Robert N. Wallworth - World War II - Part 3 - April to December 1944
To return to the genealogical page on Robert Wallworth
To return to Wallworth Index Page
To go to Home Web Page
My World War II Experiences
By Robert N. Wallworth
Last updated on July 2, 2011 Saturday 3:47 PM
Part 3 --- April to December 1944, preview of 1945
THE 34TH MOVES TO FRONT FACING CISTERNA
April 16, 1944
The 168th moved back into the front lines again. I ran into Williams, he was one of the guys from the 69th Division who was now in I Company 168th. A few years ago I found out that he was Missing In Action. They never did find out what happened to him or recover his body. He was the only man from my company in the 69th that I met in Italy. I did meet General Bolte the old 69th C.O. sometime later when he took over as C.O. of the 34th Division.
The area to which our regiment was moved was a different section of the Beachhead than where we were before. Our position was directly facing the town of Cisterna which was more toward the center of the Beachhead front line. Our new location was behind some low hills.
As per usual we made a dugout. This one too was dug into the hillside. We had some cardboard from some 5 in 1 ration boxes that we used to line the floor and walls of our dugout. This helped keep the place a little cleaner and less like a hole in the ground. We even had a lamp made from a flashlight, some wire, and a switch.
The food got better. Were getting 5 in 1 rations (rations for 5 men) that included such things as canned bacon. They must have gotten a shipload of fresh eggs as a whole case of eggs was sent up to our company. There are a lot of eggs in a case but we had to eat them up quickly as there was no refrigeration at the front except in the winter. We got tired of eating them but they were a hell of a lot better than powdered eggs.
Things were quiet at this location too. We were still getting ready for the breakout and the Germans were building up the defenses. The German artillery always fired a few shells into our area each day. One of their field pieces fired one shell each day as it was starting to get dark. It must have been on their aiming stake as two nights in a row the shell landed right on the same one of our dugouts. Luckily it was not occupied at the time.
The dugout that was hit twice was right next to our Company Command dugout. I still think that the Germans were able to triangulate on our radio that was used to communicate with Battalion. The radio was on this time and also the time when the shell landed on top of our dugout in our last location on Easter. There were too many times when the Germans were able to place a shell near to or on our Company Headquarters.
The Germans also fired some propaganda leaflet shells into our area. Most of the guys got a laugh out of reading the pamphlets. These type of shells made a sound like a big twang when they came in. They must have exploded in the air as the leaflets were spread over quite a large area. Once in a while the Germans would throw in a high explosive shell shortly after the propaganda shell. They knew our men would be out picking up the leaflets a and would be hit by the shell fragments. We used propaganda leaflets too. Every once in awhile a German carrying one of our leaflets would surrender.
May 12, 1944 at Cassino
By May 11th the Allied Forces facing the Gustav Line. consisted of the U.S. 85th and 88th Infantry Divisions, the French Corps, the British 4th and 78th Divisions, the 8th Indian Division and the Polish 3rd and 5th Divisions.
On May 12th the Allied Forces attacked in all sectors of the Gustav Line front. The U. S. and British troops had limited success. The French made good progress. The British were able to put two pontoon bridges across the Rapido River. The Polish attack on Monte Cassino went badly. They took a couple of hills but had to withdraw due to casualties of almost 50% in the attacking companies.
The success of the British , French, and U.S. forces convinced Field Marshall Kesselring that the time had come for an orderly withdrawal from the Gustav Line. On May 18th the German 1st Paratroop Division pulled off of Monte Cassino and out of the town of Cassino. When the Polish troops attacked the Abbey the only remaining Germans were about 30 badly wounded German soldiers.
The battle for Cassino was over. The U.S. 2nd Corps 85th and 88th Divisions pushed along the coast toward a link up with the U.S. 6th Corps pushing South from Anzio. The British 8th Army, now in the Liri Valley, pursued the German Forces withdrawing toward Rome. The Germans were masters at Rear Guard actions. A few men with automatic weapons and a tank or two could hold up a whole regiment for a day or so if they selected the right place to set up the defensive position.
May 19, 1944
I went to the Medics with a temperature. They sent me back to the 15th Evacuation Hospital. After tests they told me that I had Malaria. There seemed to be quite a few cases. They say that we probably picked it up in the Pontaine Marshes which are part of the Anzio Beachhead. I never had it as bad as many of the men in the hospital ward. They had it so bad that they almost shook their beds down.
The hospital consisted of many large tents dug down into the ground about five feet to provide some protection from shells landing nearby. There was no protection against a direct hit. The beachhead was so crowded that there was an airstrip on one side of the hospital and a battery of 155 mm Long Toms on the other.
There was supposed to be an ammunition dump just down the road. That worried me more than the other installations. If you’ve ever seen an ammo dump explode you’d never forget it. It’s real spectacular especially at night. The beachhead was only 7 miles by 10 miles so we were always in range of most all the German artillery pieces. The Anzio Express shelled the area but there were not any direct hits while we were there.
Earlier several nurses had been killed during the shelling. I don’t think the Germans tried to hit the hospital but shells are not always that accurate. Sometimes we were even hit by our own artillery while at the front.
We knew the breakout was coming soon as every morning, at dawn, for three days, every one of the Allied artillery pieces on the Beachhead fired for about 1/2 hour. We hear that the firing was timed so that all the shells landed on the targets at the same time.
THE ANZIO BREAKOUT
May 23, 1944
This morning, following the lifting of our artillery barrage, the breakout from the Beachhead was launched. I was released from the hospital that day and made my way back to my company. The 168th was in reserve for the breakout so when I rejoined my company they were just moving up toward an area just a little South of Cisterna.
The men who had witnessed the Breakout said it looked just like battles that are depicted in the movies. Waves of tanks followed by waves of Infantry and overhead supporting bombers and fighters. The Germans were completely overwhelmed at first but recovered quickly and fought hard to limit our gains.
The plan for the Breakout was as follows. The British, on the left side of the Beachhead would attack on the 22nd to keep the Germans facing them busy. On the 23rd the U.S. 45th Division would drive toward Campiglione. The 1st Armored Combat Command B ( CCB ) would attack Velletri.
The 34th’s 135th Regiment with ( CCA ) of the 1st Armored would spearhead the attack on Cisterna and cut Highway 7. The 3rd Division would drive toward Valmontone and cut Highway 6 thus blocking the route the retreating German 10th Army would have to take to get to Rome.
While moving forward, in regimental reserve, we saw many German Infantrymen, who had been disarmed, walking toward the rear of our lines. None of our troops had the time to bother with them. When we were told “ Don’t take prisoners “ it didn’t mean to kill them just take their weapons and send them back to our rear areas.
We crossed over a depressed railroad track where the Germans had previously had a battery of their field artillery set up. They had been overrun so although they had been able to get their field pieces out they had to leave behind stacks of shells for the guns. This was the location of the German battery that had fired on our location on previous nights.
The Germans had a labor organization called TODT that constructed all the emplacements that they fell back to. I understand that many of the men who worked in this outfit were Russians prisoners. At this location they had dug rooms into the bank along the railroad track. This made for good living for the German artillerymen. They must have suffered some casualties because there were several German graves nearby.
