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Thread: The Battle of Monte Cassino

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    The Battle of Monte Cassino

    The Battle of Monte Cassino 1944 (also known as the Battle for Rome and the Battle for Cassino was a costly series of four battles during WW II, fought by the Allies against the Germans and Italians with the intention of breaking through the Winter Line and seizing Rome.

    Around the slopes of the holy mountain men fought like wild animals. These were the men of Hitler’s Panzer regiments – men who only wanted to survive. They lived with fear and blood and rats.

    When they tried to forget the war they found they could not wash the smell of corpseds from their bodies. Their was no horror they had not witnessed, no degradation they would not suffer if only they could survive – the searing hell that was Monte Cassino.

    The supply columns blew up – unrecognisable lumps in the gorge of death. You can eat bark, leaves, even earth to help your hunger – but thirst? We discovered a shell hole full of water out in no-mans-land. A horde of rats was drinking avidly from it and we flung a grenade at them, then flung ourselves down and drank. By the afternoon bursting shells had emptied the hole. On the bottom were distended corpses. They had been there a long time. We spewed our guts up – but the next day we found another shell hole and drank again. This was Monte Cassino.





    Cassino: The Hollow Victory

    Mention of the Monastery’s garrison brings us to the last of Freyberg’s major difficulties and yet another reason why he should have thought long and hard about the real chances for success. For not only would his men be attacking through an appalling bottleneck, under concentrated small arms and artillery fire, and then extricating themselves for a drive across either a fortified mountainside or through a town that had been reduced to a maze of tumbled masonry, but would be attempting it in the teeth of some of the best soldiers in the world. These were the men of 1 Parachute Division who were being brought in to relieve Baade’s weary Panzer grenadiers. Individual paratroop units had been filtering in since early February and some, as has been noted in passing, had taken part in the Second battle when they fought under Baade’s overall command. The decision to bring over the whole Division had been made by Kesselring on the 3rd and they very quickly began to take over subsectors, including Points 593 and 569 on the 8th and Castle Hill on the 10th . By the 25th all three regiments had arrived, and 90 PG Division handed over responsibility for the entire sector on the following day and moved to Frosinone to refit. The new commander Generalleutnant Richard Heidrich, immediately put the men to work in the line, handing over the Monastery and the town to 3 Regiment, placing 4 Regiment on the massif and 1 Regiment to their north-west, around Monte Castellone and the lower slopes of Monte Cairo.

    Thanks to ULTRA, Freyberg was well aware of these redeployments and even the brief savage encounters with paratroop units during the Second Battle should have given him a clear idea of their mettle. They had manned many of the key points on the massif, 1 and 2 Battalions of the 1st Regiment, 3/3 Regiment and the Divisional Machine Gun Battalion being particularly prominent. What made them such doughty opponents was not just the first-class training, withits emphasis upon small unit autonomy and the optimum use of small arms fire, but also their extraordinary high morale. Many Allied commentators at the time dubbed them ‘fanatical Nazis’, but their underlying motivation was not so much a matter of ideology as a powerful esprit de corps which welds together the best units of any army.

    Various factors can help inculcate such a fierce pride in one’s unit and one of the most obvious, the quality of leadership, was a potent force throughout the whole German parachute arm. General der Luftwaffe Kurt Student, its overall commander, and Divisional commanders like Heidrich and Generalmajor Ramcke ( 2 Parachute Division ) were intensely loyal to their men, while subordinate commanders had a tradition of at all times leading their men by example, continually exposing themselves to danger in the thick of the fighting. There is alsono doubt that all ranks regarded themselves as a cut above the ordinary infantry, and were prepared, if necessary, to die to prove it. Ironically, this sense of innate superiority seems to have burgeoned the more the paratroops lost their specialized role and were employed in an ordinary ground combat capacity. Ever since the Battle of Crete, in fact, when German paratroops had seized the island at the cost of terrible causalities, Hitler had fought shy of similar operations and had used the Fallschirmjager as a ‘fire brigade’, to buttress threatened portions of his line in Russia, Tunisia, Sicily, and at Anzio. However, the very fact that the paratroops had to operate in such a mundane role made them the more determined to show that no one could do it better and that when one saw their distinctive baggy smocks and rimless helmets in the line one knew that at least it would hold. As Graf von der Schulenberg told the men of ¼ Regiment, just before they went into the line after the Second Battle: “You are the best troops in this sector and I expect this position to hold; if necessary to the last man.”

    This was not mere bluster, as the Allies found whenever they interviewed any of the rather modest number of paratroop prisoners of war. One interrogator summed up his impression by stating: “Morale among the Parachuteunits is definitely very high. With very slight exception they are all very good Nazis . . . ( and are ) convinced that the war has not yet been decided for either side. This hardly endeared them to their interrogators who were only too ready to write off such attitudes as typical Teutonic arrogance. One bemoaned the fact that ‘prisoners of war gave consistently contradictory information and showed a most arrogant behaviour.’ Another wrote rather patronizingly of his prisoners’ refusal to give any useful information: Of the quintet, two talked freely, majority began by a series of moderately convincing lies, and one who had previously given a false regiment deemed it in the best parachutist’s tradition to apply the scorched earth policy to his pay-book . . . concealing the unimportant embers in his helmet.’

