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Second World War History > Monte Cassino Timeline

Monte Cassino Timeline

The road to Rome was blocked by the imposing Gustav Line - four major assaults later and the German defenders were sent packing.

Authored By Staff Writer

The Allies had already achieved a foothold on Italian soil with their arrival - and subsequent capture of the island of Sicily in the South. The next target of import was the city of Rome. Germany had devised an impregnable defensive line running from the east Italian coast to the west. The line was known under the imposing name of the "Gustav Line". The Allies would have to find some way of penetrating the natural and man-made defensive positions along this front if they were to succeed in Italy.


Eyes centered in on the town of Cassino and its overlooking mountaintop monastery known as Monte Cassino. The site watched over the main route and Liri valley that headed towards Rome itself and made for a prime starting point, considering the monastery held an excellent vantage point of the surrounding countryside for miles. Unfortunately for the Allies, the Italian Winter has arrived and made progress all the more lethal. Additionally, the German defense was being held by elite paratrooper forces who gave up their parachutes some time earlier and were further backed by two Panzer divisions. The fast Allied progress - at least up to this point - also meant that the supply columns were stretched thing and lacking behind the main army push.


It would take four major Allied offensives to dislodge the German defenders from Cassino. An Allied aerial bombardment laid waste to the monastery (the Allies believing the Germans had taken up defensive positions there) to which the resulting debris made for even better locations for which the Germans could set up in. All nations took a stab in the attacks - New Zealand, France, India, Poland, Britain, United States - and each suffered mounting casualties. It seemed that the Germans would not give up Cassino easily.


Tanks were initially limited in use due to the terrain. German Panzers were relegated to static emplacements with awkward firing angles. Allied tanks held the disadvantaged lower ground and had to make their way through roads and streets littered with battlefield debris. Allied tanks were only used in the third and fourth assaults on Cassino, playing a more major role in the latter.


The final assault utilized numbers to the Allied advantage, forcing a German retreat. The Poles eventually took the monastery - what was left of it. The five month battle - costing some 50,000 lives in whole - eventually resulted in the destruction of the Gustav Line and opened the door to the taking of Rome itself.


Sadly, many of the casualties were never officially found in the battle's aftermath. Souls now known only to God.

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Total Monte Cassino Events: 35

1944
Tuesday
January 11th

The first major Allied offensive to take Cassino is launched.

1944
Tuesday
January 11th

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

1944
Sunday
January 16th

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

1944
Monday
January 17th

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

1944
Tuesday
January 18th - February 9th

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

1944
Thursday
February 10th

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

1944
Friday
February 11th

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

1944
Friday
February 11th

The entire US 142nd Regiment is destroyed.

1944
Friday
February 11th

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

1944
Friday
February 11th

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

1944
Friday
February 11th

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

1944
Tuesday
February 15th

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

1944
Tuesday
February 15th

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.

1944
Tuesday
February 15th

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

1944
Tuesday
February 15th - February 18th

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

1944
Tuesday
February 15th - February 18th

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

1944
Tuesday
February 15th - February 18th

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

1944
Tuesday
February 15th - February 18th

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

1944
Saturday
February 19th - March 13th

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

1944
Wednesday
March 15th

A third major Allied offensive is put into action.

1944
Wednesday
March 15th

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

1944
Wednesday
March 15th - March 21st

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

1944
Wednesday
March 15th - March 21st

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

1944
Wednesday
March 15th - March 21st

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

1944
Wednesday
March 15th - March 21st

Positions on Monte Cassino are officially in Allied hands.

1944
Wednesday
March 22nd

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

1944
Thursday
March 23rd - May 10th

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

1944
Thursday
May 11th

The fourth offensive to take Cassino is put into action.

1944
Thursday
May 11th

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

1944
Thursday
May 11th

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

1944
Saturday
May 13th

German paratrooper forces defending Cassino being their evacuation.

1944
Thursday
May 18th

The British take the town of Cassino.

1944
Thursday
May 18th

The Poles take Monte Calvario.

1944
Wednesday
May 17th

German paratrooper forces exit the Cassino region.

1944
Thursday
May 18th

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