Operation Diadem

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Operation Diadem
Part of the Winter Line and the battle for Rome of the Second World War Italian Campaign
Allied plan for Operation Diadem
Date 11-May 1944
Location Liri Valley, Italy
Result Allied victory

 United Kingdom

 United States
 Free France
Poland Poland
Canada Canada


Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Sidney Kirkman
United States Omar Bradley
Poland Władysław Anders
Free France Alphonse Juin
Nazi Germany F. v. Senger und Etterlin
Nazi Germany Valentin Feurstein
Traugott Herr
Units involved
United Kingdom XIII Corps
United States II Corps
Poland II Corps
Free France CEFI
Nazi Germany XIV Panzer Corps
Nazi Germany LI Mountain Corps
Nazi Germany LXXVI Panzer Corps (elements)

Operation Diadem, also referred to as the Fourth Battle of Monte Cassino or, in Canada, the Battle of the Liri Valley, was an offensive operation undertaken by the Allies of World War II (U.S. Fifth Army and British Eighth Army in May 1944, as part of the Italian Campaign of World War II. Diadem was supported by air attacks called Operation Strangle. The opposing force was the German Tenth Army.

The object of Diadem was to break the German defenses on the Gustav Line (the western half of the Winter Line) and open up the Liri Valley, the main route to Rome. British General Sir Harold Alexande, the Allied commander in the Italian theatre, planned Diadem to coordinate roughly with the invasion of Normandy, so that German forces would be tied down in Italy, and could not be redeployed to France.

Four corps were employed in the attack. From right to left these were Polish II Corps and British XIII Corps, of Eighth Army, and the Free French Corps (including Moroccan Goumiers) and U.S. II Corps, of Fifth Army. Fifth Army also controlled U.S. VI Corps in the Anzio beachhead, some 60 miles northwest.

Diadem was launched at 2300 Hours on 11 May 1944 by elements, composed of the British 4th Infantry Division and 8th Indian Infantry Division with supporting fire from the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade. They made a successful strongly opposed night crossing of the Garigliano and Rapido rivers. This broke into the heart of the German defenses in the Liri valley against strong opposition and drew German theater reserves reducing pressure on the Anzio beachhead. The Free French Corps pushed through the mountains to the left on 14 May, supported by U.S. II Corps along the coast. On 17 May, Polish II Corps on the right attacked Monte Cassino.

The German position collapsed, and the Germans fell back from the Gustav Line to the Hitler Line some 10 miles to their rear.

On 23 May, the four corps attacked the Hitler Line. On the same day, U.S. VI Corps attacked out of the Anzio beachhead.

The Hitler Line was breached by 1st Canadian Infantry Division's 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards at Pontecorvo on 23 May. German Tenth Army was forced to retire northwestward. U.S. VI Corps, moving northeast from Anzio, was on the point of cutting the German line of retreat, when the U.S. Fifth Army commander U.S. Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark inexplicably ordered them to turn northwest and advance on Rome instead. There is much speculation that he did this so that Fifth Army would capture Rome ahead of Eighth Army advancing up the Liri Valley. The German 10th Army thus avoided being surrounded.

The Germans fought a series of delaying actions, retired to the Trasimene Line, and then to the Gothic Line (identified on German maps as the "Green" Line), north of the Arno River.

See also