Operation Gotisch-Linie

Gothic Line

The 'Gotisch-Linie' was the German major defence line extending north-west/south-east across northern Italy from a point to the south of La Spezia on the Ligurian Sea to Pesaro on the Adriatic Sea and otherwise known, from June 1944, as the 'Grüne-Linie' (29 August/17 December 1944).

Otherwise known to the German as the 'Gotenstellung' (Gothic position) and to the Italian forces of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana, or Salò Republic that was the Fascist state revived in northern Italy by Benito Mussolini, as the 'Linea Gotica', the 'Gotisch-Linie' defences constituted the last major defence which the forces of Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, the Oberbefehlshaber 'Südost' and commander of Heeresgruppe 'C', could create as man-made improvements of the natural defences provided by the Apennine mountains.

Kesselring knew that if Field Marshal the Hon. Sir Harold Alexander’s Allied Armies in Italy command broke through these defences, they would have good terrain for the exploitation of their considerable armoured advantage across the valley of the Po river and the other rivers of the area right up southern foothills of the Alps.

The German leader, Adolf Hitler, had severe reservations about the state of the line’s real strength, and also feared that the Allies might also be able to outflank it with amphibious operations along the coasts of the Ligurian Sea in the west and the Adriatic Sea in the east. For reasons of morale, therefore, and to prevent the Allies from making propaganda capital out of any success they might achieve in securing the breaching of defence line with so typically a German name, ordered a change of nomenclature. In June 1944, therefore, Kesselring opted for 'Grüne-Linie', a name that was in fact very little used.

The 'Gotisch-Linie' defences were indeed breached on both the Adriatic and the central Apennine fronts during the autumn of 1944, but Kesselring’s forces were able to retire in good order and the Allies therefore achieved no decisive breakthrough was achieved.

Following the almost simultaneous 'Diadem' breakthrough of the 'Gustav-Linie' defences at Cassino and 'Buffalo' break-out at Anzio in the spring of 1944, the dash to Rome by Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark’s US 5th Army denied the Allied forces the long-anticipated chance to sever the lines of communication serving Generaloberst Heinrich-Gottfried von Vietinghoff-Scheel’s 10th Army in the Apennine mountains to the east of Highway 6 between Cassino and Rome, and then to destroy it. Consequently most of the 10th Army and Generaloberst Eberhard von Mackensen’s (from 5 June General Joachim Lemelsen’s) 14th Army were able to fall back to the north, fighting delaying actions as they did so, notably late in June on the 'Albert-Stellung' (centred on Lake Trasimeno and extending from just south of Ancona on the east coast to the west coast in the area to the south of Grosetto) and in July on the 'Arno-Linie' (extending from the west coast along the line of the Arno river and into the Apennine mountains in the areas to the north of Arezzo).

This gave the Germans the time they needed to strengthen the 'Gotisch-Linie' defences, which took the form of a belt of fortifications some 10 miles (16 km) deep extending from the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea south of La Spezia in the west, via the natural defences of the Apennines running unbroken nearly from coast to coast, 50 miles (80 km) deep and with high peaks and ridges up to a height of 7,000 ft (2135 m), to the valley of the Foglia river debouching into the Adriatic Sea between Pesaro and Ravenna in the east.

Built largely by a force of more than 15,000 slave labourers, the emplacements included numerous concrete-reinforced gun positions and trenches, together with 2,376 machine gun nests carefully sited to provide interlocking fields of fire, 479 anti-tank gun, mortar and assault gun positions, some 75 miles (120 km) of barbed wire entanglements, and many miles of anti-tank ditches.

However, the Allies were fortunate that by this stage late in the Italian campaign the local partisan forces had become signally adept at hindering the work of the German engineers, especially in the higher parts of the mountains. By September 1944, moreover, it was no longer safe for German senior officers to move freely in the area behind their formations and units because of the partisans' skill in ambushes. Construction of the defences was also hampered by the deliberately poor quality of the cement provided by Italian organisations, and the sabotage undertaken by captured partisans forced into the construction gangs.

