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.
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
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:
Weapons & Formations
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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGHyL9qws0k&index=26&list=PL04CC43B7CD63C686&t=0s
Matthew Halton’s Report Crossing the Moro River from the CBC Digital Archives: https://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/the-italian-campaign-crossing-the-moro-river
Matthew Halton’s Christmas Eve Report Outside Ortona from the CBC Digital Archives: https://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/attacking-ortona
Mackenzie King’s speech to British Parliament from the British Pathé YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SlEvclY5LE&t=48s
Artillery firing sounds from the CBC News: The National YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsCSQ4uWR1Y
Female veteran’s voice (Eileen Green, née Short) Courtesy of The Memory Project, Historica Canada: http://www.thememoryproject.com/stories/383:eileen-green-nee-short/
Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech from Jonathan Thomas’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jB5wZtV1MWM
Spitfire sound effect from Jason Kirby’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgZI4tAoMN0
Dramatic Interlude by Alexander Nakarada | https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com
Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com
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 email@example.com.