The 135th Regiments of the 34th Division , with support of ( CCA ) of the 1st Armored, had driven to the railroad pushing back the German 362nd Infantry Division from their Main Line of Resistance ( MLR ). The 362nd lost about 50% of their combat strength in the process.
The 133rd and 168th Regiments moved out North through Cisterna into the Alban Hills. Cisterna had been shelled and bombed so often that there was little left except piles of rubble. From the smell you could tell that there were many bodies buried under the rubble. That smell was everywhere and you never got so that it didn’t bother you. There was something about dead humans that smelled much worse than dead horses and cows.
During the two pronged attack by Combat Commands ( CCA ) and ( CCB ) of the 1st Armored Division, the balance of the 34th Division was used to block any attempt by the enemy to exploit the space between the two armored columns.
GENERAL CLARK SWINGS DIVISIONS TOWARD ROME
MAY 26, 1944
U.S. General Mark Clark, 5th Army Commander decided to swing bulk of the 2nd Corps, under General Truscott, to move toward Rome. The 3rd Division would be left to take Valmontone and block Highway 6, the escape route for the German 10th Army. He said that he was unsure if the 3rd Division could get to Valmontone in time.
They were being counter-attacked by the Herman Goering Division. The U.S. 85th Division was on the way to assist them but might not reach the area in time. Others say that Clark was only interested in the fame that would come with taking Rome.
The 45th Division, with the help of the 1st Armored, would attack Campiglione Station while the 34th Division would attack Lanuvio. The front facing these divisions was held by the German 1st Panzer Corps. The 76th Panzer Corps faced the lines occupied by the 36th and 3rd divisions.
A Company, 168th Infantry, 34th Division moved through the Alban Hills toward the town of Lanuvio, which was the next town on Highway 6, between us and Rome.
Things were going well until we stopped in a large ravine. The Germans must have had this draw zeroed in as we were subjected to a very heavy shelling by large caliber artillery.
We had a lot of casualties as they were able to drop some shells right into the ravine. One shell, that didn’t explode, ricocheted down the draw with a terrific screech. It scared the hell out of everybody. The draw later became known as "Bloody Gulch".
May 27, 1944
Our Battalion pulled back for a 10 hour rest and then continued to move forward toward Lanuvio. The point we were going to attack was the Villa Crocetta which we later found out was the strongest point in the whole German Line before Rome. The Villa was on top of a hill and was surrounded with trenches and strong points that had been constructed by their TODT. It was manned by a Paratroop Regiment of the German 4th Parachute Division.
The 1st Battalion of the 168th attacked with A Company and B Company leading off for the battalion. The attack was originally partially successful but a combination of shelling by German Artillery and short rounds from our artillery drove our men out of the Villa. I said short rounds but they were more likely on target but they didn’t know we were up there. As many as six further attacks were made against the Villa by A Company. They resulted in our company experiencing heavy casualties and we were still unable to dislodge the Germans. They had fallen back to a well prepared position that took advantage of good observation and interlocking fields of fire.
According to good military procedure the attacking infantry force is supposed to have about three times as many men as the defenders. Most of the time we were lucky if we had as many men as the enemy when we attacked. This was especially true after D Day when almost all the available replacements went to Normandy.
This was particularly evident at Cassino where the dwindling number of men left prevented us from making a breakthrough. Even when the British took over at Cassino, with more divisions than we had, they still were not able to drive the Germans out. When they finally were successful they had five divisions available to do what we had been trying to do with two. Here again, at Anzio, we were still attacking with insufficient strength.
Between attacks I had gone back to Battalion Headquarters to pick up some men who were returning from the hospital. When I returned with the four men the company was no longer where I left it. Someone told me that the company had attacked and were somewhere out toward the Villa. I decided to take the men forward to where the company was supposed to be located.
As we moved over the top of the hill I heard a crack which I soon found out was caused by a sniper’s bullet that had just missed my head. We hit the ground and just at that time one of our M10 Tank Destroyers opened up on the sniper with his 76 mm gun.
I can tell you that being in front of a high velocity tank gun when it fires is not the place to be. The shock wave from that shell just over our heads lifted us off the ground and temporarily deafened us. We got away from there but the sniper was still firing at us.
We moved down the hill and into the draw that led us toward the Villa. I didn’t see anyone in front of us but continued on. I found the place where on the previous night we had been stopped during an earlier attack. Still nobody was in sight.
All of a sudden we started to receive a lot mortar fire so we decided to back down the draw toward our old positions. The Germans had the draw so well zeroed in that the shell bursts followed us right down the draw even though it had many twists and turns. Fortunately we stayed ahead of them. As we neared the end of the draw we started to receive some heavy artillery fire. All this for 5 men ? Anyhow we were lucky enough to escape without anyone getting hit.
When we got back behind the hill we found that our company had returned. They told us that they had attacked and been beaten back. Quite a few men from B Company had been captured. The area where the five of us had been was way out in front of our lines and the Germans, when they saw us, thought that it was the beginning of another attack. No wonder we attracted all those mortar and artillery shells. We later found out that the Paratroopers had eight tanks and self propelled guns supporting them at the Villa.
The German Paratroopers here, from the 4th Parachute Division, were some of the toughest German troops that we had been up against. This was also true at Cassino where we were fighting against the German 1st Parachute Division. All through the war the Germans considered their Parachute Divisions the finest troops that they had and used them to hold any of the critical points in their lines.
Our old Company Commander, Captain Galt, had recently been re-assigned to Battalion Headquarters as Battalion S3. During the battle for Villa Crocetta he climbed on the remaining Tank Destroyer and ordered it forward. He manned the turret machine gun and succeeded in knocking out a 77mm anti-tank gun and killed as many as 40 Germans in the trenches in front of the Villa.
A German tank pulled out from behind a building and fired an 88 mm shell into the tank killing Captain Galt. I found out later that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor for volunteering for and carrying out a mission way beyond his responsibility.
June 1st to 3rd, 1944
After our artillery pounded the Villa Crocetta the Rattlesnakes, a volunteer combat team of the 168th, with elements of the 109th Engineers attacked the Villa. They found that the German defenders had withdrawn.
We spent the night occupying the Villa. The building had been prepared as a bunker for the German defenders. They even had bunks built two high in the cellar. The Germans had left many of the dead behind. That night I had to sleep on the floor next to the body of a dead German.
Sometimes you forget that these dead Germans are just like you and have family somewhere who is going to suffer their loss. Luckily you don’t have too much time to think along these lines when you are being shot at and shooting back. You really get sort of numb after a while.
On June 2nd there was sporadic resistance in other areas from small arms and artillery fire.
On June 3rd the 168th took the town of Lanuvio.
ROME -- The first enemy capital to fall in World War II
June 4, 1944
The 168th was loaded on trucks and led the 34th Division into Rome. There was a big argument between the high level brass over which outfit should enter Rome first. It was decided that the 168th Regiment of the 34th Division should go first as they had been fighting the longest.
