On This Date in History: In 1943, the Allies began the attack on what Winston Churchill called the “soft underbelly of Europe.” It started with the invasion of Sicily in July. By September, allied troops crossed the straight of Messina to land on the “toe” of Italy. The American 8th Army bulled its way through Calabria with other yankee troops moving in near Salerno. Canadian forces landed near Reggio Calabria and faced light opposition. The Canucks took advantage and rapidly moved inland in about two weeks and secured Potenza, which is about 50 miles east of Salerno. Now, the Italians had had enough of Mussolini and of the war and so they finally got rid of Il Duce and also unconditionally surrendered. Their German allies quickly disarmed all of the Italian forces that they could find and decided to make a slow, fighting withdrawl from the peninsula to the North. So, in January 1944, the allies came up with a plan.
It involved another amphibious landing at Anzio, which is along the coast about 30 miles South of Rome. It was also about 45 miles behind the German lines. It so surprised the Germans that the allies landed with no resistance. That surprised the American commander. Now, back in September 1943, the Canadians took advantage of a similar situation and moved rapidly inland. But, Maj. General John P. Lucas headed the American landing and his orders were a bit vague. He was to draw as much of the enemy fire from the frontlines to his south and prepare a defensive position. Part of that included gaining control of the Alban Hills which were within easy reach with such limited resistance. But, Lucas apparently took note of the part of preparing a defensive postion. Instead of exploiting the opportunity to advance, he took a slow, defensive posture. That allowed the Germans to react and the soldiers ended up with a long tough fight over land that might otherwise have been taken largely uncontested.
But, as it turns out, the Germans may not have been the most prohibitive foe that the allies faced. Because, on this date in 1944, Mount Vesuvius awakened for an eruption that lasted 5 days. So fearsome was the volcano known for its burial of Pompeii that the USS Philadelphia retreated for the only time during its 8 years in service. But, that was a ship at sea and it was able to flee rather easily. Forces on the ground weren’t so lucky. By March 23, most of the 340th Bombardment Groups B-25 Mitchells were covered in hot ash that burned the control surfaces and melted or glazed the plexiglass. A few planes were so weighted down that they tipped on their tails. Somewhere between 78 and 88 planes were destroyed, which was more than the 340th suffered in a Luftwaffe attack in Corsica 3 months later. There were no deaths or major casualties at the Pompeii airfield but, despite the best efforts of the 12th Air Force, the aircraft were out of commission for some time. The 340th wasn’t the only group affected as several bomber and fighter groups had to deal with Mount Vesuvius as did the ground troops. Presumably, Vesuvius caused problems for the Germans too as an equal opportunity nemesis.
Other air military operations were affected greatly such as the 57th Fighter Group at Cercola, Itlay. The general population had more hardship brought on top of that brought on by warfare. Ash covered gardens and homes all the way from Vesuvius to Salerno and many civilians were homeless. Lava covered many roads and caused great disruption. Germany eventually surrendered and the Americans eventually got the bomb that brought the war to a close. But, no army on earth can stand against Mother Nature. Hurricanes, tornados, floods and earthquakes don’t care which side you are on and will devastate the mightest of armed forces. And Mount Vesuvius still stands as the unconquered champion of the Italian peninsula, ready to awaken in an angry fit to vanquish all potential foes. Keep in mind, that the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius during World War II was the last time the mountain came alive. Seems like its due. Check out these photos from Mt. Vesuvius Mar 18-23 1944.
Weather Bottom Line: First off, beware…the “S” word is still in the dictionary. Now, I’m sure that some published or broadcast forecasts made some mention that the clouds on Wednesday just didn’t cooperate. The truth is that they amazingly behaved exactly like the models said that they would. We were right on the fringe of the clouds deck almost all day. My guess is that we had a high deck over the low deck. Late in the day, the high clouds thinned out and the sun did a job on the low deck with Louisville breaking out in some sunshine by about 5 pm. Otherwise, the day was as I warned about and that was with clouds and mid 50’s. It was not until the sun came out that we nudged over 60. Now, that will move out and look for sunshine for Thursday and Friday with highs generally in the mid 60’s, possibly some upper 60’s on Friday for some. Saturday just about everyone will be in the mid to upper 60’s with the exception being those who tickle 70. That sets the stage for rain with perhaps t’storms on Saturday night.
Now, I mentioned it a few days ago and were getting closer to it. I know that most forecasts call for highs in the 40’s or 50’s on Sunday. But, from where I sit, we may not get out of the 30’s. And both the GFS and NAM have snow falling in the wake of the front on Sunday morning. Both feature the most significant snowfall to our east…like Lexington. But, its not out of the question for snow around here early Sunday morning…which may make for an interesting drive to church. I doubt if it will be too troublesome though because the ground will be warm and it probably won’t be as extensive as the GFS is saying, which is almost two inches. But, it’s there…after all…Spring just starts on Saturday so its not unheard of. Monday will be cloudy and in the low to mid 40’s before the sun returns and warms things up pretty quickly for the rest of the week. This should be interesting to see how it shakes out.