Gustav line

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The various defense lines in 1943 (Gustav line in red)
A memorial to the Canadian fallen in Ortona
Canadian casualties of the Gustav Line in the Ortona military cemetery
British casualties of the Gustav Line in the "Torino di Sangro" military cemetery on the Sangro River

Gustav Line is the code name for an expanded German defense line in central Italy during World War II . After the Allies had landed in Salerno in southern Italy as part of their invasion of Italy on September 9, 1943 with Operation Avalanche , the German Wehrmacht withdrew to the north on the so-called "Gustav Line", about 100 kilometers south of Rome . This ran from the mouth of the Garigliano into the Tyrrhenian Sea upstream over the Monte Cassino to the headwaters of the Rapido at an altitude of almost 2000 meters, stretched over Roccaraso and the ridge of the Apennines to Casoli and ended on the Adriatic between Ortona and Vasto . It was only broken in May 1944 after long fighting.

The Gustav Line became famous through the battle of Monte Cassino . The battles for this line are considered the focal points of the fighting in Italy. The Gustav Line was only given up by the German troops after five months; they withdrew to a line of defense further north.

Battle for Ortona

In the eastern part of the defense line at Ortona, the 1st Canadian Infantry Division , the German 361 Panzer Grenadier Regiment and the paratroopers of the 1st Paratrooper Division under Colonel Herrmann and Lieutenant General Heidrich faced each other from October 1943 . The Canadians couldn't get through the first major battle, which lasted four days. At the beginning of December, the British 8th Army, led by British General Montgomery, came to the aid of the Canadians . Despite the use of large quantities of artillery , the superiority of the air and the support of the heaviest naval artillery from the sea on the part of the Allies, the next seven-day attack was repulsed by the German troops. The German defense bar around Ortona withstood further attacks until the end of December 1943. After Christmas, the British and Canadians invaded Ortona and after days of house-to-house fighting, much of the city was badly damaged.

The further advance of the Allies on the east side of the Gustav Line made slow progress, as the next step was to overcome the “Caesar Line” Rome – Pescara. Only when German Army Group C slowly retreated behind the 320-kilometer Apennine position in May 1944 could the cities on the central Adriatic be taken. Heavy fighting took place over Ancona and Bologna . The Apennine position was called the “Green Line” (also Gneisenau or Goten position or line); it extended from La Spezia in the west over the mountains of the Apennines to Rimini on the Adriatic coast in the east.

The Battle of Ortona is considered by the Canadian Army to be one of the greatest battles in its history. The fallen Canadians were buried in a military cemetery set up for them in January 1944 near Ortona. In this “Moro River Canadian War Cemetery” in the province of Chieti , around 1,400 Canadian soldiers, 170 British, 40 New Zealand and South African soldiers as well as 50 unknown soldiers are buried. In 1955, 20,057 German casualties were reburied from numerous small military cemeteries in the area in the German military cemetery Cassino , located about three kilometers north of the town of Cassino . 27,443 Wehrmacht soldiers who died during retreat battles and air strikes in the provinces of Pescara , Chieti and L'Aquila were buried in the German military cemetery in Pomezia (about 30 kilometers south-east of Rome).

Web links

Commons : Canadian War Cemetery  - Album containing pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : British War Cemetery  - Album containing pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : German military cemetery  - album with pictures, videos and audio files