The Winter Line was a series of German and Italian military fortifications in Italy, constructed during 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 across Italy from just north of where the Garigliano River flows into the 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 casualties.
The Gustav Line stretched across the Italian peninsula and barred the way to Rome for the two Allied armies in Italy: the U.S. 5th Army in the west and the British 8th Army in the east. The Allies' grand strategy in the autumn of 1943 was for the 8th Army to advance through the Sangro River defences, then hook south at Avezzano and enter Rome from the rear while the 5th Army approached from the south.
The center of the Gustav line crossed the main route north to Rome at 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 Cassino, which gave the defenders clear observation of potential attackers advancing towards the valley mouth. The U.S. 5th Army was held up in front of these positions through the winter of 1943-44. They attempted to flank the position by the landings at Anzio but bogged down quickly there. A bloody and protracted battle was waged over the monastery, known as the Battle of Monte Cassino.
The eastern end of the line was held by the coastal town of Ortona, captured by Canadian forces in the fierce Battle of Ortona in December 1943 which became known as "the little Stalingrad." Failure by the 8th Army to capture Orsogna however put an end to the Allied plans of a strong drive up the eastern coast. Rain, flooded rivers, and high casualties, as well as the departure of General Montgomery, all put a halt to Allied plans until the spring of 1944. The Gustav Line thus fulfilled the wishes of Field Marshal Kesselring of keeping the Allies south of the so-called Winter Line.
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 Italy from 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.
The Battle of Monte Cassino was a costly series of four assaults by the Allies against the Winter Line in Italy held by Axis forces during the Italian Campaign of World War II. The intention was a breakthrough to Rome.
The Battle of Anzio was a battle of the Italian Campaign of World War II that took place from January 22, 1944 to June 5, 1944. The operation was opposed by German forces in the area of Anzio and Nettuno. The operation was initially commanded by Major General John P. Lucas, of the U.S. Army, commanding U.S. VI Corps with the intention being to outflank German forces at the Winter Line and enable an attack on Rome.
During the Italian Campaign of World War II, the Barbara Line was a series of German military fortifications in Italy, some 10–20 mi (16–32 km) south of the Gustav Line, from Colli al Volturno to the Adriatic Coast in San Salvo and a similar distance north of the Volturno Line. Near the eastern coast, it ran along the line of the Trigno river. The line mostly consisted of fortified hilltop positions. The line was broken by the allied army in November 1943 following which the Axis forces withdrew to the defensible positions of the Winter Line.
The Garigliano is a river in central Italy.
The Bernhardt Line was a German defensive line in Italy during the Italian Campaign of World War II. Having reached the Bernhardt Line at the start of December 1943, it took until mid-January 1944 for the U.S. Fifth Army to fight their way to the next line of defences, the Gustav Line. The line was defended by XIV Panzer Corps, part of the German Tenth Army.
Albert Kesselring was a German Generalfeldmarschall of the Luftwaffe during World War II who was subsequently convicted of war crimes. In a military career that spanned both World Wars, Kesselring became one of Nazi Germany's most skilful commanders, and one of the most highly decorated, being one of only 27 soldiers awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds.
The Battle of Cisterna took place during World War II, on 30 January–2 February 1944, near Cisterna, Italy, as part of the Battle of Anzio, part of the Italian Campaign. The battle was a clear German victory which also had repercussions on the employment of U.S. Army Rangers that went beyond the immediate tactical and strategic results of the battle.
Operation Avalanche was the codename for the Allied landings near the port of Salerno, executed on 9 September 1943, part of the Allied invasion of Italy. The Italians withdrew from the war the day before the invasion, but the Allies landed in an area defended by German troops. Planned under the name Top Hat, it was supported by the deception plan Operation Boardman.