    Indeed, it was not only the Allies who complained of such excesses of zeal. We have already had cause to note Kesselring’s qualified congratulations to 1 Parachute Regiment at the end of the Second Battle and his caution clearly reflects a fear of making them unduly cocky and exacerbating their tendency to pay scant attention to orders from ‘ordinary’ Army or Luftwaffe commanders. Von Senger and Etterlin also had this problem in this respect, stemming from the paratroops’ aversion to admitting and kink of tactical reverse. During the Third Battle it was never possible to obtain a clear picture of the course of the battle from the Command Post of Regiment 3. The Paratroops were in the habit of not reporting the smaller losses of ground, because they hoped soon to recover it. Often reports from the Corps artillery, which I had allocated in good measure to this division, were more accurate.

    Book CASSINO The Hollow Victory John Ellis, Chpt 10 The Stench of Death P203 - 206


    Following the Battle of Monte Cassino during the Italian Campaign, Moroccan Soldiers raped some 60,000 women

    Their own "French" General, Alphonse Juin (born and raised in the Colonies), even said right after the battle "For fifty hours you will be the absolute masters of what you will find beyond the enemy. Nobody will punish you for what you will do, nobody will ask you about what you will get up to."

    "The next night, thousands of Goumiers and other colonial troops scoured the slopes of the hills surrounding the town and the villages of Ciociaria (in South Latium). Over 60,000 women, ranging in age from 11 to 86, suffered from violence, when village after village came under control of the Goumiers. Civilian men who tried to protect their wives and daughters were murdered. The number of men killed has been estimated at 800."

    Of course, some ignorant, blind fools claim these were "isolated events", despite the hoards of evidence, anecdotes, and children born to these rapes. It enrages me that people try to downplay this, and ignore the fact that the native African/Arab troops committed such horrific crimes. White Rhodesians and South Africans fought with honour and bravery. These Berber and Arab savages were neither of those things.

    https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Marocchinate


    UNCENSORED HISTORY: Dark Chapters Of History: Images Of War, History , WW2: Mass Rape Of Italian Women By French Colonial Soldiers In 1944

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    Monte Cassino monastery


    When Saint Benedict decided to found a monastery in Italy in 524 AD, he had more on his mind than just finding the peace necessary for the wholehearted glorification of God. Christianity at this time was very much on the defensive against assaults of succeeding waves of barbarians and the leader of any monastic brotherhood had to keep military considerations very much in mind. At Cassino, though it had once been the site of a temple to Apollo and the setting for the nameless orgies of the Emperor Tiberius, Benedict found what he was looking for. The town was dwarfed by an almost sheer peak which rose 500 metre (1600 feet) behind it. Its top could only be reached with extreme difficulty and it afforded perfect observation in all directions for miles around. On this summit Benedict and the brothers began to build.


    Yet Benedict perhaps chose too well, for the very inaccessibility of the Monastery lulled succeeding generations of monks into a false sense of security. Marauding bands of Lombards (581) first, then Saracens (883) and finally Normans (1030), destroyed the Monastery. After the last depredation the next three hundred years was peaceful until God himself decided to test the brothers’ resolve: the monastery was completely devastated in an earthquake. The monks stoically set to work yet again and after the last rebuilding they had created a daunting fortress, surrounded by fifteen-feet-high walls, ten feet thick at their base, and approachable only via a five-mile-long hairpin track.


    The Allied Fifth and Eighth Armies had invaded Italy in the preceding September and were clawing their way towards Rome. The Germans had resolved not to give up this symbolic Axis capital without a fight. Their whole Italian strategy now hinged upon the selection of suitable defensive lines behind which to deploy most effectively their overstretched but still determined divisions. Monte Cassino, dominating as it did the most obvious route to Rome, the old Via Casilina or Highway Six as it was now known, was an obvious lynch-pin of such a line, being easily linked with the Aurunci Mountains to the south, reaching almost to the coast, and with the Cairo massif and the Simbruini Mountains to the north.


    So the Germans set to work in January 1944 the Allied advance was pulled up short in front of a formidable Stellung, dubbed the Gustav Line. For the next six months they battered their heads against it in an agonizing series of battles that were distinguished equally by the sufferings of the ordinary soldiers and the ineptitude, on the Allied side at least of their commanders.


    The suffering of these fighting troops, mainly ‘the Poor Bloody Infantry‘ cannot be overstated. Only such abattoirs as Verdum and Stalingrad, Passchendaele and Iwo Jima can justly be compared. Four major assaults were launched against the fearsome defences that barred the way to Rome. Thousands died in these assaults and, in each interval, thousands more endured terrible privations as they shivered in their slit trenches and dugouts awaiting the order for the next attack, the next anguished scramble to prize the Germans off Monte This or Point That, the next suicidal dash into the murderous maze of pillboxes, wire and minefields that had once been some sleepy mountain village. So much for ‘sunny Italy’. Many Germans, indeed, were adamant that the fighting in Italy in winter 1944 was far worse than anything they had encountered on the Russian Front. So much, too, for a war of movement.


    As will emerge from all that follows, comparison with the charnel houses of the Western Front between 1914 and 1918, is in no way misplaced. . . .


