A Walking Tour of Italy’s WWII Battlefields: Breaking the Gustav and Hitler Lines


Robert Irving Desourdis (Author) – Desourdis Collaboration, LLC, President and CEO, A Business-Development Consulting Company
Frank de Planta de Wildenberg (Lead subject-matter-expert historian for Italian Campaign tours)

Series: Europe: Past, Present and Future;  Homeland Security and Safety
BISAC: HIS027100, HIS020000

The Italian Campaign is truly an amazing, and often heartbreaking, story, and it certainly generates sympathy as well as respect for the soldiers who fought there, particularly the sacrificed Texas and Polish soldiers as well as the British “D-Day Dodgers.” In addition to the British soldiers, you gain a new and far greater appreciation of the men in the 36th Texas and Polish Divisions because of their commitment, heroism and sacrifice in these battles, much less the many others from multiple nations who fought in Italy in 1943 and 1944. This book is the second title in the NOVA Science Publishers Homeland Security Series presenting a walking tour of World War II battle sites in mainland Italy:

  1. A Walking Tour of Italy’s WWII Battlefields: From the Salerno Landings to San Pietro Infine
  2. A Walking Tour of Italy’s WWII Battlefields: Breaking the Gustav and Hitler Lines
  3. A Walking Tour of Italy’s WWII Battlefields: From the Anzio Landings to Rome.

These books were derived from the sights and sounds experienced while on Marty Gane’s South Mountain Expeditions  2014 tour called WWII Invasion of Italy: From Sicily to Rome. The late Edwin Cole Bearss was the lead South Mountain historian for the tour, and helped select our expert history guide British Lt Col (Retd) Frank de Planta de Wildenberg, a deservedly renowned Italian battlefield tour leader. Franks designed the tour route, providing the specific strategic and tactical on-the-ground details we experienced at each stand (tour location) we visited. Ed Bearss provided insightful commentary and likened situations to his own combat experience as a Marine in the WWII Pacific theater.

This book provides the images and narration of Frank and Ed as we were taken on the tour of battle sites as the Allies tried four times to break through the Gustav Line and then another battle for the Hitler Line. Nowhere has the importance of terrain in ground combat more apparent, and perhaps more exaggerated, than in Italy, and even more so in and around Montecassino. This book documents Frank’s and Ed’s accurate and insightful narrative and many photographs drawn from tour  video. We were continuously impressed with the full visibility of the Liri Valley floor from the surrounding heights above Rte. 6, the chosen Allied route to Rome. These heights enabled domination of the battles fought for the Gustav Line by physically underpowered and tactically overmatched Allied armies. Creating this book series brought back many emotive sights, sounds, stories and emotions (unfortunately, not the food) experienced on the tour. We hope it provides some sense of that experience for the reader.



• Lt Col (Retd) Frank de Planta de Wildenberg
• Robert Irving Desourdis
• Michael Kelly
• Giovanni Lisciotto
Editor’s Note
Part I Preface
• Why This Book
•  Frank de Planta de Wildenberg
•  A History Tour “Fanatic”
•  Guided tour of Pompeii
The Italian Campaign: Part I – Salerno to San Pietro Infine
•  The High Ground in Italy
•  Before the Invasion
Giovanni Lisciotto’s Story
•  The Family and Its Business
•  War Declared
• German Occupation
• The Bombings
•  Allied Occupation
Chapter 1 The Landing at Salerno
• Overview from Arechi Castle
•  Allied Invasion Planning and German Defenses
(1) Rome and Terracina
(2) Gulfs of St Euphemia & Gioia
(3) Salerno
Lack of Lift
Who’s in Charge
•  Clark, not Patton
•  Marshall
•  Walker and McCreery
Too Far Out
Seven Bells
The Landing Plan
Paestum: Texas Invades Italy
•  Piegolelle: A Legend of Salerno
•  Texas on the Beaches at Paestum
•  Paestum Remembers
Chapter 2 Taking the Salerno Plain
•  Capaccio
•  Altavilla 69
•  The Burned Bridge
•  Tobacco Factory
Chapter 3 San Pietro Infine
•  The Road to Rome
•  The 36th Texas at San Pietro Infine
•  Foreseeing Tragedy: The Rapido Crossing
Part II Preface
•  The Little I Knew
•  The Ground
Chapter 4 The Four Battles for the Gustav Line
•  The First Battle
•  Security, Surprise, Simplicity, Concentration of Force, Maintenance of Momentum
•  The Rapido – Another Suicide Creek
•  36 US Infantry Division Memorial from the First Battle
•  Monte Cassino
The Second Battle
•  The Atina Alternative – Ignored
•  The Monastery at Monte Cassino
•  Bomb, or not to Bomb
•  The Giant Pincer Movement
•  The Monastery
The Third Battle
•  View from Above Caira
•  The Cavendish Road
•  The Third Battle’s Diversionary Attack on Snakeshead Ridge
•  The Doctor’s House
•  The Vital Ground of 593
The Fourth Battle
•  The Cunning Plan
•  The Battle Starts
•  The Amazon Crossing
Chapter 5 The Hitler Line
•  Piedimonte San Germano
•  Canada at the Hitler Line
• The Ground
•  The Plan
• The Wheat Field
•  Killing Areas
•  Sacrifice for Victory
•  Mines
Chapter 6 The Monte Cassino Cemeteries
•  Cassino British Cemetery
•  Commonwealth Cemeteries
•  Precedence
The Polish Cemetery
•  Little Known Fifth Battle for Monte Cassino
•  Polish Sacrifice
•  Polish Plight
•  Buzuluk 94
•  Emigration
German Cemetery at Cassino
Part III Preface
•  … and It Would Get Worse
•  Vineyards and Grandfather
•  The Nettuno Cemetery Talk
Chapter 7 Landing at Anzio and Nettune
Nettuno Cemetery talk
•  The Terrain
•  Why Anzio?
•  The Invasion
Anzio Landing Logistics
•  Lucas and Darby
Chapter 8 The Anzio-Albano Road
•  Final Defense Line
•  Aprilia
The British Breakout
•  Smelly Farm
•  Point 105
Chapter 9 Cisterna and the Pantano Ditch
The Plan
The Ditch
The Attack Goes In
•  Conca-Cisterna Road
•  Ranger Style
•  Special Units
•  Fort Smith, Arkansas
•  Isola Bella
Defense to the End
Chapter 10 Pincer the Lozenge
•  Buonriposo Ridge
•  The Gully
•  The Flyover
•  The Caves
Chapter 11 The Lobster Claws
•  The Misery of the Wadis
•  Surviving the Hell
Chapter 12 The Allies Break Out 240
The Options
•  TURTLE 242
The View from Cori
The Velletri Gap
Chapter 13 Allied Victory in Italy
•  Passing the Caesar Line
•  The Eternal City
Chapter 14 Summary of the Italian Campaign: The Nettuno Cemetery Wall Maps
•  Sicily and Foggia
•  Salerno
•  Breaching the Gustav Line
•  Anzio-Nettuno Landings
Alban Hills
Chapter 15 The Nettuno and Anzio Cemeteries
•  The Rome-Sicily American Cemetery at Nettuno
•  British Beach Head CWGC Cemetery
•  Military Tribalism
Addendum: The Pompeii Tour
•  Reading List for Regiments & Corps involved in the Italian Campaign (alphabetical order
•  Reading List for generalist books on the Italian Campaign

Additional information