First battle of Cassino, 12 January-12 February 1944

First battle of Cassino, 12 January-12 February 1944


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First battle of Cassino, 12 January-12 February 1944

The first battle of Cassino (12 January- 12 February 1944) saw the Allies push slowly closer to the main German defensive lines around Cassino (Gustav Line), but at great cost.

The Germans were defending the line of the Rapido and Garigliano Rivers. The Rapido rises in the mountains north of Cassino and flows south-west through the mountains then south in a more open valley past the town and monastery. It then joins with the Liri, which flows into it from the west, and below the junction is called the Garigliano. The Liri valley was the only open ground to the west of the rivers - the upper reaches of the Rapido are surrounded by mountains and the western shores of the Garigliano are overlooked by the Aurunci Mountains. Highway 6, the road from Naples to Rome, went up the Liri valley. The Allied aim was to break into the Liri valley and use it to send their armour towards Rome.

The attack on the Cassino front was only part of the Allied plan for January. On 22 January, ten days after the start of the battle, another Allied force was to land at Anzio, behind the German lines. It was hoped that this force would be able to advance inland to the Alban Hills, to threaten the lines of retreat for the Germans fighting at Cassino.

General Clark planned a three pronged assault. On the right General Juin’s French Expeditionary Force was to capture the high ground north of Cassino. On the left the British were to cross the upper reaches of the Garigliano and take the nearby high ground at Sant Ambrogio. Once this had been done, the US 36th Infantry Division would cross the lower reaches of the Rapido and establish a bridgehead across the river. The US 1st Armoured Division would cross into this bridgehead and then attack down the river. Clark had three main objectives - tie down the German troops already at Cassino, force Kesselring to move reinforcements from Rome to Cassino so they couldn’t be used against the Anzio landings, and break into the Liri valley to join up with the troops advancing from the bridgehead. Before this could be carried out, the Americans needed to take Monte Troccino, the last high ground before the Rapido, a long narrow mountain that ran parallel to the river. However after some fighting to the east of the mountain the Germans decided that it was too vulnerable and pulled out before the American attack began on 15 January.

Very little of the main plan actually worked. The French began their offensive on 12 January, and made some limited progress east of the Rapido. They took Monte Acquafondata, towards the centre of the mountainous block between the Volturno and Rapido valleys, and on 16 January reached Sant’ Elia, on the eastern edge of the Rapido valley, but were unable to make more progress and the offensive was then called off. An attempt to take Monte Santa Croce, further to the north-east up the Rapido, ended in failure after several days of costly battle.

The British attack began on 17 January, when the 5th and 56th Divisions of X Corps managed to get across the Garigliano, pushing back the German 94th Division, one of the weakest units under Kesselring’s command. The attack began with a heavy artillery bombardment, supported by naval gunfire. The 56th Division then crossed in the centre of the line, and came under heavy fire from previously hidden mortars in the hills north of their crossing point. The 5th Division crossed near the estuary, supported by a short range amphibious landing just behind the river. By dawn on 17 January both of these divisions were across the river and their leading brigades had advanced up to a mile.

The 46th Division had less effective artillery support, as most of their targets were hidden from view from the east bank of the rivers. The division was on the British right, close to the junction of the three rivers. Its crossing ended in failure, after the cables linking their rafts and ferries were snapped by the heavy current and scattered downstream. They were thus unable to get onto the Sant Ambrogio heights to the west of the river, and remained pinned down near the river.

The British suffered 4,000 casualties to establish the bridgehead. In order to stop the British attack, Kesselring had been forced to move two divisions to the front (the 90th Panzer Grenadiers from the Adriatic and the 29th Panzer Grenadiers from Rome), and the departure of the Hermann Goering Division to France was delayed, so Clark had achieved one of his three objectives. The Germans were even able to counterattack on the British front, although with limited success.

Despite these failures on the flanks, the attack across the Rapido went ahead as planned, as Clark believed it was the only way to stop the Germans moving troops back to Anzio. The 36th Division attacked on 20 January, but the river and the defences behind it proved to be a formidable barrier. The attack was a costly failure, and was abandoned on 22 January. The division lost 1,681 men in two days.

On the same day the landings at Anzio began. Clark decided to launch a new offensive on the Cassino front, both to keep the Germans from moving troops north and in the hope that if they did the line might be weakened. This time the attack would be on the right of their line, to the north of Cassino town. General Juin’s French Expeditionary Corps (3rd Algerian and 2nd Moroccan Divisions) were to attack around Monte Belvedere, five miles to the north of Cassino and then move south-west towards the village of Piedimonte, five miles to the west of Cassino. On their left the US 34th Division would cross the Rapido north of Cassino, capture the Cassino massif (the high ground north of Monte Cassino itself) and advance south into the Liri Valley somewhere to the west of Cassino, avoiding having to fight for Monte Cassino at all.

This would be a difficult task. Although the Rapido itself could be waded north of the town, the US troops would first have to cross two miles of swampy ground to the east of the river, created when the Germans demolished a dam near Sant’ Elia. They would then have to fight their way through a line of German pillboxes, barbed wire and mines, before then fighting their way up the slopes of the massif. All the time they would be under accurate artillery fire, directed by German observers on nearby high ground, and in particular on Monte Cassino itself. Allied troops soon came to believe that the observers must be in the famous Benedictine Monastery on top of the mountains, founded in 529 by St Benedict. In fact the Germans never posted any troops in the monastery while it was intact, but they didn’t need to - there was more than enough room away from the exclusion zone around the buildings for their observers to work.

The attack began on 24 January. It took two days to get a toehold across the Rapido, but after a week of hard fighting the 34th Division finally had a secure bridgehead across the river and had reached the Cassino massif. One regiment (133rd Infantry) stayed low down on the eastern slopes and attempted to push south towards Cassino town, while two regiments advanced west into the mountains (135th and 168th Infantry Regiments). After two weeks they had reached the next major ridge to the north-west of the Monastery hill, which became known as ‘Snakeshead’, taking the highest point on 4 February. From there they pushed south-east to Hill 445, a minor summit just 400 yards from the monastery. On the right the 168th Infantry reached Colle Sant’ Angelo, from where they could look down onto Highway 6 in the Liri Valley. The Germans counterattacked, and managed to retake both the summit of ‘Snakeshead’ and Colle Sant’ Angelo, narrowly averting an Allied advance into the Liri valley.

The French attack began on 25 January. They took Monte Belvedere and Abate on 26 January (the next set of mountains to the north of Monte Cassino). However their line was uneven, and the Germans still controlled Monte Cifalco, to the east of Monte Belvedere. They counterattacked from there on 27 January, but were unable to take Belvedere. In order to help, a fresh regiment from the US 36th Division (the 142nd Infantry) was fed into the line between the French and the 34th Division. On the German side General von Senger, commander of XIV Corps, threw his reserves, the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division, into the line, and with their help his battered troops were able to hold the top of the ridgeline, preventing the Allies from advancing down into the Liri Valley.

The 133rd Infantry, on the lower slopes also had a difficult task. The Germans had turned the stone houses of Cassino into mini fortresses, and had built steel reinforced bunkers there were effectively artillery proof. The Americans were able to get a foothold in the north of Cassino, but after that could make no more progress. The final American assault came on 11 February, but by now they were outnumbered by the German defenders of Monastery Hill, and the attack was repulsed. By now the 135th and 168th Infantry only had 840 men left, having started the battle with 840.

On 12-13 February the Americans were replaced by the 4th Indian Division, which had been transferred from the Eighth Army Front. The second battle of Cassino came to an end with the Allies having pushed a salient into the German lines, but without achieving any of their main aims.

The respite would only be short. The beachhead at Anzio was now under severe pressure, and Clark had to resume the offensive on the Cassino Front to prevent the Germans from moving reinforcements north. The resulting second battle of Cassino was by far the most controversial of the four battles, and saw the destruction by bombing of the venerable monastery on Monte Cassino without any military benefit that might have justified it.


"Cruel Necessity": The Story of The First Battle of Monte Cassino

While the Allies would eventually defeat the Germans here, their first attempt was a costly failure.

The casualty bill was horrendous: The 34th Division lost 318 killed, 1,641 wounded. The 2nd/168th had only seven officers and 78 men left. The 3rd/133rd had 145 men in all ranks. The 1st and 3rd Battalions of 141st were down to 22 officers and 160 men. Battalions of the 36th Division were down to 100 men. The French had the most successful drive but lost 2,500 casualties. The British X Corps had suffered 4,000 casualties, and the 46th and 56th Infantry Divisions were also played out.

The Germans also took a beating: the 2nd/132nd Panzergrenadiers had been “pulverized,” and the 2nd/361st had “melted like butter in the sun.” Only 32 men of the latter battalion were left by February 2. On February 4, the nine battalions of the 44th, two battalions of the 8th Panzergrenadiers, and an Alpine company together totaled fewer than 1,500 men. The Germans were holding the ground, but at massive cost.

It was also time to wonder what had gone wrong. The American assaults at the Rapido were poorly planned and executed. The French divisions showed ample determination and surprising toughness but lacked the depth to maintain the pace of their offensive. Supplies could not move forward in flooded areas and high mountains. Italy’s winter weather made survival in the mountains an ordeal.

“It Was as Much My Fault as Yours”

Walker had a lot to ponder, too. He believed the Rapido attack had no value. When it failed on February 3, Clark came up to Walker’s headquarters. Walker expected to get sacked, but Clark and Keyes asked Walker what happened, and Walker explained. When it was done, Clark said to Keyes, “It was as much my fault as yours.” Walker saw in that an admission of error.

Worse, the debacles provoked a harsh reaction at home. The 36th Division’s sacrifices seemed like a meaningless waste of lives. Some of the 36th Division’s fiery Texan officers held a meeting in a barn on March 2, 1944, to honor Texas Independence Day. There they voted to have the battle investigated after the war. This they did in 1946, when they formed the 36th Division Association. Backed by Texas American Legion posts, newspapers, and the state Senate, they made their case to the U.S. Congress, which investigated the debacle.

Walker avoided assigning blame, merely saying that the attacks “were failures because of poor tactical judgment on the part of higher commanders in carrying out the instructions they received from General Alexander, and that the operation, because of poor tactical judgment, resulted in unnecessary loss of life and did not assist to any material degree the landing at Anzio.”

Congress decided that Clark’s attack on the Rapido with the 36th was justified and an unfortunate consequence of war. Although Clark admitted the Rapido attack was his fault after it happened, he never again took blame he said merely that if he faced condemnation for a choice of attacking or retreating, he would rather be condemned for attacking.

Amid appalling weather, poor planning and logistical mismanagement, and incredible courage, the British, American, and French attacks of the First Battle of Cassino had failed. No link-up with the Anzio beachhead was achieved. The beachhead itself was sealed off by German reserves. The Germans still held the high ground over the town of Cassino, and above all, the unblinking eye of Monastery Hill. Despite vile weather, terrain, and casualties, the Fifth Army would have to renew the offensive against Cassino and the Liri Valley. It was time to pass the torch to a new bearer.

That new team began to arrive as January gave way to February.

Before the New Zealanders attempted to capture Monte Cassino, their commander, General Bernard Freyberg, insisted that the monastery be bombed. The decision to destroy the venerated structure was one of the most controversial of the war. The Germans, as it turned out, had not been using the monastery itself for observation. However, after it was destroyed, they moved troops into its ruins and exacted a heavy toll on Allied troops. Not until the fourth attempt, in May 1944, were the town of Cassino, the mountain, and the ruined monastery captured by the Allies.


