ALLIED HEADQUARTERS, Algiers -- Thousands of American and Allied troops striking their greatest blow to throw the Germans out of Italy landed far behind the enemy lines today and swarmed inland from a miles-long beachhead in a surprise invasion which may decide the fate of Rome.
The German radio said the Allied amphibious force splashed ashore 28 miles from Rome in the area of the Tiber and occupied the port of Nettuno, 32 miles from the capital. But early reports here did not specify the landing place.
Gen. Harold R.L.G. Alexander, supreme commander of the new Allied central Mediterranean force, in his first report to headquarters flashed tersely:
"Initial landing successful--situation progressing satisfactorily."
Big Threat To Rome
The invasion by picked units of the fifth army, spearheaded by United States Rangers and British Commandos, poised a direct threat to Rome and to the German divisions between the beachhead and along the old battlefront to the south.
Rome already was reported virtually blockaded by a aerial bombardment which had cut most of the transport lines and knocked out all but one of its plane bases.
Preparatory blows against German air bases helped keep fighter plane opposition to a negligible minimum in the early phases of the dawn invasion. United Press Correspondent Robert Vermillion reported that in a later flight over the new battlefront the aerial resistance had increased.
Rear Admiral Frank J. Lowry of the United States Navy the Allied sea forces--American, British, French, Greek and Dutch--which carried the invaders to the beaches and covered the"landing with a bombardment synchronized with a terrific Allied aerial assault.
Unofficial front line reports said the landings were not contested by the Germans.
(German broadcasts said the Allies had occupied the port of Nettuno, 32 miles south of Rome, and had won footholds "between Nettuno and the Tiber estuary"--the latter 16 miles southwest of Rome.)
Rangers, Commandos Lead
Paced by United States Rangers and British Commandos, the Allied invasion force of the fifth army swarmed ashore in an unidentified sector of Italy's west coast and fanned out inland. The first major blow in the battle for Rome was after other fifth army forces to the southeast had ripped into the German defense line, breaking through at three key points.
The concerted assaults by Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark's army threatened to cut off and chop up the formidable German forces manning the crumbling fortifications in the Liri valley 65 miles below Rome.
A special communique announced the new invasion, the greatest since the fifth army landing on the Salerno beaches last Sept. 9, which was carried out under a shattering bombardment by Allied planes and warships.
"Initial landing successful--situation progressing satisfactorily," Gen. Sir Harold R. L. G. Alexander, commander of the central Mediterranean force, messaged headquarters hours later.
Allies Stream Ashore
A steady stream of Allied troops and trucks was pouring ashore with no opposition from the German air force, the first American pilots to return from flights over the new beachhead reported.
The assault forces closed in against the beaches through fairly calm seas and landed on the shore., white with a heavy frost, the airmen said.
"I was over the area for an hour 15 minutes, and I saw only two enemy planes which were attacking our naval vessels," Capt Lewis R. Raffanelli of Richfield, 0., said on his return to an advanced American, airfield in Italy at which he is executive officer.
By the time he left, Raffanelli said, the sun was shining through a heavy, haze, and visibility had risen to eight miles. He and another Mustang pilot, Lt. M. E. Nordlund of Tacoma, Wash., met intense and accurate antiaircraft fire as they approached and left the target. Later Wilbur Papscott of Redwood City, Calif., a third Mustang pilot, was over the beachhead 30 minutes spotting hits for, British destroyers shelling German gun positions behind the northern section of the beachhead. The target was four miles inland, and the.German guns never replied while Papscott was there.
Invaders Clark's Best
The invasion force comprised some of the best troops under Clark. They were under the overall command of Clark and his chief of staff, Gen. Albert Gruenther. It can be assumed that they will hit the Germans with everything they have.
The troops were hand-picked for the ambitious thrust Into the flank of the Rome defenses, and were highly trained. They had taken part in previous landings.
The landing in the dark of the was supported heavily by American and British naval units. Combined American and British air now under the command of Gen. Ira C. Eaker laid down a pattern of bombs in an attack not of gunfire but it was very light and this early stage there was every indication that Lt. Gen. Mark Clark's fifth army had pulled a brilliant maneuver to hit the enemy from the side and open the road to Rome.
The next few hours will decide that, when the expected German counterattack develops.