The Battle of Livergnano

The 91st Infantry Division had come to the most formidable natural barrier between the Santerno and the Po. A rocky escarpment rising at some points over 1,800 feet high. In places, especially in the upper half of the cliff, it is a perpendicular rock wall. From the rock rim the Germans commanded every approach from the south. Rising above the rim was a lateral series of hills, all dominating Highway 65. Each one was a prepared strong point from which the high plateau lying behind the rock rim could be covered with machine gun and mortar fire. 

Monument in the Livergnano town center to celebrate the 60th anniversary
Monument in the Livergnano town center to celebrate the 60th anniversary

Only two breaks in the wall existed by which the plateau could be reached. One lay just north of Bigallo and the other was a cut at Livergnano through which Highway 65 runs. Accordingly the 2nd Battalion, 361st Infantry was ordered to move east to the cut north of Bigallo, and on the left, the 1st Battalion was ordered to attack Livergnano.


The fighting of the next few days was the most grinding and heartbreaking the 91st Division has ever encountered. On the right the 2nd Battalion started up the cut north of Bigallo. There was no trail at this point, but it was possible by sheer scaling and climbing to reach the plateau. Riflemen slung their rifles over their shoulders and "hung and crawled with their fingers and toes." The machine gunners disassembled their weapons and each squad member carried parts in his pockets or pack. At one point on the way, Companies E and G had to cross a narrow ledge which the Germans had zeroed in. Only by running a few men across at a time did the companies clear the obstacle and make their way forward.

Little Cassino

On the left, Company K entered Livergnano only to be caught in a trap. Herded by the bands of fire of cleverly placed machine guns, the company was trapped in a building which the Germans then systematically demolished by point-blank tank fire. Despite desperate attempts by other companies to fight their way to them, and by the full power of the artillery to blast the enemy out of the town, only a few of the company escaped to tell their story. Livergnano became a blazing inferno shelled from both sides.


While the infantry fought savagely on the ground, the artillery and the air support blasted enemy strong points. The artillery fired 8,400 rounds of all types, most of them in an arc about Livergnano. This artillery power was augmented by position firing by tank destroyers. These blasted the caves and houses of Livergnano and machine gun and mortar emplacements. In the air medium bombers attacked bridges and supply dumps, while fighter bombers flew 250 sorties against troop concentrations and gun areas.

On the Top

US soldiers watch the shelling of Livergnano by German artillery, October 14, 1944 (photo courtesy
US soldiers watch the shelling of Livergnano by German artillery, October 14, 1944 (photo courtesy

For the attack at 0600, 13 October the artillery laid down a tremendous concentration of 2,120 rounds in 16 minutes. There was better progress all across the Division front during the day, and it became clear that the enemy had at last begun to withdraw under the steady pounding they had received from the bombers, the artillery, and the infantry. Gradually the whole line fell back. Hills were taken and Livergnano occupied, despite the continued shelling.


The 2nd Battalion slowly fought its way northwest, cleaning out the positions along the rim of the escarpment. It rejoined the rest of the 361st Infantry on Highway 65 north of Livergnano. The 363rd Infantry fanned out from the east cut and occupied the right sector of the Division front.



Thus at the end of the day the lines had been straightened and the flanks secured. The enemy line, referred to by many of the captured German prisoners as the Caesar Line, had been overrun and the escarpment had been conquered. Enemy casualties had been heavy, and many prisoners had been taken -- 225 on 12-13 October.

“We took Livergnano today”

The statement, made by a public relations officer at Fifth Army Headquarters. He was asked, “Was it an extensive battle? Is it important?” “Oh, just another town on Route 65,” he replied, “Held us up for three or four days.”


Yes, it had held the US troops up for a few days. It was important, and the battle of Livergnano was perhaps the most desperate and costly of the entire Italian summer and autumn offensive. American dead lie buried under crumbled Livergnano. Men still grow quiet and tense when they speak of Livergnano.

Then and Now

91st Infantry Division “Fallen” Monument- Livergano