📍 🇮🇹 Hell in the Abruzzo mountains
The World War II battles in Italy are not widely known. When US/UK/Allied forces conquered Rome on June 5th 1944, all eyes were turned on the infamous Normandy landing that would occur on June 6th. That historic event continues to overshadow what happened on other fronts - Spielberg’s movie “Saving Private Ryan” (1998) being the embodiment of that imbalance.
Why such posterity?
Probably because Abruzzo was eventually an Allied failure, in the sense that these units were never able to invade Germany (from its south) as they were programmed to do. Nazi divisions often outmanoeuvered American units that were brand new in this war (then), and ill-equipped for winter moutain combat. At the end of 1943, statistics show that three Allied soldiers were killed for one German soldier - the latter being expert at shelling the enemy with precise artillery from elevated positions.
The tide will painfully turn at the battle of Monte Cassino (January-June 1944). 615.000 Allied troops on one end. 415.000 on the German side (Le Gac). One of World War II’s most extraordinary episode. After several attempts, French units were the first to break through by taking high ground with the help of oriental swords and Moroccan donkeys!
The Abbey of Monte Cassino (5th century CE) was uselessly destroyed in the fight, but the road to Rome became wide open. Hitler’s defenses - at long last - collapsed. 70.000 US/UK/French/Allied forces gave their lives for it.
Rocchetta’s World War II museum, set on the line where the confrontation truly started, is the best way to measure that sacrifice.
____ Sources ____
>> Jean-Christophe Notin, “La campagne d’Italie”, 2002
>> Le Gac, “Vaincre sans gloire”, 2014