    Book CASSINO The Hollow Victory John Ellis, Preface xiii & xiv

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    The whole Italian campaign saw a lacklustre performance of allied commanders, with the exception of Patton's contribution on Sicily, but he was impeded by the British, during Operation Husky -an operation which should never have taken place. Sicily could've been easily bypassed by landings further up north, such as in the Bay of Taranto. As a result the allied forces had to crawl all the way to Rome from Italy's most southern point, in terrain favoring the defenders. The Germans didn't even have to allocate many divisions to this front, hence the campaign hardly helped the soviets.

    Monte Cassino was eventually simply bypassed too, then evacuated by the Germans. A flanking move instead of another frontal assault made the front fluid again.
    "The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way. For example, we are not supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some time or other, whether he admits it to himself or not. Some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin. We use the term “oversocialized” to describe such people." — Ted Kaczynski

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    We could've taken Germany through Italy in 1943 if we wanted to. The problem is we would've had to explain to the planet why all of eastern Europe was
    suddenly the property of the USSR. The Russians were behind schedule.

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    Bombing of the Abbey of Monte Cassino, Feb 15, 1944.


    The heathen Allied High Command (that is international Judeo-Luciferian-Freemasonic-Illuminati spiderwebs) agreed between a Jewish General Bernard Freyberg(and probably a Freemason as well) and a Freemasonic goy, General Mark Clark, to bomb the historic Abbey of St. Benedict, Monte Cassino, into ruins for no good military reason at all.

    The Abby of Monte Cassino, founded by St. Benedict in the sixth century, was a site of enormous cultural and religious value. In a move that later appeared to have been mistaken and that dismayed many Catholics and others around the world, the Allied forces fighting Germans in Italy decided to bomb the structure, utterly destroying it. The decision was the outcome of a debate between New Zealand General Bernard Freyberg, who insisted that the targeting of the abbey was a military necessity, and American General Mark Clark (later nominated to by President Truman to be ambassador to the Holy See), who was reluctant to approve it.


    The destruction of Montecassino

    On 8 May, sixty years ago, the battle of Cassino ended, one of the hardest and most irrational of the Second World War. It cost thousands of human lives and the destruction of the abbey of Montecassino founded by Saint Benedict. “A beacon of European civilization”, President Ciampi has defined it, bombed by the Allies “because of a tragic error, the fruit of a bad interpretation”. This is what happened by Roberto Rotondo.

    On the warm spring morning of 18 May 1944, the first exhausted Polish infantry entered the deserted ruins of the abbey of Montecassino. The decimated troops of General Anders were the first troops of the Allied Fifth army to arrive up there, making their way through the rotting corpses strewn across the whole side of the mountain. One of the hardest battles of the Second World War was over. Of Christendom’s most ancient monastery, founded in 529 A.D. by Saint Benedict and where his mortal remains repose, there remained only rubble and the stumps of walls. It was razed to the ground on 15 February by the most impressive bombardment in history ever directed at a single building, which was followed by three months of fierce combat to drive out the Germans, who had entrenched themselves among the ruins after the bombardment. But when the Allied soldiers reached Quota Monastero, the few German paratroopers, who had continued to resist tenaciously since February, had left in order to avoid being surrounded by the Gurkhas of the Indian division of General Francis Tuker, which had crossed the Aurunci mountains breaking through the enemy front, isolating Cassino and opening the road to Rome for the Allies. A plan which Tuker had wanted to put into operation in February, in agreement with the French General Alphonse Juin, in charge of the North African troops, so as to avoid attacking the Germans head on at Montecassino. But the Franco-Indian flanking strategy, which would perhaps have saved thousands of human lives as well as the buildings and the Renaissance frescos of the abbey, was dismissed by the other commanders of the “multi-ethnic” Allied Fifth Army, made up of soldiers of at least twelve different nations and commanded by the American General Mark Clark. He had decided, under pressure from such influential subordinates as the New Zealender Bernard Freyberg, that the Gustav line (fortified by Field-marshal Kesserling to block the Allies from advancing north) must be attacked head on at its pivotal point: the town of Cassino and the mountain behind it, on which stood the ancient Benedictine monastery, and which dominated the valleys of the Liri and Rapido rivers. This year the abbey of Montecassino, which was rebuilt after the war exactly as it had been, commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of the bombardment and the tragic battle with a series of events. The President of the Italian Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi was there on 15 March. He went up to the monastery where he meditated in silence for three minutes in homage of the victims of the terrorist attack in Madrid five days before, took part in a mass and, then, in the piazza of Cassino devoted his speech to the sufferings of the areas during the last war. Sufferings which, after the war, only the book La Ciociara and the film made from it “had the courage to recount”, Ciampi said. Adding: “These events demonstrate an evil which no philosophy of history can manage to mitigate. In the Second World War, unfortunately, there were many such. The destruction of Cassino is one of them.” Furthermore, Ciampi continued, “nobody could ever forgive the destruction of what had been for more than a thousand years a beacon of European civilization, the abbey of Saint Benedict”. And the head of State returned twice more to the bombardment of the Benedictine monastery: “It was a tragic error, the result of poor intelligence”.

    Exactly sixty years later the US and England also admit it was “a tragic error”. But how and why did the bombardment take place?