The Allied invasion of Italy was the Allied amphibious landing on mainland Italy that took place on 3 September 1943 during the early stages of the Italian Campaign of World War II. The operation was undertaken by General Sir Harold Alexander's 15th Army Group and followed the successful invasion of Sicily. The main invasion force landed around Salerno on 9 September on the western coast in Operation Avalanche, while two supporting operations took place in Calabria and Taranto.
The Italian campaign of World War II consisted of Allied and Axis, who now were without Italy as Ally, operations in and around Italy, from 1943 to 1945. The Joint Allied Forces Headquarters (AFHQ) was operationally responsible for all Allied land forces in the Mediterranean theatre and it planned and led the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, followed in September by the invasion of the Italian mainland and the campaign in Italy until the surrender of the German Armed Forces in Italy in May 1945.
The Gothic Line 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.
The Battle for Monte La Difensa, which took place between 3 December and 9 December 1943, occurred during Operation Raincoat, part of the Battle for the Bernhardt Line during the Italian Campaign in World War II.
Operation Diadem, also referred to as the Fourth Battle of Monte Cassino or, in Canada, the Battle of the Liri Valley, was an offensive operation undertaken by the Allies of World War II in May 1944, as part of the Italian Campaign of World War II. Diadem was supported by air attacks called Operation Strangle. The opposing force was the German 10th Army.
The 6th Armoured Division was an armoured division of the British Army, created in September 1940 during the Second World War. The unit was initially supplied with Matilda and Valentine tanks, which were replaced by Crusader tanks and then finally with the M4 Sherman tank. The division participated in the Operation Torch assault landings in Algeria and Morocco in November 1942 and saw its first action as part of V Corps of the British First Army in the Tunisia Campaign. After Tunisia, it participated in the Italian Campaign as part of the British Eighth Army and ended the war in Austria, again under the command of V Corps.
The 44th Infantry Division was formed on 1 April 1938 in Vienna, about two weeks after the Anschluss of Austria. It first saw combat at the start of the war in the Invasion of Poland, and also took part in the Battle of France in 1940. After a 9-month period of coastal defence the division was transferred East. On 22 June 1941, the division took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union, attached to Army Group South. It remained in the east after the failure of "Operation Barbarossa", taking part in defensive actions for the winter against the Soviet Army offensives near Izum and Kharkov. Refurbished, the division participated in the German summer offensive, and was subsequently destroyed with the 6th Army at Stalingrad in January 1943.
The Battle of San Pietro Infine was a major engagement from 8–17 December 1943, in the Italian Campaign of World War II involving Allied forces attacking from the south against heavily fortified positions of the German "Winter Line" in and around the town of San Pietro Infine, just south of Monte Cassino about halfway between Naples and Rome.
The Trasimene Line was a German defensive line during the Italian Campaign of World War II. It was sometimes known as the Albert Line. The German Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C), Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, used the line to delay the Allied northward advance in Italy in mid June 1944 to buy time to withdraw troops to the Gothic Line and finalise the preparation of its defenses.
The Moro River Campaign was an important battle of the Italian Campaign during the Second World War, fought between elements of the British Eighth Army and LXXVI Panzer Corps of the German 10th Army. Lasting from 4 December 1943 to 4 January 1944, the campaign occurred primarily in the vicinity of the Moro River in eastern Italy. The campaign was designed as part of an offensive launched by General Sir Harold Alexander's Allied 15th Army Group, with the intention of breaching the German Army's Winter Line defensive system and advancing to Pescara—and eventually Rome.
The spring 1945 offensive in Italy, codenamed Operation Grapeshot, was the final Allied attack during the Italian Campaign in the final stages of the Second World War. The attack into the Lombardy Plain by the 15th Allied Army Group started on 6 April 1945, ending on 2 May with the formal surrender of German forces in Italy.
The Battle of Rapido River was fought from 20 to 22 January 1944 during one of the Allies' many attempts to breach the Winter Line in the Italian Campaign during World War II. Despite its name, the battle occurred on the Gari river.
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