Gothic Line (German: Gotenstellung; Italian: Linea Gotica) was a
German defensive line of the Italian Campaign of World War II. It
formed Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's last major line of defence
along the summits of the northern part of the Apennine Mountains
during the fighting retreat of the German forces in
Italy against the
Allied Armies in Italy, commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander.
Adolf Hitler had concerns about the state of preparation of the Gothic
Line: he feared the Allies would use amphibious landings to outflank
its defences. To downgrade its importance in the eyes of both friend
and foe, he ordered the name, with its historic connotations, changed,
reasoning that if the Allies managed to break through they would not
be able to use the more impressive name to magnify their victory
claims. In response to this order, Kesselring renamed it the "Green
Line" (Grüne Linie) in June 1944.
Using more than 15,000 slave-labourers, the Germans created more than
2,000 well-fortified machine gun nests, casemates, bunkers,
observation posts and artillery-fighting positions to repel any
attempt to breach the Gothic Line. Initially this line was breached
during Operation Olive (also sometimes known as the Battle of Rimini),
but Kesselring's forces were consistently able to retire in good
order. This continued to be the case up to March 1945, with the Gothic
Line being breached but with no decisive breakthrough; this would not
take place until April 1945 during the final Allied offensive of the
Operation Olive has been described as the biggest battle of materials
ever fought in Italy. Over 1,200,000 men participated in the battle.
The battle took the form of a pincer manoeuvre, carried out by the
British Eighth Army and the U.S. Fifth Army against the German 10th
Army (10. Armee) and German 14th Army (14. Armee). Rimini, a city
which had been hit by previous air raids, had 1,470,000 rounds fired
against it by allied land forces. According to Lieutenant-General
Oliver Leese, commander of the British Eighth Army:
The battle of
Rimini was one of the hardest battles of Eighth Army.
The fighting was comparable to El Alamein, Mareth and the Gustav Line
1.1 Allied strategy
1.2 Allied plan of attack
2 Adriatic front (British Eighth Army)
2.1 Eighth Army dispositions for Operation Olive
2.2 German 10th Army dispositions
2.3 Eighth Army attack
2.4 Battles for Gemmano and Croce
2.5 Coriano taken and the advance to
Rimini and San Marino
3 Central Front (Fifth Army)
3.1 U.S. Fifth Army formation
3.2 German formation in the central Apennines
3.3 Allied plan
4 Time runs out for the Allied offensive
5 Later operations
6 See also
9 External links
After the nearly concurrent breakthroughs at
Cassino and Anzio in
spring 1944, the 11 nations representing the Allies in
had a chance to trap the Germans in a pincer movement and to realize
some of the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's strategic goals
for the long, costly campaign against the Axis "underbelly". This
would have required the U.S. Fifth Army under Lieutenant General Mark
W. Clark to commit most of his Anzio forces to the drive east from
Cisterna, and to execute the envelopment envisioned in the original
planning for the Anzio landing (i.e., flank the German 10th Army, and
sever its northbound line of retreat from Cassino). Instead, fearing
that the British Eighth Army, under Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver
Leese, might beat him to the Italian capital of Rome, Clark diverted a
large part of his Anzio force in that direction in an attempt to
ensure that he and the Fifth Army would have the honour of liberating
the Eternal City.
As a result, most of
Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring's forces
slipped the noose and fell back north fighting delaying actions,
notably in late June on the
Trasimene Line (running from just south of
Ancona on the east coast, past the southern shores of Lake Trasimeno
Perugia and on to the west coast south of Grosseto) and in July
Arno Line (running from the west coast along the line of the
Arno River and into the
Apennine Mountains north of Arezzo). This gave
time to consolidate the Gothic Line, a 10 miles (16 km) deep belt
of fortifications extending from south of
La Spezia (on the west
coast) to the Foglia Valley, through the natural defensive wall of the
Apennines (which ran unbroken nearly from coast to coast, 50 miles
(80 km) deep and with high crests and peaks rising to 7,000 feet
(2,100 m)), to the
Adriatic Sea between
Pesaro and Ravenna, on
the east coast. The emplacements included numerous concrete-reinforced
gun pits and trenches, and 2,376 machine-gun nests with interlocking
fire, 479 anti-tank, mortar and assault gun positions, 120,000 metres
(130,000 yd) of barbed wire and many miles of anti-tank
ditches. This last redoubt proved the Germans' determination to
Nevertheless, it was fortunate for the Allies that at this stage of
the war the Italian partisan forces had become highly effective in
disrupting the German preparations in the high mountains. By September
1944, German generals were no longer able to move freely in the area
behind their main lines because of partisan activity. Generalleutnant
Frido von Senger und Etterlin—commanding
XIV Panzer Corps (XIV
Panzerkorps)—later wrote that he had taken to travelling in a little
Volkswagen "(displaying) no general's insignia of rank—no peaked
cap, no gold or red flags...". One of his colleagues who ignored this
Wilhelm Crisolli (commanding the 20th Luftwaffe Field
Division)—was caught and killed by partisans as he returned from a
conference at corps headquarters.
