Battle of Ortona
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Ortona
Italian Campaign (World War II)
caption=Canadian Armour Passing Through Ortona, by Dr. Charles Fraser Comfort. Canadian War Museum (CN 12245).
December 20, 1943to December 28, 1943[http://www.wwii.ca/page44.html Canada at War website: Battle of Ortona] ]
casualties1=Canadian 1375 dead
964 woundedZuehlke, Mark, "Ortona Canada's Epic WWII Battle". These Canadian casualty figures cover the whole of the period of "Bloody December" when the Canadians came into the front line for the crossing of the Moro river, not just those sustained in the fighting for the town itself. The numbers are not entirely consistent with other sources: Allied casualties (mainly Canadian) during the eight days fighting for the town (including support units etc.) were 650 killed, wounded and missing (including losses to the Loyal Edmonton Regiment of 172 casualties, including 63 killed; the Seaforth Highlanders 103, including 41 killed) according to: cite web|author= Landry, Pierre| editor=Beauregard, Marc| url=http://www.junobeach.org/e/2/can-eve-rod-ita-ort-e.htm| title=Juno Beach Center: The Capture of Ortona| year=2003| accessdate=2007-09-27. According to cite web| url=http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/mediawiki-1.5.5/index.php?title=Ortona| title=Canadiansoldiers.com: Ortona| accessdate=2007-09-27 casualties for Canadian 1st Infantry Division in December (including 1st Brigade's crossing of the Moro, 2nd Brigade's fighting in the town and 3rd Brigade's attempted outflanking attack) totalled 4,206 including 695 killed.]
casualties2=German? 1300 civilian deaths [Zuehlke, Mark, "Ortona Canada's Epic WWII Battle"]
The Battle of Ortona (
December 20, 1943to December 28, 1943) was a small, yet extremely fierce, battle fought between German Fallschirmjäger(paratroops) of the German 1st Parachute Divisionunder Generalleutnant Richard Heidrich, and assaulting Canadian forces from the 1st Canadian Infantry Divisionunder Major General Chris Vokes. It was the culmination of the fighting on the Adriatic front in Italy during "Bloody December" and was considered among Canada's greatest achievements during the war.
The battle, dubbed "Little Stalingrad" for the deadliness of its close-quarters combat, took place in the small
Adriatic Seatown of Ortona, with its peacetime population of 10,000.
The Eighth Army's offensive on the
Winter Linedefences east of the Apennine mountainshad commenced on November 23with the crossing of the river Sangro. By the end of the month the main Gustav Line defences had been penetrated and the Allied troops were fighting their way forward to the next river, the Moro, four miles north of the mouth of which lay Ortona. For the Moro crossing in early December the exhausted British 78th Infantry Divisionon the Allied right flank on the Adriatic coast had been relieved by Canadian 1st Infantry Division. [Zuehlke (1999), p. 14] By mid December, after fierce fighting in the cold, wet and mud the Division's 1st Infantry Brigade had fought its way to within two miles of Ortona and was relieved by 2nd Infantry Brigade for the advance on the town.
Ortona was of high strategic importance, as it was one of Italy's few usable deep water ports on the east coast, and was needed for docking allied ships and so shorten Eighth Army's lines of supply which at the time stretched back to
Bariand Taranto. In Farley Mowat's book "And No Birds Sang" it can be seen, however, that because of Autumn and Winter rains, the land away from the built up areas was nearly impassable, even by foot. Allied forces were ordered to maintain the offensive, and going through the built up areas in and around Ortona was the only feasible option. Ortona was part of the Winter Linedefence system and the Germans had constructed a series of skilfully designed interlocking defensive positions in the town. This, together with the fact that the Germans had been ordered to "fight for every last house and tree". [Farley Mowat, "And No Birds Sang".] [Zuehlke (2001), p. 160] made the town a formidable obstacle to any attacking force.
The Canadians faced elements of the renowned
German 1st Parachute Division. These soldiers were battle-hardened after many years of war, and were ordered by Hitlerto defend Ortona at any cost.
The initial Canadian attack on the town was made on
20 Decemberby Canadian 2nd Brigade's Loyal Edmonton Regimentwith elements of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canadaunder command. [Zuehlke (2001), p. 160] Meanwhile elements of the division's 3rd Infantry Brigade launched a northerly attack to the west of the town in attempt to outflank and cut off the town's rear communications but made slow progress because of the difficult terrain and the skilful and determined German defence.