At this time the Allies regarded the Italian front as decidedly second in importance to the offensive efforts of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Allied forces in France. That this was the case was confirmed by the withdrawal, during the summer of 1944, of seven divisions from the 5th Army for 'Dragoon' (i), the amphibious descent on the south coast of France by Lieutenant General Alexander M. Patch’s Allied 7th Army. On 5 August, 10 days before the launch of 'Dragoon' (i), the strength of the 5th Army and Lieutenant General Sir Oliver Leese’s British 8th Army had declined from 249,000 men to 153,000 men in 18 divisions. Facing this reduced strength, the 10th Army and 14th Army had 14 front-line divisions and between four and seven other divisions available as reserves.

Ever keen to exploit what Prime Minister Winston Churchill saw as a 'soft underbelly', the British chiefs-of-staff still desired to achieve a breakthrough of the German defences to open an axis of advance to the north-east through the 'Ljubljana gap' and thence into Austria and Hungary. Churchill’s reasoning here was that this would serve the double purpose of striking into Germany from the south, and of checking the Soviet progress into central Europe. The US Joint Chiefs-of-Staff had opposed this concept right from the start as a strategic diversion from the main effort, which they felt should be the direct thrust at Germany through France. Following the Allied success in France during the summer, however, the US leadership relented somewhat and there was complete agreement in the Combined Chiefs-of-Staff at 'Octagon' (2nd Quebec Conference) on 12 September.

The result was 'Olive' (iii), which was adopted only late in the process of planning the breakthrough of the 'Gotisch-Linie'.

The first Allied plan for a breakthrough of the 'Gotisch-Linie' defences was based on an assault directly through the centre in the area in which the main weight of the Allied forces was already grouped. It was the shortest route to Alexander’s primary objective, the Lombardy plain, and such an offensive could be launched without undue delay. With this in prospect, he mounted the 'Ottrington' deception operation to convince the Germans that the main blow would in fact be delivered along Adriatic coast, while the comparable but older 'Ferdinand' (iii) still suggested the reality of an amphibious threat to the coast of the Ligurian Sea.

On 4 August Alexander met his two army commanders, Clark of the 5th Army and Leese of the 8th Army, and now learned that Leese did not like the plan. Leese maintained that the Allies had lost their specialist French mountain troops to 'Dragoon' (i) and that the 8th Army’s operational methods were based on combined infantry, armour and artillery tactics of the type which could not be employed in the mountains of the central Apennines. Leese therefore suggested an offensive along the Adriatic coast.

Although Lieutenant General Sir A. F. 'John' Harding, Alexander’s chief-of-staff, did not agree with Leese’s opinion and the 8th Army’s planning staff had already turned down the concept of an Adriatic offensive as it would be difficult to create the required concentration of forces, Alexander decided not to compel Leese to adopt a plan with which he did not agree.

Alexander’s initial scheme was therefore abandoned in favour of 'Olive' (iii), in which the 8th Army would drive to the north along the coastal plain of the Adriatic Sea toward Pesaro and Rimini, draw in the German reserves from the centre of the Italian peninsula to the east, and thus pave the way for the 5th Army to attack in the now weakened central Apennines to the north of Florence toward Bologna with Lieutenant General S. C. Kirkman’s British XIII Corps on the 5th Army’s right wing gradually swinging its axis toward the Adriatic coast to create a pincer movement with the 8th Army’s advance.

The preparations for 'Olive' (iii) involved the movement of the main strength of the 8th Army from the centre of Italy to the Adriatic coast, a process that entailed a two-week delay in the launch of the Allied offensive, and the initiation of a new deception plan to convince the Germans that the main attack would be made in the centre.

Thus it was only on 25 August that the 8th Army crossed the Metauro river, which enters the Adriatic Sea just to the south of Fano, in the first stage of its offensive against the German positions in the 'Gotisch-Linie'. From east to west, the 8th Army comprised Generał dywizji Władysław Anders’s Polish II Corps nearest the coast, Lieutenant General E. L. M. Burns’s Canadian I Corps on the main width of the coastal plain, and Lieutenant General C. F. Keightley’s British V Corps in the hills of the lower Apennines. Lieutenant General Sir Richard McCreery’s British X Corps was on the left wing of the 8th Army’s front, but had been allocated only a holding role.

As the coastal plain narrowed near Pesaro it was planned that the Polish II Corps, degraded in capability by losses and a lack of replacements, would be withdrawn into army reserve and the front on the coastal plain would become the responsibility of the Canadian I Corps.

