Winter Line was a series of German and Italian military
fortifications in Italy, constructed during
World War II
World War II by
Organisation Todt and commanded by Albert Kesselring. The series of 3
lines was designed to defend a western section of Italy, focused
around the town of Monte Cassino, through which ran the important
Highway 6 which led uninterrupted to Rome. The primary Gustav Line ran
Italy from just north of where the
Garigliano River flows into
Tyrrhenian Sea in the west, through the
Apennine Mountains to the
mouth of the
Sangro River on the Adriatic coast in the east. The two
subsidiary lines, the
Bernhardt Line and the
Hitler Line ran much
shorter distances from the Tyrrehnian sea to just North East of
Cassino where they would merge into the Gustav Line. Relative to the
Gustav Line, the
Hitler Line stood to the North-West and the Bernhardt
Line to the South-East of the primary defenses.
The Gustav Line, though ultimately broken, effectively slowed the
Allied advance for months between December 1943 and June 1944. Major
battles in the assault on the
Winter Line at
Monte Cassino and Anzio
alone resulted in 98,000 Allied casualties and 60,000 Axis
1 Gustav Line
2 Bernhardt and Hitler Lines
3 See also
6 External links
The center of the Gustav line crossed the main route north to
strategically crucial Highway 6. It followed the
Liri Valley and was
anchored around the mountains behind the town of Cassino. Above it
stood the ancient Benedictine sanctuary of Monte Cassino, which
dominated the valley entrance, and Monte Cairo, which gave the
defenders clear observation of potential attackers advancing towards
the valley mouth. A bloody and protracted battle was waged over the
monastery, known as the Battle of Monte Cassino. The north end of the
line was held by the coastal town of Ortona, captured by Canadian
forces in the fierce
Battle of Ortona
Battle of Ortona in December 1943 which became
known as "the little Stalingrad".
Bernhardt and Hitler Lines
On the western side of the Apennines were two subsidiary lines, the
Bernhardt Line in front of the main Gustav positions, and the Hitler
Line some 8 kilometres (5 mi) to the rear. The
Winter Line was
fortified with gun pits, concrete bunkers, turreted machine-gun
emplacements, barbed-wire and minefields. It was the strongest of the
German defensive lines south of Rome. About 15 German divisions were
employed in the defence. It took the Allies from mid-November 1943 to
June 1944 to fight through all the various elements of the Winter
Line, including the well-known battles at
Monte Cassino and Anzio.
The offensive on the Bernhardt line was launched on December 1, 1943
as part of Operation Raincoat. British and American troops took the
terrain around Monte Camino and the Mingano Gap within a week and a
half of launching the assault but German operations persisted in the
area for months.
Some authorities define the
Bernhardt Line as crossing
coast to coast following not just the western defensive positions
described above but incorporating also the eastern defences of the
Gustav Line. Other authorities use the
Winter Line name
interchangeably with the Gustav Line as defined above.
Brazilian Expeditionary Force
European Theatre of World War II
^ Axelrod, Alan (2008). Real History Of World War II: A New Look at
the Past. New York: Sterling Publishing Co Inc. p. 208.
^ d'Este, Carlo (1991). Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome.
New York: Harper. p. 490. ISBN 0-06-015890-5.
Moro River Canadian Cemetery near Ortona.
Fifth Army at the
Winter Line 15 November 1943 - 15 January 1944.
Washington: United States Army Center of
Military History. 1945. CMH
From the Volturno to the
Winter Line 6 October-15 November 1943.
Washington: United States Army Center of
Military History. 1944. CMH
Smith, Col. Kenneth V. (1944). WWII Campaigns, Naples-Foggia 9
September 1943-21 January 1944. Washington: United States Army Center
Military History. CMH Pub 72-17.
Muhm, Gerhard. "German Tactics in the Italian Campaign".
Muhm, Gerhard (1993). La Tattica tedesca nella Campagna d'Italia, in
Linea Gotica avanposto dei Balcani, (Hrsg.) (in Italian). Roma: Amedeo
Montemaggi - Edizioni Civitas,.
Field Marshal Lord Carver (2001). The Imperial War Museum Book of the
Italy 1943-1945. London: Sidgwick & Jackson.
McNab, Chris (ed) (2014). Hitler’s Fortresses: German Fortifications
and Defences 1939-45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing.
pp. 218–269 (Mountain Barriers– German Defensive Lines in
Italy). ISBN 978-1-78200-828-6. CS1 maint: Extra text:
authors list (link)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Ortona War Cemetery.
Winter Line Stories Original stories from the front lines of the
Italian Campaign by US Army Liaison Officer Major Ralph R. Hotchkiss
Map of German defensive lines
Liri Valley: Canada’s Breakthrough to Rome
Commonwealth War Graves Commission information on Moro River Cemetery
CBC Archives CBC Radio reports from the Winter Lin