This was not to be as some other U.S. troops were already on the road to the city so the 34th had to wait until later. The Germans had declared Rome an open city so it was spared the destruction that had been visited on so many Italian cities. We didn’t see much of the city in passing through in fact I don’t remember seeing many civilians on the streets we used.
At that point the 5th Army had suffered 17,931 casualties in the period from May 1st through June 4th. The 5th Army at that time was at a peak strength of 231,306 U.S., 95,142 French Algerians and Moroccans, and 42,908 British.
We didn’t get a chance to stop in Rome. The 34th’s mission was to continue to pursue the Germans so that they wouldn’t have the time to set up any major defensive positions. Unfortunately the Germans always had prepared positions to fall back to. We continued through Rome until, at a crossroads 4 miles North of Rome, we ran into the first German Rear Guard action. It was well planned and took us a lot of time to clear it.
Just before we hit the crossroads we got a new man. He was from an Army Air Force Bomber crew. The Army was exchanging a few men on a temporary basis between the Army ground forces and those in the Air Force. This was so the different outfits would have a feeling how the other organizations operated.
These men were not supposed to be put into combat positions. Unfortunately this airman got on the wrong truck and ended up with our company which was trying to catch up with the retreating German divisions.
When we hit the crossroads all hell broke loose. We were hit by snipers, then interlocking fields of machine gun fire and then heavy artillery. When we took cover in a ditch along the road we found it was loaded with chiggers. Chiggers are little red bugs that burrow under your skin and itch like hell. I remember them in Basic Training in Mississippi but this was the only time I saw them in Italy. It took quite a few hours to clean out this rear guard action with the assistance of some of our artillery to fire counter battery.
When it was all over the airman, who had been right in the middle of it, told us this was much worse than anything that he experienced on bombing raids. He was quite shook up after seeing a dead German with his head blown off. Just as soon as he could catch a ride he left for a location more to the rear. That night we took the ridge that dominated the area.
June 5, 1944
In the morning we moved across the fields towards the location where the German Artillery, that fired on us the previous day, had been set up. An Italian civilian ran up to our column and kept saying "Tedeschi" which is Italian for Germans. We thought that he was telling us that the Germans were waiting to ambush us.
He finally found one of the guys that spoke a little Italian and what he really was doing was asking if we were Germans. When he was told we were Americans he threw his arms around one of the men and handed him a bunch of flowers. He was very happy that the Germans had pulled out and we had moved in.
Later in the day some of our troops captured several Germans who stayed behind when their artillery moved out. One could speak English and he told us that every time they would try to get on their trucks to leave our artillery would come in on them. He decided that he had enough and would surrender.
He told us that before the war he had been a clerk and had lived in Berlin. He had been drafted like so many of the American troops so it was difficult to hate him. Most of the Infantry could relate to how bad it was up front no matter which army you were fighting in. We couldn’t talk to him very long as the MPs showed up to take him to Battalion Headquarters for interrogation.
June 6, 1944
On June 6th the 34th joined the first Armored Division to form Task Force CCB whose mission was to attack along the coastal Highway 1 and capture the airport at Viterbo and the port city of Civitavecchia. The 36th Division and the 1st Armored Division would form Task Force CCA that would attack along Highway 2, 10 miles inland, parallel to Highway 1.
We loaded onto trucks and moved out toward the Port of Civitavecchia, our next objective, which was about 40 miles North of Rome. The trucks, along with tanks, took off up the highway. The sides of the road was littered with burned out trucks and tanks. They had been knocked out mostly by Army Air Force fighter planes. By that evening we were about 17miles from Civitavecchia.
About that time we found out that D Day landing had taken place that day. From that time on there was very little news about the Italian Front in the newspapers at home and very few replacements for our casualties in Italy.
We kept moving up all night even though the tanks ran out of fuel and we were on our own. By dawn we were about 3 miles from Civitavecchia.
June 7, 1944
The Germans had pulled back to their next MLR (Main Line of Resistance). The 168th moved forward, and in conjunction with the 135th Regiment of the 34th, took the port and city of Civitavecchia. In the process of taking the city we also captured the "Anzio Express" the large railway guns that had been shelling us on the Anzio Beachhead.
Actually there were two identical railroad guns. I don’t know where they kept the other one. This gun the Germans kept in a railroad tunnel when it was not being fired. Our Air Force caught it out of the tunnel and bombed the tracks behind and in front of it. The Germans didn’t have time to repair the tracks so they had to leave the gun behind when they fell back.
June 8, 1944
The 34th’s 133rd Regiment swung toward Tarquinia about 10 miles to the North. The 133rd ran into the German 20th Luftwaffe Field Division. This was an infantry division formed with men from the German Air Force. After a pitched battle the 133rd reduced the position by blasting it with their new 57 mm anti tank guns. At this point the 133rd was relieved by an attached regiment of the U.S. 91st Division that had just arrived in Italy.
June 12, 1944
The 34th Division was relieved by the 36th Division and moved off the line into Corps Reserve for a rest that was to last until June 20th.
Anytime the division was in Corps reserve we were located back behind the artillery. We did not get a chance to rest because we had to train. They were always running some sort of an attack problem. This was necessary as replacements needed to get experience working with the older ( in length of time in combat ) men in their platoon.
A successful attack depends on each man knowing what is expected of him and doing it. There is very little time to learn when under fire. In addition to getting experience it is good for new men to get to know other men in their squad and platoon. It was a sad time when one of the men in a squad is killed and nobody even knows his name.
GENERAL BOLTE TAKES OVER 34TH
Around this time the Commanding Officer of the 34th Division changed. The 34th’s Major General Ryder was being moved up to command the IX Corps and was returning to the U.S. To replace him Major General Charles Bolte assumed command. General Bolte was a veteran of WW1 and held the DSC, Silver Star, and Purple Heart Medals.
One day, during one of our training exercises, I was acting as a runner for our Company Commander. Normally I was a runner for the Weapons Platoon but that day I was helping out the Captain with all the platoons. During the exercise General Bolte rode up on his horse with some of his aides. The Captain sent me over to report to the General on what type of operation we were simulating.
I knew that General Bolte had replaced General Ryder as commander of the 34th and I also knew that he had been the commander of the 69th Division during the time that I had trained with them in Mississippi. When I reported to him he asked about the exercise we were running.
After I gave him the details he asked me about my time in service. After I mentioned that I had been trained in the 69th Division he said that he was happy to have some of his old 69th men with the 34th Division. He then proceeded to tell me about what happened to all the old 69th’s Regimental and Battalion commanders since I left the 69th, as if I had known any of them while in the 69th.
When I reported back to my C.O. he asked me what I was talking about all that time with the General. I told him the General was my old Division Commander and we were talking about what happened to the old outfit. From that time on I always had the feeling that the C.O. treated me with kid gloves. Maybe he thought that I might say something to the General about how our company was run. Today I don’t even remember who our C.O. was at that time.
June 16, 1944
On June 16th we moved out past Grosseto and set up in a new area. The next day we moved to a forward assembly area.
