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Tactics in
Fading Legions




Bombing Cassino
By Dave Murray
December 2012

“I don’t know how a monastery can be evil, but it was looking at you. It was all-devouring, if you like — a sun-bleached colour, grim. It had a terrible hold on us soldiers. I don’t think I was convinced that the Germans were firing from there, but it was such a wonderful observation post.” Sergeant Evens of the 2nd London Irish, 78th Division.

At around 0930 on 15 February 1944, the Germans stationed around Monte Cassino began to hear the drone of Allied aircraft approaching. It was not long before they realised the intended target. One hundred thirty-five B-17 Flying Fortresses dropped 287 tons of 500-lb bombs and 66 tons of 100-lb incendiaries in and around the monastery, which had stood undisturbed for centuries. Following the B-17s were 47 B-25 Mitchells and 40 B-26 Marauder medium bombers, dropping a further 140 tons of high explosive.

As soon as the bombers had dropped their last bombs the artillery opened up with a sustained barrage on the ruins.

The monastery was quickly shrouded in smoke and dust that took several hours to fully clear. Allied troops cheered the bombers but the Germans were baffled — they had not stationed any troops within the monastery.

The effect of the bombing is still a controversial issue and subject to much debate. A German officer, Lt. Daiber, said it was “as if the mountain had disintegrated, shaken by a giant hand.”

New Zealander Brick Lorimer said it was “soul-destroying to watch. . . . [T]he realisation settled on us finally what we were here for, and it was essentially a sad time.”

Eric Smith, a Gurkha officer, wrote in his diary: “The Allied air forces bomb the monastery. Awe-inspiring to watch. It is now shrouded in dust. There was no opposition from the Germans, no anti-aircraft fire. I suppose you could call the monastery another tragic casualty of war.”

In spite of the tremendous spectacle of the bombing, the monastery’s external walls and gatehouse were not breached at ground level. The bombing had caused some casualties to the German units located around the monastery. Many Italian civilians sheltering in the monastery were killed and wounded, as well as about 40 men of the allied Indian division.

Peter McIntyre, Bombing of Cassino Monastery and town, May 1944.

Within hours of the bombing the Germans had occupied the monastery and quickly turned it into the veritable fortress the Allies had always feared. It would be a further three months of intense fighting before the Allies finally took possession of it.

In Panzer Grenadier: Cassino ’44 — Gateway to Rome you can replay the battles of this famous campaign. Can you as the Americans capture Cassino monastery before there is even consideration of bombing the historic building? Or as the New Zealand II Corps can you take better advantage of the bombing than they did historically? As the German player you can decide what part the monastery takes in your defensive plans.

Film footage on the bombing of Cassino is freely available on the YouTube. Only the film footage does justice to the ferocity of the bombing raid.

Order Panzer Grenadier: Cassino '44 now!