World War II Database


ww2dbase The Allies reached the western end of the German Gustav Line in Italy in mid-Jan 1943. The main German positions generally ran along the valleys created by the Rapido River, Liri River, and the Garigliano River. German troops established positions on the hill of Monte Cassino, which dominated over the valleys, but they had stayed out of the nearby historical Benedictine monastery per orders of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring.

ww2dbase British X Corps, consisted of 56th Infantry Division and 5th Infantry Division, attacked first on 17 Jan 1944, crossing the Garigliano River near the coast on a 20-mile-wide front. Two days later, British 46th Infantry Division attacked near the junction of the Garigliano River and the Liri River. In response, German 29th Panzergrenadier Division and 90th Panzergrenadier Division were called in from the Rome, Italy area to reinforce the defenses, arriving on 21 Jan. What was considered to be the main assault, conducted by US 36th Division, began shortly after sundown on 20 Jan 1944. Troops of US 141st Regiment and 143rd Regiment were able to cross the Rapido River, but timely German counterattacks by German 15th Panzergrenadier Division caused heavy casualties, and the Americans were eventually pushed back across the river by mid-morning on 21 Jan. After sundown, the two US regiments established new footholds on the far side of the river, only to be eliminated again after dawn on 22 Jan those established by US 143rd Regiment were destroyed in the morning, while those by US 141th Regiment were destroyed in the evening. In these failed attempted to cross the Rapido River, US 36th Division suffered 2,100 casualties. On 24 Jan, US 34th Infantry Division, with French Moroccan colonial troops also in its ranks, crossed the Rapido River north of Cassino where the terrain was unsuitable for vehicles for both sides. Infantrymen engaged in bitter fighting for the following week, and on 1 Feb, troops of German 44th Infantry Division which had opposed the Allies fell back toward Monte Cassino, finally allowing the Allies a solid foothold on the previously German side of the river. Tough fighting continued, but the Americans were generally able to push forward, capturing Point 445 on 7 Feb and attacking (but failing to take) Point 593 shortly after. A renewed attack toward Monte Cassino was launched on 8 Feb, but after three days of heavy fighting and no apparent success, the assault was called off on 11 Feb. While the Americans suffered very heavy casualties in the failed attempts to advance, the Germans suffered similarly. In fact, the German front line divisions had suffered such a high casualty rate that some German generals wondered if the western end of the Gustav Line should be abandoned in favor of the next defensive line to the north already being prepared, but Kesselring rejected such notions.

ww2dbase Meanwhile, the Allies launched Operation Shingle which landed 36,000 men at Anzio, Italy on 22 Jan 1944. In an attempt to assert pressure on the Gustav Line in coordination with the attack on Anzio, Operation Avenger was launched. Similar to the first attempt to take Monte Cassino, the Allies, largely consisted of New Zealand and Indian troops in this offensive, suffered heavy casualties to accurate German artillery shelling into the valleys. Since the artillery fire came from up above, Allied leadership believed that the Germans must have observation posts near or within the Benedictine monastery. Aerial reconnaissance missions conducted over the abbey did not consistently produce evidence that there were German troops stationed inside. Some of the Allied generals believed that even if the Germans were not already using the high ground at the monastery grounds, all efforts should be expended to prevent the Germans from doing so. On 11 Feb, Brigadier Harry Dimoline, acting commanding officer of Indian 4th Division, requested aerial bombing of the monastery, which was passed on by Lieutenant General Bernard Freyberg to the air forces. The bombing was approved and conducted on 15 Feb, with 229 US heavy and medium bombers dropping 1,150 tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs, demolishing nearly all structures the aerial bombing was augmented by artillery shelling as well. On the following day, while artillery shelling continued, 59 fighter-bombers attempted to destroy whatever remained standing. Point 593, the German strongpoint beneath the abbey that the Allies attacked but failed to take in early Feb, was nearly untouched by the attacks. Interestingly, the Allies failed to immediately launch a major ground assault immediately after the bombing (though a company of 1st Battalion of British Royal Sussex Regiment of Indian 4th Division did indeed attack Point 593, failing to take it). With the Monte Cassino monastery in ruins and thus no longer of cultural and historical value, troops of German 1st Parachute Division moved in and precisely used it as an observation post as Allied leadership had feared. In the night of 17 Feb 1944, Indian 4th Division and the New Zealand Division attacked Monte Cassino in strength a parallel attack by 28th (Maori) Battalion of the New Zealand Division successfully established a small bridgehead across the Rapido River, but this bridgehead would be lost again on the following day.

ww2dbase The third major Allied attempt to take Monte Cassino was launched on 15 Mar 1944, which began by a heavy bombardment that lasted more than three hours. When the New Zealand troops spearheaded the attack, they were met with a stronger German defense than what they had expected. Although the initial attacks did capture several positions including Castle Hill, Point 165, and Point 236 through 16 Mar, heavy rain slowed the Allied progress. By the end of the day on 17 Mar, a battalion of Indian Gurkha troops, having captured Point 435, were within 250 meters from the monastery while New Zealand troops were threatening to capture the town of Cassino. Several attacks were launched successively over the course of the next several day while limited progress were made with each attack, by 23 Mar, signs of exhaustion in the Allied divisions were obvious, and on that date Harold Alexander and Bernard Freyberg both agreed to pause the offensive. On the other side of the line, German 1st Parachute Division was begining to feel the pressure as well many of its units were now grossly under-strength.

ww2dbase The fourth and what was to become the final offensive on Cassino, codenamed Operation Diadem, was launched several weeks later in the night of 11-12 May 1944. An impressive artillery bombardment by British, American, Polish, New Zealand, South African, and French guns opened the operation, and by the dawn on 12 May some of the Allied units had made significant advances, particularly the success of Indian 8th Division in establishing a bridge over the Rapido River to bring forth tanks of Canadian 1st Armoured Brigade. During the day of 12 May, Polish troops briefly captured Monte Calvario, codenamed Point 593 by the Allies, but by the end of the day the position would again be lost to the German paratroopers. By 13 May, Germans lines began to buckle under pressure as French troops captured Monte Maio while US 5th Army overran several German positions in the Liri River valley. As German positions along the Liri River valley began to fall one by one, troops of the Polish Corps launched what was to become the final attack on Monte Cassino on 17 May they would succeed in taking the ruins of the mountaintop monastery by the following day after the Germans evacuated their positions overnight, leaving behind only thirty seriously wounded men to be captured.

ww2dbase German troops fell back from the Gustav Line to the Hitler Line 13 kilometers to the north, which was quickly renamed the Senger Line (ie. removing Hitler's name from the defensive line) as the Germans knew it would only be a matter of time before these positions would have to be abandoned. Polish and Canadian troops assaulted the line on 23 May, and on the following day the line was breached, forcing the Germans to fall back toward the Caesar C Line, the final line of defense south of Rome.

ww2dbase The four-month long campaign for Cassino cost the Allies about 55,000 casualties. Though defeated, the Germans suffered only about 20,000 casualties.

ww2dbase Source: Wikipedia

Last Major Update: May 2013

Battle of Monte Cassino Interactive Map

Battle of Monte Cassino Timeline

5 Nov 1943 In Italy, Lieutenant-General Richard McCreery's British X Corps reached Monte Camino, a 3,000-foot pinnacle overlooking the River Garigliano and the entrance to the Liri valley. Here, and in the surrounding hills, the Germans had laid extensive minefields and set booby-traps as well as blasting artillery, mortar and machine gun positions out of the solid rock. After several days of savage fighting in the cold and wet, Harold Alexander called off further action in order that the front-line divisions may be rested before trying again.
2 Dec 1943 The British 56th (London) Division, which had already been badly mauled in earlier fighting for Monte Camino, Italy, launched a new attack and reached the summit under cover of darkness, but it would take another four days of hard fighting before the position could be secured completely.
12 Jan 1944 General Alphonse Juin's Free French Expeditionary Corps launched an attack inland of Monto Cassino towards Castel Sant'Elia in Italy.
15 Jan 1944 Free French Expeditionary Corps reached Castel Sant'Elia, Italy.
17 Jan 1944 British X Corps attacked the western end of the German Gustav Line in Italy.
19 Jan 1944 British 46th Infantry Division attacked German positions near the junction of the Garigliano River and the Liri River in Italy.
20 Jan 1944 After sundown, US 141st Regiment and 143rd Regiment attacked across the Rapido River in Italy.
21 Jan 1944 In the mid-morning, German 15th Panzergrenadier Division wiped out the US beachheads along the Rapido River in Italy, forcing the survivors to withdraw back across the river. During the day, German 29th Panzergrenadier Division and 90th Panzergrenadier Division arrived in the region as reinforcement. After dark, US 141st Regiment and 143rd Regiment crossed the river again and established precarious footholds.
22 Jan 1944 German 15th Panzergrenadier Division wiped out new beachheads on the Rapido River in Italy established by US 141st Regiment and 143rd Regiment through the previous night.
24 Jan 1944 Adolf Hitler ordered that the Gustav Line in Italy was to be held at all costs. Meanwhile, French forces attacked north of Monte Cassino and US 34th Infantry Division attacked across the Rapido River north of Cassino.
27 Jan 1944 Germans launched a counter attack against French troops near Cassino, Italy.
31 Jan 1944 US 34th Division crossed the Rapido River in Italy. Nearby, French Moroccan colonial troops were halted by troops of German 5th Mountain Division near Cassino and Monte Belvedere, Italy.
1 Feb 1944 German 44th Infantry Division fell back near the Rapido River toward Monte Cassino, Italy.
5 Feb 1944 US forces reached the outskirts of Cassino, Italy, but were held out of the town.
7 Feb 1944 US troops reached Point 445, a hill 370 meters away from the monastery at Monte Cassino, Italy.
8 Feb 1944 US troops began an major assault toward Monte Cassino, Italy.
11 Feb 1944 The US II Corps attack toward Monte Cassino, Italy was halted by German troops. Major General Harry Dimoline of Indian 4th Division requested the aerial bombing of the abbey atop Monte Cassino.
12 Feb 1944 Lieutenant General Bernard Freyberg requested Allied air forces for the bombing of the abbey at Monte Cassino, Italy.
13 Feb 1944 The monastery at Monte Cassino, Italy was given advance warning of the aerial bombing to come.
15 Feb 1944 142 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, 47 B-25 Mitchell bombers, and 40 B-26 Marauder bombers dropped 1,150 tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs on the historic Benedictine monastery atop Monte Cassino, Italy. The aerial bombing was augmented by artillery shelling as well. In the evening, a company of 1st Battalion of British Royal Sussex Regiment of Indian 4th Division attacked neraby Point 593, but failed to capture the position.
16 Feb 1944 Fighter-bombers attacked the already-destroyed historic Benedictine monastery atop Monte Cassino, Italy.
17 Feb 1944 Indian 4th Division attacked Monte Cassino, Italy, failing to make advances and suffering heavy casualties. In parallel, Maori troops of the New Zealand Division established a small bridgehead across the nearby Rapido River.
18 Feb 1944 German tanks eliminated the 28th (Maori) Battalion bridgehead on the Rapido River in Italy.
2 Mar 1944 On Mount Trocchio near Cassino, Italy, walking down a path that was supposed to have been cleared, Major-General Howard Kippenberger, the admirable commander of the 2nd New Zealand Division, stepped on one of the vicious little wooden "Schu" mines. One of his feet was blown off and the other had to be amputated.
15 Mar 1944 At 0830 hours, the third major Allied attempt to attack Monte Cassino, Italy began with a heavy bombardment that lasted more than three hours.
16 Mar 1944 Allied troops continued the attack on Monte Cassino, Italy.
17 Mar 1944 New Zealand troops captured the train station at Cassino, Italy. Nearby, Indian Gurkha troops captured Point 435 (nicknamed Hangman's Hill).
18 Mar 1944 New Zealand troops mounted a failed armored attack on Cassino, Italy, losing all 17 tanks in the process.
19 Mar 1944 British and New Zealand troops attacked German positions in the Cassino, Italy area, making very little progress in the face of German 1st Parachute Division.
20 Mar 1944 British 78th Infantry Division joined in the attack of Cassino, Italy.
22 Mar 1944 General Alexander ceased the frontal attacks at Cassino, Italy.
24 Mar 1944 The Allied attacks on the Gustav Line were persistently repulsed by German defenders.
26 Mar 1944 The New Zealand Corps headquarters, currently near Cassino, Italy, was dissolved. Surviving troops were incorporated into British XIII Corps.
15 Apr 1944 The German defensive Gustav Line in Italy began to fall.
11 May 1944 Operation Diadem, the fourth Allied attempt at attacking Cassino, Italy, was launched at 2300 hours with 1,660 artillery pieces firing on German defensive positions. Troops of US Fifth and British Eighth Armies advanced toward German positions behind the artillery barrage.
12 May 1944 Near Cassino, Italy, engineers of Indian 8th Division successfully established a bridge to allow tanks of Canadian 1st Armoured Brigade to cross the Rapido River, while Polish troops engaged in fierce fighting with troops of German 1st Parachute Division at Point 593.
14 May 1944 French Moroccan colonial troops outflanked German defenses in the Liri River valley in Italy.
15 May 1944 British 78th Division joined in on the attack of Cassino, Italy as German troops withdrew from Gustav Line to Hitler Line 30 miles to the south of Rome, Italy.
17 May 1944 German troops evacuated Cassino, Italy. Meanwhile, the French penetration of the Gustav Line reached 25 miles. Nearby, Polish troops launched what was to become the final attack on Monte Cassino.
18 May 1944 British 78th Division linked up with the Polish Corps in the Liri River valley 3.2 kilometers west of Cassino, Italy. Later on the same day, Polish troops captured the ruins of the Monte Cassino monastery.
19 May 1944 French Moroccan colonial troops plundered villages near Cassino, Italy.
23 May 1944 Troops of Polish II Corps and Canadian 1st Infantry Division attacked Piedimonte, Italy.
24 May 1944 The German Senger Line south of Rome, Italy was breached by troops of Canadian 1st Infantry Division, Canadian 5th Armoured Division, and II Polish Corps.
25 May 1944 Polish troops captured Piedimonte, Italy.