Construction of the defences was also hampered by the deliberately
poor quality concrete provided by local Italian mills whilst captured
partisans forced into the construction gangs supplemented the natural
lethargy of forced labour with clever sabotage. Nevertheless, prior to
the Allies' attack, Kesselring had declared himself satisfied with the
work done, especially on the Adriatic side where he "...contemplated
an assault on the left wing....with a certain confidence".
Gothic Line order of battle
The Italian front was seen by the Allies to be of secondary importance
to the offensives through France, and this was underlined by the
withdrawal during the summer of 1944 of seven divisions from the U.S.
Fifth Army to take part in the landings in southern France, Operation
Dragoon. By 5 August, the strength of the Fifth Army had fallen from
249,000 to 153,000, and they had only 18 divisions to confront the
combined German 10th and 14th Armies′ strength of 14 divisions plus
four to seven reserve divisions.
Winston Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff were
keen to break through the German defences to open up the route to the
northeast through the "Ljubljana Gap" into
Austria and Hungary. Whilst
this would threaten Germany from the rear, Churchill was more
concerned to forestall the Russians advancing into central Europe. The
U.S. Chiefs of Staff had strongly opposed this strategy as diluting
the Allied focus in France. However, following the Allied successes in
France during the summer, the U.S. Chiefs relented, and there was
complete agreement amongst the
Combined Chiefs of Staff
Combined Chiefs of Staff at the Second
Quebec Conference on 12 September.
Allied plan of attack
The original plan of General Sir Harold Alexander, the
Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the Allied Armies in
formulated by his Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General Sir John
Harding—was to storm the
Gothic Line in the centre, where most of
his forces were already concentrated. It was the shortest route to his
objective, the plains of Lombardy, and could be mounted quickly. He
mounted a deception operation to convince the Germans that the main
blow would come on the Adriatic front.
The Gothic Line, August 1944 and the concept of Operation Olive. The
dark blue arrows represent major Allied attacks.
On 4 August, Alexander met Lieutenant-General Leese, the British
Eighth Army commander, to find that Leese did not favour the plan.
He argued that the Allies had lost their specialist French mountain
Operation Dragoon and that the Eighth Army's strength lay in
tactics combining infantry, armour and guns which could not be
employed in the high mountains of the central Apennines.
It has also been suggested that Leese disliked working in league with
Clark after the Fifth Army's controversial move on
Rome at the end of
May and early June and wished for the Eighth Army to win the battle on
its own. He suggested a surprise attack along the Adriatic coast.
Although Harding did not share Leese's view and Eighth Army planning
staff had already rejected the idea of an Adriatic offensive (because
it would be difficult to bring the necessary concentration of forces
to bear), General Alexander was not prepared to force Leese to adopt a
plan which was against his inclination and judgement and Harding
was persuaded to change his mind.
Operation Olive—as the new offensive was christened—called for
Leese's Eighth Army to attack up the Adriatic coast toward
Rimini and draw in the German reserves from the centre of the country.
Clark's Fifth Army would then attack in the weakened central Apennines
Bologna with British XIII Corps on the right
wing of the attack fanning toward the coast to create a pincer with
the Eighth Army advance. This meant that as a preparatory move, the
bulk of the Eighth Army had to be transferred from the centre of Italy
to the Adriatic coast, taking two valuable weeks, while a new
intelligence deception plan (Operation Ulster) was commenced to
convince Kesselring that the main attack would be in the centre.
