The harshness that became the four battles of Cassino occurring in Italy from January through May 1944 represented the difficulty facing the Allies trying to take what had been described as the “soft underbelly of Europe.”

They had witnessed the successes at the fall of the island of Sicily and Salerno beachhead on the mainland, but ran into trouble as they began to encounter German defensive lines that slowed their advances into bloody slogs. In the early stages, capturing Rome was the goal, and the Allied armies coordinated their efforts to push through the remaining defensive lines and open a way to the city.

Problem was, the terrain before them gave as much trouble as the Germans, and limited their options to traversing such a large mechanized force through a narrow strait of land called the Liri valley. Twenty miles long and ten miles wide, the valley was edged by steep mountains of the Apennines to the north and Aurunci mountains to the south. Between these on the valley floor wound a road known as Highway 6, passing by a town named Cassino and leading on to Rome.

Monastery Atop Monte Cassino
Monastery Atop Monte Cassino

Overlooking the town, situated atop 1,700 foot Mont Cassino, was a multi-story Catholic monastery founded in A.D 529 by Saint Benedict of Nursia. The location provided a picturesque and unobstructed view across the valley.