MONTE CASSINO: Ten Armies in Hell

By Martin, R. Scott | Military Review, March/April 2015 | Go to article overview

MONTE CASSINO: Ten Armies in Hell


Martin, R. Scott, Military Review


MONTE CASSINO: Ten Armies in Hell Peter Caddick- Adams, Oxford University Press, New York, 2013, 432 pages

Peter Caddick- Adams has produced a well- documented and well-researched history of the four-month battle for Monte Cassino during World War II, which ultimately cost the Allies more than 200,000 casualties. He articulates the strategic importance the town of Cassino during the Italian campaign as a major crossroad the Allies needed for their advance to Rome. As the title infers, CaddickAdams details the horrific experiences faced by Field Marshal Kesselring, the commander of German forces in Italy, and Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, the Allied commander of Fifth Army-comprised of forces from the United States, Great Britain, and the British Commonwealth as well as Free French, Italian, and Polish divisions- and what the combatants encountered during each phase of the battle.

The author vividly describes the mountainous terrain, weather, and logistical challenges faced by both armies and how the conditions impacted the battle. Numerous firsthand accounts by soldiers and commanders from both sides reveal the inhumane conditions, reminiscent of the trench warfare during World War I. To take advantage of the terrain, German engineers invested extensive resources to build six separate lines of defense across the width of the Italian peninsula. The intent was to hold the Allies south of Rome following the Allied landings at Salerno.

The Allied commanders, led by Clark, believed the key to breaking the German defenses and liberating Rome was through Cassino. In a two-pronged approach, the U.S. VI Corps landed at Anzio, approximately 38 miles south of Rome, in January 1944, to coincide with the attack of the U.S. Fifth Army s drive through Cassino. …

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