Unit History of the
84th Chemical Mortar Battalion

An unofficial history by veterans of the unit


To Our Fallen Comrades

     Tho' they showed no fear in the murderous Iron Hail of War.

     Tho' they willingly left their homes and families when the country called.

     Tho' they never hesitated to walk into the mouth of the cannon.

     Tho' they were unsurpassed civil as soldiers, as fighters and as men.

     Tho' they laid down their lives that their comrades might live.

     Because we fought with them, lived with them, suffered with them and laughed with them.

     We shall never forget them.

Commander's message

To the Soldiers of the 84th Chemical Mortar Battalion

This is your book, written by you, for you; but it is not your history. Your history was written in powder and steel, not by sentences on paper; your history was written in blood and sweat, not in printer's ink. Yours is a history of deeds not words. Yours is a history of action, fear, fatigue, hunger, cold and hard, tiring labor, not a book of pictures and regimented words in the orderly progress on white paper.

Your history needs no recording; your valor and skill is recorded permanently on the hearts of the doughboys whom you supported. Your accomplishments are recorded across the long mountainous terrain of Italy. Your deeds of skill and courage are recorded wherever a German soldier lies buried. Yours is a bloody history, one written in the din of battle, amid the cries of the wounded and dying. It is a history of sacrifice, a vivid record of the price free men must pay to remain free.

This then is a book written about your history to help us to feel again our triumphs, to remember our fears, to remind us of our part in the most terrible struggle in the history of man.

I am proud to have commanded you in battle. I can ask no greater honor. We have fought the good fight. We have met the best a German army could throw at us and we have brought honor to ourselves and our country. You can always say with pride that you fought with the 84th Chemical Mortar Battalion.

May God bless all of you.

Forrest E. Love
Lt Col, CWS

(Battalion commander 15 April 1944 to 1 September 1945)


This is not an official history of the 84th Chemical Mortar Battalion. The official history is kept in the Archives of the War Department at Washington, D.C. It is simply a narrative, written by officers and men of the battalion, telling the story of the unit's activities since its activation.

The language used in this book may not be the best, but it is the language of the GIs who made the battalion famous and who, through their deeds, brought fame and distinction for the Chemical Warfare Service.

This book has not been censored by any authorities, so it is essentially as the various writers submitted it to the editor.

No professional writers were used; it is entirely the work of members of the 84th Chemical Mortar Battalion.

I want to express my appreciation to all who made the production of this book possible.

Paul F. Flamm
Capt, CWS

Battalion Summary
     Salerno to Anzio
     Anzio to the Armistice


Before going into the combat history of the battalion, let us see how and where the battalion was first formed. Some of the cadre-men were in the Army in December 1941 but most men were inducted in February, March and April 1942. Those were uncertain days - the disaster at Pearl Harbor was still fresh in our memories and the defeat suffered on Bataan did a lot to speed up enlistment. Gas and sugar were rationed - almost every family had a member in the armed forces - industry was knuckling down to the big job ahead. This was the setting for the formation of the 84th Chemical Battalion cadre.

It was on May 21st, 1942, that six officers and some 150 enlisted men brought together under the command of Major Harrison S. Markham at Edgewood Arsenal, Md. The officers were: 1st Lt Ernest H. Davis, adjutant; 1st Lt C. P. Schafer, S-3; 1st Lt Wade P. Eagle, Co A; 2nd Lt Wilbert H. Butts, Co B; 2nd Lt Richmond,, Co C; 2nd Lt Paul F. Flamm, Co D.

This was a new type of unit being formed. No one could tell us what our task could be in combat. At that time, who could have realized or imagined that at the end of the European War the 84th would have 512 days of combat behind it. Everybody was far from experienced and the job of making a unified command was a real one. The five companies were formed - a Hq Co and four weapons companies: A, B, C, D - and the necessary paper work was begin in each one. The men in the companies at the time were to be the future NCOs, so the first job was to give them the routine that they would later enforce on the new men. Then there was the normal Army housekeeping, policing, calisthenics, close order drill, etc.

On June 3rd, the cadre moved by train to Camp Rucker, Alabama. A band played and Brig. General Shekerjian saw us of at Edgewood Arsenal. When the train pulled into Camp Rucker, not many men had smiles on their faces. Rucker, on that day, was a hot, cheerless place. The heat was terrific and, before each man, appeared the barren scene of yellow barracks with green roofs, no trees and that red Alabama sand.

It didn't take long, however, to get the barracks in shape, and soon battalion headquarters and the five companies were in operation. Basic training was in full swing now, and after hours the PX was the favorite spot. It was during this period of basic training that each man was given the opportunity to lecture and command troops, which would be his job when the fillers arrived. Although June15, 1942, was the official date of activation of the 84th, our fillers did not arrive until November.

The cadre was more than ready to get down to the real job of molding combat units from a heterogeneous group of officers and men. The usual basic training and unit training followed and few 84th men will forget the long hikes over the red, dry roads, the engineer's obstacle course, the rainy, cold week in mid-December, 1942, in bivouac on the rifle range, the infiltration course, review of 5th Detachment Special Troops of Second Army by Lt Gen Ben Lear, radio and wire school, long motor convoys, visits to the gas chamber, the quick trip to Camp Young, California, and back.

April 19th, 1943, found the battalion on its way to Camp Myles Standish, Mass, preparatory to a trip overseas. After a hectic period of showdowns, refitting, passes, etc., the battalion boarded the Santa Elena in New York harbor and left the continental limits of the United States on the 29th of April, 1943. Our destination was still unknown but it wasn't long before news was obtained from the ship's crew that the convoy was headed for Oran, Algeria. The convoy was a large one and a beautiful sight to behold as we zig-zagged across the Atlantic. Much speculation was prevalent as to whether the Tunisian Campaign would be over by the time we could get into action. Boat drill, fatigue details, and just lounging around took up our time on the boat during the voyage. Only a few alerts were sounded. Our escort kept the submarines under control.

The thrill of seeing North Africa was felt by all and for awhile the pangs of homesickness left us as we made our way through the Strait of Gibralter and inti the Mediterranean Sea. Disembarkation at Oran took place on the afternoon of May 11th, and as rode through the streets the cries of "Cigarette, Jo" by hundreds of little kids ushered in a strange world. A bivouac was established on "Goat Hill" amongst the rocks and dust, with everyone thinking of the lizards, scorpions and snakes they had read about in the "Soldier's Guide to North Africa." The next few days were spent in experiencing "C" rations, the new climate and homesickness, with a climax on the 15th of May when news of the surrender of the German forces in Africa reached us.

After a short training period with the 9th Infantry Division at Magenta, the battalion made a 1,000 mile motor march to Bizerte. It was here on the night of July 4th, 1943, that we experienced our first air raid, and what an initiation: the German planes spotlighted overhead, flak falling all around us, a plane going down in flames, bombs exploding in the harbor - it was an experience that none of us will ever forget! The next day was spent digging foxholes and setting up a semi-permanent camp. The night of the 5th was a hectic one with 2 or 3 air raids and a cluster of incendiary bombs dropping about 800 yards from the bivouac. Few of us slept much that night. The battalion was scheduled to make the Sicilian invasion but plans were changed at the last moment and we stayed behind in Bizerte. Everyone was disappointed at that time and it was difficult to return to a training program while reading about the action in Sicily.

Leaving the Bizerte area, the battalion moved to Raf-Raf, overlooking the Mediterranean, and continued its training there. It was from Raf-Raf that passes were given to Tunis and Carthage, and right near our area Bob Hope and Frances Langford gave us a very welcome performance.

Late in August the long trek back to Oran was made where, much to our disgust, we bivouaced on "Goat Hill" once more. After such preparations as waterproofing vehicles and equipment, Hq Co and Cos B, C and D embarked for the invasion of Italy on 1 Seotember 1943. Co A was left behind because of lack of shipping space.

The trip across the Mediterranean was quite peaceful except for one air raid at night. Some of the ships stopped one night in Bizerte harbor and experienced a sizable air raid there. The battalion landed near Paestum on the Salerno beaches on D-Day, 9 September 1943 and was baptized by several ground-strafing Focke-Wolf 190s. No order was need to hit the ground. Everyone was hugging old mother earth for all they were worth. A one-hour march brought us to our assembly and it was there that Co C flushed a dazed German machine gunner out of the woods. He had been bypassed by the 36th Infantry Division and was found cringing in his hole with two machine guns and ammo. His only words were "Hitler kaput."

Salerno to Anzio

By nightfall on 9 September 1943, the entire VI Corps was ashore and meant to stay. There was still opposition, but we were moving inland at a very slow pace. VI Corps consisted of the 36th Infantry Div with attached troops: 84th Chemical Mortar Bn, 751st Tank Bn, 191st Tank Bn, 636th Tank Destroyer Bn, 645th Tank Destroyer Bn. To our left was the British 10th Corps, consisting of the 46th and 56th Infantry Divs, also moving very slowly inland.

There was terrific fighting as we tried to force our way into enemy-held territory. The next few days were the deciding ones. Even though the Fifth Army was strengthened by the arrival of the 45th Infantry Div (U.S.), the 82nd Airborne Div (U.S.), and the 7th Armored Div (British), the powerful German army was determined to drive us into the sea and forced us to give ground until a strong defensive line was manned, which finally stopped the tremendous attack.

In this defensive line, the 84th played an important part, its mortars stopping many an infantry and armored attack, as vouched for by the infantry we were supporting. It was our first action, but everyone performed like a true soldier and brought honor to the 84 Chemical Mortar Bn, a newcomer to the Army but a battalion which they were to hear a lot about all the way up the boot of Italy.

Finally the British Eighth Army came up from the toe of Italy and joined forces with us. Together the two armies started a powerful attack. The first objective, Naples, was just a short distance to the north. Fifth Army needed the port of Naples to supply it for the campaign ahead. The advance was slow because the enemy left every imaginable obstacle in our path. Nearly all bridges were blown, and there were mines and booby traps everywhere. The going was plenty tough and our hats are off to the engineers who worked night and day to keep the roads passable.

It was on the first of October that Naples fell to the Fifth Army. It was badly damaged, both by demolitions and our own bombs. The sixth of October saw the entire Fifth Army occupying the southern bank of the Volturno River, reorganizing for the crossing. It was at this time the the command post of the battalion occupied the beautiful palace grounds of the King of Naples Palace near Casserta, Italy. The 84th was to have the job of screening the crossing by the 3rd Infantry Div. It was a big order, but well executed. One company fired more than 2,800 rounds of WP (white phosphorus) between daylight and dusk. HE (high explosive) concentrations laid down by our mortars helped drive the enemy from his strong points. The infantry, aided by this support, crossed the river and pushed on. The Germans retreated lik seasoned troops would and the going was mighty tough for our troops.

Then the weather decided to aid the enemy: rain in torrents day and night, and few will forget the miserable days and nights spent in the mud which was everywhere. The roads were hub deep with slimy mud, and the ground was usually covered with one to two inches of water. Aided by the weather, the terrain and demolitions, the German army gained valuable time to prepare their winter line, which we ran into in the mountains above Mignano and Venafor.

The next six weeks, during which the 84th supported the Fifth Army, were full of bitter fighting. Every type of unit from Rangers to the 2nd French Moroccan Infantry Div learned about the terrific fire power of our chemical mortar. It was the worst kind of weather and terrain, taxing the endurance of every soldier. Men suffered from trench foot and all the hardships of mountain warfare in the winter.

On January 3rd, 1944, the 84th was relieved, after 118 consecutive days of rough going, supposedly for a rest near Naples. Upon arrival near Pianura, Italy, the battalion was attached to the 3rd Infantry Div and trained for the coming landing at Anzio. The trip from Naples to Anzio was uneventful, but everyone was more apprehensive now because they were battle-wise and battle-hardened to combat, and realized what could happen if Jerry got wind of our plans. The landing took place on the 22nd of January,1944, luckily without and serious mishaps, although the vaunted Luftwaffe was out in strength harassing our every move.

Anzio to the Armistice

Much has been written about the Anzio beachhead and its effect on the tactical situation during the winter of 1943 and spring of 1944. The 84th landed on D-Day. All was quiet. Opposition was negligible and the companies assembled more or less according to plan.

The landing force, composed of the U.S. 3rd Div with attached troops, and the British 1st Div, was supposed to secure a beachhead at the resort towns of Anzio and Nattuno, and cut Highway #7, the German supply line from Rome to the winter line in the mountains above Naples. It was thought that with this threat to their rear, the Germans would pull back to a defense line further north. The threat didn't work. After a couple of days, during which the beachhead was firmly secured, the Germans regrouped and formed a ring of steel around our little beachhead. Our situation was aptly shown by one of Sgt Bill Mauldin's famous cartoons after we had broken out. "Willie and Joe" are shown in the German defenses looking down on the flat ground of the beachhead and remarking, "My gawd, they were here and we were there."

In the companies' histories, Anzio is explained very well. The Germans were on the surrounding high ground and we were on the swamps. They could shoot and hit any spot on the beachhead with their artillery. We lived for four months with the feeling that someone was looking over our shoulders. It wasn't all bad, in fact most of us had a pretty good time in a restrained sort of way on the beachhead. Headquarters section had a pretty good softball team and defeated all comers to win their league. Games were played so close to the front that some of the boys swore that they had seen krauts arise from their foxholes and yell "Kill der Umpire."

During our stay at Anzio, air raids occurred nightly but they must have been very discouraging to the krauts as our fighters and AA fire accounted for an average of 20% of all planes sent over.

The original force on the beachhead was continuously augmented until the time of the breakout. The Sixth Army Corps had assumed command of the forces which included the 3rd Div, the 45th Div, the 34th Div, all strongly reinforced by artillery, mortar, TD, engineer and other units. The British on the left flank consisted of their 1st and 5th Divisions, also reinforced.

Along the Garigliano River facing the formidable Adolph Hitler and Gustav lines, the remainder of the Fifth Army troops were under II Corps and French Expeditionary Corps. The French Corps was composed of four colonial divisions including an armored division. II Corps included the newly arrived 88th and 85th Divisions. The 36th Division was in army reserve.

On the beachhead we studied and prepared for the "Grasshopper Plan," the "Turtle Plan," and the "Elephant Plan," as well as the "King" and "Queen" plans. On 12 May, we received news that the forces along the Garigliano had pushed off the night before. The advance was watched with more than a passing interest. We knew we would also push at the proper time, but we also knew that we would have to push through the heavily mined roads and fields, and attack strongly fortified positions against an enemy who was determined to hold Rome if at all possible. The advance was swift and certain, and the Gustav line and the Hitler line crumbled before the lightning-like thrusts of the French and American troops.

The 36th Division sailed from Naples for Anzio and augmented the beachhead force. At 0630 on the morning of 23 May the ground shook with the thunder of the massed artillery and mortars of the beachhead, and the breakout was on. Here indeed was an irresistible force. No army on earth could have withstood the force that jumped off that May morning. Certainly the German army could not. Slowly and stubbornly, at first, the Germans gave ground but, once past their mines and heavily defended positions, the battle turned into a rat race. The beachhead no longer existed.

On the push-off, the battalion less B and C was attached to the 3rd Div. Co A was attached to the 30th Infantry Regiment, and D was attached to the 7th Infantry Regiment. Co B was attached to the 1st Special Service Force, and C was under diect control of VI Corps for a smoke pot detail. Later during the push Co B was attached to the 168th Inf Regt, and Co C was attached to the 133rd Inf Regt, both of the 34th Inf Div. On 29 May the 3rd Inf Div was attached to II Corps. On 31 May Co D was attached to the 15th Inf Regt. On the first of June Co B was attached to the 34th Inf Div.

The companies were so widely scattered during the breakout, fighting under two army corps and attached to different regiments in two divisions and the special service force, that it was indeed difficult to maintain any system of communication. The roads were deep in dust and all of them were jam packed with every kind and description of vehicle. But, as Augustus Caesar said, "All roads lead to Rome," so we didn't mind the dust even though breathing was difficult. We didn't mind the snail's pace we had to travel, nothing mattered, we were going to Rome after so many months of waiting and fighting and hoping. It was dirty, tired but happy group of men who received the roses, kisses, cheers and other greetings of the Italians on the history-making day of June 5. In Rome, we bivouacked not far from the city and reorganized and "trained" for 30 days.

The thirty days in Rome were to most of the battalion what they had dreamed of: sidewalks, electric lights, girls, bars, rest camps, girls, company parties and, of course, girls. The battalion relaxed. We could breath again. The war was forgotten.

The combined forces of the 5th Army now joined together and, stronger than ever, chased the Germans across the rolling terrain north of Rome and almost to the Arno River. But the 84th wasn't forgotten. The Army commander remembered us one day while making his plans for a push across the river. We received a notice from II Corps, IV Corps and 5th Army Hq to start at once to join IV Corps. We left Rome on 6 July at 0730, and at 1200 noon, 9 July, we were attached to the 88th Div.

The krauts were retreating across the Arno but slowly and stubbornly. Many of the divisions had been pulled out of the line for the invasion of southern France, so the fighting was tough. The battalion fought with the 88th Div until 21 July when we were attached to the 34th Div.

On 27 July, we were attached to T.F. 45, which consisted of antiaircraft artillery recently converted to infantry. The fighting here was mostly od a harassing and defensive type. The enemy had been slowly pushed across the river but we lacked the manpower to keep him on the run.

On 1 August, the battalion assembled near Volterra and was attached to II Corps. Companies A and B were attached to the 85th Div, and C and D to the 88th Div. Plans were being made for the crossing of the Arno and the capture of Florence. The companies trained and studied river crossings and learned the secrets of packing mortars on mules, lessons that were used later in the mountains. Some fighting was done but the American troops on the left were mostly waiting for the British on the right to bring their flank up to the Arno. On 24 August the companies were shifted again. C and D were attached to the 91st Div. B was attached to the 34th and A remained with the 85th.

On 26 August, Co A was attached to the 34th Div. We were now ready to cross the Arno and capture Florence, "the city of flowers," "the gem of Italy," according to reports from south of the Arno. The Arno was forded and Florence was taken. The Germans had retreated across the flat ground north of Florence to the mountains. There they had built a winter line that should have held an army twice the size of the army attacking. IV Corps was holding the left flank while II Corps, consisting of the 34th, 85th, 88th and 91st divisions, was to break the winter line with a frontal assault. There were two roads leading to Bologna and the Po Valley beyond. These twisted and turned through narrow passes and between dense woods. Tanks were useless. It was a case of slugging and slugging with artillery and then a hand to hand attack by the doughboys. The defensive positions were strongly built and strongly manned.

The entire area for miles was mined. Tank traps under construction since September 1943 stretched for miles parallel to the line of advance. It was called a Line but it should have been called a Belt or Blanket because when one line was penetrated the Germans fell back to another equally as strong. This stretched all the way to the Po Valley.

The battalion was attached to four different divisions for the attack, one company to a division. The companies were split and attached as platoons. The platoons were with the leading battalions and, as a battalion was pulled back into reserve, the mortar platoon was detached and attached to the attacking battalion. There was no rest. This was some of the toughest fighting the battalion had seen and cold weather was starting. We still were using 2� ton trucks. That is, we were trying to use them on the narrow, twisting mountain roads. The companies were spread so far apart it was almost impossible to keep any kind of dependable communication. The supply problem was enormous and, due to the age of the mortars and the rain, it was a herculean task to try to keep the mortars shooting.

The attack progressed slowly, inch by inch, hill by hill, and the rain kept falling. It was with joy in our hearts that the battalion was moved to the rest area at Montecatini and then to the bivouac area outside Florence for a rest and reorganization.

The attack for Bologna had slowed to almost a standstill when the battalion was again sent into the line on the 3rd of December atached to II Corps. The battalion was to fire a battalion concentration on two hill masses that stood between the II Corps and Bologna, so the guns were emplaced practically on the front line. A fire direction center was established. A forward CP was established in the shell-torn town of Sabbione and the battalion and company rears were encamped in pyramidal tents near Futa Pass. We were to discover later that this was probably the coldest spot in all Italy.

Very few rounds were fired during this period as it was hoped our massed fire and "surprise" effect would be enough to neutralize the two main hills for the doughboys when they again pushed off for Bologna.

Christmas arrived and still we sat in the snow and mud. On 26 December, the battalion commander received an urgent phone call from II Corps saying "hell has broken loose on the left flank" and that the battalion was to move to IV Corps sector at once. With really super human efforts and endurance, the companies hauled out their guns and ammo from their positions in front of Bologna during the night and were ready to roll the next morning.

The battalion left its winter home and moved across half of Italy to the coastal sector of the 92nd Div during the day of 27 December. Two companies went into position that night and were ready to fire by the morning of the 28th.

The fighting on the coastal sector was a soldier's dream. Companies A and B were in villas with the guns set up in palm tree shaded patios. Hot rations were available at the gun positions, and at the company rears dances and movies were available almost every night. There weren't many incoming shells to dodge and the firing was of a harassing nature with plenty of Italians to do the heavy work. Company C had it a little tougher. They were spread out in two gun and four gun sectors all over the Serchio Valley set up for defensive fires. It was colder in the mountains but most of the company was in houses and villas so n one complained. Company D was lost in the reorganization at Florence, the battalion consisting of three letter companies and a headquarters company. Headquarters Company was nicely set up in Lucca, a beautiful oldcity where IV Corps had its headquarters.

The battalion participated in the big push of the 92nd Div, though, after the push, things remained at the status quo both as to location and duties.

In February the battalion was attached to the 10th Mountain Div. This division, freshly arrived from the States, was well trained and especially equipped for mountain fighting. When the division attacked in the latter part of February, the guns of the battalion supported the attack. With the exception of a period of one week when Company B assisted the 442nd Infantry Regt in an attack in the 92nd Div sector, most of the battalion remained with the 10th Mountain Div until the end of the war. The only exception was Company A which fought with the Brazilians in the mountains to the left of the 10th Mountain Div sector.

The 10th Mountain Div made two attacks during February and March but it was easy to see that the disintegration had set in within the German ranks. Patton was racing through Germany, the "Battle of the Bulge" in France had been won, and the once powerful Luftwaffe was a feeble force. For the first time in the history of the Italian campaign, the krauts failed to counter attack when we took a hill away from them.

The krauts weren't giving up easily. They still had plenty of artillery and they gave stiff opposition most of the time, but prisoners were coming in faster and more willingly now. The signs were there to be read. The end was near.

Finally in April the time came for the big push for the Po Valley and the defeat of the German army in Italy. The British on the right pushed first. Then the 92nd Div, with the help of Company B, pushed up and captured Massa and started to La Spezia. The 10th Mountain Div and the 1st Armored Div in IV Corps pushed off on 14 April. Resistance at first was strong but, after a day or two of bitter slugging, the attack got underway never to stop rolling until the surrender. II Corps, consisting of the 85th, 88th, 34th, and 91st divisions, jumped off for Bologna a few days after IV Corps started. The race was on. Who would be the first to cross the Po? Original plans called for II Corps to exploit the breakthrough and cross the Po but IV Corps was not to be denied its share of the glory after defensive fighting for so long. Divisions were switched from one corps area to the other until it was indeed difficult to know who was who.

Both corps crossed the Po at about the same time. During the drive across the Po Valley, the attack never slowed down. Prisoners were taken by the thousands. The incidents of this crazy war were so numerous that they would require an entire book. It was not uncommon to see squads, platoons and companies of krauts marching down the road, their hands clasped behind their heads in appropriate manner, unaccompanied or with perhaps one wildly excited Italian "Party Johnnie" or "Party Jane" gesturing with his rifle or Tommy gun.

There was some resistance, of course, and some casualties, when the 10th Mountain Div reached the banks of the Po at San Benedetto. The krauts unloosed an air burst from their anti-aircraft guns that was marvelous to behold.

Companies B and C had the only cannon in place on the river bank, except for a battery of armored artillery. We managed to lower the boom on the lot of guns and the engineers were able to go ahead and build their bridges.

When we reached Lake Garda, it was found that the tunnels through which the road ran to the north were blown by the retreating for. This called for an amphibious operation so Companies B and C mounted DUKWS and set up operation in Riva and Tarbole. Here several of the officers barely missed getting hit by the lone "88" that killed Col Darby, famed leader of the Rangers, and at that time assistant commander of the 10th Mountain Div.

The German army surrendered on May 2 while we were on Lake Garda. V-E Day was the occasion of no great celebration in the battalion because we knew it was bound to happen in a short time and we were still "sweating out" the Japanese War.

After the cessation of hostilities, the battalion moved to Desenzano, a small resort town on the southern end of Lake Garda, to await our fate. The battalion engaged in guard duties from the Brenner Pass to Modena, but with enough time off to enjoy the swimming and boating pleasures offered by Lake Garda.

The enlisted men's club started soon after the battalion settled in Desenzano, and proved to be a very popular place situated in the "Lido", a former Italian bathing and drinking establishment. The club was filled to capacity every night. Beer from many excellent breweries in northern Italy helped to slacken the thirst of the men, and the local girls made excellent dancing partners as the men danced to the music of local, civil and military orchestras.

In May and June the battalion lost all of its high point men with a critical score above 85. These men were shifted from outfit to outfit all summer. Some of them were still in northern Italy when the battalion went to Rome in the latter part of August.

The war with Japan ended about the 17th of August and orders were received to go to Rome to get ready to go home. On or about 25 September 1945, the battalion was deactivated and the men were sent to Leghorn to await shipment home.

The majority of the battalion arrived in the states 12 October 1945 and were on their way home in 48 hours. The company histories which follow give a more detailed account of what the battalion went through in its 30 months of overseas duty in World War II.

Company A
     Africa to Italy
     Anzio beachhead
     Push to Rome
     North from Rome
     Futa Pass to the Po Valley

Africa to Italy

Well, Mac, here's your outfit, and to refresh your memory we'll start off in Africa. Remember, we were in battalion reserve when the other four companies left for Salerno. That was early in September. We were on a dusty, windy, rocky hill then; the same one we went to when we first arrived in Africa in May of '43. This was September now, and after completing a tour from coast to coast, Oran to Tunis, we were back in the same spot five months later. We didn't stay there long, but moved out a ways to St. Barbe where we lived a comfortable life with other detachments of units that had embarked for Salerno.

Finally, we received our orders to move. The vehicles drove to Algiers, but the rest of us went to Oran. We loaded with a group of paratroop replacements and a handful of nurses. If you remember, the ship we sailed on was British, and that's the first time any of us ever had tea, fish and potatoes three times a day. The trip didn't take too long, and on October 10 we were ready to make our first amphibious landing. The LCI that carried us ashore was certainly a drastic change from the 23rd street ferry, but it served the purpose. Remember big, long Simpson rolling up his pants as we prepared to walk in. Sergeant Cote and Don Gillenkirk did the same thing. Simpson made it, but Cote and Gillenkirk came in like submarines. They both took one step and disappeared, and about three yards further on they came up head first. After assembling, we moved on to the College at Bagnoli and were happy to learn that Naples was only a few miles south. It took a few days to get organized, but after that everyone could be found in Naples immediately after roll call.

It was there we were first conscious of the dangers involved in an air-raid. Others, in Africa, we had watched in amazement; but this one was too close for comfort, and left a crater in front of the building fifty feet across. Here we lost the first member of the outfit, Bob Campbell, killed during this same air-raid, while in a hospital a few miles from the College.

Our spree ended when the vehicles arrived. Off we went to join the battalion and receive our first taste of combat. We joined the battalion in a little town named Dragoni. Don't confuse this with the Albergo Dragoni in Rome; that comes later. As we drove in, Gutenberg was shouting greetings to Joe Gulino and Klee, and Sammy Feranti was yelling frantically to John Farley and John Figlioli. Just like old home week. We were still green; though we were up front. The big guns fired and we shook. We were strafed for the first time, and we shook again. This made everyone dig in. No sooner had we finished than we received orders to move. Loaded on trucks, we rolled away. It was raining and dark - Halloween Eve. Eventually, we reached the "no truck line," so we unloaded and started to walk, pulling our little carts behind us - up mountains and down, night and day. What a time! We were caught in the open and strafed, but we had it easy. The group that rode trucks was unlucky. While unloading a truck full of ammunition on November 4th, a WP shell exploded and sent King, Fenwick, Holland and Simons to the hospital. Charlie Little did a good job in straightening things out; for his work he received the Solder's Medal.

On the night of November 4th, we marched down a dark road, excited and expectant, to move a little past Venafro. There we assembled in an olive grove and awaited orders. Jerry artillery overshot us all day, and his planes paid us five or six visits. Harrison Hale was a BAR man at the time, and claims credit for shooting down one plan, after emptying a full magazine into it. That evening we moved forward again, once more a dark, rainy night. If you remember - we were instructed to step easy, for the entire area was heavily mined. Our destination was only a few miles north, but it took us half the night to get there - over blown-out bridges, through by-passes and finally through a town - over the rubble of fallen houses - still pulling our little carts behind us. It was still raining the next day, and we set our guns in a creek bed. Everyone was leery of entering the houses. We were still green and suspected booby traps. From here we fired several rounds, and received a great deal of counter-battery fire. In this area, Pat Ferrucci, Ehlberg, Dubs and Jake Hackman were wounded. In combat two weeks, and we already had a fistful of purple hearts.

We were now out of range, but the rain had made traveling difficult and we moved very slowly. A few days passed and we were in position. It was a small town named Traversa. We had houses again, so rather than stand in the rain we moved in. From here we fired a great deal and also received several barrages in return. It was one of these barrages, on November 21, that killed Bob Jones and Harley Johnson, and sent Sergeant Glass, Glasscock, Pappy Green and Eve to the hospital. During the shelling, the houses crumbled and these casualties were the result. This made us move to an alternate position up the road and on the side of a hill. All this time we'd been eating "C" rations, in case you've forgotten, and for the first time in weeks hot chow was brought up. It was here that twenty-five men were to be picked to go on pass to Naples. Remember, standing there in the rain, with the water trickling off your helmet and down your back, hoping to be one of the lucky ones to have your name picked from a hat? If you won, you probably won't remember it; but if you lost, that day must still be clear in your mind.

Thanksgiving rolled around right after that, but we didn't have a big meal until the next day. When it arrived, it was complete. We had no mess gears that day, so "K" ration boxes served the purpose. That was our first Thanksgiving overseas, and most of us were surprised to see such an elaborate meal. Anyway, it was a change from "C" rations. It was here that we received our winter combat suits and overshoes, and for the first time felt a little comfortable.

Remember the order that followed early in December, to move north a little more? That's where the guns were set along the road and every time we fired, the civilians would come out to watch. For their benefit, every time we had a fire mission, we'd run out like the first team in an Army-Notre Dame game. That's where McAndrew and Ben Hucks were at the OP, and Hucks swore he heard a German in the bushes above him. He picked up his rifle, fired, and a dead sheep tumbled out and rolled down on them. We also dug in and pitched shelter halves; the rain had turned to snow. Half of us awakened before the morning, suffocating; for the snow had collapsed the tents. It was here in the snow, and collapsing pup tents that we spent our first combat Christmas. A complete meal arrived. But complete meal or not, how could anyone be happy at a time like that? Also in this spot, the Red Cross arrived with a truckload of doughnuts, coffee, music and girls. When the news drifted up that they were coming, we all shaved and washed, some of us for the first time in weeks. It's surprising what a few doughnuts can do!

Shortly after Christmas, we heard the rumor that we were to be relieved, and sure enough it came true, on January 5th. From Salerno on up, the Battalion had been on the line continually; as wars go, that should have set some sort of record. Remember riding to that little town just north of Naples, Mac? We put up big tents there, and were attached to the 3rd Division. We were only there twelve days, then pushed off for Naples and the LSTs that were to take us on another trip. Before we went aboard, a large group was unloaded right next to us. Fresh from the States. We all went over to try and talk them out of any candy they'd brought in with them. Few of us succeeded, and we were hustled off to our own ship. After loading, we all went on deck to look things over. There were the old Italians rowing round and round between the ships, selling oranges and nuts, cherry brandy and cognac. We were anxious to know where we were going, and paid little attention to the maritime fruit peddlers. No one knew, but everyone thought they knew. We left Naples the following morning, in convoy. Card and crap games sprouted like mushrooms; twenty-four hours at sea found us at our destination - Anzio-Nettuno.

Anzio beachhead

Yeah, Mac, it was January 22, 1944, that we arrived at Anzio, after twelve days rest. The place looked pretty good at the beginning; flat lands after that session in the mountains in southern Italy. Anything flat looked good. As we waited to go ashore, the news reached us that the infantry had landed unopposed. We were pleased to hear that, but those planes that came over at noon sure put the damper on our pleasure. They dropped several bombs in our area, and the ship next to us was hit. One dropped between us and the next vessel. Our LST was credited with one plane shot down.

About 3:00 p.m. everyone followed Captain Seigling ashore. It was different this time than it had been at Salerno, and we didn't have to wade very far. The Seabees had built a ramp for the vehicles, leading from the ship to the beach. On shore, we marched to a wooded assembly area and dug in. The planes paid us a few more visits that day, but caused no damage.

The next day, after everyone had done elaborate work on their foxholes, we received the word to move out. After a wild night ride, going every direction but the correct one, we arrived at the crossroads near the grainery. Here we unloaded and moved forward, pulling our carts behind us. That's where we set up on both sides of the road near the farmhouse. We didn't get many rounds off before we were out of range. Out of range or not, we had to spend another night at that position. Everyone bedded down around a large haystack, and about two o'clock in the morning some were startled to hear John Flanagan calling for help. A few of the light sleepers ran around to his side of the haystack, and found that his section had caved in and half the company was slowly smothering. A pitch fork could not be used, (who knew what would come up on the other end?) so the hay was removed by hand. After working frantically for several minutes, the bodies were recovered. No casualties, and half of them were still asleep.

The following morning, we moved to a railroad bed. Here we spent two days and did some very effective firing. After two days, we were once more out of range and moved to the celebrated Mussolini Canal. We weren't at this position three hours, when things started happening. First, three prisoners were taken from the ditch behind our guns. Milt Fichtenbaum returned to the company after an absence of six months. Henry Eve located a house across the road (later the famed Podere 646 - sister to Ferrucci's Castle), rounded up all the chickens in the neighborhood, and locked them in a room. This went well until a reserve infantry company moved near the house and cleaned him out. It was at this position that Lieutenant Baker found the 25 gallon jug of wine and set it up with the guns.

In case you've forgotten, we stayed here a week and on the last Saturday night in January 1944 there was to be an attack; naturally, to come off at midnight. We moved out at 10:00 p.m. this time with jeeps. We advanced a mile; then stopped and waited, while the Rangers and elements of the 3rd Division passed us. We waited and waited and nothing happened. Suddenly, as we stood on the road, a ship exploded in the harbor and midnight became noon. It was then that we knew we were in for a time. Bullets started kicking sparks along the road and everyone fell in the ditches along the side. Naturally, everyone dug in after this. As we dug, the bullets whined overhead and everyone dug deeper. After four hours of sweating it out, it stood to reason that sooner or later dawn would come, and in daylight we wouldn't have a chance. At 5:00 a.m., just as the sun was attempting to rise, we heard those happy words, "'A" Company, on the road and back." There we were, on the road, muddy and tired, moving back to the Mussolini Canal and trying to appear casual and unconcerned; while way down deep everyone was whispering a silent prayer of thanks.

On this same night, part of the outfit moved forward from the Canal. They were forced off the road and had to travel cross-country to reach their destination. This was known as the rabbit farm. Reaching the farm, this section discovered that they were 200 yards from a fire fight being staged by Jerry and the forward companies of an infantry battalion. They were pinned down for eight hours and finally moved to the rear a short way and set up the mortars. At dawn the next morning, numerous smoke shells were fired at enemy-held strongholds, pointing them out for our artillery.

When we returned to Mussolini Canal it was like coming home. Here we set the mortars up and zeroed in on defensive targets.

A few days later we were ordered to move forward again. Off we went that evening to an open field. Here we carried the mortars and ammunition in, and set them in a drainage ditch. We dug in, and by dawn everything was complete. The ground was poor here, but luckily we weren't called upon to fire. Also we could be thankful that the weather was poor, making it difficult to observe us. In this open field we remained a week; on a rainy night we were called back. Everyone was happy, for the position was very poor. Back to the Mussolini Canal once more; only to hear that same night that we were to move forward to the Dairy, a group of buildings just behind our old position and on the other side of the road. It was still raining as we piled back into our jeeps and moved off.

As we drove into our new position, it was none too cheery in the dark night. The mortars were set up, and everyone dug in behind the buildings. As time went on the foxholes improved. Roofs were added, and many were lined with cast off sheets, to keep the dirt from trickling down upon the occupants. It was here that we were to be the second line of defense and play a great part in warding off the many counter-attacks that were to come our way. After five days of waiting patiently for the much publicized drive to push us to the sea, we decided to operate with four-man gun crews. The remainder of each squad was sent a short way to the rear and formed an unofficial third line of defense.

The Dairy turned out to be quite a place, a war within a war, and even won recognition in Ernie Pyle's column. Constant shelling was the main attraction at this cluster of buildings. At noon, on March 1st, Hugh Goggins and Bob Guthrie were killed in one of these barrages. The Dairy continued to receive a solid pasting every day, and at one time received a barrage of screaming meemies every fifteen minutes for eighteen hours.

Lieutenant D'Amore, with the assistance of McAndrew and Pritchard, operated an OP up the road known as "Femina Morta" (Dead Women's Curve). It was in a group of buildings known as "88 Alley." Our tanks would come out from between them every once in awhile and bang away at Jerry. Naturally, there would be return fire. Slowly but surely the OP was crumbling away. Early in March, on a moonlight night, a counter-attack was launched, with tanks playing a prominent part. A strong barrage was laid down everywhere, including the OP. The observers were forced to crawl outside in the rubble and direct fire. Following their directions, an effective barrage was delivered, slowing five of the enemy tanks enough so that they could be knocked out by our TDs.

Early in April, a truckload of ammo received a direct hit in the courtyard. Several men were wounded, and for their quick work, Bob Fehl, McAndrew, Rezac and Fenwick were awarded the Silver Star. The Dairy was too hot by this time, so we moved several hundred yards to the rear. All guns were dug in behind houses on both sides of the road. It was here that everyone saved the rice from the 10-in-1s to give to the Hawaiians from the 100th Infantry Battalion.

Now let us consider the men at the unofficial 3rd line of defense. Here life had become a trifle more pleasant. Rather than live in foxholes on the Mussolini Canal, while it rained, everyone moved into two houses, the famed Podere 647 and Ferrucci's Castle. Casino games were the main diversion. Sand bags were filled here and sent to the Dairy, and the walls of the two famous houses were also lined. Several days a week, both houses sent representative to the rear. Their purpose was to visit the QM dumps and hospitals and round up all the food they could carry. This was indeed a change from the "C" rations we had been receiving.

