Parco Memoriale della Linea Gotica

La Torricella di San Quirico di Vernio

Ad Memoriam Qui Ceciderunt Militum - MMIII

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brochure

Brochure Contents:
Panel 1 - Gothic Line: Politics and Strategy
Panel 2 - Gothic Line: The History
Panel 3 - The Battle of Hill 810: The Opposed Forces
Panel 4 - Gothic Line: The Advance from Legri to Montepiano
Panel 5 - The Battle of Hill 810: Chronology
Panel 6 - The Trail to Vernio and Montepiano

Related Links:
Gothic Line Memorial Park Dedication Ceremony (Photos)
Gothic Line Memorial Park Dedication Welcome

The text of the program brochure for the dedication of the Gothic Line Memorial Park is presented below. The maps will be added at a later date.

The brochure, as published, contains this text in three languages: Italian, English, and German. Only the English text is presented here. Please be aware that the base language for the brochure is Italian; the English text has been edited here with respect to format, spelling, and to correct some of the awkwardness in the original translation. Recognize also that the six panels were prepared and reviewed by different historians; you will therefore find some repetition and the expression of different viewpoints.


Gothic Line: Politics and Strategy

The Allied Forces landed in Sicily on 10th July 1943, and within two months Italy had removed Mussolini from power and requested an armistice, which was signed on 3rd September. From that moment Anglo-American Forces, with cooperation of some Italian Army Units, begun to reconquer the Peninsula and reconstitute the Italian Kingdom and to consign to democratic Forces control of Italian Civil Society.

The Allied Armies, the US 5th Army and the British 8th Army, made two amphibious landings as they moved north; the first was at Salerno on Sept. 9 1943 and the second at Anzio on January 22, 1944. By the 4th of June, Rome was liberated. Some troops were pulled out of Italy for the invasion of Southern France. This on 4th of July was successfully completed.

In Teheran, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin stated that Allied Nations would free Western Europe, while the Red Army, aided by great quantities of American war materials, would force Nazism out of East and Central European Countries.

They agreed to an alliance that would allow Nations to freely restore their own future. But this alliance was between countries of such difference in their founding values that they were called "Strange Allies". English Prime Minister Churchill was more astutely aware of Stalin's real intent than was President Roosevelt. Churchill intuitively knew the real intent of Stalin was to create a belt of Soviet-controlled Nations around Russia that would be under the control of local communist parties. History tells he was right. He tried to persuade Americans to restrain Stalin from reaching his objectives, suggesting to advance the Italian front beyond Trieste and Bolzano in order to reach Ljubljana, Vienna and Prague quickly to meet the Russians in Czechoslovakia.

Churchill tried to quicken the events in the Italian Campaign. He was determined to reach Bologna and pursue Germans soon after first successful assaults of September. He had envisioned that the way may be opened for them to reach Vienna soon. Obligations of treaty prevailed and in October, winter weather stopped operations along the whole front. Battle became a static confrontation in the rugged mountains within sight of the Po Valley.

From October 1944 until April 1945, many Allied units were sent to reinforce the French southern front. Expecting to be liberated soon, Italian Partisans Units was ordered to dissolve and go home, while the population suffered more terrible months of war.

Battle of Gothic Line, the greatest battle ever fought in Italy, saw the victory of Allied Forces. However, the victory did not draw the advantage that it could potentially offer.

Many believe that if Roosevelt had been more suspicious about Stalin, then maybe Europe would have had another destiny: the Iron Curtain would be shorter and many Great Countries from the Baltic to the Black Sea would not have gone through 50 years as slaves in their own Nations and colonies of Soviet Empire.

Gothic Line: The History

The idea of a fortified defense line to stop the Allied advance far from the German border was proposed soon after the successful landing of Anglo-American troops at Sicily on July 10, 1944. After the armistice between Italy and Allied Nations on 8 September, 1944, decision was made to build it.

Gothic Line connected the Tyrrhenian sea plains near Massa on West coast to the Adriatic Sea at Pesaro on East. The Gothic Line generally followed the 44th Parallel and in mountain sector, it coincides with the ridgeline, from which narrow valleys descend in the northeast-southwest direction.

