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§842 The Allied victory in Italy (1944-1945): VIII-72.

VIII-72 (§842):

The Perugian field, oh, the enormous defeat
And the conflict very near Ravenna.
The sacred passage when they shall make a festival,
The conqueror conquered, horses shall eat bush.


(Champ Perusin o l’enorme deffaite
Et le conflit tout au pres de Ravenne,
Passage sacre lors qu'on fera la feste,
Vainqueur vaincu cheval manger la venne.) (№10)

NOTES: Champ Perusin: = « Perugian Field » (Garencières, 1672, p.142).

The Perugian field, oh, the enormous defeat: « By the 20th [of June 1944] the French [FEC: French Expeditionary Corps] had pulled up to the Orcia River, a tributary of the Ombrone behind which enemy resistance appeared to be stiffening. By 20 June Fifth Army had raced halfway up its zone between the Tiber and the Arno. A separate operation under the control of AFHQ [Allied Force Headquarters], using French troops, had taken the island of Elba off Piombino on 17-19 June, thus protecting the left flank of our further advance; on the right Eighth Army was roughly abreast of the FEC on the line Lake Trasimeno-Perugia… .» (Starr, 1986, p.279-280); « Undoubtedly the most severe fighting anywhere in the Fifth Army zone during the advance to Highway 68 had been that on the 25 mile French front during 21-26 June [1944]. On the 20th the 3rd Algerian and 2d Moroccan Divisions had been stopped south of the Orcia River, where the Germans had a naturally strong position extending on east into the Eighth Army zone beyond Lake Trasimeno. The enemy had dug pits for his machine guns and riflemen and backed them with a larger concentration of artillery than he had used thus far north of Rome. The center of this line along the Orcia was the strongest, for on the east the river line gave way to hills and on the west the upper Ombrone River Valley formed a by-pass running toward Siena. The Orcia itself was easily fordable. The enemy garrison, however, was formidable, with part of the 20th GAF [German Air Force] Field Division, all of the 4th Parachute Division, and all of the 356th Grenadier Division from west to east; elements of the 26th Panzer and 29th Panzer Grenadier Divisions were also present. Although the total number of infantry in positions near the river did not appear to be large, crossfire from well sited automatic weapons raked the stream. After very little advance on the 22d the FEC put its emphasis on outflanking the line from the west. While the troops below the Orcia kept up their pressure, the Guillaume Group [the 1st Group of Tabors (battalion of Moroccan tribesmen) and the 1st Moroccan Infantry under General Guillaume], reinforced by the light armor of the 4th Moroccan Spahis, pushed north along the west side of the Ombrone, fording the river on the 24th and keeping pace with the 1st Armored Division on its left. The advance of IV Corps and the Guillaume Group began to unhinge the enemy line, and at noon on the 25th the 8th Moroccan Infantry succeeded in crossing the Orcia just west of Highway 2. Later in the day the 3rd Algerian Division to the left also crossed the stream against lighter opposition than previously. By the 26th the FEC was completely over the river; in the five days 22-26 June its casualties had amounted to 972 killed, wounded, and missing. To the right Eighth Army had also broken the section of the line before it, likewise after considerable casualties and fierce fighting. Throughout the 27th the enemy continued to resist stubbornly before the French, but in the night he began a hasty withdrawal, leaving behind delaying parties and demolitions to slow our advance on Siena. By 2 July we were close to the town, which the enemy promptly evacuated; at 0630, 3 July, Siena was in the hands of French troops. The advance continued despite further reliefs in the FEC for movement to Naples. All units of the 3rd Algerian Division had left by the 4th, being replaced by the 4th Mountain Division under General Sevez; the Pursuit Corps was also disbanded, and General Juin took over direct supervision of the remaining operations. At Poggibonsi and Colle di Val d’Elsa, on Highway 68 southwest of Poggibonsi, enemy opposition stiffened once again, but by the morning of the 7th the latter town was taken by the 4th Mountain Division. By evening all of Highway 68 was behind the forward elements of the FEC. Fifth Army was now everywhere up to or past the highway. On the left the 34th Division was already engaged in heavy battling on the approaches to Leghorn. Reliefs were planned to increase our strength on the right of IV Corps. To the east the French were ready to exploit the fall of Colle di Val d’Elsa, which had cleared Highway 68. The past two weeks had seen stiffening enemy resistance, resulting in the hardest fighting [The Perugian field, oh, the enormous defeat] since the fall of Rome.» (Starr, id., p.285-286).

