In July of 1943, the Allied troops invaded Sicily, sparking what would be a nearly two-year-long campaign to liberate Italy from the Axis forces. The Battle of Ortona, which took place during what’s now referred to as “Bloody December,” was one of the most devastating battles of World War II that took place in Italy. Today, Ortona is home to the largest Canadian war cemetery in Italy, the final resting spot for the thousands of Canadian soldiers, among other soldiers and civilians who fought or died during the battle.
By late 1943, the Allied troops were slowly fighting their way north along the Adriatic coast. The Canadian troops were stopped at Moro River near Ortona, a city in Abruzzo that had been occupied by German forces. On December 20, 1943, they attacked the city. The following days saw house-to-house fighting so brutal that the town was referred to as the “Italian Stalingrad.” Ortona was transformed into a war zone, and thousands of soldiers and civilians were killed before German troops abandoned the town.
To commemorate those who died in and around Moro River and Ortona, a war cemetery was built between 1944 and 1945. The cemetery contains a total of 1,665 graves, 1,375 of which are Canadian.
Know Before You Go
The cemetery is always open to the public, and is accessible by wheelchair.