THE 442ND NISEI REGIMENT JOINS THE 34TH
June 18, 1944
We left the forward assembly area for the front lines. The 135th and 168th are in reserve. The 34th now has four Regiments with the addition of the 442nd Regiment. The 442nd was formed around the 100th Battalion which had been temporarily replacing the 2nd Battalion of the 133rd Regiment that had been on guard duty at Allied Force Headquarters in Algiers.
The 100th Battalion was made up of Nisei (1st Generation Japanese - Americans) from Hawaii. They had a very impressive records while fighting with the 34th Division. The balance of the 442nd Regiment were Nisei troops mostly from California and Hawaii. Some of these troops had received training at Camp Shelby at the same time I was in Basic Training there.
During the time that the 34th had been in reserve, General Crittenberger, 4th Corps Commander, set up two task forces. The Left Tank Force contained the 36th Division, the 361st RCT (Regimental Combat Team) from the 91st Division, and supporting armor. The Right Task Force included 1st Armored Corps Headquarters, 91st Recon Squadron, the 141st Regiment of the 36th Division, with Field Artillery and supporting armor.
On June 12th they took San Stefano and on June 15th they took the city of Grosseto. During these attacks the 142nd Regiment of the 36th Division came into contact with the German Turkoman Division. This division was made up of Russian prisoners from Turkestan. Even though the officers were all German, they did not consider the division very reliable.
June 21, 1944
The 1st Bn., 168th was rushed into an attack to stop up gap that had opened up in our lines. We took three hills in succession at night. They were always telling us that when we take the objective, which in this case was the three hills, that we would get a rest.
We took the three hills but the only thing we got was three more hills to attack. The company moved up into the mountains on a road that led to the town of Monteverdi Marittimo. We attacked and took Monteverdi Marritimo that night. One of the 34th Battalion Commanders was killed in the process of taking the town. We were subjected to continuous shelling during the rest of the night and most of the following day.
We left Monteverdi Marittimo and moved forward to the outskirts of a small town whose name I can’t remember. We moved through the town to the forward slope of hill just past the town. Just as we were starting to dig in the Germans opened up on us with 122 mm Field Artillery, that they had captured from the Russians, and with 88 mm fire from tanks on the facing hill.
I don’t know who was responsible for putting us on the forward slope when we should have been on the rear slope. Whoever was at fault it cost the company around 50 casualties before we could pull back into the town.
There were three men who had dug in near a tree. A shell came in, hit the tree, and killed all three of them. They should have known better. That is why some men stay alive longer than others. You have to always think about where you should go when the shells come in. It has to become second. Of course the longer you stay at the front the more likely that your luck or skill will run out.
While pulling off the off the hill one of the men had his arm taken off by an 88mm armor piercing round fired by a tank. It didn’t explode but it still did the damage. The tanks were even firing at individual men. As a group of us were running up the hill one of their 170 mm shells landed about 10 feet from us but did not explode. It sure made a wild sound coming in and an earth shaking thump when it landed.
SAVED BY A SIXTH SENSE
When we got back over the hill and into town things had quieted down. Our kitchens had brought up some hot chow which was very welcome. After eating I ran into the Medic who had patched me up when I was wounded at Cassino. He had just returned from the hospital himself.
While we were talking a German shell landed about 100 yards down the street from where we were standing. It was not close enough to normally worry about.
At that point something told me to get the hell out of there.
While I was talking to the Medic, I stopped right in the middle of a sentence and stepped into a doorway just behind me. Just as I got inside a German shell came down between two buildings across the street from where we had been standing. It hit a 1/4 ton truck that was loaded with mortar ammo that was parked between the two buildings.
The Medic that I was talking to was killed as well as two other men from our company. I still don’t know what told me to get out of there but it saved my life. The Germans couldn’t have put that shell between the two buildings on purpose as it presented too small a target from miles away. It was just a lucky shot.
At the 34th Division Association reunion in Pittsburgh, I ran into a man from my old squad, John Hafer. While talking to him and his wife I found out that he had been wounded during the shelling described above. He was actually wounded by a piece of metal from the truck that got hit by the shell. I was the first man that he had talked to from our company that remembers the incident. He thinks the name of the town was Valturia ( possibly Venturina ) but I never have been able to find on any of my maps.
June 24, 1944
The company attacked a hill near the town of Castellina Marittima. We occupied the hill for one night and then shifted toward the right flank and then dug in. We then attacked another hill overlooking the town. Castellina Marittima was being held by a new German Waffen SS Division. During the attack and capture of the town we killed about 35 of the SS troops.
The next morning we moved out past the town and met more resistance from the same SS Division. After a pitched battle we surrounded a large group of the SS in a draw. We asked them to surrender but their officers wouldn’t let them. In fact one man tried to surrender and his officer shot him. We had no other option that to keep dropping mortar shells into the draw.
After what seemed like an hour of mortar fire the SS troops gave up. We finally wounded their three officers so that they could give up without being shot. We found out later that the 34th had essentially destroyed the combat capability of the whole SS Division over the past two days of combat.
June 26, 1944
On June 26th the 34th relieved the 36th Division East of Piombino on Highway 1. By the 27th the 34th and the 1st Armored were about 15 miles from our objective, the lateral Route 68 and the Cecina River.
Field Marshall Kesselring was in the process of moving the 16th Panzer Grenadier Division, the 19th Luftwaffe Field Division, and the 26th Panzer Division to the front line facing us. This was why we were experiencing increased resistance. It took one day to cover the next six miles and another day to get to within two miles of the objective.
June 29, 1944
The company moved to a new position on the other side of Castellina Marittima. We attacked that night to take a hill that we named "Goat Hill" because only a goat would be able to climb up it. We took the hill after a short fight. Unfortunately we found that the Germans had moved in behind us and we were trapped on the hill. The Germans pounded the hill with heavy artillery but were not too successful in bracketing us. We were on the top of the hill so most of the shells either hit below us or went over the top of the hill.
The next morning, while we were waiting for the rest of the battalion to clean out the Germans that were behind us, we used the good observation from the hill to direct some artillery fire. We had spotted a German tank and crew on a lower hill. The crew had set up a mortar and every few minutes they would drop a shell into the mortar and fire it and go back to eating breakfast.
We used a 536 Radio to contact Company Headquarters, about 30 yards from the top of the hill. They in turn contacted Battalion Headquarters on the 300 Radio that had a range of about 5 miles. Battalion then contacted Division Artillery. Firing directions were passed down through this link to the Artillery Battery.
After a couple of rounds to bracket the target we called for "Fire for Effect" and the whole battery dropped shells on the target. They got the tank, the mortar and most of the men. That’s the situation we faced when the Germans held the heights at Cassino and Anzio.
During this same time period the 133rd Regiment was attacking the town of Cecina. Several attacks resulted in a small bridgehead across the Cecina River but armor could not support the bridgehead. They lost 9 out of their 11 tanks in the June 30th attack. The opposing troops were from the 26th Panzer Division.
On July 2nd, following a heavy artillery barrage and attacks by fighter bombers, the 133rd attacked again. They were able to get into town but met only rear guard action. The German commander had decided to pull back 5 miles to the next defense line.
