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Dated Dec 21, 2006
The Allies Capture of Imola
April 9-15, 1945

Description of the Capture of Imola by the British 8th Army.
Dates: April 9 - 15, 1944
Source: "15th Army Group History: 16 December 1944 - 2 May 1945", published by Battery Press, Inc., 1989. Quoted from Chapter VIII, 'The Final Offensive'. Pages 103 - 120.

This description of the spring offensive by the British 8th Army was prepared for a friend I met on the internet who lives in the Imola area, near the town of Castel Bologense.  I found it interesting because of several reason, the primary one being that this combat is completely ignored by most history books.  The British 8th Army was started the Spring Offensive into the Po Valley before the US 5th Army.  The 5th Army had used the 10th Mountain Division to capture some prominent positions earlier but their massive attack did not begin until a few days after the British.  Also, of interest, the 5th Army changed the direction of their drive.  Instead of heading towards Imola and Highway 9, they drove directly north towards Bologna.  Highway 9 was left to the British.  Another side-note; this is the first description I've found where the Jewish Brigade was used in combat.
Imola is located on Highway 9 just south-east of Bologna.  Bologna is in central northern Italy.  Bologna is on the northern edge of the Appennine Mountains and Imola is in the valley beyond the mountains.

Color Legend: Allied Units (primarily British, includes Polish, New Zealand & Indian Corps)
Italian Units (part of British Army)
German Units
{My comments in Brackets} or {Omitted un-related text.}
Imola- Italian towns of interest

Jump to Map of Imola

Chapter VIII -   The Final Offensive

a. Preliminary Attacks. {Omitted - A description of the Allied attacks on the west coast.}

b. Eighth Army Starts the Offensive (April 9-15). D-day for the spring offensive dawned warm and clear - the long-awaited favorable weather. During the morning of April 9 the Mediterranean Allied Air Force flew a few routine sorties, to preserve the secrecy of the air attack that was to take place shortly after noon. At 1350 hours in the afternoon the greatest concentrated direct-support air effort of the Italian campaign began as 825 heavy bombers and 234 medium bombers assisted by 740 fighter bombers assaulted the Lugo-Imola front, east of Bologna, in direct support of the Eighth Army's main effort. The main weight of the air attack was delivered in the space of an hour and a half. All waves of bombers, except one, attacked their designated targets with great accuracy, the one exception, unfortunately, being in the Polish Corps zone where bombs fell among the leading elements of that corps. The air attack was followed by a concentrated artillery preparation.

(1) Securing Bridgeheads over the Senio and Santerno Rivers. The V Corps and the 2 Polish Corps started the main Eighth Army attack across the Senio River at 1920 hours according to plan, the V Corps on the right and the 2 Polish Corps on the left.

The V Corps attacked with the 8th Indian Division on the right, northeast of Lugo, and the 2nd New Zealand Division on the left. Crossings over the Senio River were quickly made against moderate Initial resistance as the enemy in that area attempted to recover from the devastating air attack. By 2330 hours the 8th Indian Division had a bridgehead across the river approximately 1000 yards deep, and four miles to the south the New Zealand Division had two battalions of the 5th and 6th New Zealand Brigades over the river, with several Bailey bridges under construction.

The attacking elements of the Polish Corps, recovering from the effects of the misdirected bombing, experienced difficulty initially in getting across the river as heavy resistance was met from the 26th Panzer Division and the 4th Para Division. Elements of the 2nd Carpathian Brigade finally forced a crossing of the Senio on the right of the corps zone, and the 1st Carpathian Brigade, greatly hampered by mines, established positions on the southern flood bank of the river.

Map of Imola- April 1945
Map of 8th Army advance in the Imola area.
The starting position of the 8th Army is the solid line running thru Forli.
The thick solid line is the front lines after a few days.

Heavy fighting continued on the Eighth Army front all through the 10th, and by the end of the day's fighting Alfonsine, Fusignano, Lugo, and Cotignola had been cleared and a firm bridgehead of a mile to two miles in depth had been established over the Senio River on a fifteen mile front. In the center, forward elements of the 8th Indian Division were along the Tratturo Canal, and on the left leading New Zealand troops approached the Santerno River. Four enemy divisions--- the 42nd Jaeger, the 362nd and 98th Infantry, and the 26th Panzer Divisions ---were heavily involved in the day's battles, over 2200 prisoners being taken from these enemy divisions.