At these positions, we were relieved by "D" Company; to take ten days in the Battalion rest area. Showers, clean clothes, hot food and the opportunity to move about unobserved were ours. All this and our first beer ration. Here we received several replacements fresh from the States. The beer was made in Naples and didn't appeal to them, but any kind of beer, for the first time in a year, tasted good to us and was welcomed with open arms. After ten days, we returned to new gun positions; taking over "B" Company's location. The quarry was fine, but up the road about 500 yards things were different; just dug in behind a slight slope. This was the section of Campo Morto and the Purple Path, both having won recognition with Ernie Pyle. Here many rounds were fired, but not for long. Orders came to leave the quarry and move to a different sector and prepare to give grand-scaled support to the coming attack.

The guns were moved next to an outpost, and set in a ditch. Here 2,000 rounds were delivered to us and we all sat around waiting. Artillery had been firing continually for three weeks. In our ditch were litter bearers, aid men, rifle men and engineers. The mortars were dug in and ammunition prepared. On May 23, 1944, after four months of sitting tight, we pushed off. Over 3,000 rounds were fired by our guns alone, and the race was on.

Push to Rome

Well, Mac, it was on May 23, 1944 that the push began. You must still remember; firing continually, the tanks rumbling by in a never ending line, and infantry waiting for the word. Everything came off successfully, and one by one the other outfits moved from our big ditch, the engineers, medics; and on the 24th we were out of range, preparing to leave. Finally, we too teed off and the race was officially on.

As we made our first move from our final position on Anzio, we all heaved a sigh of relief. While preparing for the push, there had been a feeling of excitement and expectancy among us. Now the moment had arrived, and no one left with regrets.

In a mad attempt to keep up with the infantry, we raced cross-country. It's remarkable that anyone could walk as fast as the infantry, whose advance towards Rome was increasing in rapidity. Our first fair-sized town, after passing the remains of Cisterna, was Cori. There wasn't too much to look at here. It had received numerous shellings from the big guns of the Navy. While driving through this wrecked city, you must have a recollection of the accidental bombing. Evidently we had moved too fast, for our own planes swooped down and bombed our column, only a dozen or so vehicles ahead of our own convoy. Racing along, souvenirs were collected eagerly; helmets, medals, insignias, pistols, etc. Barrels of wine were unearthed and distributed. Everyone was flush with victory.

The drive was halted momentarily at Velletri; a little more high ground needed to be taken. Here, we were again reminded that there was still a war going on. The mortars were set up and fired. Strong counter-battery fire was received, and we were checked for a few days. Finally, the high ground was taken and off we dashed. Racing along the road, trying to keep up with the infantry, was indeed a headache. Once right behind them, and then twenty miles away. Eventually, we assembled with practically the entire 3rd Division at a large farm a few miles from Rome. Everything was there; observation planes, artillery, tanks and infantry. After a few hours to reorganize and eat, we pushed off for the Big City.

On June 4, 1944, in we went. What a reception; people throwing flowers and offering drinks, and young girls in light colored dresses. Though they weren't American beauties, they were indeed a welcome change from farm girls and no girls at all. A soldier without flowers stuck all over him, or a jeep without two or three excited civilians, looked out of place. Weary infantry sitting along the side of the road, surrounded by jabbering civilians, were too tired to move. June 4th was a Roman holiday, created to provide a Royal welcome for the Fifth Army.

Through the city we drove, cheered on by liberated Romans. At the outskirts we halted; time for an overdue rest, and the beginning of five wild weeks. Here, Mac, we slept opposite modern apartments and made new friends. Many of these friendships were to be carried on through our stay in the Italian capital. Naturally, everyone dashed off to look the place over. Here the Albergo Dragoni came into its own; a clean room, soft bed and sheets for a small fee. Sleeping in a bed was, indeed, a novelty second to none. Sarti's Cognac was plentiful for the first few weeks, and prices were moderate.

From the streets of Rome, we moved to an area a stone's throw from the Tiber River. A training schedule was introduced, which consisted mostly of calisthenics. The Fifth Army Rest Center was opened, with movies, swimming, dancing and the Snack Bar; we were daily visitors. Trips to the movies every evening and two company parties, made this a rest to be remembered. Naturally, all good things must come to an end, and after five weeks the news arrived that we were alerted. These gloomy words were received with a great deal of muttering under the breath, but on July 8, 1944, we packed up and once more "hit the road."

North from Rome

Yeah, Mac, the Rome rest was brought to a close, and once more we were going to be "on the line." All night our convoy sped up the coast road, highway #1. Everyone was feeling good when we left, but the long night ride chilled our feelings. Reaching our destination, we were attached to the 88th Infantry Division, just another outfit to add to our long list of units supported. Here with the 88th we fired continually, mostly harassing missions, and it looked like a half-hearted attempt to fight the war. Three weeks was the time spent with them, and then we were called back to our battalion area.

From battalion area we moved to the famed San Giorgio. That was the town just before the Arno River, to the right of Pisa. Here, in support of an ack-ack battalion converted into infantry, guns were set up right in town and a good time was had by all. Eggs every morning, tomatoes fresh from the garden, and wine every time we turned around. The people were glad to see us, and offered us rooms in their houses and the use of their beds. Here the ack-ack battalion sent their own men to be instructed in the use of the 4.2" mortar, and everyone was wearing sweaters and socks from the fascist-controlled mill. All went well here for two or three weeks, but good things must come to an end; so we were called back to the battalion area again.

Back at battalion, we received the long-awaited shoulder patches which announced to everyone that we weren't an ordinary Fifth Army unit, but special front-line troops.

From battalion area we cruised to Volterra, where everyone set to buying alabaster decorations, ash trays, book ends, flower pots and door knobs. These were sent home from here, many arriving in sections. We were with the 88th Division here. They gave us a commendation for the good work we did, and many of us received our first pair of combat shoes. From the 88th we went to the 85th. Here we attended a large memorial service, and medals for heroic deeds were distributed to members of the company.

Next we went to the 34th Infantry Division, old friends from Anzio, and for two weeks we were inactive with them. The area we stayed at may be remembered as Bruna's. She was one of the girls that did our laundry. Here we also received all the extra beer. We drew from division and battalion; a double ration. This went well until battalion caught up with us and made us split. An Army orchestra came to serenade us; all in all we lived like kings, basking in the sun.

Suddenly all this came to an end, and we were reminded of the horrors of war again; mainly, rain, no sleep, and cold food. Florence had been taken, and early in September we moved out with the 34th Division. Moving to the other side of the city, we lived in a settlement of English and American-owned homes for a few days. The houses, if you recall, were very elaborate for Italy and were just like an American home should be. This short vacation was ended by the dull words, "roll up," and again we moved out in the rain. This was the beginning of the long, cold, wet drive up Highway #65, through the Gothic Line.

Driving up #65 with the 34th was no picnic. We didn't move fast and it rained continually. The roads were poor and our transportation scarce. All through September we moved with them, very rarely finding a house to live in. Remember moving up and down the side of a mountain four or five times, building the road as we went, or digging in and huddling up to the side of the hole to keep dry; moving into the barn with the family of Italians and the wounded cow? The rainy months in Italy were, indeed, the toughest.

All through September it rained, and October didn't change things a bit. Things even got worse. Moving into a position called Munzuno, a large house on the crest of a hill, we received the greatest shock possible. Red Munnings was killed by a defective shell on October 9, 1944. Ed Camp got it the same day, and J. V. Ellis was wounded. Morale was pretty low after this accident, and everyone was glad to leave this position.

From Munzuno we jumped from position to position, still with the 34th. This carried us practically through the Gothic Line, and eventually we wound up in the last position of this session, known as the "Bowl."

The "Bowl" was a position a mile or so to the right of Highway #65. The day we entered, the small dirt road was in fair condition, but incessant rains changed it to a medium-sized stream. The road was then impassable, and all vehicles were stranded. That's where the mule pack came into its own and we labored day and night with twenty mules. Remember plowing through the mud, floundering dizzily as you guided the Italian teamsters that hauled our ammunition and rations? At this time, rumors of relief were strong and finally on November 1, 1944, we were officially relieved. As we piled onto trucks to drive to the company rear, it continued to rain. We stayed overnight there and rode south with the rain still pouring down. We were on our way to a rest area, and we were certainly going to make a wet entrance.

Driving all day, we arrived late in the afternoon at Montecatini, an Italian health resort, famed for its sulphur baths. Living in a large building, away from the rain and mud, was seventh heaven. Hot showers and a change of clothes were just two of the many luxuries we enjoyed. After all equipment was checked, everyone set out to see the town. Movies were numerous, and the Red Cross was visited by all. Ten days was the allotted time in this health center, and our time went much too fast. From Montecatini we moved a few miles south of Florence, just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving. Naturally, there was a short training schedule, but there were many passes and the city was given a good going over. Thanksgiving rolled around, and a restaurant was rented in Florence. An elaborate meal was served, and the setting was just the opposite of the preceding Thanksgiving. All the things that go with a rest period were enjoyed until early in December, when once more we were alerted.

Futa Pass to the Po Valley

Finally, on December 5th, we moved out once more, up Highway #65 to a tent assembly area in Futa Pass. The weather was poor, snow or rain came down continually. Forward, pits were dug and the guns set up. Skeleton crews remained at the position, just in case, while the remainder of the company enjoyed daily passes to Florence. Christmas rolled around and another holiday meal was devoured; this time in the heart of the Futa Pass on a cold, bleak day. A few half-hearted attempts were made to decorate the area in true Yuletide style, but who could be normal in days like that.

Christmas had hardly passed, when we received the order to move. All the plans we had made were cancelled. This move was greeted with a great deal of grumbling and everyone thought we were getting a dirty deal. On the 27th we rolled away, not knowing where we were going. Remember the surprise we got when we drove up Highway #1, the coastal road; along the seashore and past Viareggio to the small town of Forte-di-Marmi. The Italian Riviera was to be our gun position. What a break! The guns were set up in back yards and gun crews lived in houses. Hot meals were brought up every day, and life was very comfortable. In this area, we fired harassing missions and prepared to support the crossing of the Cinquale Canal. For six joyous weeks we operated in this sector; it was heaven. Continual sunshine was enjoyed, the roads were good, and except for one instance, enemy artillery fire was very light. Movies were shown twice a day, and twice a week there was a dance. All in all, conditions were ideal.

In the middle of February, we received our orders to move away from the seashore and into the mountains. With a great deal of grumbling, we loaded the vehicles and took off. We rode cross-country for a few hours, then south and cross-country again. Finally, we turned north, drove for a few hours more and were back in the mountains. Highway 64 was the road we used, and as it wound and unwound among the snowy hills the weather became bitter. At Poretta, a large shell-torn town, we stopped to assemble. Getting organized and fed took quite awhile; so it wasn't until the next evening that we moved into position.

The snow was too deep for a jeep, so we moved in with Weasels. Painted white, they were a small tracked vehicle that moved over the snow instead of through it. When we reached the position, all that could be seen was snow. In this snow, the guns were set up and foxholes dug. From this crude position not a round was fired, and in a few days we moved to a more comfortable location, not more than half a mile away. Here we came in contact with the newest division in Italy, the 10th Mountain. Two days after we were attached to them, they jumped off to take Riva Ridge and Mount Belvedere. This small attack was easier than anticipated and very few casualties were suffered. This gun position was known as Vidiciateco, the name of a small town a few miles in the rear. For ten weeks we stayed here. The guns were dispersed, dug in, and houses were abundant; there was one for every squad. Eggs were numerous, as were potatoes, therefore, many good meals were served as a pleasant change from the same dull rations. In these houses, dances were held three nights a week. Everyone crowded into a small room and danced to the music of the finest little band in Italy, the String Group of Vidiciateco. Two mandolins and an accordion.

In this sector, our OP was established; just a short walk and you were there. A six-hour climb up a mountain and twenty-minute ride on a tram car brought you to the OP; for twenty minutes you hung 4500 feet off the ground.

Life in this gun position was enjoyable and healthy. Hardly any enemy artillery, plenty of sunshine, and as time went on we watched winter change to spring. The snow melted and disappeared; the green grass began to grow. For the time we spent there everything was perfect, with one exception. Early in March, we had our first casualties for this position. Two men were killed and several wounded, among the wounded was McAndrew. This was caused by a faulty shell. All men were evacuated to the hospital in Pistola, and every day five or six of the gun crew would ride back to see them.

After the initial assault, when Riva and Belvedere became ours, everyone went back on the defensive. Therefore, for the period that followed, we fired numerous harassing missions. The Brazilian Expeditionary Force relieved the 10th Mountain Div and the sun continued to melt the snow. As time went on, the weather became more pleasant, no more rain or snow, and a few more hours of sunlight. Therefore, with all these favorable conditions, common sense said that soon we would move, and move we did.

Early in April, we waved farewell to the farmers of Vidictateco and moved to the right of Mount Belvedere, in support of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. Here, behind a small hill, the guns were dug-in and elaborate foxholes prepared. An OP was established and the mortars zeroed in. For three days harassing missions were fired, and for three days the date of the attack was postponed. Finally, H-Hour came around, and for 12 hours we laid a smoke screen for the Brazilian infantry. For a while everything was uncertain; every hour brought a new rumor, "Objective taken," "Objective not taken," and heavy casualties resulted. The advance was slow for two days; then suddenly, like water bursting from a paper bag, we eased out of the mountains and tumbled in the lap of the Po Valley.

The Po Valley was the promised land. For 18 months everyone had been hearing about it; flat land, good roads, and no mountains were the attractive points. Once in the valley, opposition ceased, and day and night we rode cross-country. As we moved north, the once-powerful German Army collapsed before us. In defeat, they were anything but happy. Entire units surrendered. There were so many that they came in unescorted, bringing all their equipment.

This rapid advance brought disorder to the unit, and near beautiful Lake Garda we stopped to reorganize. A large house on the edge of the lake was to be our resting place for a day or two. Suddenly, the war crumbled beneath us. On May 2nd, V. I. Day was announced, and on the 8th of May came V. E. Day; nothing spectacular, and not the least bit the way everyone thought and dreamed it would end. No flags, no bands, no speeches, no final shot; it just stopped as if a radio had been turned off after playing for five years. There were no wild celebrations or big parties. More than anything, it was a solemn moment; we all thought of the friends who didn't make it, but gave everything so that the going would be a little easier for the rest of us.

Company B
     Trek north
     The Volturno
     Approach to the Gustav line
     Winter line
     March to Rome
     On to the Arno
     Volterra Interlude
     Gothic line
     Struggle for Bologna
     The year is ended
     By the side of the beautiful sea
     With 10th Mountain Division

Salerno (9 September 1943-18 September 1943)

On the morning of September 11, 1943, the Liberty Ships Bushrod Washington and Daniel Webster arrived of the Salerno beaches carrying Company B to engagement in the Italian Campaign. Early in the morning the hills south of the beaches had come in view and before noon the anchor dropped "off the battlefield." During the day the company enjoyed the questionable privilege of being a prime target while awaiting its turn to land. Corporal Lefler, a self-styled expert who had aspirations for the air corps. called the attention of bystanders to a flight of P-38s just as they decided to become Focke-Wolfe 189s and dive on the cruiser Savannah. The resulting commotion did much to cover Lefler's confusion. A well-laid egg pointed the Savannah's front turret to the sky as the ship keeled over and became very sick. Sister cruisers, destroyers, corvettes and minesweepers boiled past with all of their dual-purpose armament pointed at the sky and barking with the vehemence found only in anti-aircraft artillery which has sniffed an enemy plane. Big, small intermediate boats rushed to the stricken vessel to offer assistance. Transports left the area as if burned by poison waters. With the passing hours, however, it became apparent, even to a land lubber bound for the wars, that the cruiser would live. The harbor returned to normal and Lefler resumed his watch for P-38s.

Interest was naturally focused on the beach and the plain behind it. The battle being fought there was soon to become a part of the life of nearly every man on board the ship. Rumors made the rounds. The battle was being won and lost in the same breath. The first men aboard from the beaches brought garbled stories of the tremendous D-day fight of the 36th Infantry Division but few took much stock in them. On the 11th of September the sand of the beaches was in little danger of erupting from the force of anything but aerial bombs, and the optimism of the American soldier not in the fight would accept no compromises with success for the beachhead.

The first men of the company started over the ship's rail just before sundown. They set the scheme of things by leaving the vessel to the tune of an air raid. The remainder, following during the evening, could never quite be sure whether a boat or green water would be at the bottom of the landing net. The landing craft all left the vicinity of large vessels rapidly when an air alert was sounded. This resulted in more than one GI being left suspended in mid-air, praying to the mercy of the wind and the waves while another aerial raiding party was discouraged. The fate of Sergeant March differed somewhat from the normal. He suffered not from an air raid but from an inexperienced and greatly excited boat operator who chose the moment he was ready to board his craft to shear away from the ship. March, an '03 rifle and a fifty pound pack were left dangling within reach of the charging monster, while March's wrists became weaker and weaker. Quick action by a couple of boys, who shed their packs and went over the side on the double, averted tragedy.

The company was supposed to land on Green Beach from where it could move directly inland to an assembly area assigned to the battalion, across the road from the Temple of Neptune. The first load from the Daniel Webster landed at the appointed place, but could find no one who had the slightest idea where the outfit was located. (The battalion area was almost within sight of the water's edge). Taking the bull by the horns, the little party started inland and stumbled over a sign put up by advanced elements which had come ashore during the latter part of D-Day. Those who followed were not so lucky. The bulk of the men from the Daniel Webster had to plow through streams and over stone walls and brier patches to get home, when they were landed too far south on Yellow Beach. Those from the Bushrod Washington landed far to the north and did not close with the battalion until after a ten mile hike the next day.

The drivers and motor pool personnel came off of the boats one or two at a time and raced through "de-waterproofing" to get away from the beach, with its air raids, as soon as possible. Each driver then had to find the assembly area by himself with only the minimum directions that could be given by the mechanics, who had never been there themselves.

By noon on the twelfth, the personnel of the company had been untangled from the maze of an invasion-army service area and began to reassume the semblance of an outfit. There remained, however, the job of locating equipment. The drivers had each come ashore with his own vehicle and so brought it to the battalion motor pool, but the trailers came from the ships in whatever space was available. If pulled off of the landing barges by a vehicle from another organization, they were dropped in the beach area and left to the mercy of the army. Members of the lunatic fringe added to the confusion by appropriating a trailer now and then, when the right one could not be found. The company, new to invasion, searched for days before it gave its last trailers up for lost.

During the first day on shore the company remained in the original assembly area. Not much news or rumor from the front reached it, because the battalion was still very self-contained, with only a few persons making outside contacts at supply dumps. Those searching for equipment were associating with people whose attention was directed toward the sea rather than the land. Later in the day there was some speculation about the increasing rumble of artillery but no one connected the different to the idea of difficulties ahead.

On the thirteenth, the battalion left Paestum and moved north to an area near where the engineers were sweating an airstrip into usability. The word was given that there would be two or three days in which to get organized. The battalion had come to Salerno attached to the 36th Infantry Division. Many understood that its first mission would be in a drive southward toward the British Eighth Army coming up the peninsula. The original schedule called for arrival at the beachhead on "D" plus two. Arriving on that day Company B found itself shoved aside, while material loaded in the holds below it was dug out and sent ashore. Action being imminent, the company made such preparations as were possible and awaited further developments. All during the afternoon the search for equipment continued, while Captain Butts made his first business reconnaissance. Finally, in the early evening, instructions were received. The move would come about midnight, but in the meanwhile, a work party would go forward to prepare a roadway into the selected position. The work party left, and the remainder of the company settled down to wait. Suddenly the work party was back, except for Private First Class Lang and Private Conway, who had been left by mistake. Plans were changed. The company was to move into position within walking distance of its present area. In the middle of confused preparations for a new approach march, a final change sent officers into the night to hope for a position. The company was now thoroughly aroused to the fact that all was not well.

At four-thirty on the morning of the fourteenth of September the company was on its way to combat. It moved north along the main highway to the Sele River; then eastward on the road to Albanella to a point near its junction with the road coming south from Persano. Here it de-trucked and hauled its mortars into position facing a burned-out bridge across the Calore River, at the base of the Sele-Calore Corridor. Fighting of the day before had brought the first battalion of the 179th Infantry hurrying to cover the base of the corridor, but at daybreak it had not yet arrived. As the company was digging in, lines of dog-tired infantrymen began straggling over the hill behind it and deploying on the ridge in front. One of them asked, "Hey Bud, what's the situation here?"

The de-trucking point, located in a draw, became the motor pool and ammunition dump. It was about a mile from the guns and during the first part of the day an effort was made to follow the book by hand-hauling ammunition forward. After two trips around, the condition of the ammunition men and the number of shells at the position indicated the need for a different transportation system. The two platoon jeeps offered the alternate, so T/5s Mangie and Mercer spent the remainder of the day running the roads under almost constant fire. They subsequently were awarded Bronze Stars for their efforts. By nine o'clock the company was ready and fire began. Directly across the Calore River was a large grove of trees and brush which the Germans were using as an assembly point for the attack. This was the target. Sergeant Kelly in the first platoon did the honors with the first shot, but to Sergeant Dickenson in the second platoon belongs the memory of ceremonious induction to battle. As he inaugurated his platoon to fire, he paid his home state of Texas due homage by inscribing a message on, the first shell, kissing it and dropping it down the barrel. Three rounds and three corrections brought the range almost down to the minimum of six hundred yards and "Tex" began to sweat.

At ten-thirty the Germans attempted to cross the river, and were stopped cold. Almost immediately, the company was credited with a tank. During the day, another tank and several machine gun nests were claimed. The knocked out armor proved to be a minor part of the results of the day's fire. The Germans had not had time to do their usually superb job of hasty fortification before the attack. WP shells soon burned them out of their uncovered foxholes into a hail of infantry fire and explosive shells, which made their positions untenable. By the middle of the afternoon the day's fire was over. Due to short ranges and dry ground, none of the problems of broken equipment which were to plague the company had yet showed up. No one had suffered more than a scratch, in spite of mistakes that should have been fatal.

The company CP had been placed behind a cactus hedge several yards from the guns on the belief that it should be away from the platoons for better control of the company. Fire at a passing tank, caused a hasty advance to the better cover of the gun positions after the group narrowly escaped extermination. Linemen found themselves repairing wires under direct rifle fire. PFC Morrison was forced to play tag with an enemy tank, escaping by a miracle. The motor pool and ammunition dump basked in the protection of minor defilade, never dreaming that they were in full view of a German sneak OP not a thousand yards away. The trucks remained usable only because there were no howitzers free to fire at them.

The end of the first day of battle brought a new confidence in the gun served by the company. The heavy mortar had drawn praise from the infantry, which satisfied even the most pessimistic among the men.

The morning of the fifteenth brought more action; but the intense battle for the beachhead was over, and by mid-afternoon the company had fired its last round for nearly a month. On the evening of the seventeenth, the position was advanced across the Calore River into the area which had been shelled so vigorously two days before. By the eighteenth the German forces were in retreat, and changed plans of deployment brought relief from the 179th Infantry and a return to the battalion assembly area.

Trek North (19 September 1943-8 October 1943)

On the twentieth of September the company was started northward by an early morning move to a fruit orchard near Battapaglia. and finally on to a defensive position south of Acemo. Before Acerno it remained inactive for several days, while the 30th infantry of the 3rd Division made a grueling approach to the town through the first of the Italian mountains. While waiting for the road to Acerno to open, several trucks were loaned to the 3rd Division in return for jeeps. For the next few weeks the drivers of these trucks had the only active role played by the battalion in the push to the Volturno River. While the company rolled along behind the fight, they made almost nightly trips to the lines with men and supplies for the battle.

On the twenty-fifth of September the company moved into bivouac with the battalion at Acerno. Two days later the first rain of the season, a heavy mountain thunderstorm, awoke the company in the small hours of the morning. A high wind tearing through chestnut trees in the area was making the bivouac a death trap, as shrapnel-weakened limbs fell to the ground. It was here that Lieutenant Clark was killed.

Beyond Acemo, a completely wrecked road denied travel for several days until, with the help of the company, it could be repaired. The company finally moved on to Piazza Montella in a blackout battalion convoy, which was one of the most spectacular and dangerous of the whole campaign. From a high pass north of Acerno, the road dropped down a winding canyon in which a cloud-veiled moon served only to accentuate the shadows. The exchange of trucks for jeeps had left the company a little short on transportation and even the ammunition trucks were carrying men. A few hardy souls, T/5 Spirito among them, chose to ride the tops of the trailers rather than squeeze onto the trucks. As PFC D'Aloia, who was used to driving the city streets of Jersey, jockeyed his rig around curves that no truck should be suffered to pass, the screams of Spirito recorded the proximity of disaster. Finally, the wheel of D'Aloia's trailer rode the rail of a bridge floored only with a treadway. Spirito hung on with his eyes closed for the rest of the trip.

An evening trip on the fifth of October took the company to the vicinity of Arpaia, from where the next combat action for the company was planned. The battalion convoy was the first large one to pass through several towns on the route during the evening. The festival spirit in which the townspeople turned out to cheer it made the trip almost like a victory parade.

The Volturno (6 October-12 October 1943)

After being forced out of the Neapolitan plains, the Germans were forming a defense line along the Volturno River to slow up the advance toward mountain fortifications, which were yet to be completed. The company was scheduled to participate in the crossing of the river.

When the company arrived at Arpaia, ground needed for its positions was still occupied by the enemy, so several days of waiting passed with only reconnaissance work being done. As finally planned. the company was to fire from a gully running through the hill town of St. Angelo, a few hundred yards south of the river. The town was reached through Santa Maria and overlooked Capua, through which the British 10th Corps fought in its bloody crossing of the river. The only difficulty in approach was enemy observation, which forced all preliminary work to be done at night.

The battalion ammunition train set up a dump in Santa Maria, and on the tenth of October the company started the job of getting four thousand rounds of ammunition into the position. The same day the company bivouac was moved to San Clemente to be closer to the scene of action. Upon arriving at St. Angelo the first night, it was necessary to hand-pack the bulk of the ammunition nearly five hundred yards up the gully to assure space for future storage. The task had not been completed when a midnight barrage hitting the town caught several men grouped around a truck, which was being unloaded. Five men were taken to the aid station, Private Dorthlan to die the next day. Subsequent nights passed without incident except for one, in which a passing British patrol was almost scared out of its pants by GI helmets which were mistaken for German in the dusk. One of the boys swearing in the best Brooklyn style forestalled a fight to the finish.

On the twelfth the company moved into position and, after a night of preparation, started firing at daybreak on the thirteenth. By sundown, the largest smoke screen fired by a mortar company up to that time was in the records. At St. Angelo every ill known to a mortar outfit made itself felt. Baseplates were driven down into the ground, breaking parts and demanding numerous re-settings, as a result of firing at what was then extreme range on rain-softened earth. A strong wind was blowing on the river, demanding a high rate of fire to maintain the screen. And to add insult to injury, wet powder bundles caused misfire after misfire. By eight o'clock in the morning the company was having difficulty keeping half of its guns in action. By ten-thirty, sometimes with only two guns and never with more than six, nearly two thousand rounds had been fired. A slackening wind, however, gave relief, and by evening the company was operating with a semblance of smoothness. By the middle of the next morning the original mission, a diversionary screen for a bridging operation was complete. A subsidiary mission fired in the afternoon completed the company's fire until the Gustav Line was engaged.

At the Voltumo, the company fired 3,643 rounds of ammunition (over $100,000 worth) in two days. The two missions, successfully completed, drew praise from the commander of the 30th Infantry, and the company began to feel that it was no longer a green outfit. It had successfully held up its end in two difficult battles.

Approach to the Gustav line (16 October 1943-7 November 1943)

On the fifteenth of October, the company moved back through Santa Maria and Caserta to re-approach the river arid cross it near the "Dairy Farm", which later became famous as one of the large replacement depots in Italy. At the north end of the bridge lay a wrecked truck which was a very personal reminder of war. PFC Andy Opsatnik had been second in line when the Third QM truck company crossed the river. The first truck climbed the north bank safely, but Andy connected with a mine which blew the engine of his truck right up through the cab. When passing the remains of the truck "Alliquippa," everyone wondered about his fate, but in due time Andy reappeared, a somewhat more shaken boy than when he was last seen.

After an abortive attempt to go into position on the fifteenth, the company tried again on the sixteenth, this time to reach a position on the road to Formicola. The first try brought the company onto a stretch of road beside which the infantry was hugging holes and on which a general was threatening court-martial for everyone in sight, if the convoy was not dispersed immediately. A strategic withdrawal was made. A second attempt, made by infiltration later in the day, proved to be more successful; but a hill which was supposed to have been taken was still in German hands, and the local infantry commander advised against fire for fear of drawing direct counterbattery action. To make the day complete, at nearly midnight the company had to withdraw to clear the way for a general barrage of the area. Hastily given orders, which were misunderstood by some, brought the company flying out of the position. Many men left their equipment to the mercy of the infantry who, by now, were beginning to appreciate an extra blanket regardless of where it came from. Following the episode of the hasty withdrawal, six days were spent on the banks of the Volturno awaiting developments. Two month's back-mail arrived, ending a drought which had started the day after the Daniel Webster stood into Bizerte harbor to await the invasion.

On the twenty-third of October, the company moved to Dragoni from where it entered a series of positions around Pietro Vairano, ending at Marzanello on the twenty-ninth. At Marzanello, the company was detached from the 3rd Division and returned to the battalion at Dragoni. After Pietro Vairano, the battalion changed attachment to the 45th Division. Company A, which had been in reserve in Africa, rejoined the unit and replaced Company B in the line, and a few days were enjoyed in battalion reserve. The company received eight replacements from a contingent which came from Africa with Company A. The bivouac was moved to the vicinity of Alife, and then to Presanzano.

During the period of rest, the German air force was very active, and the company, along with everyone else who had machine guns and rifles, helped to discourage its efforts. One Sunday at Presanzano, when Father Pronobis, the battalion chaplain, held services; Company B attended carrying rifles. A running dog-fight passed overhead, and sensible people ducked for cover. The boys, however, stood their ground and sent up a most noble barrage at the poor German flyer, who was doing his best to get back where he belonged. When the noise died down, services were resumed, but shortly thereafter the colonel saw fit to issue an order about carrying firearms to places of worship.

Winter line (8 November 1943-4 January 1944)

On November 8, the company moved to Roccapipirazzi to support the 180th Infantry of the 45th Division. The town, a hill village on the western rim of the Venafro Valley, served as an OP, while the guns were set up on a valley farm that came to be known as Mike's Place. The period at Mike's Place saw the efforts to advance on San Pietro, and for the first week the company was kept busy filling requests for support. One afternoon, fire was coordinated with the efforts of a Ranger unit to trap a German rifle company on the forward slope of a hill. For two hours the enemy sought safety in one place after another without success. Finally, misuse of a flag of truce gave them a period of grace which they used to escape, leaving their dead behind them.

At Mike's Place, the winter rains began. The country lane on which the place was located had been a good road, if narrow, when first crossed. The traffic of all the heavy fire units of a combat team, including several tank destroyer platoons, soon drove the light ballast of the lane out of sight to turn it into an elongated mud hole, so deep in some places that it could drown a jeep. Bypasses, made into the fields for two way traffic, became bogs. Bulldozers scraped the mud off of them and piled it along the sides. The mud piles would grow so high and then slip back into what was now a ditch, forcing abandonment of the track. Weather complicated the job of firing. Every mission took its toll of broken parts, and it became a struggle to keep the guns in action. Powder bundles had to be taken into the farm houses to dry. Everything was tried in an effort to keep baseplates from digging and sliding, but the guns dug trenches in the soft mud. Shells continued to fall short. Sergeant Heck's squad created a furor when it produced a baseplate which had given up the ghost and disintegrated into scrap metal.

After the first week the weather began to slow down the infantry. With the consequent reduction in fire, came a period of little or no activity. The main effort soon became one to keep communications open to the OP. The telephone line followed a mule trail up the side of a ridge. Hoofs of pack animals on the trail cut the lines almost every day forcing linemen into a constant patrol of the pathway. For the first time, radio became a necessary auxiliary to the telephone.

Enemy counter-action bothered the company very little while at Mike's Place. The mortars were so close to the ridge on the west side of the valley that only a chance shell could reach them. The CP and motor pool, although within sight of the only observation points left the enemy after the first week, were minor targets when compared to the artillery in the neighborhood. One night, however, a platoon of tank destroyers, which shared the place, embarked on a schedule of night fire. The flashes of the guns pointed such accusing fingers at the area that they could not be overlooked. Early the next morning the enemy "counter-batteried." A little too much right deflection put the barrage over the motor pool instead of on the guns. That day saw much exercise of tire tools.

On the twenty-sixth of November, the company left Mike's Place and moved to a large olive grove on the mountain north of the town of Venafro. For a period here, it joined the 83rd Chemical Battalion in support of the fabled 1st Rangers of Colonel Darby.

Originally scheduled to move on the evening of the twenty-fifth, the company pulled its guns out of the mud and loaded up. The OP party had been called in, and one platoon was on its way to Venafro, when an enemy patrol was mistaken for a counter-attack. The resulting run back up to Roccapipirazzi subsequently put Lieutenant Salmons and Corporal Kinoy into the hospital. The remaining platoon struggled back in position, only to discover, after a night of misery, that it had been the victim of a false alarm.

At Venafro, the company had to climb a mountain to emplace its guns. The entire 83rd Chemical Battalion was in position on the terraces of a mountainside olive grove. The only benches left, when the company arrived, were half way up the hill, nearly five hundred yards above the last previous installation. It was possible to reach the highest unit of the 83rd with a truck, but until the end of the stay, only jeeps could make the last steep grade. It was too narrow for anything else.

The twenty-seventh was spent getting into position until, just before dusk, the CP at the bottom of the hill was caught in a shelling. One tree burst, directly over two slit trenches, killed Sergeant Glass and wounded Corporal Norton and PFC Morrison so badly that they never returned.

At Venafro, there was less trouble from broken mortar parts than before, but the OP parties had a much harder time of it. When the telephone line was laid to the forward observers, a roll of wire had to be carried to the top of the mountain and rolled down over the cliffs, the end of the wire to be picked up from below. A litter team sent to bring wounded Private Monahan from the OP, spent all day making the trip of only a few thousand yards. The jeep drivers never rested at Venafro. After they had spent two or three hours a day getting hot food up to the platoons, from the kitchen at the bottom of the hill; they spent the remaining daylight hours shuttling ammunition from the highest point the trucks could reach.

Activity began the day the guns were emplaced, and continued to be heavy until the middle of December. Fire at targets of opportunity and some fairly heavy schedules of night interdiction formed the framework on which the action was built. Missions were varied; one day, the 36th Division borrowed the company to prepare for an attack. Another day a German counterattack was broken up, a company in trouble was screened so it could withdraw, a German work party was dispersed. On December 6, Sergeant Miller was killed by an incoming shell. On December 10, Sergeant Lowe and Private Lou Lombardo died, when a shell exploded prematurely in the barrel of a gun. By the eighteenth of December, the sector had quieted down, and the company fired no more for several weeks.

At Venafro the company first experienced becoming part of the terrain. It started there with the Rangers. When the Rangers moved out, the 180th Infantry took over. Later provisional infantry from the 751st Tank Battalion held the sector. The company had three attachments in a month and a half, without ever moving a gun.

On January 5, 1944, 118 days after Salerno, the battalion moved to the town of Pianura, a few miles west of Naples for what it thought was to be a rest. It was attached to the 3rd Division there. While at Naples, the battalion was commended by General Lucas, commander of VI Corps, for work done in the first phase of the Italian campaign.


At Naples, a visit from General Truscott blasted the hope of rest. The area was one for training. An invasion was in the making. Equipment was overhauled and replaced (carbines took the place of '03 rifles), and trucks were waterproofed. When the company was prepared and fortified by a final party (Lieutenant Lawrence and Lieutenant Kulakowski sprouted silver bars), Captain Butts gave the first official orientation on the maneuver ahead. The trucks were already waiting to load onto LSTs.

Early on the morning of the twentieth of January the company moved to the Naples docks, and loaded on LST #215 to head for four months of isolation by the sea and the enemy. The convoy was formed near Bagnoli and late on the twenty-first sailed for Anzio. According to Captain Butts, the plan of attack envisaged sharp opposition in the opening phase with a possible stiff fight for the town of Nettuno. H-hour being placed in the early morning of January 22, Company B was to land in the seventh wave, form quickly and be ready to either assist in the assault of Nettuno, or enter a defensive position north and east of the town to secure such ground as had been gained, whichever was the most necessary. When the convoy arrived at nine o'clock, however, the town of Nettuno had been taken without opposition and, troops were far inland searching the countryside for an enemy which was not there.

The German air force succeeded in wrecking a landing ramp just before LST #215 docked. With the changed priority of needs caused by the unexpected lack of resistance, the company did not land until mid-afternoon. The next morning, the company moved to a defensive position north of Nettuno on the road to Le Ferriere. The land appeared to be flat for as far as could be seen, so everyone began to dig cover. The first six inches was as far as anyone went. The next spadeful down brought water pouring into the trench. The ground was so soft that trucks could not leave the road. There was little appearance of war the first day on the beachhead. The roads were not marked by shellfire. The usual demolitions were absent. Even civilian telephone lines, the first casualties of a battle, were intact. Only two dead men were seen during the first week at Anzio.

The war was unreal. Except for air raids, which always have a fairy tale appearance, there was no fighting to be heard. Columns of infantry walking the roads in search of an enemy that was not there gave the action the appearance of a practice maneuver. The third day of the beachhead brought some long range tank fire. PFC Kisley watched one shell land in the middle of the motor pool, and become the first of a long list of wounded at Anzio. Although the 7th infantry sector, in which the company was first committed, remained quiet, the 15th infantry soon found action just south of Cisterna where it was trying to reach route #7. Unfavorable winds and bad ground were hampering Company A in its efforts to meet the smoke requirements of the attack, so on the twenty-fifth of January, Company B was alerted to go to its aid. The attack mission which was fired did not advance the lines any great distance, but it did result in a smoke screen, which was seen all over the world, when it was pictured in Life Magazine. Changing plans returned the company to the 7th infantry on the twenty-eighth.

The next evening, the company moved to Campo Morto. The assault on Cisterna was to take place. The plan was for three battalions of Rangers to filter in the town of Cisterna during the night of the twenty-ninth by-passing all possible trouble. They were to take and hold the town, early on the morning of the thirtieth, while the 3rd Division attacked to relieve them. The 7th infantry was to jump off from a line of departure east of Garibaldi's Tomb to attack eastward toward the town. The company was to follow them and assist in consolidation, once it was reached. The plan of attack had been based on the reports of patrols, which had been into the town a few days previously and had found no serious opposition. Since the troops had been on the go constantly for a week, a day's rest was given them before the jump off. In that day the Germans moved in and constructed a defense of the town.

