Freyberg had informed his superiors that he believed, given the circumstances, there was no better than a 50 per cent chance of success for the offensive. Increasingly, the opinions of certain Allied officers were fixed on the great abbey of Monte Cassino: The British press and C. Sulzberger of The New York Times frequently and convincingly and in often manufactured detail wrote of German observation posts and artillery positions inside the abbey. Eaker accompanied by Lieutenant General Jacob L. II Corps also flew over the monastery several times, reporting to Fifth Army G-2 he had seen no evidence that the Germans were in the abbey.
When informed of others' claims of having seen enemy troops there, he stated: Major General Kippenberger of the New Zealand Corps HQ held it was their view the monastery was probably being used as the Germans' main vantage point for artillery spotting, since it was so perfectly situated for it no army could refrain. There is no clear evidence it was, but he went on to write that from a military point of view it was immaterial:.
Jose Maria Sison
If not occupied today, it might be tomorrow and it did not appear it would be difficult for the enemy to bring reserves into it during an attack or for troops to take shelter there if driven from positions outside. It was impossible to ask troops to storm a hill surmounted by an intact building such as this, capable of sheltering several hundred infantry in perfect security from shellfire and ready at the critical moment to emerge and counter-attack.
Undamaged it was a perfect shelter but with its narrow windows and level profiles an unsatisfactory fighting position. Smashed by bombing it was a jagged heap of broken masonry and debris open to effective fire from guns, mortars and strafing planes as well as being a death trap if bombed again. On the whole I thought it would be more useful to the Germans if we left it unbombed. Major General Francis Tuker , whose 4th Indian Division would have the task of attacking Monastery Hill, had made his own appreciation of the situation.
In the absence of detailed intelligence at Fifth Army HQ, he had found a book dated in a Naples bookshop giving details of the construction of the abbey.
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In his memorandum to Freyberg he concluded that regardless of whether the monastery was currently occupied by the Germans, it should be demolished to prevent its effective occupation. He also pointed out that with foot 45 m high walls made of masonry at least 10 feet 3 m thick, there was no practical means for field engineers to deal with the place and that bombing with "blockbuster" bombs would be the only solution since 1, pound bombs would be "next to useless".
On 11 February , the acting commander of 4th Indian Division, Brigadier Harry Dimoline , requested a bombing raid. Tuker reiterated again his case from a hospital bed in Caserta, where he was suffering a severe attack of a recurrent tropical fever. Freyberg transmitted his request on 12 February.
The request, however, was greatly expanded by air force planners and probably supported by Ira Eaker and Jacob Devers, who sought to use the opportunity to showcase the abilities of U. Army air power to support ground operations. Clark of Fifth Army and his chief of staff Major General Alfred Gruenther remained unconvinced of the "military necessity". When handing over the U. Butler, deputy commander of U. All the fire has been from the slopes of the hill below the wall". In all they dropped 1, tons of high explosives and incendiary bombs on the abbey, reducing the entire top of Monte Cassino to a smoking mass of rubble.
Between bomb runs, the II Corps artillery pounded the mountain. Eaker and Devers watched; Juin was heard to remark " That same afternoon and the next day an aggressive follow-up of artillery and a raid by 59 fighter bombers wreaked further destruction.
The German positions on Point above and behind the monastery were untouched. Damningly, the air raid had not been coordinated with ground commands and an immediate infantry follow-up failed to materialize. Its timing had been driven by the Air Force regarding it as a separate operation, considering the weather and requirements on other fronts and theaters without reference to ground forces.
Many of the troops had only taken over their positions from U. II Corps two days previously and besides the difficulties in the mountains, preparations in the valley had also been held up by difficulties in supplying the newly installed troops with sufficient material for a full-scale assault because of incessantly foul weather, flooding and waterlogged ground. As a result, Indian troops on the Snake's Head were taken by surprise,  while the New Zealand Corps was two days away from being ready to launch their main assault. It is certain from every investigation that followed since the event that the only people killed in the monastery by the bombing were Italian civilians seeking refuge in the abbey.
However, given the imprecision of bombing in those days it was estimated that only 10 per cent of the bombs from the heavy bombers, bombing from high altitude, hit the monastery bombs did fall elsewhere and killed German and Allied troops alike, although that would have been unintended.
Clark was doing paperwork at his desk. On the day after the bombing at first light, most of the civilians still alive fled the ruins. Only about 40 people remained: After artillery barrages, renewed bombing and attacks on the ridge by 4th Indian Division, the monks decided to leave their ruined home with the others who could move at The old abbot was leading the group down the mule path toward the Liri valley, reciting the rosary.