Adriatic front (British Eighth Army)
Eighth Army dispositions for Operation Olive
M10 tank destroyer
M10 tank destroyer Self Propelled Gun (SPG) and infantrymen
of the 5th Battalion,
Sherwood Foresters during the advance to the
Gothic Line, 27–28 August 1944.
On the coast, Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver Leese, the British Eighth
Army commander, had Polish II Corps with 5th Kresowa Division in the
front line and the 3rd Carpathian Division in reserve. To the left of
the Poles was Canadian I Corps which had the Canadian 1st Infantry
Division (with the British 21st Tank Brigade under command) in the
front line and the Canadian 5th Armoured Division in reserve.
For the opening phase the corps artillery was strengthened with the
addition of the British 4th Infantry Division's artillery. West of the
Canadians was British V Corps with the British 46th Infantry Division
manning the right of the corps front line and 4th Indian Infantry
Division its left. In reserve were the British 56th Infantry and 1st
Armoured Divisions and the British 7th Armoured and 25th Tank
Further to the rear was the British 4th Division, waiting to be called
forward to join the corps. The left flank of the Eighth Army front was
guarded by British X Corps employing the 10th Indian Infantry Division
and two armoured car regiments, 12th and 27th Lancers. Prior to the
attack the I Canadian Corps' front was covered by patrolling Polish
cavalry units and V Corps by patrolling elements of the Italian
Liberation Corps. In army reserve, also waiting to be called forward,
was the 2nd New Zealand Division.
German 10th Army dispositions
Facing the Eighth Army was the German 10th Army′s LXVI Panzer Corps
(LXVI Panzerkorps). Initially, this had only three divisions: 1st
Parachute Division facing the Poles, 71st Infantry Division (71.
Infantriedivision) inland on the parachute division's right and 278th
Division (278. Infantriedivision) on the Corps right flank in the
hills which was in the process of relieving 5th Mountain Division. The
10th Army had a further five divisions in 51st Mountain Corps covering
80 mi (130 km) of front line on the right of LXVI Panzer
Corps and a further two divisions—162nd Infantry Division (162.
(Turkoman) Infantriedivision) and 98th Infantry Division (98.
Infantriedivision) (replaced by 29th Panzer Grenadier Division (29.
Panzergrenadierdivision) from 25 August)—covering the Adriatic coast
behind LXVI Corps. In addition,
Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring had in
his Army Group Reserve the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division (90.
Panzergrenadierdivision) and 26th Panzer Division (26.
Eighth Army attack
The British Eighth Army crossed the Metauro river and launched its
attack against the
Gothic Line outposts on 25 August. As Polish II
Corps, on the coast, and I Canadian Corps, on the coastal plain on the
Poles' left, advanced towards
Pesaro the coastal plain narrowed and it
was planned that the Polish Corps, weakened by losses and lack of
replacements, would go into Army reserve and the front on the coastal
plain would become the responsibility of the Canadian Corps alone. The
Germans were taken by surprise, to the extent that both von
Vietinghoff, and the parachute division's commander—Generalmajor
Richard Heidrich—were away on leave.
They were in the process of pulling back their forward units to the
Green I fortifications of the
Gothic Line proper and Kesselring was
uncertain whether this was the start of a major offensive or just
Eighth Army advancing to occupy vacated ground whilst the main Allied
attack would come on the U.S. Fifth Army front towards Bologna. On 27
August, he was still expressing the view that the attack was a
diversion and so would not commit reserves to the front. It was
not until 28 August—when he saw a captured copy of Leese's order of
the day to his army prior to the attack—that Kesselring realised
that a major offensive was in progress, and three divisions of
reinforcements were ordered from
Bologna to the Adriatic front, still
needing at least two days to get into position.
By 30 August, the Canadian and British Corps had reached the Green I
main defensive positions running along the ridges on the far side of
the Foglia river. Taking advantage of the Germans' lack of manpower,
the Canadians punched through and by 3 September had advanced a
further 15 mi (24 km) to the Green II line of defences
running from the coast near Riccione. The Allies were close to
breaking through to
Rimini and the Romagna plain. However, LXXVI
Panzer Corps on the German 10th Army′s left wing had withdrawn in
good order behind the line of the Conca river. Fierce resistance
from the Corps′ 1st Parachute Division—commanded by Heidrich
(supported by intense artillery fire from the Coriano ridge in the
hills on the Canadians' left)—brought their advance to a halt.
