36th Division in World War II


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.


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