    Bomber number 666.

    Let us reconstruct the happenings, which have many analogies with the wars and military operations of our own days. It began on 15 February 1944, when, at 9:24 in the morning, the abbey of Montecassino was shaken by a tremendous explosion which shattered the prayers of the small group of Benedictine monks in the monastery as they were invoking the help of Our Lady and reciting “et pro nobis Christum exora”. Among them was the eighty year old abbot Dom Gregorio Diamare and his secretary Dom Martino Matronola, who was afterwards to publish a diary which is indispensable for a proper understanding of those dramatic days. Out of the sky, and onto their heads and those of the hundreds of refugees in the monastery, came a cluster of 250 kg bombs dropped by a bomber with the ominous number 666, piloted by Major Bradford Evans, who was leading the first of the four formations of B-17, the Flying Fortresses, which had been ordered to destroy the thousand year old monastery perched on the hill. Four other waves of medium-range bombers followed the Flying Fortresses. At 13:33 it was all over: all the monks were safe, but several hundred refugees had died beneath the bombs, and it was to be difficult, even after the war, to dig out the bodies and put a name on the grave markers.

    A change of scene. Washington 16:00 hours the same day, in Italy it was past 22:00 hours. About twelve hours had passed since the bombing and American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened a press conference with these words: “I read in the afternoon papers about the bombing of the abbey of Montecassino by our forces. In the reports it was clearly explained that the reason why it was bombed is that the Germans were using it to bombard us. It was a German stronghold, with artillery and everything necessary”. The American president seemed sure of himself, as the Anglo-American newspapers seemed sure: The air force strikes the Germans on Montecassino, was the headline of The New York Times that day. Roosevelt perhaps could not know that he was to be clamorously refuted by history, but he could hardly not see that there was something bizarre about the business. Even in a world at war for years and for which death and destruction were daily fare. In fact, bombers had never had a historical monument as prime target, what’s more in neutral territory, the property of the Holy See, a monastery famous throughout the Christian world, a place where priceless historic and artistic treasures were kept. Furthermore, the force used was out of all proportion: 453 tons of bombs dropped, in eight waves, by 239 bombers. A monstrous figure. How would American Catholics take it when in few months later they were to vote to elect the president of the United States. Finally “the most publicized bombing of a single target in history”, as Newsweek defined it, was that day the headline of the newspapers of half the world. What might the political consequences be, who would win the propaganda battle? Roosevelt had a communiqué from Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander-in-Chief of Allied forces in Europe, till then confidential, circulated to journalists. It stated that if in the course of the advance it became necessary “to choose between the destruction of a famous monument and the sacrifice of our soldiers, then our soldiers’ lives will count infinitely more”. But, Ike explained, the choice was not simple. Because neither personal convenience, nor laxity nor indifference might be concealed behind the expression “military necessity”. But it was too little to avoid a negative reaction on public opinion in Europe.


    A media defeat

    Nazi propaganda, in fact, was about to go into a wild exploiting of the bombing to its own favour. In Nazi-held Europe the Anglo-Americans were to be depicted in the days following the bombing as the new barbarians who were eager to systematically cancel every trace of “superior European civilization”. The abbey of Montcassino, which had been destroyed three times in the past - by the barbarians, the Saracens and by an earthquake - was now reduced to dust “by the Jews and by the Bolshevik fellow-travellers of Moscow, London and Washington”. But that was not enough, because Nazi intelligence – which according to the reports of D’Arcy Osborne, the British ambassador in the Vatican, had for some time been spreading reports that it was the presence of their troops in the abbey that provoked Allied bombing – had an easy job in promoting the Germans as defenders of civilization: it had in fact been the Hermann Göring division which in December 1943 had brought to safety in the Vatican all the moveable works of art in the abbey, along with the immense library and its incalculably valuable codices.

    The regard felt by General Frido von Senger, commander of the XVI Panzerkorps, for the Benedictines and the historical monument played a particularly influential part in that rescue operation. Senger, a Catholic, for many years close to the Order of Saint Benedict, belonged to the minor nobility of Southern Germany commanded the entire Gustav line, had also fundamentally respected the neutrality of the place and had not allowed his troops, deployed over the whole mountain, to take up position within 300 meters of the abbey walls, the belt marking off the neutral zone.


    The refutation of the “irrefutable proofs”