In the town itself, the Germans had placed various barricades and left rubble strewn throughout the narrow side streets surrounding the Piazza Municipale. The only available route for the Canadian
tanks was through the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which was heavily mined and trapped; traps would serve the Germans with deadly efficiency during the eight days of fighting. [Bercuson, p. 175]
The Germans also concealed various
machine guns and anti-tankemplacements throughout the town, making movement by armour and infantry increasingly difficult. [Bercuson, p. 175] The house to house fighting was vicious and the Canadians made use of a new tactic: " mouse-holing".
This tactic involved using weapons such as the
PIAT(or even cumbersome anti-tank guns) to breach the walls of a building, as houses within Ortona shared adjoining walls. [Bercuson, p. 175] The soldiers would then throw in grenades and assault through the mouse holes, clearing the top floors and making their way down, where both adversaries struggled in repeated close-quarters combat. [Zuehlke (2001), p. 160] Mouse-holing was also used to pierce through walls into adjoining rooms, sometimes catching enemy troops by surprise. The tactic would be used repeatedly as assaulting through the streets inflicted heavy casualties on Canadian troops. Later, in a particularly deadly incident, a German demolished an entire house packed with Canadian soldiers; only one soldier survived. [Zuehlke (1999), p. 343] The Canadians retaliated by demolishing another building on top of two German platoons, wiping them out.
After six days of intense combat, 2nd Brigade's third battalion,
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, joined the battle together with tanks from 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade's Three Rivers Regiment("Régiment de Trois-Rivières").
On December 28th, after eight days of fighting, the depleted German troops, who lacked reinforcements, finally withdrew from the town. The Canadians suffered 1,375 dead in the fighting in and around Ortona, almost a quarter of all Canadians killed during the Italian Campaign.
Italian Campaign (World War II)
Battle of Groningen
*cite book|first=Farley| last=Mowat| authorlink=Farley Mowat|title=And No Birds Sang|publisher=McClelland & Stewart|year=1979|isbn= 978-0771066184|pages=219 pages
*cite book|last=Zuehlke| first=Mark |year=1999|title=Ortona Canada's Epic WWII Battle|location=Vancouver| publisher=Douglas & McIntyre| isbn=1-55054-557-4
* [http://www.ortona.ca/ Remembering Ortona - 65th Anniversary]
* [http://www.italiancampaign.ca Ortona and the Italian Campaign - 65th Anniversary]
* [http://www.wwii.ca/page44.html The Battle of Ortona - Complete overview, video / audio and a large picture gallery.]
* [http://www.cdnmilitary.ca/ortona/index.htm CdnMilitary.ca Battle of Ortona website for Veterans Week 2004]
* [http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/ortona/ CBC history on the Battle of Ortona]
* [http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0005994 Canadian Encyclopedia Entry]
* [http://www.lonesentry.com/articles/ortona/index.html How the Enemy Defended the Town of Ortona (U.S. intelligence report)]
* [http://www.junobeach.org/e/2/can-eve-rod-ita-ort-e.htm Juno Beach center: Ortona]
* [http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/mediawiki-1.5.5/index.php?title=Ortona#German_Tactics canadiansoldiers.com article on Ortona]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Ortona — Comune Città di Ortona A view of Ortona from the sea … Wikipedia
Battle of Kapyong — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Battle of the Kapyong partof=Korean War caption= date=22 April 25 April, 1951 place=Gapyeong County, South Korea result=Decisive United Nations victory combatant1=flag|United Nations *flag|South Korea *USA… … Wikipedia
Battle of Monte Cassino — Part of World War II, Italian Campaign Ruins of Cassino town after the battle … Wikipedia
Battle of Groningen — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Battle of Groningen partof=North West Europe Campaign (World War II) caption=Canadian troops in action at Groningen. date=April 14, 1945 to April 18, 1945 place=Groningen, Netherlands territory= result=Canadian… … Wikipedia
Operation Diadem order of battle — v · … Wikipedia
Operation Grapeshot order of battle — v · … Wikipedia
Moro River Campaign order of battle — v · … Wikipedia
Moro River Campaign — Part of Italian Campaign (World War II) Riflemen of the 48th Highlande … Wikipedia
The Moro River Campaign — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Moro River Campaign partof=Italian Campaign (World War II) caption=Riflemen of the 48th Highlanders of Canada take cover during German counterattack north of San Leonardo, December 101943 date=December 1943… … Wikipedia
The Royal Canadian Regiment — Infobox Military Unit unit name= The Royal Canadian Regiment caption= Regimental cypher of The Royal Canadian Regiment dates=December 21, 1883 country=Canada allegiance= branch=Land Command type= Line infantry role= Light Infantry (one battalion) … Wikipedia