After they arrived at a German first-aid station, some of the badly wounded who had been carried by the monks were taken away in a military ambulance. After meeting with a German officer, the monks were driven to the monastery of Sant'Anselmo. After 3 April, he was not seen anymore. It is now known that the Germans had an agreement not to use the abbey for military purposes.
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The assault failed, with the company sustaining 50 per cent casualties. The following night the Royal Sussex Regiment was ordered to attack in battalion strength. There was a calamitous start. Artillery could not be used in direct support targeting point because of the proximity and risk of shelling friendly troops. It was planned therefore to shell point which had been providing supporting fire to the defenders of point The topography of the land meant that shells fired at had to pass very low over Snakeshead ridge and in the event some fell among the gathering assault companies.
After reorganising, the attack went in at midnight.
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The fighting was brutal and often hand to hand, but the determined defence held and the Royal Sussex battalion was beaten off, once again sustaining over 50 per cent casualties. Over the two nights, the Royal Sussex Regiment lost 12 out of 15 officers and out of men who took part in the attack. On the night of 17 February the main assault took place.
This latter was across appalling terrain, but it was hoped that the Gurkhas , from the Himalayas and so expert in mountain terrain, would succeed. This proved a faint hope. Once again the fighting was brutal, but no progress was made and casualties heavy. It became clear that the attack had failed and on 18 February Brigadier Dimoline and Freyberg called off the attacks on Monastery Hill. The intention was to take a perimeter that would allow engineers to build a causeway for armoured support.
Their isolation and lack of both armoured support and anti-tank guns made for a hopeless situation, however, when an armoured counter-attack by two tanks came in the afternoon on 18 February. It had been very close. The Germans had been very alarmed by the capture of the station and from a conversation on record between Kesselring and Tenth Army commander Gen. For the third battle, it was decided that whilst the winter weather persisted, fording the Garigliano river downstream of Cassino town was an unattractive option after the unhappy experiences in the first two battles.
The "right hook" in the mountains had also been a costly failure and it was decided to launch twin attacks from the north along the Rapido valley: The idea was to clear the path through the bottleneck between these two features to allow access towards the station on the south and so to the Liri valley. British 78th Infantry Division , which had arrived in late February and placed under the command of New Zealand Corps, would then cross the Rapido downstream of Cassino and start the push to Rome. None of the Allied commanders were very happy with the plan, but it was hoped that an unprecedented preliminary bombing by heavy bombers would prove the trump.
Three clear days of good weather were required and for twenty one successive days the assault was postponed as the troops waited in the freezing wet positions for a favourable weather forecast. Matters were not helped by the loss of Major General Kippenberger, commanding 2 New Zealand Division, wounded by an anti-personnel mine and losing both his feet. He was replaced by Brigadier Graham Parkinson; a German counter-attack at Anzio had failed and been called off.
The third battle began 15 March. After a bombardment of tons of 1,pound bombs with delayed action fuses,  starting at The bombing was not concentrated — only 50 per cent landed a mile or less from the target point and 8 per cent within 1, yards but between it and the shelling about half the paratroopers in the town had been killed.
Nevertheless success was there for the New Zealanders' taking, but by the time a follow-up assault on the left had been ordered that evening it was too late: Torrents of rain flooded bomb craters, turned rubble into a morass and blotted out communications, the radio sets being incapable of surviving the constant immersion. The dark rain clouds also blotted out the moonlight, hindering the task of clearing routes through the ruins. On the right, the New Zealanders had captured Castle Hill and point and as planned, elements of Indian 4th Infantry Division, now commanded by Major General Alexander Galloway , had passed through to attack point and thence to point , Hangman's Hill.
However, the Germans were still able to reinforce their troops in the town and were proving adept at slipping snipers back into parts of the town that had supposedly been cleared. However, a surprise and fiercely pressed counter-attack from the monastery on Castle Hill by the German 1st Parachute Division completely disrupted any possibility of an assault on the monastery from the Castle and Hangman's Hill whilst the tanks, lacking infantry support, were all knocked out by mid-afternoon. On 20 March Freyberg committed elements of 78th Infantry Division to the battle; firstly to provide a greater troop presence in the town so that cleared areas would not be reinfiltrated by the Germans and secondly to reinforce Castle Hill to allow troops to be released to close off the two routes between Castle Hill and Points and being used by the Germans to reinforce the defenders in the town.
