Friday, June 19, 2015


The final Western Allied offensive of the Italian campaign (1943–1945) was conducted down the Po Valley by 15th Army Group, led by Field Marshal Harold Alexander. British 8th Army was led by Lieutenant General Oliver Leese . He faced wholly immobile but veteran units in German Army Group C, under command of General Heinrich von Vietinghoff. The Germans had no air cover but were still given a “stand and fight” Haltebefehl order by Adolf Hitler. The British began with a daring commando assault. They forced a path around Lake Comacchio from April 9, thence through the Argenta Gap toward Ferrara. British 8th Army was supported from April 15 by a second powerful attack made by U.S. 5th Army under Lieutenant General Lucian Truscott. The main British and American advances were supported by Brazilian and South African troops, among others. U.S. forces included a unit of Japanese Americans from the 442d Regimental Combat Team. All Western Allied troops enjoyed overwhelming artillery and air superiority. Truscott shifted the axis of advance to take advantage of collapsing German positions, even “bouncing” the Po with an improvised fleet of small boats and river ferries. He broke through the Adige Line before the bewildered Germans could properly man it. It took just over a week for the Western Allied armies to link and encircle what was left of Army Group C. In rapid succession, Bologna, Ferrara, Genoa, Milan, and Venice were liberated. All German forces in Italy surrendered on April 29, effective at 12:00 hours on May 2.


Following the Cassino battle, the 2nd Polish Corps took part in the drive up the Adriatic Coast, capturing Ancona on 20July 1944 and Bologna in April 1945. The 2nd Corps was almost withdrawn from the Senio-Bologna fighting as news of the Yalta accords spread. It was becoming clear that the American and British governments had acceded to Soviet territorial demands. As many of the soldiers of 2nd Corps came from the contested eastern provinces, bitter rage swept the divisions. Their sacrifices and suffering through five years of war seemed all for nothing. Honouring their commitments, they took part in the final phases of the Italian campaign, but with a heavy heart. Like the Dombrowski Legion, which had fought in Italy during the Napoleonic Wars, they would not know the joy of marching back into their homeland.

No comments:

Post a Comment