Poland marks Battle of Monte Cassino anniversary

The Presidents of Poland and Italy will attend celebrations commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino, on Saturday afternoon.

“Monte Cassino sanctified by Polish blood” of “the best soldiers in the World”

Polish Defense and Interior ministers pay tribute to Polish soldiers fallen at the WWII Monte Cassino battle.

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The Battle of Monte Cassino began on 17 January, 1944, and consisted of multiple attempts to capture the crucial tactical point in the region, where the German army established fortifications in a historic abbey at the summit. From the hillside, the Germans were able to control the movements of the allied forces in the valley and prevent them from advancing on to Rome.

The allied forces attempted to conquer Monte Cassino multiple times. The task was extremely dangerous and arduous as the attacking army had to advance up a steep hill, under a constant barrage of artillery from the top.

Finally, on 18 May, 1944, after an exhausting and bloody battle, the Polish II Corps under the command of General Władysław Anders captured the monastery and broke the line of German fortifications called “The Gustav Line”. This victory allowed the allied forces to advance on Rome. In the uphill battle, 923 Polish soldiers lost their lives and 2,931 were wounded.

A British historian, Matthew Parker claims that the Battle of Monte Cassino was the hardest-fought and the bloodiest battle of WWII.

The Polish soldiers who died in the battle are buried at the cemetery located on the hillside of Monte Cassino.

On the night of the battle, poet Feliks Konarski and composer Alfred Schütz wrote a song about the event, which has become an iconic song of the Polish military.

"Red poppies on Monte Cassino
Soaked Polish blood instead of dew.
Soldiers walked over the poppies and perished,
But their wrath was stronger than death.
Years will go by and centuries will pass,
But the traces of those days will last
And the poppies on Monte Cassino
Will grow crimson because of Polish blood."

(translated from Polish by Zofia Orly)