Battle of Bologna

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Battle of Bologna
Part of Spring 1945 offensive in Italy
Bitwa o Bolonie 1945.PNG
Map of the battle
Date 9–21 April 1945
Location Bologna, Italy
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
Poland Poland
 United Kingdom
 United States
 Brazil
 Italy
 Nazi Germany
Commanders and leaders
Poland Władysław Anders
Poland Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko
Nazi Germany Richard Heidrich
Units involved
Poland II Corps
United Kingdom V Corps (Elements)
United States II Corps (Elements)
Nazi Germany I Parachute Corps
Nazi Germany XIV Panzer Corps (Elements)
Casualties and losses
Poland 234 dead & 1,228 wounded Unknown, but heavy

The Battle of Bologna was fought in Bologna, Italy from 9–21 April 1945 during the Second World War, as part of the Spring 1945 offensive in Italy. The Allied forces were victorious, with the Polish II Corps and supporting Allied units capturing the city on 21 April.

Background[edit]

Allied Spring Offensive: Italy 1945, 9 April – 2 May. This map shows the advance of the Polish II Corps on Bologna
Map of US IV and II Corps breakthrough into the Po valley, April 1945 (this map shows operations in the Bologna region, 14–21 April 1945, but does not seem to show any operations of non-US troops in the region

In March 1945 the Allies were preparing a new offensive, Operation Buckland, in Northern Italy.[1] The capture of Bologna, an important regional communication hub, was set as a part of that offensive. The Allied forces tasked with this were composed of the US 5th Army (II Corps, South African 6th Armoured Division[2]) and the British 8th Army (which for that part of the theatre, was composed of the V Corps and the Polish II Corps).[1] The German units defending the area were composed of the German 26th Panzer Division of the XIV Panzer Corps, the 1st Parachute Division and the 4th Parachute Division of the I Parachute Corps.[1] German defenses in that region were part of the Army Group C,[3][4] defending the Paula Line.[5]

The morale of the Polish forces was weakened by the outcome of the Yalta Conference which ended on 11 February, where the British and Americans, without consultation with the Poles, had decided to give a major part of the 1921–1939 Polish territories to the Soviet Union.[6][7][8] One of the three Polish divisions, the Polish 5th Kresowa Infantry Division, was named after the Kresy region, which was now given to the Soviets in its entirety.[6] When the Polish commander of II Corps, General Władysław Anders, asked for his unit to be withdrawn from the front line, Winston Churchill told him "you [the Poles] are no longer needed" but the American and British front line commanders—Generals Richard McCreery, Mark Wayne Clark and Field Marshal Harold Alexander—requested Anders that the Polish units remain in their positions, as they had no troops to replace them. Anders eventually decided to keep the Polish units engaged.[6][8]

Order of battle[edit]

Allies[edit]

US 5th Army
II Corps
South African 6th Armoured Division
British 8th Army
V Corps
Polish II Corps

Major-General Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko (acting commander)

Germans[edit]

XIV Panzer Corps
German 26th Panzer Division
I Parachute Corps (Richard Heidrich commanding[9])
1st Parachute Division
4th Parachute Division

Battle[edit]

The offensive on Bologna started on 9 April at 4:00 am local time, with a major air and artillery bombardment of 400 guns firing on German positions, followed by an advance of ground forces the same evening.[10][1] Friendly fire caused casualties as American bombers killed 38 of advancing Polish troops on that day.[11][12] The American and British units engaged the German flanks, while the Polish units broke through to the city.[1] On 10 April, Polish forces pushed the Germans away from the Senio River.[1] From 12–14 April Polish forces fought the Germans at the Santerno River and captured Imola.[1] From 15–16 April, the Poles fought at the Sillaro River and the Medicina Canal.[1] On 17 April, the commander of the Eighth Army ordered the Polish forces to continue their push towards Bologna from the east. The town was to be taken initially by the American troops of the Fifth Army advancing from the south.[1][13]

On 21 April the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Brigade of the Polish 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division entered the city, where only isolated German units were still fighting.[1] (Another source attributes the entrance to the Polish 5th Kresowa Division).[11] By 6:15 am the Poles had secured the city, displaying Polish flags from the town hall and the Torre Asinelli tower, the highest tower in the city.[13] The local Italian population welcomed the Poles as their liberators.[1][13] At 8:00 am, American (South African[14]) tanks arrived in the city, followed by Italian partisans.[13]

Aftermath[edit]

The Battle of Bologna was the last battle of the Polish II Corps, which was taken out of the front line on 22 April.[1][13] American and British troops completed their encirclement of the Germans forces north of the Reno River, the 8th Indian Division crossed the Po River and the German forces in Italy capitulated on 29 April.[13][1] The Polish II Corps, commanded by General Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko, suffered 234 dead and 1,228 wounded out of 55,780 front line personnel.[6][13]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Zbigniew Wawer, Zdobycie Bolonii, p.9
  2. ^ Compiled from official records; Terry Cave (29 March 2012). The Battle Honours of the Second World War 1939-1945 and Korea 1950-1953: British and Colonial Regiments. Andrews UK Limited. p. 135. ISBN 978-1-78151-379-8. 
  3. ^ John Gooch (12 November 2012). Decisive Campaigns of the Second World War. Routledge. p. 157. ISBN 978-1-136-28881-4. 
  4. ^ Francis Harry Hinsley; Edward Eastaway Thomas (1988). British Intelligence in the Second World War. Cambridge University Press. p. 705. ISBN 978-0-521-35196-6. 
  5. ^ Christopher Chant (18 October 2013). The Encyclopedia of Codenames of World War II (Routledge Revivals). Routledge. p. 180. ISBN 978-1-134-64787-3. 
  6. ^ a b c d Zbigniew Wawer, Zdobycie Bolonii, p.8
  7. ^ Steven J. Zaloga, Richard Hook, The Polish army 1939–45, Osprey Publishing, 1982, ISBN 0-85045-417-4, Google Print, p.20
  8. ^ a b Anthony James Joes, Urban guerrilla warfare, University Press of Kentucky, 2007, ISBN 9780813124377, Google Print, p.37
  9. ^ Ivor Matanle (1994). History of World War II, 1939-1945. Tiger Books International. ISBN 978-1-85501-603-3. 
  10. ^ Eyewitness account, G.Z. Tabona, Royal Malta Artillery, 1999
  11. ^ a b Kenneth K. Koskodan (2009). No Greater Ally: The Untold Story of Poland's Forces in World War II. Osprey Publishing. p. 135. ISBN 978-1-84603-365-0. 
  12. ^ Halik Kochanski (13 November 2012). The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War. Harvard University Press. p. 479. ISBN 978-0-674-06816-2. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Zbigniew Wawer, Zdobycie Bolonii, p.13
  14. ^ R Spencer Kidd (1 October 2013). MILITARY UNIFORMS IN EUROPE 1900 - 2000 Volume Two. Lulu.com. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-291-18746-5. 

References[edit]

  • (Polish) Zbigniew Wawer, Zdobycie Bolonii [Capture of Bologna], Chwała Oręża Polskiego 32 (53), Rzeczpospolita, 3 March 2007 (publication contains a map of the battle).