- Action around Monte La Difensa 3-9 December 1943. -
The battle for Monte La Defensa, which took place between 3 December and 9 December 1943, occurred during Operation Raincoat, part of the Battle for the Bernhardt Line during the Italian Campaign in World War II.
Monte La Difensa,(also known as Hill 960) was one of the peaks forming the Camino hill mass which formed the left-hand "gatepost" dominating the Mignano Gap, key to the Allied Fifth Army's route to Cassino and the Liri valley and thence to Rome. The mountain itself had become a stalemate for US and British forces because of the defenses employed by the German troops, part of the Bernhardt Line.
The action was the first combat in the Italian Theatre for the First Special Service Force. They were attached to the 36th Infantry Division. The 1st SSF used the special training that they had received in winter and mountain warfare to scale the mountain and overcome the Germans atop the stronghold. The cost for both sides was high though. The 1st Special Service Forces suffered a 77% casualty rate, but distinguished themselves by doing the seemingly impossible.
With the rest of 36th Division on 1st SSF's right attacking Monte Maggiore and British 56th Division (attacking Monte Camino) and British 46th Division on their left, it took 5 days heavy fighting for the Camino hill mass to be cleared. Casualties were high. After a pause to regroup Fifth Army renewed its offensive but it took until mid-January to advance the 10 miles (16 km) to Cassino at the mouth of the Liri valley and the formidable Gustav Line defenses, where the Allies were halted by stubborn German defense until May 1944.