Shortly after first light on the 11th, the 56th Division launched a small amphibious attack on the southwest shore of the Valli di Comacchio. The 169th Brigade with the 40th Commando attached landed in the Dossi Matta Lunga area using Buffaloes. The land lying under the water in this area was found to be firmer than had been the case in the previous attempt to use Buffaloes farther south in the Vaffi di Comacchio. This time excellent results were obtained as the craft carried the assault troops through the marshy inundated land along the shore. During the day a beachhead was established extending from Menate through Longastrino to Casa Manzine. Resistance was mainly from a battalion of the 42nd Jaeger Division and an ad hoc battalion of odds and ends from the Argenta area. About 200 prisoners in all were taken. During the night the beachhead forces linked up with elements of the 167th Brigade that had been pushing west along the Reno River against heavy opposition.

The Eighth Army main attack continued on the 11th as resistance stiffened, particularly in front of the 2nd New Zealand Division. The New Zealand troops established a bridgehead across the Santerno southwest of San Agata, while the 17th Indian Brigade crossed the Tratturo Canal and pushed pn across the Santerno River northeast of San Agata. During the early morning of the 11th, the Polish Corps lost contact with the enemy north of Highway 9, occupied Bagnara without resistance, and closed up to the general line of the Santerno River west of Bagnara. Along Highway 9, the shallow bridgehead established by the Polish Corps over the Senio on the 10th was extended to the outskirts of Castel Bolognese.

To the left of the Polish Corps, pressure was maintained by the X and XIIICorps. In the X Corps zone the 2nd Jewish Brigade crossed the Senio River and approached Monte Gebbio, meeting only mortar fire. The Friuli Group crossed the Senio River on a three-mile front to a depth of approximately 1000 yards and captured Riolo dei Bagni. In the XIIICorps zone, the Nembo Regiment of the Folgore Group occupied Tossignano against little opposition. In the sector south of Highway 9, the enemy started a voluntary withdrawal pivoting on Monte Grande, swinging back across the Santerno in the 4th Para Division sector and pulling back the 278th Division out of contact.

In the face of strong enemy opposition and continuous counter-attacks, the 8th Indian Division, the 2nd Zealand Division, and the 3rd Carpathian Division established and consolidated shallow bridgeheads over the Santerno River on an eight-mile front on April 12. The 36th Brigade of the 78th Division was committed and passed through the 17th Indian Brigade. The 36th Brigade advanced rapidly against light resistance to the vicinity of San Patrino and captured two bridges intact across the Canal dei Molini. On the left of the Polish Corps zone, along Highway 9, Castel Bolognese was cleared and Castelnuovo, three miles to the north, was capturei The Folgore Group lost contact with the German 278th Division and advanced to occupy Codrignano, Ronco, and Camaggio.

North of the Reno River, the 56th Division advanced from two to three miles against varying resistance, as elements of the 167th Brigade strengthened their link-up with the 169th Brigade beachhead. South of the Reno River, other elements of the 167th Brigade approached the junction of the Santerno and Reno Rivers, and along Highway 16 the Cremona Group closed up to the Santerno.

During the day, the enemy fought fiercely but unsuccessfully to reduce the Eighth Army bridgeheads over the Santerno, and in the late afternoon resistance slackened suddenly as the enemy began to withdraw to the northwest. Late in the afternoon, heavy traffic was observed in the rear of the battle area heading away from the front.

On the 13th, the enemy stiffened all along the front in desperate efforts to hold his next river line; the Sillaro. The Eighth Army attack had succeeded in smashing the Senio River line against the enemy's best efforts to hold that line, and this success had been quickly followed by the attack across the Santerno River, giving the enemy little time to get set to meet the full force of the attack on that line. The enemy was fighting fiercely for each of his river lines and Allied strategy was to defeat him on each of those lines successively. The battle now was for the area between the Santerno and the Sillaro Rivers. Indications pointed to a fighting withdrawal to the Sillaro River, but the defenses of this line were not developed nearly as fully as those of the Senio, Santerno, and Idice Rivers, and air photos showed that the Smaro was low and probably fordable at several places. It was appreciated that the enemy might not be able to make an effective stand on the Sillaro and that he might be forced to fight his way back to the Idice River.

