In an effort to contain the Allied forces in the Anzio
beachhead indefinitely, the Germans organized a system
of numerous self-supporting positions which, they
hoped, would trap any attacking force in an elaborate
network of cross fires. From the German Army engineers'
point of view, the defense of the Anzio beachhead
perimeter presented special problems. If the
greatly feared Allied breakthrough were to occur in
any one sector, the prepared defenses in the other
sectors would be relatively powerless to halt it, and
might be outflanked by swift encircling maneuvers. For
this reason the German defense areas around the
perimeter not only had to be numerous, but had to be
organized into a close mesh of strongpoints. (In operations
to the south, German defense areas had depended
less on the principle of mutual support and more on the
advantages offered by mountainous terrain, where it
had been possible to make the most of a wide variety
of commanding features.) It was obvious to the Germans
that the plans and activities of all arms at Anzio
would have to interlock. On 4 March the engineers at
Fourteenth Army Headquarters issued an order which
has a fresh significance now, in the light of German
efforts to contain beachhead forces elsewhere.
The construction of defensive positions on the line
which had then been reached was to be undertaken at
once and developed as rapidly as possible. Combat
patrols were to be employed constantly while the
engineers were adding depth to the main defensive belt.
Headquarters at all levels—regimental, battalion,
and so on—were to organize for all-around defense. The
same instructions were to apply to rifle, machine-gun, infantry-gun, and
antitank-gun, and other positions. Furthermore, the bivouac areas of
reserve units were to be developed for all-around defense.
All the defense areas in each sector were to be organized according to a
coordinated plan which was to be established by the sector commander. The
mutual support was to be so thorough that any attacking force—"even the
strongest"—would be caught and held in an elaborate network of defenses.
In terrain suitable for tank operations, the engineers were to coordinate their
plans for minelaying with the plans of antitank and tank-hunting detachments. In
terrain unsuitable for tanks, S-mines were to be laid, but a number of marked gaps
were to be left open for the use of combat patrols and for the possible development
of future counterattacks.
With regard to the laying of scattered mines, it was announced that the authority
of Army Headquarters would have to be obtained for any project of this kind
and that each request would be decided on its own merits. Should the Germans
gain ground, mined areas remaining in the rear were to be marked by posts or
surrounded by wire; in either case, the posts or wire were to be placed at
least 60 yards beyond the edges of the mined areas.
Considerations of economy were to govern the preparation of wire
obstacles. Only trip wire was to be laid at first. Because of the increasing
shortage of materials, wire obstacles in rear areas were to be salvaged
and used in the preparation of forward obstacles.
A limited number of wooden frames was being manufactured, and would be used primarily
in the construction of dugouts situated in the immediate vicinity of firing positions. It
was specified that the prefabricated roof arches (Heinrichbogen) which already had
been issued to troops would not be used in the front line. Dugouts designed to
accommodate more than six men were prohibited. All slit trenches were to be sufficiently
narrow to afford adequate protection against tanks, and were to be not more
than 5 yards long.
The possibility of further withdrawal, or retreat, was not forgotten. The order
mentioned the regular inspection and maintenance of obstacles in rear areas and
referred to plans for future demolitions.