THE RAPIDO RIVER
ACROSS THE LIRI VALLEY
|This panoramic view from Mt. Trocchio looks out
onto the broad Liri Valley. The Rapido River running generally north-to-south from Cassino
to the Garigliano River formed the German line of defense blocking entrance into the Liri
Valley. It was across this open ground that the 36th Division stabbed vainly in an attempt
to secure a bridgehead and capture San Angelo during the two-day period after nightfall of
January 20 1944.
Although only about
15 yard's wide, the Rapido River was a swift-running, mountain-fed gorge. Its steep banks
drop off sharply, and in the center its depth is often 15 feet. A haze of chemical smoke
hung over the valley during the operation.
The attack of the 141st Infantry crossed at the S
bend, seen in both views top and bottom (bottom view is a continuation of the top). The
ruins of San Angelo along the Rapido edge can be seen in the upper left. The 143rd
Infantry attempted to cross farther south, out of the picture on the left. Those men who
succeeded in crossing bore the brunt of the Germans' vicious mortar and artillery fire
while trapped in the low flatland. German counterattacks in strength during afternoon of
the second day were beaten off until ammunition ran out. The sound of American weapons
gradually faded into the night A few survivors swam the icy waters to return.
Cassino, German stronghold at the base of Mt.
Cairo, which the Rapido attack purposed to outflank, is in the lower right view.
Copyright © 1998 36th Division Association. All Rights
The 36th Division pictorial history is sponsored and maintained by TMFM