Battle of Bologna
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 II Corps and supporting Allied units capturing the city on 21 April.
In March 1945 the Allies were preparing a new offensive, Operation 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 (II Corps, South African 6th Armoured Division) and the British 8th Army (which for that part of the theatre, was composed of the V Corps and the Polish II Corps). The German units defending the area were composed of the German 26th Panzer Division of the XIV Panzer Corps, the 1st Parachute Division and the 4th Parachute Division of the I Parachute Corps. German defenses in that region were part of the Army Group C, defending the Paula Line.
The morale of the Polish forces was weakened by the outcome of the Yalta Conference which ended on 11 February, where the British and Americans, without consultation with the Poles, had decided to give a major part of the 1921–1939 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 When the Polish commander of II Corps, General Władysław Anders, asked for his unit to be withdrawn from the front line, Winston Churchill told him "you [the Poles] are no longer needed" but the American and British front line commanders—Generals Richard McCreery, Mark Wayne Clark and Field 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.
Order of battle
- US 5th Army
- United States Army Air Forces
- British 8th Army
Major-General Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko (acting commander)
- Corps Troops
- Polish 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division (Major-General Bolesław Bronisław Duch)
- 1st Carpathian Rifle Brigade
- 2nd Carpathian Rifle Brigade
- 3rd Carpathian Rifle Brigade
- Polish 5th Kresowa Infantry Division (Major-General Nikodem Sulik)
- 5th Wilenska Infantry Brigade
- 6th Lwowska Infantry Brigade
- 4th Wolwyn Infantry Brigade
- Polish 2nd Armoured Brigade (Brigadier-General Bronislaw Rakowski)
- XIV Panzer Corps
- I Parachute Corps (Richard Heidrich commanding)
The offensive on Bologna started on 9 April at 4:00 am 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. Friendly fire caused casualties as American bombers killed 38 advancing Polish troops on that day. 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. From 12–14 April Polish forces fought the Germans at the Santerno River and captured Imola. From 15–16 April, the Poles fought at the Sillaro River and the Medicina Canal. On 17 April, the commander of the Eighth 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 Fifth 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. (Another source attributes the entrance to the Polish 5th Kresowa Division). By 6:15 am 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 8:00 am, American (South African) tanks arrived in the city, followed by Italian partisans.
The Battle of Bologna was the last battle of the Polish II Corps, which was taken out of the front line on 22 April. American and British troops completed their encirclement of the Germans forces north of the Reno River, the 8th Indian Division crossed the Po River and the German forces in Italy capitulated on 29 April. The Polish II Corps, commanded by General Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko, suffered 234 dead and 1,228 wounded out of 55,780 front line personnel.
- Zbigniew Wawer, Zdobycie Bolonii, p.9
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- (in Polish) Zbigniew Wawer, Zdobycie Bolonii [Capture of Bologna], Chwała Oręża Polskiego 32 (53), Rzeczpospolita, 3 March 2007 (publication contains a map of the battle).