Meanwhile, British V Corps was finding progress in the more difficult
hill terrain with its poor roads tough going. On 3–4 September,
while the Canadians once again attacked along the coastal plain, V
Corps made an armoured thrust to dislodge the Coriano Ridge defences
and reach the Marano river. This was to open the gate to the plain
beyond which could be rapidly exploited by the tanks of British 1st
Armoured Division, poised for this purpose. However, after two days of
gruesome fighting with heavy losses on both sides, the Allies were
obliged to call off their assault and reassess their strategy. The
Eighth Army commander, Oliver Leese, decided to outflank the Coriano
ridge positions by driving westwards toward Croce and Gemmano to reach
the Marano valley which curved behind the Coriano positions to the
coast some 2 mi (3.2 km) north of Riccione.
Battles for Gemmano and Croce
Battle of Gemmano
Battle of Gemmano has been nicknamed by some historians as the
Cassino of the Adriatic". After 11 assaults between 4 and 13
September (first by British 56th Division and then British 46th
Division), it was the turn of Indian 4th Division who after a heavy
bombardment made the 12th attack at 03:00 on 15 September and finally
carried and secured the German defensive positions. In the
meantime, to the north, on the other side of the Conca valley a
similarly bloody engagement was being ground out at Croce. The German
98th Division held their positions with great tenacity, and it took
five days of constant fighting, often door to door and hand to hand
before the British 56th Division captured Croce.
Coriano taken and the advance to
Rimini and San Marino
Further information: Battle of San Marino
With progress slow at Gemmano, Leese decided to renew the attack on
Coriano. After a paralyzing bombardment from 700 artillery pieces
and bombers, the Canadian 5th Armoured Division and the British 1st
Armoured Division launched their attack on the night of 12 September.
The Coriano positions were finally taken on 14 September.
Once again, the way was open to Rimini. Kesselring's forces had taken
heavy losses, and three divisions of reinforcements ordered to the
Adriatic front would not be available for at least a day. Now, the
weather intervened: torrential rain turned the rivers into torrents
and halted air support operations. Once again movement ground to a
crawl, and the German defenders had the opportunity to reorganise and
reinforce their positions on the Marano river, and the salient to the
Lombardy plain closed. Once more, the Eighth Army was confronted by an
organised line of defence, the
Meanwhile, with Croce and beyond it Montescudo secured, the left wing
of the Eighth Army advanced to the Marano river and the frontier of
San Marino. The Germans had occupied neutral
San Marino over a week
previously to take advantage of the heights on which the city-state
stood. By 19 September, the city was isolated and fell to the Allies
with relatively little cost. Three miles (5 km) beyond San
Marino lay the Marecchia valley running across the Eighth Army line of
advance and running to the sea at Rimini.
During the night of 19/20 September, Brigadier Richard W. Goodbody,
commanding the 2nd Armoured Brigade, ordered (with many doubts) the
2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays)
2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays) to attack Pt 153 at 10.50. The
German AT gunners, using the renowned 88mm guns, had a field day. All
but three Sherman tanks of the two squadrons that took part in the
attack were destroyed. The Bays lost 24 tanks and, more important, 64
highly skilled tank crewmen. Fortunately for the 9th Queen's Royal
Lancers, who had been ordered to pass through the Bays, their attack
was postponed after strong representations had been made to higher
On the right the
I Canadian Corps
I Canadian Corps on 20 September broke the German
positions on the Ausa river and into the Lombardy Plain and 3rd Greek
Mountain Brigade entered
Rimini on the morning of 21 September as the
Germans withdrew from their positions on the
Rimini Line behind the
Ausa to new positions on the Marecchia. However, Kesselring's
defence had won him time until the onset of the autumn rains. Progress
for the Eighth Army became very slow with mud slides caused by the
torrential rain making it difficult to keep roads and tracks open,
creating a logistical nightmare. Although they were out of the hills,
the plains were waterlogged and the Eighth Army found themselves
confronted, as they had the previous autumn, by a succession of
swollen rivers running across their line of advance. Once again,
the conditions prevented Eighth Army's armour from exploiting the
breakthrough, and the infantry of British V Corps and I Canadian Corps
(joined by the 2nd New Zealand Division) had to grind their way
forward while von Vietinghoff withdrew his forces behind the next
river beyond the Marecchia, the Uso, a few miles beyond Rimini. The
positions on the Uso were forced on 26 September, and Eighth Army
reached the next river, the Fiumicino, on 29 September. Four days of
heavy rain forced a halt, and by this time V Corps was fought out and
required major reorganization.
