Battle of Monte Cassino-18.05.1944

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by v2, May 18, 2006.

  1. v2

    v2 Well-Known Member

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    The pact signed in Moscow at the end of August between Hitler and Stalin gave a green light for war against Poland.
    September 1,1939 Wehrmacht launched its Blitzkrieg, and a couple weeks later, the Red Army stabbed the overwhelmed Polish Army in the back, splitting Poland in half along a prearranged line.
    Less then two years later, Hitler’s surprise attack on Russia forced Stalin to turn to the West for help. This gave the Polish government-in-exile in London a chance to negotiate the release of Polish prisoners held in the Gulag. Out of almost two million held there, only less then 75,000 prisoners were released from prisons and labor camps. They joined the recruiting centers and waited - sick and hungry — for the arms that Stalin has promised their prime minister in London, but few only were delivered. General Wladyslaw Anders, just released from the notorious Lubyanka prison, knowing the Russians well, was very apprehensive and suspicious about Stalin's designs on Poland. Being aware of his plans to control newly organized army militarily as well as politically, Anders worked out a plan of evacuation to Iran Under pressure of Wehrmacht advance to the gates of Moscow in late 1941, Stalin panicked and dropped his guard, allowing several divisions of Polish volunteers to join the British 10th Army in the Middle East.
    Welcome there, they were fed, dressed, armed and trained. By mid 1943 the 2nd Polish Corps was ready for action .just in time to help with a stalled advance at the Gustav Line barring advance to Rome during five month of heavy Allied fighting. The Gustav Line crossing Apennine peninsula was anchored on towering Monte Cassino, with its thousand year old Benedictine monastery on top.
    As in ancient times, the mountain was vital to the German's defenses. It was providing a perfect observation point to which the Germans added an elaborate system of bunkers and tunnels. From this fortified vantage point, the Germans commanded the valley of the river Liri, and the road to Rome. Built by Romans, now Highway 6, ancient Via Casillina was originally constructed to facilitate the movement of Roman troops in their march North to expand the Roman Empire. Now, twenty-five centuries later, troops of the allied forces, including the Polish Free Army, used the same road on their way to victory.
    Before the 2nd Corps took positions, the Allies in preparation for storming the Monte Cassino attempted to eliminate town of Cassino, located at its foot. Now being in ruins, and almost totally destroyed on surface, it was still representing a formidable obstruction with its underground bunkers.
    Town of Cassino, originally known as Cassimum, was regarded as a sacred place and was revered by the Romans. Two centuries before the birth of Christ, emperor Markus Aurelius Antonius — had his villa there.
    Town of Cassino, in the three month prior to May 1944, has been devastated in the offensives led by the American 5th and British 8th armies.
    After the New Zealanders under gen. Friberg suffered huge losses, frustrated general called for destruction of monastery from the air. In one of the most tragic miscalculations of the war, 500 American bombers pulverized the ancient abbey with its priceless medieval treasures — some saved, were evacuated to Rome by Abbot Diamare.
    "The Lord willed it, and it was good thing for the salvation ion of Rome , - the old abbot told his Benedictine monks after bombardment.
    The New Zealanders, supported by Indian troops, attacked once more, and again were driven off by Germans, who had taker advantage of the rubble to create new defense positions.
    Meanwhile, the Allied invasion at Anzio launched in February to circumvent the Gustav Line , was still cornered or the beach by Germans.
    The debacle at Anzio and the ruins of monastery, still defended, were symbolic of Allied failure to achieve victory in Italy.
    Beginning of April , the Polish 2nd Corps was deployed to the front at Monte Cassino. The offensive started one hour before midnight on May 11, 1944. In his Order of the Day, gen. Anders addressed his apprehensive troops: "Soldiers, the time to defeat our ancient enemy has come. With faith in God's justice, tonight at 11 o'clock, we are going into battle beginning our last march to victory and on to our country, Poland."
    The campaign in Italy , was difficult one. The mountainous terrain with some peaks reaching 6,000 feet, many fast flowing rivers and deep valleys were limiting use o armor in its classic concept of a quick action, so the major burden was on infantry, sustaining the heaviest losses.
    Against all odds, during the battle which lasted a week, with infantry battalions decimated, the Poles beat the Germans into submission, and in the morning of May 18th. Polish flag was finally hoisted over the ruins of the monastery.
    One of the greatest confrontation with the enemy during WW II was ended, the road to Rome opened and Americans and Anzio bridgehead relieved- With this dainge breakthrough victory in Italy was assured

    The Poles paid their share of victory at Monte Cassino: over on thousand killed, and three thousand wounded.
     