    After the bombing Roosevelt, like Winston Churchill in London, decided therefore to defend the good intentions behind the decision of the Allied commands in the Mediterranean. Not only because the advance on Rome was in a very delicate phase (the Allied troops in the Liri valley were blocked while in the area of Anzio they were actually in danger of being driven back into the sea), but also because English General Henry Maitland Wilson, the Allied commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, claimed he had “irrefutable evidence” of the presence of the enemy in the abbey before the bombing. And when on 9 March, the English Foreign Office asked Wilson if he could provide an explanation backed by fact to the Vatican as to why the monastery was destroyed, despite the wholesale promises given to the Holy See about respecting the abbey, Wilson stated that he had at least twelve pieces of “irrefutable evidence” about the military use of the monastery by the Germans, but he also wanted to keep them secret to prevent the Germans from constructing false counter evidence in consequence. It was promised that the evidence would be given to the Vatican in due time. That time has never arrived: even after the war it took investigation and controversial historical studies on documents in the military archives to conclude that it was the result of an error. One of Wilson’s irrefutable pieces of evidence was detailed after the war by one of the people involved, Captain David Hunt, aide to British Field-Marshal Harold Alexander, commander-in-chief of the Allied armies in Italy. Hunt recounted how, shortly after the bombardment, the translation of an intercepted Nazi message was passed on to him. It said: “Ist der Abt noch im Kloster?” and the reply was “Ja”. Abt was translated as the abbreviation of “military division”, so the phrase was taken to mean: “Is the division in the monastery?”. “Yes”. It also seemed to Hunt the confirmation of their suspicions, the classic “smoking gun” as we would call it today. But Abt also means ‘abbot’. And, Hunt went on, all one had to do was to read further to understand that the Germans were speaking about the monks in the abbey and not about their troops. However, Hunt says, it was too late to abort the mission. How could such a gross mistake be made? One also has to keep in mind that the secret services very often see and hear that which they think will please those in command. And it was the case here also: though it was later proved that there were no Germans, Lieutenant Herbert Marks, of Allied counter-intelligence, who had been observing the monastery through a telescope, claimed he had seen around seventy of them run from the gate of the abbey to the courtyard. And a message of the Fifth Army at 11:00 hours, after the first wave of B-17s, reported: “Two hundred Germans fleeing from the monastery along the road”.


    An order never acknowledged

    But who decided that Montecassino should be destroyed? The book Montecassino by David Hapgood and David Richardson (recently republished by Baldini Castoldi Dalai), the outcome of long research in the military archives, states that there is no evidence to show that the decision was made at a level higher than General Wilson and General Alexander. It is a fact that the final decision to bomb the abbey was never acknowledged by anyone on the ladder, from the Allied political leaders, through the General Staff, down to the commanders in the field. Only one general has gone down in history as a convinced proposer of the need to destroy Montecassino: Bernard Freyberg. The commander of the New Zealand contingent, who had taken up position with his men in the Liri valley early February, was famous in New Zealand, but even those who admired his courage admitted that he had difficulty conceiving a more complex strategy than that of a bull charging a gate. So he found himself almost immediately in agreement with his superior Mark Clark on the plan to attack up Montecassino mountain, despite the fact that for weeks already this plan promised only tremendous losses. Indeed, from the start Freyberg blamed the abbey for the failure to break through the German lines since, according to him, the Germans were directing their artillery fire from there. So 12 February came, the day on which Freyberg, insistently demanded the bombing of the monastery for reasons of “military necessity”, even threatening the withdrawal of his troops were he not contented. Clark was not in agreement both for political and military reasons, but he was in a weak position. The defeat suffered by the Texas division on 20 January still weighed heavily on his reputation. His order to cross the river Rapido resulted in the useless sacrifice of almost two thousand soldiers, and the news of the defeat had gone around the world. Furthermore, as Clark writes in his book of memoirs At war with Alexander, ranked above him were two English generals, and Alexander himself said to him about the bombing: “Freyberg is a very famous figure in the Commonwealth, we treat him with kid gloves and you must do the same”. If we add to this is the fact that almost all the English and American press had been engaged for some time in a devastating campaign in which they claimed that their soldiers were paying with their lives for the kindness of the military commanders toward the Catholic Church, and that “A victory won is better than a Michelangelo on the wall”, one understands why Clark gave in and gave the green light to the bombers. Not before dropping handbills on the monastery to warn the inhabitants of the threat from above. For the refugees it was a death sentence, both because right up to the end no one wanted to believe it could come to that, and because they had no way out, surrounded as they were for miles around by two battling armies.


    Freyberg’s son saved by the nuns

    By one of those imponderable paradoxes that the history of the Church can proffer, the son of the man who wanted the destruction at all costs of one of the most significant monuments of Christendom, was saved in those days by the hospitality of a convent of nuns in Castel Gandolfo. They hid the young Freyberg, a lieutenant of infantry, after he escaped from the Germans who had captured him at Anzio. Castel Gandolfo was among those properties of the Church which, even though in a neutral zone, were bombed in those months for the same reasons used to justify the destruction of the abbey of Montecassino: “military necessity”. But perhaps not even the fate of his son would have changed the mind of general Bernard Freyberg, seeing that he did not give up the idea of the bombing even when he realized the day before the planes took off that it was useless from a military point of view since his men, pinned down by the German forces, were too far from the objective and would never be able to take the ruins of the abbey before the enemy. Air force command refused to postpone the bombardment since from 16 February the planes were detailed to operate in the Anzio area. Freyberg therefore decided to go ahead and the consequences are in the history books, as well as in the many war cemeteries afterwards established in the area. Freyberg had many more bombers at his disposal than required because the US air force exploited the occasion to settle an old debate: whether daytime bombing was more effective, as they maintained, than night-time, favored by the English.