The critical points of the defense were the coastal plains and mountain passes through which traverse important highways, most important of them Highway 65 with Futa Pass between Florence and Bologna. These roads and mountain passes were heavily fortified with concrete bunkers housing artillery and heavy machine guns and mortars and buried tank turrets and anti-tank ditches.

Every kind of obstacles were utilized. Bridges and tunnels were destroyed. Trees were cut and buildings blown up to create obstacles on the roads. Also, large areas of country were flooded.

On the mountains were dug thousands of trenches and bunkers, destined to contain soldiers watching every route, from the important highway to the most narrow path, works of many configuration, from long entrenchments for stopping troops, pillboxes, dug-in round emplacements for artillery and mortars, fox holes in the top of mountains for observers, tunnels for deposit of ammunition, men and materials.

Several months before attack, the "Todt Organization" began work on this enormous construction. Initially the Todt Organization consisted of paid civilian workers but later in the war, they used forced labor taken from occupied countries throughout Europe.

The Gothic Line was constructed with strong-points providing fire covering each other against approaches from any direction. Upon inspection, it appears that the orientation was wrong. However, the Germans had to build the defenses months before they had a clear idea of the direction the Allies would attack.

In the case of "Caposaldo Torricella" three strong-points that stopped forward progress of 133rd regiment for days were: Montetiglioli Ridge, Stancalasino Hill, and Torricella Hill.

Typical strong-points included forward trenches for heavy weapons dug into the steep mountain sides: covered with large timbers and stones with narrow windows for weapons and often with bunkers deep in stone, small pillboxes for 1 or 2 men to protects flanks, ground beyond and around mined and wired. At the shoulders of entrenchments, protected from ballistic trajectories we found mortars, places with deposits of ammunition, and shelter for personnel.

This kind of defense was most difficult to defeat. Usually an attack was preceded with heavy bombing of entire area and then followed by a moving attack of infantrymen. The defenders sprang from their shelters and occupied trenches and covered Americans with their fire.

The battles usually required close hand-to-hand combat between Germans and Americans, often in stiff assaults and counter attacks with hand grenades and using unusual weapons like flame throwers and chemical mortars.

The Battle of Hill 810: The Opposed Forces

Germany:

"Grenadier-Regiment 754", 334th Infantry Division

334th Infantry Division was composed of:

History:

The original 334th Division fought in Northern Africa integrated in a French Republic of Vichy unit known as "Phalange Africaine". Surrounded by English forces in Tunisia, it surrendered on May 8, 1943.

The new 334th Infantry Division was re-mustered in southern France in July 1943. From November 1943 it was under command of Generalleutnant Hellmuth Böhlke and assigned to Army Group "C" in Italian front. Fought at Cassino and around the Allied beach head of Anzio. Withstood heavy defensive actions the entire length of the Peninsula, Gothic Line and defense of Bologna too. Remained engaged continuously until late April 1945 when it was finally decimated in Po Valley.

United States:

"133rd Infantry Regiment", 34th Infantry Division 'Red Bulls'
Nominal strength: 3,258 men

The regiment was structured with:

History:

The Regiment, an Iowa National Guard Unit, was inducted into Federal Service as part of 34th Infantry Division. After 1942 training in Northern Ireland, it first entered combat in Algeria where it encountered the 21st Panzer Division at Fondouk Pass in Tunisia.
- On 22 September 1943 the Regiment landed in Salerno, crossed the Volturno River three times, and played a leading role in battle of Cassino and Anzio. Entered in Rome and followed Highway 1 to Rosignano near Leghorn where it was inspected by Prime Minister W. Churchill.
- 9 September 1944 attacked GOTHIC line north of Florence.
- 24 Sept. captured Montepiano and passed the winter months in Apennine Mountains.
- During the advance in April 1945, the regiment advanced through Bologna, Modena, Biella, Varese.
- From July until October 1945, it served as Military Government support in Trieste and Venezia Giulia, under British XIII Corps.
- Col. William Schildroth lead this regiment until 17 Sept 1944 when he was killed near Mangona. He was awarded the Italian Valor Medal for the liberation of Rome.