The immortalization of the Rangers in death, on the thirtieth of January 1944, made history. The 7th infantry was stopped cold by fire that it could not counter. The company waited on the road for an opportunity to advance until daylight when it returned to the CP at Camp Morto for further instructions. By the afternoon of the thirtieth, one platoon was in position north of the main canal, in the sector waiting to support any action on the road running northeastward out of Camp Morto. When the action came the next day, it failed to be decisive. Gains there were, but they were gains of yards instead of miles. The realization grew that there would be no immediate relief of the beachhead. General Truscott reminded the 3rd Division that it had been the Rock of the Marne in 1918. Truckloads of barbed wire appeared along the roadsides. A "Do or Die" line was rumored.

On the thirty-first of January, the platoons moved to their farthest point of advance. (One was on the purple path, the other almost to Ponte Rotto) Lieutenant Kieran was wounded and brought back from the fight. On the first of February, Private Holder requested new clothes. He had become blood-soaked while helping the lieutenant. Private Alvaro was wounded by his own gun, while attempting to take cover from shellfire.

On the third of February, Sergeants Gadomski and Greer were fired on by light mortars, when they approached the first platoon. On the fourth, a provisional third platoon was formed to cover a weak point in the defenses. The first platoon noticed air bursts in the vicinity; just a few ranging shots. The push out of the beachhead was stalled, and counterattack was in the air. In the late afternoon of the fifth, the two regular platoons were alerted to make a minor withdrawal if need be. Lieutenant Lawrence instructed Sergeant Gadomski, who had brought forward some supplies, to return to the CP and get sufficient transportation to move the platoon. The men were notified to be ready to move, but there was no urgency attached to the order. Some went to a nearby house to visit a family which had not yet moved out of what was to become one of the most famous no-man's-lands of the war. Early in the evening, an attack was reported and the platoons opened fire.

The first platoon had hardly sent its first shell on the way when it was engulfed in a barrage of airbursts. Lieutenant Lawrence was hit, and before he could be brought to safety was hit again. The order to evacuate was given. PFC Levy was hit. Private Morely was hit and disappeared. Private Launo could not be found. The platoon was forced to abandon its guns and retire. In the meantime, at the second platoon, the attack developed to an even greater intensity, but disaster failed to arrive. The gun crews watched the infantry filter back through the position. The range was being continually decreased. Finally, the OP party reported that all troops were back of the minimum range. PFC Judlick attempted to add the fire of his BAR to the battle, but was answered by so many machine guns that he had to crawl away from his trench. The platoon fixed all of its shells at minimum range, volley-fired them and retired.

While the first and second platoons were engaged, the provisional third platoon was withdrawn to Camp Morto, where guns were set up behind a road grade. When the shaken first platoon arrived at the CP, the seriousness of the situation became apparent. No word had been received from the second platoon for some time, and since it was closer to enemy territory than the first, trouble was assumed. Communications to the front had broken down, and for the time being the company was split. After a short wait, Captain Butts decided to go forward and look for his lost platoon. He turned the organization of the rear over to Lieutenant Granson, and left with a security group from his headquarters personnel.

The situation began to clear up in the small hours of the morning. The desperation barrage fired by the second platoon had blunted the attack. (Captain McMurray reported the next evening that nearly two hundred bodies were seen in the impact area.) The infantry was able to regroup and stabilize the line at only a few hundred yards back of its original positions. The second platoon had subsequently arrived at the CP to make the company once more intact. By daylight. the Campo Morto position was abandoned, and the original position of the provisional third platoon reoccupied. On the evening of the sixth, four squads moved to a position a few hundred yards back of the highwater mark for the first platoon. The company was now occupying the seats from which it was to view the remainder of the fight for the beachhead. The cost of one night had been heavy. Two men were wounded and two Privates, Morely and Launo, were missing. Two guns and the complete personal equipment of a platoon had been abandoned. The guns and equipment of the first platoon were recovered, except for the levy assessed by passing infantry. When Sergeant Lumia attempted, however, to take a recovery party to clean up the second platoon position, he found that it was in the hands of the Germans. Private Morely showed up in a hospital, but Private Launo was found dead. Lieutenant Lawrence died and PFC Levy never returned to the outfit. Staff Sergeant Hansen, ill from the shock of battle and the loss of his friends, was subsequently reclassified.

The line was now stabilized. and German power was building up faster than the allied. Emphasis was placed on defense. The company was now organized in four echelons. The motor pool was near the town of Nettuno, the Le Ferriere position became a reserve point for those not needed at the guns and the slightly ill, the CP with a group of borrowed jeeps remained at Campo Morto, and the platoons were on the line. The echelon at Le Ferriere was soon dissolved except for a reserve truck, and the company fell into a routine of existence.

The remainder of the month of February became a period of unreality. The enemy was making himself felt with ever-present artillery, but miles of road wide open to observation were traveled with impunity. To the very end of the month it was still possible to make daylight jeep trips to the gun positions, not over fifteen hundred flat yards from the lines. Groups of men could be moved about during the day in places, where later it would have been pure suicide to contemplate such action. The beach command began to stress the need of training programs and the improvement of positions. The 30th Infantry, which replaced the 7th Infantry for a few weeks, used the tremendous communal barns at Campo Morto to house a rest and training camp within four miles of the front. To this point came the growing volume of replacements, and men back from the front during daylight hours for training and hot food. As the month progressed, however, things changed. The enemy was gradually ranging in on critical points all over the sector. A high-velocity gun began to snipe at traffic coming into Campo Morto on a back road. One day a shell almost landed on a jeep. The jeep did a double take and stopped suddenly, catapulting the driver into cover at the side of the road. All was quiet until the driver cautiously popped up and looked around. The story ended in a cloud of dust as the jeep left for parts unknown.

The first platoon began to complain of heavy fire. The second platoon, though, found not much to worry about except those who did OP work. They began to wear worried looks. The second platoon occupied probably the best mortar position on the beachhead. East of Garibaldi's Tomb the lateral road running to Cisterna climbed a ridge to the highest ground in the vicinity. At the western edge of the ridge a little knoll had been quarried for dirt used in nearby road fills. The resulting hole, not over twenty-five or thirty yards wide and less than a hundred yards long, could not be seen from the north, east or west and showed on no map. In this "Million Dollar Hole," shared with a platoon of tank destroyers, was set up a gun position that successfully defied all rules of dispersion. Four guns operated for three months in a space that would hardly be adequate for one under ordinary conditions. Often guns were set so closely together that it was not safe to fire the forward gun when the rear gun was in action. And yet. for the whole period of occupation, no one was injured in the position by shell fire. The only shells that ever came close to it were fired at traffic on the road behind it or at nearby houses.

If the second platoon had the best of all possible positions, the first platoon had close to the worst. Like the second platoon, the first was located close to the lateral road out of Cisterna, but on the eastern side of the ridge. The position was on the south side of a low knoll, which was an offshoot from the main ridge. Behind the knoll was a patch of ground fifty or sixty yards square with sufficient defilade to allow a man to walk about and to partially cover the flash of the gun. To the right and left were draws pointing out into enemy territory that limited the use of space not only to the sides but to the rear also. The low summit of the knoll itself prevented dispersion forward. Although there were better positions in sight of the one selected, they would have sacrificed from five hundred to a thousand yards range and some of the platoon's most important targets. To add to its ills, the first platoon was completely surrounded by important targets. To the east was a main crossroad (from which the Purple Path started in the days of breakout yet to come). It was subjected to fire from every direction but the rear, and by every caliber of gun available to the Germans.

On the crest of the knoll, in front of the position, was a house that in the early days of the fight was an OP. The platoon spent three months watching it turn to rubble. Behind this position was an infantry battalion CP and supply point. To complete the circle, in the left rear was another house that interested the enemy. From all of these targets, the platoon absorbed overs and shorts in addition to its own counter-battery fire and fire at armor, which went to and fro through the position on its way to the front.

As the days of the beachhead passed, the position exacted its toll. In one four-day period nine men were killed or wounded. On February 13, Lieutenant Essy and Corporal Martin died; Lieutenant Woerner and PFC Lewis were wounded in the house in front of the platoon. On February 15, a shell smashed the dugout of PFC O. F. Miller while he was in it. Although he came back to the company, he was never again able to face duty as a combat soldier. On the 16, Private Lorrel was carried to the medics, to die the next day, when a barrage caught him out of his hole. Private Manzella was found in his hole, having been killed instantly. Privates Love and Marino went to the aid station with concussion-damaged ears.

As February wore on, destruction of Anzio and Nettuno by air raids and shell fire began in earnest. Rear area installations, which on other fronts would be considered the safest of safe, became more dangerous than some parts of the front. The company felt this battle of attrition, when the delivery of fresh bread, a much needed luxury, was interrupted by the destruction of buildings housing the bakery. Men, coming back from the hospital, told of the devastation in the towns that had been almost untouched when they were first passed. The company motor pool and reserve area, a haven of rest, received a large shell, which fell short of a nearby crossroad.

The CP at Campo Marta, more than any other section of the company, saw the growing intensity of the battle. Into this little farm community, from the rear, came two roads. Out of it, to the front went three, one to the 45th Division sector and two bounding the 7th Infantry sector. Through it came all of the supplies for nearly six miles of front, which were second in importance only to the sector on the Rome-Anzio road. With large buildings that made it perfect for headquarters and communications centers, Campo Morto was soon receiving regular attention from enemy artillery. Shells first started to fall around artillery batteries in the area. They then began to interdict the crossroads on either side of the village. Finally they started on the buildings, increasing in intensity until on the last day of the month the area received continuous fire from the middle of the morning to the middle of the afternoon. Through Campo Marta marched nearly two hundred prisoners one day, during the tremendous attack on the 45th Division. Here could be seen a barrage of aerial bursts falling on the 509th Paratroopers, a couple of miles away, so intense that the continuous noise of it affected the nerves of the watchers. The CP missed annihilation by fifty feet, when a German bomb cratered the road in front of it. PFC Obrey Trahan nearly lost a hand, when a shell landed not fifteen feet from the doorway, on a day when he had come back from the front to get a shower and a day's rest.

On the morning of the twenty-ninth of February a counterattack came. Within an hour the platoons were calling for ammunition. Sergeant Gadomski took forward the shells on hand, while Sergeant Haley went to the battalion dump for more. By nine o'clock he was back and had started forward with two jeep loads for his platoon. Sergeant Gadomski arrived at the second platoon in an airburst barrage that looked from a distance like a concentrated air raid. Sergeant Haley found himself waiting for a lull in which a vehicle could conceivably live while passing through a crossroad. The fields were erupting in little geysers that threw black spray from the ground.

When the ammunition sergeants arrived at the platoons, both of them were out of action for want of communication with the observers. They returned to the CP, to be pinned inside of the building for the remainder of the day. The second platoon was confronted with no immediate danger, but after the first few minutes of action was not able to fire, when communications went out with the forward observer.

At the forward observation post, daylight brought realization that the enemy had filtered in and was preparing a position not sixty yards behind the observers. Sergeant Matovsky organized a party and reduced the position, killing several and taking ten prisoners. After escorting the prisoners to the rear, he was wounded while returning, earning a Purple Heart as well as a Silver Star for the day's work.

The first platoon, faced with the counterattack, gave some of the first opposing fire. Early in the battle, communications with the OP went out. A written message was carried to the gun position, a few hundred yards back, by PFC French King. In returning the answer, PFC Kershaw decided that there was no more danger in stringing a new line than in just carrying a note. The line he laid became the only method of communication forward for the most of the day. By the time that the extra ammunition reached the first platoon, it had become so dangerous to be away from cover that the platoon was called on to fire no more until evening. The artillery carried the responsibility for support.

Corporal Klimek was forward with a platoon of L Company (7th Infantry), acting as liaison with the most forward elements. At the end of the day, what had been a full strength platoon found itself with seven men fit for duty. One of them was Corporal Klimek.

The next few days were full of confusion. The CP at Campo Morto was evacuated, except for a skeleton crew, and all service for the remainder of the stay at Anzio was dispatched directly from the motor pool. The increased tempo of action forced the removal of all service installations from forward areas, and for a week finding water for the platoons required a nightly search. Finally, it became easier to use a Corps water point almost in the town of Nettuno, rather than try to keep up with the divisional point. Almost every day unexpected missions brought about emergency calls for ammunition. Finally the platoons were stocked with three times their basic load of shells.

On the first of March, tanks were fired upon. On the second, a counterattack was dispersed and more tanks were shelled. On the third, another counterattack was repulsed and a tank set afire. On the fourth, heavy interdiction was fired. On the fifth, still another counter-attack was fought off. On the sixth, heavy interdiction was the order of the day. On the seventh, fire began to fall off. The German attempt to breach the defenses of the beachhead was virtually through. Fire continued to be heavy, but never again was there a serious challenge to allied tenure at Anzio.

A clear understanding of the dark first week of March can be found in an examination of ammunition expenditure during the initiation and defense of the beachhead. In the 104-day period from D-Day to May 5, when it left the lines for a ten-day rest, the company fired 11,558 shells. Of these, 2,079, or better than a fifth, were fired in the seven-day period beginning February 29 and ending March 6, less than a fifteenth of the elapsed time. During the month of February, prior to the twenty-ninth, 4,386 rounds were fired. The last twenty-five days of March used only 3,165.

After the big counterattack, life on the beachhead was a humdrum of weather, shells and interdiction. Fire, that in February had hindered the enemy in formation, in March became fire to prevent reforming. Day after day front line roads became less like roads. Night after night the mortars fired continuous interdiction, the engineers laid mines and tore down buildings, and the infantry patrolled and raided in a never-ending effort to keep up with the doings of the enemy. The first platoon fired on Bridge #5 (Ponte Rotto), on tanks approaching the bridge and personnel around the bridge. The second platoon fired on every kind of a target conceivable in warfare, in and around, Kraut Valley (an enemy held draw). House #18 was a commanding feature in the hands of the Germans. Patrols reported fire coming from it so artillery reduced it. Fire continued to come from the house so mortars had a try at it. As the days passed, House #18 became a continuous target. Finally the engineers went to House #18, blew it down and carried it away piece by piece.

Toward the end of March spring arrived, the beachhead was safe and preparation was being made for the breakout. One night, the ammunition sergeants went forward on their usual supply runs to find that the road showed signs of repair work. Men found themselves believing again that there would be an end to the beachhead. Fire missions ceased to be deadly, urgent, protective measures and took on the flavor of aggressive support. After a few men had been sent for short stays at the 3rd Division beachhead rest camp, the battalion built one of its own. Here whole platoons came out of the line for a week, with only a skeleton crew remaining to man the guns.

Two groups of replacements came, as spring arrived, to take the places of those who had not survived the months past. The new first sergeant, Sergeant Molino, was welcomed when he came to count his consecutive days of combat at Campo Morto. PFC Lewy showed up, after having been left at Oran with citizenship problems nearly a year before. April Fool's Day came and went. Dumps, buildings up near the beach, took on the appearance of small cities. It became possible to make an extended stay at the platoon areas without hearing a single incoming shell. Men who had spent two months, almost without a break, on a small plot of shell-beaten ground, seemed to relax. The second platoon, in caves dug in the banks of its quarry, organized a checker tournament. After one round the tournament was repeated, when some of the new men were sent to the platoon. (A journal kept of the period records with some surprise, that the champion Sergeant Klimek was eliminated by a newcomer, Private Fitzgerald, in the second round of play.)

The first platoon, stymied by ground water, had never been able to dig in properly. After its turn at the battalion rest camp, it embarked on a large scale rebuilding program. The resulting timbered dugouts were finished just before the platoon left its old stamping ground for the last time.

In April, the signs of action to come became more apparent. The 3rd Division, which had been relieved by the 34th, completed a period of training and took over the 45th Division sector for a short while. With the relief of the 45th Division, Company D was brought to the battalion rest area with the announcement that each company in turn was to have ten days off the line. On May 5, Company B left, what had seemed so long to be a permanent home, and moved into pyramidal tents for a period of kitchen-cooked meals in the wooded area near the beach. Acquaintances were renewed in a company which had not been completely together since the twentieth of January. The forty-one new men had a chance to meet their new comrades in arms. Lieutenants Call, Harzinsky and Rudolph were met by most men for the first time. On May 16, the company relieved Company C for its turn to rest.

March to Rome(16 May 1944-8 July 1944)

By the middle of May, the beachhead had changed radically. The feeling of desperation, that made the early months so miserable, was gone. Defense had become a minor effort. Everything was in preparation for the jump off. When the southern front started to move on the eleventh, everyone, including the enemy, knew that the beachhead would soon make its bid. Battalions of artillery moved in and set up without firing a shot. Almost every morning or evening, the entire beachhead artillery fired a short heavy mission resembling a jump off barrage. Artillery officers reported that, shortly after the southern jump off, one of them was so realistic that the enemy opened up giving away dispositions that had been guarded for weeks.

When the company returned to the lines, it began firing heavily in support of patrols and minor attacks. In the meantime it was preparing for the main battle of the breakout. The positions, taken over from Company C, were in some houses west of the point where Red Top Road (running south from Cisterna to Borgo Podgora) crossed the Mussolini Canal. The front was formed by the canal and the course of a tributary paralleling the east side of Red Top Road. The attack was to be in a northeasterly direction across the tributary, using the main canal as a tight flank. To support it, the company had to prepare a position near Red Top Road for one platoon. The other was able to remain in the closest houses. Work parties went out every night to prepare the position in the manner that would attract the least attention. Every day the guns were fired more heavily than had been called for nearly two months. The men soon were dog-tired from the round-the-clock work. On the twentieth, over a thousand rounds were fired. The next day the 100th (Hawaiian) Battalion attacked, to secure a desired jump off position. During the attack and its subsequent failure, nearly seven hundred rounds were expended.

On May 23, at about seven o'clock in the morning, the First Special Service Force started for Rome. The attack was a three-phase one for the taking of Mount Arristino, a hill feature which commanded Cori to the north and a good part of the plain to the south. The SSF, jumping off through the 133rd Infantry, was to attack northeastward to Highway #7 with the help of a force of tanks and TDs. The 133rd was to follow to secure the flanks. With the consolidation of the first phase, the SSF was to continue to the bottom of the mountain. The third phase was the taking of the mountain itself.

Initial progress was good, but the supporting tanks ran into trouble and by the end of the first day the first phase was not complete. During the day, however, the second platoon moved forward to the drainage canal which had been the holding line, and then across the battlefield into territory which had belonged to the enemy. The roads were all raised above the level of the land by as much as ten feet. Across these, the platoon had to drag its mortars in broad daylight. Few of those who made the trip will ever forget the clay pigeon feeling of walking toward a full fledged infantry battle, not two thousand yards away, hauling a heavy cart, while lines of infantry filled the ditches below them. In the afternoon, the first platoon moved forward to the canal position, where the second had paused, to complete the movement for the day.

The next day, the battle see-sawed over Highway #7. In the evening, the first platoon moved up close to the second. On the morning of the twenty-fifth, enemy resistance broke and the attack became a race. By the end of the day, Mount Arristion was taken, Cori was under attack, and contact had been made with the south. The beachhead was no more. The company moved across Highway #7 and spent the night in the fields. The next day it moved back to an assembly area near Borgo Bainsizza (at the old company command post), and attachment was shifted from the SSF to the 168th Infantry. In the afternoon, the company moved northward past Le Ferriere (The Bailey Bridge), which two days before had been under fire, past Campo Morto of many memories, past the old first platoon position and out onto the Purple Path. What had been dead pastures for so many months, now teamed with the life of service installations following the fight northward. A few rusty shells marked where the first platoon had fallen back in the long ago of February. Two German tanks were landmarks of many a previous shelling. A rusty Sherman tank showed the high-water mark of an attack that had failed nearly four months before. Besides the bodies of the recently dead were here and there a rusty helmet and deflated clothing of some man who had long since finished paying his price.

The company emplaced its guns that night in a hillside vineyard that faced toward Velletri. Lanuvio was the goal, though, so the next night a move was made to the northwest, where the company paused long enough for Privates Bell and Schuster to collect purple hearts. The platoons moved to a final position before Lanuvio, on the twenty-ninth of May, leaving the CP and motor pool behind. Here, for the first time since Naples, Staff Sergeant Hershey and PFC Opsatnik left the battalion rear and joined the company with the supply truck. The gun position before Lanuvio was one of those lucky accidents that came to the company from time to time. The move to it was made hurriedly, late on the evening of the twenty-eighth, with insufficient time during the afternoon to. make a good reconnaissance. Upon arrival, the officers took advantage of a bright moon to look around a little more, while the men waited on the roadside. They found a deep draw in which the Germans had built enough dugouts to protect nearly all of the men from even the largest shells. The guns were emplaced in vineyards above the draw, and for nearly a week the company fired in support of the attack on the "Little Cassino" town of Lanuvio.

One of the largest smoke screens in the history of the battalion was being fired by Company C to the left, and on two days the company assisted, firing nearly nine hundred rounds on supplementary screens. In the meantime, artillery was making the town into a schoolbook example of the unsupported power of shell fire. There was an almost continuous barrage from morning till night. The Germans stayed on at Lanuvio though, until the threat of envelopment by the 36th Division from the east became too great. On June 3, the line broke.

Things happened fast on the third of June. With trucks already dispatched to move the first platoon, Captain Butts received his orders to return to the battalion and prepare to go home on rotation. He turned the command over to Lieutenant Granson with one of his famous single sentence orders, and left the company he had led since its formation more than two years before. While waiting for the first platoon to move, one of the truck drivers was sent back to bring trucks for the second platoon, leaving his vehicle behind. No sooner had he left than the platoon was on its way, minus one truck driver. The first platoon crossed a ridge just west of Lanuvio to find that it could watch a heavy fire fight on the next ridge, not fifteen hundred yards away. It emplaced between the two ridges, and spent the remainder of the day watching the war go by. The second platoon moved to the opposite side of Lanuvio, where the convoy became split and the second-half lost, within hearing of another fire fight. During the small hours of the night, the second platoon was rounded up and led to the first platoon position, where the company was consolidated in a mobile reserve. It had finished firing in the battle for Rome.

The company moved to Genzano, on the fourth of June. That afternoon it bivouacked in an orchard north of Albano. The fifth saw the company in a suburb of Rome, which Mussolini had chosen for the site of a proposed victory fair. That evening, it moved to an unfinished housing development outside the Eternal City. For the first time in a year, here were unbidden lights in the houses, and the towns were not lessons in destruction. There was a feeling of relief and pleasure akin to going home. On the night of the sixth, the company moved northward to an abandoned airfield. The truck drivers shuttled infantry, moved the company, and shuttled infantry again in a mad scramble to keep the army up with the reconnaissance patrols. As the company moved forward, it approached, passed and looked back at fires set by the enemy in its hasty withdrawal during the day. On the night of the seventh, the company was in a hillside orchard outside of recently taken Civitavecchia. On the morning of the eighth, it moved forward to take part in the fight for the town of Tarquina. A squad was shuttling into position, when word came that it was detached from the 34th Division.

That night the company moved back down Highway #1 past the Vatican and, through the northern part of Rome, to join the battalion in its first relief in 138 days; its first unqualified rest period since D-Day at Salerno. Rome became a rosy month in the life of the company, that is better left to the memories of those who experienced it. It was the first glorious day of freedom from the prison of fear and desperation, that had restrained everyone for nearly a half a year. Each spent it in his own fashion. Away from the sound of battle, the company trained sufficiently to prevent stagnation, and spent the afternoons and evenings visiting the city or just loafing. Two group parties were held, and so many private ones that the writer wouldn't even dare to guess the number. Captain DeWitt came to the company, and Lieutenant Tortorici, its first combat-promoted lieutenant left for Company A. Five boys transferred to Company D, which was short of men. The battalion was reorganized on paper, but remained the same in fact. July came and the reprieve was up.

On to the Arno (9 July 1944-31 July 1944)

On July 6, the battalion was attached to II Corps. The date of movement was set for the ninth, and on the eighth last minute passes were issued with a five P.M. deadline for return. In the middle of the afternoon, the company was alerted to leave at seven-fifteen that evening. With the last straggler sweated in, the company rolled past the initial point full strength, headed for Cecina and VI Corps, to which a last minute change had attached the battalion. The company rolled through Cecina just before daybreak on the ninth and turned eastward on Highway #68 to an area near the village of San Martino. That afternoon, it moved to a hillside west of Volterra, where it spent the evening and next day listening to radio news descriptions of the fight for the town which commanded so much of the surrounding territory.

On the tenth, attachment was made to the 350th Infantry of the 88th Division. A night move took it into the country north of Volterra to be near the regimental headquarters. The Fifth Army was driving full force for the Arno, less than fifteen miles away. The Germans now were no longer running. A hard battle was in progress for the south bank of the river. The ground, over which the 88th was fighting, was a confusion of hills and ridges paralleling each other and the Arno River. All streams drained westward into the Era River, which in turn flowed northward. The road net, which tied into the north-south highway in the valley of the Era, was made up almost entirely of east-west roads that followed the ridges. Only unfinished cart roads were left for those who followed the fight northward. It was comparatively easy to reach a ridge, once it was taken, by following up the Era and then turning east. Until it was secured though, travel to it taxed the best of vehicles. All of the towns were on the crests of ridges. Since most of them commanded the ground to the south, the battle became one for the towns.

On the morning of the eleventh, when the company entered action, the regimental CP was a farmhouse on the crest of a ridge. From it could be seen the profile of the whole battlefield. However, the whole battlefield, including the wide open regimental and divisional right flank, could also see it. Colonel Fry, the regimental commander, ordered the company into position in a valley just north of this ridge. Captain DeWitt, after borrowing some jeeps, started the platoons forward. When the jeeps started to climb the ridge, it was found that it was too steep for them with a loaded trailer, and that each vehicle would have to be pushed over the hump. The first jeep, T/5 Joe Smith's, was over and the second jeep was on its way, when enemy artillery struck. The first platoon was pinned to the ground. When it finally was able to move, Privates Neal and Schetzen were wounded and two jeeps were damaged. When the platoon fell back, Smitty stayed with his damaged vehicle, finally getting it back into camp. He earned a bronze star for his efforts. The company finally moved in under cover of darkness.

The next two days were uneventful. The two platoons were attached to the two battalions in the line, and fired for a while from a common position. On the night of the thirteenth, the second platoon moved to the vicinity of Cedri. The next night it moved to a position southeast of Legoli. On this move the platoon became split. The second half had to find its way through a sparsely populated battlefield by following tire tracks. On the fourteenth, the first platoon moved twice, ending just south of Ghizzano. The CP, after a move to Cedri, arrived in Ghizzano on the fifteenth. The first platoon moved to below Legoli on the fifteenth, putting an OP into the town. During the day the town was torn down over the heads of its occupants. Lieutenant Kulakowski ended up in the hospital with exhaustion. Communications men, Manning and Maltese, spent several days in the rear recovering from the pounding of the barrage.

On the sixteenth, Lieutenants Wisniewski and Salmons, Corporal Davis and PFC Postoak, of the second platoon, crossed the ridge between Legoli and Castel Alfi never to be seen again. Axis Sally, German propagandist, announced their capture over her radio program a few weeks later. On the seventeenth, the CP moved to Legoli. Late in the day, the first platoon moved to west of the town. The next day it moved to Colle Lungo and then to a farm known as La Tombo. The second platoon, now taken over by Lieutenant Granson, moved to a position on the Legoli-Castel Alfi road. At one intersection on the way, a large crater forced traffic into a field. Reconnaissance vehicles had passed the crater several times and part of the convoy was beyond it when a vehicle, borrowed from the regimental antitank company, struck a mine destroying it and seriously wounding the driver.

On the twenty-first of July, ten days, eleven gun positions and five CPs after attachment to the 350th Infantry, the company was relieved. The next day it moved with the battalion to Colle Salvetti, where the 34th Division was joined. When leave was taken of the 88th Division, it was almost to the river Arno. The 34th, already at the river, was preparing to cross west of Pontederra. Shortly after the company moved into the sector of the 168th Infantry, patrols discovered that the river bottom was too soft to insure a successful crossing. Action was postponed and finally abandoned. After the change in plans, the company remained in position near Cascina until, on the evening of the twenty-sixth, it was called back to the battalion assembly area. At the battalion, Lieutendant Granson was transferred to Headquarters and Lieutenant Huxford came to the company to take his place.

On the twenty-seventh, the battalion changed its support to the 45th Task Force, a newly-committed infantry unit of converted anti-aircraft artillerymen. The company went into position at Ospedaletto, just south of Pisa, with the 439th AA Battalion.

Volterra Interlude (1 August 1944-30 August 1944)

On the evening of the thirty-first of July, the company left Corporal Keamy and Private Lester to instruct men of the 439th AA Battalion in the use of the mortar, and traveled all night to meet a new month and a new attachment at Poggio, north of Volterra. As the convoy left the company area, north of Livorno, the truckload of ammunition driven by Private D'Onofrio picked up a couple of passengers, who preferred the rough edges of ammunition boxes to the crowding in the other trucks. A third passenger was a vagrant camouflage net which wrapped around one of the drive shafts and caught fire. The convoy was in Livorno, when the driver of the following truck noticed a glow under the vehicle. D'Onofrio stopped opposite the entrance to one of the city's leading hospitals; the passengers shot out over the hood of the truck and legged it down the road. The company disappeared behind buildings; the driver of a nearby water truck obligingly left his rig behind him, when he learned the nature of the cargo. A few heroic souls added to the company's list of decorations by putting the fire out, and the city fire department arrived with sirens wide open in time to certify that the truck did not blow up. Time? Less than it takes to tell it.

With the evening so well begun. the convoy moved on down Highway #1 to Cecina, where it was to turn inland. It arrived at Cecina one town too soon, and spent an hour and ten miles of country lanes discovering its mistake. Dawn welcomed the company home.

August proved to be a month of few events. The exhilarating months of May and June, and the hectic month of July had given the Fifth Army the south bank of the Arno from Florence to the sea; but they had also given it an army of exhausted men who were badly in need of rest and retraining. For a large part of the month, three American divisions were off of the line. During the latter half, the British troops on the right were relieved by only a holding force. The result was, necessarily, inaction. Upon arrival at Poggio, the company was attached to the 85th Division. It stayed with the battalion for a week that was signalized by the first beer since the beachhead.

On the seventh, along with Company A, leave was taken for a training area west of San Gimignano, where the 85th was preparing for a river crossing. Plans were changed, and on the fifteenth the company entered position at Pozzale, by way of Castel Fiorentino. The 338th Infantry had relieved the British at Empoli. The company rear was established at Cortina, better remembered as the Villa Adriana. On the twentieth, the positions were moved forward to the outskirts of Empoli. On the twenty-fourth, the platoons returned to the company rear, where attachment was shifted to the 34th Division.

Gothic line (31 August 1944-18 September 1944)

On the thirty-first of August, Captain DeWitt was relieved of his command of Company B and assigned to Headquarters Company. Lieutenant Granson assumed command at the beginning of a new phase. The Arno was finally crossed, and the drive northward was about to resume.

On September 5, the company, attached to the 168th Infantry, made a night move to San Casciana and then to Galluzo, just south of the Arno. The next day, it crossed the river and passed through Florence to the suburban hill town of Fiesole, where it spent two days in the shadow of a bell tower that had withstood the tides of war around Florence for nine hundred years. Continuing maneuvers next took the company to Le Torri, on Highway #65, near the cemetery of Pian di San Bartolo; then to the hill village of Legri; then to Querciola. The platoons finally went into position at Cavallina, only to be transferred to the 85th Division and pulled back; seven days, six moves and eight shells after leaving the Villa Adriana. During the period, Lieutenant Hamburger, recently commissioned from Company A, was acquired.

On the night of the twelfth of September, the company moved back through and northward on Highway #65 to the community of Novli. Arriving at Novli, the company found itself neighbor to a group of eight-inch rifles and 240 mm. howitzers, brought back from the Seventh Army in France for the assault on the Gothic Line just ahead. Such an array of fire power naturally interested the enemy, and the last men into the bivouac rolled home in the light flares dropped in search of the big guns. Most of the men unrolled their bedrolls and went to sleep in the open, with never a thought for the reception due to the neighbors, who were now firing. The housing available did not offer quarters for a hundred and fifty, and the weather was still mild. The men had hardly dozed off, when several airbursts came in. The first shell caused no great disturbance, but when the second one sent a half-dozen angry bees over to examine the bivouac, T/5s Lewy and Eskew, with the skill of long practice, dived for safety without ever opening their eyes. As will happen to the most expert of experts occasionally, the two technical men, with their eyes closed of course, mistook each other for cover. They connected with a resounding crash that left them explaining head wounds for weeks after. The remainder of the company saw fit to use the more amateurish method of opening their eyes in an orderly retreat to safety.

On the morning of the fourteenth, as the company joined the 338th Infantry, the assault of the Gothic Line was forming. Maneuvers of the previous week had cleared the ground north of Florence, and now II Corps was facing the Futa Pass and its subsidiary, Il Giogo Pass, to the east. II Giogo Pass, as the name indicates, was a saddle between two peaks, Monticelli and Mount Altuzzo. Monticelli faced the 91st Division, while Mount Altuzzo was the objective of the 85th Division. The division boundary ran roughly up the road, through the pass. Mount Altuzzo was the more commanding of the mountains, being a promontory jutting southward from the ridge dividing the watersheds of the Sieve and Santerno Rivers. Its southern slopes became almost vertical cliffs toward the summit. Its lower reaches had been cleared, to give fields of fire for its defenders, who could see not only the approaches to the mountain itself, but also the fun length of the road through the pass, which wound up the less difficult slopes of Monticelli. The Western and Southern slopes of the mountain, as well as its summit and the ridge behind it, could be covered from the slopes of Monticelli. The eastern side was protected not only by a lack of usable approaches, but also by the defenses of Mount Verrucca, which subsequently fell by default when the pass was forced.

The first company positions were near Poggiolo, with the CP at. Montagnana, near Scarperia; the rear remaining at Novli, which was only about six miles back. The company was now using the three platoon organization, which had become its official form in Rome. The first and third platoons were up, with the second platoon in reserve. The assault of Mount Altuzzo put no great burden on the company. It fired moderately and spent several nights preparing to fire heavily, but the grandiose missions planned by the infantry commanders, fishing for a way to ease the burden on their men, never seemed to jell. One night was spent moving in ammunition for a smoke mission that never came off. The men who stayed up all night working, however, were partially compensated by seeing an early-morning artillery show so intense that the gun flashes ceased to be individual bursts of light, and became a continuous flickering glare.

Everyone laughed one day, when the left flank battalion CP called frantically that it was under attack from the rear; only to find that a force from the 91st Division had mistaken it for an enemy position. A mountain was renamed, when a Captain Peabody finally reached the top of Mount Altuzzo; only to die in fire from Monticelli that drove his men back down the slopes which were becoming so expensive.

On the seventeenth, Corporal Monohan and Sergeant Mantell were victims of a barrage. Mantell was not much worse off than if he had been kicked in the shins, but Monohan was returned to the states for treatment by plastic surgeons. On the morning of the eighteenth, the infantry went over the hump. Artillery made a mad dash to keep up, and the engineers went mildly mad trying to rebuild a mountain road under the traffic of a roving city. In the morning, the company fired a few small targets and then moved up the road to the vicinity of Uomo Morto, well named, considering the events of the past few days. Less than a day previously, it had been worth a life to venture outdoors in daylight. A night of preparation at Uomo Morto was wasted effort. By morning of the nineteenth, the guns were out of range, and the army commander was foreseeing an early arrival in Bologna, the present goal of golden victory.

Struggle for Bologna

Optimism may have been in order, with the death of Peabody Hill behind; but it soon was dampened as weeks grew into months, with Bologna yet to be taken. The Germans did not pull out of Italy, with the forcing of the Futa Pass and the taking of Rimini, as so many wishfully believed that they would. They fought on with the dogged determination of a people who could see no satisfactory end to the fight. The fire on the eighteenth was the last for nearly two weeks. The next day, a regrouping left only Company B of the battalion attached to the 85th Division. The first and third platoons were attached to the 338th and 337th Infantry Regiments respectively.

On the twentieth, the third platoon moved to the 337th sector and the first platoon went over the pass to a position near Rifredo. The next few days were ones of harried movement and rain, ending with everyone moved into a group of houses at Viola, south of Firenzuola. On the twenty-second, both platoons in the line were attached to the 338th Regiment and traveled with the CP for a while. The company had dropped into a mobile reserve.

On the twenty-seventh, a call was given to enter the line at C. La Strada on the Firenzuola trail. The call came late in the day, and a dark night on mountain trails promised trouble. After dark, the convoy moved out with two platoons and the CP group. Traffic difficulties on the trail sent the first platoon back to await developments, but the CP and second platoon remained on the road, finally moving into position without incident. At midnight, the first platoon moved out again, in blackness so dense that the tailgate of one truck could not be seen from the cab of another. Slivers of light from muffled flashlights had to be used as guides. With Staff Sergeant Walto walking ahead, the three trucks carrying the platoon crawled over the narrow winding road. The first of two ridges to be crossed offered little difficulty, but upon starting up the second, the road became even more narrow and treacherous, one truck after another sliding into the roadside ditches. Five minutes were lost while T/5 Mercer backed and hauled to get out of a mire. A half hour was wasted getting PFC Kisley's truck back on the road with wenches, after one wheel slipped over a bank. Ten minutes were spent getting the three trucks around a series of curves. Finally, the convoy crossed the top of the ridge and within a few hundred yards of their goal, when the back wheels of Kisley's truck missed a narrow culvert, rolling the vehicle and eleven passengers nearly a hundred feet down into the bottom of a gulley. Of the men on the truck, only Private Corrales escaped injury. Privates Scott and Pittenger never returned to the company. Joiner. Ammlung, and Madsen were months in returning to the outfit. The loss proved to be an exercise in futility. The company moved back out of the position, on the thirtieth, without firing a shell.

On the first of October. the 88th Division had reached Highway #6529, an offshoot of Highway #65 at Radicossa Pass. It now faced the enemy on a front six or seven kilometers wide, made up of the north bound canyon of the Idice and a ridge to the east, dividing the Idice and Silaro Rivers. The fight was to go northward for nearly fifteen kilometers, when it would swing northeast to become the left flank of the struggle around Mount Grande (the mountain of memories for the 88th Division). The left-hand regiment was soon to reach a good secondary road paralleling the Idice River. The 337th, however, straddled a ridge of wet clay, with only an ungraded cart trail along the crest for a supply route. The first nine kilometers did not even offer a connecting road into the canyon.

The third platoon put its first emplacement in the bed of the Silaro River, on the morning of the first. The infantry was forming there for an attack. During the day, the platoon CP group at Rocco watched the progress of the attacking troops through field glasses, while army supply traffic rolled down the road behind it in full view of the enemy. The next day the platoon moved onto the ridge near a place called L'Oppio, and then to a place called C. di Lenzo, following the fight in the open fields. For nearly two weeks it was to live in the rain and mud, moving over country almost devoid of shelter. In the meantime, the second platoon moved into position west of Rocco. It fired and then moved, on the third, into the canyon of the Idice near Campeggio. The CP moved to Rocco for a few days. The company rear was moved shortly to Piancaldoli, where it stayed for a week.

