The Battle of Ortona begins
Seventy-five years ago, under cover of darkness on the night of Dec. 5-6, 1943, Canadian troops in Italy began a nearly month-long campaign that would end with the capture of Ortona.
In July 1943, the Allies invaded Sicily, opening a new front. After the capture of Sicily and the surrender of the Italians, they chased the Germans north through Italy, facing stiff resistance with every yard gained. The plan was to advance up the Adriatic coast to Ortona, then strike inland to Rome.
At the end of November, the Allies were bogged down, Germans dug in on the far side of the Moro River. The Canadians were tasked to cross the river, head up the valley, break through German lines and capture Ortona.
They began with an attack involving the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, the Seaforth Highlanders and Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. The PPCLI took and defended their objective, but San Leonardo remained outside the Canadians’ grasp. The German 90th Panzer Division rushed from Venice to block the offensive.