    The Germans, as the New Zealand commander had also foreseen, occupied the ruins first and the battle in the valley and on the mountain waged fiercely again. The town of Cassino was bombed in the following weeks, making it impossible for the American tanks to advance, blocked as they were by the craters made by the bombs from their own planes and their own artillery. There was no end to the expenditure of resources. A hill was even re-christend “One million hill”, because it was calculated by the artillery that to kill a single enemy soldier had cost 25,000 dollars in ammunition. “Perhaps it would have been simpler if they had offered that sum”, the famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle, bitterly wrote, “to the Germans to leave”.

    http://www.catholichistory.net/Event...nteCassino.htm

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    I've always been interested in researching AFVs, rather SPA, APC, IFV, AC, or AAV. One of the most practical WWII German assault guns was the Sturmgeshutz III, and Sturmhaubitze 42. These were produced in great numbers after it was determined the medium tank Mk. III was no longer a match for enemy tanks later in the war.

    These photos depict this particular AFV providing mainly infantry support roles at Monte Casino, with only one such vehicle surviving this hellish nightmare after some were completely buried beneath the rubble caused by bombing raids:



    “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” Robert A. Heinlein

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chlodovech View Post
    The whole Italian campaign saw a lacklustre performance of allied commanders, with the exception of Patton's contribution on Sicily, but he was impeded by the British, during Operation Husky -an operation which should never have taken place.
    How was he impeded by the British?

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    Patton's blitzing to Messina was interrupted by British demands for a more methodical and slower approach to warfare, allied military rivalry also played a role, as both Brits and Americans wanted to capture as many "prizes" (urban centers) as possible. Additionally, in British eyes the Americans were still not ready to fight and beat the Germans, given the poor perfomance of American forces at the Kasserine pass in Tunisia. Patton had many arguments with British commanders such as Montgomery, and Montgomery kept Patton from obtaining a great victory on Sicily which would've prevented the escape of Axis forces to mainland Italy.

    "Leese, the British XXX Corps commander, said later that he thought the decision to move the boundary and pull the 45th Division back was a mistake. “I often think now that it was an unfortunate decision not to hand it [the Caltagirone–Enna road] to the Americans … They were making much quicker progress than ourselves, largely owing, I believe, to the fact that their vehicles all had four-wheel drive … We were still inclined to remember the slow American progress in the early stages in Tunisia, and I for one certainly did not realise the immense development in experience and technique which they had made. . . I have a feeling that if they could … [have been allowed to drive] straight up this road [Highway 124], we might have had a chance to end this frustrating campaign sooner.”

    Source.
    "The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way. For example, we are not supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some time or other, whether he admits it to himself or not. Some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin. We use the term “oversocialized” to describe such people." — Ted Kaczynski

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    Bombing of Cassino




    The bombing of Cassino, Operation Bradman, took place on 15 March 1944. The actual bombing began at 08. 30 and went on until 12. 00 with the bomber groups coming in every ten minutes until 09. 00 and every fifteen minutes hereafter. No two sources agree on the exact number of planes involved or the exact tonnage of bombs dropped, but the approximate figures were 280 heavy bombers ( Liberators and Flying Fortresses), 180 mediums (Marauders and Mitchells) and 1000 tons of bombs, most of them 1000 pounders.

    As soon as the planes turned for home a massive artillery programme started and over the next eight hours 890 guns of all calibres, from 8 inch howitzers to 25 pounders, fired 195,969 rounds at their appointed targets.

    The results certainly looked impressive. General Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin saw the devastation on the next day from General Heidrich’s command post: ‘What I saw and felt took me back across twenty-eight years, when I experienced the same loneliness crossing the battlefield of the Somme. Hitler was right when he told me that here was the only battlefield of this war that represented those of the first.’ The bombing itself was watched by various generals, including Alexander, Clark and Eaker, and the later seemed positively jubilant. In a broadcast afterwards he told how the generals had ‘watched Cassino melted down today . . . Today we fumigated Cassino and I am most hopeful when the smoke of today’s battlefield clears we shall find more worthy occupants installed with little loss of our men . . . . Let the Germans well ponder that what we have done on the Ides of March to their fortress of Cassino, we shall do to every other stronghold where he elects to make a stand.’

    Second wave of bombers, 24 in all, dropped their bombs on Cassino village. A German diarist, from115 PG Regiment, felt compassion for the troops in Cassino itself: ‘Today hell is let loose at Cassino. Cassino is a few kilometres away to our left, we have a good view of everything. . . . We can see nothing but dust and smoke. The troops who are lying up there must be going mad. . . . . The ground is shaking as if there was an earthquake.’ One of the men actually in the town at this time garrisoned by 2/3 Parachute Regiment, was Leutnant Schuster, commanding No. 7 Company. His account of the bombing gives the full flavour of his men’s ordeal:

    Tensely we waited in our holes for the bombs to drop. Then they came. The whining scream of their approach, the roar of their explosions and the noise of the aircraft themselves mingled with echoes flung back from the hills to produce an indescribable and infernal bedlam of noise. The whole earth quaked and shuddered under the impact. Then a sudden silence. Hardly had the dust settled a little than I dashed out to visit two other strongpoints. I stumbled blindly about in a welter of craters. From somewhere a voice shouted: ‘Alls well!’ and then the next great wave of air hulks loomed into view above me.

