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Bloody is the Fighting for the Ruins of Cassino

The War Illustrated, Volume 7, No. 178, Page 709, April 14, 1944.

In the streets and in the hills around Cassino, on March 29, 1944, the 5th Army were fighting with utmost gallantry against an enemy fanatically defending a position which, after weeks of battle, had on March 15, 1944, been pounded to a mass of rubble by our bombers and artillery in attacks of a scale unprecedented for a target of comparable size. Cassino, strategically placed and well adapted for defence, has long held up the Allied forces. Beyond it lies the road to Rome.

Chief among the German troops whose lives are daily being thrown away in its defence, are the men of the 1st Parachute Regiment, whom our Forces first encountered at Ortona, in Italy. There they put up a house-to-house defence when they were assailed by the 8th Army in December 1943. Now their numbers are dwindling and they are soldiers of a quality which cannot be replaced from the Nazi reserves.

In the words of one of our war correspondents in a recent cable home: "Dogged resistance and skill of concealment are part of the German parachutist's make-up. They are street-fighting specialists. Here are two examples of the kind of fight they put up: "One German unit was buried in a cellar on the day of the great Allied bombardment. It took them four days to extricate themselves. Instead of retiring exhausted, they set about building a strong-point in the rubble in which they had been buried... A New Zealand unit took 50 German prisoners from a house in Cassino. When they returned to the house after handing over their prisoners, they found another 50 Germans in possession."

Prolongation of the bitter fighting is due in large measure to lengthy tunnels deep beneath the town, some of these forming connexions between series of strongpoints among the rubble and all of them providing the Nazi troops with protection against even our heaviest bombardments.


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