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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 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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 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, have been accused of rape and murder through the surrounding hills.
Some of these units were accused of committing 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.
In , a memorial was unveiled in Rome honouring the Allied forces that fought and died to capture the city.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The Winter Line and the battle for Rome. This section needs additional citations for verification.
Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Battle of Monte Cassino order of battle January Battle of Rapido River.
Second Battle of Monte Cassino order of battle February Operation Diadem order of battle. The confusion between the J-3 and L-5 is easy to understand since they are very similar aircraft.
It is possible that the difference in height is explained by the one being a height above the abbey and the other a height above the valley floor.
La Repubblica , Culture section in Italian 3 June Retrieved 24 April A country at war, — A New Look at the Past. Sterling Publishing Co Inc.
Defender of the Realm — 1st ed. Angelo in Theodice e la confusione tra i fiumi Rapido e Gari , Angelo in Theodice and the Confusion between Rapido and Gari rivers.
Archived from the original on 26 January Retrieved 21 February Holt, Rinehart and Winston. A Eulogy for Walt Miller".
I went to war with very romantic ideas about war, and I came back sick. Bio-Bibliographies in American Literature.
Rampage on Monte Cassino". The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, — The bombardment of Monte Cassino February 14—16, The Friction of War.
Italy and the Battle for Rome Anzio and the Battle for Rome. The Battle for Rome January—June Battle For Monte Cassino. Hapgood, David; Richardson, David .
The Battle for Rome. For much of its length the line ran along rivers, with the Garigliano, Gari and Rapido strengthening its southern sector.
The entrance to the Liri valley was dominated, then as now, by the great bulk of Monte Cassino which is crowned by an ancient Benedictine monastery.
In front of the hill stood the little town of Cassino, and the rivers Gari and Rapido. It takes about two hours to reach its summit, and the view is staggering.
It was one of the strongest natural defensive positions in military history, with the monastery, like some great all-seeing eye, peering down on everything.
The Allied plan for the breaching the Gustav line was hurriedly conceived. American divisions of 5th Army would attack at Cassino to draw German reserves southwards.
This accomplished, an Anglo-American corps would land at Anzio, about 30 miles south of Rome. It was expected that the shock would provoke the Germans into giving up the Gustav Line and falling back north of the Eternal City.
The first phase of the operation the First Battle of Cassino comprised an attack across the Gari south of Cassino by the US 36th Division, which was savagely repulsed.
Then a longer thrust into the mountains north of Cassino by the US 34th Division, and a heroic attack by the North African troops of the French Expeditionary Corps on the high ground further north.
There was almost no resistance. Instead, Lucas chose to hold a narrow beachhead in which to laboriously build up men and material. He could not seize Rome and secure his logistic base.
Once the Germans had decided against withdrawal, he was committed to defending his beachhead against reserves rushed to Italy from all over Europe.
The fighting at Anzio took on characteristics grimly reminiscent of World War One. It was soon evident that far from Anzio helping the Allies breach the Gustav Line, attacks on the Gustav line would have to be launched to take the pressure off Anzio.
The tail had begun to wag the dog. The First Battle of Cassino dragged on until mid-February. An eyewitness who saw survivors of the 34th Division descending from the mountains wrote:.
The men were so tired that it was a living death. They had come from such a depth of weariness that I wondered if they would quite be able to make the return to the lives and thoughts they had known.
The second battle began on 15 February, with the controversial destruction of the monastery by heavy and medium bombers. On the one hand, it seems likely that there were no Germans in the monastery at the time.
However, they were to defend its ruins tenaciously. Furthermore, the nearest Allied troops were too far away to take advantage of the shock of the bombing.
On the other hand, however, most combatants had come to hate the building so much that they simply wanted the all-seeing eye poked out.
John Ellis rightly judges the attack that followed to be one of the low points of Allied generalship in the war. British and Indian troops attacked the high ground, while New Zealanders bludgeoned their way into Cassino itself.
While there were some gains, the German grip was not shaken. The third battle began on 15 March, with yet more bombing. Despite the prodigious courage of British, Indian and New Zealand troops, the German parachutists holding the town and the high ground still hung on.
It was not until May that the Allies at last brought their full might to bear on Cassino. They did it by moving much of the 8th Army from the Adriatic coast, while 5th Army shifted its weight to reinforce the Anzio beachhead, now under the command of Major General Lucian Truscott.
The new offensive, Operation Diadem, smashed through the neck of the Liri valley by sheer weight, and the Polish Corps took Monte Cassino.
Between the Liri and the sea, the French Corps made rapid progress through the Aurunci Mountains, and by the third week in May the Germans were in full retreat.
Clark had a number of options for the breakout from Anzio, and was eventually ordered by Alexander to thrust into the German line of retreat.
Although this manoeuvre would not have bagged all the defenders of Cassino, it would have captured most of them and much of their equipment.
In the event, however, Clark chose instead to strike for Rome, guaranteeing himself a place in the history books but letting the Germans escape.
Perhaps Clark was too ambitious, or Alexander too gentlemanly. Or perhaps, the whole sorry episode simply underlines, yet again, the difficulties inherent in coalition warfare.
The Hollow Victory by John Ellis. This is not only the best single book on the subject but a model of how military history ought to be written. The Monastery by Fred Majdalaney.
He fought there as an infantry officer and wrote this at the end of the war. He was the commander of the German corps that defended Cassino for much of the fighting.
He gives a moving description of his own wartime service there. The Fortress by Raleigh Trevelyan. For a personal view of Anzio, this can scarcely be bettered.
Richard Holmes is professor of military and security studies at Cranfield University. His books include The Little Field Marshal: He enlisted into the Territorial Army in and rose to the rank of brigadier.
He was the first reservist to hold the post of Director of Reserve Forces and Cadets in the Ministry of Defence, until he retired in