The First Battle of Cassino dragged on until mid-February. The packages include theatre tickets, an overnight stay and a delectable breakfast for two people sharing. At the end of the bonus your prizes will be multiplied by the remaining multiplier. And there was the US 5th Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Mark Clark, who was not always wrongly impatient of the British and their methods, and acutely conscious of his personal role as the standard-bearer of American arms in Europe. On 23 March Alexander met with his commanders. The Winter Line and the battle for Rome. 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.
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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. However, Lucas was warned by Clark not to 'stick your neck out' in a dash for Rome. 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.
He castigates 'a wilful failure at the highest level to take due account of the terrible problems involved in mounting a concerted attack across such appalling terrain [which] were still being grossly underestimated a full month later'.
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.
The distinguished American military historian Carlo D'Este called his decision 'as military stupid as it was insubordinate. 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. A perceptive private soldier's war. 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 This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets CSS enabled.
While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets CSS if you are able to do so. This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving. An eyewitness who saw survivors of the 34th Division descending from the mountains wrote: Find out more Books Cassino: Fatal Decision by Carlo D'Este. This is the best account of Anzio.
Naples '44 by Norman Lewis. For some of the moral conundrums of the Italian campaign. About the author Richard Holmes is professor of military and security studies at Cranfield University.