Photo: American barons during the battle of the Gari river, they carry the wounded to the rear. January 1944. Historical iconography by Associazione Linea Gustav. Source: National Archives Washington D.C.

THE AMERICANS: THE DISASTROUS DEFEAT ON THE GARI RIVER AND THE BOMBING OF THE ABBEY OF MONTE CASSINO On January 1944, in less than 48 hours two regiments of the Texas Army National Guard, the 36th infantry division, are literally decimated with an alleged loss of 1700 soldiers among missing, dead, and wound. From now on, the Gari is dubbed The Bloody River. Anglo-American soldiers and historians mistakenly confuse this watercourse with the Rapido because of its fast, cold and deep waters, which leave no way out to the militaries assigned to the “impossible mission”, as it is considered by General Walker, the commander of the division. After the war, General Mark Clark, the commander of the American Fifth Army in Cassino, will be dragged before Congress by survivors and his own officers to answer for heavy allegations about the announced massacre. The morale among men is very low, and the weather conditions make every significant progress impossible except for the mountain section north/northwest of Cassino, between Terelle and Caira, where French- American units succeed in establishing a bridgehead, laying the groundwork to get closer to the Sacro Monte. Everything seems to be crystallized, as the ghost of defeat hovers over the heads of the Allies’ hierarchies. Under the pressing demands from New Zealand, General Harold Alexander, the commander of the 15th Army Group in the Mediterranean, agrees to a massive bombing against the Abbey of Montecassino. The attack is anticipated by hundreds of leaflets scattered to allow civilians to leave the monastery, but the short notice of 24 hours leaves them no way out. On 15 February 1944 at 9:45 a.m. hundreds of tons of bombs are dropped over the thousand-year-old Abbey where 12 monks and more than 1000 civilians, including children, have taken refuge. No German soldier among them. It is the most inhuman and unsuccessful military operation led by the Allies, a failure that turns what remains of the structure into an impregnable defensive fortress that will be in the hands of the Germans until the fall of the Gustav Line.