The Polish Victory at Monte Cassino

The Monte Cassino Cross - obverse and reverse

The town of Cassino and its abbey stood in the way of allied forces in their objective to liberate Rome. The German troops surrounded the abbey. From this vantage point, they controlled air and ground fire against the Allies. American and British forces were unable to take Monte Cassino from the Germans and withdrew from the battlefield. The Polish 2nd Corps took their place and were victorious. It succeeded in taking Monte Cassino after three weeks of fierce fighting in mountain terrain which left the troops exposed to enemy snipers on the slopes. Upon taking the abbey, the Poles raised the white and red flag of Poland on top of the ruins of the monastery.

The Battle of Monte Cassino is an eternal monument to the gallantry of the Polish soldiers.

It surpasses Polish military heroism at Samo Sierra and the Charge at Rokitna.

At the conclusion of Polish military operations in and near Monte Cassino, the Polish government in Exile, (London) established a campaign cross to commemorate the battle. A total of 48,498 crosses were awarded with accompanying award documents issued in the field to each soldier who took part in the battle.

The Award Document for Monte Cassino CrossToday, original Monte Cassino crosses with award documents are scarce. Unfortunately, the High Command of the Polish 2nd Corps did not keep a master roll record of names of soldiers who received the crosses, either by cross number or by the name of the recipient. It is therefore impossible to determine to whom a specific cross was issued without the award document.

In recent years, a large number of original numbered Monte Cassino crosses have surfaced. These crosses have high numbers in the upper 48,500 to 49,999 range. After the conclusion of hostilities near Monte Cassino, the Polish 2nd Corps ordered 50,000 crosses from a manufacturer in Tel Aviv. Of this total, 48,498 were awarded and the rest remained at the headquarters of the Polish Government in London until 1989. The government decided to release the remaining 1,502 crosses, since no further awards were being made.

The crosses were sold to several dealers and auction houses, resulting in a flood of unawarded Monte Cassino crosses. Today, even these original unawarded crosses are scarce.

Front & back covers of The Award Document of The Monte Cassino CrossOfficial documentation to include a list of recipients will never be known. Records have been located which indicate blocks of crosses by serial number distributed to specific units. The statistical analysis shown on the next page identifies these groups. In closing, I must mention that at the foot of the Polish cemetery at Monte Cassino is an inscription in Polish which is worth mentioning for those who read the language.

In translation it lessens its true meaning:

PRZECHODNIU, POWIEDZ POLSCE, ZESMY POLEGLI WIERNI W JEJ SLUZBIE, ZA WOLNOSC NASZA I WASZA, MY ZOLNIERZE POLSCY ODDALISMY – BOGU DUCHA, ZIEMI WLOSKIEJ CIALO, A SERCA, POLSCE

On May 18th 1994, Poland commemorated one of its greatest victories against Nazi Germany during World War II . Ceremonies were conducted at the Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino to honor the 1,100 Poles who died while storming the abbey (11-25 May 1944.)

The ceremony also honored the living veterans of that historical battle.

President Lech Walesa and other dignitaries placed wreaths at the cemetery at Monte Cassino and for the first time, the Armed Forces of a free and independent Poland served as honor guards during the ceremony.

Five thousand Polish veterans and their families visited Monte Cassino from Poland and from around the world. Military representatives of allied nations also participated in the ceremony. The author had the honor of representing the South Carolina State Guard and the U.S. Armed Forces at this ceremony, at the direction of the Pentagon.

UNIT

FROM

TO

AWARDED

Commanders

1

13

13

Headquarters Group

14

744

731

Various Units

745

750

6

3rd DSK

751

14672

13922

Various Units

14673

14750

78

5th KDP

14751

28691

13941

Various units

28692

28750

59

2nd Armored Brigade

28751

32269

3519

Various Units

32270

32300

31

2nd Artillery Group

32301

34945

2645

Various units

34946

34960

15

2nd Corp Artillery

34961

38083

3123

Karpathian Lancers

38084

38760

677

Regiment 2nd Corp

38761

40420

1660

2nd Corp Signals

40421

41446

1026

Medical Corps

41447

42159

713

Signal Corps

42160

42171

12

2nd Medical Corps

42172

42328

157

1st Medical Hospital

42329

42736

408

2nd Medical Hospital

42737

43169

433

2nd Medical Corps

43170

43520

351

Supply and Transport

43521

45973

2453

Various Units

45974

46012

39

Materials and Supply

46013

46515

503

Maintenance

46516

47394

879

Geographic Group

47395

47475

81

Military Police

47476

47676

201

Palestine Command

47677

48006

330

Various Units

48007

48407

401

Commando Company

48408

48498

91

About the Author

Dr. Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski is a former officer of the United States Air Force, retiring at the rank of Captain. He is currently a Colonel in the South Carolina State Guard, attached to the reserves. He is a Professor of Aviation Management at Florida Memorial College in Miami and President of the Polish American Chamber of Commerce of Florida and the Americas.

He is the author of four books and twenty-five scholarly articles in business and economics.

An amateur Polish military historian and collector of Polish militaria, he credits these interests to his father’s military service in the Polish Army and Navy. His father, Stefan P. Wesolowski, also served in the U.S Army Transportation Corps as the commander (Captain) of the USAT Ganandoc, an auxiliary aircraft carrier during the Invasion of Normandy in World War II. It is interesting to note that during his service with the U. S Army, his father was a Polish citizen. Few persons in American history ever commanded a naval ship during a war while being non-US citizens.

Dr Wesolowski invites your comments or questions. You can contact him via e-mail at:

zwesolowsk@aol.com

You can also visit his web site and learn more about Polish medals and decorations at:

http://www.wwdir.com/polishbk.html

Personal collection of Polish militaria : http://www.tmcx.com/polish1.htm

Dr. Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski
P. O. Box 291465
Davie, FL 33329
USA
Voice: 954-472-0063
Fax: 954-472-0063