Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Jonathan Vance


The rise of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist party and its disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany remains one of the most well-known parts of Italy’s Second World War experience, at least in English historical literature. The war did not end when the Italians surrendered to the Allies in September 1943. Military histories of what followed focus on the bitter campaign waged between the Germans and the Allies on the Italian peninsula. Much less is known about the impact of war on the Italian nation and its civilians.

From the Italian perspective, the war was a defining yet difficult period that remains controversial seventy years on. The war ripped the country and its people apart - both figuratively and literally.

This dissertation examines the 1943-45 war and its impact by comparing two Italian regions, Cassino and Monte Sole. Both Cassino and Monte Sole were unfortunate enough to be the sites of the major clashes and protracted battles of the Italian campaign.

The comparative approach reveals how the priority of winning affected respective German and Allied policies toward Italian civilians. The issue of military necessity led both sides to make a number of decisions, sometimes controversial, that affected the Italian people. The most well-known examples are the Allied decision to bomb the Abbey of Montecassino and the German massacre of nearly 800 unarmed women, children, and elderly at Monte Sole. This study reveals that these two events are only a fraction of the story.

The emphasis on these two major events overshadows the plethora of Italian experiences that emerged from the interaction between civilian and soldier in Italy. Allied and German policy toward the Italians – both civilian and soldier – had a tremendous impact on how Italians attach meaning to their war. The comparison and contrast between what happened and the resulting memory in Cassino and Monte Sole offers a more textured look at how Italians experienced and remember their war.