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Invasion of Poland

Following the invasion and occupation of Poland, German soldiers hoist the Nazi Flag over Krakow castle in 1939.

Following the invasion and occupation of Poland, German soldiers hoist the Nazi Flag over Krakow castle in 1939.

The Nazis invaded Poland on 1 September 1939.

The Nazis justified the invasion by suggesting that Poland had been planning to invade Germany, and with false reports that Poles were persecuting ethnic Germans.

On the 17 September, the Soviet Union joined forces with Germany and invaded Poland.

The Nazis and Soviets used an encirclement tactic to occupy Poland, sending troops in from all directions. Over 2000 tanks and 1000 planes were used to advance on Warsaw, the Polish capital. By the 27 September 1939, just 26 days after invasion, Poland surrendered to the Nazis.

Following the surrender, the Nazis and the Soviets divided Poland between them, as had been secretly agreed in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

The western area of Poland was annexed into the Greater German Reich. The Soviet Union took the eastern section. On 23 October 1939, the area not annexed to Germany or the Soviet Union was placed under the control of a German administration led by Hans Frank . This administration was called the General Government .

The period of war following the invasion of Poland is often referred to as The Phoney War. This is because between the Allied declaration of war and the German invasion of France and the Low Countries there was little real action, with just one small land operation (when the French invaded Germany’s Saar district) in the whole of western Europe.

Blitzkrieg

The term Blitzkrieg means lightening war. It is a term used to describe the military tactics of Germany in their first offensives of the Second World War. Germany managed to quickly break through enemy lines and encircle their enemies by combining fast moving tanks and artillery with air force support in concentrated areas.

It was through this tactic that within four weeks after invasion Germany had completely occupied and divided up Poland, with the assistance of the Soviet Union.

Using the same tactics in the first half of 1940, this victory was quickly followed by the occupation of Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.


Timeline of Battle of Monte Cassino

January 17 th : Major Allied assault on Monte Cassino commenced.

January 24 th : US 34 th Division started their attack on Monte Cassino.

January 29 th : It became clear that the attack on Monte Cassino had failed and the ‘first battle’ ended. Rain ensured that movement around Monte Cassino was limited with whole areas in the region flooded. Even the weight of a jeep could not be taken. Between the end of January and mid-March, the Germans took the opportunity to reorganise the defences at Monte Cassino.

March 15 th : Allied bombers dropped over 1,250 tons of bombs on Cassino. 142 B-17 Flying Fortresses dropped 350 tons of bombs on the monastery on the peak of Monte Cassino. Once this bombing raid had ended, an artillery bombardment started. An attack by the New Zealand 2 nd Corps was met with heavy resistance and was halted. The 4 th Indian Division captured peak 165 to the northeast of Monte Cassino.

March 16 th : No advances were made on the previous day’s success.

March 17 th : New Zealanders took most of Cassino town. The monks at the monastery were persuaded by the Germans to leave for Rome.

March 19 th : A German counter-attack failed.

March 22 nd : Allied assaults were halted due to high casualty rates and lack of territorial gains.

May 11 th : An all-out Allied attack on the monastery started – but not a direct assault. A new plan called on Allied forces to outflank the monastery.

May 12 th : The French Expeditionary Corps launch a successful attack against German positions.

May 13 th : The French opened up a direct route to Rome to the north of Monte Cassino. Other Allied forces gathered to commence a major attack on Monte Cassino.

May 14 th : The British 13 th Corps continued its assault on Monte Cassino.

May 17 th : German forces at Monte Cassino were ordered to retreat. French forces were 25 miles to the north of Cassino.

May 18 th : Troops from the Polish 12 th Podolski Regiment entered the ruins of the monastery at the top of Monte Cassino.


The Germans React to the Anzio Landings

The Germans were surprised by the Anzio landing, but not paralyzed. They quickly positioned blocking forces to prevent a breakout toward Rome or any link up with Allied forces to the south. German troops were ordered to Italy from Yugoslavia, France, and Germany to reinforce elements of the 3d Panzer Grenadier and 71st Infantry Divisions that were already moving into the Anzio area. When the Allies failed to exploit the beachhead with an immediate, forceful drive toward Rome, the Germans gained the time to build a formidable defensive and counterstrike capability, ultimately building their Fourteenth Army to 135,000 troops.

The Allies attempted to step up their own operations before the Germans could strike back. 3d Division and three Ranger Battalions under Col. William O. Darby made an initial attack on Cisterna, 30 January, running into German units massing for their counterattack. The first day, most of the lightly armed Rangers were destroyed in a fighting withdrawal against German armored units, losing all but 6 of 767 men in two battalions. For three days American units tried to take Cisterna, but could not dislodge the Germans.

The German counterattack opened on 3-4 February with an artillery barrage, followed by armored and infantry assaults. Waves of German attacks, Allied attacks and artillery duels through February resulted in shifting lines and heavy casualties on both sides, but no basic change in the situation. A final enemy drive on 4 March failed, to be followed by a three-month lull in major operations.

During March, April, and the first part of May 1944 static warfare reminiscent of WW I ruled Anzio. Air and artillery barrages rained down on the Allies, including fire from "Anzio Annie," a 280-mm. German railway gun fired from the Alban Hills. Random death or injury from the constant shelling became the way of life in the beachhead zone. Most Allied casualties were from shrapnel as the Anzio beachhead became a maze of muddy trenches, foxholes, and bunkers.


First battle of Cassino, 12 January-12 February 1944 - History

By Joshua Shepherd

By the evening of January 22, 1944, it was increasingly apparent that a drastic shift in strategy was needed to break the bloody debacle that had developed in central Italy. Two days before, the Fifth Army’s 36th Infantry Division had launched a catastrophic assault across the Rapido River. Facing a furious gauntlet of German machine-gun, mortar, and artillery fire, the Americans had been badly mauled as they raced across the mud flats that flanked the river. By the time the attack was called off after two days of carnage, the costs were staggering. The division had sustained 2,000 casualties on their side of the river alone, exultant German troops had recovered 430 frozen American corpses.

To Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes, the veteran commander of II Corps, the primary cause of the debacle was obvious. While the Americans had attacked across the marshy bottom ground of the Rapido, the Germans retained possession of the rocky heights that surrounded the site, affording them an ideal perch from which to flail oncoming Americans with accurate fire from above. To the West Point-trained Keyes, it was a grave tactical fallacy to attack across the valley unless German positions on the high ground were reduced.

The focus increasingly shifted to a particularly conspicuous mountain that dominated the countryside for miles around: the commanding heights of Monte Cassino, which was crowned with a magnificent Benedictine monastery that possessed a fortress-like appearance. Mud-covered American soldiers cast angry glances toward the mountain and intuitively realized what the top brass had seemed to miss: enemy positions on the high ground had to be seized. Associated Press correspondent Hal Boyle was of much the same opinion. “Sooner or later somebody’s going to have to blow that place all to hell,” said Boyle, giving voice to the Allies’ frustration over the enemy’s possession of the stronghold.

The Allied campaign for Italy, as well as the legendary fight for Monte Cassino, had been borne of sharp disagreements and outright arm twisting at the highest levels. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, long the standard bearer of the fight against fascism, was determined to invade mainland Italy. It was the logical next step, he argued, to attack what he referred to as the soft underbelly of Fortress Europe.

But the American top brass was skeptical of such a move. By their reckoning, a direct invasion of France and a subsequent drive into the heart of Germany was the quickest way of winning the war. Yet it was likewise apparent that any major invasion of France was a logistical impossibility until the spring of 1944.

Such a lengthy period of idleness, Churchill asserted, would certainly nettle the Allies’ suspicious partners in the Soviet Union, whose armies were suffering astonishing casualties on the meat grinder of the Eastern Front. An invasion of mainland Italy would also tie down untold numbers of enemy troops who were desperately needed elsewhere in Nazi-occupied Europe. Furthermore, it was hoped that a robust push into Italy would topple the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini. In fact, Mussolini was voted out of power and arrested on July 25, 1943. Not surprisingly, the astute and persuasive Churchill won the argument.

By the first week of September, the Allies launched the invasion of Italy. On September 3, the British Eighth Army, led by General Bernard Montgomery, crossed the narrow Straits of Messina directly to the toe of Italy. Facing light opposition, Montgomery quickly secured his beachhead and began pressing inland. His progress, stymied by stubborn German resistance and rugged terrain, was frustratingly slow.

The direct threat to the Italian homeland, however, had the desired effect on the nation’s Fascist regime. Since Mussolini’s arrest in July, Italy’s war effort had grown increasingly feeble. On September 8, the recalcitrant Italian government publicly announced its surrender to Allied forces. Yet the announcement did little to alter the fight on the ground. Occupying German forces quickly took effective control of the nation. They seized arms, munitions, and vital infrastructure.

A New Zealand sniper participates in the drawn-out struggle for Monte Cassino. The horrors of the Italian Campaign offered little respite for the embattled infantrymen who struggled for every rugged inch of ground at Monte Cassino.

Despite the success of knocking Italy out of the war, the American contingent of the invasion would receive a bitter reception to the country’s mainland. Beginning on September 9, the American Fifth Army under the command of Lt. Gen. Mark Clark undertook an amphibious landing near Salerno.

Clark’s troops found it impossible to effect a breakout of the landing sites and barely held a grip on the coast following a ferocious German counterattack that swept toward Salerno during the middle of September. Determined fighting finally repelled the German attacks, and by the end of the month a renewed offensive mounted by Anglo-American troops resulted in the capture of Naples, the largest city in southern Italy.

The liberation of the rest of Italy would prove far more problematic. Although initially inclined to abandon Italy following the nation’s surrender, German leader Adolf Hitler was convinced of the need to maintain a tight grip on the peninsula in order to keep Allied troops as far from the German homeland as possible. Hitler knew it was of paramount importance to keep the Allies from establishing airfields in Italy with which to bring their overwhelming air power against Germany. Sensing the grand strategic stakes at risk in the war for Italy, German troops would fight a tenacious defensive war there.

Heading up the German war effort in Italy was a gifted and widely experienced career officer, Field Marshal Albrecht Kesselring. In the grinding defensive battle for the Italian peninsula, the field marshal would prove a resourceful and clever opponent.

Heavy losses suffered by units such as the U.S. 36th Infantry Division against the Gustav Line in the river valleys compelled Allied senior commanders to focus their efforts instead on seizing the high ground at Monte Cassino.

Although greatly outmatched in manpower and matériel, Kesselring enjoyed a decisive advantage in terrain. Much to the chagrin of the Allies, he made the most of it.

Overall command of ground forces in Italy fell to British General Sir Harold Alexander, commander of the 15th Army Group, composed of Clark’s Fifth Army, which pushed up the western flank of the peninsula, and the British Eighth Army, by that time under the command of Lt. Gen. Sir Oliver Leese, which pressed north along Italy’s east coast. Due to the barrier of the Apennines, each army was largely on its own.

Two primary roads led north toward Clark’s ultimate objective at Rome. Near the coast, Route 7 led north to the capital. Farther inland, Route 6 twisted through far more forbidding terrain before reaching the flatlands of the Liri Valley south of Rome. After the painfully slow campaign through the rugged hills of southern Italy, the Liri Valley offered the tantalizing prospect of a swift end to the bloody war of attrition that had unfolded in Italy.

By mid-January 1944, lead elements of Clark’s army mounted the heights of Monte Trocchio but were forced to halt the advance. To the north of Monte Trocchio lay a three-mile-wide swath of open ground that gave German gunners a nearly unobstructed field of fire. The main route to Rome was also blocked by the Rapido River, an aptly named tributary of the Garigliano River whose narrow waters were nonetheless treacherously swift. Situated on the north of the Rapido was the town of Cassino, a wayside city that now found itself at the epicenter of the fight for Europe.

Beyond Cassino, forbidding terrain assured the Allies of a difficult and bloody fight. In fact, the heights beyond the Rapido, dominated by steep ridges, plunging ravines, and jagged peaks, constituted some of the most rugged terrain in central Italy. The ground was entirely impracticable for maneuvering armored columns even for veteran infantry, the rocky inclines, paired with a stout German defense, would require a herculean effort to overcome.

Allied artillery proved incapable of inflicting substantial casualties on the entrenched Germans in the town of Cassino.

Ironically, the hellish no-man’s land at Cassino was dominated by an imposing hill that had served as a bastion of religious tranquility for nearly 1,500 years. Commanding the city to the west were the soaring heights of Monte Cassino, which rose some 1,600 feet above the valley. The mountain was crowned with by the Abbey of Monte Cassino, whose gleaming travertine walls, 10-feet thick, could be seen by troops miles away.