From the steady forward movement, it appeared that the optimists were right and Bologna was due to fall shortly. There was talk of the battalion being relieved, when the city was taken; with the battalion trucks being formed into a provisional transportation company, during the prospective race to the Po River. By the fourth of October, the 337th Infantry was ahead of the entire line, and the battalion straddling the crest of the ridge formed a salient within the regiment. However, despite flanking forces, which were nearly two thousand yards behind, a plan was conceived for a quick reduction of the current regimental objective, Monterenzio, a hill thirty-six hundred yards ahead of the most advanced elements. The plan of attack called for a smoke screen to be placed on the mountain, and held there until flanking forces could reach it. Under the weather conditions prevailing, a smoke screen at the necessary four thousand yards range was an impossibility.

Fighting on the fourth gained a few hundred yards, so the platoon moved to a thirty-six hundred yard range, by going nearly five hundred yards ahead of where the infantry men were assembled for the jumpoff. The move was made in darkness. In the morning, an ammunition truck had just moved back to safety, when a blanket of fog lifted and revealed that the position was open to fire from three directions. The men could see enemy ground everywhere they looked, except back. The first enemy shell had hardly jarred the platoon from the drugged sleep of the very weary, before a pile of WP was hit and the position became untenable. Sergeant Klumick, after seeing the men to safety, examined the ammunition on fire. Discovering that it came from only one or two ruptured shells, he carried them away from the rest of the ammunition, earning a Silver Star. He then moved the platoon back to where the infantry mortarmen were still dug in, and waited out the day.

That night the position was moved back. The platoon waited for three days before it could again move forward. During the trials of the third platoon, the second had made some progress. On the sixth, it moved to San Benedetto di Querceto. The next day, it reached the vicinity of Bisano. Finally, on the twelfth of the month, the attack passed a road connecting the forces on the ridge with the roads in the canyon of the Idice. Rain had softened the mud on the ridge to a point where the crest trail was all but impassable. Engineers had done everything possible to keep the route open, but in places the original road had been abandoned for the open ground. Although they were never more than three miles apart, the platoons had traveled farther and farther away from each other, until nearly fifteen miles of very bad roads were between them. The lateral road brought them back together, and the rear moved forward to San Benedetto di Querceto. The CP, now located at Bisano, shortly moved forward to the town of Savazza, where it remained until the company was relieved. The drive for the Po Valley was coming to a halt. Mud, mines and mortars had been taking their toll of the infantry for nearly four weeks, since the great day when the passes had been forced and jubilant voices had predicted two weeks into Bologna. Gains of miles had reduced to gains in mere hundreds of yards. Days were ending with no gains at all. Mount Formiche and Monterenzio, facing the 85th Division, were taken, but in their places were Mount Belmonte and Mount Grande, challenging the divisions on either side. With insufficient reserves and a growing supply problem, the Fifth Army made one final effort to beat the weather out of the mountains. The weather won.

On the twentieth, Sergeant Mantell, moving to clear a misfire, suffered damage to his ears, when the shell, which was only hung up, slid clear and fired. Later in the day, a group from the second platoon was riding forward from the company rear when the truck was caught in a barrage. PFC Krause, in a fatal moment of panic, jumped from the moving vehicle into a shell-burst to die; the first fatality suffered by the company since Anzio.

Regrouping of the past few days had brought four divisions into a sector extending no more than ten miles east from Highway #65. The 85th had surrendered its positions, west of the Idice river, to the 34th and had compressed onto the ridge. It now put all three regiments into the line, in a final effort to reach the Po Valley. The net of roads that had built up along the ridge was cut, a few hundred yards north of a place called Migliarina, by two canyons, one draining toward the Idice the other toward the Sillara River. The infantry had crossed the canyons and moved on to the limit of the range of their heavy fire units. The artillery was stranded, until the roads coming out of the valley could be reached from the flanks. The 337th, moving into the line on the right, had to abandon the ridge and use the few roads that climbed out of the Sillara. Weather was deteriorating all hillside trails. Soon the forward positions could be reached only by mules.

On the twenty-fifth of October, after three days of searching for a route, the third platoon moved across the ridge and down into the valley of the Sillara. It then reclimbed the ridge to a position less than eight kilometers from Highway #9, the Via Emilia which could have been the triumphal pathway into Bologna. Getting into position was all that the platoon did; once there it barely was able to get sufficient rations, much less the tons of ammunition necessary for firing. The rains set in in earnest. All but the best of roads ceased to exist. Mules bogged down in the trails, and had to be shot where they stood. Men bogged down beside them, and were extricated only with the help of as many as three of their comrades. The closing of by-trails made the only route to the vicinity of the platoon a trip of nearly thirty miles; all day for a truck in the weather and traffic to be met. The truck had to stop three miles from the guns.

For three days, Lieutenant Passios and Corporals Burke and Kershaw, stranded in an OP, added to the history of the culinary arts by experimenting with ways to make edible the K ration cheese left in their house by previous infantry occupants. For two days, Sergeant Gadomski and PFC Sincavage sweated an almost continuous mortar interdiction on the route forward, while they tried to figure a way to get supplies from their truck to the platoon.

The division, finally convinced of the waste of power involved in leaving the platoon in a place where it could not fire, transferred it back to the 338th Infantry on the left. The platoon left its guns for a salvage party to pick up later, and spent all day returning to the canyon of the Idice, to a position north of Baccanello. Its troubles were over for the time being. During the futile epic of the third platoon, the platoon on the ridge had been faced with growing difficulties. Passing days had brought advances, until the second platoon reached its highwater mark a few hundred yards north of Migliarina on the twenty-fourth of October. The last two positions had afforded cover from the weather, but to compensate for the release, came growing supply problems and almost continuous schedules of fire. Since the middle of the month, advances had netted four different roads leading from the river to the ridge trail, but not one of them was wide enough for two-way traffic. Only two had even the semblance of a wet weather surface. In dry weather, the roads would have been adequate to carry the traffic, but heavy loads in wet weather soon pushed the light gravel ballast (where it existed) out of sight. Ruts became so deep that there was no choice but to continue up a road once started on it. The shoulders were so soft and slick that one wheel off the road would often stick a truck that had five other wheels under power. The winch and tow chain became almost as important as tires. No truck could move without traction chains.

One of the heaviest rains in the memory of the natives washed the battlefield soon after the second platoon made its final move. The Idice River turned, overnight, from a pleasant mountain stream to a torrent which rolled trucks over and over down its course. As the roads became quagmires, hastily laid communication lines pulled off of roadside bushes, and matted into the mud. Almost every day, the mechanics had to repair the brakes of a vehicle that had picked up a wire and cut a brake line. Brake fluid became a critical item. One day the last drop was gone, and a truck was waiting for repair before another supply arrived.

Migliarina was chosen as the road-head for infantry supply. The first platoon, which for the last few days replaced the second, soon found itself beyond the end of the trial. It had to handpack all of its supplies for a continuous interdiction barrage, except for an occasional assist from the mule train. On the thirtieth of October, Private Crystal was caught outside an OP during a barrage and was killed. On the third of November, after an all night struggle to get out of position, the company was relieved by Company C of the newly trained 100th Chemical Battalion. It moved out of the rear at San Benedetto di Querceto for Montecatini and rest.

The month and a half just past had been hard. There had been only moderate fire (slightly over 2500 rounds), but at one time or another elements of the company had occupied twenty-six different places, mostly gun positions. Two men had been killed and fifteen injured. The sting of the injuries was increased by the fact that in two accidents, involving the majority of them, they were incident to utterly profitless moves. The month of October had seen only ten men go to the hospital with the usual assortment of bad weather ailments. But in November, after the company was out of the line, thirty men became victims of the various ailments that follow fatigue. Between illness, injury and death, better than a third of the men had been victims of the period.

The year is ended

The trip to Montecatini was an ascent into heaven. Recognizing the need for a period of general rest, the Fifth Army had taken over the little resort town with its many hotels, and was bringing back regiments at a time for ten days of relaxation. While at Montecatini, the battalion was reorganized to have three line companies. The third platoon was dissolved, and a platoon from Company D, under Lieutenant Dunham and Sergeant Hushen, took its place. Some of the old men, who had been held on an attached status since Rome, were reassigned. Others were sent to the new 100th Chemical Battalion to fill its ranks.

In the middle of the month, the battalion moved to an area near Florence, where it continued in reserve. The main memory of Florence, aside from the chopping of wood and devising of stoves to warm the pyramidal tents, was the marvelous latrine constructed to serve the company. When the hole was dug, it was intended that a box would be built to cover it. Adequate lumber, however, could not be found. First Sergeant Molino, in a fit of genius, had a series of parallel slats built across the hole and on these the boys had to do a balancing act while using the facility.

Came Thanksgiving and a party in town. Good wine and food of excellent cooking, but questionable purity, signalized the evening. One soldier, better unnamed, who had drunk too deep of the joys of the evening, tottered up the hill in search of relief well in advance of the crowd. Undermined equilibrium and mud tracked onto the platform brought the inevitable climax of all stories of excess.

Lieutenant Granson received his captaincy at Florence, crowning a period of service with the company that started shortly after the first fillers arrived for training at Camp Rucker.

In December freezing ground gave promise of good attack weather, and an operation was planned to take the remaining high ground before Bologna, around Highway #65. The battalion was to fire an attack mission on Mount Grande and Mount Adone. On the third of December, a section of the company went forward past Livergnano to start digging emplacements. During the following days, the guns and fifteen hundred shells were muscled into position, and the company bivouac was moved forward into the Futa Pass to be within reach. Lieutenant Dunham and Staff Sergeant Hushen helped to form a provisional platoon from men of the three line companies, to be attached to the 100th Chemical Battalion for a special mission. In due time they disappeared, to be seen no more until the mission was cancelled.

The battalion mission was to be fired on a D-Day not yet set. As soon as the position was in order, therefore, all but a skeleton crew were pulled back to the Futa Pass bivouac to await action in comparatively more comfortable surroundings. Fighting on Highway #65 had always been crowded. In the middle of the mountains there were few houses to be commandeered, and even fewer fields which were flat enough for tents. The lack of a decent road net made dispersion all but impossible, so the service group of an army corps was lined up in file along the verges of the main road. When the battalion first fought up the road, it had been a nip and tuck struggle to get living space. Upon returning, it had the choice of the leavings. The bivouac picked was a series of hillside fields in the draw that formed the Futa Pass. Rain welcomed the company, and wind soon joined in entertaining the guests. From occupancy to abandonment of the Futa Pass bivouac, there was a struggle for comfort. Nearby barbed wire entanglements, left over from the German defense of the pass, were denuded of stakes in the search for firewood. All fuel within carrying distance was soon exhausted. and work parties trucked in green wood from pine groves in the district. Styles and sizes of stoves were as numerous as the tents. Early but impractical five gallon oil can stoves were gradually replaced by such masterpieces as a German gas tank stove and an adaptation of the case from a power line transformer.

Larger stoves brought a higher smoke content in the atmosphere, until someone discovered that the flues were too small. Multiple smoke stacks of the old diameter, or new ones made from 155mm powder charge cans, cleared the air. Smoke stacks from discarded gasoline pipe line sections became popular, when a pile of them was discovered at a nearby pumping station. Corporal Kershaw smoked his tent out by trying to install a damper in one of them.

The mud had grown no shallower or less sticky while the company was out of the line. Shortly after arrival at the pass, the bivouac began to take on the appearance of a hog wallow. Mud was vanquished, however, by truck load after truck load of gravel hauled from a river bed ten miles away. A few stubborn spots refused to give in, even to complete truck loads of gravel, until someone thought of digging drainage ditches. The ditches were just completed, when a hard freeze turned the ground to stone, solving the problem once and for all.

Lumber was refused from official sources for weatherproofing the tents. A cold winter was in prospect, until it was discovered that old packing cases and dunnage could be chiseled from an ordnance assembly point at the port of Leghorn. For over a week, small convoys sneaked eighty miles into the port, whenever lumber could be hoped for. Floors of all shapes and descriptions made their appearance, from a carefully leveled and nailed job to a few crate sides thrown down helter skelter. The sizes and shapes of doors were truly a sight to behold. The old woman who lived in a shoe, or the little crooked man who had a crooked house, had nothing on Company B. On the last trip for lumber, the returning trucks made a rest stop at the side of the road. Sergeant Lumia, standing outside the trucks to warn traffic, fell victim to a hit and run driver, reducing the Camp Rucker contingent of the company one more, as he went to the hospital for good.

The season of Peace and Good Will arrived with its overload of packages. The tents soon were overflowing with fancy wrapping-paper and fruit cake. Even the inevitable tie and shoe shine kit showed up. to add a homelike touch to the festival. Sergeants Matovsky and Zatwarnicki received a Christmas gift from Uncle Sam in the form of gold bars and commissions for each. After congratulation parties, made more convivial by the discovery that AMG would sell a bottle of brandy which was only twenty-five per cent gasoline, the two newly made officers took off for Rome, to spend Christmas in the Eternal City.

The day before Christmas, the alert for D-Day came. In the evening, the men said goodbye to a Merry Christmas and moved forward. The company had no more than arrived, when a change in orders made the move unnecessary. Christmas night, the bulk of the company returned to the bivouac. After dark on the twenty-sixth, orders were received to pull all equipment out of position immediately and prepare to move to the IV Corps sector.

By the side of the beautiful sea

In preparing for the proposed push on Highway #65, the Fifth Army had transferred the bulk of its power to the central sector. Only a holding force was left in the IV Corps area of the Serchio Valley and the Tyrrhenion Coast. Just before Christmas, the Germans attacked in the upper Serchio Valley, north of Lucca, and made initial gains of several thousand yards. They took the town of Gallicano. To counter the action, the Fifth Army attack was cancelled, and forces were moved to IV Corps in a wild dash that filled Highway #65 for two solid days. Protection of the highways along the Arno was of first importance.

The company was back in the Futa Pass bivouac just before dawn, on the twenty-seventh of December. After a morning of waiting for road priority, it moved out with the battalion, bound for Altopascio. From Altopascio, it was dispatched to Pietrascanta to support the 371st Infantry of the 92nd Division. The company moved by bounds, with the platoon leaders going forward on a moving reconnaissance. After midnight, two positions were occupied and made ready. Ranging shots were fired early the next morning. With the platoons in position, the trucks moved back to Viareggio to establish a rear. On the last day of the year, the remnants of the company, left to guard the pass bivouac, moved to Viareggio. The company was now embarked on the most pleasant month and a half of its combat career.

In the first week of January, the CP moved from its original location with the first platoon to a villa in the town of Pietrasanta, and the rear moved to the resort town of Lido di Camaiore. Except for the third platoon, which went into position in the middle of the month, the company was settled for the stay. The sector proved to be quiet and beautiful. After crossing the Arno, the fight moved up the coastal plain and stopped a few miles north of Pietrasanta, where it remained for the winter.

A range of the most rugged mountains in the Appenines choked the plain off north of the Line at Massa. The company occupied positions along the edge of, and in the range. The first platoon, just north of Pietrasanta, was in a farm position that varied from the normal in one point. It was spread out among several houses and allowed everyone to live in comfort. The second platoon was established above a stone quarry near the town of Vallecchia. The families of the quarry community offered a friendly society for the boys. Even PFC Keenan, the serious-minded aid-man who longed to do great things in his profession, was almost satisfied. He nearly delivered the baby of a local newly-made mother, being foiled by the last minute arrival of a doctor. He was somewhat reconciled to his loss of position, however, by being allowed to be first assistant in the operation.

To the third platoon fell the most spectacular position in the history of the company. It left the plain and followed a canyon for eight miles, past the stone-cutting towns of Serravezza and Roussina, to the mountain village of Retignano. Here was a story-book country of crystal streams and mountaintop marble quarries. A little railroad ran here and there, with large blocks of stone loaded on its cars and piled along its sidings. Cable cars swung in midair, interrupted in their trips up mountainsides by the war. At the head of every canyon was a sheer walled precipice, veiled with snow, denying the possibility of successful war. The fight was stopped here, by these cliffs, and could move no more until the pressure of other fronts forced the enemy back.

In spite of almost perfect enemy observation north of Pietrasanta, it was discovered the jeeps could move about with impunity during the daylight hours. Platoon transportation was soon bringing men back everyday to avail themselves of showers and Red Cross facilities at Viareggio. At Lido di Camaiore, the rear found a hall and organized a series of dances, which attracted men from the platoons two or three times a week for nearly a month before leave was taken of the area.

Fire with the 371st Regiment proved to be light but continuous. Only seven of the fifty days with it saw expenditures go over a hundred rounds, but every single day, from the twenty-eighth of December until departure, had its fire mission. In the end, the company had averaged sixty-five rounds a day for the period. In the first part of February, the 371st launched a limited objective attack. The fight surged back and forth for a few days, finally settling down just about on the starting line. Shortly thereafter, the battalion was detached from the 92nd Division and moved to Highway #64 to support the newly-committed 10th Mountain Division.

For the first time in its history, the company had completed a period of action in other than the most disagreeable circumstances possible. It had missed most of the snow and cold in the central Appennines. All of its positions had offered better than average housing. Only the first platoon and the CP in Pietrasanta had suffered any shelling, and only two accidents occurred during the stay. Private Potter was lightly wounded, but remained for duty. Private Norris suffered a fall that sent him to the hospital. Two awards partially countered the two casualties. Corporals Manning and Lord went out in a mild shelling of the first platoon area to repair a wire. Their actions earned Bronze Stars for them.

After leaving the coast, everyone liked to wonder whether the company would ever go back. This wonderment was shared by the commander of the 371st Regiment. On the twentieth of February, he wrote a commendation of the company, in which he stated that if the organization was ever free, he would be glad to have it back supporting his troops.

With 10th Mountain Division

During the push in the fall of 1944, forces had advanced up Highway #64 along the Reno River almost to the town of Vergato. In the mountains west of the highway, however, the line sheared sharply southward to parallel the road for nearly 15 miles. Further movement northward became dependent upon the taking of Mount Belvedere, the southern bastion of the sector from which three or four miles of the highway could be observed. All of the southern approaches to the mountain itself could be observed for as much as ten miles from its summit. The mountain had been taken once or twice during the fall, but it had always been lost because of fire from a commanding ridge farther west. On the sixteenth of February. the company moved to the hilltown of Vidiciaticco to offer support to the newly committed 10th Mountain Division in the final attack on Belvedere. At first the main function performed by the company was that of being present. On the nineteenth, the second platoon fired three ranging shots, and for the next six days little was done beyond ranging in.

On the evening of the twenty-fifth, the attack started with the 86th Regiment scaling the ridge, which had denied Mount Belvedere to the attacking forces for so long, taking it early the next morning. Late on the twenty-sixth, the attack on the main objective was under way. The following day, the company fired important missions in helping to consolidate the gains. During the period of waiting at Vidiciaticco, Sergeant Sid Klein, with food and other things on his mind, approached a local Shirley Temple and asked her if she knew where he could get some fresh potatoes. She told him that if he would provide transportation, she would share some that she had at her home a kilometer or so up the road. Agreeing to this, Sid wangled a jeep and an officer's coat, to disguise the fact that a Ginzo was being transported, and the two started out. One kilometer grew to two and then to three, and the as yet un-taken Mount Belvedere was looming large when at La Rovina an infantry captain stopped the jeep and greeted the two with, "This is a helluva place to bring a Red Cross girl!" Sid explained his mission in terms of laundry, instead of potatoes; the captain allowed him, but not his jeep, to pass. With the captain's mutterings in their ears, the couple started cross-country to the location of the potatoes. They had not gone far, when a burp gun sounded off, and the whine of spent bullets sent Sid to the ground. His girl friend stood and laughed at him, while the messengers of death whispered by. The source of potatoes turned out to be Prada, a village no more than a mile from the top of the enemy-held Mount Belvedere. While Sid was gathering his vegetables in the first house of the village, a squad of infantry was clearing Germans out of the last. For the remainder of the campaign, Sid Klein never asked a beautiful young girl for fresh potatoes.

On the last day of February, the company moved to Abetaia. on the northeastern side of the mountain. In four days here, the fields assumed an appearance of destruction almost equal to the worst at Anzio. All of the supplies for the men and guns were forced to run through a deathtrap of pointblank fire on a road curve near the town. The fire was so accurate, that a truck belonging to another outfit was hit by two successive shells, an almost unheard of feat. On the third of March, Lieutenant Huxford, while forward in liaison, became the last serious casualty in the company for the Italian Campaign, a knee wound sent him home.

From Abetaia the company moved through a series of positions around Cassone, Flizzone and Mount Acivola, finally ending with the CP and one platoon near Campidello, where the engineers were operating a cableway which transported the wounded across a canyon, swinging them five or six hundred feet in the air in a little basket hardly big enough to carry a litter. The first platoon ended a mile up the road at Pianestra. On the sixteenth of March, the company joined the rear at Silla for five days of rest, inspections and re-equipment. A similar rest period at Anzio had been prelude to the attack.

The twenty-first saw the company back in the line covering the entire 10th Division sector with three platoons, while Company C took its turn at rest. Upon the return of Company C on the thirty-first, positions at Le Vedette and Sasso Molare were abandoned for the original positions at Ampidello and Pianestra.

The first experience with the "Tenth Mountain" was almost finished. It had contributed nothing out of the ordinary. The division had done a good job in its attack, and the company only had to help hold what had been taken.


On the fourth of April, the company moved once more to the coastal sector, to support an attack which was to be preparatory to the general push. The 92nd Division had failed to make any progress in its efforts to take several strategic heights during the first part of February. It was now to have the help of one of the toughest and most successful fighting units in the American army, the 442nd Combat Team made up of Hawaiians of Japanese ancestry. The attack started on the morning of the fifth, with one platoon supporting the 442nd at Serravezza and another supporting the 370th at Fore dei Marmi. The jump off barrage fired for the 442nd was the beginning of the first day of fire, since Anzio, that exceeded a thousand rounds. At the beginning of the attack, the Serravezza position was subject to close-in observation from a mountain slope that started almost at the guns. Heavy fire came near to interdicting the position. The guns remained in action only because many men chose to disregard the danger to keep their weapons supplied. During the day, the 442nd continued to call for heavy fire, while the 370th found little use for its platoon, so the Forte dei Marmi position was abandoned, the platoon moving to Serravezza. For three days the fire remained heavy, but on the eighth of April the battle was out of range. The position was moved forward across a battlefield of nearly six months standing to the hill settlement of Montignoso.

On the tenth of April, nine rounds were fired to complete the mission. The next day, Massa was taken and the company returned to Silla from where it again went into position with the Tenth Mountain for the final push. On the last day with the 442nd, Lieutenant Arace was forward with the attack. He was ordered to fire on a machine-gun pit dug into the top of a knoll. Corporal Burke, in figuring the firing data, added fifty yards to the range for good measure. Just before the ranging shot was fired Lieutenant Arace, on a hunch, ordered a change in elevation which added still another hundred yards. The first shell landed directly on the target. The infantry officers present were speechless at the uncanny accuracy of the fire. Lieutenant Arace managed to keep a straight face.

Back on route #64, the attack positions, which had been picked for the company in its absence, proved to be considerably farther forward than the previous defensive positions. The second platoon moved to Gualandi, just west of Castel d'Adiano, to protect the flank of the 85th Infantry as it moved forward. The first platoon, and then the third, set up on a hilltop east of the village of Canolle to support the main attack of the regiment. When it began, on the fourteenth, the attack did not go too well. The regiment walked into opposition that whittled it down to battalion strength in less than two days. The concurrent attack by the Brazilian forces failed to move on the left, and as the main push went forward its flank began to open up. For two days, fire went over a thousand rounds. as one platoon tried to ease the struggle of the infantry and the other tried to satisfy its need of flank protection. The third day fire eased off, as the enemy began to give to the pressure. On the seventeenth both platoons moved forward.

The twenty-first of April saw the company into the Po Valley, and the rat-race to reach the river and block the German retreat began. The battle turned into a mad scramble. The company became part of a task force that went to the river, while the main line of resistance was still fifteen or twenty miles to the south. They moved through the town of Nova di Modena with no resistance. A few hours later, a battery of German 170mm guns were captured on the same road, in the same town, going the same direction. At one stop on the road, a motorcycle with two Germans on it passed the column before anyone in the company could take action. A few minutes later, it came back, carrying GI riders with the Germans running ahead. In one town square, Private Pete Corrales was taking five, when two more Germans came into sight on a bicycle. Pete recovered from his surprise and pulled a pistol in true western style. The Heinies fell off of the bicycle in their hurry to put their hands up. During the move, the ammunition truck, driven by PFC Palmer, caught on fire. An explosion, giving away the position of the task force, would have jeopardized the whole operation. Palmer and T/5 Mills put the fire out, earning Silver Stars for their efforts.

On the twenty-third of April, the company, with some TDs and light tanks, established a road block at Camatta, near San Benedetto di Po. A German convoy, moving a 210mm gun back to the river, ran into the roadblock, and was knocked out by a TD less than three hundred yards from the CP. The seventeen rounds fired in the operation by the company were the last fired in the campaign. The platoons crossed the river on the twenty-fifth and moved successively to Governolo, Villa France and Lazise (on Lake Garda). The company was brought together at Bardolino on the twenty-eighth, when the rear moved up to meet the platoons.

On the thirtieth of April, the company once more moved into position at Torbole, at the head of Lake Garda. The last eight miles were traveled on DUKW's to by-pass road demolitions on cliffs that raised directly out of the water. At Torbole, some of the men had the unpleasant task of helping to load the body of Colonel Darby onto a DUKW for transportation back. The leader of the fabled 1st Rangers, who had become assistant division commander of the Tenth Mountain, was killed between the signing of capitulation terms and the official cessation of hostilities.

The end of the war in Italy, on May 2, 1945, found the platoons located at Riva. The remainder of the company felt the relief of the war's end at Brenzone, a little village half way down Lake Garda from the final battlefield.


With the capitulation of German forces in Italy on May 2, 1945, (601 days after D-Day at Salerno) the first tour of combat duty for Company B of the 84th Chemical Mortar Battalion, came to an end. Out of the 512 days of official combat status credited to the battalion, the company had spent 419 days in gun positions and traveling from one position to another. Missions were fired on 275 different days to expend 45,442 rounds of ammunition. The company CP traveled a little less than two thousand miles to occupy 117 positions during the campaign. The platoons, when they traveled separately, occupied 65 more.

To the original roster of 192 men and 9 officers, were added 88 men and officers from various sources and a complete platoon of the disbanded Company D. From the total of 329, however, only 165 remained at the end of the campaign (155 EM and 10 officers). In spite of the fact that one half of the total personnel was lost to the company, a relatively small group left through battle injury. Fifty-two men, other than those who died, were hospitalized from injuries or wounds in action. Of these, fifteen never returned. Only fourteen men were killed in action or died of wounds.

Five men were commissioned out of the company. Four were lost through capture. Seventy-two men and one officer, who landed with the company at Salerno, remained with it at the end of the campaign. Sixteen men, who transferred to the company from Company D at the time of reorganization, fell into the same category. Four men and two officers who were transferred from battalion headquarters, plus five officers promoted from the ranks of other companies, make a total of one hundred who saw the battalion all the way through the campaign and ended in Company B. Of the nine original company officers, only one, Captain Granson, remained with it on May 2, 1945. Three of them were killed or died of wounds. Lieutenant Clark was the company's first fatal casualty in Italy. Lieutenant Lawrence and Lieutenant Essy were part of the price paid for the Anzio beachhead. Lieutenant Salmons, with Lieutenant Wisniewski, a replacement officer, enjoyed the doubtful privilege of being the first chemical officer to be captured in the Mediterranean war. The two were subsequently released by the Russian advance in the Spring of 1945. Captain Butts, the original CO, returned home on rotation before the capture of Rome in 1944. Lieutenant Kulakowski, after an extended period of ill health, finally left the company suffering from battle fatigue, after having the town of Legoli torn down around him in a heavy barrage.

While only one of the group of officers present on May 2, 1945, was an original Company B man, all but two of them had seen the battalion all the way through its combat history. Lieutenant Cail and Lieutenant Dunham came as replacements after the campaign began. Lieutenant Kochuba and Lieutenant Lattanzio had been with the battalion from early training days. The remainder of the group received battlefield promotions, from other companies, to serve as officers. Three formal commendations and many verbal ones during the campaign attested to the value of the company's services. It ended the European war a successful and lucky outfit.

Company C
     Landing and defense of Sele River
     To the Volturno and across
     Push to the winter line
     The winter line
     Breakthrough to Rome
     Push to the Arno
     Assault on the Gothic line
     Grind to Bologna
     Winter's sparring
     The last roundup

Landing and defense of Sele River

The first group of LCVPs bearing personnel of Company C, 84th Cml Bn, grated peacefully onto Red Beach, some 1000 yards north of the Tower of Paestum at 1630 hours on September 9, 1943.

That was approximately 13 hours after the first infantry assault waves, and for most of the men not a minute too soon. They had been aware almost from the start where the convoy was going and why. Speculation as to what the Italian capitulation, announced dramatically over the ship's radio September 8, might do to invasion plans had been quickly stilled by last minute dry-runs and briefings. They had been on the Duchess of Bedford, a veteran British troop transport, 8 days, time enough to get more than fed up on a stolid diet of mutton and muffins. Because they were to be first off the ship, many of them had been up long before dawn watching the Navy shell the northern beaches, and waiting for their own signal. Finally, once jammed, full-field equipment and all, into the assault boats, there had been more of the inevitable waiting, some three hours of it, tossing on a far from sympathetic sea.

The waiting turned out, however, to be worth every second of it. It meant that instead of landing as originally planned on Blue Beach farther south, which was still being fought over, the company landed on Red Beach, whose stillness by that time was broken only by the splutter of bull-dozers at work on the beach-paths.

Proceedings were considerably less idyllic once the company had scrambled off the beach proper and headed cross-country for the predetermined bivouac area. Within half an hour the marching column was strafed twice by German planes, and forced to break up into small groups for the rest of the march. Later, when the advance elements of the company, absorbed by this time only in a realization of how heavy 60 pounds of equipment can become over four miles of hot, dusty country, came upon the bivouac area, they unexpectedly flushed a youthful German machine-gunner hiding behind a small bank with two light machine-guns, one of which was in perfect firing order. It is difficult to decide who was the more perturbed. Had he had the will, the boy, who apparently had holed up while our infantry went by, could have caused the company many casualties. As he was rigid with fear, he was entirely willing to become a prisoner of the 1st platoon.

By 2000 hours that night almost the entire company had found the area, a flat, sandy, sparsely-vegetated stretch approximately 3/4 mile due east of the Tower of Paestum, vulnerable to aerial observation but partially screened on three sides from the hill mass that circumscribed the beachhead. There the men dug their first combat slit-trenches or foxholes deep into Italy, posted a guard and bedded down.

That was Company C's first day in a strange new world of actual war, an abnormally long way in which all peculiar attributes of war - the confusion. the noise, the alternate dullness and danger, the bone-deep tiredness - impressed themselves more clearly than ever since on the memories of all the men who landed that day.

Company C had no mission when it hit the beaches. Attached to VI Corps, it was to wait at the bivouac area until its mortars and trucks and other equipment could be unloaded. That operation took two days, but this time the interval of waiting was not dull. No one could be an innocent bystander those first days at Salerno. German planes, fighters and bombers. were out day and night after the shipping and beach supply dumps, and anything else in their path to the beach was subject to quick-firing passes and antipersonnel bombs. The company area, part of a general assembly point only 1/2 mile from the beaches as the planes fly, was one day strafed or passed at 24 times.

For new-to-combat troops, not yet blooded in battle. it was a fascinating show - the incongruous kaleidoscope that the beachhead presented from the bivouac area. In one patch of sky, there was a dog-fight; in another, German planes and our own shot down by harried ack-ack men. Across the road, a Negro outfit doing field-manual calisthenics, standing atop the parapets of their slit-trenches with helmets at the ready. Italian women washing clothes while on a nearby hill artillery WP shells threw up white, billowing markers. A false gas-alarm which swept through the area like a brushfire, and resulted in the incapacitation, solely through panic, of one of Company C's men. Native hawkers whom the war had passed by only the day before already selling souvenir postcards of the battlefield from the steps of Paestum's ancient Greek temple of Neptune. And always, the magnificent nightly spectacle of anti-aircraft tracers lacing the sky in deadly patterns.

On the morning of September 12 Company C was alerted. By then, the beachhead had been expanded along a 33-40 mile coastline to an average depth 6 to 7 miles, but the center, in the corridor formed by the junction of the Sele and Calore Rivers only four miles from the sea, was still insecure. The Germans had already driven a partial wedge into the corridor. and were rapidly building up forces to exploit it with the ultimate aim of splitting the British 10th and the U.S. VI Corps by a drive to the sea.

To counter the threat, it was necessary to regroup VI Corps forces to strengthen the defense line between the two corps. On the night of the 12th, units of the 45th Division were moved into position on the extreme left flank of the VI Corps' beachhead, and Company C's two mortar platoons set up defensively with them. The company was not called on to fire from that position (although fired on briefly by German artillery), and on the night of the 14th, the platoons moved into position along Highway #18, slightly north of Bivio Coffi, to support the 3rd Bn, 36th Combat Engineers who had been thrown as infantry into the defense set-up on the left flank.

That position from which the company did its first firing and suffered its first casualties was known Simply as the "Tobacco Patch," a flat, partly naked plot of cultivated tobacco-land approximately 1000 yards from our infantry forward positions. Once the gun-pits and slit-trenches were dug that first night, and the ammunition hauled along the road by cart and human-carrier, movement was kept to a minimum. During the day it was necessary to crawl on hands and knees, or at least to stoop low. A full-grown man, upright, could be seen from the German-held hill mass to the north and west.

At 0730 hours. September 15, the lst platoon fired the company's first round in Italy, and before the day and night was over, followed it with some 300 more rounds, mostly HE, on missions requested by the infantry and observed by the platoon's own OP party. Next day, the 1st platoon fired 120 more rounds, and the 2nd platoon, which had displaced by cart to another position slightly west, fired 75 rounds.

That was the extent of the company's firing at Salerno � approximately 500 rounds � but the results were highly satisfactory. The company was officially credited, in conjunction with the artillery, with breaking up three daytime and two night-time attacks. By itself, it had accounted officially for two machine-gun nests, one mortar position, one field piece, one enemy OP; and unofficially, for innumerable chickens, cows, rabbits and haystacks in enemy territory. In those early days of battle, observers were prone to fire upon anything that twitched.

The OP group had also managed to garner extra laurels and incidentally in the same action, extra rations. During the night of September 16, they helped overwhelm one misguided German lieutenant and two sergeants who had driven nonchalantly up to the OP house in a vehicle containing among other things several days' supply of sardines and Rhenish wine.

On the debit side, the company, although never under severe counterbattery fire, had suffered two casualties through air bursts: one killed, Private Howard E. Ives, a BAR-man, and one slightly wounded.

By the night of September 16, it was clear to all that the beachhead had been secured. The Germans had committed their heaviest attacking forces on the 13th and 14th, suffered great losses in men and material, and were no longer capable of launching a sustained counterattack. How close they came, however, to driving us off the beachhead was not fully realized by the men at the time. Despite the nightly alerts about enemy parachutists and tank attacks � for which the platoons' own security squads at the perimeter had been issued the latest in bayonets � the men intimately concerned only with their own small sector, were not aware that on the 13th mechanics, truck-drivers and even members of an artillery band had to be thrown as riflemen into a breach in the lines; nor that on the 14th more than 500 heavy bombers of the Strategic Air Force had to fly key tactical missions over the Salerno plain; nor that VI Corps headquarters personnel had been given orders that morning to pack up and be ready to board ship in case the Germans broke through. Not until 10 days after the landing, when the battle had moved north out of the beachhead and the first issues of stars and stripes arrived with the whole story of the close battle, did the men feel their first fear.

To the Volturno and across

Once the breakout of the beachhead came, Company C found itself temporarily out of a job. After two days, September 18 and 19, of cautious, fruitless probing for the enemy at the perimeter of the beachhead, memorable only to the mortar men for the back-breaking toil involved in dragging the mortars into positions, the company reverted to battalion control to await the next call.

The call came the following morning from the 3rd Division which had recently landed on the beachhead, was to relieve the 36th, and drive north and west from Battapaglia, with the job of taking Avellino and pushing on to the Volturno. All the division wanted from Company C for the time being was the use of its trucks to spare the infantry the long hike to the front. In return, the mortar platoons were given division jeeps and orders to keep up with the advance in order to be available for instant call.

So it went: Battapaglia, Monticello, Acerno, Piazzo, Volturara, Avellino, Maddeloni, Arienzo, Arpaia, and finally Santa Lucia, north of Caserta in the hill mass overlooking the Volturno River. That was on October 9. It had taken the 3rd Division less than three weeks to move the 50 road miles (and these roads were not good) from Battapaglia to the Volturno. Company C tagged along but was not called on to fire. Only in the vicinity of Acemo did it actually do anything to help the progress of the war. There for three days with shovels and picks it joined the 36th Engineers again, this time in building up a culvert that had been washed away by rains on the vital road north. It was rather a good life, this "free lancing in the jeeps", as one member put it. The weather, except for occasional early autumn rains, notably at Acemo, was good, and it was possible at nearly every road-stop to supplement the mostly steady C-ration diet with tomatoes, onions and potatoes, which make even ''helmet'' stews palatable. Occasionally, there were even chickens and eggs. On the road the men had their first opportunity to see communities of Italian civilians, to pick up scores of Italian carbines, later discarded, to learn that as in Africa, bambini require multi caramelli, and that they themselves were great liberators. In the town of Arienzo the mayor, city council and the entire population lined the streets to give a tumultuous reception to the jeeps, apparently the first American vehicles into the town.

In the vicinity of Santa Lucia, from October 9th to the 13th, the company made preparations to cross the Volturno River with the 3rd Division's 7th Infantry Regiment. According to the general plan, the division was to cross on the left of the VI Corps sector, and seize the hills dominating the Voltumo Valley from the Triflisco Gap to Mount Mesarinola. On the right flank were to be the 34th and 45th Divisions; on the left, three divisions of the British 10th Corps. The attack was to be launched simultaneously by all six divisions on a 4D-mile front along the river.

In the original plan Company C mortars were to smoke a portion of the river along with the other two companies of the battalion. Company reconnaissance indicated that in, order to accomplish that mission, the mortars would have to be set in front of the hill mass running along the southern bank, and that even then � this was before the new M6 propellant had arrived � the guns would have to fire maximum range. Fortunately, that part of the mission was called off for the mortar platoons. The company was represented, however, in the battalion smoke mission by a select group of rear personnel who joined a 100-man battalion detail to expend 1000 smoke-pots on the 13th and 14th in screening bridge-building operations along the river.

