Monte Casino Debate

Discussion in 'World War 2' started by sniper, Nov 22, 2009.

  1. sniper

    sniper Active Member

    Hi All,

    Another disscussion point i'd like to bring up on the Italian Campaign. Would it of been feasable to of skirted round Monte Casino surrounding it and waiting for the Germans to be starved out rather than waste the lives of over 100,000 Allied servicemen? The Americans bombed the crap out of it anyway so what was the point on wasting those lives.
    Personnally i think they should of bombed and moved, bombed and moved but the allied command as usual just sat round waiting for someone else to make the move. We could of had troops across the Gustuav Line and heading towards Rome before the Germans would of been able to react.
    Would be great to hear some other views on this discussion.

  2. Kitty

    Kitty New Member

    Monte Casino: biggest cockup of the Italian Campaign that one. Why not skirt around it and just let the bombers have a go on occassion? if it was proving too much of a nuisance why not get 617 & 9 Sqadrons to bomb it with Grandslam/Tallboy? An earthquake bomb under it would have shaken out any resolve to hold out. Instead there was an almost WW1 thinking to the Allied Commanders logic of throwing men at an impregnable fortress.

    The main road the Allies were using ran close to the monastry, so I suppose they had to do something, but they chose the most stupid, idiotic way possible to attack it.
  3. Adrian Roberts

    Adrian Roberts Active Member

    The Tallboy wasn't available until June 44, which was virtually the end of the Monte Cassino fighting, and the bombs and the Lancs would have had to be flown over from England specially. I imagine Harris et al wouldn't have been too happy about that. And by then the monastery was rubble in any case, so dropping large bombs would just have bounced the rubble around and been very inefficient as an anti-personnel device.

    But I do think that with a bit of imagination the Allies could have bypassed the monastery altogether. As Kitty says it was WW1 thinking to have huge numbers of troops directly attacking strong points. In fact by 1918 both sides had stopped doing that, which was why the deadlock of the trenches was broken during that year. But how often do the hard-won lessons of one war get carried over to another?
  4. Kitty

    Kitty New Member

    The fact the Allies tried to fight the Blitzkrieg with WW1 methods says everything
  5. Captain Parker

    Captain Parker New Member

    I've been to Monte Cassino and hiked some of the terrain. There was no need to bomb the abbey at first, according to von Senger und Etterlin. He mentions in his memoir, that the Germans were not initially in the abbey. They had tried to get some of the art and relics out of the site. An artillerie observation post was in a different structure, which looks like a tower on the hill in the foreground of Monte Cassino. After Clarke ordered the bombing of the abbey, it became prime realestate to set up defensive positions as well as a better protected artlillerie op.

    Some interesting comments about Tallboy. Had the device been available it could have caused serious damage, if not directly in the form of AP, but to the morale of the Germans underneath.

    The locals, when I was there, stated that the Allies continued to bomb the area after the battle had ended. Some sixty years later, there were some anti Allied feelings from the bombing, but excellent food in the local trattoria in town.

    Tactically, the Allies could have cut the boot coming across from Nettuno to L'Aquila, with a second landing at Pescara or airborne landing at Tempera. The mountains are more traversable than to the south at this point. The Gustav line was also to the south and its troops would be cut off from supply. If they moved north to engage, they would lose their cover, artillerie fire support and defensive positions, as well as be subjected to more effective Allied air attack.

    The Operation would need a hard charging commander such as Lucian Truscott as it would fail with someone like John Lucas. During the landing the Allies caught the Germans unprepared. Remember the story of the German offiziers coming back from Rome? It was Lucas' indecision that allowed Kesslering time for reinforcement almost leading to dislodgement.

    Although not likely, there was the possibility of a Pass too far.
  6. In truth, the commanding General Mark W. Clark did not believe there was much chance of an early breakthrougof the Gustav Line but he felt that the attacks would draw German 10th Army reserves away from the Rome area in time for Operation Shingle, the attack on Anzio where VI. Corps (British 1st and US 3rd Infantry Divisions) was due to make an amphibious landing on January 22. It was hoped that the Anzio landing, with the benefit of surprise and a rapid move inland to the Alban Hills, which command important routes, would so threaten the Gustav Line defenders' rear and supply lines that it might just unsettle the German commanders and cause them to withdraw from the Gustav Line to positions north of Rome.
    The initial landing achieved complete surprise with virtually no opposition. Despite that report, Major General John P. Lucas, who had little confidence in the operation as planned, failed to capitalise on the element of surprise by delaying his advance until he judged his position was sufficiently consolidated and his troops ready.
    While Lucas consolidated, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, the German commander in the Italian theatre, moved every spare unit to be found into a ring around the beachhead, where his gunners had a clear view of every Allied position. The Germans also stopped the drainage pumps and flooded the reclaimed marsh with salt water, planning to entrap the allies and destroy them by epidemic. For weeks a rain of shells fell on the beach, the marsh, the harbour, and on anything else observable from the hills with little distinction between forward and rear positions. After a month of heavy but inconclusive fighting, Lucas was relieved and replaced by Major General Lucian Truscott.
  7. minden1759

    minden1759 New Member


    The Germans also stopped the drainage pumps and flooded the reclaimed marsh with salt water, planning to entrap the allies and destroy them by epidemic.

    Where is our evidence for this statement? I have studied Anzio for years and have never heard that theory before.

  8. Wehrmachtmad

    Wehrmachtmad New Member

    All this talking about blasting it to hell with bombers and artillery etc. We tried that, and that's what made it an absolute blood bath. at the start Monte Cassino was an OK defensive position, they had the high ground with a large complex on the top, however leading up to it was a maze of villages and thin tree lines, good for cover. When we bombed the complex we gave German snipers loop holes to get behind with rifles, we made new MG nests, we basically turned a nightmare into a brilliant situation for the Germans. Skirting around it would be very difficult to do. We would be leaving our supply routes open to consistent raids from the Fallschirmjäger during our assault on the Gustav line itself, and after Anzio went pear shaped any chance of going around it was gone completely. We had to take Monte Casino for supply security, and also to have the high ground, so that our artillery can actually hit the line, and we wont have to rely on 'Strategic Bombing' to soften their defences.

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