Winter Line

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German-prepared defensive lines south of Rome. ItalyDefenseLinesSouthofRome1943 4.jpg
German-prepared defensive lines south of Rome.

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.

Wehrmacht unified armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945

The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe. The designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the previously used term Reichswehr, and was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted.

Italian Social Republic puppet state of Nazi Germany

The Italian Social Republic, popularly and historically known as the Republic of Salò, was a German puppet state with limited recognition that was created during the later part of World War II, existing from the beginning of German occupation of Italy in September 1943 until the surrender of German troops in Italy in May 1945.

Military organized body primarily tasked with preparing for and conducting war

A military is an armed force typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, intended for warfare and other functions and tasks according to state interests and policies. The main functions of the militaries maintained by sovereign states are usually defined as defence of the state, its territory and population, deterrence, participation in different types of peacekeeping/multinational operations, and in some cases support to civilian institutions. Beyond that, the militaries can be employed in various sanctioned and not sanctioned activities within the state as: population control, the promotion of a political agenda, emergency services and reconstruction, protecting corporate economic interests, social ceremonies and national honor guards, intelligence activities, law enforcement missions and guarding important areas and persons. It may consist of one or more military branches such as an Army, Navy, Air Force and in certain countries, Marines and Coast Guard, with its members identifiable by their distinct military uniform. For a nation's military may function as a discrete subculture within a larger civil society, through the development of separate infrastructures, which may include housing, schools, utilities, logistics, health and medical, law, food production, finance and banking.

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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. [1] [2]

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Battle of Monte Cassino assaults by the Allies against the Winter Line in Italy held by Axis forces during the Italian Campaign of World War II

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.

Battle of Anzio 1944 battle in Italy

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.

Gustav Line

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 Arezzano 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.

Liri Italian river

The Liri is one of the principal rivers of central Italy, flowing into the Tyrrhenian Sea a little below Minturno under the name Garigliano.

Cassino Comune in Lazio, Italy

Cassino['kas'sino] is a comune in the province of Frosinone, central Italy, at the southern end of the region of Lazio, the last City of the Latin Valley.

Monte Cassino Rocky hill about 130 kilometres (81 mi) southeast of Rome, Italy.

Monte Cassino is a rocky hill about 130 kilometres (81 mi) southeast of Rome, in the Latin Valley, Italy, 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to the west of the town of Cassino and 520 m (1,706.04 ft) altitude. Site of the Roman town of Casinum, it is best known for its abbey, the first house of the Benedictine Order, having been established by Benedict of Nursia himself around 529. It was for the community of Monte Cassino that the Rule of Saint Benedict was composed.

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.

Ortona Comune in Abruzzo, Italy

Ortona is a coastal town and municipality of the Province of Chieti in the Italian region of Abruzzo, with some 23,000 inhabitants.

Battle of Ortona World War II battle in Ortona, Italy in December 1943

The Battle of Ortona was a battle fought between two battalions of elite German Fallschirmjäger (paratroops) from the German 1st Parachute Division under Generalleutnant Richard Heidrich, and assaulting Canadian troops from the Canadian 1st Infantry Division under Major General Chris Vokes, most of whom were fresh recruits whose first taste of combat was during the Invasion of Sicily. It was the culmination of the fighting on the Adriatic front in Italy during "Bloody December". The battle was known to those who fought it as the "Italian Stalingrad," for the brutality of its close-quarters combat, which was only worsened by the chaotic rubble of the town and the many booby traps used by both sides. The battle took place in the small Adriatic Sea town of Ortona, with a peacetime population of 10,000.

Orsogna Comune in Abruzzo, Italy

Orsogna is a comune (municipality) and town in the province of Chieti in the Abruzzo region of Italy.

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.

Bernhardt Line battle

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.

Hitler Line German defensive line in central Italy during the Second World War

The Hitler Line was a German defensive line in central Italy during the Second World War. The strong points of the line were at Aquino and Piedimonte. In May 1944, the line was renamed the Senger Line, after General von Senger und Etterlin, one of the generals commanding Axis forces in the area. This was done at Hitler's insistence, in order to minimise any propaganda significance should the line be penetrated.

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.

The Mignano Gap is a geographic feature in Italy, in the vicinity of Mignano Monte Lungo. During World War II, this was the location of the German Bernhardt Line.

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.

See also

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References

  1. Axelrod, Alan (2008). Real History Of World War II: A New Look at the Past. New York: Sterling Publishing Co Inc. p. 208. ISBN   978-1-4027-4090-9.
  2. d'Este, Carlo (1991). Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome. New York: Harper. p. 490. ISBN   0-06-015890-5.

Bibliography

Moro River Canadian Cemetery near Ortona. Ortona cimitero canadese 06.jpg
Moro River Canadian Cemetery near Ortona.

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