The 8th Army’s 'Olive' (iii) offensive took the Germans by surprise. They were in the process of pulling back their forward units into the 'Gotisch-Linie' proper, and were uncertain whether this was the British effort start of a major offensive or just the 8th Army advancing to occupy vacated ground while the main Allied attack would come on the 5th Army’s front in the direction of Bologna. It was not until 28 August, when they saw a captured copy of Leese’s order of the day before the attack, that the Germans realised that a major offensive was in progress. Thus three divisions were ordered from Bologna to reinforce the Adriatic front, but these formations would need at least two days to get into position.

By August 30 the Canadian and British corps had reached the Germans' second main defensive position, which lay on the ridges on the northern side of the Foglia river. Taking advantage of the Germans' numerical weakness, the Canadians drove through this second line and by 3 September had advanced a farther 15 miles (24 km) to the third line of defences extending inland from the coast near Riccione.

At this point the Allies were very close to securing a major breakthrough toward Rimini and the Romagna plain. However, General Traugott Herr’s LXXVI Panzerkorps on the 10th Army's left wing had withdrawn in good order behind the line of the Conca river extending inland from its mouth just to the north of Cattolica, and here the resistance of Generalleutnant Richard Heidrich’s 1st Fallschirmjägerdivision, supported by intense artillery fire from the Coriano ridge in the hills on the Canadians' left, brought their advance to a halt.

Facing elements of General Valentin Feurstein’s LI Gebirgskorps, the V Corps was meanwhile finding it had to make significant progress in the more difficult hill terrain with its poor roads. On 3/4 September, even as the Canadian I Corps once again attacked along the coastal plain, the V Corps made an armoured thrust to dislodge the German defences on the Coriano ridge and reach the Marano river. This was designed to open the way to the plain beyond the river, which could be rapidly exploited by the tanks of Major General R. A. Hull’s 1st Armoured Division. But after two days of bitter fighting, with heavy losses on both sides, the 8th Army had to call off the assault and reassess its strategy.

Leese now decided to outflank the Coriano ridge positions by driving to the west, in the direction of Croce and Gemmano, in order to reach the valley of the Merano river curving behind the Coriano and Riccione positions to the sea. The resulting Battle of Gemmano has, with some justification, been called the 'Cassino of the Adriatic'. After 11 assaults in the period 4/13 September, first by Major General J. Y. Whitfield’s 56th Division and then Major General J. L. I. Hawkesworth’s 46th Division, it was the turn of Major General A. W. W. Holworthy’s Indian 4th Division which, after a heavy bombardment, made the twelfth attack at 03.00 on the morning of 15 September and finally carried the German defensive positions.

Meanwhile, to the north, on the other side of the Conca river valley, a similarly bloody engagement was fought at Croce. Generalleutnant Alfred Reinhardt’s 98th Division held its positions with great tenacity, and it took five days of constant fighting, often door to door and hand to hand, before the 56th Division captured Croce.

Given the slow pace of operations at Gemmano, Leese decided to renew the attack in the Coriano sector. After a bombardment by 700 pieces of artillery and bombers, Major General B. M. Hoffmeister’s Canadian 5th Armoured Division and the 1st Armoured Division moved in to attack on the night of 12/13 September, and the German positions at Coriano were finally taken on 14 September. The way to Rimini was once again open.

The Germans had suffered heavy losses and the three divisions of reinforcements ordered to the Adriatic front would not be available for at least a day but then, not for the first time in the Italian campaign, the weather intervened as very rain turned the area’s rivers into torrents and halted air support operations. Once again the pace of movement was reduced to a crawl, and the Germans gained the opportunity to reorganise and reinforce their positions on the Marano river, thus closing the door to the Lombardy plain. Once again the 8th Army was faced with an organised line of defence and faced the renewed prospect of having to slog its way forward. It was not until 21 September that Rimini fell to the 8th Army.

Meanwhile, with Croce and, beyond it, Montescudo secured, the left wing of the 8th Army advanced to the Marano river and the frontier of San Marino. The Germans had occupied neutral San Marino more than one week previously to take advantage of the heights on which the tiny city state stands. By 19 September the city was isolated and fell to the Allies with little loss of life. Some 3 miles (4.8 km) beyond San Marino lies the valley of the Marecchia river running down to the sea at Rimini and extending across what was then the 8th Army’s axis of advance. On the right the Canadian I Corps broke the German positions on the Marecchia river during 20 September and reached the southern edge of the Lombardy plain. However, Kesselring’s brilliant defence had won him time until the onset of the autumn rains, and hereafter the rate of the 8th Army’s progress slowed inexorably as the mud slides resulting from constant and heavy rain made it virtually impossible to keep roads and tracks open, and so created a logistical nightmare.