Another small amphibious operation, launched by the 56th Division early on the morning of the 13th, with the 24th Guards Brigade and the 9th Commando landing from Buffaloes in the Bonifica area east of Argenta, met with limited success. Shallow beachheads were established against determined resistance, as again the Buffaloes proved their value in marsh land with a comparatively firm bottom. In this area prisoners were taken from a battalion of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division, confirming other indications that part of this mobile reserve division had been brought back from north of the Po River. Heavy fighting developed for the di Bando bridge, which remained in enemy hands throughout the day.

The 169th Brigade, advancing west towards Bastia on the 13th, reached the vicinity of Filo, and the 167th Brigade, advancing on both sides of the Reno River, was slightly to the southeast. The Cremona Group crossed the Santerno and was firmly established 1000 yards to the northwest on Highway 16. On the 13th steady advances were made on the remainder of the Eighth Army front against fierce resistance as the enemy fought a strong delaying action between the Santerno and Sillaro Rivers. The enemy employed relatively small numbers of infantry effectively bolstered by tanks and assault guns to hold off the Eighth Army's attacks while he pulled his forces back to new positions behind the Sillaro River.

The 38th Brigade passed through the 19th Indian Brigade and advanced to the general line of the railroad running northeast from Conselice, and the 36th Brigade approached Conselice from the south. The 78th Division assumed command of the 8th Indian Division zone on the 13th. The 2nd New Zealand Division cleared Massa Lombarda and advanced three miles to the northwest. The 43rd Indian Lorried Infantry Brigade, attached to the Polish Corps, passed through the right brigade of the Polish Corps and crossed the Scolo Gambellaro, five miles northeast of Imola, while on the left elements of the Corps moving just north of Highway 9 were within one mile of the outskirts of Imola on the northeast side.

The X Corps followed up the general advance and mopped up on its front to a distance of about two miles. The XIII Corps continued to mop up in its zone, but its advance was considerably hampered by enemy artillery and mortar fire.

In the 56th Division zone north of the Reno River, the enemy's 42nd Jaeger Division fought stubbornly throughout the 14th, frustrating all attempts to establish troops over the Reno below Bastia, and warding off attacks on Filo until late in the day, when the town was finally captured by the 169thBrigade. The 38thBrigade in the 78th Division zone fought along the Reno River in the vicinity of the Bastia bridge and prepared to launch an attack to cross the river. The 36th Brigade cleared Conselice and continued three miles to the northwest. The 2 Polish Corps cleared Imola and pursued the enemy to a general line running north of Imola. In the XCorps zone the FriuliGroup, conforming to the advance of the Polish Corps on the right, closed up to the Santerno River south and southwest of Imola.

In order to give added impetus to the Eighth Army drive up the Po Valley north of Highway 9, Lt. Gen. McCreery moved the XIIICorps from the left flank of the Army, placed the 2nd New Zealand Division and its zone under the XIIICorps command, and extended the X Corps zone westward to include the former XIII Corps zone. The X Corps assumed command of the Folgore Group and seven independent infantry battalions, formerly attached to the 10th Indian Division (2nd Battalion, Highland light Infantry; 2nd Battalion, Loyal Regiment; Lovat Scouts; Jodhpur Sadar Infantry Battalion; 3/1 Punjabis; 4/11 Sikhs; and Mabha Akal Infantry Battalion); these battalions were formed into Macgroup. The 10th Indian Division was relieved by Macgroup and remained under command of the XIIICorps in its new zone of action.

(2) Crossing of the Sillaro River. On April 14, the 2nd New Zealand Division reached the Sillaro River and established the first bridgehead across the river. It was a narrow bridgehead extending two miles north from Sesto Imolese. The enemy counter-attacked with tank-supported infantry, and brought up elements of the 278th Division, which had been pulled back to the Budrio area out of contact in the withdrawal over the Santerno River, in an effort to throw the Allies back over the Sillaro River. The bridgehead held against these counter-attacks. The next day elements of both the 2 Polish Corps and the XIII Corps established substantial bridgeheads over the Sillaro on a wide front and the New Zealand bridge-head was strengthened, while the 10th Indian Brigade came under command of the New Zealand Division and established another shallow bridgehead over the river in the vicinity of Villa Serraglio. The Polish Corps bridgehead remained firm on a three-mile front in the Castel Gueffo area against fierce counter-attacks. Difficulties were encountered in building crossings for tanks, but before the end of the day two squadrons of tanks had been passed across the river and were effectively used to beat off the enemy counter-attacks.

