Minturno During the World War II
The people of Minturno suffered greatly during World War II, finding themselves under German occupation, and positioned on the very edge of the German Gustav Line. This German defence line effectively cut Italy in half. It stretched from the mouth of the River Garigliano on the west coast to the mouth of the River Sangro in the east of Italy. Inland it passed by the beautiful abbey of Montecassino. From here the Germans had a dominating position overlooking the plain of Cassino and controlling the main road of Casilina and therefore access to the capital of Rome and the north.
The population of Minturno had to endure persecution and reprisals by the Germans and also famine. In addition the local villages endured heavy land and naval bombardments by the Allied forces which resulted in catastrophic damage, and the deaths and casualties of many innocent civilians. Many Minturnesi were forced to flee to the mountains and surrounding countryside.
Following long and bloody battles to cross the River Garigliano, American troops stepped in to relieve the battle weary British 5th Division in a manoeuvre named “Operation Diadem”.
The Allies finally managed to take Minturno and the hilltop village of Santa Maria Infante. However this victory was short lived, as after more ferocious fighting the Germans succeded in reclaiming control of this area.
The allies continued to encounter stiff German resistance. The final battle took place on the 11th May 1944 and the object was to capture the village of Santa Maria Infante. This was to be a particularly bitter and bloody battle which lasted for sixty hours without interuption. The village was finally liberated 0n the 14th May 1944, and this proved to be a defining moment as at long last the GUSTAV line was breached, forcing a German retreat.
The French Expeditionary Corps of Moroccan Goumiers, who were skilled in mountain warfare, continued to make their way forward over the seemingly impassable terrain of the Aurunci Mountains, while the 88th Division surged ahead, taking the seaward facing villages of Spigno Saturnia, Castellonorato, Trivio, Maranola, then on through Formia, Itri, Fondi, Monte San Biagio to Roccagorga.
Continuing northward some of the 88th Division made contact with Allied units breaking out of the Anzio beach-head on 29th May and they were the first to enter Rome on the 4th June 1944.
Minturo, Santa Maria Infante and other local villages had suffered severe damage during the bombardments.
Some photographs of the village of Santa Maria Infante taken during the liberation of the village.
Minturno went on to be awarded the La Medaglia D’Oro Al Valor Civile :
“During the Second World War the town and its surrounding areas, located behind the Gustav Line, were the scene of harsh battles and violent bombing that caused many casualties and extensive damage. Citizens, unarmed and exhausted by deprivations, were put to the sword by the retaliation of the German army in retreat. Countless were the examples of love for the homeland and of the noble spirit of sacrifice – Minturno (LT), 1943-1944 “.