Breaking the Gothic Line

The Gothic Line was the last major German defensive system, running through the northern Apennines. It consisted of more than 2000 fortified bunkers, casemates, machine gun nests and observation posts, stretching across the peninsula from Massa by the Ligurian coast to Pesaro on the Adriatic coast.

Gothic Line - Folgorito
Overlooking Massa from the Folgorito-Carchio Ridge

Having spent the winter months in France, the 100th/442nd was shipped back to Italy in late March 1945. Upon arrival in Livorno, they were attached to the 92nd Division. The offensive on the Gothic Line had been halted in December, as winter started to set in and 15 Army Group suffered near-exhaustion.

3-9 April

Moving to Pietrasanta

By 1 April, the Nisei found themselves near Lucca for intensive training. Two days later, trucks moved them up to Pietrasanta. From the assembly area, the 3rd marched up under cover of darkness to Azzano. The 100th meanwhile took position at Seravezza.

They were preparing to set off on what was intended as a diversionary attack, in order to draw attention away from a larger offensive planned along the centre and eastern end of the Gothic Line.

Gothic Line - Carchio
The ridge between Monte Folgorito and Monte Carchio

While the Germans had been retreating across Italy, they held fast in the mountains across the Arno. When the Nisei received the task of taking Massa as a step towards the port town of La Spezia, resistance remained fierce.

Gothic Line - Jeeps up Folgorito

When the trucks with Nisei arrived at Pietrasanta on April 3, a 3-mile hike with full gear under cover of darkness awaited them to get to Seravezza, the jump-off point for the 100th. The 3rd had to get another 5 miles further up the valley to Azzano.

Monte Folgorito

From there, they would start their bold outflanking maneuver around Monte Folgorito. For this to be successful, they faced a string of daunting tasks. First, they had to descend from Azzano into the valley. Then wade across the stream. Finally, there was the climb up to the Monte Folgorito – Monte Carchio ridge along a narrow goat track and all of this in complete silence.

Attack companies I and L, supported by the machine guns of M Co., relentlessly continued up the near perpendicular slope for 8 hours. Making an undetected approach, they would envelop Monte Folgorito from the East and North and send one company South along the ridge of Monte Cerreta to join with the 100th Battalion.

Gothic Line - Climbing Folgorito
Climbing the Folgorito-Carchio Ridge

Georgia Hill

The plan of attack called for the 100th meanwhile to launch a frontal assault from the South, securing the hill mass between Seravezza and Monte Folgorito, codenamed Florida, Georgia, and Ohio 1, 2 and 3.

By 05:00 the morning of April 5 the 100th was in position. A little over 30 minutes later they took Georgia Hill. The men of the 3rd needed an additional half hour, but by 06:00 Monte Folgorito was taken as well, cracking the Gothic Line and forcing the enemy to retreat.

Gothic Line - Davide del Giudice
Historian, author and battlefield enthusiast Davide del Giudice

The 100th continued their drive north along the hill mass at the foot of Folgorito, so they could link up with the 3rd who were blocking all trails from Montignoso eastward into their battle zone, to prevent German counterattacks.

In the meantime, the 2nd was moving into position near Monte Belvedere, having followed the 3rd out of Azzano. They reached Monte Carchio by noon on April 6 and consolidated the gains. Two hours later, F Co. jumped off to attack Monte Belvedere, overlooking the town of Massa. The height was taken that same day, but pockets of enemy resistance remained and needed to be cleared, which took another day. All the while, the 442nd was taking heavy artillery fire from the coastal guns at Punta Bianca.

After taking Monte Belvedere, the 2nd attacked Altagnana and Pariana, two towns along the Frigido River. The 100th garrisoned the high peaks on the right flank and subsequently prepared defensive positions.

10-18 April


After securing further towns across the Frigido river, the 442nd RCT continued its rapid advance. On the 11th of April Carrara was occupied without resistance. Their advance was supported by strong Partisan presence and surrounding towns were taken as well.

The 100th remained in Colonnata, in the heart of the marble basins, but carrying parties were unable to reach them because the main road was not only heavily mined, but kept under fire by the enemy. A rations air drop failed, so supply could only resume after the road was secured by the 232nd Engineers.

Colonnata marble
Colonnata marble quarry


After 3 days of German withdrawal, their retreat suddenly stopped on the 14th. From Fort Bastione, the Germans had perfect observation of Castelpoggio and it was clear that not only the fort, but the line through this area was determinedly held. A fierce battle erupted for Castelpoggio, where the 2nd Battalion had taken position, reinforced by B Co. from the 100th.

After securing Castelpoggio, the Nisei’s attention turned to Fort Bastione. However, a water carrying party was ambushed and taken to the fort. During extensive questioning, they gave up nothing more than their name, rank and serial number. Next, they were taken to Castelnuovo Magra, under guard of 3 men. When reaching Vallecchia, in an agreed action, the 6 Nisei turned on their guards, eliminated them and started working their way back through the German lines. With the help of a Partisan, they reached the 100th aid station at Gragnana. The men were able to share valuable information on enemy strength, location, an ammo dump at Fort Bastione and enemy batteries.

By 15 April, Ortonovo fell and the 442nd had turned a diversionary attack into an all-out offensive. Their fierce advance forced the Germans to fall back and make a last stand near Aulla.

19-25 April


From prisoners the 442nd learned that 200 Germans holed up at Fosdinovo, supported by artillery. Since the direct advance against the town had stalled, the plan was to approach it from the north by taking Monte Nebbione, just south of Aulla.

The town of San Terenzo – scene of a massacre the previous summer – east of the mountain served as the jump-off point for the Aulla assault. The final drive of the 442nd started on April 19. On the 23rd, the 3rd Battalion took Monte Nebbione and neighboring Monte Carbolo. A wider flanking movement attempted a break through the enemy line at Tendola and opportunity to get behind the forces defending Fosdinovo, but again German resistance blocked any progress.


During the night of 22-23 April, reports of Germans withdrawing north of La Spezia came in. Both Monte Nebbione and the town of Fosdinovo were taken.

Tendola local
Tendola resident Mario Pomini explains how he alerted an approaching Nisei patrol to the presence of Germans as a little boy

An estimated 50 Germans were holed up in Tendola. The 3rd Battalion continued the fight at Fosdinovo, Monte Nebbione and Tendola. Fighting continued into the night and house to house combat ensued.

During the night of 22-23 April, reports of Germans withdrawing north of La Spezia came in. Both Monte Nebbione and the town of Fosdinovo were taken.

Following the fall of San Terenzo, the 2nd Battalion turned right around the two mountains. Task Force Fukuda ( made up of B and F Co.’s) meanwhile flanked left from Monte Carbolo to create a pincer move on Aulla. The town fell on the 25th and the German retreat was cut off. Over the course of the following days, the Germans all along the Gothic Line surrendered in large numbers.

2019 Northern Italy group
Lowering the flag at Florence American Cemetery by Jan Sakoda’s group – 2019


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