The 15th Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division was now committed in the Argenta area and elements of this regiment threw back attacks of the 24th Guards Brigade to gain crossings over the Marina Canal. To the south, Bastia was captured by the 167th Brigade and elements advanced astride the railway to within two miles of Argenta. Elements of the 36th Brigade that had crossed the Sillaro River reached the Quaderna Canal, southwest of Bastia, and met strong enemy forces. During the night of the 15th-16th, New Zealand troops and elements of the 43rd Indian Lorried Infantry Brigade, attacking out of their bridgeheads over the Sillaro near Fantozza, pushed back the 278th Division about a mile on both sides of the railway running northwest to Medicina. To the southwest, the enemy's 1st and 4th Para Divisions continued to fall back, fighting light rearguard actions while preparing to defend the Sillaro River in the sector where Highway 9 crosses the river. Forward troops of the Polish Corps moved northwest along Highway 9 and reached the Sillaro before dark on the 15th.

In seven days of furious fighting, the Eighth Army had crossed the Senib, Santerno, and Sillaro Rivers; its thrust in the direction of the Argenta Gap had reached Bastia, aided considerably by amphibious operations on Lake Comacchio east of Argenta; and its thrust on Budrio was making excellent progress, with the New Zealand Division and the 43rd Indian Brigade across the Sillaro pushing towards Medicina.

Meanwhile, the Fifth Army attack started on April 14 in the IV Corps zone, west of Highway 64. The attack, originally planned to be launched on 24-hours notice after D plus 2, was delayed on the 12th and 13th because of rain and overcast conditions.

Jump to Map of Imola

(3) Enemy Reactions to the First Phase of Eighth Army's Offensive. The Eighth Army attack on the Senio River apparently came as no surprise to the enemy. The enemy's 76th Panzer Corps and 1st Para Corps had been alerted for an attack since the beginning of April and the renewal of the offensive in the sector northwest of Faenza was expected. The weight of the Eighth Army attack, preceded by "carpet bombing" by heavy bombers in the immediate rear of the front line and supported by a concentrated artillery preparation, shook the enemy troops which bore the brunt of the attack more than they were prepared for. In the fighting that followed, at least three of the enemy's divisions were very badly cut up - the 42nd Jaeger, the 98th and the 362nd Infantry Divisions -- and the enemy was forced to bring the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division back from north of the Po River and commit it in the Argenta area in an effort to hold the Eighth Army drive on Ferrara.

The 90th Panzer Grenadier Division, the enemy's sole remaining mobile reserve, did not move in on the Eighth Army front, however, but remained west of Bologna during the early days of the offensive until drawn into the battle on the Fifth Army front.

The enemy's 98th and 362nd Divisions lost heavily in the advance of the V Corps and the Polish Corps across the Senio River. The 26th Panzer Division fought skillfully against the Polish Corps and for the time being remained relatively undamaged, but in the bulge south of Imola the enemy began to withdraw completely as early as the night of April 10-11. The 278th Division was squeezed out between the 1st and 4th Para Divisions in this withdrawal and by the 12th was largely in reserve. By the 14th it was committed again in relief of the 98th Division astride the Medicina-Massa Lombarda railway opposite the Allied bridge-heads over the Sillaro River. A general withdrawal to the Sillaro was forced on the enemy on the 13th by his inability to drive in the Eighth Army bridge-heads over the Santerno River. In the resulting confusion, the Eighth Army was able to gain foot-holds on the west bank of the Sillaro, and even the arrival of the 278th Division, relatively fresh, failed to reduce the bridgeheads. Bitter counter-attacks all during the morning of the 14th met no more success than previous attempts to drive the Eighth Army back over the Santerno River.

