American Forces Withdraw from Cassino
On February 11, after a final unsuccessful 3 day assault on Monastery Hill and Cassino town, the Americans were withdrawn.
U.S. II Corps, after two and a half weeks of torrid battle, was fought out. The performance of 34th Division in the mountains is considered to rank as one of the finest feats of arms carried out by any soldiers during the war. In return they sustained losses of about 80% in the Infantry battalions, some 2,200 casualties.
At the height of the battle in the first days of February General von Senger und Etterlin had moved 90th Division from the Garigliano front to north of Cassino and had been so alarmed at the rate of attrition, he had "...mustered all the weight of my authority to request that the Battle of Cassino should be broken off and that we should occupy a quite new line. ... a position, in fact, north of the Anzio bridgehead". Kesselring refused the request. At the crucial moment von Senger was able to throw in the 71st Infantry Division whilst leaving 15th Panzer Grenadiers (whom they had been due to relieve) in place.
During the battle there had been occasions when, with more astute use of reserves, promising positions might have been turned into decisive moves. Some historians suggest this failure to capitalize on initial success could be put down to General Clark's lack of experience. However, it is more likely that he just had too much to do, being responsible for both the Cassino and Anzio offensives. This view is supported by General Truscott's inability, as related below, to get hold of him for discussions at a vital juncture of the Anzio breakout at the time of the fourth Cassino battle. Whilst General Alexander chose (for perfectly logical co-ordination arguments) to have Cassino and Anzio under a single army commander and splitting the Gustav line front between U.S. 5th and British 8th Armies, Kesselring chose to create a separate 14th Army under Gen. Eberhard von Mackensen to fight at Anzio whilst leaving the Gustav line in the sole hands of Gen. Heinrich von Vietinghoff's 10th Army.
The withdrawn American units were replaced by the New Zealand Corps (2nd New Zealand Division and 4th Indian Division) from the British 8th Army on the Adriatic front. The New Zealand Corps was commanded by Lt. Gen. Bernard Freyberg.
Kriegsbild 3 On 15th February 1944 while 229 American bombers attacked only monks and refugees, mostly women and children, were in the basement vaults of the Abbey, which was destroyed through 500 tons of explosive- and firebombs until the foundation walls. Merely the early-medieval crypt remained undamaged. Kriegsbild 4 Directly after the bombing, German troops included the ruins of the Abbey into their defence positions, which remained impregnable for the aggressors also in the next months.