As many of you may know, we have an important anniversary of a pivotal World War 2 event this week. So I figured I’d do my duty, and give you a handful of details about that critical moment, that day that will remain long remembered, that triumph that started the endgame for the Axis in World War 2. So here we are – the tale of …… June 4, 1944.
(Hey …. wait a minute …. ain’t the Normandy invasion on June SIXTH? 8O )
Ah, but this ISN’T the tale of Operation Overlord, the invasion of Northern France. This is the tale of the fall of the first Axis capitol, and some REALLY rotten timing for the American general in charge.
70 years ago, on June 4th, the Allied armies captured Rome. Capping a campaign that
started eleven months earlier with the invasion of the Mediterranean island of Sicily, and the reward for a bloody fight on the beaches of Anzio and Nettuno in January of 1944, the capture of Rome should have been a tremendous news item, and a shining star in the career of Lieutenant General Mark Clark. Leading an Allied force of Americans, British, Polish, Canadians, and others, he had marched his forces from the toe of the boot of Italy all the way, through numerous German defensive lines and two amphibious assaults, to the Italian capitol. Clark heard the momentous news on the afternoon of the 4th, and passed the news on to correspondents, expecting to make front page news.
But it wasn’t to be. It took more than 24 hours for the news to get to America, via the various landlines, radio broadcasts, and trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. Arriving late on the 5th, the information would have blared forth from the headlines on the morning of the Sixth of June. However, all the news agencies had been warned on the 5th to expect a news flash from northwestern Europe, from General Dwight Eisenhower, about “the opening of the second front”. And so, the capture of the first Axis capitol in the war was bumped from the front page, and what should have been a glorious chapter in General Clark’s career, became a footnote in history.
Oh, and by the by – today is also the 25th anniversary of first “free” Polish elections, the
start of a movement that would throw off the shackles of 44 years of Communism, and see Poland as a free country for the first time since 1939. So a big shout-out to my Polish readers, and of course to Chicago, the city with the 2nd largest Polish population in the entire world. (Yeah, Warsaw pipped us. Fooey! ;) )
And never fear, I will have a post to mark the 70th anniversary of Overlord – and it will mark another milestone of somewhat less importance as well, so tune in. And finally, I promise I WILL get to your comments, once I finally have my Email tamed. So stay tuned!
(Polish flag retrieved by Google search from apollosigncompany.com)
(Map of Italy with Anzio marked, retrieved by Google search from http://www.wannasurf.com)