At the time of the amphibious operation across Lake Comacchio against the enemy's eastern flank, on the 11th the enemy was already withdrawing from the Alfonsine area. Starting on the 12th, the 42nd Jaeger Division began to pull back into the Argenta Gap, offering stubborn resistance in its withdrawal, especially at Filo, while troops of the same division also engaged in heavy fighting for the di Bando bridge near which the 24th Guards Brigade landed on the 13th . There a battalion of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division, that left Padua on the 11th, entered the battle and fierce fighting for the bridge continued for three days. The remainder of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division was believed to be concentrating in the Argenta Gap, and was expected to take over that area to allow remnants of the 42nd Jaeger Division to join the 362nd Division in the marshy ground west of Highway 16.

The 1st and 4th Para Divisions were at this time still relatively fresh, not having as yet been heavily involved in the fighting. They were now withdrawn across the Sillaro River in the general area of Highway 9, opposite the Polish Corps, and were expected to make a determined stand there before pulling back to the final river defense before Bologna, the Idice River.

c. Fifth Army Launched the Main Attack (April 14-18).  General Clark decided to launch the Fifth Army attack on April 14. At 0945 hours, the IV Corps jumped off in the zone west of Highway 64; this attack had been delayed two days because of unfavorable weather. The attack was proceeded by an air preparation flown by over 450 fighter-bombers that dropped eighty-three tons of bombs between 0830 and 0910 hours. This was followed by an artillery preparation by the Corps, on fifty selected targets, lasting until 0930 hours. The artillery concentrations were then shifted to thirty-two known enemy gun positions on which neutralizing fire was kept for the next two hours.

The 10th Mountain Division made the main effort of the IV Corps, with the 87th and 85th Mountain Infantry Regiments abreast. . . . . . .
{A description of the attack of the IV Corps that eventually captured Bologna.}

d. Eighth Army Crosses the Idice River; Battle of Argenta Gap (April 16-21).   On the 15th, in the Comacchio area north of the Reno River, the 167th and 169th Brigades continued the drive north of Bastia into the Argenta Gap. Late in the afternoon, the 11th Brigade of the 78th Division passed through the 167th Brigade and reached a point a mile and a half southeast of Argenta. Three miles to the west of Bastia, the 36th Brigade reached the Quaderna Canal. Other elements of the brigade crossed the Sillaro River north of Portonovo and reached the Scolo Garda after crossing a number of smaller canals.

The enemy continued to resist fiercely on April 16 as the Eighth Army continued the drive across the Sillaro River. Advances of two to five miles were made in the zone north of Highway 9. The Scolo Sillaro proved to be a formidable tank obstacle in the XIII Corps zone, which was finally overcome by the use of ark bridges, and the New Zealanders advanced to the Medicina Canal, while elements of the Polish Corps captured Medicina town itself. Farther south, other Polish elements captured Castel Guelfo and pushed on west to the Gaiana River.

Resistance stiffened in the Argenta Gap on the 16th as the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division fought stubbornly during the morning to hold the 56th and 78th Divisions to minor gains. The 1st Battalion Scots Guards of the 24th Guards Brigade suffered heavy casualties while trying to get their attack started in the Bonifica area, and were unable to proceed. Other elements of the Guards Brigade, however, continued the attack and gained approximately one mile. In the after-noon the 169th Brigade and the 11th Brigade drove to the Marina Canal, east of Argenta, and forward elements crossed the canal. Argenta itself was surrounded but the town was defended by stubborn and determined enemy forces. West of the Reno River, the 2nd Commando and the 36th Brigade crossed the Quaderna Canal and advanced to a point west of Argenta in the marshy, flooded area west of the Gap.

While the V Corps threw its weight into the Argenta Gap in the drive on Ferrara and its vital road network, the XIII Corps and the Polish Corps continued to force the enemy positions on the Budrio axis east of Bologna. The enemy was driven back on the 17th to his prepared defenses on the line of the Quaderna Canal and the intermediate line of the Gaiana River. The 10th Indian Division took command on the right of the XIII Corps zone and successively crossed the Medicina Canal, the Scolo Sillaro, and numerous other water obstacles, to reach the Quaderna Canal in the vicinity of its junction with the Gaiana River. The New Zealand Division and the Polish Corps likewise moved forward to the Gaiana, the main delays being caused by the difficulty of the stream and canal crossing. On Highway 9, elements of the Polish Corps cleared Castel San Pietro before advancing to the Gaiana River, with the Friuli Group under the X Corps kesping abreast on the left of Highway 9.

