Italy Volume I: The Sangro to Cassino
SO long as men study the art of war the battles of Cassino will interest them as a classic contest between the advantages of terrain and of material. By prolonging their resistance for four months or (on a more extensive view) for seven months, the Germans showed that in certain circumstances of ground and weather the offensive may lose the mobility with which modern weapons are sometimes thought to endow it. In some ways Cassino was a battle of the First World War fought with the weapons of the Second. When the German Corps Commander walked down the shell-pitted Liri valley during the fighting, he found himself carried back in memory thirty years to the Somme.1 The first great lesson of Cassino is that when the attacker is drawn into a strait of commanding natural strength, the tank and the aeroplane may easily fail to break the ensuing deadlock. By piling the difficulties of street fighting upon the natural defences of river, marsh and height, the Cassino position enabled stout defenders to defy appreciable odds in manpower and vast odds in material. Like a whirlpool, Cassino sucked into its vortex all that tried to pass through the strait.
1 Senger: Diary, pp. 102–3.
2 Loc. cit., p. 2917.
1 This is in effect the view of the Battles Nomenclature Committee, which has decided that there were two battles of Cassino, Cassino I from 20 January to 25 March 1944, and Cassino II from 11 to 18 May 1944. The number of troops engaged is an important consideration in determining the official nomenclature of battles.