Increasingly, the opinions of certain Allied officers were fixed on the great abbey of Monte Cassino: in their view it was the abbey—and its presumed use as a German artillery observation point—that prevented the breach of the ‘Gustav Line'.
The British press and C. L. Sulzberger of The New York Times frequently and convincingly and in (often manufactured) detail wrote of German observation posts and artillery positions inside the abbey. The commander in chief of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces Lieutenant-General Ira C. Eaker accompanied by Lieutenant-General Jacob L. Devers (deputy to General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, the Supreme Allied Commander of the Mediterranean Theater) personally observed during a fly-over “a radio mast [...] German uniforms hanging on a clothesline in the abbey courtyard; [and] machine gun emplacements 50 yards (46 m) from the abbey walls.” [nb 1] Major-General Geoffrey Keyes of U.S. II Corps also flew over the monastery several times; he then reported to Fifth Army G-2 that he had seen no evidence the Germans were in the abbey. When informed of others who had claimed to have seen Germans in the abbey, he stated: “They’ve been looking so long they’re seeing things."
The view in New Zealand Corps HQ, as articulated in the writings of Major-General Kippenberger, was that the monastery was probably being used as the German's main vantage point for artillery spotting, since it was so perfectly situated for the purpose that no army could refrain from using it. There is no clear evidence to this effect, but he went on to write that from a military point of view the current state of occupancy of the monastery was immaterial:
"If not occupied today, it might be tomorrow and it did not appear it would be difficult for the enemy to bring reserves into it during an attack or for troops to take shelter there if driven from positions outside. It was impossible to ask troops to storm a hill surmounted by an intact building such as th...