The 7th Infantry began fighting its way across the river during the early hours of October 13. To join it, Company C's mortar platoons and forward CP group moved out that morning by jeep along a tertiary road which was little more than a mule path, but the only road available not under German observation. Not until 0130 hours on October 14, however, was the pontoon bridge for jeeps ready for crossing. The company spent the long hours between watching the battle across the river from screened vantage-points, and listening to it on the radios of numerous TDs that were also jammed on the narrow road waiting to cross.

The jeeps rolled over the pontoon-bridge peacefully in the early morning stillness. Once over, the mortars were called upon only once in the first three days to set up, and not at all to fire. For several days after the crossing, the bridgehead was practically isolated from units on the southern bank. There was one bridge for tanks, another still in the process of building for trucks and larger vehicles, so that the only source of supply for the mortar platoons was the single, one-way jeep-bridge. In those first critical days that was being used almost exclusively to rush reenforcements into the battle and to bring the wounded back.

As a result, the company's rear echelon was unable to come across the river until three days after the forward mortar units. During that interval, the men already across lived on the one-day's ration they had been issued prior to the crossing, plus whatever they could forage. Fortunately, there was a knocked-out German supply vehicle nearby which had not ben completely stripped; inside were a few canned rations, some biscuits, and most welcomed of all, sufficient German cigarettes to keep the men going until the first supplies arrived.

Push to the winter line

Meanwhile, the 7th Infantry had consolidated its bridgehead and begun moving north again astride the Volturno (which had turned north). Company C continued to stay close to the infantry, and in one instance, in the vicinity of Dragoni, even managed to get ahead of their main forces. That was the night of October 18, a night which for sheer feverishness was unparalleled at the time in Company C's annals.

It began quietly when the forward units of the company moved, into Leberi, a little village which seemed then just another of the many bivouac areas on the road north. One half-hour later, however, after the men had bedded down, it was clear to everyone that somehow, instead of being in a reserve area as believed, they had passed the main infantry elements and were now between them and No-Man's-Land. No-Man's-Land at the moment was the scene of a fierce fire fight that could be both seen and heard as clearly as though it were actually in the bivouac area. One officer said it for all the men: "Either let's set the mortars up here, or get the hell out." It was decided to get the hell out.

On the way out, orders came through that the company had been detached from the 7th Infantry, and was to revert immediately to battalion control. Because the trip back to the battalion area was a long one, it was decided to spend the night in another area down the road, and begin the trip to battalion in the morning. No sooner had the men bedded down again, however, in the new area than an urgent call for the mortars came from the 7th Infantry: the Germans were mounting a counter-attack from Dragoni, a few miles up the road. Artillery could not get at the town because of the medium-sized hill in front of it. Mortars were needed-and fast!

The firing on Dragoni, as it turned out, was probably the most unmilitary mission in the history of organized warfare. It was evident from the start that the Germans either had nothing to throw back at the mortars, or just did not care. As a result, everyone wanted to throw a shell down the barrel: truck drivers, ammunition-handlers, strangers who happened to be walking down the road. In the ensuing noise and confusion, one man threw a shell down the barrel of one mortar without bothering to wait for a previous shell, a misfire, to come out; fortunately - it was that kind of an evening - no damages were incurred. It had been a long night, and the mission itself took five hours, but no one went to sleep, or bothered to dig in. Before the infantry called a halt to the mission, 306 HE and 21 WP had been fired.

In partial justification of the strangeness of the shoot, it ought to be remembered that not since the Sele River, more than a month past, had the men been able to fire a single round. During that period they had packed and packed and unpacked the mortars, cleaned them, man-handled or dragged them into many impossible positions, most of the time ungrudgingly. This mission at Dragoni was the first chance in a long time to throw shells finally at the people really responsible for all that had gone before.

Two days later, the company got another chance, but this time, unfortunately, under much less favorable circumstances. The 3rd Division wanted to move its artillery to new positions up the road, but to do this had to use a stretch of the road between Dragoni and Baia Latima that was under direct German observation from the hills across the Voltumo. Company C was called upon to maintain a smoke screen on the other side of the river to cover the movement.

To reach the target it was necessary to put the guns ahead of the front line, and the only suitable position was a flat, grassy, grape-arbor near Latima which afforded ample concealment but no cover whatsoever. It was decided to use only six of the eight guns; even these had to be jammed too close together in the area. The mission was to begin at dawn.

The men moved in that night under cover of darkness, set up the guns, dug themselves in, and brought some 1500 rounds of ammunition along a sunken road that ran in back of the position. Next morning, from 0700 to 1130 hours, they fired more than 500 rounds of WP under the worse firing conditions they had yet encountered. Because the ground was so soft and the volume of the fire so great, it was difficult, and at times impossible, to keep all the guns in action. Parts had to be continually interchanged among guns, until at the end of the mission, only two guns were left to keep up the screen, and even these were firing from three-foot pits dug by the guns themselves in recoiling.

Worst of all, German artillery had begun looking for the mortars from almost the first rounds fired. All day long, even after the smoke mission had been completed, their guns kept up a stream of harassing fire. One man, PFC Sanford Shapiro, was killed while at the gun position, and six others were wounded, three of them seriously, and evacuated. The figure would certainly have been higher had there not been such a high number of defective rounds among the German shells; every time a nearby round failed to detonate, the men from their foxholes would shout fervent thanks to the Czechs still working at Skoda.

After Latima, the company returned for a week's rest to the vicinity of Dragoni where it received its first batch of replacements (9), and was attached to the 180th Regiment, 45th Division. The 45th had been resting briefly after crossing the Volturno and taking Piedmonte d'Alife and Sam Gregorio; now it was to take over the central sector between the 3rd and 34th Divisions, with Venafro as the first big objective.

Before Venafro, however, there were still mountains to get over. Company C moved out in trucks on November 1 to help the 180th get over them. From Piedmonte d'Alife, northeast through tortuous mountains for about 15 miles, until at 0530 hours on November 3 the trucks crossed the Volturno (for the company's third time), and hit the main Highway #85, some eight miles south of Venafro.

The infantry that night requested fire on a town near Sesto Campano which, by its strategic position almost astride the highway running through the valley into Venafro might hold up the advance of our infantry once they had broken into the valley. To get into firing position the 2nd platoon went by trucks part of the way up the highway, transferred to jeeps to get up the narrow, twisting road to Sesto Campano, about 300 meters up the side of Mount Calvello, and then began to negotiate the last steep lap to the mortar position by hand-carry. By dawn, some six hours later, the men were still working the way up their rocky path, still in no position to fire. The mission, therefore, was called off; as it turned out, the infantry took the town without opposition.

The instance is elaborated only because it was the supreme example at the time of the peculiar kind of back-breaking futility that the company was to experience time and again in the mountains of the Winter and the Gothic Lines. In the two months since the landing there had been many moves and several fruitless mortar positions, but not until the mountains did it become clear to the men concerned that the 4.2 was a weapon with special capabilities and special limitations. Before that lesson was completely learned by the officers � infantry, artillery, and our own � responsible for he use and deployment of the mortars, there were to be many more instances of waste. Meanwhile, the 7th Infantry had consolidated its bridgehead and begun moving north again astride the Volturno (which had turned north). Company C continued to stay close to the infantry, and in one instance, in the vicinity of Dragoni, even managed to get ahead of their main forces. That was the night of October 18, a night which for sheer feverishness was unparalleled at the time in Company C's annals.

It began quietly when the forward units of the company moved, into Leberi, a little village which seemed then just another of the many bivouac areas on the road north. One half-hour later, however, after the men had bedded down, it was clear to everyone that somehow, instead of being in a reserve area as believed, they had passed the main infantry elements and were now between them and No-Man's-Land. No-Man's-Land at the moment was the scene of a fierce fire fight that could be both seen and heard as clearly as though it were actually in the bivouac area. One officer said it for all the men: "Either let's set the mortars up here, or get the hell out." It was decided to get the hell out.

On the way out, orders came through that the company had been detached from the 7th Infantry, and was to revert immediately to battalion control. Because the trip back to the battalion area was a long one, it was decided to spend the night in another area down the road, and begin the trip to battalion in the morning. No sooner had the men bedded down again, however, in the new area than an urgent call for the mortars came from the 7th Infantry: the Germans were mounting a counter-attack from Dragoni, a few miles up the road. Artillery could not get at the town because of the medium-sized hill in front of it. Mortars were needed-and fast!

The firing on Dragoni, as it turned out, was probably the most unmilitary mission in the history of organized warfare. It was evident from the start that the Germans either had nothing to throw back at the mortars, or just did not care. As a result, everyone wanted to throw a shell down the barrel: truck drivers, ammunition-handlers, strangers who happened to be walking down the road. In the ensuing noise and confusion, one man threw a shell down the barrel of one mortar without bothering to wait for a previous shell, a misfire, to come out; fortunately - it was that kind of an evening - no damages were incurred. It had been a long night, and the mission itself took five hours, but no one went to sleep, or bothered to dig in. Before the infantry called a halt to the mission, 306 HE and 21 WP had been fired.

In partial justification of the strangeness of the shoot, it ought to be remembered that not since the Sele River, more than a month past, had the men been able to fire a single round. During that period they had packed and packed and unpacked the mortars, cleaned them, man-handled or dragged them into many impossible positions, most of the time ungrudgingly. This mission at Dragoni was the first chance in a long time to throw shells finally at the people really responsible for all that had gone before.

Two days later, the company got another chance, but this time, unfortunately, under much less favorable circumstances. The 3rd Division wanted to move its artillery to new positions up the road, but to do this had to use a stretch of the road between Dragoni and Baia Latima that was under direct German observation from the hills across the Voltumo. Company C was called upon to maintain a smoke screen on the other side of the river to cover the movement.

To reach the target it was necessary to put the guns ahead of the front line, and the only suitable position was a flat, grassy, grape-arbor near Latima which afforded ample concealment but no cover whatsoever. It was decided to use only six of the eight guns; even these had to be jammed too close together in the area. The mission was to begin at dawn.

The men moved in that night under cover of darkness, set up the guns, dug themselves in, and brought some 1500 rounds of ammunition along a sunken road that ran in back of the position. Next morning, from 0700 to 1130 hours, they fired more than 500 rounds of WP under the worse firing conditions they had yet encountered. Because the ground was so soft and the volume of the fire so great, it was difficult, and at times impossible, to keep all the guns in action. Parts had to be continually interchanged among guns, until at the end of the mission, only two guns were left to keep up the screen, and even these were firing from three-foot pits dug by the guns themselves in recoiling.

Worst of all, German artillery had begun looking for the mortars from almost the first rounds fired. All day long, even after the smoke mission had been completed, their guns kept up a stream of harassing fire. One man, PFC Sanford Shapiro, was killed while at the gun position, and six others were wounded, three of them seriously, and evacuated. The figure would certainly have been higher had there not been such a high number of defective rounds among the German shells; every time a nearby round failed to detonate, the men from their foxholes would shout fervent thanks to the Czechs still working at Skoda.

After Latima, the company returned for a week's rest to the vicinity of Dragoni where it received its first batch of replacements (9), and was attached to the 180th Regiment, 45th Division. The 45th had been resting briefly after crossing the Volturno and taking Piedmonte d'Alife and Sam Gregorio; now it was to take over the central sector between the 3rd and 34th Divisions, with Venafro as the first big objective.

Before Venafro, however, there were still mountains to get over. Company C moved out in trucks on November 1 to help the 180th get over them. From Piedmonte d'Alife, northeast through tortuous mountains for about 15 miles, until at 0530 hours on November 3 the trucks crossed the Volturno (for the company's third time), and hit the main Highway #85, some eight miles south of Venafro.

The infantry that night requested fire on a town near Sesto Campano which, by its strategic position almost astride the highway running through the valley into Venafro might hold up the advance of our infantry once they had broken into the valley. To get into firing position the 2nd platoon went by trucks part of the way up the highway, transferred to jeeps to get up the narrow, twisting road to Sesto Campano, about 300 meters up the side of Mount Calvello, and then began to negotiate the last steep lap to the mortar position by hand-carry. By dawn, some six hours later, the men were still working the way up their rocky path, still in no position to fire. The mission, therefore, was called off; as it turned out, the infantry took the town without opposition.

The instance is elaborated only because it was the supreme example at the time of the peculiar kind of back-breaking futility that the company was to experience time and again in the mountains of the Winter and the Gothic Lines. In the two months since the landing there had been many moves and several fruitless mortar positions, but not until the mountains did it become clear to the men concerned that the 4.2 was a weapon with special capabilities and special limitations. Before that lesson was completely learned by the officers � infantry, artillery, and our own � responsible for he use and deployment of the mortars, there were to be many more instances of waste.

The winter line

Venafro was taken by the 1st Bn, 180th Infantry, the evening of November 6. In support, Company C's mortar platoons were ordered to move up into the northwest section of the town, the 1st platoon by carts cross-country through the valley for about four miles, the 2nd platoon first by carts, then by trucks up Highway #85. The general situation was confused and tense. The infantry had managed to clean out the town (except for isolated snipers in the eastern section who continued to fire for days afterwards), but north of the town in the mountain mass, they had run abruptly into strongly fortified German positions, and had been unable to penetrate further. That was the German Winter Line, although few of the men were aware of it at that time.

Venafro was taken by the 1st Bn, 180th Infantry, the evening of November 6. In support, Company C's mortar platoons were ordered to move up into the northwest section of the town, the 1st platoon by carts cross-country through the valley for about four miles, the 2nd platoon first by carts, then by trucks up Highway #85. The general situation was confused and tense. The infantry had managed to clean out the town (except for isolated snipers in the eastern section who continued to fire for days afterwards), but north of the town in the mountain mass, they had run abruptly into strongly fortified German positions, and had been unable to penetrate further. That was the German Winter Line, although few of the men were aware of it at that time.

Venafro was a front-line town that night, and for several days afterwards. No sooner had Company C's vehicles jammed into the outskirts of town with weapons carriers, half-tracks, anti-tank weapons, etc., of other outfits than a heavy German barrage fell into what was supposed to be the truck-park, causing many casualties among the infantry who were already there, but none among Company C, fortunately still 200 yards away. When the men scattered, on orders into the hills, some of them found themselves unexpectedly the next morning in the path of an American combat patrol, making its way carefully up the face of the rocky hill to capture a German machine-gun nest only 200 yards up. The next night the 2nd platoon and elements of the 1st platoon were hurried, through mined areas that were not swept until several days later, into a gap on the left flank of the town to serve as infantry until the 3rd Bn, 180th Regt., could come up four hours later. Needless to say, they were the longest four hours most of the men had ever spent; none of them had ever had infantry training, most of them were still officially non-combatants with glasses to match, and there were two bazookas but only one shell between them to ward off expected tank thrusts.

By the next morning the situation had been clarified considerably, but was no less tense. Almost all the high ground to the north and west was German. Directly to the north and only about 2,000 yards away, was a rugged cliff, Mt. San Croce, known variously by the men who fought for it as Holy Cross Mountain and Iron Mt. Slightly west was Mount Como (1053 meters) and another red-faced cliff, Hill 1205, in both of which the Germans had prepared positions - bunkers, dugouts, etc. It was at those prepared positions on Mt. Corno that the 1st platoon fired the company's first direct-laying missions. In five days the platoon fired 387 HE and 33 WP, which in at least one verified instance were effective in driving a German OP party from their holes.

There was much retaliatory fire, of course, and in one instance, an attack by a German plane, but neither platoon positions, situated tight against ledges in the vicinity of the Venafro church, was hit directly. When the company was relieved by the entire 83rd Cml Bn on the nights of November 10 and 11, it emerged from Venafro in about the same shape as it had entered, with two notable exceptions: 1) To continued German artillery fire on the truck park, it had lost two trucks containing 550 rounds of ammunition and the commanding officer's bedroll (two men were later awarded Bronze Stars for heroism in getting other vehicles out of the park while the ammunition was burning); and 2) The men had their first winter equipment, brand-new "Long Johns," which they had lost no time in donning, with only a passing thought to possible profanation, inside the church.

After three days in reserve, the company, now supporting the 2nd Bn, 180th, set up positions about 1,000 yards east of Ceppagna, a little village cradled in the hills two miles west of Venafro. Ceppagna was literally the high water mark in the company's history. The rains, which formerly had been mostly intermittent, now came down steadily, day after day; of the first 13 days the company remained in that position, it poured ten. The men lived in the rain, ate in the rain and slept in the rain. There were no available houses nearby, and holes and clothes, once wet, rarely got a chance to dry out.

The best picture of the situation is shown in the casualty reports for the period: out of 23 men hospitalized from November 13 to December 13, only six were battle casualties; the rest were either influenza, cold or trench-foot cases. Towards the end, it was necessary to use truck-drivers as mortar men in order to keep squads functioning.

The 1st platoon was set up in an olive-grove, which provided some concealment from enemy fire from Concacasale and Radicosa. In that position, the guns remained for 31 days, firing more than 1,200 HE and 400 WP at various targets: a supply line atop a ridge, enemy personnel and emplacements, a counterattack which the platoon and the 83rd Cml Bn helped to turn back.

But the target everyone remembers best was known simply as Rudolph. Rudolph was an observer who, like most German observers in Italy, was situated in an impregnable prepared cave atop a mountain commanding all the valley approaches. He could be seen easily on occasion � whenever the sun came out, he would sun himself � but hit, never. The 4.2s tried it almost daily, and when they wearied, they would mark it for nearby TDs that came up every afternoon for a crack. 57s shot at him and 105s, and doubtless many other caliber weapons. But after all the shooting was over, Rudolph could still emerge for his sun bath; not until his position was outflanked did he pull out. Then it was discovered that his winter home was not only strong, but also, sumptuous: inside the reinforced cave were living accommodations for as many as 18 men, and rations to feed them for three months.

Meanwhile, the 2nd platoon, although firing only one brief night mission from another olive-grove 200 yards west, was having trouble of its own and making company history of it. On a pouring Thanksgiving Day, two squads of the platoon hitched mortar and ammunition carts to mules, and, aided by make-shift mule skinners conscripted from the rest of the platoon, took the company's first mule train through the town of Ceppagna to the mountains north. There they set up for a mission to support a special Ranger attack. Half an hour later, without firing a round (because the platoon had been detached in mid-mission) the men re-hitched the carts to the mules and threaded their way back to the starting area. The rain was still pouring down.

Ceppagna for Company C was the epitome of the struggle at the Winter Line: endless rains, ceaseless battering against dishearteningly strong German positions, countless unproductive moves and missions. After Ceppagna for the 2nd platoon came Rocca Pipirozzi where it took over Company B's positions Thanksgiving night in support of the 2nd Bn, 180th Regt. The platoon remained there for 16 days in a defensive position, firing only briefly; the 1st platoon meanwhile remained at Ceppagna. Then on December 14 the platoons moved separately northeast of Venafro with the 180th Regt to several positions in the vicinity of Traverecce and Filignano. There in a ten-day period memorable chiefly for the lack of transportation, a big pre-Christmas mail call, and the company's first casualties (two) from mines, the mortars fired approximately 350 rounds into the German mountains.

On December 24 and 25 the platoons moved into what were to be their last positions in the mountains of Southern Italy, their first in the snow. The 1st platoon went by mule into a deep, sheltered gully near Concacasale; the 2nd platoon moved by jeep and hand-carry up the road, split into two sections, one immediately off the road, the other part way up the mountain. From those positions they fired more than 1,000 rounds on pillboxes, personnel, OPs, situated in Acquafondala and on Mts. Molino and Rotondo, and the 2nd platoon suffered two casualties, one of them serious. On January 4, the French took over the sector, and the company was relieved to return with the battalion to the Naples area.

Because the 4.2 was a comparatively untried weapon which had to be learned about slowly, and in the course of battle, it is worthwhile here perhaps to mention some of the problems the company encountered that first winter. There were the usual difficulties that plagued every outfit in Italy - the rain, the mud, flooded streams, washed-out bridges and roads, etc. But there were also difficulties peculiar to the weapon and to the way it was found necessary to use it.

One of the greatest was keeping the mortars in effective action. In the mud and rain-soaked ground of the valleys and on the snow and rocky surfaces in the mountains, it was many times impossible to build a suitable foundation for the base plate. As a result, especially when firing at extreme ranges, baseplates, standards and even barrels suffered broken parts; in the last position in the mountains, for example, breakages were a daily occurrence, putting guns out of action all that day because the road over which parts could be brought up was under observation.

Wet powder bundles, too � because they came packed only in cardboard ice-cream containers it was impossible to keep them completely dry � resulted in many potentially dangerous short rounds.

The problem of sickness that winter was a peculiar off-shoot of the way in which the company was forced to operate. From November 1 � the time the company was committed with the 180th Regt � until relief came on January 4, the mortar platoons were on the line for 65 successive days at the height of the rainy season. During that period there had, unfortunately, been no positions near houses, so that the men had to live in holes or in tents. At that time, there was no system of intra-company relief; complete squads and headquarters sections remained at all times, with only a small number, beginning the last week in November, leaving irregularly for passes to Naples. Adequate winter clothing arrived too late to be of much use in the mountains. Not until Christmas Day were galoshes and combat suits issued to the gun crews and even then, there were not enough to take care of all the men.

Finally, the forward units had to go for too long a period without kitchen-cooked hot food. At the Sele River and in the chase north, the company kitchen had remained, understandably, with the company rear, the men with the forward units being issued C and K rations, and, rarely, 5-in-ls. When the early rains at Ceppagna came, however, it was apparent that the men would have to be given hot food to supplement that diet, but a variety of reasons made regular feeding by the kitchen impossible. The gun positions were usually under observation, limiting movement to the nighttime by the kitchen crew over secondary roads and by-passes that made travel at night a dubious operation. From Ceppagna on, the platoons mostly had separate gun positions, and at times, within the platoons the sections were separated by mountains, necessitating at least two different feeding operations.

The kitchen crew attempted two meals per day per platoon at Ceppagna, cut it down to one when the 2nd platoon at Rocca Pipirozzi was separated still further from the other platoons, and dropped the matter completely after less than a month demonstrated that no satisfactory system could be worked out. The forward units went back to K-rations, except for the three holiday season meals that were brought up sooner or later, and more or less hot. Needless to say, those meals were eagerly anticipated events. Towards the conclusion of their stay in the mountains, many of the men contracted "K-ration stomach," a psychological condition in which the diseased individual has nightmares that he is surrounded by menacing mountains of yellow cheese, and even the packaged cigarettes get thrown away.

By January 4, Company C had been in the line continuously � except for brief periods of changing attachments � 119 days. In that time it had fired more than 3500 rounds and had suffered 20 battle casualties: 2 dead and 18 wounded. When relief came, the men were about ready for it. Venafro was a front-line town that night, and for several days afterwards. No sooner had Company C's vehicles jammed into the outskirts of town with weapons carriers, half-tracks, anti-tank weapons, etc., of other outfits than a heavy German barrage fell into what was supposed to be the truck-park, causing many casualties among the infantry who were already there, but none among Company C, fortunately still 200 yards away. When the men scattered, on orders into the hills, some of them found themselves unexpectedly the next morning in the path of an American combat patrol, making its way carefully up the face of the rocky hill to capture a German machine-gun nest only 200 yards up. The next night the 2nd platoon and elements of the 1st platoon were hurried, through mined areas that were not swept until several days later, into a gap on the left flank of the town to serve as infantry until the 3rd Bn, 180th Regt., could come up four hours later. Needless to say, they were the longest four hours most of the men had ever spent; none of them had ever had infantry training, most of them were still officially non-combatants with glasses to match, and there were two bazookas but only one shell between them to ward off expected tank thrusts.

By the next morning the situation had been clarified considerably, but was no less tense. Almost all the high ground to the north and west was German. Directly to the north and only about 2,000 yards away, was a rugged cliff, Mt. San Croce, known variously by the men who fought for it as Holy Cross Mountain and Iron Mt. Slightly west was Mount Como (1053 meters) and another red-faced cliff, Hill 1205, in both of which the Germans had prepared positions - bunkers, dugouts, etc. It was at those prepared positions on Mt. Corno that the 1st platoon fired the company's first direct-laying missions. In five days the platoon fired 387 HE and 33 WP, which in at least one verified instance were effective in driving a German OP party from their holes.

There was much retaliatory fire, of course, and in one instance, an attack by a German plane, but neither platoon positions, situated tight against ledges in the vicinity of the Venafro church, was hit directly. When the company was relieved by the entire 83rd Cml Bn on the nights of November 10 and 11, it emerged from Venafro in about the same shape as it had entered, with two notable exceptions: 1) To continued German artillery fire on the truck park, it had lost two trucks containing 550 rounds of ammunition and the commanding officer's bedroll (two men were later awarded Bronze Stars for heroism in getting other vehicles out of the park while the ammunition was burning); and 2) The men had their first winter equipment, brand-new "Long Johns," which they had lost no time in donning, with only a passing thought to possible profanation, inside the church.

After three days in reserve, the company, now supporting the 2nd Bn, 180th, set up positions about 1,000 yards east of Ceppagna, a little village cradled in the hills two miles west of Venafro. Ceppagna was literally the high water mark in the company's history. The rains, which formerly had been mostly intermittent, now came down steadily, day after day; of the first 13 days the company remained in that position, it poured ten. The men lived in the rain, ate in the rain and slept in the rain. There were no available houses nearby, and holes and clothes, once wet, rarely got a chance to dry out.

The best picture of the situation is shown in the casualty reports for the period: out of 23 men hospitalized from November 13 to December 13, only six were battle casualties; the rest were either influenza, cold or trench-foot cases. Towards the end, it was necessary to use truck-drivers as mortar men in order to keep squads functioning.

The 1st platoon was set up in an olive-grove, which provided some concealment from enemy fire from Concacasale and Radicosa. In that position, the guns remained for 31 days, firing more than 1,200 HE and 400 WP at various targets: a supply line atop a ridge, enemy personnel and emplacements, a counterattack which the platoon and the 83rd Cml Bn helped to turn back.

But the target everyone remembers best was known simply as Rudolph. Rudolph was an observer who, like most German observers in Italy, was situated in an impregnable prepared cave atop a mountain commanding all the valley approaches. He could be seen easily on occasion � whenever the sun came out, he would sun himself � but hit, never. The 4.2s tried it almost daily, and when they wearied, they would mark it for nearby TDs that came up every afternoon for a crack. 57s shot at him and 105s, and doubtless many other caliber weapons. But after all the shooting was over, Rudolph could still emerge for his sun bath; not until his position was outflanked did he pull out. Then it was discovered that his winter home was not only strong, but also, sumptuous: inside the reinforced cave were living accommodations for as many as 18 men, and rations to feed them for three months.

Meanwhile, the 2nd platoon, although firing only one brief night mission from another olive-grove 200 yards west, was having trouble of its own and making company history of it. On a pouring Thanksgiving Day, two squads of the platoon hitched mortar and ammunition carts to mules, and, aided by make-shift mule skinners conscripted from the rest of the platoon, took the company's first mule train through the town of Ceppagna to the mountains north. There they set up for a mission to support a special Ranger attack. Half an hour later, without firing a round (because the platoon had been detached in mid-mission) the men re-hitched the carts to the mules and threaded their way back to the starting area. The rain was still pouring down.

Ceppagna for Company C was the epitome of the struggle at the Winter Line: endless rains, ceaseless battering against dishearteningly strong German positions, countless unproductive moves and missions. After Ceppagna for the 2nd platoon came Rocca Pipirozzi where it took over Company B's positions Thanksgiving night in support of the 2nd Bn, 180th Regt. The platoon remained there for 16 days in a defensive position, firing only briefly; the 1st platoon meanwhile remained at Ceppagna. Then on December 14 the platoons moved separately northeast of Venafro with the 180th Regt to several positions in the vicinity of Traverecce and Filignano. There in a ten-day period memorable chiefly for the lack of transportation, a big pre-Christmas mail call, and the company's first casualties (two) from mines, the mortars fired approximately 350 rounds into the German mountains.

On December 24 and 25 the platoons moved into what were to be their last positions in the mountains of Southern Italy, their first in the snow. The 1st platoon went by mule into a deep, sheltered gully near Concacasale; the 2nd platoon moved by jeep and hand-carry up the road, split into two sections, one immediately off the road, the other part way up the mountain. From those positions they fired more than 1,000 rounds on pillboxes, personnel, OPs, situated in Acquafondala and on Mts. Molino and Rotondo, and the 2nd platoon suffered two casualties, one of them serious. On January 4, the French took over the sector, and the company was relieved to return with the battalion to the Naples area.

Because the 4.2 was a comparatively untried weapon which had to be learned about slowly, and in the course of battle, it is worthwhile here perhaps to mention some of the problems the company encountered that first winter. There were the usual difficulties that plagued every outfit in Italy - the rain, the mud, flooded streams, washed-out bridges and roads, etc. But there were also difficulties peculiar to the weapon and to the way it was found necessary to use it.

One of the greatest was keeping the mortars in effective action. In the mud and rain-soaked ground of the valleys and on the snow and rocky surfaces in the mountains, it was many times impossible to build a suitable foundation for the base plate. As a result, especially when firing at extreme ranges, baseplates, standards and even barrels suffered broken parts; in the last position in the mountains, for example, breakages were a daily occurrence, putting guns out of action all that day because the road over which parts could be brought up was under observation.

Wet powder bundles, too � because they came packed only in cardboard ice-cream containers it was impossible to keep them completely dry � resulted in many potentially dangerous short rounds.

The problem of sickness that winter was a peculiar off-shoot of the way in which the company was forced to operate. From November 1 � the time the company was committed with the 180th Regt � until relief came on January 4, the mortar platoons were on the line for 65 successive days at the height of the rainy season. During that period there had, unfortunately, been no positions near houses, so that the men had to live in holes or in tents. At that time, there was no system of intra-company relief; complete squads and headquarters sections remained at all times, with only a small number, beginning the last week in November, leaving irregularly for passes to Naples. Adequate winter clothing arrived too late to be of much use in the mountains. Not until Christmas Day were galoshes and combat suits issued to the gun crews and even then, there were not enough to take care of all the men.

Finally, the forward units had to go for too long a period without kitchen-cooked hot food. At the Sele River and in the chase north, the company kitchen had remained, understandably, with the company rear, the men with the forward units being issued C and K rations, and, rarely, 5-in-ls. When the early rains at Ceppagna came, however, it was apparent that the men would have to be given hot food to supplement that diet, but a variety of reasons made regular feeding by the kitchen impossible. The gun positions were usually under observation, limiting movement to the nighttime by the kitchen crew over secondary roads and by-passes that made travel at night a dubious operation. From Ceppagna on, the platoons mostly had separate gun positions, and at times, within the platoons the sections were separated by mountains, necessitating at least two different feeding operations.

The kitchen crew attempted two meals per day per platoon at Ceppagna, cut it down to one when the 2nd platoon at Rocca Pipirozzi was separated still further from the other platoons, and dropped the matter completely after less than a month demonstrated that no satisfactory system could be worked out. The forward units went back to K-rations, except for the three holiday season meals that were brought up sooner or later, and more or less hot. Needless to say, those meals were eagerly anticipated events. Towards the conclusion of their stay in the mountains, many of the men contracted "K-ration stomach," a psychological condition in which the diseased individual has nightmares that he is surrounded by menacing mountains of yellow cheese, and even the packaged cigarettes get thrown away.

By January 4, Company C had been in the line continuously � except for brief periods of changing attachments � 119 days. In that time it had fired more than 3500 rounds and had suffered 20 battle casualties: 2 dead and 18 wounded. When relief came, the men were about ready for it.


The Naples rest-area had a non-Kosher appearance about it from the start. The battalion had come back attached to the 3rd Division, and the 3rd Division for two months had been off the line training for a special mission. The men began thinking they, too, had been selected for another landing when Major General Truscott, then commanding general of the 3rd Division, came around one morning to inspect the area. When guide books to art centers in Northern Italy were passed around, they were sure of it.

The only question was where the amphibious forces would hit. The men had not much time, however, to speculate. At 0600 hours, January 20, after exactly 15 days "rest," Company C moved out to hike 6 miles to an assembly area. At 1200 hours they closed by truck to the Naples docks; by 1700 hours they were all over LST #216.

On board ship the nature of the mission was explained. The assault waves, after securing the beaches against what G-2 said would be only light opposition, were to strike out, cut Highway #7, ultimately seize the high ground of Colle Laziali and Monte Lepini, and then set up a defensive line with barbed wire, mine fields, 4.2s, etc. By establishing such a threat to the German's rear communications, it was believed that the enemy would be forced to withdraw enough divisions from his southern front to allow our forces to break through and make a junction with the beachhead. Meanwhile, the beachhead forces were to contain anything the Germans threw at them. They had been told bluntly not to expect any reinforcements for at least three days. Even on paper the plan made the men uneasy.

Anzio for Company C was the supreme justification of its mortars. Heretofore although there had been many tactically important missions, the general effectiveness of the weapon had been obscured considerably by extreme difficulties of transportation and terrain, and by a constantly changing tactical situation. Now on the beachhead, with no great transportation and terrain problem and a tactical situation that was stable and well-defined, the guns had their first real opportunity to demonstrate their effectiveness and versatility.

That they lost no time in doing so is indicated by the records. From January 22 (D-Day) to May 23 when the breakout of the beachhead came, Company C fired 16,659 HE and 3,783 WP, or almost six times the number of rounds fired during the preceding four months. No German target within 4,500 yards (the new M-6 propellant had arrived) escaped scot-free � neither command cars coming off Highway #7, nor battalion CPs (German and Italian), nor ammunition and fuel dumps, gun emplacements, dugouts, half-tracks, flak-wagons, mortar positions, SP guns, tanks, haystacks, machine-guns, 20mm. guns, barbed-wire entanglements, pillboxes, AT guns, nor even individual snipers. One day the guns might be involved in pumping hurried fire at an enemy counterattack; the next, in a calm destruction, round by round, of German-held houses. Only rarely was there need to fire the familiar, prosaic smoke screen in support of infantry or tank movements. For the mortar men, it was a brand new deal.

LST-216 dropped anchor off shore some two miles east of Anzio shortly after dawn on January 22, but as at Salerno, Company C's landing was delayed many hours. The assault waves had met only negligible opposition; they had Anzio and Nettuno four hours after hitting the beaches. But because LSTs could not move in past the long sandbar, and because only one of the two original landing ramps was operating (the other had been hit earlier by bombs), the entire unloading schedule had been set back.

By 1745 hours when the men, this time carrying nothing but their rifles and belts, began wading ashore from the ramp, they had been on what they called Large, Slow Target 216 about 60 hours, subjected to several air alerts, three actual raids, and a too near miss. Yet the measure of how far they had come from Salerno may be suggested by the fact that some of them during the unloading sat down calmly at the ramp's edge, took off shoes and stockings and rolled up their combat pants before stepping into the sea.

In the confusion of landing in approaching darkness, the company became split up, one section undergoing a wild march miles past the bivouac area to, unsuspectingly, within a few thousand yards of the fluid front-line. But before the night's end, the entire company plus equipment had bedded down in the battalion area.

The company remained in reserve for three days at the 3rd Division bivouac area about a mile inland, one of the few screened wooded areas on the beachhead. On the afternoon of January 25 the platoons moved out in support of the 1st and 3rd Battalions, 504th Parachute Regt., to take up positions along the extreme right flank of the beachhead.

It was beginning to appear already that operations were not proceeding as planned, and that the beachhead was involuntarily contracting. On the right flank, a paratrooper patrol, probing German defenses in Littoria, had been forced to turn back because of unsuspected armored strength in the town; and Littoria was still 3� miles from strategic Highway #7, and six miles from the high ground that was the ultimate objective.

Instead of attempting to move forward, it was decided that the 504th, then attached to the 3rd Division, set up a temporary defense line running roughly along the Mussolini Canal from the point it emptied into the sea, some eight miles south of Nettuno, northward approximately five to six miles. Minefields were planted, barbed-wire entanglements emplaced on the east side of the canal, and the 4.2s called upon to move into defensive position. The 1st platoon set up in an irrigation ditch, suffered two casualties (one evacuated) that first day, and were almost washed away by rains during the next few days. The 2nd platoon, split into two sections about a mile apart for maximum coverage, set up its guns near four different houses - the first such fortunate positions that the company had encountered in Italy. From those positions in the next five days the company fired more than 400 rounds over the Canal at tanks and other vehicles, gun emplacements, possible routes of approach.

With the Germans holding all the high ground to the east and north, and our defensive line necessarily spread so thinly, it was a potentially dangerous situation. But despite the fact that some of the mortars were only 500 yards to the rear of the infantry positions along the Canal, within easy sight and rifle-range, the men spent a relatively quiet five days. There were two moments of great uneasiness: when a German night-bomber, pursued by a Beau-fighter. jettisoned his load close enough to one of the houses to shake chunks of plaster upon the sleeping men; and when rumors began to filter through of the capture or destruction of two entire Ranger battalions at Cisterna. Otherwise, things were quiet with that deceptive quiet that gripped most of the beachhead; apparently the Germans were as busy building up forces as we were.

When elements of the recently arrived 45th Division took over the defense of the flank on January 31, the main strength of the 504th was shifted slightly north to take part in a Corps attack to cut off Highway #7. Company C's mortar platoons went with the 1st and 2nd Battalions. It was a situation reminiscent of Venafro in its touchiness and confusion. The paratroopers had met little opposition in their fight to the Canal, but once across, they had run into strongly entrenched Germans, tanks and personnel, in the ground before Highway #7, and were forced to dig in. Meanwhile, the mortar platoons had come up at night in trucks past the ground the paratroopers had taken that afternoon, and emplaced their mortars, one or two to a house, in back of houses along "Red-Top Road," which ran parallel to the Canal, only 500 yards from it and less than a mile of mostly flat-land from the still undetermined front-line.

Before the night was over, the abundance of enemy small-arms fire spraying the area made establishing mortar positions there definitely inadvisable. The 2nd platoon fell back that same night some 800 yards to other houses along a road running east and west into Red-Top Road; the 1st platoon followed the next night, taking up positions in two houses directly to the right of the 2nd platoon.

As it turned out, the 1st platoon pulled back at the only available time left them. The men moved into the new positions at 1830 hours; at 2330 hours they were firing to break up a counterattack. The 1st Battalion, 504th Regt., had been forced back to the Canal, and before it had adequate opportunity to set up strong defensive positions, was attacked again by a superior German force which threatened to sweep across Red-Top Road. According to the 1st Bn commanding officer, only the promptness and accuracy of the more than 200 rounds expended by the platoon turned back the threat.

Now, eleven days after the landing, it was clear that to attempt to drive further inland with the limited number of troops available would endanger the entire beachhead. The Germans by this time had managed to build up numerical superiority � 98,000 troops to our own 92,000 � and worst of all, they had done it without drawing more than a division and one half from the Southern front. It was apparent that the Germans were preparing to erase the beachhead. There was nothing for Allied troops to do but dig in for the storm.

