Adriana Vitali, a 9 year old girl, witnessed the shelling of Littoria (nowadays Latina), by American and British planes and ships moored in Anzio and Nettuno during the battle of Anzio beachhead in 1944. Her family, and the entire population of Littoria, was ordered by the Germans to evacuate the combat area.
In 1944 the Italian Adriana Vitali lived in Littoria (now Latina). During the Battle of Anzio (22 January – 5 June 1944), Littoria, placed between the Cassino front and the Anzio Beachhead, was bombarded by Allied planes and shelled by American and British ships moored at Anzio and Nettuno. Adriana witnessed the blaring sirens, the destructions caused by the bombardments and the run towards air-raid shelters.
Her father, while looking for food in the countryside, ran into a downed American pilot who was hiding his parachute. The two decided to help each other: Adriana’s father obtained the parachute in exchange for his civilian clothes. He also advised the pilot how to reach the Allied troops.
On 1 April 1944 the Germans ordered the inhabitants of Littoria to leave town immediately. Adriana’s father arranged for a horse-drawn carriage and a young republican Fascist soldier guided the family towards the German defensive zone. There they saw the Allied airplanes destroying Littoria’s houses. The soldier left to go back to town, but only a few moments later they saw the young man blown up by a land mine.
The Vitali family stayed in Norma, about 20 km from Littoria, for six months. Then they went back to Littoria, where they found their house severely damaged. A few months later, on 4 October 1944, Adriana celebrated her First Communion. She still remembers the British soldiers who offered her candies and the beautiful dress she wore that day, made from the silk of the American parachute.
The Anzio Beachhead Museum is devoted to the Allied amphibious landing on 22 January 1944, along the coastline between Anzio and Nettuno, in Italy. The museum opened in 1994 for the 50th Anniversary of the landing. It comprises four sections:
The Beach Head War Cemetery near Anzio is a Commonwealth Cemetery of the Second World War. In all, the cemetery contains 2,316 graves, 291 of unknown soldiers. 1,917 graves belong to soldiers from the United Kingdom, followed by 68 Canadian graves. The other casualties are from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India.
On 22 January 1944 the Allied forces landed at Anzio. The invasion was intended to outflank German defence forces on the Gustav Defence Line and strike directly for Rome. The operation failed and the invasion force was pinned down around Anzio until the end of May.
The Allied landing at Salerno on 9 September 1943 coincided with the proclamation of the armistice of the Kingdom of Italy and marked the beginning of the liberation campaign of the Italian mainland. It failed to enforce a quick advance to Rome and gave way to the bloody operations centred around Monte Cassino.
The Allied campaign of Monte Cassino was fought in four phases between January and May 1944. The town of Cassino was a key stronghold on the Gustav Line, the German defence line in Central Italy designed to prevent Allied advance towards Rome. The Allies suffered about 55,000 casualties, the Germans 20,000.