The Battle of Bologna

Date: 9 April 1945

War: World War II

The Battle of Bologna was fought in Bologna, Italy from 9–21 April 1945 during the Second World War, as part of the Spring 1945 offensive in Italy. The Allied forces were victorious, with the Polish 2nd Corps and supporting Allied units capturing the city on 21 April.

Background

In March 1945 the Allies were preparing a new offensive, codenamed Buckland, in Northern Italy. The capture of Bologna, an important regional communication hub, was set as a part of that offensive. The Allied forces tasked with this were composed of the US 5th Army and the British 8th Army (which for that part of the theatre, was composed of the British 5th Corps and the Polish 2nd Corps). The German units defending the area were composed of the German 26th Panzer Division of the German XIV Panzer Corps, and the German 1st Parachute Division and the German 4th Parachute Division, forming the German I Parachute Corps.

The morale of the Polish forces was weakened by the outcome of the Yalta Conference which ended on 11 February, where the British, Americans, without consultation from the Poles, had decided to give a major part of the Polish territories to the Soviet Union. One of the three Polish divisions, the Polish 5th Kresowa Infantry Division, was named after the Kresy region, which was now given to the Soviets in its entirety. When the Polish commander of the 2nd Corps, General Władysław Anders, asked for his unit to be withdrawn from the frontlines, Winston Churchill told him “you [the Poles] are no longer needed”, but the American and British frontline commanders—Generals Richard McCreery and Mark Wayne Clark, and Marshal Harold Alexander—requested Anders that the Polish units remain in their positions, as they had no troops to replace them. Anders eventually decided to keep the Polish units engaged.

The Battle

The offensive on Bologna started on 9 April at 4am local time, with a major air and artillery bombardment of 400 guns firing on German positions, followed by an advance of ground forces the same evening. The American and British units engaged the German flanks, while the Polish units broke through to the city. On 10 April, Polish forces pushed the Germans away from the Senio River. Between 12–14 April Polish forces fought the Germans at the Santerno River, and captured Imola. From 15–16 April, the Polish units fought at the Sillaro River and the Medicina Canal. On 17 April, the command of the British 8th Army ordered the Polish forces to continue their push towards Bologna from the east. The town was to be taken initially by the American troops of the 5th Army advancing from the south.

On 21 April the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Brigade of the Polish 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division entered the city, where only isolated German units were still fighting. By 06:15 the Poles had secured the city, displaying Polish flags from the town hall and the Torre Asinelli tower—the highest tower in the city. The local Italian population welcomed the Poles as their liberators. At 08:00, American tanks arrived in the city, followed by Italian partisans.

Aftermath

The Battle of Bologna was the last battle of the Polish 2nd Corps, which was taken out of the front line on 22 April. The American and British troops completed their encirclement of the Germans forces north of the Reno River, and Indian units (8th Division) crossed the Po River. The German forces in Italy capitulated on 29 April.

In this conflict, Polish II Corps, commanded by General Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko, suffered 234 dead and 1,228 wounded out of 55,780 frontline personnel.

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