It has been a while since I have posted anything so I figured that I would share a couple of my battlefield experiences. First up will be my trip to Monte Cassino while I was living in Rome in 2013. I was participating in an Internship program at the NATO Defense College and, being the military history buff that I am, decided to take a day trip to Monte Cassino. The weather to that point had been gorgeous with hardly any rain or cool weather. I found out that there is a museum at the base of the mountain that had a lot of relic from the battle and I decided that would be my starting point as I worked my way up the mountain. I left Rome one morning, had a lovely train ride through the Italian countryside, and thought about all the history that surrounded me. After about four hours on the train, I finally made my destination. When I arrived in the town of Cassino, it was as if the weather had taken a 180 degree turn. It was slightly rainy and the temperature had dropped significantly. From the train station there is a clear view to the Abbey on the mountain and I thought of how it would have looked to the soldiers in their attempts to make it to the top. I was determined to continue with my trip and I did some navigation to the museum. Much to my disdain, the museum had shut for the season and closed a week before my trip. I was at a crossroads. I could either hop on the train and go back to Rome or I could attempt to hump it up the the Abbey in the nasty weather.
I decided that this could possibly one of the only times that I was in the area so I started to navigate my way towards the abbey. I took many backroads and paths and thought about the allied soldiers and the German paratroopers attempting to gain the upper hand. The views that I saw were breathtaking. As I made my way closer to the top, I could see more and more burnt out buildings along the road and beneath dense vegetation. These were peoples homes; each one had a set of lives tied to it. There was a lot of rubble strewn about as I continued to wind my way closer to the top.
I had probably made it around 3 miles towards my goal but the rain started coming down more heavily. I found a burnt out building nearby and decided to seek refuge from the rain. From where I sought refuge, I had a commanding view of where a portion of the battle took place, and I was only halfway up! The second that I sat down on a large block that used to be part of the ceiling, church bells started tolling in the background. Combined with the fog, rain, and my knowledge of what happened during the battle, the bells were one of the most ominous things that I have ever heard in my life. The rain subsided and I was at another crossroads. The rain was supposed to come in heavier later in the afternoon and I was only about halfway up the mountain. Like the allied forces, I decided that I needed to call off the advance and attempt to consolidate my gains and attempt again another time.
Although I did not make it to the Abbey, I loved this experience and getting to see the areas where the battle took place. One day I will make it to the top of the Abbey and feel the exhilaration of victory. This is the first post of battlefields that I have been to. I added pictures that were taken during and directly after the battle to help display what I was looking at. My next one to post will be about the Gallipoli campaign. Thanks for reading!