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As it happened, Fifth Army HQ failed to appreciate the frailty of the German position and the plan was unchanged. In spite of its potential excellence as an observation post, because of the fourteen-century-old Benedictine abbey's historical significance, the German commander in Italy, Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring , ordered German units not to include it in their defensive positions and informed the Vatican and the Allies accordingly in December Nevertheless, some Allied reconnaissance aircraft maintained they observed German troops inside the monastery. The lack of time to prepare meant that the approach to the river was still hazardous due to uncleared mines and booby traps and the highly technical business of an opposed river crossing lacked the necessary planning and rehearsal. The main central thrust by the U. The ravines were no better since the gorse growing there, far from giving cover, had been sown with mines, booby-traps and hidden barbed wire by the defenders. Responding to Senger's concerns, Kesselring ordered the 29th and 90th Panzergrenadier Divisions from the Rome area to provide reinforcement. The British press and C.{/INSERTKEYS}{/PARAGRAPH} The two Moroccan-French divisions sustained 2, casualties in their struggles around Colle Belvedere. The Allied landings in Italy in September by two Allied armies, following shortly after the Allied landings in Sicily in July, commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander , the Commander-in-Chief C-in-C of the 15th Army Group later retitled the Allied Armies in Italy , were followed by an advance northward on two fronts, one on each side of the central mountain range forming the "spine" of Italy. Success would pinch out Cassino town and open up the Liri valley. Once again, therefore, the battle commenced without the attackers being fully prepared. The German defenders were finally driven from their positions, but at a high cost. In particular, armour could only move on paths laid with steel matting and it took eight days of bloody fighting across the waterlogged ground for 34th Division to push back General Franek's German 44th Infantry Division to establish a foothold in the mountains. I never really appreciated the difficulties until I went over the ground after the war. Whilst the task of crossing the river would be easier in that the Rapido upstream of Cassino was fordable, the flooding made movement on the approaches each side very difficult. Some historians [ who? In truth, Clark did not believe there was much chance of an early breakthrough, [12] but he felt that the attacks would draw German reserves away from the Rome area in time for the attack on Anzio codenamed Operation Shingle where the U. The Germans were fighting from a series of prepared positions in a manner designed to inflict maximum damage, then pulling back while buying time for the construction of the Winter Line defensive positions south of the Italian capital of Rome. Lucas , was due to make an amphibious landing on 22 January. Once again the two regiments attacked but with no more success against the well dug-in 15th Panzergrenadier Division: the rd Infantry Regiment got the equivalent of two battalions across, but, once again, there was no armoured support and they were devastated when daylight came the next day. On the right, the Moroccan -French troops made good initial progress against the German 5th Mountain Division , commanded by General Julius Ringel , gaining positions on the slopes of their key objective, Monte Cifalco. The southern group was forced back across the river by mid-morning of 21 January. Lying in a protected historic zone, it had been left unoccupied by the Germans, although they manned some positions set into the steep slopes below the abbey's walls. However, because the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff would only make landing craft available until early February, as they were required for Operation Overlord , the Allied invasion of Northern France , Operation Shingle had to take place in late January with the coordinated attack on the Gustav Line some three days earlier. II Corps to make men available to force the issue in the south before the German reinforcements were able to get into position. Whilst this would have been consistent with the German tactics of the previous three months, Allied intelligence had not understood that the strategy of fighting retreat had been for the sole purpose of providing time to prepare the Gustav line where the Germans intended to stand firm. However, it is more likely that he just had too much to do, being responsible for both the Cassino and Anzio offensives. The central thrust by the U. Clark , which had suffered very heavy casualties during the main landing at Salerno codenamed Operation Avalanche in September, moved from the main base of Naples up the Italian "boot" and on the eastern front the British Eighth Army , commanded by General Sir Bernard Montgomery , advanced up the Adriatic coast. On 15 February American bombers dropped 1, tons of high explosives, creating widespread damage. VI Corps British 1st and U. Increasingly, the opinions of certain Allied officers were fixed on the great abbey of Monte Cassino: in their view it was the abbeyโ€”and its presumed use as a German artillery observation pointโ€”that prevented the breach of the 'Gustav Line'. The Germans had had three months to prepare their defensive positions using dynamite and to stockpile ammunition and stores. Walker , commenced three hours after sunset on 20 January. The route to Rome from the east using Route 5 was thus excluded as a viable option leaving the routes from Naples to Rome, highways 6 and 7, as the only possibilities; Highway 7 the old Roman Appian Way followed along the west coast but south of Rome ran into the Pontine Marshes , which the Germans had flooded. During the battle there had been occasions when, with more astute use of reserves, promising positions might have been turned into decisive moves. VI Corps under heavy threat at Anzio, Freyberg was under equal pressure to launch a relieving action at Cassino. Howard Kippenberger , commander of New Zealand 2nd Division, after the war,. With its heavily fortified mountain defences, difficult river crossings, and valley head flooded by the Germans, Cassino formed a linchpin of the Gustav Line, the most formidable line of the defensive positions making up the Winter Line. However, attempts to take Monte Cassino were broken by overwhelming machine gun fire from the slopes below the monastery. By early February, American infantry had captured a strategic point near the hamlet of San Onofrio, less than 1 mile 1. II Corps, after two and a half weeks of battle, was worn out. However, with the coming of daylight, they too were cut down and by the evening of 22 January, the st Infantry Regiment had virtually ceased to exist; only 40 men made it back to the Allied lines. The intelligence assessment of Allied prospects was therefore over-optimistic. Digging foxholes on the rocky ground was out of the question and each feature was exposed to fire from surrounding high points. Running across the Allied line was the fast flowing Rapido River , which rose in the central Apennine Mountains , flowed through Cassino