Battle of Ortona

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Battle of Ortona
Part of the Winter Line and the battle for Rome of the Second World War Italian Campaign
Canadian Armour Passing Through Ortona, by Charles Comfort. Canadian War Museum (CN 12245).
DateDecember 20–28, 1943[1]
Ortona, Italy
Result Canadian victory
Canada Canada Nazi Germany Germany
Commanders and leaders
Canada Chris Vokes Nazi Germany Richard Heidrich
2 Battalions 2 Battalions
Casualties and losses
1375[nb 1] Unknown
1300 civilian deaths[5]

The Battle of Ortona was a small, very violent battle fought between German and Canadian troops. It was fought on December 20–28, 1943.[1] It was part of World War II.

The battalion of German paratroops were from the German 1st Parachute Division under Generalleutnant Richard Heidrich. The Canadian forces were from the 1st Canadian Infantry Division under Major General Chris Vokes.

It was part of the fighting on the Adriatic area in Italy. The battle has been called "Little Stalingrad"[5] because of the violent, close fighting. The battle took place in the Adriatic Sea town of Ortona, with a population of 10,000.

Background[change | change source]

The Eighth Army's attack on the Winter Line defences started on 23 November. By the end of the month, Allied troops broke through the Gustav Line defences. The Allied troops were fighting towards the Moro river, near Ortona.

Ortona was one of Italy's few deep water ports on the east coast. The Allies wanted to capture the port. The Germans had constructed a series of defensive positions in the town.

The battle[change | change source]

Canadian sniper at the Battle of Ortona

The Canadians had to battle the German 1st Parachute Division. These soldiers were experienced after many years of war. Adolf Hitler ordered them to defend Ortona.

The Canadian attack on the town was on December 20. The Germans had hidden machine guns and anti-tank guns in the town. This made it hard for Canadian tanks and infantry to move.[6] The fighting was very violent. The soldiers fought for every house.

After six days fighting, 2nd Brigade's third battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, joined the battle. Tanks from 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade also joined the battle.

On 28 December, after eight days of fighting, the Germans withdrew from the town. The Canadians had 1,375 dead.[3]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Mainly Canadian. Includes losses to the Loyal Edmonton Regiment of 172 casualties, of which 63 killed; the Seaforth Highlanders 103, of which 41 killed.[2] Sources are often confused between figures for the eight days of fighting at Ortona and those for the whole of the December campaign. Zuehlke gives Canadian losses for this period of 1375 dead and 964 wounded[3] while the website says casualties for Canadian 1st Infantry Division in December (including 1st Brigade's crossing of the Moro, 2nd Brigade's fighting in the town and 3rd Brigade's attempted outflanking attack) totaled 4,206 including 695 killed.[4]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Canada at War website: Battle of Ortona". Archived from the original on 2012-02-06. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  2. Landry, Pierre (2003). Beauregard, Marc (ed.). "Juno Beach Center: The Capture of Ortona". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Zuehlke (1999),[page needed]
  4. " Ortona". Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Zuehlke (1999),[page needed]
  6. Bercuson, p. 175

Bibliography[change | change source]