On this day, Operation Panther, the Allied invasion of Cassino, in central Italy, is launched.
The Italian Campaign had been underway for more than six months. Beginning with the invasion of Sicily, the Allies had been fighting their way up the Italian peninsula against German resistance--the Italians had already surrendered and signed an armistice with the Allies in September 1943. The ancient town of Cassino, near the Rapido River, was a strategic point in the German Gustav Line, a defensive front across central Italy and based at the Rapido, Garigliano, and Sangro rivers. Taking Cassino would mean a breach in the German line and their inevitable retreat farther north.
Although the campaign to take Cassino commenced in January, the town was not safely in Allied hands until May. The campaign caused considerable destruction, including the bombing of the ancient Benedictine abbey Monte Cassino, which took the lives of a bishop and several monks.