By the winter of 1944, the abbey occupied the most strategically valuable real estate in Italy. Despite its military potential, the seven acres of the magnificent monastery were regarded as off limits for both Allied and Axis forces. Both sides adhered to a tentative policy, which was subject to military necessity, of preserving artistic and cultural sites in Italy.

To block the Allied route to Rome, Kesselring ordered the construction of a seemingly impregnable defensive position. It stretched for 100 miles from the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west to the Adriatic Sea in the east. Christened the Gustav Line, the fortified network bristled with thousands of artillery pieces, mortars, machine-gun nests, bunkers, and minefields. The fieldworks, laid out in multiple, mutually supporting lines to maintain a defense-in-depth, was an impressive display of German military engineering.

Perhaps most importantly, Kesselring had at his disposal 20 divisions that included infantry, panzer, panzergrenadier, and airborne units. Although many units had been reinforced with foreign conscripts, Kesselring’s forces possessed a hardened core of German veterans who were fiercely determined to keep the Allies out of the Fatherland.

As the Allied high command made plans to breach the Gustav Line, it hoped that the worst of the terrain could simply be bypassed. Largely due to Churchill’s prodding, the Allies planned a large-scale amphibious landing at Anzio, well behind German lines. Paired with a direct thrust into German positions by the main body of Clark’s troops, it was hoped that the Anzio landings would quickly pry German defenders loose from the Gustav Line.

In preparation for the landings, Alexander and Clark sketched out an operation against enemy positions opposite the Fifth Army. Rather than directly assault Cassino and the formidable heights behind the town, Allied forces would execute a wide pincer move designed to envelop the position. To the north of the town, General Alphonse Juin’s French Expeditionary Corps would push into the mountains before swinging south behind the town and abbey. On the left, the British X Corps would cross the Garigliano River and seize the high ground beyond. South of Cassino, the American 36th Division would attack across the Rapido and assault the German center.

Late on the evening of January 11, 1944, Juin’s troops moved into their assault positions. The spirited Frenchman, an experienced veteran and skilled tactician, led a colorful corps of colonial troops renowned for impetuous ferocity. Drawn primarily from the French possessions of North Africa, the troops of the French Expeditionary Corps were regarded as poorly disciplined but well suited for the rigors of mountain fighting. The Goumier were the scions of a fierce martial tradition in Arabic and Berber culture, and they waged war on their own terms.

American and French colonial troops advance cautiously through a village destroyed by the Luftwaffe. French Goumiers, largely from Morocco and Algeria, were experienced mountain fighters.

In the hope of securing the element of surprise, the artillery remained quiet, leaving the Goumier to attack enemy positions with small arms. Early on January 12, Juin’s Moroccans and Algerians were on the move, rushing headlong into the hills north of Cassino. Accustomed to rough terrain, the hard-fighting tribesmen made good progress as they stormed German positions perched in the rocky hillsides. When the Algerians seized the heights of Monna Casale, the Germans counterattacked. Bloody fighting ensued with the position changing hands four times during a horrific battle that did not end until sunset.

Despite initial success, the attack slowed as it encountered more experienced enemy troops. Generalleutnant Julius Ringel’s 5th Mountain Division, an elite unit trained specifically for the rigors of such combat, fought stubbornly in the hills. After four days of bloodletting, the French assault had come close to success but finally stalled. Juin pleaded for reinforcements, convinced that just one more division would enable him to achieve a breakthrough.

On January 17, British X Corps artillery unleashed a deafening barrage against German positions on the north bank of the Garigliano River. Lt. Gen. Sir Richard McCreery hurled his three divisions across the Garigliano following the artillery fire. Furiously paddling assault boats, the Brits smashed into the Generalleutnant Bernhard Steinmetz 94th Infantry Division, a woefully inexperienced outfit. McCreery’s troops pushed their way into the high ground beyond the river but were badly mauled in the process. Despite heavy casualties, the British drove several miles in two days of fighting.

But the German defenders were not idle. With his lines south of Cassino bent to the breaking point, German XIV Panzer Corps commander General Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin was a formidable opponent. As the Allies stepped up their attacks, he scrambled to reinforce exhausted frontline units with fresh ones. By birth a Prussian nobleman, he was a field commander with a decidedly cerebral approach to the art of war. A devoutly religious man who was privately disgusted with Nazi atrocities, Senger was under no illusions about the outcome of the conflict. “The rotten thing is to keep fighting and to know all along that we have lost this war,” he observed. Nevertheless, he fought tenaciously for the German people and homeland.

Senger bolstered his front lines with some of the toughest reserves available. Inserting the 90th Grenadier Division and the 29th Panzergrenadier Division, Senger succeeded in stabilizing his position. British X Corps units were forced to fall back and consolidate their modest gains. On McCreery’s right, though, the British would make one more attempt to smash through the Gustav Line behind the Garigliano.

Hoping to follow up on the promising attack launched by its X Corps comrades, the British 46th Division attempted a crossing of the river on January 19. The crossing, however, quickly degenerated into a debacle. The swift waters of the Garagliano played havoc with the assault boats, which were unable to make headway in the current. British troops were badly shot up by machine-gun fire, which swept the surface of the river and rendered a successful crossing all but impossible. Only a handful of troops succeeded in reaching the north bank.

For the Allies, matters would only get worse. In the river bottoms just south of Cassino, one more push into German positions was planned for the troops of Maj. Gen. Fred Walker’s 36th Infantry Division. Their assigned crossing point was in full view of German observers perched on Monte Cassino, and the river below the city was extraordinarily swift.

For his part, Walker was anything but optimistic over the prospects. Stymied in his attempts to have the attack shifted to more favorable ground upriver, he grew increasingly dejected over the fate that awaited his men. “I don’t see how we, or any other division, can possibly succeed in crossing the Rapido,” he confided to his diary.

Despite such misgivings, the attack went forward on the evening of January 20. The attack targeted the village of Sant’Angelo, with Walker’s 141st Infantry Regiment going in on the right and the 143rd Infantry Regiment on the left. From the outset, the attack went awry. As the hapless American soldiers rushed forward, they were exposed to a withering fire from the crack troops of Generalleutnant Eberhard Rodt’s 15th Panzergrenadier Division. Running a gauntlet of machine-gun, mortar, and artillery fire, the men of the 36th Infantry Division suffered heavy casualties before they even reached the Rapido.

Once the troops reached the riverbank, the situation did not improve. Facing a hailstorm of German fire, dozens of men were cut down as they struggled to get their boats in the river. Most boats were shredded by enemy fire or simply floundered in the waters of the Rapido. By dawn of the next morning, only two demoralized battalions, cowering in mud on the north bank, had succeeded in getting across the river. Two more days of bloody stalemate induced Clark to authorize a withdrawal.

The repeated drubbings that Allied forces had endured in attempting to cross the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers forced Clark and his senior commanders to refocus their energies toward the heights beyond the town of Cassino, in particular the commanding eminence of Monte Cassino. It was hoped that the timeless military maxim of occupying the high ground would finally pry the Germans loose from the Gustav Line.

Clark again unleashed Juin’s French Expeditionary Corps on January 24. The fierce French colonial troops stormed into German lines north of Cassino, breaking through initial defenses and eventually seizing Monte Belvedere five miles inside the Gustav Line. Stalled by an increasingly determined German defense, Juin issued fruitless requests for reinforcement, without which, he said, his exhausted troops could do no more.

Allied commanders committed four corps to Operation Diadem, which was the fourth and final push to clear elements of the German 10th Army from Monte Cassino and open up the Liri Valley.

While the French were struggling through the mountains to the north, the Americans of the 34th Infantry Division attacked the Gustav Line north of Cassino. They were able to force their way across the Rapido and then seized the ruins of former Italian Army barracks on the German side of the Gustav Line. However, fierce enemy counterattacks drove back the exhausted Americans beyond the east bank. Led by the tenacious Maj. Gen. Charles Ryder, the 34th Division launched repeated assaults toward the river, only to be repulsed with heavy casualties.

Such persistence finally paid off. On January 27, Ryder had secured a lodgment on the German side of the river, and two days later pushed inland. Stubbornly fending off enemy counterattacks, Ryder’s men pushed their way through German defenses, capturing the village of Cairo on January 30.

The fight to break the German hold on the Gustav Line was far from over. Ryder, his left on the Rapido and his right in the mountains, turned his division south in a bid to capture the town of Cassino. With armor support deployed in the river bottom, his troops seized the Italian barracks and then forced their way into the outskirts of the town. A stubborn German defense turned brutal house-to-house fighting into a bloody draw, and the Americans were unable to seize the town.

In the hope of seizing Monte Cassino and unhinging the Gustav Line, Clark ordered an all-out attack February 7. While the French advanced on their right and the British X Corps launched an attack on their left, the Americans of the 34th and 36th Divisions assaulted the high ground above Cassino. The fighting turned into an infantryman’s nightmare as exhausted American soldiers groped their way through the jumble of rocky peaks north of Monte Cassino.

The Germans had fortified every high point and rushed in reinforcements from the veteran 90th Grenadier Division, as well as the fearsome paratroopers of Maj. Gen. Richard Heidrich’s 1st Parachute Division. Vicious see-saw fighting resulted in high casualties on both sides. The Americans fought their way onto Snakeshead Ridge, a dominating line of hills that led toward the monastery. Although they briefly threatened Monte Cassino itself, Clark was forced to call off his exhausted divisions and consolidate Allied gains.

The Allies found General der Panzertruppe Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin a formidable opponent.

Fortunately, Clark had fresh reinforcements at hand with which to press forward the attack. Beginning in late January, Alexander transferred three Commonwealth divisions from the British Eighth army: the 2nd New Zealand Division, the 4th Indian Division, and the British 78th Division. He placed the three divisions, which formed the II New Zealand Corps, directly under Clark’s control. The units were under the command of Lt. Gen. Bernard Freyburg, who had led the defense of Crete in the face of General Kurt Student’s airborne invasion in the spring of 1941.

After enduring repeated defeats in front of the Gustav Line, Allied troops were highly suspicious that German troops were using the abbey as a ready-made observation post. A number of infantrymen reported that they had seen Germans behind its walls or even in the windows. Convinced that the Germans had fortified the locale and unwilling to see his men shed blood unnecessarily, Freyburg called for the destruction of the monastery before his troops launched another attack.

Ironically, it appears that such suspicions were groundless. Although the mountain itself was occupied by German troops, the abbey grounds were populated with little more than Benedictine monks and terrified civilians. The gentleman warrior at the head of the XIV Panzer Corps, von Senger, was circumspect in his observance of the traditional rules of war as they applied to the abbey. Once invited to dine in the building, von Senger respected the privilege by refusing to even look out the windows in the direction of Allied positions.

Clark, who was highly skeptical of reports that the enemy had entered the abbey, refused to authorize an attack on the monastery. Conflicting intelligence reports did not help matters. On February 14 Maj. Gen. Ira Eaker, commander in chief of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, and Keyes made reconnaissance flights over Monte Cassino. While Eaker claimed to have seen Germans in the abbey compound, Keyes reported that he saw nothing. Ultimately, political considerations determined the outcome of the priceless monastery on Monte Cassino. Largely to assuage Freyburg, Alexander overruled Clark’s objections and authorized the destruction of the abbey. Clark correctly predicted the outcome. “If the Germans are not in the monastery now, they certainly will be in the rubble after the bombing ends,” he said.

On the morning of February 15, the Allied air fleet launched Operation Avenger, aimed at the complete destruction of the abbey. About 250 bombers flew repeated attacks over the mountain, dropping 600 tons of ordnance that rocked the mountain and shattered the walls of the monastery. Allied artillery also bombarded the mountaintop, lobbing shells into the ruins. Terrified civilians who had not fled the heights were caught in the maelstrom. Many of these noncombatants perished during the bombing and shelling. By the end of the day, much of the monastery had been reduced to a confusing labyrinth of boulders and dust.

A German airborne machine-gun team defends the ruins of the Abbey of Monte Cassino.

True to Clark’s fears, German troops immediately moved into the rubble. Elements of the 1st Parachute Division swiftly took up positions in the abbey grounds, which afforded a commanding position of the valley below and dominated the Allied approaches. Far from blasting a hole in the Gustav Line, the Allies had inadvertently transformed Monte Cassino into a ready-made fortress for some of the toughest troops of the German war machine.

Rather than launch an attack in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, Freyburg sat tight for the better part of the day. As darkness fell, an attack was launched, albeit by a single infantry company of the 1st Royal Sussex Regiment, which groped its way through the darkness toward Point 593 on Snakeshead Ridge. Not unexpectedly, the British troops were mauled as they assaulted formidable German positions. The New Zealand Corps kept up the pressure but accomplished little. On February 17, Freyburg sent in elements of the 4th Indian Division, who fared little better. The hard-fighting mountain troops of the 1/2nd Gurkhas battled their way toward the base of Monte Cassino but were finally driven back with heavy casualties.

