- Battle of San Pietro Infine
"(For the John Huston film about this battle, see
The Battle of San Pietro.)"
"(For the battle in 1734, between Franco-Piedmontese and Austrian troops as part of the War of Polish Succession, see
Battle of San Pietro.)"Warbox
conflict=Battle of San Pietro Infine
World War II, Italian Campaign
caption=The Liri valley with Mt. Sambùcaro overlooking the modern town of San Pietro Infine (left) and ruins of the original town (center).
Dec 8, 1943– Dec 17, 1943
San Pietro Infine, Italy
commander1=flagicon|United States|1912 Mark Clark
The Battle of San Pietro Infine (commonly referred to as the "Battle of San Pietro") was a major engagement from 8–17 December, 1943, in the Italian Campaign of
World War IIinvolving Allied Forces attacking from the south against heavily fortified positions of the German " Winter Line" in and around the town of San Pietro Infine, just south of Monte Cassino about halfway between Naples and Rome. The eventual Allied victory in the battle was crucial in the ultimate drive to the north to liberate Rome. The battle is also remembered as the first in which the troops of the Italian Royal Army fought as co-belligerents of the Allies following the armistice with Italy. The original town of San Pietro Infine was destroyed in the battle; the modern, rebuilt town of the same name is located a few hundred meters away (coord|41|26|40|N|13|57|31|E).
North Africa and Sicily
Allied invasion of Italyfrom the south followed the Allied successes in North Africa. Eighth Army's advance from the east following the Second Battle of El Alameinand the British-American invasion of in Operation Torchhad led by May 1943 to the surrender of Axis forces in Africa.
The Germans retreated to the island of Sicily and on the night of 9–10 July 1943, an Allied armada of 2,590 vessels launched one of the largest combined operations of World War II — the invasion of Sicily. Over the next five weeks, half a million Allied soldiers, sailors, and airmen fought German and Italian forces for control of the island. Although the Allied powers were victorious, the Axis managed to evacuate over 100,000 men and 10,000 vehicles from Sicily across the
Straits of Messinaduring the first seventeen days in August. The Allies then invaded the Italian mainland in September 1943 at Salerno, in Calabria("Operation Baytown") and Taranto(" Operation Slapstick").
September 8, before the main invasion, the surrender of Italy to the Allies was announced. Italian units ceased combat, and the Italian navy sailed to Allied ports to surrender. This changed the German defensive strategy greatly, and the Germans now regarded their former allies as enemies and moved to disarm Italian units and occupy important defensive positions. The invasion at Salerno was ultimately successful and Allied forces took nearby Naples on October 1. German forces then withdrew to the north towards Rome and dug in along a series of well-fortified lines. By late 1943 fighting had reached the Winter Line.
German commander, General
Albert Kesselringhad marked out the "Winter Line" as three parallel defensive systems to the south of Rome. The defensives lines were called the Reinhard Line, Gustav Lineand Hitler Line, placed convert|18|km|mi one from the other, taking advantage of the point at which the Italian Peninsula is narrowest; they served as a formidable series of obstacles in the path of the Allied march towards Rome. The Reinhard was the southernmost of the three and was the German fall-back position from the Barbara Lineand Volturno Linefurther to the south as German forces retreated gradually up the peninsula. (The Reinhard was also called the Bernhardt Line.) The Reinhard was actually a southern bulge in the stronger Gustav line to the north. On the eastern side, the Reinhard went from the Sangro River to the Adriatic Sea(along which length it was identical to the Gustav Line); then, in the west, it bulged south from Cassino to incorporate the mountains overlooking the approaches to the Liri Valley and then moved west to the mouth of the Garigliano River. The line passed directly through the town of San Pietro Infine, blocking the Mignano Gap, the pass through which Route 6, the main road up the center of Italy from Naplesto Rome, ran towards Cassino and the entrance to the Liri valley.
The Germans occupied San Pietro in September, 1943, to prepare the defenses. They evacuated all non-essential Italians from the town, meaning women, children and old men; they conscripted able-bodied men to help set up the defenses and requisitioned available vehicles and beasts of burden [Zambardi, pp. 18-21.] . They set up a defensive apparatus in the whole territory, in particular on Mount Sambúcaro [This name usually appears as "Sammucro" on Allied military maps of the period.] and Mount Lungo, which overlooked the Mignano Gap. These were strategically important positions because they allowed the control of the long stretch of route 6, important for the advance of the Allies. The Fifth Army began to attack the Reinhard/Bernhardt Line on
5 November 1943, and the attacks continued into December.
The Battle of San Pietro was preceded by Allied attacks on the Camino hill mass at the entrance to the Mignano Gap (named for the small town on the road at that point). The entire hill mass is about convert|10|km|mi long and convert|6|km|mi wide. After that, the main Allied effort was against the German defenses on Mount Sambùcaro and Mount Lungo, which dominated the narrow valley on the east and west respectively. As a point of historical interest, the assault on Mount Lungo was aided for the first time by the 1st Italian Motorized Group ["Fifth Army at the Winter Line", p.47] , part of the recently reconstituted Italian army, now fighting on the side of the Allies.
The direct attack on the German positions in and around San Pietro began on
December 8by II Corps of the Fifth Army. The positions were defended by the second and third battalions of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Regiment and the second battalion of the 71st Panzer Grenadier Regiment, ["Fifth Army at the Winter Line", p. 48 (Map 16)] all part of German Tenth Army's XIV Panzer Corps.