Since the start of Operation Olive, Eighth Army had suffered 14,000
casualties.[nb 1] As a result, British battalions had to be reduced
from four to three rifle companies due to a severe shortage of
manpower. Facing the Eighth Army
LXXVI Panzer Corps had suffered
16,000 casualties. As the Eighth Army paused at the end of
September to reorganise Leese was reassigned to command the Allied
land forces in South-East Asia, and Lieutenant-General Richard L.
McCreery was moved from commanding British X Corps to take over the
Central Front (Fifth Army)
Gothic Line order of battle
U.S. Fifth Army formation
Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark's U.S. Fifth Army comprised three
corps: U.S. IV Corps, under Major General Willis D. Crittenberger, on
the left formed by the U.S. 1st Armored Division, the 6th South
African Armoured Division and two regimental combat teams ("RCT"), one
of the U.S. 92nd Infantry Division (the "Buffalo Soldiers") the other
the Brazilian 6th RCT (the first land forces contingent of the
Brazilian Expeditionary Force); in the centre was U.S. II Corps, under
Major General Geoffrey Keyes, (with the U.S. 34th, 85th, 88th and 91st
Infantry Divisions supported by three tank battalions under command);
and on the right British XIII Corps, under Lieutenant-General Sidney
Kirkman, (composed of the British 1st Infantry and 6th Armoured
Divisions, the 8th Indian Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian
Armoured Brigade). Like the Eighth Army, the Fifth Army was considered
to be strong in armour and short on infantry considering the terrain
they were attacking.
German formation in the central Apennines
In the front line facing Clark's forces were five divisions of Joachim
Lemelsen's German 14th Army (20th Luftwaffe Field Division, 16th SS
Panzer Grenadier Division (16. Panzergrenadierdivision), 65th and
362nd Infantry Divisions and the 4th Parachute Division) and two
divisions on the western end of Heinrich von Vietinghoff's German 10th
Army (356th and 715th Infantry Divisions). By the end of the first
week in September, the Luftwaffe Field Division and the 356th Infantry
Division had been moved to the Adriatic front along with (from army
reserve) the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division and the armoured reserve
of 26th Panzer Division. The 14th Army was not of the same quality as
the 10th Army: it had been badly mauled in the retreat from Anzio and
some of its replacements had been hastily and inadequately
Clark's plan was for II Corps to strike along the road from Florence
Imola through the Il Giogo pass to outflank the
formidable defences of the Futa pass (on the main Florence–Bologna
road) while on their right British XIII Corps would advance through
Gothic Line to cut Route 9 (and therefore Kesselring's lateral
communications) at Faenza. The transfer of 356th Infantry Division to
the Adriatic weakened the defences around the Il Giogo pass which was
already potentially an area of weakness, being on the boundary between
10th and 14th Armies.
Main article: Battle of
During the last week in August, U.S. II Corps and British XIII Corps
started to move into the mountains to take up positions for the main
assault on the main
Gothic Line defences. Some fierce resistance was
met from outposts but at the end of the first week in September, once
reorganisation had taken place following the withdrawal of three
divisions to reinforce the pressured Adriatic front, the Germans
withdrew to the main
Gothic Line defences. After an artillery
bombardment, the Fifth Army's main assault began at dusk on 12
September. Keyes tried to flank the II Giogo Pass by attacking both
the peaks of Monticello and Monte Altuzzo using the 91st Infantry
Division (nicknamed the "Wild West Division") in a bold attempt to
bounce the Germans off the positions, but this failed.
Top of Il Giogo Pass in the Gothic Line, looking toward the north.