That same night, the 28th Maori Battalion of the 2nd New Zealand Division attacked directly across the Rapido River with the aim of capturing the vital railway station south of Cassino. The Maoris enjoyed initial success, forcing their way through German defenses and seizing the station. But engineers, working feverishly in a storm of German artillery fire, were unable to bridge the river and bring up armor support. Driven back by a fierce German counterattack the following day, the New Zealanders were forced to the east bank of the Rapido.

The horrors of the Italian Campaign offered little respite for the embattled infantrymen who struggled for every rugged inch of ground at Cassino. Plans for yet another try at the Gustav Line unfolded immediately, to be carried out once again by the II New Zealand Corps. Freyburg pressed for yet another massive bombing run, this time targeting the town of Cassino. On the morning of March 15, Allied bombers flew over the Rapido and unleashed a torrent of explosives into the heart of the town. As many as 900 artillery pieces lent their weight to the attack. In four devastating hours the once pastoral town was reduced to rubble.

Freyburg’s troops stormed into Cassino on the heels of the bombardment, hoping to quickly overrun dazed German defenders. They were sorely disappointed. Tenacious German paratroopers who had survived the bombing had taken up excellent defensive positions in the rubble. The hard-pressed New Zealanders suffered heavy casualties as they battled their way into the town. As the infantry fanned out, they met with a measure of success on the margins of the town. To the west of town, the New Zealanders seized the summit of Castle Hill, a vital height between the town and the monastery. Other troops forced their way through to the railroad station.

Dead British and German troops offer grim evidence of the brutal fighting at Monte Cassino.

The Kiwis failed to dislodge stubborn pockets of German defenders in the town center, and Allied tank crews found it impossible to operate in the demolished remains of the urban center. Hardened troops from the 3rd Parachute Regiment set up strongpoints in the ruins of the Continental Hotel and the Hotel Des Roses. Despite multiple attacks, the Germans defied repeated efforts to dislodge them.

In the hills west of town, the troops of the 4th Indian Division once again attempted to force their way toward the monastery. The Indians took over the fight from Castle Hill but were stopped cold in a futile push west. The men of the 9th Gurkha Rifles, braving a gauntlet of enemy fire, succeeded in seizing Hangman’s Hill, a commanding position just 300 yards from the monastery. Unfortunately, reinforcements were not forthcoming. The hardy Gurkhas fought on, cut off and isolated on the summit of the hill.

Despite the overwhelming weight of Allied forces, Heidrich’s paratroopers were far from beaten. On March 19, they struck back. German troops attacked through Cassino, aiming to dislodge the New Zealanders, but were handily repulsed. On Castle Hill, a life-or-death struggle ensued in the darkness. Elements of the 4th Parachute Regiment overran Allied outposts and then assaulted the castle directly. In a sharp and narrowly won fight, the defenders succeeded in driving off the Germans.

Freyburg had reached his limit by March 23. He recalled his battered troops and regrouped. The repeated Allied attacks on Cassino and heights above the town, largely carried out in piecemeal fashion, had been miserable and costly failures. An exasperated Churchill badgered Alexander for an explanation. “I wish you would explain to me why this passage by Cassino [and] Monastery Hill is the only place which you must keep butting at,” he said. “About five or six divisions have been worn out going into those jaws.”

It was a painful question that increasingly nagged at every Allied soldier in Italy. Determined to finally crack the Gustav Line, Alexander began transferring the bulk of the Eighth Army from the Adriatic to the Cassino sector. In six weeks, Clark was reinforced with a hodge-podge of fresh Allied divisions. Eventually, the front lines between Cassino and the sea were manned by 20 divisions drawn from nearly every Allied nation across the globe.

Alexander’s plan for a massive breakthrough, Operation Diadem, would bring overwhelming force to bear on the increasingly thin German defenses. Clark’s Fifth Army, which had taken considerable casualties in the fighting around Cassino, shifted to the left and would launch its assault along the coastal route of Highway 7. On Clark’s right, the French Expeditionary Corps would push straight into the Arunci Mountains.

To the right of the French, the British Eighth Army took up positions in the Cassino sector. The divisions poised to push into the embattled zone included troops from the far reaches of the Commonwealth: Brits, South Africans, Indians, Gurkhas, and Canadians. On the far right, the Polish II Corps, under the command of Lt. Gen. Wladyslaw Anders, prepared to attack toward Monte Cassino.

On the evening of May 11, the Allies unleashed a massive artillery bombardment designed to pulverize the Germans. More than 1,000 artillery pieces opened a devastating barrage that slammed into enemy positions along a 25-mile front. The crescendo was deafening for attacker and defender alike and shook the earth across the Rapido Valley. Allied troops were hopeful that the overwhelming firepower would reduce German positions before the infantry even came to grips with the enemy.

On the left, Clark thrust his men forward along Route 7 but faced a tough fight. On his right, Juin’s troops stormed forward, breaking the initial defenses of the German 71st Division and battering their way deep into the Arunci Mountains. South of Casino, the 8th Indian Division and the 4th British Division crossed the Rapido under heavy enemy fire. Although taking heavy casualties, the two divisions succeeded in gaining the northern bank of the river.

Polish soldiers assault Monastery Hill in May 1944. They had the honor of being the first Allied troops to occupy the abbey in the wake of the German retreat.

On the right, the final battle for the prize of Monte Cassino fell to Anders’ Polish Corps. These men had escaped Poland as it fell to the Germans and Russians in 1939. Anders exhorted his men to triumph over the Germans they deeply despised. “Soldiers! The moment for battle has arrived,” he said. “We have long awaited the moment for revenge and retribution over our hereditary enemy.” Working their way into the rugged hills north of Cassino, the Poles launched assaults along parallel rises that pointed toward the monastery. The 5th Kresowa Division attacked along Phantom Ridge, driving off the German defenders, but were battered by enemy artillery.

Along the much-contested Snakeshead Ridge, the men of the 3rd Carpathian Division ran into stiff resistance as they pushed for Point 593, a nondescript but dominant rise of rubble and boulders that controlled access to Monte Cassino. In a chaotic night fight, the Poles lashed themselves against German defenses but paid a fearful price. Hundreds were cut down by well-sighted German machine-gun fire, and the terrain made evacuation of the wounded difficult. At dawn the Poles suffered a murderous fire from German small arms, mortars, and artillery. The attack on Point 593 stalled in a bloody stalemate. Later that afternoon, a devastated Anders ordered the withdrawal of his battered troops.

After consulting with Anders, it was apparent to Alexander that the Poles would be unable to seize Monte Cassino without further support. While Anders regrouped his battered corps, plans were laid to launch a two-pronged assault to reduce enemy positions on the mountain.

By May 17, The British 4th Division attacked the southern reaches of Cassino, again bringing pressure on diehard pockets of German paratroopers still holding the town. Meanwhile, the British 78th Division, pushing north from the village of Sant’Angelo, seized Route 6 south of Monte Cassino. With the German line of retreat in threat of being cut off entirely, Anders and his Poles launched another attack from the north.

The 5th Kresowa Division attacked down Phantom Ridge, succeeding in driving off German defenders and seizing Point 601, which dominated the ridge. With Phantom Ridge secured, the lead elements of the division pressed on toward Point 593 on Snakeshead Ridge, which was under assault by the 3rd Carpathian Division. The Poles, whose homeland had been overrun and occupied by the Wehrmacht five years earlier, fought with a tenacity borne of patriotic determination and a thirst for outright vengeance. Fighting fiercely with small arms and hand grenades, the Poles rooted out the final German defenders and overran Point 593.

Ironically, the final fight for the great prize of the monastery that crowned Monte Cassino would prove nearly bloodless. With British troops positioned to race up Route 6 far in their rear, and Polish troops poised for a renewed assault, the German paratroopers who had fought and bled for so long to control Monte Cassino received orders to withdraw.

By mid-morning on May 18, cautious Polish troops inched their way toward the summit only to discover the enemy was gone. The honor of claiming Monte Cassino fell to a patrol of the 12th Podolski Lancers, who mounted the shattered walls of the monastery and raised a Polish flag. Alexander, ecstatic with the symbolic victory that had taken so long to secure, fired off a dispatch to Churchill. “Capture of Cassino means a great deal to me and my armies,” he wrote.

Indeed it did. With the walls of the monastery securely in Polish hands and German troops on the run, Allied divisions swarmed north and west. Kesselring attempted to rally his outnumbered divisions at yet another imposing belt of fortifications called the Senger Line, but was unable to stop the momentum of the Allied steamroller. On May 23, American troops began battering their way out of the Anzio beachhead, and the Allied weight in men and matériel finally began to tell. On June 4, exultant Allied troops entered Rome.

Although the costly war in Italy would linger on for another year, the bloody battles for Monte Cassino arguably constituted the most horrific struggle for the peninsula. Total German casualties exceeded 20,000 lives. The Allies paid an even greater price for the citadel it is estimated that they suffered approximately 50,000 casualties in the bitter struggle to break the Gustav Line.

Churchill, who had lobbied vigorously for the invasion of Italy, regarded the entire operation a strategic victory. “The principal task of our armies had been to draw off and contain the greatest possible number of Germans,” he said. “This task had been admirably fulfilled.”

Such sentiments of grand strategic success were cold comfort for the common foot soldiers who had fought and bled in the horrific fight for Monte Cassino. For his part, Clark was tormented by the legacy of the clash, and his stark assessment of the brutal struggle for the limestone hills of central Italy likely came closest to the truth. “The battle for Cassino,” Clark recalled, “was the most grueling, the most harrowing, and in one respect the most tragic, of any phase of the war in Italy.”


The Battle of the Bulge: July 1944-January 1945

On July 20, 1944­, young German colo­nel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, a wounded veteran of the Tunisian campaign of World War II, attended Hitler's morning briefing at the Rastenberg headquarters in East Prussia while carrying a time­ bomb in a brie­fcase. He left the case under the heavy oak table at which Hitler was standing and found an excuse to leave. A few minutes later, the bomb exploded -- but not before another officer, finding it in his way, had kicked the case farther under the table. The blast killed four of those present, but Hitler was shielded by the heavy table. He emerged alive and vengeful. Stauffenberg was executed that night in Berlin. Several thousand suspects were arrested and about 200 were executed in the weeks that followed.

The assassination attempt coincided with a sudden crisis in the German war effort. Until late July, the front in Normandy had held, though at high cost. Again and again, the Germans struggled to repulse the British effort to capture the French city of Caen. The effort denuded German troops and tanks from other parts of the front, which allowed American commanders to plan a breakout through the German line.

After weeks of preparation and with overwhelming air support, U.S. general Omar Bradley launched Operation Cobra on July 25. For the first time, Western forces were able to develop real mobility. The line was broken open, and Bradley -- supported by notoriously belligerent general George Patton -- drove the German army back toward Paris in a matter of weeks. On August 25, Paris was liberated, partly by the approaching armies and partly by the French Resistance, which staged a final revolt against German occupation.

A second landing in southern France began on August 15, and within two weeks the enemy was cleared from the rest of France, meaning the Allies stood on the frontiers of Nazi Germany. The Western Allies grew hopeful that Nazi Germany might be defeated before the onset of winter. But General Montgomery's airborne assault on the Dutch city of Arnhem in the middle of September (to make it possible to cross the Rhine River) was bloodily repulsed. German resistance stiffened in immediate defense of the home territory.

In the East, Soviet Union troops reached the German border on August 17. Finland sued for peace on September 2, and during the following month the Baltic States were occupied and reabsorbed into the Soviet Union bloc.

Farther south, the Red Army made rapid progress after the destruction of German Army Group Center. Romania was occupied in August and switched to the Allied side. Bulgaria was occupied next, and by the end of October parts of Slovakia were also in Soviet Union hands. The Red Army stood on the boundaries of Hungary and Yugoslavia.

The dramatic collapse of Axis resistance owed something to popular resistance both in the West and the East. In Yugoslavia, a large Communist army under the leadership of Joseph Tito played the major role in liberating Yugoslav territory. In Italy, partisans harried the retreating Germans and prepared for a new postwar order.

In some cases, resistance was clearly anti-Soviet Union. In the Ukraine, a guerrilla war -- fought by nationalists -- tied down thousands of Soviet Union soldiers and security forces during 1944 and 1945 and slowed the move westward.

In Poland, the Home Army hoped to liberate its country before Soviet Union forces had time to construct a Communist state. On August 1, as the Red Army stood on the far side of the Vistula River, Polish nationalist forces in Warsaw staged an uprising against the German occupiers. The result was a savage response from the embattled German forces, which destroyed much of what remained of the city. The Red Army stayed where it was, and would not capture Warsaw until the start of the renewed campaign in January 1945.

