Battle of Monte Castello

The Battle of Castle Hill was fought at the end of the Second World War, between the allied troops and the forces of the German Army, who tried to contain her breakthrough in Northern Italy. This battle marked the presence of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB) in conflict. The battle dragged on for three months, from 24 November 1944 to 21 February 1945, during which they carried out six attacks with large numbers of casualties due to several factors, including the extremely low temperatures. Four of the attacks were unsuccessful, due to failing strategy.

Operation

In November 1944, the 1st Expeditionary Infantry Division (EID) deviated from the front of the river Serchio, where there had been fighting at least two months ahead of the Rhine in the Apennines. General Mascarenhas de Moraes, had set up headquarters in the town of advanced-Porretta Terme, whose area was surrounded by mountains under control of the Germans, this perimeter had a radius of approximately 15 km.

The German positions were considered privileged and subjected Brazilians to constant surveillance, making any movement. Gave estimates that winter promised to be rigorous, and the intense cold, the rain turned the roads, already esburacas by Allied bombers in bogs.

General Mark Clark, commander of Allied Forces in Italy, intended to direct his march with the 4th Army Corps towards Bologna, before the first snows begin to fall. However, the position of Castle Hill is showing extremely important from a strategic standpoint, and dominated by the Germans gave full control over the region.

German forces

The Italian front was under the responsibility of Army Group C, under the command of Generaloberst Heinrich von Vietinghoff. To him were subordinate three German armies: 10th, 14th, and “Army of Liguria”, the latter defending the border with France. The 14th was composed by the 14th Panzer Corps and the 51st Corps Mountain. Within the 51 Corps was the 232nd Grenadier Division (Infantry), General Eccard Freiherr von Gablenz, a veteran of Stalingrad.

The 232nd was activated June 22, 1944, and consisted of convalescent veterans who were wounded on the Russian front and was classified as “Static Division”. Was composed of three infantry regiments (1043 º, 1044 º to 1045 º), each with only two battalions, plus a battalion of Marines (reconnaissance battalion) and an artillery regiment with 4 groups, and smaller units. This training totaled about 9,000 men. The old troop ranged between 17 and 40 years and younger and able soldiers were concentrated in the battalion of marines. During the final battle, it was reinforced by the 4th Battalion Mountain (Mittenwald), which was held in reserve. Veterans who defended this position did not have the same enthusiasm from the beginning of the war, but were still willing to fulfill his duty.

The attack

It would then be responsible for the Brazilians win the more combative of the entire Apennine front. But there was one problem: the 1st DIE was a troop still inexperienced enough to face a fight of this magnitude. But as the goal was to win Clark Bologna before Christmas, the way would be to learn in practice, ie in combat.

Accordingly, on November 24, the Reconnaissance Squadron and the 3rd Battalion of the 6th Infantry Regiment of the 1st DIE joined Task Force 45 U.S. for the first foray to Mount Castle.

On the second day of attacks everything indicated that the operation would be successful: American soldiers arrived to reach the summit of Mount Castle, after conquering the neighboring Mount Belvedere.

However, in a counteroffensive powerful men of the 232nd Infantry Division German, responsible for defense of Castle and Mount Della Torracia, regained the lost positions, forcing Brazilian soldiers and American to abandon the positions already conquered – with the exception of Mount Belvedere.

On November 29, it was planned to attack the 2nd lot. This counteroffensive training attack would almost entirely the work of the 1st DIE – with three battalions – with only the support of three platoons of American tanks. However, a fact unexpected happened on the eve of the investee jeopardize plans: the night of the 28th, the Germans had made on the counterattack against Mount Belvedere, taking the position of Americans and leaving uncovered the left flank of the allies.

DIE initially thought to postpone the attack, but the troops had already occupied their positions and thus the strategy was retained. At 7 o’clock a new attempt was made.