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  2. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    the Poles did not beat the Fallscirmjägern into submission, the German paras were ordered to retreat up and over the summit and down to the north to create a new defensive line thus enabling the German forces to regroup and concentrate forming several defensive perimetres and thus causing more headaches for the Allies even retreating back up in the tirol by wars end.
     
  3. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

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    True, Erich. But the Fallschirm were hammered by artillery prior to the Poles assault, the months of Allied assaults had taken their toll on the German defending forces and many Fallschirm in the final push were buried under the rubble of collapsing buildings in and around Cassino.

    I have the book Monte Cassino by Matthew Parker, I recommend for anyone interested in the battles. It's got accounts from all sides, be it British, American, German, Polish or New Zealander (and the others).

    The Polish were not against all odds, but this does not remove their bravery. The Germans were out-numbered and far out-gunned. Their great situation in the terrain was the biggest advantage of the battle, however. I would gladly take part in a great debate on this subject, as I have great interest. No one side earned anymore respect, or was any braver than the other.
     
  4. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    without a doubt according to Luftw ground vets, they fought, they died and then they retreated ..... nothing against the valiant efforts of so many Allied ground personell who gave their lioves trying to capture that hunk of good for nothing rock ! there was independent companies holding Cassino town and the Hotel and of course they got nailed with only scant remains getting up the rock. Yes I have 5 books on the battle which is little covered. Böhlmers account unfortunately escapes my shelves but who knows what the future holds from some antique book shop. Also the Fallshirmtruppen held the ridges even though constantly under pressure the sewn minefields and barbed wire which was thick repulsed many who rushed up till the day of the capture of what was left of the Monte, with only dead and the wounded left. Parkers book is another which I need to add to the books

    E
     
  5. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Wasnt there a key contribution by some Free French units from Morocco that were unusually adept at moving up and down the ravines and mountains?
     
  6. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    Poor old Abbot.

    But those Poles helped win the day for Italy and that means Rome stuck in the middle. I'm glad I got to go there once.
     
  7. v2

    v2 Well-Known Member

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    Very good, interesting, book.

    J found cool link for you guys:
    http://www.iranian.com/History/2005/August/Bear/index.html
     
  8. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

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    The French units came close to out-flanking Monte Cassino in the first battle, but were deprived of reserves and became bogged down in the rocks with German artillery slamming down on them. The Morrocans were terrible individuals, they were animals and many Italians were raped and killed by these scumbags.
     
  9. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I will check that book out. Thanks.
     
  10. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    yes the Moraccans killed everyone either German or Allied, slit their throats was a pet peeve of theirs. the all high ground was important and even more so that the Cassino town or the Castle and maybe even the Monastery. The Germans were locked in heavily on the defensive and this multi-month battle is probably the most awesome siege in WW 2 history. if you get a chance pick up a copy of After the Battle # 13 on Cassino Battlefied Tour. Read about several Fallshirm notables like Lt. Heinz Austermann and Georg Schmitz of the 1st Pioneer Company defending the Fishmarkt below Castle Hill and the cellar in the town prison . . . . what a freakin mess of carnage.

    The Sherman assaualt on Cavendish Road. what were the Allies thinking . . ? Passing Albaneta Farm with the II./4 Fallshirms taking out the Allied tanks one by one with AT mines.
     
  11. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    Well, I agree with Plan_D that the bravery of the men on each side can hardly be compared, it took guts to defend the place and it took guts to try and take the place.

    However, in terms of achievement, it is pretty clear that the Germans achieved the most considering their situation.

    An important factor to remember concerning the effectiveness and steadfastness of the German defense at Cassino, is the fact that the German FallschirmJäger's were a superior fighting force man pr. man than the Allied units trying to take the place, and this definitely played an important role in the failures of multiple allied attempts to take the place. Infact to give credit where credit is due, with a training period three times longer than that of the US Rangers, the German FallschirmJäger's were the best trained and most efficient fighting force of WWII, they were the “creme de la creme” of the German army, and it wouldn't be wrong to call them the "Finest of the First" in terms of Special Forces.


    Btw here’s some interesting comments on the Allied methods of attack at Cassino among other places by a German POW:

    "Allied infantry attack very cautiously and bunch up too much when they move against their objectives," the Panzer Grenadier said. "They are very negligent about seeking concealment, and therefore can be seen most of the time. When they move against their objectives, their lines are not staggered enough and are deep instead of wide.

    Allied soldiers on the double, upon coming to a sudden halt frequently remain in a kneeling position, simply waiting to be shot at, instead of throwing themselves to the ground. Then, if nothing happens, they get up on the same spot where they were kneeling before, and continue their advance. I think this is extremely dangerous, especially when the terrain is dotted with snipers, as it is in Italy. I myself have seen at least a dozen Allied soldiers die because of this stupidity.