In the Pacific, the Allies made rapid progress. Following the capture of Saipan, American forces retook Guam and opened the whole of the western Pacific to Allied forces. The Japanese again sought a decisive big battle as a key to saving what was left of their new empire. However, the American decision to reoccupy the Philippines exposed Japan's air forces to severe attack.

When the Japanese main fleet was deployed to oppose the American landings on the Philippine island of Leyte, the force lacked adequate air cover. The encounter was the largest naval battle ever fought, involving 282 ships.

In late October, three separate Japanese task forces were deployed to try to defeat the invasion. The result was a decisive victory for the U.S. Navy, as Japan lost 26 front-line warships. The invasion force landed on Leyte and cleared the island by the end of the year. Defeat of Japan was now only a matter of time.

The same could be said of Hitler's Germany, which was now surrounded on all sides by heavily armed enemies and subject to constant aerial bombardment. Yet Hitler still hoped for victory.

From June, new "weapons of revenge" -- the V-1 flying bomb and the V-2 ballistic missile -- were launched against London. Hitler hoped that by holding or destroying ports in the West, combined with a renewed U-boat campaign with new types of submarines, Nazi Germany would deprive U.S. and British forces of replacements and supplies.

In December 1944, Hitler ordered the German army and air force to use its scarce reserves for a daring counteroffensive in the West against American forces. The goal was to divide the Western Allies, seize the port of Antwerp, and force them to rethink their strategy. His commanders preferred a more limited offensive, but on December 16 Hitler unleashed Operation Autumn Mist.

In poor weather, which shielded the panzer armies from air attack, the Germans made rapid progress and carved out a salient 50 miles deep in the Ardennes. The Allies regrouped and counterattacked in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. American resistance at St. Vith and Bastogne, Belgium, held up the German advance, and heavy counterstrikes drove German forces back to the German frontier.

On January 8, Hitler pulled his battered army back. The loss of 600 tanks and 1,600 aircraft marked the defeat of the Ardennes offensive. Nazi Germany was now exposed to the grim finale of the European war that Hitler had launched six years before.

See the next page for a detailed timeline of World War II events, including mass murders at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in early July, 1944.


Push to the Oder River - WW2 Timeline (January 12th - March 31st, 1945)

By now, the German Empire was fully embroiled along two front - against the Allies in the West and against the Soviet Army in the East. Germany was fighting an all-out defensive war for its very survival and Hitler was growing evermore fanatical. In early January of 1945, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had sent a telegram to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to begin a combined offensive along the two fronts and crush Hitler once and for all - the final stroke in the years long war. The assault was set to being on the 20th of the month but Stalin renegotiated a January 12th start.

On the 12th, the Red Army unleashed hell against the defensive German positions in the east. Rocket-projecting trucks, artillery batteries and air attacks preceded the massive land invasion of man and tanks. The assault became the largest such action in all of World War 2. Soviet forces concentrated against the Germans in East Prussia and Poland. The front line encompassed the Lithuanian coast down to the Balkans.'

In response to the growing Soviet advance, Hitler commits some much needed defenders to a futile flanking manuever against the Soviet Army near Poznan in Poland, opening up East Prussia for the taking. On January 17th, the all-important strategic Polish capital city of Warsaw is taken by the Soviets. Once again in response, Hitler commits his battle hardened 6th SS Panzer Army away from the Ardennes forest (Battle of the Bulge), opening up his West front for Allied actions, and onto Budapest, Hungary.

On January 22nd, Soviet forces have reached the Oder River and begin crossing it into German territory. Hitler reorganizes his armies in an attempt to stem the bleeding but all is for naught. While stalling Soviet forces at Kustrin, the Red Army claims some 50 miles as the war front in February. Poznan falls to the Soviets on the 22nd and Lower Silesia falls two days later. The Soviets then begin a new offensive through Hungary into Austria.

Now firmly in German territory, final preparations are begun by Soviet generals for the ultimate taking of Berlin - capital to Hitler's perceived empire.


There are a total of (21) Push to the Oder River - WW2 Timeline (January 12th - March 31st, 1945) events in the Second World War timeline database. Entries are listed below by date-of-occurrence ascending (first-to-last). Other leading and trailing events may also be included for perspective.

Saturday, January 6th, 1945

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the west coordinates via telegram with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in the east on launching a combined January offensive. Churchill plans on the 20th as the target date.

Stalin moves the offensive launch date forward to January 12th.

The Red Army enacts a massive offensive against German foes along the East Front. His targets are German Army Group A and Army Group Center located in East Prussia and Poland. The battle line is a long running front from the Lithuanian coast down to the Balkans region.

The Red Army offensive is spear-headed by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Belorussian Fronts as well as the 1st Baltic Front joined by the 1st Ukrainian Front.

Initial thrusts by the Soviet Army prove positive against the German defense.

Tuesday, January 16th, 1945

Adolf Hitler reorders his forces, weakening key areas of defense, to attempt a flanking manuever against the Red Army near Poznan.

Wednesday, January 17th, 1945

The Polish capital city of Warsaw officially falls to the advancing Soviet Army.

Wednesday, January 17th, 1945

Soviet forces engage German foes in East Prussia with gains being made towards Danzig and Konigsberg.

Saturday, January 20th, 1945

Hitler orders his 6th SS Panzer Army out of the Ardennes forrest on the West Front towards Budapest, Hungary in the east.

Soviet General Konev and his 1st Ukranian Front cross the Oder River at Steinau.

Thursday, January 25th, 1945

Hitler reorganizes his forces under the new names of Army Group North, Army Group Center and Army Group Vistula.

Thursday, February 1st, 1945

German forces at Kustrin derail any further Soviet advance towards Berlin. General Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front is halted.

Saturday, February 3rd, 1945

General Zhukov and his 1st Belorussian Front combine forces with General Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front along the Oder River near Kustrin.

Saturday, February 3rd, 1945

The Soviet front lines total some 50 miles along the Oder River by this time.

Soviet Army forces begin to cross the Oder River into Germany.

Thursday, February 15th, 1945

The German city of Breslau is surrounded by Soviet troops.

Thursday, February 22nd, 1945

Poznan falls to the Soviet Army after the defending German troops surrender.

Saturday, February 24th, 1945

General Konev's 1st Ukranian Front claims Lower Silesia.

From Hungary, Soviet Army groups begin their offensive into Austria along the Danube River. The target is Vienna.

The Soviet Front gains tremendous ground since the start of the offensive back in January. Forces are a mere 50 miles from Berlin.


Third Battle of Monte Cassino

For the 3 rd assault, twin attacks were planned from the North of the Rapido Valley into the town and the Monastery Hill. The battle began on March 15 th starting with an air offensive that dropped over 750 tons of bombs with delayed fuses.

Next, the New Zealanders were ordered to move into the cover of an artillery barrage from almost 750 guns. However, the Germans stubbornly defended the mountain and were not easily broken.

Still, companies from the British Indian Army managed to hold out on Hangman’s Hill, 250 yards from the monastery itself. The Allies were now planning a major surprise attack using tanks from the 20 th armored division, but before those plans could materialize, the monastery, which provided a gateway to the town was reinforced by troops of the German 1 st Parachute Division.

As a result, the Allies weren’t able to make any more gains and on 23 rd March meetings of the commanders took place. It was decided to stop the offensive and consolidate the positions that had been captured.


Events of 1944 - WW2 Timeline (January 1st - December 31st, 1944)

Perhaps no year of the war was as pivotal to its ultimate outcome as was 1944. Strides were made throughout the Italian Campaign and the invasion of France (by way of Normandy) was put into motion. The Pacific was witness to events such as 'The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot' which cost the Japanese Empire much in terms of aircraft and pilots. Monte Cassino, Anzio and the Battle of the Bulge all headlined global news.


There are a total of (266) Events of 1944 - WW2 Timeline (January 1st - December 31st, 1944) events in the Second World War timeline database. Entries are listed below by date-of-occurrence ascending (first-to-last). Other leading and trailing events may also be included for perspective.

Saturday, January 1st, 1944

A message to subordinates by US Army Air Force commanding general General H.H. Hap Arnold calls for the destruction of the German Luftwaffe before Allied landings can begin.

Monday, February 14th, 1944

The offensive is detailed further, taking the latest developments into account.

Saturday, February 19th, 1944

Better weather finally arrives allowing the RAF to send up its first 823-strong heavy bomber force. The target is Leipzig and 78 bombers are lost to the German defense.

Sunday, February 20th, 1944

American bombers and fighters take to the skies in force in support of the new bombing campaign. They number over 1,000 bombers and 660 fighters in escort. Twelve industrial target locations across Germany are hit. 21 American aircraft are lost.

Sunday, February 20th, 1944

Some 598 RAF bombers are sent airborne.

Monday, February 21st, 1944

The Americans respond with another wave of 861 bombers with escorts. The target is the Luftwaffe production center in Brunswick.

Tuesday, February 22nd, 1944

American bomber groups begin medium bombing operations from bases within Italy.

Wednesday, February 23rd, 1944

Bad weather postpones any further bombing actions for the time being. The Allies take this time to recoup and repair.

Thursday, February 24th, 1944

With weather clearing, operations of Big Week continue. 266 American bombers strike Schweinfurt.

Thursday, February 24th, 1944

Over 900 American bombers are sent airborne to bomb aircraft-producing factories including Schweinfurt.

Thursday, February 24th, 1944

733 RAF bombers strike at Schweinfurt in a night time raid. 33 aircraft are lost.

Friday, February 25th, 1944

The final American air raid of Big Week is launched with 900 bombers against Regensburg, Augsburg and Forth.

Friday, February 25th, 1944

By the end of it all, 3,300 Allied sorties are launched in the offensive and 226 bombers are lost. 290 German fighters are destroyed and another further 90 are damaged.

Tuesday, February 22nd, 1944

Bad weather forces many-an-inflight accident for US bomber groups. Some 41 aircraft are lost. Nijmegen is accidentally bombed, causing over 200 civilian deaths.

Monday, February 14th, 1944

American bombers strike the production facilities at Schweinfurt.

Friday, February 25th, 1944

RAF bombers hit Augsburg with 594 aircraft in a night time raid.

Tuesday, January 11th, 1944

French Expeditionary Corps assail the outer defences at Cassino, achieving modest gains.

The US IC Corps and the French Expeditionary Corps arrive at Rapido River.

The US is involved in their first major assault on Cassino.

Tuesday, January 18th - February 9th, 1944

US forces begin making headway through the Liri Valley, capturing ground at Monte Calvario.

Thursday, February 10th, 1944

In a counter offensive, crack German paratroopers repel US forces and previous Allied gains are lost.

Friday, February 11th, 1944

US and Indian losses mount in the offensives against German positions in Calvario, the town of Cassino and Monte Cassino itself.

Friday, February 11th, 1944

The entire US 142nd Regiment is destroyed.

Friday, February 11th, 1944

The 4th Indian Division reports unacceptably high casualties when coming up against the stout German defenders.

Friday, February 11th, 1944

The 34th and 36th US Divisions both report a high number of casualties from the ensuing offensives.

Friday, February 11th, 1944

A blanket retreat is enacted by the Allies in an attempt to regroup and plan a new strategy to take Cassino.

Tuesday, February 15th, 1944

In an effort to destroy the believed German defensive positions atop Monte Cassino, Allied bombers numbering 229 strong, lay waste to the monestary.

Tuesday, February 15th, 1944

German forces, having never held a defensive position in the monestary proper, move into the resulting debris from the surrounding mountain slopes and set up solid defensive positions within the rubble.

Tuesday, January 11th, 1944

The first major Allied offensive to take Cassino is launched.

Tuesday, February 15th, 1944

Following the Allied aerial bombardment, the second major Allied offensive to take Cassino is launched.

Tuesday, February 15th - February 18th, 1944

The 2nd New Zealand Division is charged with taking the railway station at Cassino.

Tuesday, February 15th - February 18th, 1944

The 4th Indian Division is charged with taking both Monte Calvario and Monastary Hill.

Tuesday, February 15th - February 18th, 1944

The 2nd New Zealand Division assault is twarted and driven back, suffering high casualties.

Tuesday, February 15th - February 18th, 1944

The 4th Indian Division assault is repelled and driven away, suffering high casualties.

Saturday, February 19th - March 13th, 1944

The Italian winter makes its arrival and postpones any further Allied offensives for the next month.

Wednesday, March 15th, 1944

A third major Allied offensive is put into action.

Wednesday, March 15th, 1944

Artillery guns open up on Cassino while 600-plus Allied bombers attempt to shake the German defenders.

Wednesday, March 15th - March 21st, 1944

Against mounting casualties but with tank support, the 4th Indian Division gains ground.

Wednesday, March 15th - March 21st, 1944

The 2nd New Zealand Division captures German-held position with the help of Allied armor support.

Wednesday, March 15th - March 21st, 1944

The 78th British Division makes headway thanks to the support of Allied armor.

