Geography is of great importance in the war. It defines where to fight, what cities and areas will be destroyed, and which are not. In 1944, for a town of Central Italy in the Cassino at the foot of Monte Cairo at the height of 1669 meters of his position became his curse.
Because inhabiting it for about 20 thousand people lived in the South of the valley of Liri, wide hollow, running from North-West to South-East between Abruzzo to the East and mount Aurunci in the West. Valley went directly towards Rome, the distance from which to Cassino is about 130 kilometers.
Army with heavy weapons and a large number of soldiers from southern Italy would like to get to the Eternal city, could only proceed through the valley of the Liri. Along the coast between the towns of Gaeta and Sperlonga were just antique road Via Messina — nothing more than improved coastal path.
And since the valley of the Liri was the only way to reach Rome with tanks and trucks, the Wehrmacht built its most powerful defensive position, the “Line of Gustav”. It began with the confluence of the river Garigliano on the Tyrrhenian sea, then went up the river to Cassino, and then through Central Italy at an altitude of almost 2 thousand meters. Powerful position, built with the natural features ended at Ortona, the port city on the Adriatic.
Here at the end of December 1943 the canadian first infantry division spent a very difficult battle with the German paratroopers. The battle has entered the collective consciousness of Canada as the “Italian Stalingrad”. However, despite the retreat of the Germans on 28 December, go here was impossible, not to mention the promotion in the direction of Rome. Therefore, British and American troops had no other than a direct attack on the valley of the Liri.
17 January 1944, the German tenth army in Latium consisted of five infantry divisions (including the first airborne division), three mechanized infantry divisions, one division of mountain infantry and two armored divisions. All units were not fully staffed with people and vehicles, but, nevertheless, they represented a formidable force. The allies, fifth U.S. army and the eighth British had at their disposal half a dozen fully equipped divisions.
Quantitatively, approximately 135 thousand Germans (and Austrians) were opposed by more than 240 thousands of allied troops from the UK, including British Commonwealth countries, and the United States, as well as divisions of free French, Polish, Italian and some others.
This initial position led to the fact that the battle of Monte Cassino, which lasted four months, was one of the bloodiest battles of the Second world war. And today the battle is known, above all, the fact that the heavy American bombers destroyed the already worldwide famous Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, located on a hill above the city. The monastery, now restored, had a great strategic position, but was occupied by German troops and turned them into a military position only after this destruction.
The battle of Monte Cassino, which ended on 18 may 1944 by Polish troops capture the ruins of the monastery, was worth the life and health of the 55 thousand soldiers of the allied coalition. According to the Wehrmacht, 20 thousand German soldiers were killed or wounded. The onset of the anti-Hitler coalition were detained for four months.