The line-up for the defense of the right flank running north and south from Cisterna to the sea had the 3rd Division on the left, the 504th Regt. in the center, and the 1st Special Service Force on the right. Company C's mortars were part of the uneasy thumb stuck out in the center, approximately four miles due south of Cisterna. The 1st platoon set up its OP in the Mussolini Canal, alongside the infantry positions; the 2nd platoon OP party remained in the house on Red-Top Road it had occupied the night the platoon had first moved into the sector.

Both guns and OPs were to remain in those positions � after the 2nd platoon squads had been driven several days later by shell-fire from houses on one side of the road to less vulnerable houses on the other � for more than three months.

The billiard-table appearance of the beachhead, with the Germans holding all the rails, posed immediate special problems for the mortar men. Monti Lepini stared down permanently from the east and the Colle Laziale mass from the north. Defilade once again became something to be dug, and concealment mostly a wishful dream. The men did what they could. The mortars were emplaced in entrances to barns, in corrals, in outdoor bake ovens, and disguised as supplementary manure piles and tool racks. The ammunition was stacked in out-buildings. In those first days pits in most cases were not feasible, because water was only one foot below ground level.

The first weeks in February were tense. More artillery and mortar shells than the men had ever heard previously fell daily in the fields on all sides of, the mortars, or accurately interdicted the roads running along the positions. "Screaming-meemies" and "Barking-dog" (rocket) projectiles made their first appearance at times in the mortars' own backyards. German planes would come in low during the day to strafe or take pictures, and at night to drop anti-personnel bombs and propaganda leaflets. Small-arms fire across the roads and flat fields, although undirected in most instances, was nevertheless a constant source of danger, often hitting the houses and coming through the screen doors.

Unlike Salerno. the almost constant alerts at Anzio seemed always credible, indeed too much so. Defensive measures were continually being taken within sight of the mortar positions: mine fields and barbed-wire entanglements planted in the adjacent fields by engineers; dynamite set under the road-bridge 500 yards up the road, and a guard there 24 hours a day; a thin, strung-out secondary line of infantry in a ditch 200 yards in front of the mortar positions. When an alert for enemy tanks was announced, it was possible from the guns to see the tanks moving slowly along Highway #7. Enemy parachutists were something else again, but the guards stationed in front of each house were less interested in them or in foot-patrols than in watching for our own signal flares. Three reds, followed by three greens meant the start of a general retreat along the line and Company C was ready to start at any time. "Where are the transports?" was the standing joke, delivered wryly but also bitterly.

That peculiar psychological state of one-foot-on-the-beach-one foot-in-the-water was intensified not a little by the tremendous concentration of defensive power that gradually accumulated in each of the houses. The nature of the struggle and the terrain made such concentration inevitable; in a short time every house in the sector became a miniature fortress. In the first weeks of February, for example, one house had two 4.2 mortars and a 57mm. anti-tank gun dug in immediately outside, and inside, two heavy machine-guns, one BAR, two bazookas, two rifle-grenade launchers, assorted grenades, and at one time, 35 men and their various small-arms. Other houses had one and sometimes two tanks parked outside, along with 81mm. mortars, and their complete crews lived inside.

It was, of course, a comforting array of strength to the mortar-men, but at the same time, somewhat disconcerting. It meant that for the first time in their combat history, they were being committed to an indefinite defensive stand necessitated not by weather or terrain conditions primarily, but by the temporarily unalterable fact that the Germans simply had the superior strength in the battle. That was a novel situation for American troops, and not at all a pleasant one.

The first great German thrusts came early in February. Everyone knew they were coming; the men had been cautioned for days to sleep with their shoes on. On the paratrooper sector the attack struck just before dawn � the favorite German hour apparently for counterattacks � on February 11. The enemy left no doubt as to his intentions. He started out with only a short preparatory barrage, but brought up several Flak wagons � half-tracks mounting batteries of 20mm. guns � and began sweeping the fields, lofting tracers against the front-sides of every house in the sector that faced the Canal. Then he began pouring troops towards the 504th's positions in the ditch running into the canal, with the main thrust coming down into the 2nd platoon's mortars' zone of fire.

The first two gun crews of the platoon to go into action did so, because of the hail of 20mm. on their hands and knees. In the first half-hour, however, according to the paratroopers' commanding officer, they built up enough of a smoke-screen, punctuated with HE, to slow up the German attack to a point where our small-arms fire could be most devastating. The platoon was later given credit for getting off the first effective fire on the counterattack, and one enlisted man at the OP was later awarded the Silver Star for directing that fire, and also heavier artillery fire against the attack.

The fire was kept up intermittently all day long by both platoons, and when the enemy mounted another thrust from a different point in the sector, it too was thrown back. By nightfall, the company had expended almost 650 rounds, next to the largest single day's fire it did on the beachhead.

That morning indicated to the mortar men a fortunate fact that more than anything else was to condition the rest of their stay on the beachhead: they had been assigned the defense of the sector most easily defended and least vulnerable to complete over-running by the enemy. The sector, cut by several wide ditches, was poor tank terrain. Tanks could be, and often were, brought up flush to the canal banks for firing, but could get across only over bridges that would have to be built up under observation. It was likely then that, however frequently the Germans would make thrusts in the sector, those thrusts would be essentially localized and diversionary in nature. The main blow would fall elsewhere.

On the 5th and 16th of February the attacks fell in the 45th Division and the 509th Parachute Regt. sectors in the vicinity of Carano. On February 29 and again on March 4 and 5, the last great German attempts, on the 3rd Division near Cisterna. On these days and during that period, except for the local thrusts of Feb 1 and 11, already mentioned, Company C was involved only in what morning reports call "usual combat duties." The men could see and hear the excitement in the other sectors, but the actual military danger seldom penetrated to them.

Usual combat duties meant mostly firing an average of approximately 200 rounds a day every day that visibility permitted. Because of the nakedness of the positions and the vulnerability to small arms, no firing was done at night after the February 1 counterattack. The firing was directed mostly at targets of opportunity spotted by both infantry observers and the company's own. During its usual combat duties, Company C in the month of February fired 5,203 HE and 1,438 WP; in March, 4,298 HE and 1,191 WP; in April 4,753 HE and 719 WP; and in the first 16 days of May, 2,403 HE and 449 WP. In the early days on the beachhead the same problems encountered in the mountains in trying to keep the mortars in effective action cropped up again. The ground was mostly marshy, and the large volume of fire resulted in many broken parts. Various foundations were experimented with - crushed rock, reinforced logs, iron rods, tin cans and old clothes. Later, when it became evident that the mortars were to stay in the same positions for a long time, pits were dug, filled with sand trucked from the Nettuno beaches and circled with rows of protective sand-bags. Once those pits were completed, the mortars were able to keep firing, even at maximum ranges, with the minimum of inefficiency and broken parts.

Actually, because of the network of good roads leading from the rear areas into the mortars' backyards, replacing parts was never any great problem. Until German artillery ruled traffic off the roads during the daylight hours, new parts were often rushed to the mortar positions within an hour after the breakage had occurred. Otherwise they would be brought up the same night with the ammunition, rations and mail from the company CP, about three miles back.

The lack of any ammunition and food problems also deserves mention here in contrast to the difficulties experienced in the previous four months. The ammunition was mostly new. A combination of the newly-designed cellophane wrappers and of storage facilities in out-buildings kept the rounds dry and free from rust. Powder bundles and cartridges, too, packed now in tins, American and German, never gave any of the trouble that resulted the previous winter when it was at times impossible to keep them dry.

That food never became the issue it was in the mountains is indicated most simply by the fact that not once in the approximately 100 days that the gun crews were in firing position near Red-Top Road were they issued K-rations. 10-in-ls were the regular daily issue, and they were supplemented by many then unfamiliar products from official and unofficial sources. Officially, there was bread and doughnuts, pie, hamburger meat, occasionally turkey, that the kitchen would send up. Unofficially, there were � at the start, at any rate � unclaimed herds of cows, chickens and rabbits that were continually falling victims to enemy shell and small arms fire, and had to be destroyed. Milk (unpasteurized) came back into the diet; before long every house had its own cow, and titles of possession were often painted in bold, yellow letters, on the animal's sides lest she stroll into strange, ruthless territory. The novelty of milk wore off, however, late in April when the first beer ration arrived.

But if Company C's men ran into no great physical difficulties, they had to face a psychological one that was very real. Simply stated, it was the problem of boredom, how to keep interested in a military situation, essentially tedious to begin with, which would have to be endured for an indefinite period. The faces, too, remained always the same, and the houses. New people put in an appearance only infrequently - when attachments were changed; when an airman dropped in suddenly after bailing out of a "Liberator" that had been shot down while engaged in tactical bombing of the German counterattack in early March; when two CWS colonels visited the positions one day to see how the war was going; when on April 5 twenty-six new replacements, the company's largest single batch, arrived on the beachhead. The houses changed only by getting dirtier, and having parts of them chipped away from time to time by enemy fire.

It has already been noted that the men spent almost three and one-half months in positions near Red-Top Road. After the first uneasy weeks of German threats, life there settled down to a dull regular routine, almost civilian like in its schedule. In short, during that three and one-half month period most of the men lived � together with as many as 35 more men like them � in a world of three or four rooms with a brief plot of land surrounding. How they maintained sanity would in itself be an important psychological history of Anzio. Here it is only necessary to indicate some of the things that were done.

Men, for example, who in civilian life had never seen a barn became overnight gentlemen farmers, chicken fanciers, livestock handlers, rabbit breeders and, when the situation called for it, butchers.

Anyone who wanted a bicycle could find one in nearby houses, and in one instance even a German motorcycle was procured. One man set up a repair shop in an out-building and was soon swamped with work. Although movement was restricted during daylight hours, the roads were alive with night-riders.

Every house had a pin-up collection � including the latest in German propaganda art � that gradually ate up all the wall-space, and was good at any time for two hours of discussion. And a strange new fillup was added: tired of writing the usual correspondents, some men wrote exclusively to feminine unknowns informing them of a special local pin-up contest that had only two eligibility requirements: a picture, preferably daring, and a five-pound package, preferably chocolates. The entries did not pour in.

There were card-playing and dice. of course. but many of the men, experimenting with their own corn-likker distilled from corn-mash and sweetened with all the available hard-candy, preferred to drink themselves into oblivion, which ordinarily took less time. Others, confronted by large stores of potatoes and flour, took up cooking and soon were specializing in spaghetti and an Old World dish known simply as "lotkehs."

One squad found an ancient Italian-made typewriter and began punching out a daily gossip sheet complete with cartoons and entitled, appropriately, The Manure Pile. Another broadcast regular programs of recorded music to front-line infantry and as far back as division CPs. That was done by means of a discovered Italian victrola, acquired American and Italian records, and a communications arrangement that enabled most of the switchboards in the sector to plug in when the military situation was quiet.

And when Spring came to Anzio there was a miniature golf-course erected within a ten-yard square in back of one of the houses, and often riotous ballgames that spilled across the roads and were broken up only after anguished complaints from higher headquarters. By that time, it may be gathered, most of the men were past caring. By that time, too, the problem of boredom had been recognized officially and some counter-measures taken. Two men went home on rotation, last November's quota. Passes to Caserta were begun. In the middle of March a 3rd Division rear rest-area was set up to which Company C men could, if they wished, repair for a brief period for clean clothes, movies, kitchen-cooked food, and talks on morale. A battalion rest-area was also established, and on April 4, the company prepared its own rest-house, only some 3 miles back as the shells flew, but which offered an opportunity to see new faces and move about.

Yet � and this is what civilians will never be able to believe, nor indeed many soldiers to understand � many of the men had to be ordered from the line to go back to the rest areas in order to fill quotas. For all things considered, the last two months at Anzio were a strange but relatively pleasant life. There had been casualties, of course, but most of them had been accidental, not the result of enemy fire. On February 1 a tree-burst of a 4.2 mortar shell, the first in the company's history, near one of the 1st platoon gun-pits resulted in the death of one man, PFC Dominic Pirolli, and the wounding of seven more, six of them seriously enough to be evacuated. On February 21 two night barrages by friendly roving SP guns into one of the 2nd platoon houses, wounded three more mortar men, two of them seriously.

Actually. enemy fire during the period January 22-May 16 caused only six minor casualties, an amazingly low figure considering that approximately 100 of those 116 days had been spent in one open position firing almost daily. It will always be a mystery to the men why the Germans allowed the houses in that left-flank central sector to stand. There was a good deal of artillery fire, heavy and light, falling all around the houses, and some of it inside. But only in a few instances did the fire seem observed and concentrated on the houses. The 2nd platoon OP was accurately hit many times and there is reason to believe, according to papers found later on a German officer in Cisterna, that the enemy knew of our OP there.

Most of the time, German fire would simply sweep the fields and ditches or fall on the roads. That meant difficult and dangerous work for communications men - for the execution of which two men were later awarded Bronze Stars - but a relatively safe existence for the men as long as they stayed in the houses. Even so, some of them constructed dugouts, underneath the rear walk of the houses to which they could go during intensive shelling, and even the laziest members of one house began sand-bagging an exposed wall on the 104th day of their stay there, two days before the company was relieved.

When Company B came up the night of May 16 to relieve them, Company C men returned to the battalion rest area with perhaps understandable sadness. In the houses they were leaving they had become the oldest living inhabitants of the sector � "Part of the terrain," as one staff officer put it � outlasting attachments to the three battalions of the 504th Parachute Regiment (who were sufficiently grateful to commend the company in writing), the 4th Ranger Bn., the 1st SSF, and two regiments of the 34th Division. In those houses, too, they had realized that, in comparison with the difficulties of weather and terrain of last winter in the mountains, they had "never had it so good." Now they were leaving, and it was clear even then that they would never go back.

Breakthrough to Rome

At 0630 hours on May 23, VI Corps beachhead troops that had been regrouping and building up strength for weeks pushed off to break out of the beachhead, make contact with the forces in Southern Italy � who by this time in their own Spring offensive had cracked the Gustav Line and were now erasing the Adolph Hitler Line � and finally to join forces to the march on Rome.

The beachhead attack was to develop in the first phases two main thrusts: north and northeast by the 3rd Division, and 1st SSF to cut Highway 7, isolate Cisterna, take Cori and Mt. Arrestino; and north and northeast to the Colle Laziali mass by the 1st Armored, 34th and 45th Divisions. Company C, 84th Chemical Battalion, still in the battalion rest area, but now attached to VI Corps, was to provide a smoke-pot detail to screen seven bridges across the Mussolini Canal the morning of the attack.

The morning of the attack, however, was very cloudy, and no smoke was needed. Instead forward units of the company moved with mortars and trucks into an assembly area to await further orders. They were there for two days during which time Highway 7 was cut on both sides of Cisterna, Cisterna and Mt. Arrestino taken, and a junction of beachhead and southern forces made near Borgo Grappa. The beachhead was officially no longer a beachhead. The enemy was breaking and falling back. Before Rome there remained only the Albano hills and the Colle Laziali with German strong-points at Valmontone on Highway 6, Velletri on Highway 7, and Lanuvio, southwest of Velletri at the foot of the Alban hills.

For the attack Company C was attached on May 25 to the 133rd Regt., 34th Division, which, moving astride the Cisterna-Campoleone railroad, was given the job of taking Lanuvio. The company moved out of the beachhead along taped-off "Purple Path," past the wrecked hulks of burned-up tanks, the mine fields, the shattered buildings of the sectors the men had heard and read about but never seen. Before the struggle for Lanuvio itself there were several assembly areas, but only two brief firing missions. On May 27 the company expended 34 rounds and on May 29 in other positions in the vicinity of Villa Crocetta, 140 rounds in preparation for attacks on German positions before Lanuvio.

The period is remembered in Company C history only for its casualties. In the May 29th 2nd platoon positions, one enlisted man of the OP party, attempting to crawl into No-Man's-Land for better observation, was hit four times, and seriously wounded by machine-gun fire, and at the gun positions one man, PFC Jacques Jacobsen, was killed, and two others wounded by counter-battery mortar fire. At the 1st platoon position one man was slightly wounded by an enemy shell-burst.

On May 30 the 34th Division began a series of attacks on Lanuvio that were to continue daily until the town fell on June 3. Situated like a fortress atop a hill at the foot of the Albano Mountains, Lanuvio commanded all the approaches on three sides, and had to be taken to clear the way into Genzano and Albano, astride Highway 7 into Rome. To cover the infantry across the flats leading up to the hill town, Company C mortars were called upon to fire continuous smoke-missions.

The 1st platoon laid two smoke screens by itself on May 30, expending 770 rounds of WP, and 83 HE thrown into the screen for casualty effect. That night the 2nd platoon moved into position about one mile west of the 1st platoon, approximately two miles south of Villa Crocetta, and a company OP was set up in a group of houses along a nearby road. In the three days following in support of attacks made by the 100th Japanese-American Battalion and other 133rd Regiment elements, the company fired smoke missions totaling 4,092 rounds and on June I, almost 300 HE to help turn back an evening counterattack.

From the point of view of sheer physical labor Lanuvio for Company C was probably the most exhausting single mission it had yet fired. The screen had to be maintained or shifted to single targets daily from dawn to dark, approximately 15 hours, and a combination of extreme heat and strong winds at times made that difficult. Some mortars hit good, solid ground, others less fortunate had to be dug out and moved often. Parts were broken and only continual inter-changing between the platoons kept the guns going when they were needed. Barrels overheated dangerously even under a make-shift packing of water-soaked sand-bags. Defective rounds of ammunition resulted in several streamers. Fortunately, the mortar positions, although extremely vulnerable, were never effectively counter-battered. Small arms fire occasionally came across the flats from Lanuvio and over the knolls, but most of the artillery fire either dropped forward of the mortar positions or else went far into the rear areas. Only the buildings, of which the OP was one, suffered direct hits.

That lack of effective enemy artillery fire and the arrival of a fairly cold beer ration were the only two bright spots at Lanuvio for the men, by this time tired, hot and dusty from the steady grind. For despite the constant heavy artillery. the dive-bombing, the continuous infantry attacks and the 4.2 WP that was officially credited with knocking out and burning two tanks, one CP and numerous German personnel, the enemy in Lanuvio still held out. When they finally evacuated the town early June 3, it was apparently mostly because the capture of Velletri two days earlier by the 36th Division threatened to outflank them.

Valmontone had also fallen to the 3rd Division by this time, and the campaign became a question mostly of whether Highway 6 or Highway 7 was to be the shorter route to Rome. One indication of how fast everything was moving up is the fact that on the morning of June 3, shortly after Company C mortars had fired a few more rounds into Lanuvio, a battery of "Long Toms" moved into the 2nd platoon positions where the 4.2 mortars had been firing for days. Company C joined the procession for Rome the next morning, moving past the burned fields before Lanuvio, over the Cisterna-Rome railroad., up Highway 7 into Genzano where together with what seemed like every other vehicle in the 5th Army, it was jammed on the road for hours awaiting the repair of blown-out bridges up ahead. Rome was captured on June 5 but Company C, now attached to the 100th Bn., did not enter until the evening of June 6, and then only briefly and in the southeastern section of the town where the reception was somewhat less than overwhelming.

By then it was evident that the Germans had pulled out quickly and far. The 100th Bn. was forced to borrow the company's trucks to get their infantry to the battle; the mortar men followed up on Highway 1 in a series of bivouacs (notably at San Marinella) disturbed only by the accidental death by shooting of PFC Emil Rasmussen. Finally at Civitavecchia at 2130 hours on June 8, Company C was relieved of attachment to report to the battalion rest area in the vicinity of Rome. It was a long, cold trip back, but as the morning report states: "Morale (was) excellent."

Push to the Arno

Rome, the men soon discovered, was worth the fighting for. This was the first real rest they had had since landing in Italy, and it was a good one. Garrison duties were kept to a minimum; passes to Rome given regularly and freely, including a nightly movie truck to the city, Sunday church services and separate trips to St. Peter's. Two company supper dances went off happily without incident. In time, the men even became accustomed to living at the 45-degree angle the bivouac imposed upon them. In the entire rest period there was only one sobering occurrence � the sudden death of a motor pool driver, Pvt. Joseph Petronaci, in a jeep accident.

The Rome rest area saw the partial fulfillment, too, of the long-rumored "new" T/O & E. It was only partial because, although by juggling, addition and subtraction of personnel three platoons of 42 men each were formed in place of the two platoons of 81 men each, only 8 of the 32 jeeps per company that were supposed to be part of the change materialized.

Meanwhile, the war to the north was not going as well as had been hoped. The dash from Rome, which had covered approximately 175 miles in the month of June, had stumbled finally before strong German resistance into a grinding day by day pace in the mountains before the Arno River. On July 6 the battalion was attached to II Corps. On July 7 it was alerted for movement. On July 8 it was detached from II Corps, attached to IV Corps, and ordered to move at once to the vicinity of Cecina. Company C pulled out at 2000 hours that night, drove 170 miles up Highway 1 to Cecina, turned east and arrived at an assembly area in the vicinity of Riparbella at 0700 hours, July 9. One meal and ten hours later, the company was attached to the 88th Division and displaced to an assembly area near Volterra. The following evening at 2000 hours the 1st and 2nd platoons, attached to the 351st Regt., moved, into firing position.

Those hectic two days during which the company traveled almost 200 miles and settled temporarily in four different areas set the whole tone for the company's first attachment to the 88th Division. It was a brief relationship lasting only twelve days, but a singularly unpleasant one, for two main reasons. One was that in those twelve days, the company, as a whole or as separate mortar platoons, moved eight times, six of them into firing positions, with insufficient transportation to handle personnel and ammunition and mortars efficiently, and over some of the worst secondary roads the men had ever rattled over in Italy. The other reason was the disproportionately large number of casualties. In those twelve days the company had two men killed, PFC Sam Humphrey and PFC Isadore Palty, and 15 men wounded, seven of them seriously, compared with the figure for the four previous months at Anzio of one man killed, 19 wounded.

Perhaps the best method of indicating how long twelve days can seem is a detailed daily account of Company C's progress with the 351st. At the time of the company's arrival on July 10th, the 351st Regt. was attempting to take Laiatico, a strategically located hill town about five miles north of Volterra that was holding up the advance over the Era River bed. Company A of the 84th Cml Bn was already in position firing on the town; Company C had to leave their positions of July 10 (by which time the company rear had suffered the first casualties: one man slightly wounded, one dog from Anzio killed) to take up new positions on July 12th southwest of Laiatico. There for two days the 1st and 2nd platoons, from separate positions, fired 120 HE and 65 WP in support of 3rd Bn attacks on the town � smoke-missions, interdictory night-fire, and targets of opportunity. Searching enemy artillery fire in one instance fell into one of the 2nd platoon gun positions, killing PFC Humphrey, and wounding four other men, two of them seriously. That same shell set fire to some powder bundles in an ammunition pile, for extinguishing which one man was later awarded a Bronze Star.

After three days of continuous assault for which the 3rd Bn won a presidential citation, Laiatico fell, and the 2nd platoon moved northwest with the advance to set up defensively on the flank. No firing was done, but the platoon captured a German sniper who had been by-passed, and suffered one minor casualty from an SP gun that had also been by-passed.

On the 14th, the company was reunited in a rear assembly area in the vicinity of Montecchio. Because the area was adjacent to 203mm gun positions, perfect peace was not expected, but comparative safety was. Yet before the night was over, a heavy delayed-action enemy shell hitting among the sleeping men caused one serious and three minor casualties.

On the morning of July 15, the 1st and 3rd platoons, with the 2nd acting as security, moved into separate positions to fire on Montefoscoli, another hill-top stronghold about six miles northwest of Laiatico across the Era River. The 1st platoon fired 101 WP to flush the enemy from fortified positions; the 3rd platoon did not fire. Both platoons displaced the next day to positions closer to the town; again the 1st fired 88 assorted rounds, the 3rd not at all. On the third day of the assaults on Montefoscoli, the company did it's largest firing, and as was coming to be expected, suffered casualties. The fire, most of it at night in support of attacks, totaled 232 HE, 275 WP. The casualties were three: one 2nd platoon aid man wounded seriously through the neck by a sniper's bullet and one 1st platoon enlisted man and two officers cut and shaken up by the explosion of a mine on the road their jeep was traveling.

Montefoscoli taken, the platoons moved separately on the 18th by a circuitous route through Partino and Palaia to an assembly area just outside the latter town, an area which turned out to be under observation and later under shell fire. One more assembly area and finally on July 19th the company moved into firing position on the side of the hill below Montopoli, a town in our hands about 2500 yards from the Arno River.

The difficulties encountered by the company at Montopoli were typical of the whole period from July 10 to July 21, and deserve some elaboration. The mountain road into position, long, twisting and treacherous, could be negotiated only by jeeps and then only at night because of complete German observation from the other side of the river. That meant that the jeeps had to shuttle the long route back and forth, first with the mortar platoons, then with the security squads (whom the transportation shortage rendered orphans in nearly every position). and finally with some 500 rounds of ammunition.

The operation was not completed until the night of the 20th. During the interval preceding, the platoons fired only registration rounds on Castelfranco across the river, but underwent the most dangerous and sustained shell fire they had met since Anzio. One man, PFC Palty, who had been wounded slightly a few days before, was killed, and five men wounded, one of them seriously. The toll would certainly have been higher had it not been for the protection afforded by the partial defilade and the dugouts that the men, aided by civilians, had built. As it was, many of the men escaped fortunately with only their equipment chopped and ripped by shrapnel.

By July 21 the 88th Division, having taken all its objectives on the south side of the Arno, no longer had an immediate use for our mortars. The battalion was, therefore, detached and attached to the 34th Division which was operating further to the west along the river. The jeeps began infiltrating out shortly before dark and made what was in one sense the fastest, and in another sense the slowest, evacuation in company history. Despite the women in the caves, the defilade, the running water, the eggs, Montopoli had not been, as one rconnaissance officer had assured the men beforehand it was going to be, a "wonderful" position.

The company remained for five days inactive with the 133rd Regt. in the vicinity of Colle Salvetti, about six miles south of Pisa, and then on July 27 was attached to the 536th Anti-Aircraft Battalion, part of Task Force 45 which had been recently converted from ack-ack to infantry, and was now defending a sector along the Arno about two miles southeast of Pisa. That night the 1st platoon emplaced its mortars in the vicinity of Visignano; the 3rd platoon, about two miles east in the vicinity of San Giorgio. After four very peaceful days of firing about 400 rounds into targets across the river, the company was detached from TF 45 to return, less two enlisted men left with the 514th AAA Bn to instruct in the firing of the 4.2, to a battalion assembly area slightly north of Volterra.

Assault to the Gothic line

Once more, as at the Voltumo in Southern Italy, the pace of the campaign had been slowed by a river. The troops had come a long way in the two months since Rome, and it was not possible immediately to go further. The steady grind had taken its toll in men, and the needs of the Seventh Army, then preparing for its invasion of Southern France, had taken more. Before a crossing of the Arno could be attempted, it was necessary to rebuild and regroup.

The battalion had returned to the Volterra area attached first to II Corps, then to the 88th Division, less companies A and B who were attached to the 85th Division. Officially. the battalion was to engage in "training and conditioning;" actually, for Company C, the period was a summer vacation. There was a brief training schedule in the mornings, but compensating passes to Volterra in the afternoons and movies up the road at night. There were calisthenics of a sort and morning hikes, but conditioning became mostly a matter of pitching horseshoes and lolling in the sun in recently-arrived GI swimming trunks.

The single contribution the company made to the war during this period was sending four more men with two mortars, part of a battalion group, back to the defensive position along the Arno to continue instructing the 514th AAA Bn in the weapon. For that brief stint and the period from July 8-31 the battalion was officially commended by Major General W. D. Crittenberger, commanding general of II Corps.

One aspect of the training must be mentioned for the light it was to throw on the company's future combat career. For three days and one night the men experimented with the 88th Division mule train which at the time was also engaged in "training and conditioning." They learned the care and feeding of mules, how to load them with mortars, ammunitions and other equipment, how to walk them up mountain paths in daylight and after dark, how generally to keep them happy. It was information that was to be much used in the Gothic Line and afterwards.

Sooner or later, the Arno River had to be crossed in order to get on with the war. Company C, detached from the 88th and attached to the 91st Division, moved from the Volterra area on August 25 approximately 15 miles west to another assembly area two miles north of San Gimignano. There the platoons awaited orders to move into line to support the river crossing.

Not a round, however, had to be fired in support. By September 4, when orders came through for Company C to move up, several British battalions had already crossed over to the northern banks inside Florence, cleared the city and fanned out north. The 362nd Infantry Regiment, 91st Division, merely walked across the river, and Company C began following on September 4 in trucks and jeeps, traveling the 50 miles to Florence, passing through its outskirts at 0300 hours, September 5.

Following up the British and the 91st was the general pattern for the company during the fight for the approaches to the Gothic Line. When the Germans pulled out of Florence and away from the river, they fought mostly only rear-guard actions that first week, attempting to slow up the advance mainly through demolitions on Highway #65 and through mines sprinkled on the surrounding hills. The company fired only two brief missions and suffered two casualties; in the vicinity of Trebbio, slightly south of Caffagiolo, one man was seriously wounded by shell fire, and one man, PFC Charles F. Rogers, was shot and killed by enemy snipers whom the infantry had by-passed.

By this time the Fifth Army's main strength was being readied for the assault on the Gothic Line, especially at the two passageways through it: Futa Pass on Highway #65 and Giogo Pass on Highway #6528, about five miles southeast. From the mortar positions near Trebbio the men had been able to watch fleets of heavy and fighter bombers work on the two passes. Artillery, tanks to be used as artillery, and troops had been clogging 65, the only good road available to the north, for days. The 34th Division was moving up west of the highway, the 91st east of the highway between it and Giogo Pass, the 85th immediately east of Giogo Pass. The general plan was to take both passes by seizing the high ground and out-flanking them.

On September 12 the company was detached suddenly from the 91st Division � part of the 2nd platoon at Le Croci was preparing at the time to fire on a counterattack � and attached to the 339th Regiment, 85th Division, which had been given the jobs of taking Mount Altuzza and Mount Verruca, German strongholds overlooking Giogo Pass. Next morning just before dawn, the company convoyed to the Giogo sector, the 1st platoon moving into firing position about 1/2 mile southwest of Grizzano in a draw 3,000 yards south of Mount Verruca, the 2nd platoon being held temporarily in reserve in the vicinity of San Giorgio. From that position the 1st platoon that day fired the first company rounds at the Gothic Line: three WP shells at enemy positions on Mount Verruca.

In order to understand the nature of the four-day battle in the sector, some appreciation of the terrain is needed. Mt. Altuzzo and Mt. Verruca were the key twin peaks in the defense of Giogo Pass, rising side by side respectively 926 and 930 meters immediately to the east of the pass. From those heights the Germans commanded the pass itself and all the approaches. As the Winter Line they had prepared elaborate defensive positions: reinforced caves and dugouts, interlocking zones of fire at every approach, artillery and mortars zeroed in on the draws and ledges. They had in their favor, too, two peculiarities of terrain: the mountains were covered with dense pine forests that obscured our observation, and the peaks themselves, especially Altuzzo, jutted sharply from preliminary rises, which meant that the attacks generally had to be direct frontal assaults, hand-by-hand climbs up the sheer mountain wall.

Despite all the obstacles but at a heavy cost in lives, the 85th Division took Altuzzo � nicknamed "Peabody's Peak" for the captain whose company finally reached the top � on September 16, and Verruca, outflanked by the capture of Altuzzo, was occupied the next day. The infantry in continuous day and night attacks had been supported by tremendous artillery barrages, by dive-bombers strafing and bombing enemy forward positions, and by 365 HE and 1124 WP fired by Company C's mortars.

The 1st platoon did its firing from the draw it had occupied the first night; the 2nd platoon, from a ledge 1,500 yards to the north to which it had moved the night of the 13th. The missions fired by the 4.2s provided a good definition of an infantry "close-support" weapon. The mortars were called upon to knock out pillboxes on both Verruca and A!tuzzo; to lay smoke-screens for attacks; to bum up patches of woods that were suspected of hiding enemy gun-positions; to participate in Time-on-Target shoots; to screen medical aidmen who were being fired upon while evacuating wounded infantrymen; to sweep gullies and break up human supply trains.

On September 21 Company C was relieved of attachment to the 339th, 85th Infantry Division, and attached to the 350th Infantry Regiment, 88th Division, which was pushing northeast of Firenzuola on the extreme right flank of the American advance. Once more because of a transportation problem, only one platoon (the 2nd) moved out of the assembly area to join the regiment in the vicinity of Moscheta, some three miles north of Giogo Pass. The move was memorable in that it allowed the men their first close-up view of the tremendous fight that had recently been waged in their sector. The road through Giogo Pass wound past the shrapnel-splintered forests of Altuzzo, the WP-burned areas, the shattered German camouflaged caves and dugouts deep into the sides of the mountains covering the road. It was, of course, the Winter Line all over again, but it had to be seen to be completely understood, and to really appreciate what the infantry had gone through.

In the period from September 21 to September 30 the company had only one brief mission, but as was coming to be expected with the 88th Division, did enough unproductive, difficult moving, by jeep, mule and hand-carry, to make the period worthy of comment. On September 23, the 2nd platoon threaded by jeep from Moscheta over the mountainous Frena Trail, across the Santemo River bed east of Firenzuola, north and east on Highway 6528 along the winding river to a one-night bivouac in houses on the road three miles north of Firenzuola. The following day it was off the main road into the mountains again over a mule trail into a defensive position near Tarraba about six air miles northeast of Moscheta, there to support the 760th Tank Bn, who were serving as dismounted infantry on the 350th Regt's. right flank in a gap caused by the relative slowness of the British advance on the right.

The gap on the previous day had resulted in the capture by the enemy of almost an entire battalion CP staff. On September 26 two squads of the 1st platoon, also attached to the 350th Regiment, pushed by mule with the forward units of the infantry further northeast into the mountains about one mile southeast of Castel del Rio, and moved again the next day to fire 30 rounds in support of a 2nd Bn attack on the hills north of Valmaggiore, a little town about two miles southeast of Castel del Rio. Meanwhile, the other two squads of the platoon relieved the 2nd platoon at its defensive position, and the 2nd platoon, with most of the jeeps again, doubled back west through the mountains, to Highway 6528 again, ten miles along the Winding road to non-firing gun positions one mile south of Castel del Rio, finally on September 30 to gun position in the town itself. During the period of nine days the company suffered only one casualty, a 2nd platoon officer wounded by shell fire in the ankle while on reconnaissance on September 29.

Castel del Rio was the first of a series of uncomfortable towns Company C fired from during October's grind north to Highway #9. The town itself had been taken after fierce fighting several days before, but on the morning of September 30, the Germans on the ridges to the east were still fighting from several by-passed strong points, and to the north were still in possession of the hills some 1,500-4,000 yards away. From the by-passed strong points came occasional harassing small arms fire into the town; from the hills, notably Mount Codronco which looked straight down the road into town, came unimpeded German observation and more artillery fire than the men had seen since Montopoli, fire rendered more dangerous because some of it was coming from the exposed right flank that the British had not yet been able to close up.

The 2nd platoon set up all four of its guns next to a single battle-scarred house, firing over each other's head in an area approximately ten yards square. To move outside that square was to go under German observation from a hill only 1,500 yards to the north. At that hill, and when it was taken, later at Mount Codronco, the platoon fired some 75 rounds at targets which could be seen at least as well from the gun positions as from the castle OP, and in some instances, even better. For its 75 rounds in three days, the platoon received at least 75 back, two into the house, the rest, including the company's first glimpse of the German's flaming-oil shell, into the nearby fields and roads, setting a vehicle afire and causing several non-company casualties. At the time there seemed little doubt that the Germans had more artillery in the sector than our troops.

The situation was further complicated by the fact that the Castel del Rio area at the time Company C moved in was virtually isolated from the rear areas. With the first rains the twisting by-pass built around the Santerno River two miles south of the town where the Germans had destroyed the concrete bridge, was washed out. While a temporary Bailey bridge was being constructed, only foot-traffic in and out of the town could be conducted. Necessary ammunition and rations were cabled across the river; the 2nd platoon received neither for two days, firing only briefly and living mostly on potatoes: mashed, hash-browned, boiled, lyonnaise. No artillery could be moved across, and because there were too few even possible artillery positions on the other side of the river, there was relatively little supporting fire outside of that provided by the mortars and tanks that were already in the town. From all appearances, the vicinity of Castel del Rio was, for those few days, a limited bridgehead, reminiscent of the Volturno. The experience led to a general order that all units on the north side of the Santerno River maintain a three-day supply of rations and ammunition on the same side.

Meanwhile, the two sections of Company C's 1st platoon � the defensive one of which had been marooned temporarily by a road washout and been separated at one time by more than five miles of mountains � had managed to capture one agreeable German, and by shuttling of jeeps, to get together again outside Castel del Rio on the night of October 1. Next day the platoon moved north of the town where for two days it fired 225 rounds into hill positions immediately west of Mount Godranco in support of attacks by the 3rd Bn, 349th Infantry. Those objectives taken, the platoon moved up along the road to the town of Pezzolo to fire briefly on mountain targets to the east. The axis of the 88th Division attack had swung north of Castel del Rio off the main highway to Imola to another but secondary road leading eventually to Castel San Pietro. On October 4 the 2nd platoon, its positions in Castel del Rio taken over by a battery of 105s, moved up the road to new positions across from Pezzolo.

Grind to the Bologna

By now the rains had come, not intermittently as in September but regularly and torrentially as in the November of last winter. The road running between the positions was churned into a quagmire by the traffic; the gun positions themselves were often underwater. Jeeps were burned out in the mud; trailers got into dry areas but were unable to get out when the areas were rained on. Mortar parts were broken frequently and in great numbers; in one brief night mission at Pezzolo, firing extreme range in the mud, the 2nd platoon broke three of four base plates. In short, the same problems of the winter of '43 � of transportation and supply of breakage, of health � were threatening again.

But the Army and the company had apparently learned a good deal from the past winter, and it is necessary here to indicate some of the measures taken to meet the problems. Breakage of parts was something not much could be done about; the only answer was to keep as many spare parts as possible at the gun positions. But the transportation difficulties that had been part of Company C's burden throughout the entire campaign were alleviated by several means:

1) After Pezzolo the 88th Division, finally aware that the mortars efficiency was handicapped by lack of adequate transportation, assigned four jeeps, complete with trailers and drivers, to each of the firing platoons, to use exclusively as their own during their attachment to divisional units.

2) Instead of attempting to move four guns and ammunition at a time into new positions after Pezzolo, the platoons adopted a practice of leap frogging sections (two guns) using all four jeeps. If the military situation warranted, the other two guns could be rushed up; if not, they would remain where they were until the next mission.

3) The institution of two security squads from the non-firing platoon attached to each of the firing platoons collapsed of its own dead weight because of the transportation shortage somewhere on the road through the mountains to Castel del Rio. With only two platoons to carry, jeeps henceforth had to make additional trips only for extra ammunition. The extra platoon remained with company rear to be used as a relief platoon.