Wednesday, March 15th - March 21st, 1944

Positions on Monte Cassino are officially in Allied hands.

Wednesday, March 22nd, 1944

With mounting losses in both manpower and tanks, further Allied thrusts are called off.

Thursday, March 23rd - May 10th, 1944

A lengthy six-week period allows the Allies to rebuild their forces - though this period allows the Germans to increase their defensive foothold.

The fourth offensive to take Cassino is put into action.

Approximately 2,000 Allied artillery guns open up on Cassino.

German paratrooper forces defending Cassino being their evacuation.

German paratrooper forces exit the Cassino region.

A combined British, Polish and American assault converge on Cassino involving the British 13th Corps, the Polish II Corps and the US 5th Army.

The British take the town of Cassino.

The Poles take Monte Calvario.

Monte Cassino falls to the Allies, costing some 50,000 casualties along both sides of the battlefield.

Saturday, January 22nd, 1944

Operation Shingle, the amphibious landings at Anzio, is enacted by the Allied. In lead is the US VI Corps under Major-General John Lucas.

Saturday, January 22nd, 1944

By 12AM midnight, some 45,000 Allied troops and 3,000 vehicles are on the beaches.

The Anzio beachhead is consolidated into a concentrated pocket on the orders of Lucas.

Tuesday, January 25th, 1944

The Anzio beachhead continues to grow with Allied troops and equipment, making it a prime target for the regrouping Germans.

German Colonel-General von Mackensen takes control of the new 14th Army headquartered 30 miles west of Rome.

The German Luftwaffe begins heavy strafing attacks and bombardment of Allied forces.

The US 1st Armored Division captures the town of Aprilia.

Von Mackensen moves six divisions to Anzio, some ten miles of the Allied beachhead.

The Germans are driven back at Cisterna.

Hitler delivers an ultimatum to supreme commander-in-chief over Italy operations, Field Marshall Kesselring, to fight to the death and drive the invading Allied forces into the sea.

The Allies suffer some 5,000 casualties in the Anzio action by this date.

Von Mackensen's forces now number some eight divisions in strength.

Saturday, February 12th, 1944

Winston Churchill pens a critical letter to supreme commander-in-chief of Allied operations in Italy. In his writings he claims he expected to see "a wild cat roaring" and has seen nothing but a "whale wallowing on the beaches".

Wednesday, February 16th, 1944

Kesselring launches a large counterattack against the invading Allied forces.

Thursday, February 17th, 1944

The Allies lose some four miles of territory but stand fast outside of Anzio.

Sunday, February 20th, 1944

The German attack is more or less repelled, at the cost of 5,500 German casualties.

Tuesday, February 22nd, 1944

The Allies replace the ineffective Major-General Lucas with Major-General Lucius Truscott.

Tuesday, February 29th, 1944

Von Mackensen cancels the German offensive amidst mounting casualties and little gain.

Wednesday, March 1st - May 22nd, 1944

The Anzio engagement is limited to minor activity for the time being, with the Allies dug in and the Germans trying to dislodge the invaders by limited means.

The US VI Corps breaks out of the Anzio perimeter and takes ground well into the Alban Hills.

The US VI Corps continues its gains and eventually combines with the arriving UU Corps. The road to Rome is now in the hands of the US Army and steps are taken for the final assault on the capital.

In the afternoon hours, an Allied convoy of 243 ships sets sail from the Bay of Naples for the beaches at Anzio and nearby Nettuno.

Saturday, January 22nd, 1944

British forces hold the line at River Moletta.

Saturday, January 22nd, 1944

American forces hold the line at Mussolini Canal.

By this date, some 70,000 men, 27,000 tons of goods, 508 artillery guns and 237 tanks are ashore on the beachhead.

This date became one of the two best weather options for the Allied invasion of France.

Weather on May 17th cancels the D-Day operation. Leaving the next best weather window of opportunity to be June 5th.

June 5th is selected as the next official launch date for D-Day.

Saturday, April 1st - June 5th, 1944

Allied bombers increase their sorties across Northern and Western France in preparations of the D-Day landings. Targets include the vital railways, railyards, bridges and roads dotting the French landscape. These facilities will prove crucial to the German response to the invasion.

Official word comes down that the June 5th landings will be postponed due to inclement weather across the North Sea.

Some 6,000 naval vessels depart from the south of England towards France.

In preparation for the arrival of the regular armies by way of amphibious landing, British and American airborne paratroopers arrive in France just after midnight.

Elements of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions land across the Cotentin Peninsula. Despite all the planning, their dropzones are widely scattered.

British paratroopers of the 6th British Airborne Brigade land near Benouville.

The British paratroopers take the bridges over the Caen Canal and the Orne River.

British paratroopers destroy the coastal fortifications at Merville.

No less than five key bridges over the Dives River are blown up by British paratroopers.

Despite the confusion on the part of the misdropped Allied paratroopers, the defending Germans are thrown into an equal level of confusion, noting Allied airdrops all around them.

Allied naval warships open up with their guns on German defensive positions along the French coast.

At approximately 6:30AM, American Army forces begin landing at two key beaches, codenamed Utah and Omaha.

US Army forces arriving at Utah beach find themselves some 2,000 yards away from where they should be. The result is the force finds little German opposition at Utah. Their original landing zone was to be centered around Les-Dunes-de-Varreville. Total casualties from the landing are 300 personnel.

The US Army forces arriving at Omaha beach face a prepared, stout and veteran defense made possible by the German 352nd Division. After 2,400 casualties, the 1st US Infantry Division holds a beachhead.

At approximately 7:25AM, forces of the British and Canadian armies wade ashore at beaches codenamed Gold and Juno.

The combined British and Canadian forces at Gold face little opposition and claim their objectives with little incident.

The British 50th Division pushed some 6 miles inland.

The British 3rd Division arriving at Sword beach face a stouter German defense but are able to overwhelm the enemy and establish a foothold.

By 8:00AM, most of the German defenders at or near Gold and Sword beaches have been cleared or are on the run.

The Canadian 3rd Infantry Division makes its way towards Juno beach. The German defenses, heavy seas and underwater obstacles cause a loss of 30 percent of the landing craft. The onshore result is equally grim as the Canadians are assaulted by the prepared Germans.

At approximately 10:00AM, British forces out of Gold beach take La Riviere.

The Canadians out of Juno beach take Bernieres at about 11:00AM.

Near the town of Pouppeville, the US 4th Infantry Division at Utah beach connects with the 101st Airborne Division paratroopers.

British and French special forces elements out of Sword beach connect with the British paratroopers holding the key bridges over the Orne River.

At 4:00PM, the mobilized German 21st Panzer Division launches a counter-attack.

The German counter-attack reaches the beachhead at Sword.

The German 21st Panzer Division is repelled by a combined Allied armor and air assault, saving further actions at Sword.

By 8:00PM, the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division out of Juno beach connects with the British 50th Division out of Gold beach. This union becomes the largest Allied-held pocket in the north of France to this point.

By midnight, D-Day is more or less over. Not all objectives are captured but progress is made nonetheless.

The British and Canadian forces out of Gold and Juno beaches enjoy the largest footholds in France, encompassing land holdings some 9 miles wide and 6.2 miles inland.

The Allied elements at Sword beach hold onto a 6-by-6 mile piece of land though they are still cut off from the Allies at Juno.

Omaha statistics are grim and the group holds the least amount of real estate at just 4.3 miles across and 1.2 miles inland. However, they do hold positions in Vierville sur Mer, Colleville and St-Laurent sur Mer.

The first town in France - Ste Mere Eglise - is liberated by the Allies, this honor falling to the American forces from Utah beach and paratroopers from the previous day's drops.

American forces at Utah beach hold pockets of land totaling just over 6 miles.

Monday, May 1st - May 31st, 1944

Plans begin for a major Soviet offensive against the German Army in the East.

The Soviet offensive is detailed under the codename of "Operation Bagration".

The launch date for Operation Bagration is set for June 22nd.

Soviet partisan groups spring into action along the German rear guard and wreak havoc for days. Targets include supply and communication lines. Tens of thousands of explosive acts of sabotage are noted.

By this date, the partisan actions along the German rear dwindle in preparation for the upcoming offensive.

Operation Bagration is put into action with General Zhukov in command.

Totaling over 1.2 million troops, the 1st Baltic Front - along with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Belorussian Fronts - are put into action along four fronts. Vitebsk is quickly taken and controlled. The 3rd Panzer Army suffers heavy losses.

With the 1st and 2nd Belorussian Fronts closing, Hitler okays the order for the 9th Army to retreat to more favorable ground.

By this date, the German Army has recorded some 200,000 casualties from the aggressive Soviet offensive.

The 1st and 3rd Belorussian Fronts advanced to northeast of Minsk, surrounding the German 4th Army.

Hitler replaces Field Marshal Busch with General Model to help stem his losses.

The Soviets take Bobruysk.

The 1st and 2nd Belorussian Fronts close in and around the city of Minsk, attempting to join forces of the 3rd Belorussian Front.

Minsk falls to the Soviet offensive.

By this date, the 160,000-strong German 4th Army alone reports losses of 130,000 troops.

German losses total 400,000 personnel.

Encircled, remnants of the German 4th Army are captured or killed trying to flee.

The German 9th Army is obliterated under the might of the Red Army.

Vilnius, Lithuania is captured by Soviet ground troops.

A new Soviet land offensive is launched with elements of the Soviet 1st and 4th Ukranian Fronts. Their target is Germany Army Group North in the Ukraine on their way to southern Poland.

White Russia is cleansed of all German invaders, leading celebrations in the Soviet capital of Moscow.

Some 57,000 German captives are paraded through the streets of Moscow.

German Army Group Center is completely annihilated from the German ranks.

Lvov is clamed by the Ukranian Fronts.

Soviet forces lay claim to Brest-Litovsk.

The move westward continues.

Stretched and strained supply lines bring the Soviet war machine to a halt.

Wednesday, August 30th, 1944

The massive Soviet offensive ends with much of the German-held territories now in Russian hands. The Soviet Army has made it as far as the outskirts of Warsaw in Poland with a front running from Lithuania in the north, through Belorussia in the center and Poland/Ukraine in the south.

After heavy bombing by British Royal Air Force elements, British and Canadian army forces regroup and begin their offensive to take Caen from the Germans.

A combined British and Canadian force is stopped outside of Caen by a determined German defense.

US Army forces seize complete control of the town of St. Lo on the Contentin peninsula. Control of this strategic zone now allows for larger, prepared and controlled Allied offensives towards inland France.

The British and Canadian launch Operation Goodwood against Caen. British armored elements are brought to bear against the dug-in and prepared Germans. The goal is to take all of Caen before focusing on Falaise.

While the British 2nd Army and 2nd Canadian Division can now lay claim to Caen, they fall short of advancement against Falaise. As such, Operation Goodwood is stopped.

American forces enact Operation Cobra, this stemming from control of the Contentin peninsula. The goal is to smash through the German defenses and create a road through the Avranches, exposing inland France to future Allied assaults.

US Army forces reach Avranches and lay control the region.

The German 7th Army attempts a counter-attack at Avranches but the Americans manage to hold their ground.

US General George S. Patton and his 3rd Army manage their way through Avranches towards Liore and Brittany.

A determined German counter-attack takes Mortain and heads towards Avranches before being stopped. Allied airstrikes and artillery stall the German advance.

The 1st Canadian Army supports Allied elements just south of Caen, making their way towards Falaise.

US General Omar Bradley talks with British General Benard Law Montgomery about a plan to encircle some 21 divsions of Germans in the Falaise-Argentan pocket. Montgomery likes what he hears and give the plan the green light.

General Patton reaches Le Mans and then heads north to Argentan.

Patton's 3rd Army arrives at Argentan.

Elements of Patton's 3rd Army are sent from Falaise to the east towards Chartres and in the direction of Paris proper.

Wednesday, August 16th, 1944

After seven days of continuous and bitter fighting, Canadian Army forces reach Falaise.

Wednesday, August 16th, 1944

German forces in Falaise are given the okay from Hitler to retreat to a more favorable position. The encirclement of German forces prompts the action from High Command.

Wednesday, August 16th, 1944

The American 3rd Army reaches Chartres.

Saturday, August 19th, 1944

At Mantes Grassicourt, a division of the American XV Corps manages to cross the Seine River.

The Falaise pocket is finally closed by the Allies. American and Canadian forces meet to complete the encirclement. German forces in Normandy are now trapped.

After some additional fighting that results in a further 10,000 German soldiers killed, the trapped elements of the German Army at Normandy surrender to the Allies. In all, some 50,000 soldiers of the German Army are taken prisoner.

The Allies reach the French capital of Paris.

Paris is liberated by the arriving Allies.

Patton and his 3rd Army continue their march and setup critical strategic bridgeheads over the Seine River at Elbeuf and Louviers.

