Photo: Civilians near the town of Acquafondata (FR)
Historical iconography by Associazione Linea Gustav.
Source: National Archives Washington D.C.


19 July 1943. The enthusiastic reactions to Italy’s entry into the war are immediately dampened, and the population of the Cassinate is in for a rude awakening. It is a blow to the Valle del Liri: the military airport in Aquino, a high-value target occupied by the German Air Force, is destroyed after a violent bombardment. On the same day, the Tiburtina, San Lorenzo, and Prenestina districts in Rome are also bombed. The peace in the Terra Sancti Benediciti is violated. Some months later, at the end of November, the war reaches the area of the Alto Casertano, along the Winter Line, in the corridor of Mignano Monte Lungo. That is the Gate to the Liri Valley, a millenary southern entry to the Valle del Liri, the preferential way to Rome through the ancient consular road, the Via Casilina. In this connection, the redemption of a part of the country finds expression in the Primo Raggruppamento Motorizzato, who fights alongside the Allies. It is the first time since the Armistice of 8 September 1943. Between the devil and the deep sea, the life of the civilians — men escaped from continuous roundups, women, children and elderly that haven’t respected the displacement order issued by the German command — is surrounded by an iron grip. For the first time since the beginning of the conflict, destruction, fear, deprivation, hunger, illness, and death spread among the population. The civilians hope for a quick Allies’ intervention in order to return to the quiet that preceded the storm, but days, weeks, and months are marked by the destructive fury of the war, deaf and indifferent to human suffering. The inhabitants are forced to live in extreme hardship, often in makeshift shelters like damp and dark caves, facing not only the intransigence of the soldiers but also the voracity of the insects that literally infest them. On the mountains and in the valleys where the battles take place, maimed and bare trees look like lifeless sculptures imploring mercy. The spring of 1944 arrives, and while during the long and harsh winter the occupants committed terrible atrocities, like the massacre of Collelungo in Cardito di Vallerotonda, and maintained the order with intransigent discipline, the plague of the so-called Marocchinate arrives with the liberators. The sign of its merciless passage indelibly marks the villages of the region and characterizes one of the worst periods for human civilization.