    I could not go back. I remained where I was and the floodgates of hell opened once again. We could no longer see each other; all we could do was touch and feel the next man. The blackness of night enveloped us, and on our tongues was the taste of burnt earth. ‘I’ll come again,’ I said, felt my way towards an exit and rolled out into a crater. I had to grope my way forward as though in a dense fog, crawling, falling, leaping; as I reached my post, another wave was on the way in. The men pulled me head over heels into our hole. Then down came the bombs again. A pause, and once more I groped my way across the tortured earth. Direct hits – here, here and here; a hand sticking out of the debris told me what had happened. When I got back the men read in my eyes what I had seen. The same unspoken thought was in all our minds – when would it be our turn? The crash of bursting bombs increased in intensity. We clung to each other, instinctively keeping our mouths open. It went on and on. Time no longer existed, everything was unreal. We shifted our positions and, well, we thought, if we can still move, we’re still alive – sixteen of us.

    Rubble and dust came pouring down into our hole. Breathing became a desperate and urgent business. At all costs we had to avoid being suffocated, buried alive. Crouching in silence we waited for the pitiless hail to end.

    An ordinary paratrooper stressed the appalling effects of the sheer duration of the bombing, as endless waves of planes returned again and again to pulverize every square inch of the town:

    More and more sticks of bombs fell. We now realized that they wanted to wipe us out, but we could not grasp that this terrible episode would go on for so long. . . . . The sun lost its brightness.An uncanny twilight descended. It was like the end of the world. . . . . Comrades were wounded, buried alive, dug out again, eventually buried for the second time. Whole platoons and squads were obliterated by direct hits. The survivors fled in twos or small groups from the houses which had become mantraps, into shell holes. Many of them linked arms and held their ears at the same time in order not to be torn apart by the blast. Scattered survivors, half crazy from the explosions, reeled about in a daze, avoiding all cover, until they were hit by an expulsion or disappeared. Others rushed headlong in the direction of the enemy, not caring about the abandoned positions, in order to escape from this hell.

    When the bombing started, 2/3 Parachute Regiment had a little over 300 men and five assault guns in the town. Four hours later some 160 of them as well as four of the guns, were permanently buried under the rubble. No.7 Company had been all but annihilated and Nos. 5 and 8 were down to little more than 20 – 30 men each. Only No. 6 Company had survived relatively intact, having sought immediate refuge with the battalion HQ in a deep rock cavern at the foot of the Monastery Hill.

    Yet this was enough. Even such a fierce bombardment had left sufficient survivors to scramble through the ruins and man existing basement strongpoints or take up new snipers’ perches in the bomb-blasted buildings. Even more surprisingly, perhaps, these survivors were still compos mentis enough to do this almost as soon as the bombers turned for home. Their remarkable resilience was made depressingly apparent during interrogation of the first POWS from 2/3 Regiment. Clearly the bombing had been a ghastly experience. Feldwebel Richard Kruppa admitted that “the bombing was something tremendous and had a terrific effect on morale.” He states that the mere recollection of the bombing is so unpleasant to him that he forbade . . . any of his men to speak to him further about Cassino. “Speak about women, but not about Cassino.” Yet of the twenty prisoners questioned up to 18 March, only one showed any definite anxiety symptoms. More typical was Obergefreiter Karl Brill who simply said: ‘I feel nothing, because I was in a good bunker.’ According to one of the interrogators :’Much emphasis was placed by many of those questioned on the protection from effects of concussion and sense of security lent to the individual by the very adequate ground fortifications.’ A psychiatrist who questioned them attempted to fall back on the ‘fanatical Nazi’ explanation and asserted that this group of parachutists shows evidence of extreme indoctrination’. His next revelation, however, that ‘the individual soldiers are self possed, self reliant and entirely single minded in their emotional and mental approach to the war’, merely lists the qualities one would expect in any well trained soldier, fighting in a unit with a well developed esprit de corps.’

    But if the bombing failed to live up to expectations as an attritional weapon, it succeeded all too well as a method of demolition. Individual houses were so shattered that the streets themselves could no longer be discerned, whilst such few patches of open ground as were left were pitted with bomb craters or overlaid with rubble. According to one eye-witness the town was an ‘unbelievable mess . . . . There was no vestige of a road or track, only vast heaps of rubble out of which peered the jagged edges of walls. The whole of this mess was covered by huge, deep craters that needed hand and foot climbing to get in and out of.’ This would make it extremely difficult for the New Zealanders to push forward swiftly from the bomb-safety lines or to operate together except in groups of two or three men. And that would be of vital importance to the survivors of 2/3 Regiment, for it meant that their own scattered snipers and two- or three-man automatic weapons groups might well be sufficient to hold off the first attacks. Well-disguised and protected by the innumerable bomb-riven strongpoints, Captain Foltin’s tiny battlegroups were vulnerable only to concerted New Zealand platoon or company attacks, exactly the thing that they would least be able to organize. Worse still, the enormous craters would make it virtually impossible for the supporting armour to move forward, certainly not in any sort of solid spearhead and probably not even to supply the intimate individual fire-support that was of such importance in street-fighting.