After a week of intense attacks and counter-attacks the US 36th Division's 143rd Infantry Regiment and the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment commanded the heights of the Sambùcaro mass. The US 36th Division, then planned a further effort for
15 December. 143rd Infantry assisted by 504th PIB would continue to push west along the shoulders of Sambùcaro and take San Vittorio del Lazio while to the south of Route 6 142nd Infantry Regiment supported by the Italian 1st Mororized Group were to capture Mount Lungo. In the center 141st Infantry would attack San Pietro itself. The main attack of the 36th Division started at 1200 on 15 December. After four successive Allied attacks and German counter-attacks, the Germans pulled back from San Pietro since the dominating ground on both flanks, Mount Lungo and the Sambùcaro peaks, was now in II Corps' possession. The Germans launched a counter-attack on December 16to cover their withdrawal as they retreated to positions farther north at Cedro Hill, Mount Porchia, San Vittore, and the western spurs of Sambúcaro. ["Fifth Army at the Winter Line", pp. 53–65.]
The Battle of San Pietro was part of the overall campaign to breach the Bernhardt/Reinhard Line, some convert|10|km|mi deep at that point. It took six weeks of heavy fighting--from early November to late December--to overcome the German defenses. During that time, the Fifth Army sustained 16,000 casualties [Majdalany. p.30] . The highway through the Mignano Gap to the Liri Valley was nicknamed "Death Valley" by members of the attacking force. The battle destroyed the town of San Pietro Infine completely. Destruction was wrought by a combination of close combat, both Allied and German mortar and artillery, and German "scorched earth" policy. Both the battle and the plight of the civilian population have inspired numerous accounts, most famous of which is the John Huston film "
The Battle of San Pietro".
By mid-January the Fifth Army had reached the formidable Gustav Line defenses and commenced the first Battle of Monte Cassino, which started on
January 17, 1944.
Italian Campaign (World War II)
Allied invasion of Italy
Fifth United States Army
36th Infantry Division (United States)
European Theatre of World War II
* D'Este, Carlo, "Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome". 1991 ISBN 0-06-092148-X
* " [http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/wwii/winterline/winter-fm.htm Fifth Army at the Winter Line (15 November 1943-15 January 1944)] ". Center of Military History, United States Army. (1990) . First printed in 1945 by the Historical Division, War Department, for the American Forces in Action series, 1945. CMH Pub 100-9.
* Grigg, John, "1943: The Victory that Never Was". ISBN 0-8217-1596-8
*cite book | author=Majdalany, Fred | title=Cassino: Portrait of a Battle | publisher=Longman, Green & Co Ltd., London | year=1957 | id=
* Muhm, Gerhard : "La Tattica tedesca nella Campagna d'Italia, in Linea Gotica avanposto dei Balcani", (Hrsg.) Amedeo Montemaggi - Edizioni Civitas, Roma 1993.
*Zambardi, Maurizio (2006). "War Memories; The ordeal of the civilians of San Pietro Infine during the Second World War". CDSC publications. Cassino.
* [http://www.army.mil/cmh/books/wwii/winterline/winter-fm.htm#cont Complete text of "Fifth Army at the Winter Line"] , the US War Department account of relevant operations.
* [http://www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/36division/archives/sanpiet/sanpietr.htm 36th Division in WWII, San Pietro] , site of the Texas military forces museum.
* [http://faculty.ed.umuc.edu/~jmatthew/naples/herman2.html Oral history account] of battles of San Pietro and Cassino.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Battle of San Pietro — (For the engagement during World War II, see Battle of San Pietro Infine; and the film about this battle, see The Battle of San Pietro.) Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Battle of San Pietro caption= partof=the War of the Polish Succession date … Wikipedia
San Pietro Infine — Infobox CityIT img coa = SanPietroInfine Stemma.gif img coa small=yes official name = Comune di San Pietro Infine name = San Pietro Infine region = Campania province = Caserta (CE) elevation m = area total km2 = 14.1 population as of = Dec.… … Wikipedia
The Battle of San Pietro — (For the actual World War II battle, see Battle of San Pietro Infine.) (For the battle in 1734, between Franco Piedmontese and Austrian troops as part of the War of Polish Succession, see Battle of San Pietro.) Infobox Film name = The Battle of… … Wikipedia
Battle of Monte Cassino — Part of World War II, Italian Campaign Ruins of Cassino town after the battle … Wikipedia
Bernhardt Line — Warbox conflict=Battle for the Bernhardt Line partof=World War II, Italian Campaign campaign= caption=The Liri valley with Mt. Sambùcaro overlooking the modern town of San Pietro Infine (left) and ruins of the original town (center).… … Wikipedia
Mignano Monte Lungo — Comune Comune di Mignano Monte Lungo … Wikipedia
List of World War II topics (B) — # B 17 Flying Fortress (video game) # B 17 Flying Fortress # B 17, Queen of the Skies # B 24 Liberator # B 29 Superfortress # B Reactor # Błyskawica radiostation # Błyskawica submachine gun # Børge Mathiesen # BA 10 # BA 11 # BA 20 # BA 21 # BA… … Wikipedia
Winter Line — The Winter Line was a series of German military fortifications in Italy, constructed during World War II by Organisation Todt. The main line of fortification, called the Gustav Line, ran across Italy from just north of where the Garigliano River… … Wikipedia
10th Army (Germany) — The 10th Army (German: 10. Armee ) was a World War II field army.The 10th Army was activated on August 6, 1939 with General Walter von Reichenau in command, first seeing service in Poland until October 10, 1939. It was then renamed 6th Army.A new … Wikipedia
Barbara Line — During World War II, the Barbara Line was a series of German military fortifications in Italy, some ten to twenty miles south of the Gustav Line, and a similar distance north of the Volturno Line. Near the eastern coast, it ran along the line of… … Wikipedia