anzio in the liberation of Italy is well documented. The campaign’s contribution to the overall Allied effort in Europe, however, is often underestimated. The two German corps engaged on the Anzio front were originally destined for Normandy. The success of the Allied landings on the beaches in France in June 1944 were due largely to the tenacity of the Allied forces at Anzio. But the price of this crucial victory was high. Allied forces suffered nearly 28,000 casualties. In one measure of the courage and sacrifice of those who fought there, 22 Americans were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the most of any single battle of World War II. USS ANZIO (CG 68) is the second US naval ship to be named in honor of the men and women who served at Anzio. She will sail the seas dedicated to preserving the freedom won on the Anzio beachhead while keeping alive the legacy of the boundless bravery and fighting spirit of each Anzio veteran.
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