A FEW DAYS OFF IN CASTELLINA
July 2 to 10, 1944
Our company finally got off Goat Hill and returned to Castellina Marittima for a break. They sent us to an area where they had showers set up. It was good to get clean although it wouldn’t last too long. We got clean clothes too.
We spent most of our time just looking around the town. It was a small town and there was nothing for us to do. We did find some women who were baking bread and were willing to sell us some freshly baked bread and also some tomatoes. This food was a great improvement over the C and K Rations we had been eating recently.
When possible the company kitchens tried to get hot food up to us if there was a road to where we were and if so whether the Germans had observation on it.
While in actual combat we had to eat what we could carry. It generally was cold C or K rations or a D Bar (a chocolate bar with vitamins in it). I’ve lived on only D Bars for several days. Of course you always carried a canteen full of water. If you were lucky enough to have a Coleman stove in your group, and you were not under fire, you could heat up hot water for coffee and warm your C Rations.
The German troops all had a small metal box that turned into a small stove when each half of the top was swiveled down to form two legs. It was about the size of two cigarette packs side by side. A small tablet, about the size of a sugar cube, was placed in the box and lit with a match. The tablet burned long enough to provide heat to make a cup of coffee or warm some rations. Naturally we latched onto one of these stoves if we came across them.
The Germans had developed a lot of good weapons and tools while they were building up their army. Most of them were tested during the Spanish Civil War by the volunteer German Condor Legions. Their 88 mm field piece was a good example. It was made so that it could be used for anti-aircraft, anti-tank, or just field artillery. They also mounted them on their tanks. The entrenching tool that we got after the war started was copied from a German design.
Their machine guns generally fired quite a bit faster than ours did. Their MG42 fired about twice as fast (about 1200 Rounds per Minute) as ours. From a distance they sounded like the noise that you get when you tear a piece of cloth. It was very easy to change the barrel when the rifling got worn.
To change the barrel on our air cooled 30 cal machine gun , when hot, you needed asbestos gloves to unscrew the old barrel. The new barrel had to be screwed in and the head space (the distance between the bolt head and the barrel receiver) had to be adjusted to spec.
The German’s barrel was changed by pushing a button and using a small handle to flip the old barrel out. The new barrel was dropped into place and the lever flipped in the opposite direction. It was then ready to fire.
One of the things about life on the front lines has puzzled me since the war. To this day I can’t remember when we found time to sleep. I think that we probably just collapsed from exhaustion when we weren’t attacking or moving to some new location. Whenever the Infantry stops moving forward the first thing that every man does is to start digging a foxhole. This comes before eating, sleeping, or any other function.
While in Castellina Marittima we found a church that was relatively intact. In the church there was an old pump organ that still worked. We found a GI from another company who could play the organ and we had a great time listening to all the current songs. I hope the Italians didn’t mind us playing that type of music in their church.
We were lucky that the Italian civilians in the towns that we captured were friendly after the fighting passed by. The houses were generally pretty badly damaged. When the infantry attacks a town and there is resistance, to speed up digging the Germans out of each house, we have the tanks put a shell through each house as we approach it.
If the enemy wants badly enough to hold a town they can make you pay an awful price for each house that you have to clear. A 76 mm Tank Shell through the house gives you a better chance of taking the house with minimum casualties.
One thing that we seemed to come across in every house was a round piece of Parmesan cheese. No matter how badly the house was damaged the cheese survived without a scratch. It was so hard you couldn’t cut it with a bayonet. Come to think of it I have never seen it used in any other form than grated.
July 3, 1944
After the 133rd Regiment took Cecina, on July 2nd the next operation planned for the U.S. IV Corps was a frontal and flanking attack on the port city of Leghorn (Livorno in Italian). This port was needed to handle the supplies for both the U.S. 5th Army and the British 13th Corps. The 34th was to bear the main burden of this attack with support from the 442nd RCT (Regimental Combat Team), the 804th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and the 363rd RCT from the U.S.91st Division.
Facing the IV Corps was the German 14th Panzer Corps with the 19th and 20th Luftwaffe Divisions and the 26th Panzer Division.
The 34th attacked with all three regiments abreast. The 135th along the coast, the 442nd RCT in the center, and the 168th on the right flank. The 135th attacked the town of Rosignano Marittimo. It took them three days of house to house fighting to clear the town.
The 168th, attacking through infantry country (no way to get tanks and artillery in for infantry support), took four days to clear the town of Castellina Marittimo. At this time the Germans had been driven from the last favorable defensive terrain South of Leghorn.
July 11, 1944
The company moved out of the town to a forward assembly area. The next day we attacked, past a town called Sta Luce, toward a ridge of hills. When we took the ridge we could see the city of Pisa and also its famous Leaning Tower. Although most of us were impressed by the Leaning Tower we couldn’t help thinking what a good artillery observation post that it made. Nobody would think of shelling it.
LOSS OF MORE OF MY BUDDIES
While we on the reverse slope of Hill 906, overlooking Pisa, the Germans started shelling the area. A group of us took cover in a draw on the rear slope of the hill while we were waiting for orders to move up. Without any warning two German artillery shells landed right on the lip of the draw.
Four men were killed instantly. They were my close friend Bill Boggs, and friends Barney Cole, George Houston, and Sergeant Bob Newman.
The remaining three of us in the draw missed getting killed just by the luck of being about a foot lower down the slope so that the blast went over us. We were about 10 feet from the point of the explosion so even though we were not hit with any shell fragments we were close enough to get hit with the concussion.
A strange thing about these shells is that they came from the left flank. The draw would have provided better cover from shells fired from the direction the company was facing. We may have moved up faster than the outfit on our left and were exposed to enemy fire from the left. It is even possible that it was our own artillery as unlike the Germans our artillery generally fired more than 1 gun at a time. It wouldn’t be the first time that had happened. The three of us who survived were all a little punchy so we spent the night at the Aid Station.
It’s bad enough to lose a friend but four of them at the same time is tough to bear. They say not to get to close to the men in your group because it is too traumatic if they get killed. That may be so but an infantryman needs close buddies. You have to have somebody that cares what happens to you. That is the reason that there is such a close bond among men who have been in combat together.
These feelings will last your whole life. The closeness also applies to infantrymen who were not even in your division. It is enough for you to know that they shared some of the same kind of experiences that you did in combat. "You have seen the elephant".
We moved down from the hills into the town of Collesalvetti and then up into a villa on the outskirts of town. The next day we moved out toward a canal near Pisa.
The U.S. 91st and 88th Infantry Divisions attacked North on the 34th’s right flank. The German 14th Panzer Corps fell back toward Leghorn to avoid being trapped. They had no reserves available. By July 18th the 133rd and 168th Regiments had enveloped Leghorn while the 135th and 363rd Regiments attacked the city itself.
The city fell on July 19th when the Germans pulled out leaving lots of mines and booby traps behind.
The 34th continued to attack toward the East of Pisa while the 363rd Regiment of the 91st Division attacked the city. On July 22nd the 168th reached the banks of the Arno River east of Pisa while the 363rd took the city. At this time the whole 91st Division relieved the 34th.