Progress at the II Giogo Pass was slow, but on II Corps' right British
XIII Corps were making better progress. Clark grasped this opportunity
to divert part of II Corps reserve (the 337th Infantry Regiment, part
of the 85th Infantry Division) to exploit XIII Corps success.
Attacking on 17 September, supported by both American and British
artillery, the infantry fought their way onto Monte Pratone, some
2–3 mi (3.2–4.8 km) east of the Il Giogo pass and a key
position on the Gothic Line. Meanwhile, U.S. II Corps renewed
their assault on Monte Altuzzo, dominating the east side of the Il
Giogo Pass. The Altuzzo positions fell on the morning of 17 September,
after five days of fighting. The capture of Altuzzo and Pratone as
well as Monte Verruca between them caused the formidable Futa Pass
defences to be outflanked, and Lemelsen was forced to pull back,
leaving the pass to be taken after only light fighting on 22
On the left, IV Corps had fought their way to the main Gothic Line:
notably the U.S. 370th Regimental Combat Team, which pushed the Axis
troops on its sector to the north beyond the Highway 12 towards
Gallicano; and the Brazilian 6th RCT, which took Massarosa, Camaiore
and other small towns on its own way north. By the end of the month,
the Brazilian unit had conquered Monte Prano and controlled the
Serchio valley region without suffering any major casualties. In
October, it also took Fornaci with its munitions factory, and Barga;
while the 370th received reinforcements from other Buffalo soldiers
units (365th and 371st), to ensure the Fifth Army left wing sector at
the Ligurian Sea.
On Fifth Army's far right wing, on the right of the British XIII Corps
front, 8th Indian Infantry Division fighting across trackless ground
had captured the heights of Femina Morta, and British 6th Armoured
Division had taken the San Godenzo Pass on Route 67 to Forlì, both on
At this stage, with the slow progress on the Adriatic front, Clark
Bologna would be too far west along Route 9 to trap the
German 10th Army. He decided therefore to make the main II Corps
thrust further east towards
Imola whilst XIII Corps would continue to
push on the right toward Faenza. Although they were through the Gothic
Line, Fifth Army—just like the Eighth Army before them—found the
terrain beyond and its defenders even more difficult. Between 21
September and 3 October, U.S. 88th Division had fought its way to a
standstill on the route to
Imola suffering 2,105 men killed and
wounded — roughly the same as the whole of the rest of II Corps
during the actual breaching of the Gothic Line.
The fighting toward
Imola had drawn German troops from the defence of
Bologna, and Clark decided to switch his main thrust back toward the
Bologna axis. U.S. II Corps pushed steadily through the Raticosa Pass
and by 2 October, it had reached
Monghidoro some 20 mi
(32 km) from Bologna. However, as it had on the Adriatic coast,
the weather had broken and rain and low cloud prevented air support
while the roads back to the ever more distant supply dumps near
Florence became morasses.
On 5 October, U.S. II Corps renewed its offensive along a 14-mile
(23 km) front straddling Route 65 to Bologna. They were supported
on their right flank by British XIII Corps including British 78th
Infantry Division, newly returned to
Italy after a three-month re-fit
in Egypt. Gradual progress was made against stiffening opposition as
German 14th Army moved troops from the quieter sector opposite U.S. IV
Corps. By 9 October, they were attacking the massive 1,500 foot (450
m) high sheer escarpment behind Livergnano which appeared insuperable.
However, the weather cleared on the morning of 10 October to allow
artillery and air support to be brought to bear. Nevertheless, it took
until the end of 15 October before the escarpment was secured. On
the right of U.S. II Corps British XIII Corps was experiencing equally
determined fighting on terrain just as difficult.
Time runs out for the Allied offensive
By the second half of October, it was becoming increasingly clear to
General Alexander that despite the dogged fighting in the waterlogged
plain of Romagna and the streaming mountains of the central Apennines,
with the autumn well advanced and exhaustion and combat losses
increasingly affecting his forces' capabilities, no breakthrough was
going to occur before the winter weather returned.
On the Adriatic front, the British Eighth Army's advance resumed on
its left wing through the Apennine foothills toward
Forlì on Route 9.