The 10th Indian Division continued the drive on Budrio on the 18th and reached the vicinity of the Idice River, but a strong enemy counter-attack forced a slight withdrawal. Late in the evening, the New Zealand Division forced a crossing of the Gaiana River and advanced with the 9th New Zealand Brigade and the 43rd Indian Lorried Infantry Brigade, now attached to the XIII Corps, to the Quaderna River, southwest of Budrio. In bitter fighting all day on the 19th, the 10th Indian Division reached the Idice River and on the 20th established bridge-heads over the river; by the 21st the bridgeheads were enlarged to a depth of two miles. The New Zealand Division crossed the Quaderna on the 19th after a heavy fire fight and resistance continued to be very heavy on the 20th as the New Zealanders drove through Budrio itself to reach and cross the Idice River north of Budrio to a depth of one mile. The enemy fought stubbornly in the Budrio area on the 21st as the New Zealanders continued their drive through the enemy's Ghengis Kahn Line based on the Idice River in this area. In the evening, resistance weakened as the enemy stared a withdrawal, local contact was lost, and the New Zealand Division drove six miles northeast of Bologna.

North of Highway 9, Rudforce, a task force of the Polish Corps, after being held up by very strong enemy resistance along the Quadema Canal and the Gaiana River throughout the 19th, advanced rapidly on the 20th to reach and cross the Idice River from a point southwest of Budrio to Highway 9. Early on the morning of the 21st, Polish troops entered Bologna from the southeast and later linked up with Fifth Army troops that had entered from the south. Other Polish elements further east reached Castel Maggiore, five miles northeast of Bologna.  {Task Force Rud or Rudforce was named after General Klemens Rudnicki, who commanded it.  It was primarily consisted of the 3rd Carpthian Rifle Brigade of the 3rd Carpthian Division and the 4th Wolyn Infantry Brigade of the 5th Frontier Infantry Division.}

Meanwhile, in some of the fiercest fighting of the Italian campaign, the V Corps forced the Argenta Gap between lake Comacchio and the Reno River. Here the enemy concentrated elements of five divisions - 26th Panzer, 29th Panzer Grenadier, 42nd Jaeger, 98th and 362nd Infantry Divisions - to hold the Eighth Army drive on Ferrara. The combined resistance of these five enemy divisions could do little more than retard the rate of the V Corps advance. On April 17, the 24th Guards Brigade, in spite of difficulties imposed by the flooded and open terrain on the west shores of the Vaffi di Comacchio, succeeded in pushing forward against strong opposition across the Marina Canal to a distance of nearly a mile, while the planned attack of the 169th Brigade to link up with the Guards Brigade was abandoned because of the flooded ground south of the Marina Canal. The 169th Brigade attacked instead across the canal two miles east of Argenta and established a bridgehead a mile and a half deep. The 78th Division established bridgeheads across the Marina Canal against strong opposition and advanced a mile beyond. The 38th Brigade, attacking on the right, captured two bridges intact on the secondary road running northeast from Argenta. The 36th Brigade passed through the left elements of the 38th Brigade to reach a point two miles north of the town, while the 11th Brigade cleared Argenta with little difficulty, but met opposition after leaving the northwestern outskirts of the town.

On the 18th, the 169th Brigade shifted the direction of its attack to the northeast, crossed the Fossa Benvignante and the Scolo Forcello to reach the road two miles south of Portoverrara. An armored regiment of the 2nd Armored Brigade, with a battalion of the 38th Brigade attached, passed through the 36th Brigade during the afternoon and advanced rapidly to capture intact a bridge across the Fossa Benvignante, north of Consandolo. During the afternoon of the 18th the 36thBrigade, attacking along Highway 16, captured Consandolo and pushed on three miles north of the town.

The capture of Consandolo opened the way for the debouchment of the Eighth Army out of the Argenta Gap on the axis of Highway 16 and to the west along the north bank of the Reno River. During the night, the 2nd Armored Brigade continued to the Scolo Bolognese, two miles west of Portomaggiore, where two bridges were found to have been blown by the withdrawing enemy. The next day the 24th Guards Brigade broke across the Fossa Benvignante and reached Portoverrara and the road running southeast to the Valli di Comacchio. The 169th Brigade passed through Portoverrara and swung northeast of Portomaggiore to the outskirts of the town on the north, while elements of the 2nd Armored Brigade entered the town from the southwest.

