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Battle of Ortona

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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 neaat 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 not as severely damaged by bombing as others. If it were to be captured, Allied forces would not have to have their supply lines running all the way from Taranto. Ortona was part of a series of cities included in the Allied offensive on the German Winter Line which lasted largely from late 1944 to mid 1944. The fortifications were east of the Apennine Mountains with the offensive starting when the allies crossed the Sangro River to the south. The combat inside the city was so fierce, it was nicknamed "Little Stalingrad". By the end of the battle, around 1,200 Canadian troops had been killed and about 200 German troops had been killed.[citation needed]

Planning and Preparations

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.  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 received praise for his work with the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade in Sicily.[1]

The Battle

Allied forces crossed the Sangro River and eventually broke through the German defenses in November of 1943. 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 casualties. Later that same day, German engineers demolished many buildings that could be of use to Canadian forces, killing over 30 more civilians.[2]

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
Canadian Rifleman, Ortona 1943

A Canadian rifleman in Ortona

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 threatened 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 retreated the night before.

References

  1. http://www.wwii.ca/page44.html
  2. http://canadiansoldiers.com/history/battlehonours/italiancampaign/ortona.htm
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