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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy


page 528

WHILE the Eighth Army had been striving vainly for a breakthrough on the east coast, the Fifth Army on the western side of the Apennines had fought for a breakthrough to Rome, but its progress had been slow and costly. The American, British, and French troops had come up against the immensely strong enemy line based on Cassino. The coming of the winter had seen a virtual stalemate along the whole Allied front line. It had been impossible for tanks to manoeuvre in open country and for any motor transport to function away from the main roads. The country became a muddy morass in which heavy vehicles became bogged, and this hopelessly restricted the attacking force. Despite the unfavourable weather the Allies decided to make every effort to capture Rome and at the same time deny the enemy the leisure to strengthen his already powerful defences.

Plans were made for a major offensive on the Fifth Army front. Because of the complete mobility and hard-hitting power of 2 NZ Division, it was decided to switch this force from the Eighth Army to the Cassino front. When the way into the Liri valley behind Cassino was clear, the Division was to take swift advantage of the breakthrough by pursuing and harrying the retreating enemy.