Although the 8th Army was now out of the hills, the plain was waterlogged and the 8th Army found itself confronted, as it had during the autumn of 1943, by a succession of swollen rivers running across its axis of advance. Once again the conditions prevented 8th Army’s armour from exploiting the breakthrough and the infantry of the V Corps and Canadian I Corps, now joined by Lieutenant General Sir Bernard Freyberg’s New Zealand 2nd Division, had to inch its way forward while von Vietinghoff-Scheel withdrew his 10th Army behind the Uso river, a few miles to the north of Rimini. The 8th Army forced this river position on 26 September and reached the next water barrier, the Fiumicino river, three days later. Four days of heavy rain now compelled a complete halt and by this time the V Corps was exhausted and in need of a reorganisation and rehabilitation.

Since the start of 'Olive' (iii), the 8th Army had suffered 14,000 casualties and lost 250 tanks in action as well as another 230 from other causes.

As the 8th Army paused at the end of September to reorganise, Leese was reassigned to command the Allied land forces in South-East Asia and McCreery succeeded him at the head of the 8th Army with Hawkesworth promoted to command of the X Corps and Major General C. E. Weir assuming command of the 46th Division.

Farther to the west, during this same period the 5th Army comprised three major formations in the form of Major General Willis D. Crittenberger’s IV Corps on the left with Major General Vernon E. Prichard’s 1st Armored Division, Major General W. H. W. Poole’s South African 6th Armoured Division and one regimental combat team of Major General Edward M. Almond’s 92nd Division; Major General Geoffrey T. Keyes’s II Corps in the centre with Major General Charles L. Bolte’s 34th Division, Major General John B. Coulter’s 85th Division, Major General Paul W. Kendall’s 88th Division and Major General William G. Livesay''s 91st Division supported by three tank battalions; and Kirkman’s British XIII Corps of the right with Major General C. F. Loewen’s 1st Division, Major General D. Russell’s Indian 8th Division and Brigadier W. C. Murthy’s Canadian 1st Armoured Brigade.

Like the 8th Army, the 5th Army was considered to be strong in armour and comparatively weak in infantry given the terrain in which it would be attacking.

Facing the 5th Army were five divisions of Lemelsen’s 14th Army (Generalmajor Wilhelm Crisolli’s 20th Felddivision (L), SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS Max Simon’s 16th SS Panzergrenadierdivision 'Reichsführer-SS', Generalleutnant Hellmuth Pfeiffer’s 65th Division, Generalleutnant Heinrich Greiner’s 362nd Division and Generalleutnant Heinrich Trettner’s 4th Fallschirmjägerdivision) and two divisions on the western end of von Vietinghoff-Scheel’s 10th Army (Generalleutnant Karl Faulenbach’s 356th Division and Generalmajor Hanns von Rohr’s [from 18 September Generalmajor Hans-Joachim Ehlert’s] 715th Division). By the end of the first week in September the 20th Luftwaffe Felddivision and the 356th Division had been moved to the Adriatic front along with Generalmajor Fritz Polack’s 29th Panzergrenadierdivision from army reserve and the armoured reserve of Generalleutnant Eduard Crasemann’s 26th Panzerdivision.

Comprising General Alfred Schlemm’s I Fallschirmkorps and General Fridolin Ritter und Edler von Senger und Etterlin’s XIV Panzerkorps, the 14th Army lacked the best qualities of the 10th Army: it had been severely afflicted in the retreat from Anzio, and some of the replacements it had received were the results of training that was both hasty and inadequate.

Clark’s plan was for the II Corps to smash forward along the road from Florence to Firenzuola and Imola through the Il Giogo pass in order to outflank the formidable defences of the Futa pass on the main road linking Florence and Bologna, while on its right the XIII Corps would advance through the 'Gotisch-Linie' to cut Highway 9 and thus sever Kesselring’s all-important lateral communications at Faenza. The transfer of the 356th Division to the Adriatic sector of the front weakened the defences around the Il Giogo pass, which was already a possible area of frailty as it lay on the boundary between the 10th Army and 14th Army.

