Castelforte During The Second World War
During the Second World War II Castelforte was a major German stronghold on the Gustav Line. During the war the local people suffered greatly under German occupation having to endure the threat of persecution, reprisal and even execution. During 1943 / 1944, for nine solid months the town was subjected to relentless heavy land and naval bombardment by the Allied forces, during which there were hundreds of civilian deaths and casualties. The Allies made repeated attempts to press forward and breach the strategic Gustav Line, however were met with stiff resistance as the Germans tenaciously held on, retaliating with violent counter-attacks. Finally the Allies succeeded in crossing the fast flowing Garilgliano River and mounted repeated assaults to conquer Castelforte.
However, the Germans had made the town of Castelforte and the local mountains of Faito, Garofano, Feuci and Majo into a seemingly impregnable fortress, full of bunkers with machine guns, minefields, barbed wire and flame throwers. Indeed, the mountain stronghold of Castelforte was nicknamed Little Cassino.
On the 11th May 1944, French Expeditionary Corps began an assault during the early hours of the morning. Many of their troops were Moroccan and skilled in mountain warfare. They were supported by American troops and artillery. After three days of close combat, on the 13th May 1944, the Allies were finally successful in breaking through the German lines and Castelforte was liberated, and the Gustav line had finally been breached. However, the town of Castelforte had been virtually destroyed. A few days later on the 18th May, following a week long brave assault by Polish and French troops, Montecassino was finally liberated enabling the Allies to continue their march towards Rome.
The Germans had laid 24,000 land mines in the Castelforte area, which resulted in numerous additional casualaties.
The town went on to be awarded the La Medaglia D’Oro Al Valor Civile :
“A strategically important centre, located on the Gustav Line, during the Second World War was in the middle of opposing line ups, undergoing all kinds of violence by German troops and Moroccans and heavy bombardment by the Allies, which caused numerous civilian casualties and almost total destruction of the town. The whole population, with fierce countenance, resisted the most severe suffering, giving an admirable example of courage and patriotism.”
A British Pathé film taken around the town of Castelforte which had just been taken by the Allies from the Germans. There are shots of American soldiers patrolling the area, Free French troops with pack mules moving along road, Italian refugees carrying their belongings, German prisoners being marched along a road – The Road To Rome
Another film – Allied Troops Break Through The Gustav Line
In Castelforte there is a monument erected to the memory of Alfredo Fusco who died 20 February 1941. He was an extremely courageous and loyal young Fighter Pilot, a Lieutenant in the 154° Gruppo Caccia Terrestri, who was shot down, at the tender age of 25, in the skies over Albania. He was awarded the Military Gold Medal For Valour.