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Bleeding Before Rome -2

Yet at this very moment the cathedral was crumbling
down upon the cries of foresaken refugees, 
the monastery's walls wobbling from war's wreckage, 
and as the black bursts billowed into sun drenched brutality
with the bodies of abandoned country folk
crushed in the rubble of new era ruins
Krout 88 flak opened up
from the west rear of Monte Cassino
pumpin plumes of deathshead shrapnel
into the tailsections of spent squadrons, 
a split B-17 began to plummet
like a broken star
tummbling wildly in a graveyard sky
letting all concerned know
that fate follows all fire
no matter how near or far,
as the chalky smoke wafted away into winter's wind
Monastery Hill remained unconquered as before,
although the demolition would become the ideal den
for Germany's elite 1st Parachute Division
paratroopers whom had a special predilection
for arduous combat, a passion for extreme warfare,
they were Field Marshal Kesselring's infantry ace
and these unrivaled Falschirmjagers
while supporting General Vietingghoff's 10th Army
would successfully defend this linchpin terrain
for five months of continuous conflict
against the weight of Allied military abundance, 
on three successive nights the British and Indians
gallantly crept and accosted
fortified positions on Point 593
which blocked the hind ridge path to the shattered sanctuary
only to be repulsed by rainshowers of 
stick grenades and 8cm mortar fire
splintering the solemn stones
into the naked eyes of desperate soldiers
whose mules couldn't get enough gear and ammo
to the shredded souls on midnight mountaintops,
the Rapido River was an obstacle of classic obstinance
a thick and swift bloodstream of battle hardened beasts
that for weeks had been replenished
by the sacrifice of bridge builders and rafts of infantry,
Texas tough guys from the U.S. 34th and 36th regiments
mustered their valliant manhood in the murderous rapids
on multiple occasions, but bullets can see better in the dark
and the frothing river was eager for flesh,
the flatland in front of the river
had been expertly mined and flooded
by German engineer battalions, 
Teutonic thoroughness was on full display
throughout the Italian Peninsula, 
from Salerno to Naples to the riverfront of Cassino
the Allies lost 16,000 men
in seven sickening weeks of strategic withdrawl skirmishes
and as the Polish, British, and American armor units
were being destroyed in the deep mud
of the impassable Rapido Valley
by innovative Panther turret pillboxes
firing across the river from a mile away
with profiles lower than shrubs
camouflaged with botanical artistry
the Anzio Beachhead northwest of Monte Cassino
was being surrounded by General Von Mackensen's 14th Army,
the piggish diesel snorts of Panzers
pressing in day by day with Panzergrenadiers
hogtying the hapless General Luccas
and his luckless 30,000 Grunts
who'd been stuck for a month
feeling like a sand castle under siege, 
and everyday the K-5 leviathen cannon
spewed it's 562 pound shell
from 50 miles away on railway,
on March 15th, 1944
the term critical mass was creating new meaning, 
stalemate could swing either way to checkmate,
U.S. heavy bombers were ordered in,
more than 500 B-17's would drop 1,500 tons
of high explosive distopia on Cassino Town,
an unprecedented pulverization
in concert with ground forces,
Long Tom cannons and M-7 Priest howitzers
delivered the cake's final layer of frosting
and as the Allied army advanced aerodynamicaly
with it's Bridgelayers and M4A1 Shermans
crossing that abominable river
they saw orchards and gardens
denuded and deformed,
stout trees fractured and charred,
the town's heavy white and beige buildings
fragmented like prehistoric eggshells,
it was as if the vision of Bosch combined
with the brush of Van Gogh,
the sapper crews felt lucky and protected,
diffusing landmines, Schues, and clearing calm debris,
suddenly, remarkably, German Paratroopers
from the 1st and 3rd Divisions, 
with their unique nutshell helmets were surfacing, 
buzzsawing the bleak ruins from fixed positions
the rapid thudder thump of their MG-42 machine guns
throwing sparks, shards and shudders 
into paniced faces, this was the fire of ghosts,
but they were very alive in their green splinter camo smocks,
replacing smoldering gun barrels with professional alacrity
scrambling from redout to redout
via tunnel systems prepared months prior
crossing the streets from underneath like battle rats,
Screaming Meme rocket tubes encased in the mountain sides
were bringing terrifying blazes to G.I. brains,
Panzer H lV's began to blast forth
at the bridges and olive green Allied armor
unbelievably, from within fortified buildings, 
Sow Head Stugs erupted on the cluttered roadways
from outlying ambush positions, 
the full onslaught was on now
everybody in, from both sides of Armageddon, 
Semper Fi showdown from sunset to sunrise
survival school was in full session, 
this battle wasn't about gold, oil or borders
the Stars and Stripes and Swastika were second thoughts
in the screams and strains of soldiers souls
it was about your buddy's bones, that girl's face
the last place that you felt safe,
you had to end the evil
that you believed brought down the best of you -


The battle for the town of Cassino, it's surrounding mountain peaks,
and the Liri Valley which included Highway 6 leading straight to Rome
is the greatest rugged terrain battle in modern warfare, 
and arguably the best ever for such a theater of operations.
It commenced on January 17th, and was finished May 18th, 1944.
The Allied forces suffered 55,000 casualties, the Germans, 22,000.
Had the Allies not prevailed at Cassino,
it is likely that the Units at the Anzio Beachhead would have been eliminated, 
Rome would not have been rescued anytime soon,
and the June 6th Normandy invasion would not have happened. 
This poem is dedicated to the Battle Of Monte Cassino...Justin A. Bordner

Copyright © | Year Posted 2017

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Date: 9/2/2017 3:29:00 PM
"fate follows all fire no matter how near or far..."Wow Justin...this was an absolutely beautiful, brutally descriptive're so in tuned with history, it's almost mystical, psychic! Amazing, thought-provoking last lines too..completely breathtaking. Always, Laura
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Justin Bordner
Date: 9/6/2017 12:57:00 PM
This poem took me to and through a serious psychic edge during the creative process. I knew, after studying my firsy book about the battle of Monte Cassino in 2007, that I'd one day honor it with a historically perfect, and heartfelt composition. I love the challenge of History inspired poetry, to honor the subject, and the craft of poetry requires absolute passion and dedication Poetess. Your thoughts on my poetry are invaluable to me Laura...J.A.B.