During the final week of August the US II Corps and British XIII Corps started to move into the mountain positions for their assault on the main 'Gotisch-Linie' defences. As the Allied formations undertook these preliminary moves they encountered determined resistance from the Germans' forward outposts, but at the end of the first week in September, and after completing the reorganisation required after the movement of three divisions to reinforce the hard-pressed 10th Army on the Adriatic sector of the front, the Germans withdrew to their main 'Gotisch-Linie' defences.

After an artillery bombardment, the 5th Army’s offensive started at dusk on 12 September. Progress at the Il Giogo pass was slow, but on the II Corps' right the XIII Corps was able to achieve better progress. Clark grasped this opportunity to divert the 337th Infantry, part of the II Corps' reserve, to exploit the XIII Corps' success. Attacking on 17 September with the support of US and British artillery, the 337th Infantry fought its way onto Monte Pratone, some 3 miles (4.8 km) to the east of the Il Giogo pass and a key 'Gotisch-Linie' position.

Meanwhile the II Corps again attacked Monte Altuzzo, dominating the eastern side of the Il Giogo pass. The Altuzzo positions fell during the morning of 17 September, after five days of combat and, together with the capture of Monte Pratone and Monte Verruca, outflanked the formidable defences of the Futa pass. Lemelsen had no option other than pull his main forces back, leaving the pass to be taken after only light fighting on 22 September.

On the 5th Army’s left, the IV Corps had fought its way to the main 'Gotisch-Linie' defences and, on the right of the XIII Corps' front, during 18 September the Indian 8th Division had fought across trackless ground and captured the heights of Femina Morta, and Major General H. Murray’s British 6th Armoured Division had taken the San Godenzo pass on Highway 67 to Forlì.

At this stage Clark decided, given the slow progress of the 8th Army on the Adriatic front, that Bologna would be too far to the west along Highway 9 to trap the 10th Army. He decided therefore to make the II Corps' main thrust farther to the east in the direction of Imola while the XIII Corps continued to push toward Faenza. Although it was through the 'Gotisch-Linie', the 5th Army, just like the 8th Army at a slightly earlier date, found both the terrain beyond the line and its defenders even more difficult.

Between 21 September and 3 October, the 88th Division fought itself to a standstill on the route to Imola, in the process losing 2,105 men killed and wounded, which was a total approximately the same as that of the rest of the II Corps during the breaking of the 'Gotisch-Linie'. The fighting in the direction of Imola had drawn German troops from the defence of Bologna, and Clark now decided to switch the primary weight of his offensive back toward the Bologna axis.

The II Corps pushed steadily through the Radicosa pass and by 2 October had reached Monghidoro, only about 20 miles (32 km) distant from Bologna. Just as had happened on the Adriatic sector of the front, however, the weather had broken, and the combination of rain and low cloud prevented the delivery of Allied air support, while the lengthening road distance back to the supply dumps near Florence became increasingly impassable. On 5 October the US II Corps renewed its offensive toward Bologna across a 14-mile (22.5-km) front straddling Highway 65. The US II Corps was supported on its right by the British XIII Corps, including Major General D.C. Butterworth’s (from 10 October Brigadier [from 10 October Major General] R. K. Arbuthnott’s) 78th Division, newly returned to Italy after a three-month restoration exercise in Egypt. Gradual progress was made against stiffening opposition as the 14th Army moved troops from the quieter sector opposite the IV Corps.

By 9 October the Allied forces were attacking the massive 1,500-ft (460-m) high and apparently insuperable sheer escarpment behind Livergnano. But during the morning of 10 October the weather improved, allowing artillery and air support to be brought to bear. Even so, it required all the time to the end of 15 October before the escarpment had been secured. On the right of the II Corps, the XIII Corps was experiencing equally determined fighting over terrain which was just as difficult. By the second half of October it was becoming increasingly clear to Alexander and the other senior commanders of the Allied Armies in Italy that despite the dogged fighting on the waterlogged plain of the Romagna and over the streaming mountains of the central Apennines, with the autumn well advanced and exhaustion and combat losses increasingly affecting the fighting capabilities of the Allied armies and their logistical support elements, there was going to be no breakthrough before the return of better weather in the spring of 1945.