Gothic Line: The Advance from Legri to Montepiano

Sunday Sept. 10, 1944 - 133rd Regiment leaves Legri with battalions abreast and, crosses "Le Croci", begins advance on east flank of Monte Maggiore ridge. The first casualties are reported while the Partisans assist the medical personnel to guide ambulances.
Monday Sept. 11, 1944 - Vanguard patrols trespass Sofignano and take position in sight of Montecuccoli, where some enemy entrenchments are cleared. A downed American aviator is freed after hiding with friendly civilians for two months.
Tuesday Sept. 12, 1944 - Battalions conquer terrain, but are often entrapped in large minefields covered by machine gun fire. Some civilians who were forced by Germans to lay the mines guide troops around them. Forward patrols reach Figliule, Doganaccia and Rimaggiori.
Wednesday sept. 13, 1944 - German resistance increase and sometimes is also fanatic. Aerial reconnaissance discovers strongpoints that are heavily shelled.
Thursday Sept. 14, 1944 - Often troops are engaged in close fights. Germans are nested in deep tunnels protected with wire and traps. The German counterattack with 200 men; shouting and firing indiscriminately, they "run and fall over their own dead".
Friday Sept. 15, 1944 - The entire mountain ridge over S. Margherita is shelled by artillery and mortars at 1200 rounds per day.
Saturday Sept. 16, 1944 - Entire day passes between attacks and counterattacks to get Hill 769 Montetiglioli, Hill 662 Torricella Pass, and Hill 731 Segnale Soda.
Sunday Sept. 17, 1944 - The Germans have the commanding ground with excellent observation from this point. It is believed that in this position they also have deep bunkers where men and materials are well protected. At 2115, the Commander of 133rd Regiment, Col. William S. Schildroth, is killed by mines in the vicinity of S. Margherita.
Monday Sept. 18, 1944 - During the day, positions are won and lost many times.
Tuesday Sept. 19, 1944 - The bloody siege to secure both strongpoints continues. German positions are heavily fortified as in Cassino.
Wednesday Sept. 20 1944 -, The Americans spent the night in narrow trenches to protect from continuous mortar fire. Then slowly the soldiers begin to advance on their objectives. There is some protest of casualties due to friendly fire from artillery.
Thursday Sept. 21, 1944 - During the night a strong patrol is organized to disrupt the Germans that are beginning to show signs of fatigue and demoralization. Assault begins at 0620 and at 1840 hours both hills are secure in American hands.
Friday 22 Sept. 1944 - The front is broken and 133rd Regiment reaches Crocetta Pass and Prati Farm.
Saturday 23 Sept. 1944 - Town of Risubbiani is reached under fire. The Regiment takes place in Montepiano. Tanks are launched in direction of Castiglione to save bridge of Rasora.
133rd Regiment passes into Division Reserve.

