Little Stalingrad with Mark Zuehlke

| December 12, 2018

Juno Beach and Beyond
Little Stalingrad with Mark Zuehlke

Seventy-five years ago, Canadians fought a bloody battle in and around Ortona, a small port on Italy’s Adriatic coast. Although supporting a larger offensive by British, New Zealand, and Indian troops, Ortona was a Canadian objective. Its capture was one of Canada’s first victories in the Second World War. The battle took place during the Christmas season in 1943. During that bitter-sweet holiday, many a Canadian family listened intently to the wireless for news from the front. News correspondents came to refer to the Battle of Ortona as ‘Little Stalingrad’, referencing the great Soviet victory of the year before. We feature some radio and army newsreel footage from the battle in this episode. Our guest, Mark Zuehlke, joins us to share the story of Canada’s epic Second World War battle.

Those unfamiliar with Canada’s war in Italy are encouraged to listen to Operation Husky with Mark Zuehlke, an earlier episode in this series.

Lieutenant I. Macdonald (with binoculars) of The 48th Highlanders of Canada preparing to give the order to attack to infantrymen of his platoon, San Leonardo di Ortona, Italy, 10 December 1943 (Lieut. Frederick G. Whitcombe / DND / LAC / PA-163411).

Time Stamps

5:35 Why Ortona?

7:06 Crossing the Moro River

11:30 Breaching the Gully

15:45 “The Germans and the Mud”

19:20 Valour at Casa Berardi

21:30 Media Correspondents at Ortona

23:20 Into Ortona

29:22 Christmas at the Front

33:20 The Civilian Experience

36:15 Little Stalingrad

37:30 The Cost of Victory

45:20 Remembering Ortona

Guest Biography

Mark Zuehlke is Canada’s foremost popular military historian. He is best-known for his Canadian Battle Series of books on the Canadian Army in the Second World War. Ortona is the first volume in the series. Mark has also received the prestigious Pierre Berton Award for his historical writing for popular audiences in Canada.


The following links offer more information on the topics discussed in this episode:


The Italian Campaign

Weapons & Formations

Canadian Army Units in Italy

Royal Canadian Engineers

Royal Canadian Artillery

Infantry Organization

Infantry Weapons

Basic Infantry Tactics

Battle Exhaustion


General Bernard Montgomery

Major-General Chris Vokes

Brigadier Bert Hoffmeister


Moro River Canadian War Cemetery


Juno Beach & Beyond is hosted and edited by Alex Fitzgerald-Black, the centre’s Digital Projects Coordinator.

Canadian Army Newsreel No. 24 audio footage from The War Amps YouTube channel:

Matthew Halton’s Report Crossing the Moro River from the CBC Digital Archives:

Matthew Halton’s Christmas Eve Report Outside Ortona from the CBC Digital Archives:

Mackenzie King’s speech to British Parliament from the British Pathé YouTube channel:

Artillery firing sounds from the CBC News: The National YouTube Channel:

Female veteran’s voice (Eileen Green, née Short) Courtesy of The Memory Project, Historica Canada:

Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech from Jonathan Thomas’s YouTube channel:

Spitfire sound effect from Jason Kirby’s YouTube channel:

Dramatic Interlude by Alexander Nakarada |

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Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at

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