National Archives of Canada (PA-114030, photo by Terry F. Rowe).

Clearing the Enemy, Ortona, Italy, 23 December 1943.

Infantrymen from the Edmonton Regiment, supported by "Sherman" tanks from the Three Rivers Regiment, engage in house-to-house combat in an effort to dislodge German defenders.

Not yet ready to invade Western Europe, the Allies choose to drive Italy out of the war. Starting with Sicily and then crossing to southern Italy, Italian resistance was soon overcome and Italy surrendered. However, Germany was not about to give up this territory easily and fought hard to hold back Allied advances all the way up the Italian “boot”. The Canadian Army’s part in this included many difficult and costly battles such as that at Ortona, which was described as being a "second Stalingrad".

Sicily

In a 27-day campaign, the Allies succeeded in driving the Italians and Germans off the island of Sicily and thus opened a door into Fortress Europe.

Italian Invasion

Although Italy surrendered on the same day that Allied troops crossed from Sicily to the Italian mainland, German troops dug in along well-fortified lines throughout southern Italy and were determined to block the Allied advance up the Italian “boot”.

Ortona

As part of the Allies approach to Rome, the 1st Canadian Division was tasked to seize the Adriatic seaport of Ortona. This objective was to prove to be a very difficult fight with the Canadians having to rewrite the book on fighting in built-up areas.

The Final Phase

Fighting through the Gustav Line and the Hitler Line, the Allies finally liberated Rome. However, this did not end the Italian campaign as the Gothic and Rimini lines, the Adriatic seaport of Ravenna, and the Senio River still awaited the Canadians.

 

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