Gothic Line 1944–45

Gothic Line 1944–45

The USAAF starves out the German Army

Air Campaign 31
  • Author: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
  • Illustrator: Anastasios Polychronis
  • Short code: ACM 31
  • Publication Date: 18 Aug 2022
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This is the history of how the mighty Gothic Line was defeated by American air power, in one of the most pivotal but least-known air campaigns of World War II.

By late 1944, the Italian Campaign was secondary to the campaigns in France, and Allied forces were not strong enough to break the Germans' mighty Gothic Line. These fortifications were supplied by rail through the Alps, with trains arriving hourly and delivering 600,000 tons of supplies a month, enough to keep the German Army going forever.

But in the bitter winter of 1944-45, the mighty Gothic Line would be defeated by American air power in one of the most pivotal but least-known air campaigns of World War II. It would not be a direct assault; instead Operation Bingo would ruthlessly cut the Germans' supply lines and leave them starved. However, it would not be easy. The rail routes were defended by a formidable array of heavy flak, and every raid was expected. Conditions were freezing, and even in electric flying suits, men suffered both hypoxia and frostbite.

By the end of February, the previous eight-hour rail journey took the Germans 3-4 days on the wrecked railroad, and soon supplies were barely enough to keep the army alive. On April 12, the Allied ground attack began, and within ten days the German command in Northern Italy sued for surrender, the first German force in Europe to do so.

Packed with first-hand accounts and rare photos from the 57th Bomb Wing Archives, this book is a fascinating history of the most successful US battlefield interdiction campaign in history, immortalized in the writing of bombardier Joseph Heller, in his novel Catch 22.

Biographical Note

Thomas McKelvey Cleaver has been a published writer for the past 40 years. He is the author of Aces of the 78th Fighter Group and F4F and F6F Aces of VF-2, as well as Fabled Fifteen: The Pacific War Saga of Carrier Air Group 15 and The Bridgebusters: The True Story of the Catch-22 Bomb Group. During his 30 years as a screenwriter in Hollywood, he wrote the cult classic The Terror Within and worked as a supervising producer on a number of TV and cable series. He served in the US Navy in Vietnam.


Germany decides to defend in Italy
The Allies invade
The battle of attrition
General Clark's mistake
The Germans escape to the Gothic Line
Operation Strangle
"The Bridgebusters”
Air power against the Alps
The B-25s in Italy
The fighter-bomber war
The morale problem in the 57th Bomb Wing
Bombing accuracy
SHORAN: the system that defeated the weather
Fighting the cold
An ally: the Italian resistance
Flak, smoke, and fighters
Air defense
Smoke generation
Antiaircraft artillery
Weather: a USAAF enemy
Endgame in the north of Italy
The Gothic Line
The failure of Operation Olive
Starving the Gothic Line with air power
The importance of the Brenner bridges
The targets of Operation Bingo
The hard last winter of the war
First missions
Winter closes in
A change of command helps Allied fortunes
The hard winter of 1945
The defenses are strengthened
The German experience
Air combat with the ANR
The campaign crescendos
The final month
The final Allied offensive
Victory in Italy

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