The combination of a company rear and a relief platoon also cut down the incidence of sickness to a negligible amount. The rear was set up on October 14 in the town of Piancaldoli about ten miserable road miles to the southwest of the forward gun positions. From there an intra-company relief was operated: each platoon would spend one month on the line, and two weeks in the rear where it was possible to keep dry and fairly clean, fatten up again on kitchen-cooked food, play cards under electric lights. Besides the platoon in rest, extra men from the firing platoons would remain in the rear until needed. At any one time, therefore, there was only the minimum of men at the guns, four or five, compared to the eight and nine of last winter. The company rest system � in conjunction with the relatively prompt issue of shoe pacs and winter clothing, and the practice, whenever possible, of establishing gun positions near sheltering houses and barns � was responsible in large part for keeping the men in shape for the grind towards the Po Valley.

At Pezzolo, new British troops began taking over part of the 88th Division sector. The 1st platoon on October 5 moved slightly north, fired 200 rounds in two days at gun emplacements and snipers in support of localized attacks, and on the night of October 7 was relieved by the 3rd platoon. The 2nd platoon remained near Pezzolo, by now littered with dead, stripped mules, victims of German shelling, firing 170 assorted rounds to lay smoke screens and set fire to wooded areas for both 88th Division and British attacks on hill features. Then on October 9, one section of the platoon moved in borrowed jeeps and trailers (its own were bogged down in the mud near Pezzolo) to gun positions in Cuviolo, a little village about three miles north of Castel del Rio. The other section remained in reserve at Sassoleone, � mile west.

It was beginning now to be possible to doubt that Bologna could be taken before winter rains and the terrain made large-scale offensive movement impossible. Both Futa and Giogo Passes � supposedly the two points that the Germans would defend most fiercely before Bologna � had officially been taken by September 22, and Rimini on the Adriatic coast � talked up by every radio commentator as the key to strategic east-west Highway #9 and the Po Valley � had fallen to British troops the same day. Yet, almost three weeks later, American troops had been able to push only about 8-12 miles further, and on the British sector not only was there no sign of a general German withdrawal, but the flank was still lagging vulnerably. There were consoling rumors, of course: that the 91st Division near Highway #65 was meeting no great opposition, that Italian patriots were fighting in the central sector, that oncce in Bologna, the battalion was to get a rest and be made into a trucking outfit. But meanwhile, Bologna was still ten mountainous miles up Highway #65, and Castel San Pietro in the 88th Division sector only slightly less. Actually, the one solace to the company was the presence of observers from the 100th Cml Bn, a new mortar outfit made from formerly ack-ack personnel. They had come to Company C at Castel del Rio; as long as they remained, it was possible to believe that the 84th Cml Bn was no longer unique in Italy, and that relief at least was in prospect.

The grind went on. From Cuviolo two guns and later three of the 2nd platoon, jammed tight against houses and out-buildings for protection, fired in three days 400 HE and 250 WP into the town of Gesso and surrounding heights that were holding up the infantry's advance. Infantry observers credited the fire with knocking out five machine-guns, causing more than 100 casualties from WP. After the firing, two hills were taken without opposition, the enemy having to be dragged out of their holes, and a third hill had no more enemy personnel on it. In return, the platoon got a mortar shell through the roof of its house, the 100th Cml observers had one of their 33 jeeps knocked out by shell-fire, and the OP had a corner of its house taken away by dive bombers of the Tactical Air Force who dropped their loads too soon.

One more brief mission and another fruitless one in following up the advance, and the 2nd platoon had gone as far as it could go on this side of the Sillaro River. On October 17 one section doubled back out of the sector to cross the river by jeep, and set up two guns beside a house slightly south of San Clemente. The other section remained in reserve in Cuviolo. Both were now attached to the 349th Infantry Regiment.

San Clemente, in brief, was another Castel del Rio � the town in our hands, the immediate high ground commanding it and the road in the enemy's; his artillery strong and still coming into the exposed flank, ours limited by the scarcity of positions in the mountains and the difficulty of movement. At San Clemente, too, both guns were set within five yards, shielded from observation by a small bank. From that position until the platoon was relieved October 19, the guns fired more than 350 rounds at targets in the hills, most of them direct-lay targets. The most memorable was a house atop a hill only 3,500 yards north that the Germans were using as a combined fire direction center and strong point. The infantry had managed to take the ridges on both sides of the house but had been turned back by strong small-arms fire and grenades every time they advanced upon the house itself.

Tanks called on to direct-lay fire on the house were driven off the road by enemy fire before they could even zero in. The job of pulverizing the strongpoint was left to the mortars. In the first two days the 2nd platoon threw 250 rounds at the house and entrenched positions behind. and three people (two of them Italian civilians) came down waving a white flag. In the next two days the 1st platoon took up the task, firing about 300 more at the same target, night and day, to break up concentrations forming to throw our infantry off the hill, to support our own attacks, to screen movements of ammunition and reconnaissance jeeps along the road. By the end of the fourth night the house had been battered to the ground, the enemy had withdrawn. and our infantry was in possession of the hill. The platoon's own house had been hit several times, and one more company jeep riddled with shrapnel, but owing to a fortunately situated wine cellar, only three casualties were suffered, two of them minor.

Meanwhile, the 3rd platoon, which had relieved the 1st platoon north of Castel del Rio on October 7, was also learning the hard way that Bologna was still a long way off. When the 2nd platoon turned northeast above Sassoleone with the 349th, the 3rd platoon turned northwest in support of the 350th working its way in the short circle along the Sillaro River. The log of the platoon's travels is a dismal study of the typical life of a 4.2 platoon in wintertime Italy.

The main infantry objective at the time was a hill feature, nicknamed Castel Hill, about 4,000 yards due north of Villanova which blocked the cross country passage to the Sillaro River where it turned east. On October 8 one section of the 3rd platoon moved forward into position by jeep in the vicinity of Villanova, slightly northwest of Sassoleone, where in two days 200 rounds were fired on enemy personnel in the rolling hills before Castel Hill. To get closer to the main targets two guns set out the dark night of October 12 by mule train (a bridge over the river was out) but of the twelve mules the first three stumbled off the trail into a mine-field and had to be cut loose from the two base plates and two barrels that dragged them down. The mule train and the two mortar squads turned back, less the base plates and the barrels.

Next day, three guns set out again, this time by jeep since the bridge was now in, for positions 2,000 yards north. There, on October 11, 24 rounds were fired in support of an attack on the hill; on October 12, 75 rounds on German mortars behind the hill that were giving the infantry trouble. Still not close enough to suit the infantry � although the mortars were firing on targets not much more than 2,500 yards away � the platoon was ordered to move near the top of Castle Hill to fire a dawn mission. By dawn only one mortar and one jeep load of ammunition had been able to reach the top only to find that its proposed position was also practically the infantry's Main Line of Resistance. Firing even that one mortar was hastily deemed inadvisable; the mortar men executed a strategic withdrawal, leaving the mortar and one private to make explanations to the infantry battalion colonel. Not a better man for the job could have been selected. Not only was he prepared to make all the ammunition, sight the gun and fire it himself, but he also voluntarily went out into what was then No Man's Land to bring back a wounded infantry-man. The battalion colonel, needless to say, found everything satisfactory.

The platoon's three remaining guns by this time had set up near a culvert on the west bank of the Sillaro River, a position which turned out to be one of the most effective and most comfortable the men had in the push north. In three days there, 140 HE and 670 WP were fired by two guns, the third being used for spare parts, in preparation for infantry attacks on the ridge running north of Castle Hill, on enemy mortars and counterattacks, in screening the advance of friendly tanks across the river into a draw slightly west of San Clemente. And not once did it rain.

Trouble came back, however, on October 16. Two guns moved by jeep 1,500 yards north on the river road to a hill position west of the river immediately behind a reserve company of infantry. One hundred seventy assorted rounds there, and the two guns moved up again next day 3,000 yards along the river road to the draw about one mile west of San Clemente.

By this time the platoon was strung out roughly along the river for almost three miles. Two squads with three guns and all the spare parts were in the draw near San Clemente; one squad with its gun was left sitting in the previous hill position; and one squad with no gun was still in the culverts of October 13.

On the morning of the 18th, one of the forward guns in the draw fired a single registration round on a hill about 1,500 'yards southwest of Mount Grande, and drew so much accurate return fire that it was decided not to fire anymore that day. At night, however, that gun, plus the one formerly in the hill position that had later been moved to the lower end of the draw on the San Clemente road, fired 125 rounds, interdicting a ridge road that was supplying the hills before Grande. The following night the road was interdicted again with 55 rounds.

By October 20, the infantry was in a position to attack Mount Grande, the last rugged high peak, 608 meters, before the mountains begin tapering off into the hills before Highway #9. At the time, many of the men still believed that Grande would be the last big battle before the breakthrough. The rains had returned again, but not yet in sufficient force to bog down all supply operations. Grande itself had been plastered for days by dive bombers and artillery, and apparently was ready to fall to infantry assault. The end of the road was in sight, or, more accurately, seemed to be.

By dawn of October 20, the 3rd platoon had moved two guns by jeep 1,000 yards up the same draw to fire on Grande. At 1000 hours they fired 76 HE and 75 WP in preparation for the attack; at 1800 hours, 50 HE and 25 WP to halt an enemy counterattack. In the intervening eight hours the infantry had taken Mount Grande. and the next two days two mortars moved another 1,500 yards north to set up a defensive position about 2,000 yards west of the mountain. The men remained there, fortunately in houses, for five days without being called upon to fire. Elements of the 351st, which the platoon was now supporting, were still grinding forward and had occupied Mount Cesera and the town of Casacola, about 1,500 yards northeast of Grande. Some of the infantry forward elements had even penetrated into Vedriano, the farthest point of penetration the 88th Division was to make in the sector, little more than four miles from Highway #9, the ultimate goal. At that point the push simply exhausted itself in the rain and mud that had closed down over the whole front.

On October 25, the 3rd platoon moved two guns along the ridge road. It passed dug-in infantrymen, to almost the top of the reverse slope of Grande. There from positions floating in rain and fog, the crews managed to get 25 rounds off on a German counterattack before going out of action, but were unable because of ground conditions to keep up harassing fire requested by the infantry. The next night the men were practically washed off the mountain. The guns could neither be shot or moved because of the mud. Slit trenches had been flooded out. There was nothing left to do but move the men back off the hill to the former defensive positions near the houses.

By the next night rain and swollen mountain streams had made the ridge road a graveyard for vehicles. Platoon jeeps, tanks and weapons carriers were bogged down and could not be moved, the mortars meanwhile remaining on Grande. Rations came up by mule train, but ammunition was out of the question. The flooded Sillaro River had almost slopped over its banks, toppling bridges, carrying away guns and other equipment that had been set up in the river bed on a dryer day. A detail started out from the company rear at Piancaldoli to carry across some 500 rounds of ammunition from trucks marooned on the south side of the river. Fortunately, however, by the time the detail arrived, bulldozers were being used to drag the trucks across. To make the miserable evening complete. the platoon leader was hit in the leg by shrapnel but was unable to be evacuated for two days because of washed out roads; and a hit by a German shell started an ammunition fire among the many vehicles outside the house. The fire was smothered, after four jeeps and one ton-and-a-half vehicle had been damaged, by platoon mortar men, two of whom were later awarded Bronze Stars for the action.

It was quite a night. Beyond all reasonable argument it indicated that Bologna this winter was no longer to be considered; it was time now rather to bring up the mines and barbed-wire and sit tight. By the night of the 29th, the infantry had been forced to pull back to Mount Grande, the platoon to the positions in the draw that they had first occupied on October 19. From there, two squads � some of the men by hitchhiking because of the lack of transportation � returned to the company rear, and two squads moved back through San Clemente north some 2,000 yards in a draw to set up defensively. Everyone was wet and tired and thoroughly miserable. Personal and company equipment was buried in the mud from Grande to Sam Clemente. But there were rumors that the battalion was to be relieved soon by the 100th Cml.

The 1st platoon during the 3rd platoon's travail was having troubles of its own near San Clemente. On October 22 the section that had relieved the 2nd platoon in the "hot-house" below the town moved some 1,000 yards into the draw north of the town, the same draw that the 3rd platoon eventually set up in. From there in 18 days the 1st platoon guns fired 1,241 HE and 723 WP, night and day, at mortar positions, SP guns, dumps, haystacks, CPs, German assembly areas, emplacements, and on counterattacks. Between the German artillery and the rain the men suffered the same kind of unhappiness that had afflicted the 3rd platoon earlier. Guns were often under water up to the nameplate on the barrel, but catwalks were built around the gun pits, and the mortars, water cooled, kept firing.

The war in Italy had settled down to the peculiar type of static misery that the men had first learned last winter. It was the kind of war, as an OWI official once described it, "in which the front-line soldier is never permitted the luxury of complete safety, never gets enough sleep, can't get time to wash or change wet clothes, eats mostly cold food and may count himself lucky if the wound that sends him to the rear isn't permanently serious. And when a soldier has been through some of it for weeks, he's not sure that he's much farther along than when he started." It was the kind of war that Company C was thoroughly sick of.

Relief made a reluctant appearance in the battalion the first week in November. On November 7, the company, less the 1st platoon, moved to Montecatini for a rest; the 1st platoon � after several altercations with the 88th Division which refused to detach the platoon until the Division itself had been completely relieved by British units then taking over � followed the next day. By that time, Company C had been officially in the line 96 days since August 4 and had suffered eleven casualties, one dead and ten wounded. As far as the men were concerned, Bologna could wait until next Spring � or better still, just wait.

Winter's sparring

After eight days at the Montecatini rest area in separate semi-private albergos complete with more or less modern plumbing, the company on November 14, joined the battalion in a bivouac area on Route 2, eight miles south of Florence. Because of the proximity of Florence, life in the new area became almost another Rome rest: daily passes, nightly movies, the minimum of garrison activities. There were a few personnel changes. Captain William DeWitt assumed command of the company, replacing Captain E. H. Davis, transferred to Headquarters Company, and four officers from other companies came to Company C for the first time. Under another new T/O, the three old platoons were shaken down again into two, the surplus transferred to Headquarters Company, and to the 100th Chemical Battalion, and the 1st platoon of Company D, which had been split up under the T/O, came to Company C as its new 3rd platoon. Finally, in order to prevent our mail from being sent in the future to the 84th Eng. Camouflage Bn., and other misunderstandings, thebattalion was authorized to be hencforth known as the 84th Chemical Mortar Battalion.

The company underwent one feverish spit-and-polish inspection of men and equipment by higher headquarters, culminating on November 18 in an awards ceremony by Major General Geoffrey Keyes, commanding general of II Corps, which reconciled the men to an early end to the vacation. General Keyes in his speech had mentioned that "time was growing short;" fifteen days after his speech, ten days after the company's tremendous Thanksgiving feast in a Florentine restaurant, the company was on Highway #65 to take part in a "limited objective" mission by the II Corps.

By this time the weary war of attrition had clamped down along the whole Fifth Army front, but in order to improve American defensive positions and cut down German observation on the highway and east, it was decided to take and secure Mount Belmonte and Mount Adone. The battalion for the first time in its history was to fire as a battalion, 36 mortars, on the attack in support of the 34th and 91st divisions. It was also to provide a provisional platoon, composed of men from all the companies and using battalion spare mortars, to be attached to the 100th Chemical Battalion, in support of the attack by the 1st Armored Division.

On December 3, forward units of Company C moved into the battalion selected mortar positions in a large draw about one mile northeast of Livergnano. On December 4, eight men from the company left with the provisional battalion platoon, to take up mortar positions about 1� miles southwest of Livergnano. On December 5, the rest of the company moved with the battalion rear to set up a rear area, off Highway #65, in the Futa Pass.

In those positions the company remained three weeks waiting for an H-hour that never came. Meanwhile, the men at the mortars constructed dugouts, improved them with timber and sandbagged roofs, sloshed nightly (daylight movement was restricted) through the thickest mud since Roccopippirozzi, to bring down some 1,500 rounds of ammunition, rations, soup, etc. Reliefs were changed frequently with only the minimum number of men guarding the guns. The rear, informed that the cold desolate area they were in � so desolate in fact that artillery, testing new types of unpredictable delayed fuzes, selected it for an impact area � was to be their winter home, began winterizing. The men built wooden floors for the pyramidal tents, lashed the tents to wooden railings to keep them from blowing away, installed stoves and electric lights, labored over paths and walks, cut innumerable cords of fire wood.

They should have known better. On Christmas Eve, at 1900 hours the gun crews moved twenty freezing miles from the rear to the mortar positions to get ready to fire. Five hours later, the attack cancelled, they moved twenty freezing miles back from the positions to the rear. At 2030 hours the next night, the company, ordered to move immediately with the battalion to the IV Corps sector on the west coast, raced up Highway #65 again to the mortar positions, dragged out the mortars with the aid of mules, left the 1,500 rounds of ammunition and one bogged-down truck for the 100 th Chemical Battalion to worry about, raced down 65 through Florence west to Pistoia and Montecatini, and finally by the evening of December 27 to Altopascio, attached to the 8th Indian Division on a three-hour alert status. The recently winterized rear was to be broken up and shuttled over later, piece by piece.

It had not been a Merry Christmas. Besides the great amount of fruitless moving and labor, the company on December 10, suffered its greatest single blow from enemy artillery. One large caliber enemy shell, falling into the forward supply point slightly south of Loiano, instantly killed PFC Edward F. Dillon and PFC Anthony Perrone, fatally wounded 1st Lt. Richard A. Blach and PFC Wallace A. Ridgeway, and seriously wounded through shock and concussion two more enlisted men.

The battalion had been hurried from II to IV Corps the night of December 26, together with elements of the 1st Armored, 34th Division artillery and other units, to counter a German threat that had thrown the Serchio River valley sector into a turmoil. On that night, three German battalions had struck down the northeastern part of the valley above Barga, surprised and overwhelmed the 92nd Division and attached elements that were holding the thin line, and forced the evacuation of both Barga and Gallicano. The full German strength was not known at the time, and with the major breakthrough Von Rundstedt had just forced on the Western Front still vivid in everyone's mind, it had been felt necessary to strengthen Fifth Army troops in the sector as quickly as possible. In those first few hectic hours, even service troops in Leghorn were alerted.

Events proved, however, that the German thrust was a limited-scale diversionary effort. By December 29, when the company arrived at Villa Bianchi, a rear area in the hills above Ponte A Moriano, four miles north of Lucca, the 8th Indian Division had the situation well in hand, and had no immediate need for the mortars. Their infantry had retaken most of the ground lost west of the river, and the Germans had pulled back from Gallicano and Barga.

On December 30, the 1st platoon moved into positions in the vicinity of Bolognano to support the 1st Battalion, 370th Infantry, 92nd Division. The next afternoon the 2nd and 3rd platoons also went on the line in the vicinity of Fabbriche and Vallico Sopra, to support the 2nd Battalion of the 366th Infantry, and the 1st Battalion, of the 370th.

From December 31 to February 15, the three platoons held defensive positions in a 6,000-yard-square sector bounded on the east by Highway #12 and the Serchio River, on the north by Gallicano and the east-west gorge running into Gallicano, on the west by some of the most impassable mountains in Italy. From that area the company, limited by supply to an average of 60 rounds each day, fired 1,750 HE and 300 WP into German positions on the other side of the gorge � machineguns, OPs, machine pistols in Termini, Calomini, Colle, Hills 537 and, 408, Cascio, San Rocco, Molozzano, Mount Faeto � mostly in providing direct support for our infantry patrols and limited attacks.

The terrain was even more rugged than on Highway #65 and east. In moving north slowly to keep within firing distance, from Gragliana, Fobbriche, Bolognano and Vallico Sopra to Montaprato, San Luigi, Verni Trassilico and finally alIa Rene, 1,000 yards south of Gallicano, the platoons had to traverse some of the worst terrain they had yet seen. To get to Gragliana, for example, the 2nd platoon had to wait until a mountain jeep-trail was blasted from Fabbriche; to get out again by jeep, it had to wait until another road, this time through the draw, was built, the first road having been washed out by the first rain and snow. Mules were needed to get sections of the 2nd and 3rd platoons to mountain positions near Montaprato and San Luigi, and mules and a cable-system to supply them.

But otherwise, conditions were incredibly easy. It was the quietest and most comfortable month and one half the company had even spent in the line, compensating fully for all the hurry and bustle involved in getting over to the sector. The weather was generally at least as good as that likely to be encountered on 65. At only one gun position were there no houses to live in - the 2nd platoon position atop Monteprato - and the situation there was so quiet (supposedly an infantry outpost) that after trying mountain tents and finding them wanting, the men pitched a pyramidal squad tent. In the early positions most of the men heard not a round of hostile artillery, and very few of our own; in the last positions near Gallicano, enemy fire was heard sporadically, but only once, and that briefly around 1st platoon positions, was not close enough to cause uneasiness.

In the entire period there was only one minor casualty when one of the men accidentally tripped a signal flare and was wounded by it in the elbow. As things turned out, it was more dangerous in the company rear than at the gun positions. In the rear area one man was shot in the face by an Italian paesano, one man fell off a truck fender and broke his arm, two men were hurt in a jeep accident and several happy restees ran into doors that suddenly jumped out of nowhere to inflict black eyes, bruised. temples, etc.

Actually, the two worst dangers were jumpy Negro infantrymen on guard at night, and ennui. For the first, the best thing was simply to stay inside after dark; for the latter, regular intra-platoon reliefs were worked weekly or bi-weekly to the company's rear-villa at Ponte a Moriano, a rambling, exclusive mansion with maid service and nightly transportation to Lucca movies.

It was, in short, the strangest "battle" and the most enjoyable with which the men had ever been concerned. A comparison of the two New Year's Eves spent in Italy will indicate how strange. In 1943, the men had spent the evening shivering in the dark and snow of outdoor gun positions in the southern Italian mountains, over a holiday meal of cold spinach and hardboiled eggs. On December 31, 1944, they still had outdoor gun positions, of course, but they themselves were inside warm, well-lit Italian houses with friendly Italian families, who if they were like "Mama of Fabbriche", notorious in company history for her charming hospitality, were plying them with spaghetti, vino and grappa. The war for Company C had come in one year exactly half-circle.

Either as a unit or as part of the battalion, the company had now been in support of every infantry division and separate infantry unit in Italy except the recently committed 10th Mountain Division, whose presence had not yet been officially announced. The 10th was at that time preparing a limited objective attack on Mount Belvedere and the controlling high-ground west of Highway #64. It was inevitable that the battalion be called to support the attack, and that Company C make the move from the 92nd to the 10th sectors under the unpleasant conditions that accompany all sudden detachments and reattachments.

Shortly after noon on February 16, while making a reconnaissance for mortar positions near Gaggio Montano, Lieutenant Anthony Harzynski was killed instantly, Captain William DeWitt was fatally wounded, and Lieutenant Rufus Reiberg, seriously wounded by an enemy mortar shell. The company, considerably shaken by the news, moved out of Villa Bianchi that night to Pracchia. At 0400 hours February 18, the 2nd platoon moved into firing position about 600 yards south of Gaggio; the 1st platoon followed at 2100 hours, to positions about 100 yards east. Both were in support of the 85th Regiment.

For the mortar men it was once more the familiar dreary pattern of helping the infantry take a few hundred mountainous yards at a time, and then setting up defensive positions to help them keep the gains. Except for brief registration fire, the platoons did no firing for the attack on Belvedere, but once that mountain ridge had been taken, they threw out approximately 500 rounds of defensive fire, and 1,100 more after Mount della Torraccia fell on February 24, to help break up counterattacks the Germans mounted in the next three days. For the final phase of the attack, on Mount Terminale, Iola and Monteforte, the 2nd platoon from Fornace and the 1st platoon from Gambriano, fired 250 rounds of harassing fire, and then on March 3, the morning of the attack, 400 more, mostly as part of the artillery barrage that preceded the assault. In the two weeks of alternating attack and consolidation, the company suffered only one slight casualty from enemy fire on the morning of the March 3 attack.

The limited objective attack finally halted - intentionally or otherwise - on March 5, in a rather uneasy tactical position. The 10th Division spearheads had moved more than six miles northeast in fifteen days, but its flanks, especially the left one, had lagged behind, so that the ground gained was actually a long thin salient. However, once the defensive consolidation was effected, the situation surprisingly became as quiet and pleasantly static as the last positions in the Serchio ValIey sector. It was so quiet that Red Cross girls (it is ignominious to report this) came up not only to the gun positions but past them. Rats caused more trouble to the 2nd platoon at La Crezia than enemy artillery, and few rounds fell close to the La Vedette positions, despite the fact that they were under partial observation. The 3rd platoon positions at Sassomolare sustained more enemy fire, but nothing direct. It was not until April 6, that the company suffered its first and only casualties of the period. PFC Ishmael Sosa was instantly killed, and another man seriously wounded, at gun positions the 1st platoon had taken over from Company B, about 2,500 yards southeast of Castel d'Aiano, by two sudden stray mortar shells, the first to fall in the area in weeks.

In the period from March 5 to April 10 (excluding a ten day relief for rest and re-equipment at Bellavalle), Company C, using two regular platoons and a provisional platoon, which took over Company B's positions on the right flank, fired 2,328 HE and 1,224 WP in support of the 10th's three regiments and the 92nd's 365th. Ammunition was mostly rationed, and good visible targets few; despite two OPS, for example, the 2nd platoon to make up its quota was forced to fire on dust-trails, innocuous haystacks, and foreign shelter-halves. There were legitimate targets, too, of course - draws, ammunition dumps, mortars (the 4.2s were credited with cutting down enemy mortar fire in the sector by 90 percent), TOTs for night patrols (for one of which, resulting in the capture of 23 prisoners, the company and several individuals were commended by the 87th's regimental commander), enemy vehicles, personnel, etc.

Mostly, however, the period was memorable for two things: (1) the presence of defective ammunition which meant using a lanyard most of the time; (2) the March 21-31 relief at the company rear during which the company was issued, among other vehicles, 17 jeeps and trailers � still not par for the T/O, but nevertheless more than the men had ever seen before in a Company C motor pool.

The last roundup

After six dreary months of stalemate and sparring, the entire Italian front was about ready now to erupt into what everyone felt must be the last great battle of the campaign. There were all the usual preparatory signs of an offensive � Spring and good weather, broadcasts to the Partisans, continuous day and night traffic on the main highways, rumors � but also, there was a general tenseness, a buoyancy, that had never been so apparent before. The "this-is-it" feeling had been discredited many times before, but this time, the men really felt, was finally "it."

In the general plan of the Fifth Army offensive, IV Corps troops were to strike first, with the 10th Mountain Division spearheading the drive west of Highway #64. On April 11, Company C was placed in direct support of the 87th Regiment, the 1st platoon with the 1st Battalion, the 3rd platoon with the 1st Battalion, the 3rd platoon with the 2nd Battalion. According to the regimental plan, the 1st Battalion was to make the initial assault, the 2nd Battalion to mop up. Two 1st platoon mortars were dug in, the afternoon of the 11th, at the base of Montesinistro, only about 500 yards from infantry outposts; four more were set about 500 yards south to fire on the preparatory barrage. The 3rd platoon was to remain in mobile reserve about 1,000 yards west. Meanwhile, the company rear had moved from Bellavalle to Riola to be closer to the lines when the push got under way, and almost all the new jeeps were sent to the forward platoons to assure sufficient transportation for the drive which was expected to turn into a breakthrough once it gathered momentum.

The attack, supposed to begin the morning of April 12, was postponed for 24 hours for three days running, during which period everyone fidgeted, the 1st platoon fired more than 450 rounds on targets requested by the infantry and targets of opportunity, and the 3rd platoon remained loaded on jeeps in the assembly area, suffered one slight casualty from enemy artillery fire and was relieved the night of April 14, by the 2nd platoon.

Finally, at 0945 hours, April 15, the 10th jumped off. From 0700 to 2030 hours, the 1st platoon fired 750 rounds on two targets � Piano di Vaiano, about a mile north of Roffeno Musiolo, and Mount Pigna, about 800 yards east � part of the total of 30,000-plus rounds massed artillery poured out by 1800 hours in support of the initial assaults. By dusk, units of the 10th had cleared some, but not all, of the two-mile-long Roffeno ridge. They had taken the villages of Torri Iussi, Le Ville, Roffeno Musiolo and Casigna. along with several high peaks to the left that dominated the ridge. But they had run into strong opposition, suffered many casualties, and bagged only 90 prisoners for the whole division cage. The Germans apparently had not been over-impressed by either the 10th's publicity office or its high IQs.

That first day was about the story of the entire fighting for the last mountains before the Po Valley. The Germans gave ground, but slowly and grudgingly until the very last days; it took the 10th Division infantry almost six days to clear the twelve to fifteen remaining mountain-miles. The advance worked northeast through Tole and Montepastore, between the Samoggia and Lavinia dry-river beds, through Monte S. Pietro. Company C platoons tagged along the dusty roads and bypasses in close support, firing from Le Ville, San Lucia, Amore and Casa di Bella from a vulnerable left flank caused by the lagging 85th Regiment advance. By April 18, the tempo of the attack had quickened. The 1st platoon was forced to move twice, the 2nd platoon three times to keep up with the infantry, ending up, after considerable shuffling of jeeps and mortar sections, respectively at Merlano and near S. Anita. That night the 1st platoon fired 250 rounds in support of the attacks slightly south of Monte S. Pietro, and the next afternoon was firing from new positions near Mount Oca, about two miles northeast. There, three hours later, the 2nd platoon joined them, the first time the company mortars had been together since the attack started.

The firing from Mount Oca was the last the company did in the Appenines, although the 2nd platoon set up guns twice later, without firing. By the afternoon of April 20, the tough German crust in the sector had been thoroughly broken, and infantry was pouring through into the valley. At 2130 hours the 1st Battalion, 87th Regiment, with 1st platoon of Company C following in jeeps, were assembled in Crespellano, near the edge of the valley, about two miles from Highway #9; the next morning the 2nd Battalion, with the 2nd platoon following, assembled near San Martino, about two miles south of Crespellano. In the six days prior to the breakthrough, the company had fired 1,589 HE and 127 WP, and suffered two casualties, Private Herman L. Finnegan, killed on April 17, and an officer slightly wounded by an enemy artillery shell at a 2nd platoon OP near S. Anita.

Once in the valley, the advance, gathering momentum as it rolled, turned into a mad, unimpeded dash. There was hardly enough time to be aware of how good it felt to be in fertile flats on good roads again. Traveling day and night in every kind of vehicle, American and German, elements of the 10th Mountain Division cut Highway #9 about eight miles west of Bologna on April 20, crossed the Po near San Benedetto on April 22, entered Verona the 25th, and were in mountains again, the foothills of the Alps north of Verona, on the 26th. It had taken American troops nineteen months to reach the valley, and exactly six days to go through it.

For Company C, the race was exhausting but exciting. The platoons moved with the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 87th Regiment, as part of the heavy weapons section of the convoy. Because the convoy, depending upon the amount of resistance met, traveled in fits and starts, there was little opportunity to eat or sleep with any definiteness. But even though the route of the advance bypassed Bologna, Modena, Mantua, and most of the other big cities, there were enough genuinely happy Partisans and civilians along the road to take care of "I Liberatori." From Bastiglia to the Po the men were bombarded with bread and wine, and in one area, they collected 92 eggs in half an hour without having to trade their jeeps in return. The tumultuous receptions, the speed and relative ease of the advance; the long columns of German prisoners streaming to the rear with or without guards, the great number of burned out or abandoned enemy vehicles were full compensation, almost, for the many miserable mountainous months that had been the whole Italian campaign before.

In the general confusion of the advance every outfit, of course, had its own weird experiences. Company C had two that deserve special attention � fortunately, one for each firing platoon. In Bastiglia about midnight April 20, where the 1st Battalion convoy had stopped to clear up some opposition in La Torre, 600 yards north, the 1st platoon jeeps were separated suddenly from the rest of the convoy by an Italian ammunition-bearing freight train that whistled past operated by three Italian civilians and bearing five German soldiers. The surprise was about equally divided between convoy and train; everyone headed for ditches or carbines. Before the situation was clarified, a German 170, which was evidently trying to blow up the train, killed some infantrymen in a nearby field, the five Germans were either killed or captured, and the locomotive cab turned into a sieve.

The 2nd platoon tells a less dramatic story, but one which is as indicative of the general tone of the drive. In the vicinity of Moglia, about 100 miles south of the Po River, the 2nd platoon convoy at a crossroads ran abruptly into a loaded German convoy. The Germans managed to shout "Kamerad" before the 2nd Battalion could, but the 2nd Battalion convoy was moving so fast that the platoon was reprimanded by the convoy officer for even thinking of stopping to disarm the Germans of all Lugers, P-38s�or Schmeisaers.

Not until the Po River was 4.2 mortar fire needed. There the mortars set up on April 28, along the south bank north of San Benedetto to support infantry of the two battalions who had crossed earlier in assault boats, the first troops in the 15th Army Group to make the crossing. Other than the 1125 AFA Battalion, the mortars were the only support weapons in position. Upon request from the CO of the 1125th, the 2nd platoon fired 200 rounds of harassing HE into enemy gun positions on the left flank that were hurling low, effective air-bursts over the routes of approach to the river. Although unobserved, the fire was successful in silencing the enemy guns.

That night Division Artillery Headquarters was talked out of an unfeasible scheme of taking the mortars across the river in assault boats, then hand carrying the guns and sufficient ammunition more than two miles to support the limited infantry bridgehead on the north side. Instead the mortars remained in defensive position on the south side, crossed the river over a treadway bridge at 1800 hours on April 24, near Governoli, spent one uneasy night near the river under an air raid and artillery fire coming from the nearby wide open left flank, and then took off again the next morning for Verona. By nightfall the 1st platoon was in Bussolengo, the 2nd platoon in Pastrengo, about six miles northwest of Verona. There the advance was stopped at German-blown bridges over the Adige River, and the entire company, relieved of direct support of the 87th Regiment and placed in division reserve, finally got together again at Villa Bogatta, a former German staff headquarters near the southern tip of Lake Garda.

Temporarily, the association with the 10th Division was ended, and it must be reported that most of the men considered it not a pleasant one. Almost from the start higher officers of the regimental units had made it clear that they regarded 4.2s as an unnecessary nuisance. At Casa di Bello in the mountains, and again at Pastrengo, the 2nd battalion, 87th Regiment, had simply moved on without alerting the supporting mortar platoon, or even indicating their route of march. At the Po River there had been the altercation over putting mortars in assault boats, again over putting them on an extreme flank, in an un-reconnoitered area with nothing between them and the Germans but the river, again over the volume of mortar fire, again over the use of lanyards.

Yet, three days later on April 30, the 86th Regiment put in a hurry call for the mortars. A task force, led by Colonel William Darby, had taken Riva and Torbole at the north end of Lake Garda in assault boats (the Germans had blocked the lake roads by dynamiting the tunnels), but were unable to go any further without tanks and artillery, none of which could be brought up in any quantity until the roads were cleared. Now 4.2 mortars were needed to help set up a defensive line. By dusk April 30, the 2nd and 3rd platoons were taken by DUKWs (two mortars, 100 rounds, ten men to a DUKW) from Malescine, eight miles over Lake Garda to Torbole, where they set up defensively, their only contact with the rest of the world the outboard motor boat named "Ada" that some enterprising men had "requisitioned" to bring in supplies and mail.

It was as good a place as any for the war in Italy to end. At 1430 hours May 2, the 3rd platoon was continuing the firing of an harassing mission, begun the night before, when a barrel-burst (the men were not using lanyards at the time), instantly killed Sergeant Joseph Weiler, and wounded two others, one seriously. The mission was continued for several more rounds, by lanyard, until word came through to cease firing, and not to fire on any groups of Germans coming out of the mountains with white flags. That was the first indication the men had that the war in Italy had ended; at 1600 hours the news filtered through the town, even penetrating to boats on the lake, that the war was officially over. Not until the next day, however, did the men learn that hostilities were to have ceased at 1200 hours, May 2, or exactly 2 1/2 hours before the company suffered its last casualties of the campaign.

There was no outward jubilation at the gun positions or in the rear over the announcement of the war's end. One reason perhaps was that the announcement seemed anti-climactic after the tremendous accumulation of the events that had made it inevitable. Another reason was that the men were aware, in one way or another, of the sobering statistics of the campaign as they affected them. Of the six officers and 199 men who had come overseas with Company C, no officers remained and only 65 men. Sixteen had been killed in battle, three more in accidents. Almost 100 had been transferred out because of wounds, sickness, old age, new T/Os, or psycho-neurosis; only 23 had gone home in two years on rotation or TD, and most of those at the very end. Seventy-eight Purple Hearts had been awarded, and 13 clusters, three of them to one officer. Of the 502 days the Italian campaign took, the battalion had been officially in combat 512 of them, during which time the company alone had fired more than 52,000 rounds.

Above all, with all that in mind, it was still impossible to forget that there was a war yet to be fought in the Pacific.

Company D
     Battle of Salerno
     Advance to Volturno and crossing
     Volturno to the Venafro Hills
     Anzio beachhead
     Push to Rome
     Arrival in Rome and R&R
     Arno River
     Volterra River
     Advance to the Gothic line
     On to Livergnano

Battle of Salerno

Stepping from the shores of Oran, North Africa, onto the decks of the converted luxury liner "Duchess of Bedford," September 1, 1943, members of the 84th Chemical Battalion realized with certainty that they were to be used as a unit of destruction against the enemy. Quarters on the "Duchess" were of the usual sardine type, men were sandwiched into every available space and then greeted by the ship's master over the intercom with wishes of having a pleasant time aboard.

The convoy moved out to sea September 5, and plans were made known to the men by the company CO, Captain Jose Andino, for the job that lay ahead. Attached to the 36th Infantry Division, a beach landing was to be made between Salerno and Agropoli, in the vicinity of Paestum. Every imaginable picture was formed in minds of what combat was to be like, all of the thoughts however having the same dramatic hue. News of Italy's unconditional surrender on the 8th, over the ship's radio, did much to heighten the morale and spirit of the men and ease the stress of first combat expectations.

In preparation to go ashore on the beaches of Paestum September 9, men and their personal equipment jammed into the small landing craft lowered from the liner's sides at 1430 hours. The haze of battle ashore partly hid the towering Mount Soprano which was the guide-point for American troops entering Italy. Little was seen while the ship to shore distance was covered since the armored protection of the craft's sides rose overhead. The "Duchess" had anchored too far north of the beach appointed for her cargo's landing and a resulting two hour toss on the waves in the small craft left a greater part of the men miserably seasick.