With the capture of Portomaggiore, the battle to break out of the Argenta Gap was won. The enemy had fought fiercely to hold the Eighth Army in the Gap while his lines east and south of Bologna were still holding with some degree of success. Realizing that a breakthrough to Ferrara from Argenta would endanger the bulk of his armies south of the Po, and the forces available on the eastern flank not being sufficient to prevent this breakout unaided, the enemy had reinforced the Gap with his only available forces, the 98th Division, which was resting and refitting in the San Nicolo Ferrarese area after suffering heavily in the first few days of the offensive, and the 26th Panzer Division, still comparatively undamaged after four days of fighting south of Budrio. Both of these Divisions were committed in the Argenta Gap and were soon heavily involved in the bitter fighting against the V Corps. The enemy's hopes of stopping the Eighth Army drive on Ferrara and the eventual link-up of the Fifth and Eighth Armies north of the Reno River in the Bondena area began to fade. Daily heavy losses and the steady loss of ground on both the Fifth and Eighth Army fronts, combined with the successful penetration of the Eighth Army through the Argenta Gap, forced the enemy to start a general withdrawal from the Bologna area on the evening of the 20th .

e. The Breakthrough to the Po Valley; Capture of Bologna (April 19-21). The Fifth Army attack to break through the last mountain positions in the Apennines and reach the Po plains gained momentum on April 19. The enemy held tenaciously to his prepared defenses south and southwest of Bologna, hut after four days and nights of the relentless all-out attack the enemy began to weaken, opening the way for the debouchment of the Fifth Army into the Po Valley.

The 10th Mountain Division again on the 19th paced the Fifth Army advance through the remaining mountain barriers of the Apennines. The 85th Mountain Infantry moved rapidly northeast against scattered resistance and by the evening of the 19th was just three miles from Highway 9, due south of Zola Predosa, with the 86th Mountain Infantry in positions just to the rear. The 87th Mountain Infantry met somewhat stiffer resistance in its attack on Mongiorgio, southeast of Venerano, but in the afternoon resistance from the shattered 94th Division broke and the advance carried to Monte Avezzano. On the left, Combat Command A of the 1st Armored Division pushed up the Samoggia Valley to Zappolino, and Combat Command B advanced about a mile in the Castel di Samoggia area in the direction of Castella di Savignano.

Early on the morning of the 20th, the 86th Mountain Infantry shifted the direction of its attack to the north and northwest and advanced against scattered resistance to descend on the Po Valley and cut Highway 9 in the vicinity of Anzola, between Bologna and Modena. The 85th Mountain Infantry moved forward with one battalion advancing into the Po Valley and another moving west to link up with the 87th Mountain Infantry in the vicinity of Crespellano. In contrast to the other regiments of the division, the 87th Mountain Infantry met determined resistance throughout the day as it hit the east flank of the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division. Against this opposition, the 87th advance went forward slowly to reach to the northern fringe of hills leading into the Po Valley. On the left Combat Command A, reinforced by the 13th Tank Battalion, the 6th Armored Infantry, the 91st Armored Field Artillery Battalion and an additional engineer company, launched an attack towards Bazzano and by end of the day the 13th Tank Battalion was in the outskirts of the town.   ..….
{Skip some of the description of the II Corps' fighting.}

As the IV Corps advance carried through to Highway 9 north of Bologna on April 20, the enemy's 8th Mountain, 65th and 305th Infantry Divisions made their last determined stand in the mountains against the II Corps. All day on the 20th, the II Corps pressed the attack on both sides of Highway 65. On the right flank of the Corps, the Legnano Group continued its attack, started on the day before with the capture of the high ground north of Pizzano, and on the 20th captured Fornace Molinella and Poggio Scanno, north and northwest of Monte Armata. The 34th Division pushed on from Riosto, captured on the 19th, against fierce resistance to capture Monte Ca dell'Albero.
By evening of the 20th the enemy suddenly started a general withdrawal from the Bologna area. This withdrawal was forced on him as the only possible alternative to annihilation south of the Po as a result of the rapid progress of the IV Corps in breaking through the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division and the remnants of the 94th Division to reach and cut Highway 9 northwest of Bologna, the capture of Budrio and crossing of the Idice River, and the victory of the Argenta Gap by the Eighth Army, all taking place on the same day, April 20.