July 24, 1944
The 34th moved back to the town of Rosignano Marittimo along the sea for a rest, training, and to guard the coast. It was at this time that the 34th with the 442nd RCT, the 85th, 88th, and 91st Divisions were transferred to the U.S. 2nd Corps.
While in reserve the Company Commander told two of us that we were going back to Rest Camp in Rome for five days. We left the reserve area by truck and travelled back to the 5th Army Rest Camp. It was in a building that was part of Mussolini’s Olympic Stadium. After we arrived we got showers and clean clothes.
The Rest Camp was okay but my buddy and I decided to try to get away from the military routine for our stay in Rome. We found a room in a private home in the city. The owner could speak a little English so we got along okay. We ate our meals in one of the many GI Restaurants scattered throughout the city. The food wasn’t great but better than what we got up front.
While in Rome we took some tours of the city that were set up by the Red Cross. We saw all the tourist sites such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, St. Peters, and the Catacombs of San Sebastian.
We did go to some Italian Restaurants in Rome but only ate spaghetti with tomato sauce one time and eggs and potatoes the other time. You never ate any meat because there was very little, if any, refrigeration available. Of course there was always wine, some good and some terrible, we drank both.
July 29, 1944
We returned to join the company which was in Battalion reserve. The Company Commander told me that I had been selected, as one of two men from the company, who would be offered the opportunity to go to West Point Military Academy.
I guess this was because I had been accepted for the ASTP program while in the 69th Division at Camp Shelby. The offer sounded good. We would get some refresher courses at Camp Stewart near West Point before we entered the Academy. We both turned down the offer as it meant we would have to spend four years at West Point and then serve four more years after that.
We were both willing to gamble that we would make it through the rest of the time in combat until the war was over. By that time things were looking better as there were more U.S. and other troops available. If I had known what was going to happen over the next few months I would have taken the offer.
On the other hand if I had taken it I probably would have wound up as a Second Lieutenant in the Korean War of the early 1950's after I was graduated from West Point. As it was I lucked out.
July 31, 1944
The 34th Division moved to Quercianella a resort town on the coast. We were in Corps reserve. The men finally got a chance to swim in the sea and lay around on the beach for a couple of days. This time they didn’t bother to make us go through any training exercises. With a few more divisions available the rest and reserve periods came more often than when there were only two U.S. Infantry divisions available to man the front line.
August 2, 1944
The British 13th Corps, consisting of the 2nd New Zealand, the 6th South African, the 4th British and 8th Indian Divisions were driving toward Florence. By August 2nd Field Marshall Kesselring had decided to abandon the city.
Paratroops would be used to perform rear guard actions and all bridges across the Arno River, with the exception of the historical Ponte Vecchio, would be destroyed. The buildings on the approaches to the Ponte Vecchio would be blown up to block access to the bridge. On August 13th the Indian troops took over the entire city.
August 9, 1944
While the 34th was in Quercianella, ten men from each company were selected, including me, to stand review for Prime Minister Churchill, General Alexander, and General Mark Clark. The British General Alexander was Theater Commander and U.S. General Mark Clark was Commander of the U.S, Fifth Army. It was a quite impressive formation. Churchill told us that we had done a great job and could look forward to many more adventures. We all thought we could do without those kind of adventures.
THE 34TH MOVES TO FLORENCE
August 14, 1944
The whole 34th Division was loaded onto trucks and, at night, were moved half way across Italy to an area near Florence. This area had originally been under control of the British 8th Army. The move was done very quietly so the Germans would not know what was going on.
There was a big difference in the way the British launched an attack and the U.S. method. The British were very methodical and made sure that everything was in place before the attack and that the number of divisions available were able to guarantee success of the operation.
By the time a British attack was launched the Germans generally knew it was coming a couple of days earlier. The U.S. Divisions struck quickly as possible so that the Germans would not have time to prepare and adequate defense. Most of the time we didn’t have the luxury of having enough manpower to insure success but somehow were able to pull it off.
August 15, 1944
On this date the U.S. 7th Corps landed on the Southeastern Coast of France. All the divisions used to Invade Southern France came from the Italian Front. Included were the U.S. 3rd, 36th and 45th Divisions and the 442nd RCT.
Also part of the invasion force were two French (Moroccan and Algerian) Divisions to take part in the liberation of France. It was too bad that when we finally had enough divisions in Italy to finish the job we had to give them up.
In Italy, by the middle of August, the Germans had fallen back to their Gothic Line. This line started in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. The Apennines run diagonally across Italy until they reach the Adriatic Coast where they turn South and become the rugged spine that runs up the Italian Peninsula. There were many streams throughout these mountains which provided the Germans ideal holding locations where we would have to attack across a river. River crossings, even if narrow, increase the casualties to be expected.
There are three main roads leading North through these mountains. Highways 65 and 66 to Bologna and Highway 67 to Ravenna. There are two passes on Highway 65, Futa Pass and Radicosa Pass further North.
There is a secondary road, parallel to Highway 65, with Il Giogo Pass, that looked promising because the Germans had not considered it as important as Futa Pass and therefore was less heavily defended. The Germans used two regiments of the 4th Paratroop Division to man the defenses at Futa Pass.
The German troop disposition at this time was as follows:
On the Adriatic Coast the 10th Army with the 276th, 71st, 5th Mountain, 1st
Paratroop , and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions.
East of Florence and Pisa was the 51st Mountain Corps with the 715th, 331st, 305th, 44th Divisions, and 114 Jaeger Division.
Between Florence and Pisa was the 14th Army consisting of the 1st Paratroop Corps with the 356th, 362nd, and 4th Paratroop Divisions and the 14th Panzer Corps with the 16th Panzer Grenadier and the 26th Panzer Divisions.
August 23, 1944
The 168th 1st Battalion moved into action in the mountains North of Florence. We attacked and took the town of Cavallina which was deserted but full of mines and booby traps. The next town we took was Barberino. The Germans were surprised to find the Americans in this sector and reacted with some confusion.
Our company was now at the farthest out point of the 5th Army front. After taking Cavallina and Barberino they put our company in a small valley in battalion reserve.
To show you how undefined the front line was I’ll tell you about what happened after we captured Cavallina and just before we went into reserve. The company was pushing forward without meeting much resistance. We walked for what seemed like a half hour without getting fired on.
We stopped for a rest when all of a sudden there was the sound of artillery firing just to our front. The C.O. sent out a patrol to investigate. They advanced to the top of the next hill to see what was going on. The men came back with the news that there were several German Self Propelled Guns, with supporting infantry, firing toward Cavallina.
We had passed through the German lines and now we are at the back by their artillery positions. Some of the men wanted to go after the SPs with Bazookas but the C.O. decided against it. We could have wiped out the infantry and possibly the SPs but we had no idea how many German Infantry companies were between us and our front lines. We might have ended up getting trapped.
We were able to retrace our steps and return to the rest of the battalion without the Germans ever knowing that we had been there. We had to keep radio silence so we were unable to alert division so they could take advantage of the gap.
This gives you an idea of how porous the front lines can be. It is very difficult for the companies, battalions, regiments and divisions to keep contact with the units on their right and left flanks.
