This was a US one of a pair of offensives by Major General Willis D. Crittenberger’s IV Corps of Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott’s 5th Army initially conceived to move the formations of the IV Corps, on the 5th Army’s left flank, to the north and therefore into line with Major General Geoffrey T. Keyes’s II Corps in preparation for ‘Grapeshot’ (4/11 February 1945).
The IV Corps’ formations were, from west to east, Major General Edward M. Almond’s 92nd Division, General Euclides Zenóbio da Costa’s Brazilian 1st Division, Major General George P. Hays’s 10th Mountain Division and Major General Vernon E. Prichard’s 1st Armored Division. The main element of the opposition was Generale di Divisione Guido Manardi’s (later Generale di Divisione Mario Carloni’s) 1st Bersaglieri Divisione ‘Italia’ of the Italian Social Republic’s 97th Army ‘Liguria’ commanded by Generale d’Armata Alfredo Guzzoni and comprising German as well as Italian formations.
The operation was developed in the hope that the IV Corps could improve its positions in the valley of the Serchio river and along the north-west coast of Italy, in the process creating a significant threat to the port city and Italian naval base of La Spezia. However, a shortage of troops and other resources then led to the recasting of the operation into two parts with more limited objectives. In the west, the revised ‘Fourth Term’ plan called for the 92nd Division to undertake a more limited two-part operation: the first and smaller element was a diversionary attack up the Serchio river valley to drive back the 1st Bersaglieri Divisione of General Kurt von Tippelskirch’s German 14th Army, and the second and larger element was to be directed at the hills overlooking the approaches to the town of Massa on the coastal strip to that US heavy artillery could be brought forward into range of La Spezia.
Almost as soon as the offensive began on 4 February, however, it became clear that the 92nd Division was unfit for offensive operations. The division did manage to oust the Italian troops, who simply melted away, but it could not withstand counterattacks by units of Generalleutnant Otto Fretter-Pico’s 148th Division. The main attack on Massa resulted in the disorganisation of the US division as well as losses so high that Truscott decided that major changes had to be made in the division’s composition.