I think the early stages of the Italian Campaign were definitely useful. Italy was knocked out of the war, tying down German units for Balkans occupation and defending the Italian Peninsula. Sardinia and Corsica were evacuated by Germany. Naples was an important port and Foggia had important airfields.
But (spoilers) considering how hard the fighting in the campaign became, with the benefit of hindsight, when should the Allies have stopped trying to advance northward because the gains ceased to outweight the cost? Was it really worthwhile to liberate Rome?
There were several goals in place with the invasion of Italy. One was to open a second front to relieve pressure on the Soviet lines which it did as several divisions earmarked for the east were diverted to Italy, secondly this was a massive propaganda for the allies in a positive light which increased morale greatly on the home front as well as within the various allied armies, thirdly was to hasten the Italian military to surrender which it did and lastly much of the Italian populace was happy to see the allies and actually paved the way for liberating more of Italy.
As to Rome this was a political juggernaut for the allies and for the Germans it was something they couldn’t afford to lose. Capturing Rome would be a major political and propaganda win for the allies and losing Rome would be a major political issue for the Germans.
As to keeping pressure up if the allies decided to stop pushing and consolidate their lines north of Rome this would of freed up more German divisions to go east and west so keeping up the pressure was the only way to keep the Germans tied up relieving pressure elsewhere.
I’m wondering about the opposite question: Why didn’t the Allies use Italy as their spearhead into Hilter’s Fotress Europe.? As I understand, the major impediments to an amphibious invasion, like was done the day after Rome fell on June 5, 1944, was getting the soldiers safely on the beach and then having the ports to supply the soldiers once they had broken out of their beach heads. On both of those, the Allies had a dickens of a time…at Omaha Beach GI’s suffered terrible loses right on the beach. Then, the Germans had wrecked Cherborgh harbor and Antwerp wouldn’t be in Allies hands for several more months and the mulberries weren’t fully up to the task, esp. due to weather. All of those problems would not have happened if the allies had gone up through Italy, because by the fall of Rome, the allies could have landed at several ports in Italy without any opposition. Also they would have come up the center of Nazi occupied Europe, cutting the German forces in half and getting to Berlin ahead of the Soviets. admittedly, this suggestion ignores the fact that Allies supplies were all at England, and transporting all those men and supplies through Gibralter would have created a long supply line, which has its own set of problems that shuttling across the narrow British channel did not have… But still…
I can answer part of that question. A lot had to do with geography and distance. In the northern part of Italy and south eastern part of France it is very mountainous and a perfect natural barrier for the Germans to hold making it not ideal for the allies to try and breach.
Secondly while Italy had usable ports the problem was you would have to convoy everything either through Suez Canal or the straights of Gibraltar leaving it vulnerable to submarines and aircraft.
Western France was always the first choice due to availability of multiple ports, large open areas, complete air and sea superiority and easy to resupply with relatively short distances to travel. A couple of hours travel time from England to France versus days or weeks worth of travel time to Italy.
I suggest that the campaign should have gone on the defensive once they reached the Gustav Line. Raiding on the coast and supplying partizans, both in Italy and the Balkans would have kept the German forces pinned without the high casualties.
From the political point of view Avalanche may have been justified to show willing to the Soviets.
Rome would have been a good prize if Avalanche had been prosecuted aggressively, but that opportunity was lost and Clark let the German forces escape for his own ego in taking Rome on June 5th; by which time it was of negligible propaganda value.
If the aggressiveness of the attacks on the Gustav Line and the landing at Anzio were swapped it could have been a great victory and propaganda boost in early 1944.
Overall it was a borderline campaign poorly commanded.
Had Clark perused the Germans, would there have been a fight for Rome? Personally, I see the benefit of not obliterating the city.
Would there have been a fight for Rome? No, the Germans had already accepted Rome as an Open City before the breakout from Anzio.
Clark entered Rome by moving away from the Germans. Following the plan to block the German lines of retreat from the South would not have endangered Rome.
Sorry, that assumes that the Germans don’t change their minds. Can’t discount that if you are going to ask for an alternate path.
Firstly, it’s not asking for an alternative plan, it’s Clark following the actual plan.
If we are looking at his actions during the breakout from the Anzio beachhead then the Germans had already evacuated Rome to prepared defences to the North. The Germans retreating from the Gustav Line were moving to the same prepared defences.
At the point where Clark made his decision to abandon the plan a battle in Rome would have required the retreating Germans to decide to abandon their plan and occupy a city without planned and prepared defences and without logistics preparation.
If the Germans had decided to fight in Rome then Clark’s actions would have made the situation worse as he would be fighting in Rome troops he could have prevented from getting there.
Essentially, sparing Rome from battle was a German decision and Clark’s decision was not material to that outcome.
It’s alternative history.
The open city declaration was the Vatican plus the Italian government- which was in the process of getting out of the war at the time. It was nice of Germany to agree to it, but they had no obligation to do that.
If you are going to present an alternate to what actually happened, than you have to accept that alternate things could happen that you think won’t. You can’t just claim that all things else would stay the same- maybe they would, but maybe they would not.
In the broad picture of the Italian campaign yes. In relation to Clark’s decision to go for Rome you are talking about a 48 hour period. So the comments around the Open City are irrelevant to that window since they were made before it.