Quite often gaps occur when one unit is more successful during an attack that its neighbor. This exposes their flanks and worst case a gap could occur. The enemy, if they find the gap, can attack or infiltrate through it if they have reserves available.
August 25, 1944
The British 8th Army attacked with their 5th and 10th Corps. The objective was to drive through the gap between the mountains and the East Coast and swing in behind the main German line.
The attacks went well for the first few days and eventually threatened to drive a wedge between the 1st Paratroop Division and the 26th Panzer Division. Field Marshall Kesselring moved the 356th Infantry and the 29th Panzer Grenadier Divisions to eliminate the threat. Between the German reinforcements and the heavy rains, that caused flash floods that washed out bridges, the British were forced to call off further attacks.
August 26, 1944
I was sent back to the 15th Evacuation Hospital in Florence with a possible reoccurrence of my Malaria. From there I was sent to the 64th General Hospital in Livorno.
During this period the U.S. 4th Corps (on the West Coast) and the 2nd and 13th Corps (in the center) all took advantage of the German pullback to move forward. The 4th Corps took Lucca and Monte Pisano.
The 13th Corps stabilized their lines 10 miles North of the Arno River. The 442nd Nisei RCT, after following up the German withdrawal, were relieved by the 91st Division. The 442 RCT was leaving the 34th Division and going to Southern France.
September 10, 1944
The 34th Division on the left and the 91st Division on the right advanced on a 15 mile front along Highway 65 (Florence to Bologna Highway) toward the Sieve River. On the right the British 1st Division moved parallel to the U.S. Divisions and crossed the river unopposed. The British South African Division occupied the town of Pistoia.
The plan was for the 34th Division to attack through the mountains to the right of Highway 65 toward Futa Pass to make the Germans think that was our prime objective. At the same time the 91st and 85th Divisions would make the main attack on the Monticelli Massif and Monte Altuzzo that overlook Il Giogo Pass.
The German 4th Parachute Division had two regiments defending Futa Pass and 1 regiment defending Il Giogo Pass.
After 6 days of hard fighting both mountain tops were in Allied hands. The 34th, attacking near Futa Pass put so much pressure on the Germans that they never knew that this wasn’t the main objective and failed to move their reserve forces over to help the defenders of Il Gogio Pass.
September 17, 1944
Field Marshall Kesselring ordered his troops to fall back to the city of Firenzuola. The Gothic Line had been breached but there were still many ideal defensive locations except for on the Adriatic Coast. He was most worried about this area where his left flank could be turned and his troops attacked from the rear.
By the 17th the 133rd and 135th Regiments of the 34th had breached the Gothic Line. The 133rd occupied Monte Paino and the 135th took Monte Frassino. These mountains were in a section of the Apennines to the West of Highway 65. There were no roads in this area so all of the fighting was tough infantry action with limited artillery support.
The enemy, as in the past, counter-attacked as soon as you took a hill. Supplies were a problem and the men were near exhaustion. There was a high loss of line officers. The loss even extended to higher levels when the 133rd CO was killed by a land mine.
September 22, 1944
I left the 64th General Hospital and returned to my company in the mountains facing the Gothic Line. We attacked a ridge of hills in the pouring rain. Everybody was miserable and cold. We finally moved into a house for the night.
One of the old BAR men cracked up and had to be sent back to the rear. All men have a breaking point and it is a frightening thing to see when they break.
We are supposed to stay out of houses, due to their being good targets, but in this case we needed to dry out. I was still suffering from the effects of the Malaria. No chance to get out of the infantry. There are no replacements available. They are all going to Northern Europe.
September 24, 1944
The 168th Infantry struck North toward Monte Coroncina. They took the summit after a battle with the 334th Grenadier Division. The Germans considered the mountain so important that they brought up the 362nd Grenadier Division and the 755th and 756 Grenadier Regiments to retake the summit. All the counter-attacks were repelled and the 34th remained in control of the mountain.
On September 28th the 168th fought off a counter-attack on the town of Monte Fredente.
October 1, 1944
The 168th Infantry moved down the Sambro Valley toward Hill 789 which turned out to be the next strong rear guard action. The 1st Battalion with Company A in the lead attacked the hill. There was a church on top of the hill and that’s where the men of the German 16th Panzer Grenadier Division had dug in. They were supported by mortars and tanks.
We attacked twice but were thrown back twice. Pure suicide. We are losing a lot of men from machine gun and mortar fire. It always amazed me that you could get men to attack a position where there is almost no chance to survive. I have seen it happen time after time.
Possibly men get to a point where they don’t care anymore. I know I have been so wet, cold, hungry, and tired that I was willing to do most anything to get the battle over.
The Germans had a couple of tanks that were supporting the infantry dug in around the church. One of the Rifle Platoon Lieutenants told me that one of the old timers, probably Sergeant Kubisch, was killed and then later his body was blown onto the Lieutenant by a mortar shell. The sergeant’s body shielded the Lieutenant from the shrapnel from the mortar round and probably saved his life. The Lieutenant was quite shook up after this happened.
We called in artillery to try to dislodge the Germans but without success. The artillery could not find their tanks because they had smashed inside of the church and were firing from inside. Finally, when the German commanders decided that the rear guard was no longer necessary at that location, they pulled out during the night.
We moved back into a nearby town for a 1 day rest. The next day we moved out along a road towards our new objective. Company Headquarters moved into a house for the night.
MORE LOSSES FOR "A" COMPANY
October 5, 1944
The 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 168th were to attack and take Hill 747. "A" Company had moved their Company Headquarters into a farm house. We were getting ready for an attack so most of the Platoon Leaders and Platoon Sergeants were assembled for a briefing in the CP. I was standing in the doorway leading from the large room into a smaller room.
Just about that time a Captain, probably Captain Doke from Battalion Headquarters, came running in the door and told us that he had just missed getting killed by an incoming shell. He had no sooner gotten the words out of his mouth when a 150 mm German artillery shell came through the roof and exploded half way down to the floor. I was looking directly at the point of the explosion when it occurred. Everything went red and I was blown back through the doorway to the next room.
I picked myself up and though I was stunned I couldn’t find any wounds from shell fragments. I went back into the large room to see if I could help anyone but found that most of those in there were dead. There was another man that was in the room and closer to the explosion than I was. Somehow he didn’t get hit either. I think that the shell exploded near the floor and there was a heavy table between us and the shell fragments.
Captain Doke who ran in, our C.O. Captain Yando, the Weapons Platoon Leader Lieutenant Bittner, and Platoon Sergeant Lee were dead. First Sergeant Schulte, who didn’t survive, was badly wounded.
They sent the two of us that weren’t hit by shell fragments back to the division hospital because we had been injured by the concussion when the shell exploded. They released us from the hospital the next day and sent us back to the Company Kitchens for a couple of days rest.
I felt particularly bad about the death of Lt. Bittner. I knew him quite well being the Runner for the Weapons Platoon. He was more like a friend than an officer.
The loss of so many officers resulted in the attack being called off until we could be re-organized.
October 9, 1944
I returned to my Company just as they were being pulled back for a four day rest near Church Hill. The company also had to be reorganized by borrowing officers from other companies in the battalion.
