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|As the American 5th Army advanced northwards along the
Apennine peninsula, it reached the river with the symptomatic name:
Rapido. Swallen from the winter rains, it posed a serius obstacle. And
on the other side of its murky waters there were stretching mountain
massifs, where the Germans had installed their defence positions.
On 12 January 1944 Algerian and Moroccan Arabs, fighting under the
French banners, went to the first Cassino offensive. They struck
against Monte Cassino, in the north of the town of Cassino. Arab
divisions from the French Expeditionary Corps formed the right wing of
the 5th Army. On the left wing British divisions moved along the coast.
They entered action on 17 January, supported by two cruisers and
seaborne troops. Some of those troops actually landed in the British
rear, instead of behind the German lines, and caused a lot of
confusion, but eventually the situation was clarified and the British
gained some terrain with the town of Minturno.
Yet the commander of the 5th Army, Gen. Mark Clark, assigned the main
task of the land operations to the American units.