The Battle of Hill 810: Chronology

14 Sept. 1944 - Regimental Forward Command is placed in S. Margherita. 1st Battalion is sent to take hill 791, Torricella, aerial observation reports that Hill 810 and Hill 807 are heavily fortified as a strongpoint. Companies A and B are then sent to Terenzana to attack hills from East, while 2nd Battalion is sent to Montetiglioli Ridge to increase pressure from South.
15 Sept. 1944 - The Regimental artillery fires 15 minute concentrations of 10 rounds per minute against the positions all the day long and at 1705, both Battalions jump off, but little terrain is obtained. Company G takes Hill 972 at 2150 and Company B reaches Terenzana at 2115. 3rd Battalion takes the Mangona - Barberino route which, however, is still under fire.
16 Sept. 1944 - At daylight, some elements of Company G takes Hill 662, Torricella Pass, but the whole front is blocked; units are engaged in fierce fighting everywhere.
17 Sept. 1944 - Battalions begin to attack with help of 168th Regiment that beats with its fire east slopes. of hill 807. At 1300 Hill 810 is taken by 1st Battalion, but immediate German counterattack pushes Americans down hill. An immediate attack is organized and at 1615, Hill 810 is again in the hands of 1st Battalion.
18 Sept. 1944 - All units are engaged during the whole day but they continue to hold their positions. Many fights happen in side narrow valleys to avoid reciprocal encircling. 1st Battalion again loses control of Hill 810.
19 Sept. 1944 - After a rolling barrage, riflemen advance at 0430 and by 0515 their first objectives are reached and a great quantity of exhausted German soldiers are captured. But Hill 810 is an excellent observatory and Germans are still in possession of it.
20 Sept. 1944 - Due to casualties, Companies A and B join for an attack along with Company C, while 3rd Battalion will cover them from Hill 791. Excellent results are obtained with flame throwers and phosphorous projectiles that is used against entrenched troops with infantry weapons.
Under a light rain, attack begins at 0420 and at 0540 Company A/B capture the house at Hill 748 while the rest of Battalion pushes to Hill 810. Tanks and Tank Destroyers succeed to remount the trail from hill 662 and knocked out defenses on Hill 810 and capture it again. Night passes comparatively quiet until 0445 when elements occupying Hill 810 are counterattacked and are obliged to retreat to Hill 791.
21 Sept. 1944 - Troops reorganize and at 0830 the Companies jump off to advance but are immediately stopped by artillery fire from their back, Cardeto. 2nd Battalion is ordered to send strong patrols to clean that pocket of resistance. By early afternoon, Company A/B progress is halted as they are entrapped in a wide minefield and barbed wire on east slopes of hill 807. But by 1940 both Hill 807 and 810 are secured in American hands.
22 Sept. 1944 - Germans are beaten and "Gothic Line" is broken, 133rd Regiment continues along the trail to Montepiano.

The Trail to Vernio and Montepiano

After the lose of Prato on 6th September 1944, the Germans moved into the mountains above the Bisenzio valley. In their wake, they left a path of destruction and violence.

The hills on the west line, from Montemurlo to Migliana and Cantagallo, were taken by the advance of the South African 6th Armoured Divsion, who fought against the mountain jaeger troops.

Calvana Ridge on the west side, saw the advance of 133rd Infantry Regiment of U.S. 34th "Red Bulls" Division. From 10th of September, this regiment fought against the 754th Infantry Regiment of 334th Infantry Division hidden in strong position on the slopes west of Futa Pass.

On 23rd September, the last difficult strongpoint in the vicinity of Torricella di S. Quirico was captured with the fall of Hill 810. Patrols of 2nd Battalion of 133rd were sent to Vernio along a trail of Gallo trying to join with troops of 91st Reconnaissance Troop. They soon returned and reported that the town was empty and no contact with any Allied troops was made.

The same day, the 3rd Battalion descended through Canturato and Risubbiani under fire of German rear units and proceeded into Montepiano. They immediately sent patrols north to watch the bridge that Wehrmacht engineers had not time to blow up. Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion entered the southern part of Montepiano from the suburb of Mezzana.

At 1500, Regimental Commander Col. Gustav J. Brown arrives at Montepiano and immediately sends the tanks of the 133rd in the direction of Castiglione dei Pepoli to test resistance of Germans and secure the Rasora bridge.

A platoon of Company F was sent south to S. Quirico and Vernio and reported back that no enemy are found and the route is quite intact and passable for peeps all the way.

A patrol was ordered to contact elements of the South African 6th Armoured Division and they met near the town of Luciana.

The 133rd Regiment was pulled out of the line and moved to Division Reserve for much needed rest. However, due to a stiff German bombing, the retirement of the three battalions were delayed.

Beginning on 24th September, soldiers could finally have a time to rest and clean themselves and their equipments. New items of winter clothing are issued and some modest entertainment is provided that included picture shows and concerts by the Division Military Band.

In a very impressive ceremony on the 26th, Major General Charles L. Bolte, the 34th Infantry Division Commanding General, presented several decorations to Regiment personnel.

A tribute to the 133rd Regiment is that they paid the highest cost of the Regiment in such a short time while attacking Gothic Line; 91 KIA and 452 WIA. They captured 353 enemy during this same period.

On 28th September, the 133rd Regiment was transferred to Montecarelli where they re-entered the front line on the 30th. When they arrived in open trucks, the troops were wet to the bone from the cold rain and very high winds.


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