The battle for Cassino was one of the fiercest battles in the Italian campaign in WWII. Monte Cassino was a monastery sitting above the small town of Cassino. The high ground dominated the Liri Valley and blocked the advance of the largely American 5th Army to Rome. Four attempts were made to capture the town and monastery. In January 1944, the 36th Texas Division attacked across the Rapido River and lost nearly 2,000 men who were killed, wounded or missing.
In February 1944, the 2nd New Zealand Division attacked with the 28th Maaori Battalion leading. On the night of 17/18 February 1944, B Company was ordered to attack and capture the railway station. A Company was ordered to attack and capture a German position overlooking the station.
Two days prior to the attack on 15 February, the monastery was bombed into oblivion. It was a controversial decision given the sacred nature of the monastery. The Allied commanders had determined the Germans had been occupying the Abbey and decided to destroy it.
By midnight of 17 February , B Company had captured the station and with the support of A Company held it until mid-afternoon the following day when they were forced to withdraw after German tanks and infantry counter-attacked. It was another epic battle for the 28th Maaori Battalion but came at a very high cost, with only 26 men of B Company returning to base the next day and 50 men of A Company. Nearly 60 men of the battalion were killed during February to May 1944, and they lie in the urupaa of Cassino.
Ka maumahara tonu taatou ki a raatou
Issue 70 | Te Hookioi - Pages 9 to 12 Kaituhituhi - Taa Wira Gardiner