The German positions on Point 593 above and behind the monastery were untouched.[37]. 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. 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. During the battle of Cassino, the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Forces became actively involved when they were brought in to take over for the troops who had been stationed there since the 15th January, 1944. Also during this time, the Polish song writer Feliks Konarski, who had taken part in the fighting there, wrote his anthem "Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino" ("The Red Poppies on Monte Cassino"). Some of these units were accused of committing atrocities against the Italian peasant communities in the region. 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. Battle of Monte Cassino. [20] In return they sustained losses of about 80 per cent in the Infantry battalions, some 2,200 casualties.[19]. He also pointed out that with 150-foot (46 m) high walls made of masonry at least 10 feet (3.0 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 1,000 pound bombs would be "next to useless". As a result, the army's conduct of this battle became the subject of a Congressional inquiry after the war. 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 "...mustered all the weight of my authority to request that the Battle of Cassino should be broken off and that we should occupy a quite new line. On 15 February American bombers dropped 1,400 tons of high explosives, creating widespread damage. 6 New Zealand Brigade attacked the Italian town of Cassino as part of the Allies‘ advance on Rome. The Allied general in Italy, General Alexander used the lessons learnt from the Third Battle to put a lot of time and effort into planning for the Fourth and last Battle of Monte Cassino. The withdrawn American units were replaced by the New Zealand Corps (2nd New Zealand and 4th Indian Divisions), commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Bernard Freyberg, from the Eighth Army on the Adriatic front. D'Oro, Ausonia and Esperia were seized in one of the most brilliant and daring advances of the war in Italy... 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. On 17 May, Polish II Corps launched their second attack on Monte Cassino. [47] In the meantime, the 1/2nd Gurkha Rifles were to sweep across the slopes and ravines in a direct assault on the monastery. The three divisions of Lieutenant General McCreery's X Corps sustained some 4,000 casualties during the period of the first battle.[15]. On 23 March 1944, bad weather, heavy casualties, and signs of complete exhaustion slowed the Allied attacks against Monastery Hill. It had been very close. [81] The richness of the abbey’s archives, library and gallery included "800 papal documents, 20,500 volumes in the Old Library, 60,000 in the New Library, 500 incunabula, 200 manuscripts on parchment, 100,000 prints and separate collections". The central thrust by the U.S. 36th Division, under Major General Fred L. Walker, commenced three hours after sunset on 20 January. This was evidenced in the writing of Maj. Gen. Howard Kippenberger, commander of New Zealand 2nd Division, after the war. [78], 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 1944. By 25 May, with the German 10th Army in full retreat, Truscott's VI Corps was, as planned, driving eastwards to cut them off. Once again, therefore, the battle commenced without the attackers being fully prepared. On 18 May, a Polish flag followed by the British Union Jack were raised over the ruins. In 2006, a memorial was unveiled in Rome honouring the Allied forces that fought and died to capture the city. 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. [74], Units which participated in the later part of the battle were awarded the honour 'Cassino II'.[75]. 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. 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. An American squad managed a reconnaissance right up against the cliff-like abbey walls, with the monks observing German and American patrols exchanging fire. [7] Following this Allied victory, the German Senger Line collapsed on 25 May. Getting 20,000 vehicles and 2,000 tanks through the broken Gustav Line was a major job taking several days. 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). In addition, subsidiary battle honours were given to some units which participated in specific engagements during the first part. [8] The capture of Monte Cassino resulted in 55,000 Allied casualties, with German losses being far fewer, estimated at around 20,000 killed and wounded.[4]. 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. 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. As late as the second day of the final Cassino battle, Kesselring estimated the Allies had six divisions facing his four on the Cassino front. By 13 May the pressure was starting to tell. 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). After meeting with a German officer, the monks were driven to the monastery of Sant'Anselmo all'Aventino. After eight days of fighting from one shattered building to the next, Freyberg decided the cost was proving too high and he ordered his troops to stop their attack. Cassino finally fell in May 1944 to British and Polish troops, with support from New Zealand artillery. 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 07:30 on 17 February. Due to the Germans’ demolition of floodbanks south of Cassino, only one New Zealand battalion was able to cross the floode… Clark also paid tribute to the Goumiers and the Moroccan regulars of the Tirailleur units: In spite of the stiffening enemy resistance, the 2nd Moroccan Division penetrated the Gustave [sic] Line in less than two-day's fighting. Forward units of the 3rd Algerian Infantry Division had also by-passed Monte Cifalco to capture Monte Belvedere and Colle Abate. Pushed into planning a new assault to relieve pressure on the Anzio beachhead, Freyberg intended to continue the attack through mountains north of Cassino as well as advance up the railroad from the southeast. The struggle for Cassino in early 1944 was one of the most brutal and costly battles involving New Zealand forces in the Second World War. An opportunity was indeed missed and seven divisions of 10th Army[73] 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. On the day after the bombing at first light, most of the civilians still alive fled the ruins. The main central thrust by the U.S. II Corps would commence on 20 January with the U.S. 36th Infantry Division making an assault across the swollen Gari river five miles (8 km) downstream of Cassino. Apr 5, 2019 - Bombing of Cassino Monastery and town by Peter McIntyre, May 1944. All members of the Polish units received the Monte Cassino Commemorative Cross. 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.S. II Corps to make men available to force the issue in the south before the German reinforcements were able to get into position. Matters were not helped by the loss of Kippenberger, wounded by an anti-personnel mine and losing both his feet. All the fire has been from the slopes of the hill below the wall". The Benedictine monastery towering above the town on Monte Cassino was destroyed by aerial bombardment on 15 February because it was assumed that the Germans were using the site as a lookout. 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 (1.6 km) south of Cassino town. The 141st Infantry Regiment also crossed in two battalion strength and, despite the lack of armoured support, managed to advance 1 kilometre (0.62 mi). The southern group was forced back across the river by mid-morning of 21 January. 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. It is now known that the Germans had an agreement not to use the abbey for military purposes. 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. As a result, Indian troops on the Snake's Head were taken by surprise,[38] while the New Zealand Corps was two days away from being ready to launch their main assault. Gallery - New Zealand at the Third Battle of Monte Cassino Maps and Photographs Relating to The Third Battle of Monte Cassino This map shows the movements in the Third Battle of Monte Cassino, note the cramped nature of the battlefield. In 1943, the Goumiers were colonial troops formed into four Groupements des Tabors Marocains ("Groups of Moroccan Tabors"; GTM), each consisting of three loosely organised Tabors (roughly equivalent to a battalion) specialised in mountain warfare. Between 17 January and 18 May, Monte Cassino and the Gustav defences were assaulted four times by Allied troops. The Allies lost the Third Battle of Monte Cassino for many reasons, as they had many things against them. In 1999, a monument commemorating the Battle of Monte Cassino was unveiled in Warsaw and is located next to the street that is named after Władysław Anders. 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. Meet the NZHistory.net.nz team. Truscott later wrote in his memoirs that Clark "was fearful that the British were laying devious plans to be first into Rome",[70] a sentiment somewhat reinforced in Clark's own writings. The US Air Force dropped a huge number of bombs on the Monastery trying to dislodge the Germans. Tragically for the waiting New Zealand soldiers, most of the German defenders survived and exploited the ruins of the town and monastery to create an even more formidable set of defences. 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