On this day in 1944, the British 8th Army breaks through the Germans’ “Gothic Line,” a defensive line drawn across northern Italy.
The Allies had pushed the German occupying troops on the Italian peninsula farther and farther north. On June 4, U.S. Gen. Mark Clark had captured Rome. Now the Germans had dug in north of Florence. Built earlier in the year, this defensive line consisted of fortified towns, stretching from Pisa in the west to Pesaro in the east. One of these towns was Siena, home to much glorious medieval art—also home to the Italian partisans, guerillas who had been harassing the Germans and remnants of Italian fascists since Italy had surrendered. Their ability to create chaos and confusion behind the Germans’ own lines was of great aid to the Allies.
Expert strategic maneuvering by British General Harold Alexander, who opened his offensive on August 25, surprised the Germans, and the 8th Army swept through the Plain of Lombardy, crashing through the Gothic Line.