The weather showed up extremely severe: Rain and overcast skies prevented the support of the Air Force and mud practically precluded the participation of tanks. The grouping of General Zenóbio Coast earlier got a good start, but the German counter-attack was violent. German soldiers of 1.043 °, 1.044 ° and 1.045 ° infantry regiments barred the progress of the soldiers. In the late afternoon, the two battalions Brazilian back to square one.

On December 5, General Mascarenhas receives an order from the 4th Corps that “fit to DIE capture and hold the summit of Mount Della Torracia – Monte Belvedere.” That is, after two unsuccessful attempts, Castle Hill was still the main goal of the next Brazilian offensive, which had been postponed for a week.

But on December 12, 1944, the transaction was consummated, date to be remembered by FEB as one of the most violent faced by Brazilian troops in theater in Italy.

With the same weather the onslaught earlier, the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the 1st Infantry Regiment did initially miracles. There was initially some positions won, but the heavy fire from German artillery had its casualties. Again the attempted conquest proved fruitless, and worse, causing 150 casualties, with 20 Brazilian soldiers were killed.

The lesson served to reinforce the belief that the lot Mascarenhas Castle would only be taken from the Germans entire division was used in the attack – and not just a few battalions, as he had commanded the 5th Army.

Only on February 19, 1945, after the winter improves the command of the 5th Army determined the start of a new offensive to conquer the mountain. Such an offensive would use Allied troops, including the 1st DIE, offensive that would lead the troops into the valley of the Po, to the border with France.

The final attack

Again the offensive dubbed Encore, or doubles, would use the training Brazilian to conquer the hill and the consequent expulsion of Germans. This time the tactics used would be the same idealized by Mascarenhas de Moraes on November 19. Thus, on February 20, troops of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force presented themselves in battle with his three regiments ready to go towards Castle Hill. To the left of the grouping of Brazil, would advance the 10th Mountain Division of the United States, elite troops, which had the responsibility to take the hill della Torracia and so guarantee the protection of the most vulnerable flank sector.

The attack began at 6 o’clock in the morning, followed by the right Uzeda Battalion, Battalion Franklin toward the front lot and Battalion Sizeno Sarmento waiting in privileged positions who reached overnight, the time to join the other two battalions. As described in the plan Encore, Brazilians should reach the top of Castle Hill to 18 hours at most – an hour after the lot della Torracia be won for the 10th Mountain Division, an event scheduled for 17 hours. The 4th Corps was certain that the castle would be taken before the della Torracia also be.

However, at 17.30, when the first Battalion of the 1st Regiment Franklin conquered the summit of Mount Castle, the Americans had not won the German resistance. Only would the night when the courts have long had completed their mission, and began to take a position in the trenches and bunkers newly conquered.

Much of the success of the offensive was credited to the Division Artillery, commanded by General Cordeiro, who between 16h and 17h on 22, put in a perfect barrage against the top of the mountain castle, allowing the movement of the Brazilian troops.

Location

Located 61.3 km southwest of Bologna (monument Caduti Brasiliani) via Località Abetaia (SP623) near Abetaia. Coordinates 44.221799 ° N 10.954227 ° E to 977 m altitude.

Bibliography

•The Army in the History of Brazil (vol. III Republic). Rio de Janeiro: Editora Army Library, Emilio Odebrecht Foundation, ISBN 8570112092

•Böhmler Rudolf, Monte Cassino – Flamboyant Publisher 1966

•Marechal Mascarenhas de Morais, Memories (Volume 1) – Bibliex 1984

•Joel Silveira, The Winter War – Objective, 2005

•General Walter de Menezes Paes, Legend Blue – Bibliex 1992

•Great Chronicle of the Second World War, Reader’s Digest. Publisher Ypiranga, 1963 Volume 3, The History of the Conquest of Mount Castle

•The foot to the summit: the bravery fearless soldier Brazilian Article Historian Alessandro dos Santos Rosa

Italian Campaign

Battles of Brazil

Brazil in World War II

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