    In the German Army we think it is only common sense for an attacking soldier to select an objective for each phase of his advance. Upon reaching an objective, he immediately throws himself to the ground and crawls 10 to 15 yards to the left or right, carefully avoiding observation. He waits there a few seconds before continuing his advance.

    Sometimes, however, the Allied infantryman will drop after a shot has been fired and will roll to the right. We Germans know this. We have also noticed that Allied infantry run toward their objectives in a straight line, forgetting to zigzag and thus making an excellent target.

    In Italy, especially, attacking forces can use rocks to better advantage than they do. While I was at Cori, there was a large space between two rock formations, which afforded a clear field of fire. We covered it with a light machine gun. The first Allied troops who tried to pass between the rocks moved very slowly and in line, and some of them were hit. Not until then did the others dash through the open space.
    "Many Allied commanders lack aggressiveness. They do not realize when an objective can be taken; consequently, attacking troops often turn back just before they reach their objective.

    At Cassino I was in a valley with 97 other German soldiers in foxholes and slit trenches. First, a group of Sherman tanks attacked within range of our Faustpatronen. Three of the tanks were knocked out. The infantry, who should have followed right behind the tanks, were about 500 yards behind, and therefore were too far away to seek the cover of the armored vehicles. The tanks immediately retreated. When the infantrymen saw that the tanks had turned around, they, too, turned around and retreated. The whole valley should have been cleaned up in a matter of minutes.

    This great distance between Allied armored units and infantry was apparent almost every time. There was one instance when Allied tanks smashed across our foxholes, to be followed an hour later by infantrymen, who were driven back by hail of machine-gun fire. "We Germans rely on you to make these mistakes."

    The net cover on the helmets of Allied soldiers permits us to see the outline of the helmet distinctly, and at a considerable distance, in the daytime. On the other hand, the camouflage that we [Germans] use on our helmets disrupts the outline of the helmet, and the canvas cover can be painted to suit the terrain."



    And a little illustration of the events at Cassino :lol: :
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    I suppose the germans made no mistakes at Monte Cassino?

    But everyone is saying the Allies didn't win the battle by their own merit. I guess it was because of their own stupidity. The Germans retreated not because of their assault. They retreated by their own free will to form new defensive positions.
     
  13. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The US troops in Italy, while brave, were often poorly led.

    Ive read from some sources that Gen Clark was as marginal in capabilty as an army commander could be.
     
  14. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    Maybe this is the Canadian version of it but the Canadians broke through on the Liri Valley causing Kesserling to withdraw the defenders of Monte Casino the German parachute guys were forced to cover there own withdrawl
     
  15. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    Yes, but if the Germans had brought the Allies attacking them to a standstill, what need would they have to retreat?

    The bombers which were blasting them? It sounds like there was only one wave of them.

    Was it the lack of supplies being brought to the mountain because they had been under siege so long?

    My point is, when the germans retreated there was little tactical gain. That mountain was a great defensive position in itself. If the Allies weren't winning by ground assault, the germans had no need to lose it.

    The bombing hadn't worked. The Tanks couldn't work. The Germans still weren't starved out of supplies. The Allied infantry did the dirty work of winning the battle, as usual.

    Unless it was some German commander's incompetance, that told his men to give up the fort with no need.
     
  16. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    problem was the Monte, and it is still thought today as to why it was bombed, but it was . . . .

    Germans made a huge mistake by not reinforcing the mount and the ridges and leaving it up to one Fallschirm division. Also not enough artillery. . . . I do not care how strong it was it could not take on such heavy Allied offences and live, as the Fallschirm vets thought it was suicidal to remain on the big hump they were to do their duty till ordered off the rock and northward. Allied commanders were as inept as can be believed. Clark was a fool and in the opening stages wasted away two US infantry divisions, cross the Rapido and die but keep attacking at any cost, as the ground was too important not to give up in a struggle
     
  17. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    The Germans made some of the biggest...
     
  18. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

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    The gravest error of Clark was after Cassino, instead of rushing to cut off the German 10th Army, he marched on Rome. Allowing the German forces to escape and set up a new defence line further north, which held until the end of the war.

    The German forces at Cassino were overwhelmed with the increasing numbers of men and material being thrown at them. The Fallschirm were the best of the best in that theatre, but no matter how good they were the Allies had the material to overwhelm the spirit and skill of them.
     
  19. v2

    v2 Well-Known Member

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  20. Haztoys

    Haztoys Member

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    What has become of the Monte Cassino these days...Anyone know..?
     
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