    German resistance was hardening with every passing hour, each paratrooper determined to respond to Vietinghoff’s recent exhortation to General Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin: ‘The Cassino Massif must be held at all costs by 1 Parachute Regiment . . . . the localization of attacks indicate that the enemy is seeking a prestige success.’ Freyberg’s bad luck in having to face such elite troops was becoming all too apparent, and even the German commanders seem to have felt that only Heidrich’s men could have so withstood the initial battering. On the 16th Westphal spoke to Vietinghoff on the telephone:

    Westphal: ‘Do you think casino can be held indefinitely?’

    Vietinghoff : ‘I can’t tell yet . . . . Everybody was dazed by that bombardment and before they could snap out of it the enemy was into them.’

    Westphal: ‘The enemy has reported that it was impossible to maintain troops in the town because of German snipers.’

    Vietinghoff : ‘That is very good indeed .. . . But Senger told me the aircraft had a terrible effect.’

    Westphal: ‘I bet you are glad you had paratroopers there.’

    Vietinghoff : ‘Yes . . . . the paratroopers will hold on best.’

    But Heidrich’s men had no intention of indulging in unnecessary bravado or of conducting their defence in anything but the most sensible and methodical manner. First it was necessary to reinforce the depleted garrison in the town and over the next few days as many men as possible, mainly from 2/1 Parachute Regiment and the Division’s pioneer and motor-cycle companies, were infiltrated into Cassino. It was also essential to mark out a realistic defensive perimeter and to accept that large parts of the town were irretrievably lost. The key sector was obviously that around the continental Hotel, in the south west of the town, where a resolute stand could both prevent the New Zealanders from pushing their armour down Highway Six and also maintain a stranglehold on the Indians’ access to the massif beyond Castle Hill. So there the Paratroopers concentrated.

    An abiding impression of the street-fighting in Cassino was its intimacy, attacker and defender existing almost cheek by jowl, unable to look beyond the boundaries of the house, or even the next room, which they occupied at any one moment. One platoon of 25 Battalion, according to an eye-witness,

    Shared a house with the enemy for three days, and for 36 hours lived on iron rations and cigarettes . . . . While Germans could be heard moving about on the roof, nothing could be done as all exits were covered by a German strongpoint across the street in front and grenade-dropping snipers on the roof . . . . This episode was fairly typical of conditions in Cassino at that time. Platoons, often only a section strong, fighting well towards their objective only to be temporarily isolated. Their desired aggressive role was thus handicapped by a shortage of manpower and firepower . . . .


    Book CASSINO The Hollow Victory John Ellis, Chpt 11 ‘Even Paratroopers Must Crack’ P 221-238.

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    Polish troops Cassino

    After the battle of annihilation in the bend of the River Bzura, in September 1939, they had no alternative but to capitulate to Hitler, and their humiliation was completed when the Red Army marched in from the east and took back those territories that had been reintegrated into Poland after the treaty of Riga, in March 1921. Russian memories of their defeat by Pilsudski, which lead up to this treaty, were still vivid and they extracted stern retribution from their new Polish citizens. Upwards of a million of them, soldiers and civilians, men, women and children, were rounded up and dragged off into the oblivion of the Siberian gulags. As far as Stalin was concerned, there they could have rotted; but after the trauma of BARBAROSSA, in 1941, he felt it politic to pay some heed to his new Allies’ Polish citizens on Russian soil were granted an ‘amnesty’ –in respect of what ‘crimes’ remained unclear – and an agreement was signed with the new Polish government in exile in London, sanctioning the creation of a new Polish Army. After ceaseless bickering and prevarication, and much prodding from Churchill and the London Poles, 40,000 soldiers and officers, as well as 26,000 women and children, were eventually allowed out of Russia in September 1942.


    Their Army, however, was as yet largely nominal and it was not until this exodus reached Iraq and Palestine that a real start was made to equip and organize the troops, on British lines. Two divisions were formed, the 3rd Carpathian and the 5th Kresowa. Each had only two infantry Brigades, 1 and 2 Carpathian, 5 Wilenska and 6 Lwowska, but the normal allotment of divisional tanks, artillery and engineers. There was also a Polish armoured brigade with the Corps and this, together with Corps artillery and engineers, brought the total Polish strength to about 50,000 men. They actually arrived in Italy between December 1943 and January 1944 and first went into the line in March.In mid April they were relieved, goingto rest areas at Carpinone and Venafro prior to taking over the Cassino sector.


    Two thoughts, the distillation as it were of the points raised by Anders and Wisniowski at their ten-minute conference, dominated the minds of every Polish soldier as they clambered on to the massif. First was their intense hatred of the Germans, a hatred so passionately expressed that it might have taken the French aback. It certainly seemed rather over the top to many British soldiers. Leese and Alexander, for example, must have raised their eyebrows when they read the opening of Anders’ order of the Day just before the Cassino attack: ‘Soldiers! The moment for battle has arrived. We have long waited the moment for revenge and retribution over our hereditary enemy.’ The soldiers actually relieved by the poles were made equally aware of this lust for revenge. One officer wrote:

    At night we took them around the battle positions. We got along very well together, though they could never wholly conceal their slight impatience with our attitude. They hated the Germans, and their military outlook was dominated by their hate. Their one idea was to find out where the nearest Germans were and go after them . . . They thought we were far too casual because we didn’t breathe blind hate all the time.

    Book CASSINO The Hollow Victory John Ellis, Chpt 14 ‘Sir, I am Killed’ P 314-315.

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