On 5 October the 10th Indian Infantry Division—switched from British
X Corps to British V Corps—had crossed the Fiumicino river (thought
to be the river known in Roman times as the Rubicon) high in the hills
and turned the German defensive line on the river forcing the German
10th Army units downstream to pull back towards Bologna.
Paradoxically, in one sense, this helped Kesselring because it
shortened the front he had to defend and shortened the distance
between his two armies, providing him with greater flexibility to
switch units between the two fronts. Continuing their push up Route 9,
on 21 October British V Corps crossed the Savio river which runs north
Cesena to the Adriatic and by 25 October were closing
on the Ronco river, some 10 mi (16 km) beyond the Savio,
behind which the Germans had withdrawn. By the end of the month, the
advance had reached Forlì, halfway between
Rimini and Bologna.
Cutting the German Armies' lateral communications remained a key
objective. Indeed, later Kesselring was to say that if in mid-October
the front south of
Bologna could not be held, then all the German
positions east of
Bologna "were automatically gone." Alexander and
Clark had decided therefore to make a last push for
winter gripped the front.
On 16 October, the U.S. Fifth Army had gathered itself for one last
effort to take Bologna. The Allied Armies in
Italy were short of
artillery ammunition because of a global reduction in Allied
ammunition production in anticipation of the final defeat of Germany.
The Fifth Army′s batteries were rationed to such an extent that the
total rounds fired in the last week of October were less than the
amount fired during one eight-hour period on 2 October.
Nevertheless, U.S. II Corps and British XIII Corps pounded away for
the next 11 days. Little progress was made in the centre along the
main road to Bologna. On the right, there was better progress, and on
20 October the U.S. 88th Division seized Monte Grande, only 4 mi
(6.4 km) from Route 9, and three days later British 78th Division
stormed Monte Spaduro. However, the remaining four miles were over
difficult terrain and were reinforced by three of the best German
divisions in Italy—the 29th Panzergrenadier Division, 90th
Panzergrenadier Division and the 1st Parachute Division—which
Kesselring had been able to withdraw from the Romagna as a result of
his shortened front. By late October, the Brazilian 6th RCT had pushed
the Axis forces through province of
Lucca to Barga, where its advance
In early November, the buildup to full strength of the 1st Brazilian
Division and some reinforcement of the U.S. 92nd Division had not
nearly compensated the U.S. Fifth Army for the formations diverted to
France. The situation in the British Eighth Army was even worse:
Replacement cadres were being diverted to northern Europe and I
Canadian Corps was ordered to prepare to ship to the Netherlands in
February of the following year. Also, while they remained held in
the mountains, the armies continued to have an over-preponderance of
armour relative to infantry.
During November and December, Fifth Army concentrated on dislodging
the Germans from their well-placed artillery positions which had been
key in preventing the Allied advance towards
Bologna and the Po
Valley. Using small and medium Brazilian and American forces, the U.S.
Fifth Army attacked these points one by one but with no positive
outcome. By the end of the year, the defence compound formed by the
Germans around Monte Castello, (Lizano in) Belvedere, Della Toraccia,
Castelnuovo (di Vergato), Torre di Nerone, La Serra, Soprassasso and
Castel D'Aiano had proved extremely resilient.
Meanwhile, the British Eighth Army—held on Route 9 at
Forlì—continued a subsidiary drive up the Adriatic coast and
Ravenna on 5 November. In early November, the push up Route 9
resumed, and the river Montone, just beyond Forlì, was crossed on 9
November. However, the going continued to be very tough with the river
Cosina, some 3 mi (4.8 km) further along Route 9 being
crossed only on 23 November. By 17 December, the river Lamone had been
Faenza cleared. The German 10th Army established
itself on the raised banks of the river Senio (rising at least
20 ft (6.1 m) above the surrounding plain) which ran across
the line of the Eighth Army advance just beyond
Faenza down to the
Adriatic north of Ravenna. With snows falling and winter firmly
established, any attempt to cross the Senio was out of the question
and the Eighth Army's 1944 campaign came to an end.
