The Battles of Monte Cassino: The Campaign and Its Controversies

By Glyn Harper; John Tonkin-Covell | Go to book overview

3
War Crime or Military
Necessity? The Bombing
of Monte Cassino Abbey

Sooner or later … somebody’s going to have
to blow that place all to hell.1

In a campaign that has generated so much argument and acrimony, the destruction of the Benedictine abbey on Monte Cassino in February 1944 ranks as one of the most controversial events of the war. The military theorist and historian J.C.F. Fuller was damning in his criticism of the event, denouncing the bombing of the monastery as ‘not so much a piece of vandalism as an act of sheer tactical stupidity’. It was confirmation that, ‘as in the years 1915–17, tactical imagination was petrified’.2 John Ellis judged the bombing to be a poor military decision, and two American historians have recently claimed that it was ‘one of the most inexcusable bombings of the war’.3 This chapter analyses whether these harsh judgements are, in fact, justified. It outlines why the difficult decision was taken to destroy such a culturally significant monument, and it assesses who was ultimately responsible for an act that would now be regarded as a

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The Battles of Monte Cassino: The Campaign and Its Controversies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Operation Codenames xiv
  • List of Maps xvi
  • Introduction xvii
  • 1 - The Four Cassino Battles- An Overview 1
  • 2 - The Anzio Magnet 28
  • 3 - War Crime or Military Necessity? the Bombing of Monte Cassino Abbey 35
  • 4 - Climbing the Flagpole- Lieutenant General Mark Clark, Part 1 57
  • 5 - Masters of the Air? Part 1 77
  • 6 - The Melting Point- Alex and the Generals 99
  • 7 - Masters of the Air? Part 2 134
  • 8 - Hero or Bum? Lieutenant General Mark Clark, Part 2 168
  • 9 - The Other Side of the Hill- The Germans at Monte Cassino 195
  • 10 - A Mighty Coalition? 208
  • Select Bibliography 247
  • Notes 252
  • Index 281
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