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The Italian Campaign: Crossing the Moro River

A full year before the D-Day landings in Normandy, there were the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy. Canada played a major role in the Allies' first breach of Hitler's "Fortress Europe" in 1943 and 1944. Canadian soldiers defeated entrenched German forces but paid a terrible price. Seaside towns and mountain passes became places of horror: Ortona, Cassino, Rimini. But with the events of D-Day and the Allied push across Europe, the Italian Campaign became a forgotten front, a deadly sideshow that cost nearly 6,000 Canadian lives. Sixty years later, their bravery is remembered.

So far, so good. Italy has surrendered, but as Canadian troops advance through southern Italy, they encounter rare but stiff opposition from German troops. As winter sets in, the Allies reach the German defensive line in the Moro Valley. At 3:30 this afternoon, the First Canadian Division will attempt to cross the Moro River and smash the line. In this CBC Radio report you can hear the terrible barrage of the Allied guns, and the sound of German shells landing all too close. 
• On Sept. 3, the day the Allies reached mainland Europe, the Italian government under Marshal Pietro Badoglio signed a secret armistice agreement with the Allies. When the Germans found out, they viewed it as "open treason."
• The Allies hoped that by fighting through Italy they would keep German forces away from France and Russia. The Germans, for their part, hoped their tactical advantages would slow the Allied advance interminably.

• By October 1944 the Germans withdrew to their defensive Gustav Line 160 km south of Rome. The Moro Valley was the scene of the fiercest fighting yet, including massive artillery barrages and hand to hand fighting. The Canadian First Division infantry crossed the valley on Dec. 6 and engineers built a bridge across it.

• On Dec. 14, 1943 the Royal 22nd Regiment made a legendary assault on the hamlet of Casa Berardi. Capt. Paul Triquet received a Victoria Cross for his valour in that action.
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News
Broadcast Date: Dec. 15, 1943
Reporter: Matthew Halton
Duration: 9:42
Photo: Jack H. Smith/Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-166755

Last updated: September 16, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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