On the day following my emotional visit to Hill 446, our tour visited the sites of the worst carnage of the Italian Campaign. The Mignano Gap, San Pietro Infine, The Rapido River and finally, Monte Cassino where many soldiers of many nations would face their ultimate test and where 16,000 would pay the ultimate price.
|The Royal Palace at Caserta. Headquarters of the 5th Army and later the Supreme Allied Commander. Here the official surrender of the German Army in Italy was signed on 2 May 1945.|
|Approaching the Mignano Gap on Highway 6. The Gustav Line stretched from Gaeta on the Mediterranean coast through Cassino to the Adriatic. It was the most fortified and most heavily defended of the series of defensive lines designed to impede the advance of the Allied Armies through the Liri Valley to Rome. Just to approach Cassino and the Gustav line, the Allied Armies fought a two-month campaign from 15 November 1943 to 15 January 1944 from the Mignano Gap to Cassino, known as the Winter Line offensive. This 10 mile trek up the Liri Valley would cost one human life per yard. Before asking the inevitable question, why did Liri Valley have to be taken, it is important to review a map of Italy. Nearly all of Italy is covered by high mountains. The Liri Valley is the only possible route between Naples and Rome. Capturing the Mignano Gap would require assaults on the mountains and mountain villages on each side. Only after the Mignano Gap was taken, could an assault on the nearly-impregnable position of Monte Cassino begin.|
|The Italian cemetery lies on the southern end of Monte Lungo. Monte Lungo was a critical German position commanding the left flank of the Liri Valley. On the right flank, the town of San Pietro Infine anchored the German line. The first assault on Monte Lungo was attempted by the Italian Army who had now begun fighting for the Allies. The attack was unsuccessful, but now the Italians were fighting for their country, and their sacrifice would lead to the eventual liberation of Italy.|
|The elongated, loaf shape of Monte Longo bristled with German Artillery and was heavily defended with machine guns, mortars and crack trooops. As movement in a valley is impossible under artillery bombardment, this mountain had to be assaulted. It was a long, costly battle which coincided with the battle of San Pietro across the valley.|
|Approaching ruins of San Pietro Infine. The town was destroyed in the battle wich was made famous by the 1945 documentary The Battle of San Pietro by John Huston. The old town was left in ruins and rebuilt nearby. The large building on the hill originally was the headquarters of the German Army defending the town. It has since been rebuilt as a hotel and we'll spend the night there. Beyond San Pietro Infine, Monte Sammucro towers over the town. (Monte Sammucro is the name used on GI maps at the time, it is properly called Monte Sambucaro.) The U. S. assaults on the town came over this difficult terrain.|
|The hotel and the ruins of San Pietro Infine. The town that stood since medieval times was razed in the battle. At the base of the town, the hotel owner erected a historical terrace and museum about the town, it's inhabitants and the battle. Another shining example of one person's dedication to preserving history.|