Monte Cassino effectively blocked the Allies route north to Rome and had to be taken despite the difficulties of doing so from a military point of view. With the breakout from Anzio finally achieved on 23 May, the reunited armies pursued the Germans north. From a religious/cultural viewpoint, there was also the famous monastery at Monte Cassino that would almost certainly be damaged by any attack or … One described the destruction of Monte Cassino as being akin to the Italian Air Force bombing Westminster Abbey. Worst of all, the very thing the bombardment of Monte Cassino was meant to prevent – the occupation of the abbey by German troops – was exactly what happened next. While 5th Army made a flanking attack to the south, aiming to converge with a breakout from Anzio by the 6th Corps, the 8th Army made a frontal assault on the line at Cassino, using British, Canadian and Indian troops. One of the highest concentrations of German troops and artillery was situated in the hills surrounding the town of Cassino on the so-called ‘Gustav Line’. The Germans did nothing more than guard the abbey’s imposing front gates. The Moroccan 2ndDivision quickly overwhelmed German forces at Mount Santa Croce, about 10 miles to the northeast of Monte Cassino. Tony Pittaccio, a young man who lived nearby, summed up the thoughts of many locals: ‘As for Monte Cassino, whereas the military may have felt spying enemy eyes looking down on them, we felt that benevolent eyes were looking down on us. The monastery was one of Italy’s holiest and most important religious sites, housing the remains of St. Benedict. German sniper fire and well-positioned MG-42 machine guns meant that little mine clearing could be done during the day. Kesselring ordered German withdrawal on 16 May; the Poles entered Cassino two days later. The Caesar Line, Kesselring's last defensive line south of Rome, was breached on 2 June; two days later the city fell to the 5th Army. eval(ez_write_tag([[250,250],'historylearningsite_co_uk-leader-3','ezslot_20',118,'0','0']));eval(ez_write_tag([[250,250],'historylearningsite_co_uk-leader-3','ezslot_21',118,'0','1'])); History Learning Site Copyright © 2000 - 2020. South of Monte Cassino, the Gustav Line traced the course of the River Garigliano, which added to the defensive qualities of the line. The attack began on January 17th with an artillery bombardment. Successfully crossing this obstacle did not prepare the men for the ascent of Monte Cassino. The monastery was unrecognisable. Its smouldering ruins a testimony to the folly of war. The river flowed to the east of Cassino and it had to be crossed if the Germans on Monte Cassino were to be attacked from all sides. As time went by, Allied soldiers on the Gustav Line began to view the abbey looming over them with suspicion. Equally as dangerous were German mine fields that lay in the path of the advancing Allies. In January 1944 General Harold Alexander, the overall commander of US and British armies in the area, launched a two-part assault on the Gustav Line. The road to Rome was finally open. Read more. While only 593 metres high, the approach to the top was very steep. Some fortifications had been set up further down the mountain’s slopes, but the main bulk of the German defences were kept well away from the exclusion zone. The Battle of Monte Cassino has been described as the hardest-fought battle of World War II. A 1949 report concluded that no such evidence existed, but it was kept from the public until 30 years later. However, capturing the mountain was to be a singularly difficult task – one that Farrar-Hockley with all his military experience, was to call “the Stalingrad of the Italian front”. Nighttime work was fraught with danger but it was at this time that engineers cleared not only mines but placed markers to assist the advance of the infantry. The abbey’s senseless destruction was a blow against civilization that reverberated around the world. why so many soldiers survived the trenches, how Pack Up Your Troubles became the viral hit. The Allies would eventually emerge triumphantly, but at a cost of 55,000 casualties compared to the Germans’ 20,000. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so. Worst of all, many of those who had sought refuge in the monastery had been killed during the bombardment. The river was more shallow here but the Germans had flooded the area by destroying the dam at Sant’ Elia and the valley in which the Rapido flowed was flooded to a maximum depth of four feet. Both were skilled in mountain warfare. German sniper fire and well-positioned MG-42 machine guns meant that little mine clearing could be done during the day. When it was bombed, we just could not believe what we were seeing. “It is remarkable that (they) persevered in the circumstances. Many grew suspicious that the Germans were occupying the ancient building, using it as an observation post through which they could direct artillery bombardments on Allied positions. This height advantage was to be very important. This page has been archived and is no longer updated. On the morning of the 14th, the artillery fired shells filled with leaflets over the skies above the monastery, warning of the coming bombardment. Next swooped in 47 B-25 Mitchells and 40 B-26 Marauders of the Mediterranean Air Force, dropping a further 100 tons of explosives. The very nature of the ground gave the German defenders at Cassino a very good view as to what the Allies were doing. After the onslaught, cheers rang up among the soldiery as the smoke revealed a site of total devastation. The Battle of Monte Cassino has been described as the hardest-fought battle of World War II. The Battle of Monte Cassino was one of the most important battles of World War Two. The Battle of Monte Cassino was one of the most important battles of World War Two. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of the Terms and Conditions, Douglas Bader, the double-amputee flying ace of the Battle of Britain, How ‘Not What You Thought You Knew's’ Dr Fern Riddell uses Ancestry, The Ivory Bangle Lady and the multi-culturalism of Roman Britain, Sir Keith Park: Battle of Britain's 'Defender of London', The destruction of Warsaw: the Nazi plan to obliterate a city. Taking place between the 17th of January and the 18th of May 1944, Monte Cassino was a series of four Allied assaults against the so-called ‘Winter Line’, a series of German and Italian Social Republic fortifications and installations that aimed to protect the route to Rome from Allied invasion. This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. A total of 230 Italian civilians had lost their lives. Embedded in strongly-fortified positions, the Germans easily held off waves of Allied assaults that quickly exhausted seasoned troops from the British Empire, the Free French and the United States. The commander of the US 2nd Corps (General Keyes) was ordered to cross the Rapido to the north of Cassino. We said our daily prayer with our eyes turned towards the monastery. It made “slow and painful progress” (Farrar-Hockley). The leaflets were dismissed as propaganda by a visiting German officer when the abbot showed him one. The line was breached in several places, but the crucial valley headed by Monte Cassino remained under German control, and 6th Corps did not succeed in breaking out from Anzio. While only 593 metres high, the approach to the top was very steep. The monastery was contained within a military exclusion zone which both sides initially respected.
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