And the conflict very near Ravenna
: « 1944 OCTOBER 22 Italy – 8th Army crosses R. Savio, S. of Ravenna.» (Argyle, 1980, p.171). « On October 2 [1944], Mark Clark’s renewed offensive towards Bologna opened, this time along Route 65. All four divisions of his 2nd Corps were thrown in, but the defending Germans fought with such tenacity that during the next three weeks the American advance averaged no more than a mile a day, and on October 27 the offensive was abandoned. By the end of October, the Eighth Army advance had also petered out, after only five more rivers had been crossed, and the Po was still fifty miles distant. The Allied situation at the end of 1944 was very disappointing in comparison with the high hopes of the spring, and the summer. A final Allied offensive in 1944 sought to gain Bologna and Ravenna as winter bases. The Canadians, in the Eighth Army, succeeded in capturing Ravenna on December 4, and their success led the Germans to send three divisions to check the Eighth Army’s further progress. That seemed to offer the Fifth Army a better chance. But this was forestalled by an enemy counterattack in the Senio valley on December 26 – prompted by Mussolini with the idea of emulating Hitler’s counteroffensive in the Ardennes, and largely carried out by Italians who remained loyal to him. This attack was soon, and easily, stopped. But the Eighth Army was now exhausted, and very short of ammunitions, while the Germans were known to have strong reserves near Bologna. So Alexander decided that the Allied armies should go on the defensive, and prepare for a powerful spring offensive.» (Hart, 1971, p.541-542).

Passage sacre
: = Le passage sacré (the sacred passage), namely the Allied last and definitive crossing of the Po which leads to their victory: « 1-14 April 1945. Everywhere on the level plain, which is highly cultivated and crisscrossed by ditches, there are roads, paved or graveled. From our lines north Highway 65 and 64 ran into Bologna, where the former ends; Highway 64 continues on to Ferrara, a short distance south of the Po. The main north-south road across the valley in the Army zone was highway 12, which originates at Pisa in the Arno Valley, crosses the mountains, and strikes Highway 9 at Modena. From Modena this highway continues almost due north across the Po at Ostiglia to the cities of Verona, Trent, and Bolzano, into the Brenner Pass, and eventually on to Austria. On the main front the emphasis had by now been shifted from Highway 65 to Highway 64 so as to work around the strong enemy defenses south of Bologna. Both II and IV Corps would attack abreast, the chief effort initially astride Highway 64 until the valley of Setta Creek had been cleared and the road junction of Praduro, 15 miles north of Vergato, had been gained. At this time the bulk of the troops would be concentrated west of the highway, ready to break out into the Po Valley between the Reno and Panaro. A minor effort would be made down Highway 65, but positions along this route were expected to fall relatively easily after the dominating high ground west of the road had been taken. The Americans to the west would be pointed roughly at Modena; the South Africans to the east would drive to encircle Bologna and gain contact with Eighth Army at Bondeno. It was also assumed that considerable time would elapse between the capture of Bologna on the one hand and the actual crossing of the Po on the other. Once the city was reached Highway 9 was to be developed as the main supply route for IV Corps, moving to the northwest, and Highway 12 for II Corps elements advancing north from Modena and Bologna toward Verona. Areas north and northwest of Bologna were tentatively chosen as future dump sites. Long study of photographs and maps of the Po resulted in the decision that the best possible crossing sites in the projected Army zone of attack were along a 20-mile stretch of the river extending from Ostiglia on Highway 12 west to Borgoforte, where the highway connecting Mantua and Reggio crossed the Po. Within this section of the river likely sites for assault crossings, ferries, and bridges were selected, and the engineers made careful plans for throwing floating and permanent bridges over the stream. Special emphasis in this planning was laid on the area between San Benedetto Po and Borgoforte, where the marshy ricefields about Ostiglia could be avoided; but a subsequent crossing at this latter site would be necessary to open up Highway 12 to Verona.» (Starr, id., p.390-393); 

