It was a real mission impossible! Only the Poles conquered the hill. 79 years ago, the white and red flag hung on Monte Cassino

The battles for Monte Cassino, where the road to Rome led, were long and fierce. Despite the attacks of the Allied troops, the Germans stayed in the monastery. The breakthrough was the fourth offensive, code-named “Diadem”, in which the Poles joined, and it was them – the 2nd Polish Corps – that played a decisive role in the Allied victory. Fighting continued until the end of May, but already on May 18, 1944, the white and red flag hung on the hill.

On May 12, the attack of two Polish infantry divisions began. The enemy opened a heavy barrage, which caused heavy losses to the attackers and caused the first attempt to take the hill to fail. On May 16, Polish troops made a second attempt to capture the monastery at Monte Cassino. Then, on May 17, there was a daring attack, which brought the desired breakthrough, and at the same time victory. Poles captured hill 593, Gorge and Phantom, as well as part of San Angelo hill. Despite the fierce defense of the Germans, the fierce fight of the Poles and the progress of the allies in other sections of the attack led to the capture of key defensive positions on May 18, including the hill. The patrol of the 12th Podolian Lancers Regiment was the first to reach the monastery ruins, which planted its pennant there as a sign of victory. Soon, the Polish flag appeared on the walls of the monastery and at noon the platoon leader Czech played the Hejnał Mariacki there.

“Today, on the anniversary of the triumph of the Polish army, we are gathered at the monument to General Władysław Anders, the general of Polish hopes, a man who did something really, in retrospect, absolutely exceptional and seemingly impossible. There was General Władysław Anders who was so in love with independent Poland that this love gave him boundless faith in victory and he was able to pour this faith into the hearts and minds of his soldiers” – Jan Kasprzyk, head of the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression said during the ceremony in Cassino commemorating these events.

He recalled that Władysław Anders was the commander of the 2nd Polish Corps – “an extraordinary army, an army that triumphed here in the Apennine Peninsula in a victorious march towards freedom, but at the same time it was an army that a few years earlier consisted of emaciated slaves fighting for their lives of Soviet gulags”. “Thanks to his faith in victory poured into the hearts of his subordinates, the army of slaves became the army of winners. It was an extraordinary phenomenon, because those who raised the white and red banner on the ruins of the Monte Cassino abbey three years earlier fought for their lives, for every day in prisons and Anders also did not lose faith in a free Poland in the post-war period, when Poland found itself under the Soviet boot and he could not return to Poland, but he believed that a free Poland would come. As one of the leaders of Polish independence emigration, he asked not to lose hope, not to lose faith in the victory of freedom” – said Kasprzyk.

“The memory of those events, the memory of General Władysław Anders creates our Polish cultural code, but the history of the 2nd Corps, the life of General Anders also creates the Italian cultural code” – he added.

Veterans, as well as representatives of Polish authorities and state institutions participated in the ceremony in Cassino on the square in front of the monument to General Władysław Anders. In addition to Jan Kasprzyk, General Władysław Anders and his heroic subordinates were paid tribute by the Minister of the KPRP Jan Dziedziczak, MEP Joachim Brudziński and the West Pomeranian Voivode Zbigniew Bogucki. Soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces, headed by Major General Wojciech Marchwica, also took part in them. The mayor of Cassino, Enzo Salera, was also present.

The head of the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression honored the Italian Giovanni Lena with the Pro Patria medal in recognition of his merits for commemorating the soldiers of the Polish II Corps. The artist Cosimino Simeone also presented Ambassador Anna Maria Anders with a painted portrait of her father, General Anders. At the end of the ceremony, homage was paid to General Anders by laying flowers at his monument. Then, Minister Kasprzyk laid flowers at the Monument to the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division on the famous hill 593, which was a key position during the capture of the Monte Cassino monastery.

Anna Wiejak

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