joining to the Gari River , which was erroneously identified as the Rapido [9] and across the entrance to the Liri valley. Repeated pinpoint artillery attacks on Allied assault troops caused their leaders to conclude the abbey was being used by the Germans as an observation post, at the very least. The original estimates that Rome would fall by October proved far too optimistic. The U. While this remains unconfirmed, it is clear that once the monastery was destroyed it was occupied by the Germans and proved better cover for their emplacements and troops than an intact structure would have offered. Together, these features formed the Gustav Line. Fears escalated along with casualties and in spite of a lack of clear evidence, it was marked for destruction. Excellent observation from the peaks of several hills allowed the German defenders to detect Allied movement and direct highly accurate artillery fire, preventing any northward advance. The British 46th Infantry Division was to attack on the night of 19 January across the Garigliano below its junction with the Liri in support of the main attack by U. As a result, the army's conduct of this battle became the subject of a Congressional inquiry after the war. {PARAGRAPH}{INSERTKEYS}Invasion of Italy. They could then break through down into the Liri valley behind the Gustav Line defences. With U. At the height of the battle in the first days of February von Senger und Etterlin had moved the 90th Division from the Garigliano front to north of Cassino and had been so alarmed at the rate of attrition, he had " At the crucial moment von Senger was able to throw in the 71st Infantry Division whilst leaving the 15th Panzergrenadier Division whom they had been due to relieve in place. Poor Dimoline acting commander of 4th Indian Division was having a dreadful time getting his division into position. General Juin was convinced that Cassino could be bypassed and the German defences unhinged by this northerly route but his request for reserves to maintain the momentum of his advance was refused and the one available reserve regiment from 36th Division was sent to reinforce 34th Division. Although in the east the German defensive line had been breached on the Adriatic front and Ortona was captured by the 1st Canadian Division , the advance had ground to a halt with the onset of winter blizzards at the end of December, making close air support and movement in the jagged terrain impossible. There is some speculation [ by whom? Keyes pressed Walker to renew the attack immediately. It was hoped that the Anzio landing, with the benefit of surprise and a rapid move inland to the Alban Hills , which command both routes 6 and 7, would so threaten the Gustav defenders' rear and supply lines that it might just unsettle the German commanders and cause them to withdraw from the Gustav Line to positions north of Rome. Clark's Fifth Army made slow progress in the face of difficult terrain, wet weather and skillful German defences. Highway 6 ran through the Liri valley, dominated at its south entrance by the rugged mass of Monte Cassino above the town of Cassino. The three divisions of Lieutenant General McCreery's X Corps sustained some 4, casualties during the period of the first battle. II Corps would commence on 20 January with the U. It was very tough going: the mountains were rocky, strewn with boulders and cut by ravines and gullies. Freyberg's plan was a continuation of the first battle: an attack from the north along the mountain ridges and an attack from the southeast along the railway line and to capture the railway station across the Rapido less than 1 mile 1. An American squad managed a reconnaissance right up against the cliff-like abbey walls, with the monks observing German and American patrols exchanging fire. It became the task of the U. The next attack was launched on 24 January. 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. Ryder spearheading the attack and French colonial troops on its right flank, launched an assault across the flooded Rapido valley north of Cassino and into the mountains behind with the intention of then wheeling to the left and attacking Monte Cassino from high ground. The st Infantry Regiment also crossed in two battalion strength and, despite the lack of armoured support, managed to advance 1 kilometre 0. The first assault was made on 17 January. Artillery and Nebelwerfer drumfire methodically searched both bridgeheads , while machine guns opened on every sound GIs inched forward, feeling for trip wires and listening to German gun crews reload On average, soldiers wounded on the Rapido received "definitive treatment" nine hours and forty-one minutes after they were hit, a medical study later found The assault had been a costly failure, with the 36th Division losing 2, [17] men killed, wounded and missing in 48 hours. The corps did not have the extra men, but there would certainly have been time to alter the overall battle plan and cancel or modify the central attack by the U. On 11 February, after a final unsuccessful 3-day assault on Monastery Hill and Cassino town, the Americans were withdrawn. This was evidenced in the writing of Maj. Despite their fierce fighting, the 34th Division never managed to take the final redoubts on Hill known to the Germans as Calvary Mount , held by the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Parachute Regiment , part of the 1st Parachute Division , the dominating point of the ridge to the monastery. The intention was a breakthrough to Rome. At the beginning of , the western half of the Winter Line was being anchored by Germans holding the Rapido-Gari, Liri and Garigliano valleys and some of the surrounding peaks and ridges. Near the coast, the British X Corps 56th and 5th Divisions forced a crossing of the Garigliano followed some two days later by the British 46th Division on their right causing General Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin , commander of the German XIV Panzer Corps , and responsible for the Gustav defences on the south western half of the line, some serious concern as to the ability of the German 94th Infantry Division to hold the line. The two divisions from Rome arrived by 21 January and stabilized the German position in the south. There was no natural shelter and the weather was wet and freezing cold. There the Liri river joined the Gari to form the Garigliano River, which continued on to the sea. The performance of the 34th Division in the mountains is considered to rank as one of the finest feats of arms carried out by any soldiers during the war. Rick Atkinson described the intense German resistance:. Although a battalion of the rd Infantry Regiment was able to get across the Gari on the south side of San Angelo and two companies of the st Infantry Regiment on the north side, they were isolated for most of the time and at no time was Allied armour able to get across the river, leaving them highly vulnerable to counter-attacking tanks and self-propelled guns of Generalleutnant Eberhard Rodt 's 15th Panzergrenadier Division. On 16 May, soldiers from the Polish II Corps launched one of the final assaults on the German defensive position as part of a twenty- division assault along a twenty-mile front. In one respect, however, the plan was working in that Kesselring's reserves had been drawn south.