Following on the heels of the enemy withdrawal, several Allied units entered Bologna simultaneously on the 21st. Polish Corps elements from Rudforce, having battled across the Idice River along Highway 9 the day before, entered from the southeast, while from the II Corps on the south elements of the Legnano Group, the 34th Division, and the 91st Division drove into the city from their positions in the hills. The city had been evacuated by the enemy during the night.

The 3rd Battalion, 133rd Infantry, mounted on tanks of the 752nd TankBattalion, were the first II Corps troops to enter Bologna. The remainder of the 34th Division moved into the city later in the day and passed to direct command of the Fifth Army to garrison the city. The Legnano Group, after being among the first elements to enter Bologna on the 21st, assembled southwest of the city in II Corps reserve.

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f. Defeat of the German Army South of the Po.The German commander in Italy, Vietinghoff, who succeeded Kesselring when the latter left Italy to command the German forces on the western front, had chosen to fight the final battle of Italy in the mountains south of the Po Valley in an effort to wear down the Allied offensive on the Apennine line. The enemy sustained heavy casualties in trying to halt the Allied offensive and even after committing his last reserve he had not the force left to prevent Fifth Army breaking through the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division and the 94th Division and fanning out into the Po plains west and northwest of Bologna. when it became apparent that the battle for the Apennine line was lost, withdrawal was forced on the enemy. But it was too late to effect an orderly withdrawal. The German Armies were already badly battered; 50,000 prisoners had been lost to the Allies, along with vast quantities of equipment and many vehicles; there were no more reserves; the German divisions had little mobility left, and the pace of the withdrawal was limited to the pace of the foot soldier. The speed with which Fifth Army broke through to the floor of the Po Valley and began its exploitation across the valley to the Po River, left the enemy badly disorganized and he rapidly lost control of this part of the front, and with it lost his last chance of conducting an orderly withdrawal to the Po River. Farther to the east the 76th Panzer Corps and the 1st Para Corps, in grave danger of being trapped south of the great bend of the Reno River, conducted a fairly skillful and desperately fierce fighting withdrawal in front of Eighth Army, but the total collapse of the 14th Panzer Corps in front of Fifth Army was too great a disaster for the enemy to allow him to salvage any great part of his Tenth and Fourteenth Armies south of the Po River.

The Race for the Po. (April 21 - 23).
While other units of Fifth Army were entering Bologna and mopping up in the hills descending to the valley, the 10th Mountain Division continued to spearhead the advance towards the Po River. After reaching Highway 9 near Anzola, the 10th Mountain Division kept driving north while flanking units conducted a difficult operation to silence the guns of the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division that were harassing the exposed spearhead from positions west of the Samoggia River near Bazzano. On the 21st, the 2nd Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry, an engineer company, a light tank company, and a tank destroyer company, under command of the assistant division commander, were formed into Task Force Duff, with the mission of driving northwest. By dark, Task Force Duff reached Bomporto and pushed elements across the Panaro River. The remainder of the division followed rapidly, the other two battalions of the 86th Mountain Infantry reaching Bomporto during the night.

Combat Command A of the 1st Armored Division continued to meet resistance throughout the day, but late in the afternoon resistance became more scattered and the 13th Tank Battalion crossed Highway 9 at Castelfranco and reached the Panaro River northeast of Modena. Combat Command B mopped up resistance in the mountains in the Savignano area.

The 338th Infantry had crossed Highway 9 during the night of April 20th-21st and on the 21st advanced north and crossed the Samoggia River south of San Giovanni against scattered resistance. The 337th Infantry was relieved in the Casalecchio area by the 351st Infantry and assembled during the day east of Anzola.

On April  22nd, IV Corps took up the advance north and northwest on a broad front, fanning out in the Po plains in the race for the Po River. In a lightning thrust north from Bomporto, Task Force Duff drove all the way to the Po River on the 22nd, reaching the south bank at San Benedetto Po at 2030 hours.

{Text continues with; Battle for Ferrara, Drive to the Po, the 92nd Division's advance to Genoa, Crossing the Po, etc.}

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See also Liberation of Vicenza - Two US divisions advance thru Po Valley amid confusion and chaos.

  For more on the various units of British Army, go to  Allied Units & Organizations.