However, the defenders were resolute and the attack on Point to block the German reinforcement route had narrowly failed whilst in the town Allied gains were measured only house by house. On 23 March Alexander met with his commanders. A range of opinions were expressed as to the possibility of victory but it was evident that the New Zealand and Indian Divisions were exhausted. Freyberg was convinced that the attack could not continue and he called it off. The next three days were spent stabilizing the front, extracting the isolated Gurkhas from Hangman's Hill and the detachment from New Zealand 24 Battalion which had held Point in similar isolation.
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The Allied line was reorganised with the exhausted 4th Indian Division and 2nd New Zealand Division withdrawn and replaced respectively in the mountains by the British 78th Division and in the town by British 1st Guards Brigade. The German defenders too had paid a heavy price.
General Sir Harold Alexander 's strategy in Italy was to "force the enemy to commit the maximum number of divisions in Italy at the time the cross-channel invasion [of Normandy] is launched". With the arrival of the spring weather, ground conditions were improved and it would be possible to deploy large formations and armour effectively.
The plan for Operation Diadem was that U. II Corps on the left would attack up the coast along the line of Route 7 towards Rome. The French Corps to their right would attack from the bridgehead across the Garigliano originally created by British X Corps in the first battle in January into the Aurunci Mountains which formed a barrier between the coastal plain and the Liri Valley. It was hoped that being a much larger force than their 4th Indian Division predecessors they would be able to saturate the German defences which would as a result be unable to give supporting fire to each other's positions.
Improved weather, ground conditions and supply would also be important factors. Once again, the pinching manoeuvres by the Polish and British Corps were key to the overall success. Canadian I Corps would be held in reserve ready to exploit the expected breakthrough. Once the German 10th Army had been defeated, U. The large troop movements required for this took two months to execute.
They had to be carried out in small units to maintain secrecy and surprise. This was planned to keep German reserves held back from the Gustav Line. Movements of troops in forward areas were confined to the hours of darkness and armoured units moving from the Adriatic front left behind dummy tanks and vehicles so the vacated areas appeared unchanged to enemy aerial reconnaissance.
The deception was successful. As late as the second day of the final Cassino battle, Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring estimated the Allies had six divisions facing his four on the Cassino front. In fact there were thirteen. The first assault 11—12 May on Cassino opened at By daylight the U. II Corps had made little progress, but their Fifth Army colleagues, the French Expeditionary Corps, had achieved their objectives and were fanning out in the Aurunci Mountains toward the Eighth Army to their right, rolling up the German positions between the two armies.
Crucially, the engineers of Dudley Russell 's 8th Indian Division had by the morning succeeded in bridging the river enabling the armour of 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade to cross and provide the vital element so missed by the Americans in the first battle and New Zealanders in the second battle to beat off the inevitable counter-attacks from German tanks that would come. Polish II Corps lost officers and 3, other ranks in assaults on Oberst Ludwig Heilmann 's 4th Parachute Regiment, until the attacks were called off.
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By the afternoon of 12 May, the Gari bridgeheads were increasing despite furious counter-attacks whilst the attrition on the coast and in the mountains continued. By 13 May the pressure was starting to tell. The German right wing began to give way to Fifth Army. On 14 May Moroccan Goumiers , travelling through the mountains parallel to the Liri valley, ground which was undefended because it was not thought possible to traverse such terrain, outflanked the German defence while materially assisting the XIII Corps in the valley.
In , the Goumiers were colonial troops formed into four Groups of Moroccan Tabors GTM , each consisting of three loosely organised Tabors roughly equivalent to a battalion specialised in mountain warfare. Juin's French Expeditionary Corps consisted of the Command of Moroccan Goumiers CGM with the 1st, 3rd and 4th GTM of General Augustin Guillaume  totalling some 7, fighting men,  broadly the same infantry strength as a division and 4 more conventional divisions: The next 48 hours on the French front were decisive.
Cerasola , San Giorgio , Mt. For this performance, which was to be a key to the success of the entire drive on Rome , I shall always be a grateful admirer of General Juin and his magnificent FEC. Under constant artillery and mortar fire from the strongly fortified German positions and with little natural cover for protection, the fighting was fierce and at times hand-to-hand.
With their line of supply threatened by the Allied advance in the Liri valley, the Germans decided to withdraw from the Cassino heights to the new defensive positions on the Hitler Line. On the Cassino high ground the survivors of the second Polish offensive were so battered that "it took some time to find men with enough strength to climb the few hundred yards to the summit.
At the end of the war the Poles erected a Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino on the slope of the mountain. Units of the Eighth Army advanced up the Liri valley and Fifth Army up the coast to the Hitler defensive line renamed the Senger Line at Hitler 's insistence to minimise the significance if it was penetrated. An immediate follow-up assault failed and Eighth Army then decided to take some time to reorganize. Getting 20, vehicles and 2, tanks through the broken Gustav Line was a major job taking several days. On 24 May, the Canadians had breached the line and 5th Canadian Armoured Division poured through the gap.
