Battle for Monte la Difensa

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The Battle for Monte La Difensa, which took place between 3 December and 9 December 1943, occurred during Operation Raincoat, part of the Battle for the Bernhardt Line during the Italian Campaign in World War II.


Monte La Difensa (also known as Hill 960) was one of the peaks forming the Camino hill mass which formed the left-hand "gatepost" dominating the Mignano Gap, key to the U.S. Fifth Army's route to Cassino and the Liri valley and thence to Rome. The mountain itself had become a stalemate for American and British troops because of the defenses employed by the German troops, part of the Bernhardt Line.

The battle[edit]

The action was the first combat in the Italian theatre for the US-Canadian commando unit 1st Special Service Force. They were attached to the U.S. 36th Infantry Division. The 1st SSF used the special training that they had received in winter and mountain warfare to scale the mountain and overcome the Germans atop the stronghold. The cost for both sides was high though. The 1st Special Service Forces suffered a 77% casualty rate, but distinguished themselves by doing the seemingly impossible.

With the rest of 36th Division on 1st SSF's right attacking Monte Maggiore and British 56th Infantry Division (attacking Monte Camino) and British 46th Infantry Division on their left, it took 5 days heavy fighting for the Camino hill mass to be cleared. Casualties were high. After a pause to regroup the U.S. Fifth Army renewed its offensive but it took until mid-January to advance the 10 miles (16 km) to Cassino at the mouth of the Liri valley and the formidable Gustav Line defenses, where the Allies were halted by stubborn German defense until May 1944. Coordinates: 41°22′59.88″N 13°55′59.77″E / 41.3833000°N 13.9332694°E / 41.3833000; 13.9332694

In media[edit]

  • The successful assault on Difensa was the climax for the 1968 motion picture The Devil's Brigade.
  • Part 2 of the series WW2 Greatest Raids called "Mountain Massacre", depicting the battle, was broadcast by National Geographic.

See also[edit]


  • Fifth Army at the Winter Line 15 November 1943 - 15 January 1944. American Forces in Action series. Washington: United States Army Center of Military History. 1990 [1945]. CMH Pub 100-9.