In late December, in a final flourish to the year's fighting, the
Germans used a predominantly Italian force of units from the Italian
Monterosa Division to attack the left wing of the U.S. Fifth Army in
Serchio valley in front of
Lucca to pin Allied units there which
might otherwise have been switched to the central front. Two brigades
of the 8th Indian Infantry Division were rapidly switched across the
Apennines to reinforce the U.S. 92nd Infantry Division. By the time
the reinforcements had arrived, the Axis forces had broken through to
capture Barga, but decisive action by the 8th Indian Division's
Dudley Russell halted further advance and the situation
was stabilised and
Barga recaptured by the New Year.
In mid-December Harold Alexander became supreme commander of the
Mediterranean Theatre. Mark Clark took his place as commander of the
Allied Armies in
Italy (re-designated 15th Army Group) and command of
U.S. Fifth Army was given to Lucian K. Truscott. In mid-February,
as the winter weather improved, Fifth Army resumed its attacks on
German artillery positions (Operation Encore). This time the IV Corps
used two full infantry divisions to accomplish the mission: the
Brazilian division, tasked with taking Monte Castello, Soprassasso and
Castelnuovo di Vergato; and the newly arrived U.S. 10th Mountain
Division, tasked to take Belvedere, Della Torraccia and Castel
D'Aiano. Operation Encore began on 18 February and was
completed on 5 March, preparatory to the final offensive in
Gothic Line order of battle
15th Army Group
Italian Campaign (World War II)
Mediterranean and Middle East theatre of World War II
Italian Social Republic
European Theatre of World War II
^ The British Official History gives V Corps casualties as 9,000 and
Canadian casualties (referencing the Canadian Official History) as
just under 4,000 up to 21 September. In addition, losses to sickness
in V Corps were 6,000 and 1,000 in
1st Canadian Division
1st Canadian Division with no
figure given for Canadian 5th Armoured Division. Leese reported
battle casualties totaling 14,000 and 210 irrecoverable tanks.
^ The lost evidence- Monte Cassino- history channel[verification
^ Sterner, 2008. p.106
^ Bryn, Chapter 14.
^ Orgill, p. 28.
^ Orgill, p. 36.
^ Orgill, p. 29.
^ Orgill, p. 20.
^ Orgill, pp. 114–115.
^ Jackson, p. 119.
^ Blaxland, p. 163.
^ Orgill, p. 33.
^ Jackson, p. 126.
^ Jackson, p. 226.
^ Jackson, p. 227.
^ a b Jackson, p. 234.
^ Orgill, pp. 46–47.
^ Orgill, p. 65.
^ Hingston, p. 129.
^ Orgill, p. 124.
^ Orgill, pp. 140–141.
^ War Monthly - Issue 34 (1977).
Gothic Line 1944, by E. D. Smith, p.
28. ISSN 0307-2886.
^ Jackson, p. 296.
^ Orgill, p. 161.
^ a b Jackson 2004, p. 303.
^ Jackson, p.304.
^ Carver, p. 243.
^ Orgill, p. 164.
^ Orgill, pp. 164–166.
^ Orgill, p.165.
^ War Monthly - Issue 34 (1977).
Gothic Line 1944, by E. D. Smith, p.
30. ISSN 0307-2886.
^ Orgill, p. 178.
^ Brooks, pp. 221 & 223.
^ Moraes, Chapter III, section "Operations at
^ Orgill, p. 187.
^ Orgill, pp. 187–188.
^ Orgill, p. 200.
^ Orgill, p. 210.
^ Orgill, p. 213.
^ Brooks, pp. 223-24.
^ Corrigan 2010, p.523
^ Clark, p.606
^ Moraes, Chapter IV
^ Brooks, Chapters XX & XXI
^ Blaxland, pp. 227–236.
^ Carver, pp. 266–267.
^ Moseley, Ray (2004). Mussolini : the last 600 days of il Duce.
Dallas: Taylor Trade Pub. ISBN 978-1-58979-095-7. p. 156
^ Sterner, p.105
^ Brooks, Chapters XXI & XX.
^ Moraes, Chapter V (The IV Corps Offensive); Sections Monte Castello
^ Clark, p.608 View on Google Books
^ Bohmler, Chapter IX
^ Ibidem, Brooks.
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Arno 22 January-9 September 1944. WWII
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Gothic Line - Le Battaglie Della Linea Gotica
1944-45 (in Italian) / (in English) Edizioni Multigraphic
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Montemaggi, Amedeo (2002). "Battle of Rimini". Centro Internazionale
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