On 25 May the Poles took Piedimonte and the line collapsed. The way was clear for the advance northwards on Rome and beyond. Lucas as commander of the U. VI Corps in February, launched a two pronged attack using five three U. The German 14th Army , facing this thrust, was without any armoured divisions because Kesselring had sent his armour south to assist the German 10th Army in the Cassino action. A single armoured division, the 26th Panzer , was in transit from north of the Italian capital of Rome where it had been held anticipating the non-existent seaborne landing the Allies had faked and so was unavailable to fight.
By the next day they would have been astride the line of retreat and 10th Army, with all Kesselring's reserves committed to them, would have been trapped. At this point, astonishingly, Lieutenant General Clark, commanding the American Fifth Army, ordered Truscott to change his line of attack from a northeasterly one to Valmontone on Route 6 to a northwesterly one directly towards Rome.
Reasons for Clark's decision are unclear and controversy surrounds the issue. Most commentators point to Clark's ambition to be the first to arrive in Rome although some suggest he was concerned to give a necessary respite to his tired troops notwithstanding the new direction of attack required his troops to make a frontal attack on the Germans' prepared defences on the Caesar C line.
Truscott later wrote in his memoirs that Clark "was fearful that the British were laying devious plans to be first into Rome,"  a sentiment somewhat reinforced in Clark's own writings. This was no time to drive to the northwest where the enemy was still strong; we should pour our maximum power into the Valmontone Gap to insure the destruction of the retreating German Army. I would not comply with the order without first talking to General Clark in person. On the 26th the order was put into effect.
There has never been any doubt in my mind that had General Clark held loyally to General Alexander's instructions, had he not changed the direction of my attack to the northwest on May 26, the strategic objectives of Anzio would have been accomplished in full. To be first in Rome was a poor compensation for this lost opportunity. An opportunity was indeed missed and seven divisions of 10th Army  were able to make their way to the next line of defence, the Trasimene Line where they were able to link up with 14th Army and then make a fighting withdrawal to the formidable Gothic Line north of Florence.
Rome was captured on 4 June , just two days before the Normandy invasion. Battle honours were awarded to some units for their roles at Cassino. In addition, subsidiary battle honours were given to some units which participated in specific engagements during the first part. Units which participated in the later part of the battle were awarded the honour ' Cassino II'.
The capture of Monte Cassino came at a high price. The Allies suffered around 55, casualties in the Monte Cassino campaign. German casualty figures are estimated at around 20, killed and wounded. In the course of the battles, the ancient abbey of Monte Cassino, where St. Benedict first established the Rule that ordered monasticism in the west, was entirely destroyed by Allied bombing and artillery barrages in February They had to find the materials necessary for crates and boxes, find carpenters among their troops, recruit local labourers to be paid with rations of food plus twenty cigarettes a day and then manage the "massive job of evacuation centered on the library and archive,"  a treasure "literally without price.
Among the treasures removed were Titians , an El Greco and two Goyas. The American writer Walter M.
As Miller stated, this experience deeply influenced him and directly resulted in his writing, a decade later, the book A Canticle for Leibowitz , which is considered a masterpiece of science fiction. The book depicts a future order of monks living in the aftermath of a devastating nuclear war , and dedicated to the mission of preserving the surviving remnants of man's scientific knowledge until the day the outside world is again ready for it. The assertion that the German use of the abbey was "irrefutable" was removed from the record in by the Office of the Chief of Military History.
A congressional inquiry to the same office in the 20th anniversary year of the bombing stated: The final change to the U. The day following the battle, the Goumiers , French Moroccan colonial troops attached to the French Expeditionary Forces, raped and murdered through the surrounding hills, plundering the countryside. Some of these irregular units committed atrocities against the Italian peasant communities in the region. Immediately after the cessation of fighting at Monte Cassino, the Polish government in Exile in London created the Monte Cassino campaign cross to commemorate the Polish part in the capture of the strategic point.
Later, an imposing Polish cemetery was laid out; this is prominently visible to anybody surveying the area from the restored monastery. The German cemetery is approximately 2 miles 3. In the s, a subsidiary of the Pontificia Commissione di Assistenza distributed Lamps of Brotherhood , cast from the bronze doors of the destroyed Abbey, to representatives of nations that had served on both sides of the war to promote reconciliation. See all free Kindle reading apps. Start reading Unholy Allied Mountains on your Kindle in under a minute.
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