Saturday, August 26th, 1944

Brigadier-General Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French forces, leads a contingent of Allied troops on a march down the Champs Elysees to a thunderous reception by liberated French citizens.

Sunday, September 17th, 1944

General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, approves General Montgomery's Operation Market Garden.

Sunday, September 17th, 1944

Operation Market Garden is activated. Parachute landings take place at Eindhoven, Veghel, Grave and Oosterbeek.

Sunday, September 17th, 1944

The US 101st Airborne Division landing at Eindhoven and Veghel are successful in their capturing of bridges.

Sunday, September 17th, 1944

The US 82nd Airborne Division landing at Grave is successful in capturing its target bridge.

Sunday, September 17th, 1944

British paratroopers landing at Arnhem run straight into the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions who are in the area ungoing refitting. The bridge at Arnhem is captured by British forces but the group is quickly cut off from help by the Germans.

Monday, September 18th, 1944

The British XXX Corps fights its way through a dedicated German resistance up the main artery road leading to Eindhoven. They finally unite with the 101st Airborne forces having landed at Eindhoven and Veghel.

Tuesday, September 19th, 1944

The British XXX Corps officially unites with the US 82nd Airborne Division forces having landed at Grave.

Wednesday, September 20th, 1944

The US 82nd Airborne, backed by the British XXX Corps, take the bridge over the Waal River at Nijmegen.

Wednesday, September 20th, 1944

British XXX Corps is delayed a full day from reaching beleagured paratrooper forces at Arnhem.

Thursday, September 21st, 1944

British paratroopers at Arnhem give up control of their bridge against a stronger German foe and instead concentrate on surviving by utilizing the town of Arnhem itself as a defense.

Thursday, September 21st, 1944

British XXX Corps is slowed down once more, this time by German anti-tank forces and artillery emplacements north of Nijmegen and along the route to Arnhem.

Friday, September 22nd, 1944

Elements of the Polish Parachute Brigade, delayed multiple times from earlier participation in the operation, finally land south of Arnhem. Their mission is to reinforce the battered British 1st Airborne Division.

Monday, September 25th, 1944

Remaining elements of the British 1st Airborne Division out of Arnhem make their way across the Neder Rijn River in retreat. They intend on meeting up with XXX Corps still making their way to the area.

Monday, September 25th, 1944

At Arnhem, some 6,000 Allied soldiers are taken prison by the Germans. A further 1,000 lay dead from the fighting.

Wednesday, September 27th, 1944

Despite valliant actions, the Polish Parachute Brigade is forced to surrender at Arnhem.

Wednesday, September 27th, 1944

South of Arnhem, Allied forces continue to hold their gains. Over the next few months, some 3,500 casualties will be counted.

Plans by the Polish Army are laid out for a resistance and uprising in the Capital City of Warsaw against their German overseers.

Lieutenant-General Komorowski heads up the resistance plans as Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Home Army in Warsaw.

The Polish government, in exile since the fall of their country to the invading Germans, communicates with the British government for help in staging the uprising.

The British government promises what it can and this emerges in the form of scattered air drops of weapons and supplies.

Soviet Army forces close in on German defenders in Warsaw.

Three Soviet Army Fronts converge on the outskirts of Warsaw, prompting Polish General Komorowski to greenlight the uprising.

Roughly 30,000 Poles and scattered firearms make up the beginning of the Warsaw Uprising.

Uprisings begin across the Polish capital of Warsaw.

Upon hearing of news of the Polish uprising, an infuriated Adolph Hitler swears punishment and commits more of his troops within the Capital limits.

Thursday, August 10th, 1944

German Army forces continue to relocate to Warsaw in an attempt to quell the Polish uprising.

German Army soldiers now number some 21,300 personnel in Warsaw.

Realizing their chances of victory are slim against well-trained and well-armed Germans, Polish Authorities once again ask the Allies - including the Soviets - for assistance in maintaining the uprising.

Sensing complete destruction of Warsaw and its people, the Pope himself appeals to the Allies for help.

The Red Army finds themselves some 12 miles outside of Warsaw proper, having advanced into the Polish suburbs.

Wednesday, August 16th, 1944

Sensing his own political interests and conquests, Soviet leader Josef Stalin rejects a direct call for aid for the Poles.

The swift and thorough German response has divided the Polish resistance into three distinct groups, all cut off from one another.

The German Army begins their final push to crush the Polish response.

SS Obergruppenfuhrer Erich von dem Bach-Zelweski details the final German push.

The Germans begin their counter-offensive against the remaining Pole units.

Saturday, September 16th, 1944

Pressured by the Americans and British, Stalin gives in - just a little - and delivers a meager air drop of arms consisting of just fifty pistols and a pair of machine guns.

Monday, September 18th, 1944

American B-17 bombers land at Poltava, now under Soviet control, to refuel. Onboard are arms and supplies meant for the Polish resistance.

Monday, September 18th, 1944

Josef Stalin refuses further Allied use of his forward airfields to resupply the Polish insurgents.

Monday, September 25th, 1944

American air drops deliver their much-needed cargo to the Polish resistance below. However, the drop zones are in firm German control and supplies are captured soon after landing.

Saturday, September 16th, 1944

Polish Army units fighting alongside the Soviet Army make a dash to support their comrades in Warsaw, this against the orders of Soviet High Command.

Sunday, September 17th, 1944

Under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Zygmunt Berling, the 1st Polish Army forces engage the Germans in Warsaw but are ultimately driven back in retreat.

Thursday, September 21st, 1944

For his actions in disobeying Soviet Army orders, Berling is stripped of his army command.

Polish General Komorowski, sensing total defeat imminent, orders his Polish insurgents to surrender to the Germans.

Polish military forces all surrender to the German Army, ending the valliant uprising.

Tuesday, October 31st, 1944

Some 250,000 Polish civilians and soldiers of Warsaw will meet their end through execution or deportation to Nazi concentration camps as a result of the Warsaw uprising.

Saturday, December 16th, 1944

The German Army launch their Ardennes offensive against elements of the American US VIII located between Aachen and Bastogne.

Saturday, December 16th, 1944

Initial progress on the assault is good for the Germans, however, the US 2nd and 99th Divisions hold fast at Elsenborn and Malmedy.

Saturday, December 16th, 1944

Bad weather soon sets in over the Ardennes region, limiting Allied air support to counter the German advances.

Sunday, December 17th, 1944

Allied prisoners of war are executed in cold blood by elements of the 6th SS Panzer Army. Some 87 prisoners are killed where they stand on direct orders from German Colonel Joachim Peiper.

Saturday, December 23rd, 1944

The foul weather over the Ardennes begins to clear.

Tuesday, December 19th, 1944

By this date, two components making up the US 106th Division at the Schnee Eiffel region are surrounded by the Germans.

Tuesday, December 19th, 1944

Some 6,000 Allied troops surrender to the encircling German Army at Schnee Eiffel.

Tuesday, December 19th, 1944

Along the Ardennes line, US forces reform into intense defensive lines and some forces eventually mount counter attacks against the invading Germans.

Sunday, December 17th, 1944

The town of Stavelot is lost to the invading German Army.

Tuesday, December 19th, 1944

The town of Stavelot is recaptured by the Allies.

Tuesday, December 19th, 1944

Allied generals agree to commit elements of the Saar Front against the southern flanks of the German advance, this in the area between Bastogne and Echternach.

Wednesday, December 20th, 1944

By this date, the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne is completely encircled by the German XLVII Panzer Corps.

Wednesday, December 20th, 1944

The US 10th and 19th Armored Divisions are completely encircled by the German advance.

Wednesday, December 20th, 1944

British General Montgomery is charged with heading up the progress along the north line of defense while American General Bradley is given command of the south.

Friday, December 22nd, 1944

As the German advance continues, supply lines are stretched to the limit and flanks become over exposed prompting German General Rundstedt to ask Hitler to halt the advance - Hitler refuses.

Saturday, December 23rd, 1944

2,000 Allied air sorties are launched in improving skies against the Germans on the ground.

Saturday, December 23rd, 1944

Supplies are dropped from Allied transport planes to the beleagured forces held up at Bastogne.

Saturday, December 23rd, 1944

Allied ground attack fighters target and destroy German ground vehicles and troop concentrations. Without air support of their own, there is little that the Germans can do in response.

Monday, December 25th, 1944

After achieving 60 miles of territory - the farthest march of the German Ardennes Offensive - the 2nd Panzer Division under Lieutenant-General von Lauchert is stopped by a combined force of British and American armor made up of the British 29th Armored Brigade and the American 2nd Armored Division.

Monday, December 25th, 1944

German losses on Christmas Day include 3,500 infantrymen and 400 vehicles, 81 of these being tanks.

Tuesday, December 26th, 1944

The American 4th Armored Division makes its way to the beleagured 101st Airborne forces at Bastogne and the situation at the village is stabilized.

Thursday, December 28th, 1944

Hitler orders a halt to the advance - but no retreat - leaving his exposed and tired units at the mercy of the replenished Allied forces across the Ardennes Front.

The 1st Mobile Fleet of the IJN meets up with the Japanese Southern Force west of the Philippines.

US amphibious assault elements arrive to take Saipan.

The first Japanese raid assaults US Task Force 58 through a combined force of IJN and IJA aircraft commitment. The American response nets 35 enemies in the first phase of the attack.

The second raid of arriving Japanese aerial strike force is identified and attacked by the Americans resulting in some 97 Japanese aircraft downed.

At 9:05am, the USS Albacore lands a fish into the side of the IJN Taiho aircraft carrier.

At 12:20pm, the USS Cavalla attack submarine hits the IJN Shokaku with torpedoes.

The third Japanese attack includes 47 aircraft which are met by 40 American fighters resulting in 7 enemies downed.

At approximately 4:24pm, the carrier IJN Shokaku, suffering extensive damage from American warplanes, goes under.

Around 4:28pm, the carrier IJN Taiho joins the IJN Shokaku.

At 4:30pm, some 216 American aircraft are launched in response to the Japanese attacks.

American dive bomber aircraft successfully attack, and subsequently sink, the aircraft carrier IJN Hiyo.

The American aerial force claims another two IJN tanker vessels.

The aircraft carrier - IJN Zuikaku - takes heavy damage from American warplanes.

The aircraft carrier - IJN Chiyoda - takes heavy damage from American warplanes.

During the attack, American fighter pilots score a further 65 enemy aircraft.

By 8:45pm, the American attack shows a loss of 100 aircraft with 80 being lost to landing accidents at night or lack of fuel, forcing many airmen to ditch into the sea.

A fourth Japanese flight group of 49 aircraft is assailed by 27 American Hellcats netting 30 more Japanese targets.

Soviet armies from the 2nd Baltic, Volkov and Leningrad fronts overtake German Army Group North in a massive two-week offensive.

Thursday, January 27th, 1944

The Moscow-Leningrad railway route is reopened in favor of the Soviets.

Thursday, January 27th, 1944

The siege of Leningrad is declared by Soviet leader Stalin as over.

German Army Group North is pushed away from the city of Leningrad.

Thursday, February 24th, 1944

The USAAF 1st Division launches another bombing raid on Schweinfurt through 238 bombers and long-range escort fighters. Eleven aircraft are lost.

Thursday, February 24th, 1944

A British bomber force made up of Handley Page Halifaxes and Avro Lancasters take part in a night-bombing raid on Schweinfurt, dropping some 2,000 tons of ordnance on the area.

795 RAF bombers attack Nuremburg with 95 aircraft lost to action. This mission marks the biggest RAF loss to date.

Thursday, March 30th - March 31st, 1944

Some 100 Avro Lancaster and Handley Page Halifax bombers mistakenly drop 400-tons of ordnance on Schweinfurt, thinking that it is their target of Nuremburg.

The KMS Tirpitz is targeted once more and attack, this time by air elements of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. The battleship lives through the attack but suffers three more months of repairs as a result.

Monday, May 1st - July 31st, 1944

The upcoming invasion at Normany puts a temporary halt on further convoy runs into Russia.

8th Air Force B-17 and B-24 bombers are launched on Schweinfurt.

Tuesday, August 15th - August 29th, 1944

During another running battle, convoy JW59 and her surface warships inflict damage on the KMS Tirpitz.

Monday, September 23rd, 1944

141 RAF bombers take on the Dortmund-Ems Canal. Some of these bombers make use of the massive "Tallboy" 12,000lb bomb.

8th Air Force B-17 and B-24 bombers are once again launched on Schweinfurt.

Wednesday, November 1st - November 30th, 1944

As the German defensive circle shrinks througout Europe, the Artic Convoys enjoy their best month, seeing not one vessel lost to enemy action.


Watch the video: Η Πολιορκία του Λένινγκραντ 8 Σεπτεμβρίου 1941 - 27 Ιανουαρίου 1944


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