Monte Cassino Monument
Source Wiki: The Battle of Monte Cassino (also known as the Battle for Rome and the Battle for Cassino) was a costly series of four battles during World War II, fought by the Allies against Germans with the intention of breaking through the Winter Line and seizing Rome. In the beginning of 1944, the western half of the Winter Line was being anchored by Germans holding the Rapido, Liri and Garigliano valleys and certain surrounding peaks and ridges, together known as the Gustav Line. The Germans had not occupied the historic hilltop abbey of Monte Cassino, founded in AD 524 by Benedict of Nursia and which dominated the town of Cassino and the entrances to the Liri and Rapido valleys, although they manned defensive positions set into the steep slopes below the abbey walls. On 15 February, the monastery, high on a peak overlooking the town of Cassino, was destroyed by 1,400 tons of bombs dropped by American bombers. The bombing was based on the fear that the abbey was being used as a lookout post for the German defenders (this position evolved over time to admit that German soldiers were not garrisoned there but that the risk of the monastery becoming occupied justified the action). Two days after the bombing, German paratroopers took up positions in the ruins; the destruction caused by the bombing and the resulting jagged wasteland of rubble gave troops improved protection from air and artillery attack making it a more viable defensive position. From 17 January to 18 May, the Gustav defences were assaulted four times by Allied troops. For the last of these the Allies gathered 20 divisions for a major assault along a twenty mile front and drove the German defenders from their positions but at a high cost
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Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.
The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.
Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".
Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.
Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights.
In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states.
Text by Steve Smith.