October 12, 1944
The 1st Battalion of the 168th was moved out and over to help out the U.S. 85th Infantry Division. We spent the night at an artillery position and during the next night we took over the 85th’s position on the front line. We attacked all the next day and although we were thrown back twice we finally manage to take the town on the next hill. I never did learn the name of that town.
October 15, 1944
By October 15th the U.S. 2nd Corps was the farthest advanced along the entire front line. The U.S. 34th, 85th, and 88th Infantry Divisions were to undertake a main thrust at the center. The 34th’s 133rd was to attack toward Monte Belmonte and the 168th, with the 757th Tank Battalion , was to attack Monte della Vigna. This area of the front was defended by the German 24th Panzer Division and the 400th Tank Battalion.
October 16, 1944
We took a heavy shelling in town as we were getting ready to attack. During this attack we got some support from the Army Air Force. We called in, via radio, help from a flight of P47 Fighters. We were being held up by fire from a farm house.
The P47s came in like they were aiming at us but just before they fired they lifted the plane’s nose and directed their rockets at the Germans position. The fire from that area ceased so we moved forward again. In the house we found the bodies of three Germans who were killed in the P47 attack.
It sure beat digging them out with rifles, machine guns, and bazookas. Most of the time we had tank support when we ran up against pill boxes or fortified houses. That is if the tanks are able to move forward without getting stuck in the mud.
October 18, 1944
My Malaria was bothering me again so the C.O. sent me back to the Medics. They sent me to the 601 Clearing Hospital. I would normally have been sent to the 34th Division Hospital but they were moving that day.
That was a lucky thing for me. The Division Hospital always sends you back up to the front unless you are wounded bad enough to be sent home. There were no replacements available so if you can get around okay you are sent back to your unit. One of my friends had 18 pieces of shrapnel removed from him and they still sent him back to his rifle platoon after he got out of the hospital.
October 20, 1944
I was transferred to the 55th Station Hospital in Florence. The food there was much better than any I had received since I was in Basic Training in Mississippi with the 69th Division.
October 20, 1944
In order to keep the pressure on the Germans the U.S. 85th and 88th Divisions stepped up action on the 2nd Corps flank. The 88th, with the 337th Regiment of the 85th Division, attacked Monte Grande. Support for this action came from 158 sorties of fighter bombers carrying napalm and high explosives.
In addition the artillery and 23 tanks fired 8400 rounds during a one hour fire mission. During a driving rainstorm the 349th Infantry of the 88th Division took Monte Grande. This loss caused the Germans to withdraw and the 133rd Regiment of the 34th was finally able to occupy the peak of Monte Belmonte.
The 85th and 88th continued their effort toward the high ground to the Northeast overlooking the hamlet of Vedriano, one mile from Monte Castellazo. Attacking in the fog they were able to take Hill 568 and move closer to Vedriano. At this time, also under cover of the fog, the Germans moved their Panzer Grenadier Division forward from reserve.
October 23, 1944
On October 23rd Field Marshall Kesselring was gravely injured in a collision between his car and a towed field piece. He was to be hospitalized for the next four months. General Von Vietinghoff took over command of Army Group C, General Lemelson moved from command of the 14th Army to command of the 10th Army, and General Von Senger left command of the 14th Panzer Corps to command the 14th Army.
October 24, 1944
The 88th Division took Vedriano but was unable to hold it against an overwhelming counter-attack. In the process the 88th lost 80 men who were captured. Three of their rifle companies were severely crippled by this time.
October 26, 1944
Torrential rain started falling. As the rivers rose they wiped out three bridges that were essential to our supply system. General Keyes, after consulting with General Clark, ordered the troops to pull back and dig in for a defensive position. The Germans also were having trouble with flooding.
Since the 10th of September the four U.S. Infantry Divisions had suffered 15,716 casualties. If casualties had continued at this rate it could cause a breakdown in our replacement system. In addition there was a worldwide shortage of artillery ammo.
The British 8th Army, on the Adriatic Coast, was bogged down at the Ronco River. On October 27th, General Wilson, directed the Allied Armies in Italy to halt their offensive. Even though there was no movement we were containing the maximum number of Germans Divisions and therefore helping all the other European Fronts.
On the West Coast of Italy the IV Corps, under command of General Crittenberger, attempted to move forward on their front. The IV Corps consisted of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, the U.S. 92nd Division, and the 2nd Armored Group (an infantry outfit created from the 435th and 439th Anti-Aircraft Battalions). Facing them was the Italian Monte Rosa Alpine Division (there were still some Italian Units fighting alongside of the Germans).
The Brazilians moved against the Italians, who didn’t show much fight, and took the town of Barga. The 92nd Division, which had a reputation of malaise due to conflict between black enlisted men and white officers, made only slight progress. The attacks were called off at the end of the month.
NO MORE COMBAT FOR ME
November 2, 1944
While at the 55th Station Hospital, I was sent before a Review Board for possible reclassification. The board was made up of three officers higher than the level of captain. After spending about a half hour questioning me about my service on the front lines with the infantry, they decided that I had been through enough in the last 10 months, they re-classified me to non-combat duty.
This board didn’t get much of chance to re-classify men from the 34th Division as they rarely never got back to this hospital unless badly wounded. I was just lucky to bypass the 34th Division Hospital this time.
November 4, 1944
After being re-classified non-combat I was sent to the 8th Replacement Depot to await assignment to a new outfit.
November 9, 1944
I left the 8th Replacement Depot and boarded a ship at the port of Livorno (Leghorn) for the trip to the 7th Replacement Depot near Naples. I had been through there when I first arrived in Italy from Africa.
November 12, 1944
After the trip by ship from Livorno to Naples I was trucked to the 7th Replacement Depot at the Race Track near Bagnoli. The Race Track was located in an extinct volcano crater and is large enough to contain the track, tents for the troops, and a Red Cross Club.
AFTER MY REASSIGNMENT
November 13, 1944 - April 4, 1945
I spent this period of time working in the Orderly Room of the 431st Replacement Company at the 7th Replacement Depot. This was the Replacement Depot that was in an extinct volcano crater near Naples.
This was easy duty and one of the men from my old infantry company was also there too. He was the other person, besides myself, who was in the CP when the shell hit and escaped without getting hit by shell fragments.
One night at the Replacement Depot a guard fired a shot at some Italians who were trying to steal something from a warehouse. He missed the Italians but wounded my friend. Luckily it was not a serious wound.
Here we were over 300 miles from the front lines and he still gets shot.
They found a new job for me doing what I don’t know. I was sent to the 19th Replacement Battalion for shipment to the 12th Army Air Force Headquarters in Florence.
Part 1 --- 1942 to 1943
Part 2 -- January to April 1944
Part 3 -- (this is Part 3)
Part 4 -- January to December 1945 (to be added soon)
Last updated on July 2, 2011 Saturday 3:47 PM
By Robert N. Wallworth
All rights reserved
PO Box 24768
San Jose, CA 95154-4768
© 2005 - 2011 Deadfamilies.com ---- All rights reserved