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Italy: The Advance to the Po (June 1944 - May 1945)

Italy: The Advance to the Po (June 1944 - May 1945)

After the capture of Rome and the Normandy Invasion in June many experienced American and French units, the equivalent of a total of seven divisions, were pulled out of Italy during the summer of 1944 to participate in Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion in the south of France. These units were only partially compensated by the arrival of the Brazilian 1st Infantry Division, the land forces element of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force.

In the period from June to August 1944 the Allies advanced beyond Rome taking Florence and closing up on the Gothic Line. This last major defensive line ran from the coast some 30 miles (48 km) north of Pisa, along the jagged Apennine mountain chain between Florence and Bologna to the Adriatic coast just south of Rimini. In order to shorten the Allied lines of communication for the advance into northern Italy, the Polish II Corps advanced towards the port of Ancona and after the month-long Battle of Ancona, succeeded in capturing it on July 18th.

During Operation Olive, the major Allied offensive in the autumn of 1944 which commenced on August 25th, the Gothic Line defences were penetrated on the both Eighth Army and Fifth Army fronts but there was no decisive breakthrough. Churchill had hoped that a breakthrough in the autumn of 1944 would open the way for the Allied armies to advance north eastwards through the 'Ljubljana Gap' to Vienna and Hungary to forestall the Russians advancing into Eastern Europe. Churchill's proposal had been strongly opposed by the US Chiefs of Staff who understood its importance to British post-war interests in the region but did not feel it aligned with prevailing overall Allied war priorities.

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Polish Sherman Firefly Mk. IC Medium Tank - 2nd Squadron, 1st Krechowiecki Lancers, 2nd Armoured Brigade, 2nd "Warsaw" Armoured Division, Italy, 1945 Polish Sherman Firefly Mk. IC Medium Tank - 2nd Squadron, 1st Krechowiecki Lancers, 2nd Armoured Brigade, 2nd "Warsaw" Armoured Division, Italy, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The M4 Sherman medium tank was regarded by many as the workhorse of the US Army during World War II. In fact, virtually all of the Allied armies employed the Sherman in their armed forces, including the British, who developed an upgunned variant called the "Firefly".

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Polish Sherman Firefly Mk. IC Medium Tank - RYCERZ I, 2nd Squadron, 1st Krechowiecki Lancers, Polish 2nd Armored Brigade Warsawka, Italy, 1945 Polish Sherman Firefly Mk. IC Medium Tank - "RYCERZ I", 2nd Squadron, 1st Krechowiecki Lancers, Polish 2nd Armored Brigade "Warsawka", Italy, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The M4 Sherman medium tank was regarded by many as the workhorse of the US Army during World War II. In fact, virtually all of the Allied armies employed the Sherman in their armed forces, including the British, who developed an upgunned variant called the "Firefly".

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German Opel Blitz Cargo Truck - 8.Gebirgsjager Division, Bologna, Italy, Spring 1945 German Opel Blitz Cargo Truck - 8.Gebirgsjager Division, Bologna, Italy, Spring 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The 3-ton Opel "Blitz" truck was the Wehrmacht's principal general-purpose truck during the Second World War. The engine was a water-cooled, straight-six OHV gasoline unit of 3.6 liters that was fueled by a 21.6 gallon gasoline tank situated under the driver's seat.

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German Opel Blitz Cargo Truck - 8.Gebirgs Division, Bologna, Italy, Spring 1945 German Opel Blitz Cargo Truck - 8.Gebirgs Division, Bologna, Italy, Spring 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The 3-ton Opel "Blitz" truck was the Wehrmacht's principal general-purpose truck during the Second World War. The engine was a water-cooled, straight-six OHV gasoline unit of 3.6 liters that was fueled by a 21.6 gallon gasoline tank situated under the driver's seat.

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US M24 Chaffee Light Tank - 81st Recon. Squadron, 1st Armored Division, Italy, 1945 US M24 Chaffee Light Tank - 81st Recon. Squadron, 1st Armored Division, Italy, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The M24 Chaffee - arguably the best light tank of World War II - was a fast, lightly armored vehicle with the ability to deliver relatively large caliber direct fire thanks to its excellent 75 mm M6 gun. More than 4,000 vehicles were produced by Cadillac and Massey-Harris from 1943-45.

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US Willys 1/4 Ton Jeep - "C" Company, 101st Military Police Battalion, 5th Army, Italy, 1945 US Willys 1/4 Ton Jeep - "C" Company, 101st Military Police Battalion, 5th Army, Italy, 1945 (1:48 Scale)

Developed by the Quartermaster Corps, the jeep and other motor transport vehicles were transferred to the Ordnance Department in August 1942. Despite its lightweight, the jeep could perform a variety of functions, including towing a 37mm antitank gun over a 7% grade.

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US M24 Chaffee Light Tank - 1st Armored Division, Italy, 1945 US M24 Chaffee Light Tank - 1st Armored Division, Italy, 1945 (1:48 Scale)

The M24 Chaffee - arguably the best light tank of World War II - was a fast, lightly armored vehicle with the ability to deliver relatively large caliber direct fire thanks to its excellent 75 mm M6 gun. More than 4,000 vehicles were produced by Cadillac and Massey-Harris from 1943-45.

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