« On 21 April [1945] Fifth Army launched the pursuit to the Po with II and IV Corps abreast, each in the strength of one armored division and two infantry divisions. Since Combat Command A [of the 1st Armored Division] had come up to Guastalla and Luzzaro on the west of the 10th Mountain Division during the morning of the 23d, IV Corps now held all its stretch of the Po and even had one division over the stream. The left bank of this penetration was protected until the 23d by Combat Command B [of the 1st Armored Division], battling up Highway 9 and blocking the roads from the mountains as it progressed. The Germans haggled over Panaro crossings east of Modena on the 22d and again on the next day at the Secchia west of that city, where Combat Command B, driving nearly due west south of the highway, was stopped. Modena itself was largely by-passed and left to the partisans to clear. The 34th division came up from Bologna and relieved the armor on Highway 9 on the 24th. Still farther to the left the Brazilian 1st Division emerged into the plain late on the 23d at Marano and Vignola and moved northwest along the foothills south of Highway 9. An interesting action was soon to develop in this area as the main forces of the Army continued their push north to Verona. On 21 April, as Bologna was being cleared, II Corps struck north for the Po. The pattern of resistance before II Corps bore some resemblance to that before IV Corps to the west. Units toward the Army center ran into less difficulty than those moving up on the right. The Panaro River constituted an obstacle which was more strongly defended around Finale on the eastern boundary than it was in the direction of Camposanto. The 1st and 4th Parachute Divisions suffered heavy losses but successfully covered Tenth Army’s flank in the retreat across the Po; the junction of Fifth and Eighth Armies near Bondeno was effected too late for maximum success.» (Starr, id., p.419-424).

« By the end of 24 April Fifth Army, large parts of which had already crossed the Po, held the south bank of that river on a line extending about 60 miles from the Taro River to the Eighth Army boundary at Felonica, with the 1st Armoured, 10th Mountain, 85th, 88th, 91st, and 6 South African Armoured Divisions along the banks from west to east. Since the 21st these troops had covered 40 miles from the mountain to the river through the smashed center of the German armies. Driven to desperation, the Germans had taken to the roads in daylight and had thus laid themselves open to our far-ranging planes. By the end of the 22nd increasing numbers of abandoned vehicles and equipment began to tell the story of disorganization and panic in a retreat which had thus far remained orderly. When clearing weather on the 23rd once more gave our planes free rein, the enemy columns converging on the river crossings were blasted into shambles of wrecked and burning junk. The wreckage was accompanied by a prisoner bag which assumed fantastic proportions as our forces closed in on the Po; in the period 21-25 April Fifth Army took approximately 30,000 prisoners at a cost of 1,397 casualties. Even a superficial analysis of the personnel taken is sufficient to highlight the picture of confusion and breakdown in command existing behind the enemy lines; captured rear echelon personnel were a commonplace – hospitals, bakeries in which the bread was still warm, a paymaster with his payroll, and personnel units. Though the bulk of the German forces managed to get across the Po before our arrival, the loss in equipment augured ill for any extended stand on their part thereafter; already six divisions could be practically written off the books.» (Starr, id., p.426).

When they shall make a festival
: This festival refers to Easter week of the year 1945 A.D.: the first to the seventh of April 1945. The Allied triumphant crossings of the Po take place in April 1945.

The conqueror conquered
: « Fifth Army’s long thrust straight north from the Apennines to Lake Garda and thence across the top of the valley to the east and west had first split the German armies in Italy in two and then slammed in their faces the door of retreat to the Alps. During that same period three other nearly separate drives were in progress: on the east the British Eighth Army chased the Germans north along the Adriatic coast; on the west the 92d Division pursued along the Ligurian coast to Genoa; and south of the Po the Brazilian 1st Division and for a while the 34th Division rounded up enemy forces caught in the Apennines. The latter project was completed successfully by the 29th [April 1945], and on the next two days the Brazilian 1st Division fanned out to Alessandria and Cremona... On 3 May the 85th and 88th Divisions sent task forces north over ice and snow three feet deep to seal the Austrian frontier and to gain contact with the American Seventh Army, driving southward from Germany. The 339th Infantry under Lt. Col. John T. English reached Austrian soil east of Dobbiaco at 0415, 4 May; the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, 349th Infantry, met troops from VI Corps of Seventh Army at 1051 at Vipiteno, nine miles south of Brennero. The 338th Infantry came up Highway 12 later in the day and placed a frontier guard at Brennero on the Austro-Italian frontier. To the west the 10th Mountain Division reached Nauders beyond the Resia Pass on the 5th and made contact with German forces which were being pushed south by Seventh Army; here a status quo was maintained until the enemy headquarters involved had completed their surrender to Seventh Army.» (Starr, 1986, p.436-439).

Venne: = « venne, s.f., haie (hedge), clôture (enclosure), palissade (palisade), buisson (bush, thicket, shrub).» (Godefroy).

Horses shall eat bush: This expression describes one of post-war peaceful landscapes.
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© Koji Nihei Daijyo, 2019. All rights reserved.
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Koji Nihei Daijyo

Author:Koji Nihei Daijyo
We have covered 143 quatrains (§588-§730) concerning the World Events in the 19th century after Napoleonic ages [1821-1900] in the Prophecies of Nostradamus, and 218 in the 20th [1901-2000] (§731-§948).

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