The Battle of Ortona was a vicious battle between German and Canadian forces in 1943. The battle started officially on the 20th of December, 1943 near Ortona, Italy and it ended 8 days later. Allied planners had expected Ortona to be taken with no fighting for they believed that German forces would retreat because of a high likelihood of them being cut off.
Ortona was valuable to the allies because it was port and the city was actually not severely damaged by bombing. If it were to be captured, Allied forces wouldn't have to have supply lines running all the way from Taranto. Ortona was part of a series of cities included in the offensive on the Winter line which was the allied movement through Italy on a series of German forifications. The fortifications were east of the Apennine Mountains and the offensive started when the allies crossed the Sangro River to the south. The Battle of Ortona's fighting was so fierce, it was called "Little Stalingrad". By the end of the battle, about 700 Canadian troops had been killed and about 200 German troops had been killed.
Planning and PreparationsEdit
Germany had prepared for the Battle of Ortona by mainly relieving existing troops with the 1st Parachute Division and by setting up traps. The leader of the German Fallschirmjäger forces was Richard Heidrich. Besides the traps, German forces sometimes used flamethrowers and the narrow streets made the fighting close-quarters combat.
The Germans prepared some other defenses such as on December 6th when German Tanks first arrived in Ortona. The Canadian leader was Chris Vokes and he commanded the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. He had recieved praise for his work with the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade in Sicily.
The BattleEditAllied forces crossed the Sangro River and eventually broke through the German defenses. They then fought up to the Moro River which lay about 4 miles from Ortona. The shelling of Ortona started on December 5th causing many civilians to flee the city. Canadian forces began to get closer and closer to Ortona, but the Germans managed to hold them off until the 20th of December which allowed them to set up more extensive defenses.
Then the Canadian 2nd Brigade's Loyal Edmonton Regiment advanced into the city while being covered by an artillery barrage. They had managed to advance about 1/3 into the city with 10 civilian casualities. Later that same day, German engineers demolished many buildings that could be of use to Canadian forces, killing over 30 more civilians.
Meanwhile the 3rd Infantry Brigade was moving through the west area of Ortona and tried to outflank German forces, but they met extremely stiff resistance. Canadian armor had an increasingly hard time supporting infantry in Ortona because of German traps and anti-tank guns. By the 21st, German forces had retreated back to the older section of Ortona and had left a maze of traps and had performed artillery barrages on the Canadians. By the 22nd, Canadian forces had reached the town square and had captured 2/3 of the town.Meanwhile on the 23rd, the Canadian forces trying to outflank the Germans face heavy losses and make even slower progress. Although, the next day, they managed to break the German lines and Canadian forces were forced to suspend an attack because of the large amount of civilians taking shelter in the area. On 25th, Christmas Day, many Canadian troops are relieved and have a feast in the recently captured areas of the town. German troops demolished a building with over 24 Canadians in it on the 26th.
Canadian forces then answer back by destroying a building with over 50 German paratroopers in it. On the 27th, the last day of fighting, German forces were pushed back all the way northern end of the town and were threatend by Canadian forces that they would be heavily bombarded if they did not surrender. Canadian troops patrolled the whole town on the 28th to find that the German troops had fled last night.