Decisive Battles In History

1st Phase. 1944 - THE BATTLE OF RIMINI
"Alexander's Summer Offensive" (Churchill)
"The Battle of the Apennines" (Kesselring)


Rimini, a very ancient Etruscan-Celtic-Roman town,  where in 49 B.C. the Eagles of Julius Caesar started their imperial flight,  where in 359 A.D. a "diabolical" Council gave temporarily the Christian Church to the heretical Arians,  where in 1226 the Emperor Friedrich the 2nd Hohenstaufen gave birth to the modern Germany with the Gold Bulle von Rimini,  where in 1300 Dante sang the everlasting tragedy of Paolo and Francesca and  in 1450 Sigismondo Malatesta started the Italian Renaissance in 1944 was again in the focus of History.

25 Aug - 30 Sept '44

The Battle of Rimini


" Now we begin the last lap. Swiftly and secretly we have moved an Army of immense strength and striking power to break the Gothic Line. Victory in coming battles means the beginning of the end for the German Armies in Italy." (Gen. Leese)

The Gothic Line (rechristened "Green Line" in June '44) was a fortified line, running Km 320 from Pesaro on the Adriatic to Massa Carrara on the Tyrrhenian sea., thick with Panther gun turrets, steel shelters, rock tunnellings of defence positions, deep minefields, etc. From the left bank of the river Foglia it had 2.376 machine-gun posts, 479 antitank guns, mortar and assault guns positions, 120.000 metres of wire and many miles of antitank ditches. Before there was a Security Line and behind, at 20 Km., the Gothic Line n.2. Alexander's offensive was launched by Churchill himself. Its first phase, "the battle of Rimini", "the biggest battle of materials ever fought in Italy", was one of the most crucial (and unknown) battles of the 2nd World War, fought by 1.200.000 men and thousands of guns, tanks and aircraft. It was a giant pincer manoeuvre fought by the British 8th Army on the Adriatic and by the US 5th Army in the Apennines. Against Rimini, already ruined by 92 air raids, the Allied Artillery fired 1.470.000 rounds (1.200.000 at El Alamein, 500.000 at Cassino), not counting the British Navy and  the German Artillery. The aircraft flew 11.510 sorties (486 only on Sept.18). Casualties until 21.09.1944 amounted to around 80.000, civilians inclusive, and to more than 754 armoured vehicles destroyed or damaged only in the Adriatic sector. In the whole battle, casualties were around 100.000, Italians inclusive. (On 7 Oct. Alexander assessed 30.000 allied and 42.000 German casualties) The battle climaxed in the last days of September 1944. Breached the Gothic Lines.1 and n.2, captured Rimini gateway to North Italy and to the Balkans, cut the German defences in the Apennines, Kesselring was menaced with being surrounded. He felt to be defeated and asked Hitler twice to evacuate Italy. The victory for the Allies was within grasp, but soon disappeared when the Americans were stopped at Mount Battaglia. Kesselring, the winner, was later rewarded with the command of the German Armies in the West.

According to the international official histories the real Gothic Line offensive ends with the end of the battle of Rimini, on Sept. 30. The Germans prolong it to the end of October. According to us the "battle of rivers" which followed until Jan. 6th, 1945 should be regarded as its 2nd phase. Totally the casualties increased to around 200.000. The 2nd phase went on by force of inertia. The Americans couldn't take Bologna and the British had to stop at the river Senio (Irmgard Line).
Churchill admitted the failure of the offensive that cost Italy the Istrian peninsula and Dalmatia, but pursued his Balkan plans with a landing in Greece which denied the Mediterranean to the Russians.


2nd Phase. The Battle of rivers. Op. Gelignite
and the landing in Greece

In October the Gothic Line offensive starts again with " the battle of rivers' in preparation of the "Operation Gelignite" which should have driven the Americans beyond Bologna whilst the British should have landed in Dalmatia. But the Operation failed just before starting. The Americans were stopped before Bologna and the British at the river Senio, soon after the liberation of Forlì, Ravenna and Faenza. Tito withstood the British landings at Zadar, Split and Sibenik. The British then landed in Greece whilst the Germans ended the allied offensive with small counterattacks in the Tuscan Garfagnana region and at Ravenna.
The Italian Campaign ended up months later with the final Spring Offensive (Operation Grapeshot), with the partecipation also of Italian soldiers, regular and irregular. The Germans surrendered on April 28 and handed in all arms on May 2.

The protagonists assesments:
"This campaign is a hard row to hoe. It is the most difficult country in Europe, and yet we always get troops and equipment taken away from us for elsewhere. We have done all the fighting on a very narrow margin of relative strenghts".The battle of Rimini was "one of the hardest battles of Eighth Army. The fighting was comparable to El Alamein, Mareth and the Gustav Line (Cassino)". (Sir Oliver Leese)

The battle of Rimini "had been as bitter as El Alamein and Cassino". (Sir Richard McCreery)

"On the Apennines, south of San Marino, was fought the biggest battle in Italy: the names of Fano, Pesaro, Cattolica, Riccione and Rimini remain in the history of war." ( Beelitz and Heckel, German H.Q., Bellaria, Summer 1945)

"The battle of Rimini, as characterised by concentration of material in a confined area, will take its place in history as an example of a battle of attrition in the grand style.. For the first time the German troops could conduct defensive operations in a major battle as laid down in the German manual "Field Service Operations" (Truppen Fuhrung)" (Col. Horst Pretzell, German H.Q., Bellaria, Summer 1945)

"The battle of Rimini has been the biggest battle of materials fought in Italy" (Schäffer & Wöbbeking in Gen. Joachim Lemelsen '29.Division')

"The battle of the Apennines is a famous page in the military history of Germany". (Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, Commander Group of Armies 'C', South-West)

"The XV Army Group performed a successful undertaking that surely has never been exceeded.The Gothic Line was stormed by the American 5th Army and by the British 8th Army." - (Retroversion from Sir Harold Alexander's  "Memoirs")

"Victories, like the taking of Rome and the storming of the Gothic Line keep their name through the centuries." (Eric Linklater)

Opposite orders of battle from Adriatic to Tyrrhenian sea  - 25 august 1944

Schieramento 1


Schieramento 2