On the Adriatic sector of the front, the 8th Army’s advance resumed on its left wing through the Apennine foothills toward Forlì on Highway 9. On 5 October the Indian 10th Division, redeployed from the X to the V Corps, crossed the Fiumicino river high in the hills and turned the German defensive line on the river, forcing the 10th Army units downstream of this point to pull back toward Bologna. This in fact aided Kesselring as it shortened the front his forces had to hold, and also shortened the distance between his two armies, providing him with greater flexibility to switch formations and units laterally between the two sectors of the front as demanded by current tactical considerations.

Continuing its advance along Highway 9, the V Corps on 21 October crossed the Savio river, which runs north-east through Cesena to the Adriatic, and by 25 October was approaching the Ronco river, some 10 miles (16 km) beyond the Savio river, behind which the Germans had withdrawn. By the end of the month the advance had reached Forlì, halfway between Rimini and Bologna. The severing of the German armies' lateral communications remained a major element in the Allies' thinking. Kesselring later said that if in mid-October the front south of Bologna had not been held, then all the German positions to the east of Bologna 'were automatically gone'. Thus Alexander and Clark decided on a final push for Bologna before winter brought the front to a standstill.

By 16 October the 5th Army was ready for a final effort to take Bologna in 1944 but, quite extraordinarily, the Allied ground forces in Italy were now short of artillery ammunition as a result of the Allied powers' reduction of production in anticipation of the final defeat of Germany. Thus the artillery of the 5th Army was so tightly rationed that the total number of rounds fired in the last week of October was less than the total number fired during one eight-hour period on 2 October. Even so, the II and XIII Corps pounded away for the next 11 days. In the centre, along the main road to Bologna, they made little progress. On the right they achieved better results, and on 20 October the 88th Division seized Monte Grande, only 4 miles (6.5 km) from Highway 9. Three days later the 78th Division stormed Monte Spaduro. However, the remaining 4 miles (6.5 km) were difficult terrain held by forces that included the high-grade 29th Panzergrenadierdivision, 90th Panzergrenadierdivision and 1st Fallschirmjägerdivision, which Kesselring had been able to withdraw from the Romagna as a result of his shortened front.

By 28 October the Allied offensive had come to a halt, and the 5th Army was thereby condemned to a winter in the mountains as it waited for better weather and the drier terrain which would restore the capability for movement. Checked on Highway 9 at Forlì, the 8th Army continued a secondary offensive north along the coast of the Adriatic Sea and captured Ravenna on 5 December.

Early in November the British advance along Highway 9 was resumed once more, and the British crossed the Montone river, just beyond Forlì, on 9 November. The going was very difficult, however, and as a result the Cosina river, some 3 miles (4.8 km) farther along Highway 9, was crossed only on 23 November. By 17 December the Lamone river had been assaulted and Faenza cleared. The 10th Army established itself on the banks of the Senio river, whose elevated banks raised the river level some 20 ft (6.1 m) above the surrounding plain. This extended across the 8th Army’s axis of advance just beyond Faenza down to the Adriatic in the area to the north of Ravenna. With the snow falling and winter firmly established, any attempt to cross the Senio river was now out of the question, and the 8th Army’s campaign of 1944 was forced to a close.

On 5 November Field Marshal Sir John Dill, the head of the British Mission in Washington, died and Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland Wilson was appointed as his successor. Alexander had been promoted field marshal (backdated to June 1944), and now succeeded Wilson as Allied Supreme Commander Mediterranean Theatre on 12 December. Clark succeeded Alexander as commander of the Allied Armies in Italy, now formally renamed as the 15th Army Group once more, but was not promoted to full general. Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott had commanded the VI Corps from its time in the 'Shingle' lodgement at Anzio and the capture of Rome to its current location in Alsace after landing in the south of France during 'Dragoon' (i), and now returned to Italy as commander of the 5th Army.

On the other side of the front there were also command changes before the spring campaign of 1945. On 23 March 1945 Kesselring was appointed as the Oberbefehlshaber 'West' in succession to Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt. In October 1944 von Vietinghoff-Scheel had become the temporary commander of Heeresgruppe 'C' in Italy after Kesselring had been seriously injured in a car crash, but on Kesselring’s return in January 1945 had left Italy to assume command of Heeresgruppe 'Kurland' on the Eastern Front. When Kesselring became the Oberbefelhshaber 'West' in March 1945, von Vietinghoff-Scheel returned to Italy as commander-in-chief. Herr moved up to take command of the 10th Army, while Lemelsen, who had exercised temporary command of the 10th Army, returned to the 14th Army in succession to its temporary commander, General Kurt von Tippelskirch.