The 'soft underbelly' of the Axis which occupied the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations (MTO) proved to be more formidable than Churchill or any of his military commanders and his advisers thought possible. This turn of events was due in large part to a change in the German High Command. Field Marshall Albert Kesselring, who had been handpicked for the Italian front by Hitler himself, proved to be a remarkable tactician, especially at the Gustav Line which stalled the Allied Campaign in its attempted advance northwards to Rome.
This was particularly true in the Battle for Monte Cassino, which languished for almost six months. It led to misjudgments by the Allies, who misused air power for artillery purposes and added to the length and cost of the campaign. In addition, the spring rains of 1944 posed a serious logistical problem which delayed their progress northwards.
The multi-national Allied armies suffered tremendous casualties, but were eventually victorious in breaking through the Gustav Line and the town of Monte Cassino. The monastery, which occupied the high ground to the west of the town, became a casualty in the campaign and was reduced to rubble.
New doctrines were employed, such as 'Operation Strangle'' which denied the Germans vitally needed war material and assisted in the advance of the allied armies. The 27th Fighter Bomber Group of the 12th Air Force was among the groups assigned the task of attacking and bombing enemy positions in the Liri Valley near the town of Monte Cassino and nearby monastery, which housed German gun and troop emplacements.
In Robert Bailey's painting, titled 'Breakthrough at Cassino,' it is early May 1944. A-36 Apaches and P-40 Warhawks of the 27th Fighter Bomber Group, overfly the embattled town of Monte Cassino, now occupied by the Allies. They have been striking German positions in the monastery, seen atop the hill on the left. Castle Hill is in the center background.
Below, American and British heavy armor await an opportunity to advance along Route 6 toward Rome.
These prints were signed in Washington, D.C. by the artist and the 27th Fighter Bomber Group.
1st Lieutenant Ralph Giovanniello was born in Ashbury Park, New Jersey, first generation of Italian immigrants. After enlisting in the Air Corps in 1941 he was shipped to Africa with the 27th Fighter Bomber Group and flew missions over Sicily, Salerno, Naples, Anzio and Monte Cassino. On June 6, 1945, he was shot down in his P-40, "Gibroni," north of Rome near Lago Bracciano while on his 44th mission. A P.O.W. for one year, "Tex" Giovanniello was liberated by General Patton's troops from Stalag A in Mooseberg, Germany.
Captain Robert M. Johnson trained in Mississippi at Camp Kilmer before being sent overseas to Oran in May, 1943. He joined the 27th F.G. Group in Gela, Sicily in August, 1943. He then flew from bases at San Antonio on the north Sicilian coast, then to Salerno for the invasion. After the Anzio invasion, he flew plenty of missions in his A-36 Apache for ground support. He also flew a number of missions against the Abbey atop the hill, at which time he was a Captain and Flight Leader. During June of 1944 his Group often bombed roads, traffic, bridges and tanks, then strafed targets on the way back to base. Robert flew a total of 94 missions between August 1943 and July 1, 1944. He flew the A-36, P-40, P-47 and B-24. He was credited with one FW-190 at the Salerno beach head, and was awarded the D.F.C., Air Medal with Seven O.L.C.'s. The Group received two Presidential Citations.
Second Lieutenant Q.S. KinCannon is from Waco, Texas. While with the 27th Fighter Bomber Group, he flew 105 missions and racked up an impressive score against trucks and trains. He was later promoted as Captain and as a Flight leader, he lead an attack against a heavily defened tank repair factory outside Rome in March of 1944 that left a column of smoke 10,000 feet high. He was awarded the D.F.C.
1st Lieutenant Leslie E. Traughber began his military career in the Medical Detachment of the National Guard from Jackson, Tennessee. After Pearl Harbor he entered the Air Force and took combat training in the A-36 Apache in Hillsboro Field, Florida. During his tour of duty he was heavily engaged in strafing the enemy in and around Monte Cassino, and shot down on his 36th mission but returned to his squadron and completed 113 missions in the A-36 and P-40 aircraft. He became a Flight Leader and was awarded the D.F.C., Air Medal with 4 O.L.C.'s and is authorized to wear a Presidential Unit Citation with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters.
Second Lieutenant Charles E. Waddell is from Brooklyn, New York. He joined the 27th Fighter Bomber Group as a 2nd Lieutenant in January 1944, flying both the A-36 Apache and the P-40 Warhawk in sorties against enemy positions at Monte Cassino from bases at Pomigliano, Castel Volturno and Santa Maria in Italy. He took part in 115 missions as the fighting moved to Northern Italy and Southern France. He was awarded the D.F.C., Air Medal with Clusters and the Presidential Unit Citation with three Clusters. After the war, he was with the New Jersey National Guard. Charles retired with the rank of Major.
Special Guest Signature on Artist's Proofs:
Trooper James E. Bailey was born in Glamorgan, South Wales. He joined the Queen's 9th Lancers at Canterbury, England, on May 18th, 1938, at the age of 18. Jim was a Lance Corporal, but relinquished this rank to that of "Trooper" when he was transferred to the First Derbyshire Yeomanry and was posted to Africa in November 1942, where he drove a Sherman tank with the 6th Armored Division. He was involved in many desert battles across North Africa against Rommel's "Afrikakorps," then moved on to Italy, through Monte Cassino to Rome. Decorations include: Africa Star, Italian Star, Defence Medal, Victory Medal and 1939 - 45 Medal. James Bailey is the artist's father. His tank is shown center foreground in "Breakthrough at Cassino".
Sheet size: 24" high x 34" wide