When landing craft ground their bows on the sands of the beach and the ramps were lowered, men carried their rifles overhead to protect them from the salty Tyrrhenian waters while wading ashore. Groups were quickly organized to strike out in the direction of the bivouac area, and all eyes sought the medieval 50-foot stone tower of Paestum which stood close by the area of assembly. En route to the area, the men experienced their first direct action from the German air force, when they were strafed while taking a ten-minute break. The landing had been fairly quiet up to this point and there seemed to be no reason why picking figs from the fruitful trees should be in any way harmful. After the diving planes had spent their machine gun bullets on the immediate area, there was plenty of reason to be more careful and practice camouflage discipline. The planes left no casualties fortunately and the company moved across fields, over fences and waded canals to reach the assigned area.

Slit trenches were now dug for a life-preserving purpose, air raids were real with live bombs and machine gun fire, no more simulation. The first night ashore, the Italian peninsula was one of continuous bombing and strafing action by the enemy, with falling flak from bursting 40 and 90mm AA shells adding to the rain of steel. Daybreak was never so welcome, for then the American and British fighter plans could patrol the beachhead and make the Luftwaffe's hunting more difficult. Ack-ack crews soon attained such touchy trigger fingers that any plane that made a suspicious move at all, was given a dose of lead, meaning that Spitfires and Mustangs were to join the fate that earlier Nazi planes had met.

The second day after landing, the platoons were still awaiting mortar equipment to be sent ashore from the boats. Regardless of this fact, the company was called upon by Colonel Darby's 1st Ranger Battalion to move by LCI to Salerno and affect relief for one company of the 83rd Chemical Battalion. Equipped as infantrymen, the company received blessings from Father Pronobis, battalion chaplain, and hiked to the beaches to embark for another landing. Just in time, orders were rescinded, when VI Corps realized that the 4.2's were not ashore and the men returned, much relieved, to the original area of assembly.

When equipment finally arrived, the company entrucked to move north on Highway #18 to an assembly area where equipment was prepared for combat use.

A critical situation materialized September 13, when elements of three German divisions launched a large scale counterattack down the Sele-Calore corridor. The 179th Regiment of the 45th Division had been hard pressed from the pervious day's action and the enemy succeeded in pushing through to the banks of the Sele. Company D was rushed to its first mortar position in a large canal ditch just south of the Sele River, and set up in a defensive position to await the enemy attempts to cross the junction of the rivers. If the Germans would have attempted crossing the river, fire from the mortars would have joined with artillery fire in stopping the attack.

After the crisis, the company displaced to a forward position near the Calore River attached to the 141st Infantry Regiment of the 36th Infantry Division. A provisional 3rd platoon was formed to give the company as much fire power as possible, meaning 12 guns in use, instead of the usual eight. Mortars were all emplaced under cover of darkness as well as the supplying of ammunition to each position and the laying of communication wires. Flank guards were posted and barbed wire entanglements were laid 100 yards in front of the 3rd platoon. All preparations were meant to protect us against suspected enemy action to drive the British 10th Corps and American VI Corps off the Italian mainland. At this time the company fired its first mission, which called for heavy concentrations of HE on buildings housing enemy observation posts. The heavy mortar shells, lobbed into the houses, were credited with extermination of the observers within. A total of 274 rounds of HE were expended at this beachhead gun position, a small amount in number, but very destructive in effect.

A cross country move made September 19, proved very difficult to execute because of deep irrigation ditches, fences, and rutted terrain. Mortar and ammunition carts fully loaded with equipment, bedrolls, and rations, made difficult handling for the four men pulling the loads. The hot September sun had little mercy on the sweating crews as they tugged their burden over the three-mile route.

The first casualties in the company occurred near Highway #18, when the 1st and 2nd platoons were subject to an air attack. The attacking planes dumped their load on the highway, throwing huge lumps of earth into the assembly area of the platoons. Privates Joseph Roper and Charles Hollinsworth suffered contusions, when the flying sod struck them with great force, and were later evacuated.

By September 20, German resistance had dwindled off to leave the entire Salerno plain in Allied hands. Trails of dust marked the enemy's withdrawal to the north and VI Corps moved forward to take up the chase. The company then reverted to battalion control. The battalion was now attached to the 3rd Infantry Division. Being short of vehicles for the follow-up movement, a number of jeeps and trailers were received in exchange for 2�-ton trucks.

Advance to Volturno and crossing

Hot on the heels of a retreating enemy meant contending with extensive demolitions and the rearguard left obstacles to cause time-consuming and troublesome problems for engineers. Following the infantry's advance took the company through Monticello, Acerno, Benevento, Piazza, and Avellino. Our convoy, being the first of battalion size to pass through these towns, was greeted by mobs of cheering and clapping people lining the main thoroughfare. Flowers and apples were thrown to the soldiers on the trucks while those fortunates riding in jeeps were showered with thankful hugs and kisses from attractive signorinas when a stop would be made or the convoy slowed down to ease through the crowded street. We were real liberators!

After moving through Santa Maria, the Allied advance was stopped by the Volturno River which the enemy decided to use as a natural obstacle and defense line. Arrival on the southern banks of the river meant that the liberated land left behind would supply airfields for bomber bases and the port of Naples would receive the men and supplies needed to take more of the "Boot."

On October 9, Company D was attached to the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, near S. Clemento, and moved in close support of that regiment. Preparations were made by the Fifth Army forces to cross the river, and mortar positions were set up north of San Lucia. Under verbal orders from 3rd Division's assistant commander, Brigadier General Eagles, the platoons were moved to a position high on the side of Mount Castillone, to fire over the crest onto the opposite bank of the Volturno just below. This put the platoons in an extremely difficult position for the easy supplying of ammunition to the mortars, but the general's word was not to be bucked, and sweating started. The heavy weapons and 25-pound shells had to be hand carried up the steep slope. Every bit of reserve manpower was secured to complete the move in the darkness of night which also added to the difficulty of reaching the summit. Men carrying two rounds of ammunition in the shell carriers strapped to their backs, could endure only four trips at the most over the jagged rocky path from the foot of the mountain to the gun positions.

By dawn of October 12, mortars were in position and the platoons ranged in on their respective portions of a proposed smoke screen. HE was used in order to distract any conclusion by the enemy that white phosphorus might be used to screen the crossing. The company went into action at 0120 hours on the morning of October 13, with the 1st platoon firing HE on the north bank of the river and then lifting fire to enable the 3rd Battalion of the 15th Regiment to cross. The 2nd platoon was called upon to raise two smoke screens at Scafa De Caiazzo to assist the 2nd Battalion's crossing. All fire ceased by 0230 hours and the gun crews and OP observers delighted in much needed sleep until 0600 hours when the big task of laying a 3,500 yard smoke screen commenced. Both platoons concentrated on the opposite bank of the Volturno and the smoke screen was solidly maintained throughout the day. While the mission was in process, the 1st platoon had two WP tree-bursts from Sergeant Larry Williams' mortar. The shells exploded in the trees further up the hill from the position, and the falling spray of molten phosphorus caused no injury to the gun crews.

With eight mortars in action, the platoons worked frantically to keep up the steady rate of fire. When one mortar would go out of action, a nearby gun would take up double duty fire until repairs could be made. The rapid transfer of shells from inactive guns to those in action was executed with superhuman speed enabling the success of the mission. As the screen was built up, mortars were traversed to fill every visible break in the 3500 yards of screen so enemy observation was completely cut off. Under the protection of this screen, the engineers constructed two pontoon bridges with the feeling of ease that enemy artillery could not be accurately trained upon them. The successful completion of these bridges meant artillery and tanks could then move across the river in sufficient numbers to give required support to infantry troops. While firing the smoke screen, the platoons were called upon to fire extra missions upon areas that were offering resistance to the infantry advance. The coordinates were sent by telephone from the 3rd Infantry Battalion, designating enemy machinegun nests in and around a house on the northern shore of the Volturno. Platoon observers directed fire on the target area and an estimated number of six guns were silenced. When darkness brought the "cease fire" order, a total of 200 HE and 560 WP shells had found their way into enemy territory to destroy and to screen. The company had completed its first important mission with participation in one of the major battles of the early Italian campaign.

Action was not over, however, for the morning of October 14 brought orders for the 2nd platoon to make the river crossing. The movement was made by foot and as the platoon cleared the division bridge, the last mortar cart struck a road mine and inflicted the first serious battle casualties for the company in its 35 days of combat. The mortar cart and mortar parts were blown with such force that two men were instantly killed by flying fragments of steel. The platoon sergeant, Staff Sergeant Clarence Acker, and platoon medic, PFC Lloyd Gallup, were the victims. Five other men were injured by this mishap and all had to be evacuated to a hospital, while the remaining three mortars moved on to another position. This first taste of the misfortune of war prepared the men for moments of a disheartening nature in the future, and made them realize it would cost human American lives to preserve democracy and freedom.

The resulting heavy traffic conditions and limited means of transportation prevented the 1st platoon's crossing the Volturno until the following day. This brings to mind the fact that 2�-ton trucks were used to carry the gun crews close in behind the infantry and into positions that really necessitated the use of jeeps because of terrain features. A shuttle system had to be used to transport all the gun crews by jeep since there was a limited number of that particular type of vehicle as recommended by the Table of Organization.

Temporary relief came for the company when the northern bank of the Volturno was secure and the line of resistance had moved to the hills again. Bivouac was established about one mile north of the pontoon bridge along a feed stream to the winding Volturno and the first shipments of back mail started flowing in.

Volturno to the Venafro Hills

The last mission in the Volturno area was in support of the 30th infantry Regiment in their advance on Ponte Latone and Formicola. Ranging rounds of WP were fired on Hill 192 in preparation for screening the infantry's advance on the towns. Platoons stood ready for action but orders never came for firing the screen; the infantry had met no opposition. Mortars, ammunition, and men again en-trucked and the battalion as a whole advanced through Caiazzo and Dragoni, closing there on October 23. In support of the 3rd Division's advance on Pietrovairano, positions were established in the vicinity of Mount Monaco for shooting a smoke screen. The mission never materialized, so the only remaining activity with the division was the follow-up after Pietrovairano.

October 30, 1943, brought attachment to the 45th Division in the vicinity of Alife. The first action in support of the 157th Infantry Regiment was from a river bed position northwest of Pozziui, when harassing fire was laid upon parties of entrenched enemy on the rear slope of Hill 520. Entrance was being made to the Venafro Hills which the enemy had previously fortified to hold at all costs. Backing into the fortified hills, the Hun brought Fifth and Eighth Army troops to a halt, then slammed the great gates to the wall about his defenses. This proved to be the start of seven weeks of continuous firing for the company upon stubborn enemy resistance and a rugged period of outdoor bivouacking in the Venafro Hills.

The 1st platoon was ordered to move to a mountainside olive tree grove north of Pozzilli. It moved up the road with the infantry in daytime, pulling mortars and ammunition by handcart; the Kraut had perfect observation on the advancing parties. The road suddenly turned into a hotspot as mortar shells screamed down from the high Hun-held heights. When the road returned to normalcy, the platoon finally arrived in the designated gun position late in the afternoon of November 12, very miserable from the day's downpour of rain. Here again equipment had to be hand-carried over the rocky paths of the steep slope of the hill to reach the emplacements. A long chain of every available man was formed to pass the ammunition up the hillside, which proved easier than using the shell carrier to carry two shells on the back and making many individual trips per man.

By the middle of November, the rainy season blossomed out to make living in the open a very damp ordeal. Slit trenches covered by shelter halves against the terrace walls, gradually seeped water to become a swimming pool within a shelter. Naturally no one was in the mood for swimming at this phase of the year, and ammunition boxes were used to best advantage for building a platform in the bottom of the trenches. Those who chose to live in pup tents made a heavy bed of straw to keep off the wet ground. Sometimes three to five men would combine shelter halves to make a hut affair which promised warmer sleeping and more company when the shells started whizzing in.

Company D was the first line company to put into operation a field kitchen to serve two hot meals a day to the platoons in position. Lieutenant Francis Robertson set up the kitchen in Pozzilli, and T/4 Jack Layne and T/5 Rex Walters set the cooks to work preparing food that was to have a definite effect on the continued good morale of' the personnel. These hot meals may be credited for the low rate of sickness among the men considering the adverse conditions of weather and the long period of time spent on the line without relief. It was no cinch setting in the little village of Pozzilli since artillery barrages were directed at that place every night.

Between the dates of November 13 and December 17, the 1st platoon fired day and night on enemy emplacements in the familiar hills 640, 769 and 470. The latter, Hill 470, took an unusually heavy pasting, attracting 2,970 rounds of the 3,600 rounds of high explosive and white phosphorus shells fired from the 1st platoon's olive grove position. Other missions in the same vicinity called for interdiction of draws between the hills to limit enemy movement and his route of approach for counterattacking. Two-hour shifts were arranged among the gun crews so each mortar could interdict throughout the night. When daytime came there were other targets to center fire on, keeping the guns active 24 hours a day. HE shells were credited with silencing machine gun fire from dug-in nests, and snipers were chased from their forward perches when spotted by observers. At one time our HE shells were used to cover up the noises of starting tank motors when they were so close to the line that enemy infantrymen could detect their roar.

The 2nd platoon, now under the leadership of Sergeant Pickell, in support of the 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, during this time had chosen a gun position within range of Hill 831 and proceeded to move WP ammunition to the emplacements for the mission. The approach used by the ammo train led through a river bed onto a narrow trail that ended at the mortar positions. Movement of the ammunition was made in the daytime and the members were spotted by the enemy observers. This resulted in a mortar barrage in the vicinity and it was with great risk that the men continued in the following few days to fill the quota of rounds required for the proposed mission.

On December 15, the 1st Battalion called for the screening of Hill 831. The task was completed after using 275 rounds of WP, a mere fraction of the ammunition on hand for the mission. The screen was not maintained because enemy troops had pulled back from the objective and little resistance was met. Many times extensive preparation was made for proposed missions that never materialized as planned; this is but one of the problems encountered by a heavy mortar battalion. Another great problem resulting from wet weather was the difficulty in keeping the propellant rings absolutely dry. As a result, an occasional shell would arc out of the mortar barrel to land only five or six yards in front of the emplacement because the bundles had not ignited. The shell would leave the barrel with a low whirring sound which was the definite signal for everyone to duck for cover although none of the misfired projectiles ever detonated. The ground conditions became more adverse as the rain washed away the good topsoil, and relentless firing made the pits too deep to operate the mortar quickly and safely. Every day the baseplates were dug out and the pits refilled with rock, wood, etc.

On the night of December 18, the platoons displaced to new positions just southwest. of Acquafondata where the enemy had taken up new defenses after retreating. The position was just off the road next to a horseshoe curve and a bridge. This section was interdicted with heavy barrages of mortar and howitzer fire that came directly into the company area the next night. Luckily the men had due time. to start slit trenches and shelters that protected them from the flying bits of shrapnel and rocks that were thrown clear of a new shell crater.

The main target of concern was enemy Hill 990 which received all the rounds fired from this position up until December 27. The first casualties resulting from the action of our own weapons occurred on December 23 claiming the life of PFC Frank Tuella and wounding six men, necessitating their evacuation to the hospital. An interdictory mission was in process and being an area target, it was not necessary to check elevation and deflection after every shot. Number 4 gun's last round hit a hanging grapevine only 15 feet above the muzzle of the mortar, and the muzzle burst and exploding HE shell were almost as one report. This accident placed the gun crews on a more careful basis with the checking of their mortars and seeing that a wider field of fire was cleared in the future. This was a close-up view, to the mortar men themselves, of what damage was being done to the enemy soldier when the 4.2 missiles reached their intended target.

On Christmas Day of 1943, the platoons spent their holiday in this same vineyard position and a very delightful meal was our reward from the cooks who served the seasonal fowl with all the trimmings. A present of 40 rounds of HE and WP mixed, was sent to the krauts via air express, but not being the appreciative type he didn't bother to return our remembrance. Two days after the holiday, the white flurries from heaven were too late to make our Christmas white but never too late to cause discomfort. The high wind with the snow storm blew away shelter halves from their original moorings to put the perturbed owners out in the open at the mercy of the cold breeze. A pile of white snow in the morning would later turn out to be a soldier whose tent had blown away during the night.

New Year's Day of 1944 was spent similarly to Christmas, and the news of being relieved of assignment to the 45th Division on January 3 was the long awaited event to make all exceptionally happy. The company had fired a total of 4,893 rounds of HE and WP since their assignment after the Volturno on November 11, 1943. The final area of assembly was near Presenzano before joining the battalion in training near Naples, closing there January 5.

We had survived our first combat duties and acquired a slight feeling of being seasoned troops, not knowing our toughest days lay ahead.

Anzio beachhead

With training near the area of 3rd Division activity, it became quite apparent that the 84th was to be used for a big new operation, an amphibious one at that. Calisthenics, close order drill, hikes, and lectures became everyday routine and every man was made ready, with full issue of equipment for the coming operation. Training ended early January 20 when, after a short foot-march to an assembly area, the company en-trucked to proceed to the waiting LST in the Naples harbor. When LST #215 eased away from the docks to move into line of convoy, all were curious to know whether this was the last sight of Italian shores or whether the suspicion of another beach landing in Italy would be realized.

Morning of January 22, 1944, brought #215 close to the shores of the "Boot" Country again, this time in the vicinity of Anzio-Nettuno. The story of recently-made history lay on the straight stretches of each ahead. One of the two ramps had been put out of use by attacking fighter planes that consistently returned with fresh loads of bombs to cause damage to troops and vehicles debarking onto the beaches. Landing was scheduled for sometime in the morning but difficulties had arisen due to the damaged ramp to prevent the 215 from discharging its cargo ashore. The operation was progressing successfully with other types of units being needed more at the time than ours, so time was wasted by slowly moving about in the once heavily-mined water, waiting a turn at the busy ramp.

By mid-afternoon, LST #215 gained a berth at the head of the floating ramp. Personnel were to walk ashore as vehicles were unleashed from the LST's gaping jaw-like doors. Many of the men clamored upon the trucks as they passed on the ramp so the distance between the end of the ramp and the dry shore line would not have to be forded. The trucks would soon dry out but the men's clothing wouldn't. Setting foot onto history-making shores about 1630 hours 1� miles east of Nettuno on Red Beach, the company followed the taped-off area inland to the coastal road where a short break enabled orientation and the choice of proper roads to the assembly area. This was a surprisingly quiet entry onto hostile shores, making the future advancement inland quite prospective. By evening of D-Day the company had assembled in a wooded area to await instructions from 3rd Division Headquarters, our attachment being with the 30th Infantry Regiment.

Early morn of January 23 was the introductory opening of daily strafing and bombing assaults by the German Luftwaffe and every vehicle on the beachhead opened fire with their 50 caliber machine guns as well as AA units and Bofor-gun support from landing craft off shore. The first gun position was established in Conca, 2,000 yards south of the Mussolini Canal, by the 2nd platoon on this same day. The 1st platoon moved into position the following day at Campo Morto and emplaced mortars behind the stone wall of the courtyard. The stay there was short for, on the darkness of night on the 24th, the 1st platoon hand-carted the mortars forward to the bank of the Mussolini Canal to join positions with a heavy weapons company of the 30th Infantry. The 2nd platoon had moved earlier in the day from its position in Conca to a field position just southeast of Campo Morto, and stood ready to give support to any call from the 30th Infantry.

The morning of January 25 saw the 1st platoon finishing its preparation on positions along the Mussolini Canal, and another moving order for the 2nd platoon raised a smoke screen in front of Carano so as to cut off placements that were dug behind the paper nun. The platoon ran into heavy artillery shelling at Le Ferriere and PFC John Tharrett received a compound fracture of the leg during one of the concentrations. There was no firing from this position, only the assignment of defensive targets. Later in the day, however, the first firing mission for either platoon came to the 1st platoon when regiment called for the interdiction of a road junction to discourage any efforts of the attacking enemy forces to get through to the canal bank. A sniper lodged in a house just across the canal was too close for the 4.2 to take care of. The mission was turned over to the 60mm mortars sitting just behind the platoon. After enemy counterattacks, it was decided the platoon was too close to the line of resistance. Campo Morto again became the 1st platoon gun position as well as the company CP.

Air raids all over the beachhead were quite the daily and nightly habit by now, while incoming artillery was growing in intensity also. Campo Morto attracted much attention from artillery since it was a hub of communication to the forward positions and there was much movement in the area. One of the incoming shells injured Privates Sierdzinski, Steinlauf, and Ehn, effecting their evacuation on the 27th. Just a few hours later, Sergeant Keith Sutton accidentally discharged his carbine while cleaning it, receiving a bullet in his leg.

After attachment to the 509th Paratroop Regiment. the platoons displaced to Biadaretto just forward of the CP established at Terre Di Padiglione. The squads were sent up to the position one at a time, in the company weapons carrier, over a road under enemy observation just behind the front line. Supporting fire was given the 509th by registering on spotted machine-gun emplacements and scoring direct hits on enemy houses used for OP purposes during the days of January 29 and 30. By this time the Germans had strong reinforcements and were attempting endless counterattacks to throw us back to the sea, every night being an alerted night disrupting sleep, and fire missions all during daylight hours prevented resting of any kind. In order to secure more range from the mortars, a more forward position was necessary, calling for the displacement of the 1st platoon to Carano, the site of the Tomb of Garibaldi. As the 1st moved into position, the 2nd platoon raised a smoke screen in front of Carano so as to cut off the enemy's perfect observation on that place. Upon completion of the screen, the 2nd moved in behind Carano into house positions in Fontenecchi.

Immediately upon getting organized in the new locations, the 509th requested a smoke screen to be used in the vicinity of the cemetery in front of Carano. Screening continued for the attack of our infantry by lifting fire with the advance, cutting off any observation from OPs. Outposts called back for HE fire on machine-gun emplacements and personnel, and our shells were observed to inflict many casualties on the enemy, and ceased the firing from the machine guns. The platoons fired four mortars each, keeping two in reserve in case of breakage or assignment of new targets. The marshy ground of the Anzio flatland was to be a great problem in keeping the mortar on the surface, as we were now discovering.

The enemy soon grew suspicious of a possible mortar position at Carano, and proceeded to throw counter-battery fire into the small village area whenever the 1st platoon fired. It was at this time that Captain Andino took over one of the mortars, after sending the regular crew inside the building for cover, when one of the counter-battery barrages came in. PFC Phillip Wolf remained at his post to help prepare ammunition, for which service he was later presented a battalion commendation. Sergeant Walter Stewart, Sergeant Edward West, and PFC Paul Comeaux also remained at their gun posts during the course of a fire mission, while enemy artillery shells burst in and around the "piazza" where the mortar was emplaced. For their fine display of courage in the face of injury and even death from enemy action, these men were presented battalion commendations at a later date.

Between the dates of January 31 and February 4, the platoons gave excellent supporting fire for the 509th. Speaking to doughboys returning from the front line, it was learned that the fire from the 4.2 was now their pride and joy, because of its great effectiveness in dispersing enemy personnel while counterattacking, its accuracy in destroying machine gun positions that held up infantry advances, and the freedom of movement afforded by its smoke screens. On the 2nd of February, the paratroopers had a patrol out in the vicinity of the cemetery, which received a preparatory barrage from our HE section prior to the patrol's arrival. When supporting enemy troops came forward to reinforce those fighting in the cemetery, our HE concentration completely disrupted the efforts made to reach the point of contact. Eye witnesses proved that the concentration killed many, and wounded or demoralized the remainder of that advancing group. A smoke screen was then laid with WP, so the patrol could withdraw from heavy enemy artillery fire in that area.

When detachment from the 509th came on February 4, the 1st platoon removed to an assembly area at Campo Morto, to be later joined by the 2nd platoon. An immediate attachment to the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division, made it necessary for the platoons to return to their respective positions under no cover whatever. The 1st platoon moved boldly forward in 2�-ton trucks to Carano, over the road just behind the front line. Jerry took advantage of this, and the platoon became the target of many artillery guns as the trucks moved into the little village. The remainder of the day was spent under cover in the houses, which received several hits during the course of the barrages. By dusk it was decided to move to another position, since it was obvious that Carano was to be a major target of enemy artillery. With a sigh of relief the platoon moved into a position about 400 yards north of the Mussolini Canal, where the blacktop road was the only target, if the men stayed under cover during the day. Defensive targets were assigned to the mortars, and on the night of February 5, the 2nd platoon fired on an enemy counterattack. This was the night that preparation was made for a possible withdrawal across the canal, in the event the enemy's attack was a success. Equipment was all loaded on vehicles, ready to withdraw; mortars were manned, waiting to fire every round available when called upon; thermite grenades lay handy for use in case time didn't allow removal of the heavy weapons; and plans were drawn up for the disposal of ammunition unfired. The night was a tense one, and there was no relaxation until early the next morning when the Kraut attack petered out.

February 8 brought the 1st platoon to the same vicinity as the 2nd platoon, and the company now occupied three houses located between two hot spots, Carano and Campo Morto. Sometimes the overs and shorts for these targets would make it appear our positions were attracting the same attention the two mentioned targets were. These house positions, just south of Carano, were to be stabilized gun emplacements for the coming two months of Anzio hellishness, days of suspense and waiting, days every man hopes never to experience again. During the remaining days of February, not one day slipped by without the 4.2 throwing death and destruction at the enemy. Houses, draws, and roads in the vicinity of the cemetery were continually harassed and, on the dates of 16th and 22nd, counterattacks were stopped by the effective fire of the company's mortars. The company's forward OP was interchangeably operated by Lieutenants Blach, Duffy, Robertson, and Kresoya. Communications were very difficult to maintain, since daily shellings would cut the wire between the gun positions and the OP. It was impossible to go over the line route during daytime, so an early break meant interdictory firing with no corrections; no new targets of opportunity from the OP observers, unless an urgent mission necessitated use of the radio.

For the first time in their combat careers, the men found it necessary and wise to construct shelters of timbers and sandbags within the houses and barns for protection against shellings. It was evident we were to stay in this locality for a long period of time, so that meant our positions would be a sure number on enemy artillery shelling schedules. Parapets were built of sandbags around the mortars, which again were on very soft ground, making difficult long intervals of firing without re-digging. An experiment was tried, with the use of railroad ties as a base for a gun pit, which was an improvement as long as the ties didn't split. Hay and brick were next placed in the pits, as well as old sandbags and anything that might give a solid foundation. Large platforms, 10' x 16', were even tried as a base, but they too sank after ten rounds had been fired. Sand-filled pits proved to be the most satisfactory.

At the early hour of 0530, on the morning of February 16th to 19th, the company was alerted to prepare for enemy attacks. In case of a breakthrough, the mortars were to fire as long as possible, at the shortest range, and then withdraw to the canal. Approximately 700 rounds, mostly HE, were used to repulse the enemy thrusts during these alerted mornings. During one of these attacks, Lieutenant Edward Duffy earned the Silver Star by remaining in the OP to direct mortar fire upon the advancing enemy just 500 yards away.

The last day of the month saw another strong enemy counter-offensive. Mortars were in action all day, as the 509th Paratroop Regiment was pushed back to Carano, with heavy losses on both sides. The gun crews were fired upon by enemy artillery whenever they made an appearance in the mortar pits; in spite of that, 280 rounds of high explosive shells were expended. Practically every move was made in the prone position to gain protection of the parapets.

The rear echelon group by this time was having no rest whatsoever at their location at Campo Morto, as the little village was a magnet for hundreds of enemy shells daily. Men were dug in underneath the buildings, had shelters inside the barn itself under machinery, and took refuge in the cellar of the castle. During one of these daily expected barrages, an incoming shell set fire to the camouflage net covering one of the company's 2�- ton trucks. Another 2� loaded with ammunition, parked beside it, was also threatened by the blazing net, prompting immediate action from several motor pool men on the scene. With complete disregard for their own personal safety, the quick thinking and courage of T/4 Howell Lynch, PFC Herman Zachau, and PFC Morris Tucker, saved both trucks from destruction by the rapidly spreading flames. Sergeant Lynch jumped into the cab of the ammunition-filled truck and drove it a safe distance from the immediate area, while Zachau and Tucker pulled the camouflage net from the first truck, to remove the main body of flames. This action was carried out under enemy shell fire, and merited a Bronze Star for T/4 Lynch, and battalion commendations for PFC Zachau and PFC Tucker.

Another incident, displaying the courageous endurance of Company D men, took place February 29 at the same hotspot, Campo Morto. A heavy enemy artillery barrage was in process, when calls for help came from a wounded man by the roadside. Three men, Pies, Albert Wroblewski, Nelson Navarra, and Walter Zalewski, ran from their protective shelter to the wounded man's side, and brought him to their shelter for first aid treatment. The rescued man told of a wounded buddy, still outside the shelter, prompting the same three soldiers to brave the withering shell fire once more to aid the second man. They ran and crawled approximately 75 yards, disregarding fragments of rock and shrapnel thrown about them, and carried the man to safety. Their dogged determination and courage merited the award of the Bronze Star Medal, and gained a light of admiration in the eyes of their fellow comrades.

Highlights of our sheltered existence on the Anzio Beachhead during March, were interdictory missions for the mortars on targets of opportunity, important approach draws, and houses still in enemy hands on the front line. From the platoons' gun positions, enemy houses numbered 5, 6, and 7, could be plainly seen with field glasses and it was the mortar squads' greatest ambition to get the greatest number of hits, as delicate adjustment was made to correct range and deflection when a miss was observed. We were partially paid back on March 22, when an 88mm shell hit the edge of the window in the 1st platoon's living quarters. The shelter within the barn had little protection on the ends, thus exposing the men if a shell exploded in the very window such as this one did. PFC Alexander Rosakomsky was killed by the rain of shrapnel. PFC Antonio Rosales was seriously wounded and later died, and Privates Joseph Roper and William Octave were slightly wounded. Fortunately, after the hit was scored on the barn, firing ceased momentarily, and the group was given time to aid those injured and move to a better place for protection. Captain Andino, Sergeant Stanley Zitzner, and PFC Eric Hamburger hand-carried the seriously wounded man by litter a distance of 2,500 yards to the aid station, under direct observation of the enemy while the others were evacuated as soon as it became dusk and a jeep could be used with little danger of being seen. PFC Oscar Hinojosa and PFC John Slowey, company medics, were on hand to give expert aid and help with the evacuation of the wounded.

Immediately after this incident, the 1st platoon moved into the first floor of the house, which was vacated by the 509th Paratrooper Battalion aid station, and barricaded the walls of the largest room as a shelter. Steel girders, timbers, and countless sandbags went into the structure of the new shelter, big enough to hold twenty men or more. The 2nd platoon men were more fortunate to have two houses across from one another, allowing the men to divide up between the two and thus be less crowded. This sheltered living was a strain on the men, they became pale, overweight, and had little ambition. There was no sign of relief whatsoever, and a man on the guns was replaced only when he was taken ill and was forced to go to the rear.

March 12, the company supplied several experienced gunners for a provisional group, formed on VI Corps orders, to give support to the First Special Service Force. These men from the 84th were acting cadre to this "Cloud Company," which was filled by men of the 81st Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. The newly formed group was to support an attack by the First Special Service Force on the town of Littoria; however, the mission was called off and the group disbanded a week later on the 19th, the personnel returning to their respective organizations.

By March 13, the company rear at Campo Morto was being shelled so devastatingly that it was necessary to find a new area less dangerous for the men to stay in. Already there were two deaths in personnel and two vehicles damaged by shellfire, with the daily suspense of the men growing to be unbearable. A very fine area was found just south of Borgo Montello, where the men built home-like shelters, could be out in the sun unobserved, and had a stream running through the immediate area where they could bathe and wash clothes.

Another enemy attempt to break through Allied defenses came on March 15, with his attack being directed in the Carano area. Lieutenant Leonard Kresoya took action, to later warrant his receiving the Silver Star, by directing deadly accurate fire on this advancing threat from his forward OP. He was accompanied by PFC Joseph Zatwarnicki, BAR man, who merited a battalion commendation for remaining in the OP with the lieutenant in the face of the enemy attack. About this same time, Lieutenant Francis Robertson merited the Silver Star for his exemplary duty in the forward OP. He also directed mortar fire on advancing troops to disrupt their efforts to successfully counterattack.

When the 3id Division was relieved by the 45th Division on March 23, the company had hopes of benefitting by rest also, only to be detached from the 30th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd, and attached to the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Division. With no opportunity to take a shower in the rear area, the men on the line bathed in their helmets, washing the body in phases as the climatic conditions became comfortable.

April was like the previous month. with interdictory fire for harassing effect or firing upon machine gun emplacements upon call from the infantry outposts. Prisoners testified that the white phosphorus shells were something from Hell, routing them out of their holes when flying fragments of the phosphorus landed on their bodies and clothes. Still there was plenty of return fire on the platoons' gun positions, such as the incident happening to the 2nd platoon on the 2nd day of April. An incoming 88mm AP shell hit next to a pile of WP and ignited the supply of powder bundles for the shells. The blazing bundles and the wooden boxes containing the shells were a great threat to the total destruction of the ammunition supply, until the valor and bravery of seven men subsided fears of explosion and danger of incoming missiles of destruction: Lieutenant Leonard Kresoya, Corporal Michael Flanagan, Privates First Class Fred Western, Joseph Zatwarnicki, Eugene Piotrowski, Barme Waddell, and John Welch extinguished the fire. The blaze was doused with many helmets of water carried from the house pump which action recommended the presentation of battalion commendations. Many other incidents in the combat career of Company D followed these already mentioned, and brought awards to the individuals participating. We salute these men for their courage and determination and want them to know that their bravery has reflected great distinction on the name of the 84th Chemical Mortar Battalion.

Daily shellings were becoming nerve wracking and April 13 brought the worst going over that the men of the 1st platoon had ever experienced. Shelling of the position greeted the early morning, lasting only a short time to more or less prepare the men for what was in store for them. After three hours of peacefulness, the enemy unleashed a barrage of 88mm and mortar fire on the ranged-in target. A smoke shell landed in a little grass shack adjoining the house, and immediately bloomed into a raging inferno. There was ammunition and the platoon jeep housed in the shack, so with little hopes of stopping the fire, the men stayed in the shelter inside the house to avoid the unceasing hail of shells. Huddled under the shelter, the men could hear a shell puncture the wall of the house on the second floor once occupied by the company CP, then one through the roof. The gas in the jeep exploded to throw more of the spreading flame to nearby ammunition which shortly went up with a rocking blast that was certain to let the enemy know there was really something of target value in the area being shelled. Either spreading flames or a direct hit set off another pile of ammunition to completely blackout the inside of the shelter. The tremendous concussion blew all the plaster from the outer wall of the barn, knocking over a small tree and brought down the remaining shingles of the roof damaged by the action of March 22. After the barrage had ceased and an investigation could be made, all haystacks were observed to be burning in the barnyard, while craters marked the once nicely piled heaps of ammunition. The ammunition for No. 3 gun, amounting to 40 rounds HE and 20 rounds WP, left a hole some 30 feet in diameter and 15 feet deep. Some of the unexploded shells were thrown for a distance up to 700 yards from the gun position, and nearby 81mm mortar men had to take cover to avoid the falling debris.

Even though this date was a black mark to remember on the calendar, the 1st platoon was moved to the battalion rest camp that same evening, while the 2nd platoon joined them in rest the following evening. Relief was brought by the 83rd Chemical Battalion whose Company D moved into the same positions to take up fire where we had left off. The tired men entering the rest camp had stood 94 days of continuous front line duty without relief, a period of time each individual was glad to try to forget with the rest ahead.

For twelve days the company reorganized and trained to put the men back into the healthy nerve-quieted stage again. A shower and exchange of clothing was the first urge to be satisfied by everyone. Three regular meals a day was a noticeable change from the hurried irregular snacks at the front between shellings. Then came a training schedule of calisthenics, close order drill, firing of the carbine, and lectures. We were training our systems to fight off malaria also, with daily consumption of atabrine. As all good rests must come to an end, Company D left the battalion tented area at midnight April 25, to take over positions of Company A, which was due a similar rest. It was a dark, moonless night when the platoons loaded into jeeps and trailers for front line duty once more.

Morning of April 26 saw Company D in position to support the 133rd Infantry Regiment of the 34th Division just south of Cisterna Di Littoria; 1st platoon position at the Dairy Farm, Antonio, and behind houses just to the right of and beyond the dairy, and 2nd platoon positions in the same housed area, a little forward of the others. The first thing to greet the morning was the shelling of the CP and one mortar position of the 1st platoon. A hit was made on the barn adjoining the house, starting a fire within, and WP shells started pilloring white smoke through the open roof. Captain Andino, with nine of the men who occupied the house, crawled a distance of 175 yards through irrigation ditches to other houses used by the platoon, to escape any fur1her artillery shells or explosions of the burning ammunition. When evening came and darkness allowed movement outside, members of both platoons extinguished the blaze.

In preparation for the all-out assault coming up, the 2nd platoon detailed men from the rear echelon area to dig gun emplacements approximately 1,000 yards forward of the house positions taken over from Company A. This was to maintain effective range on assigned targets after the infantry jump-off, and to be in a position to reach new areas ahead of the attack. Ammunition was brought forward and put in reserve for the big show, a trying job for those truck drivers who caught the detail and operated the 2�-ton truck on the busy roads in the blackness of night.

During most of the harassing missions that took place most every evening in May, the entire day's allotment might be expended in a short time such as illustrated by three mortars of the 2nd platoon firing on May 3. During sixteen minutes of actual firing time, the three guns fired a total of 240 rounds of HE to completely demoralize the victims in the target area and emphasized the element of surprise.

An act of bravery was performed by Sergeant Sam Friedman on May 16 when an incident of complication came up in the 2nd platoon gun position. About mid-afternoon, an enemy artillery barrage fell in the vicinity of the three houses occupied by the platoon, one shell setting fire to powder bundles on 40 HE shells in Friedman's gun pit. Some powder bundles stored in a nearby oven blew up, and the camouflage net was set on fire making a very noticeable disturbance for an enemy observer to center his barrage upon. That he did, but it failed to prevent Sergeant Friedman from leaving his shelter to extinguish the blaze, despite the fact that enemy shells were landing within ten feet of him. The Bronze Star was his reward for his display of courage.

Then came the historical day of May 23, jump-off time for the Allied forces on the beachhead in the all-out Fifth Army drive on Rome.

Push to Rome

The company was detached from the 34th Division and attached to the 3rd Division, supporting the 7th Infantry Regiment. As planned for the attack, the mortars opened fire at 0610 hours on targets of enemy importance that might give the advance opposition, firing until 0700 hours. The platoons unleashed 530 rounds of HE from six mortars during this fifty-minute period, and then awaited call from Regiment in case additional fire was needed. It was a day of suspense awaiting the outcome of the jump-off, wondering whether or not we would have to fire on counterattacking Krauts, or move ahead to establish gun positions giving greater range.

All had gone well and with the dusk of evening many tired Anzio-weary boys hit the sack to rest for coming duties the next day and thereafter before the Eternal City. Between the first day of firing from the Anzio Beachhead, January 25, to the last day of firing from the officially declared Anzio front, the company fired 12,858 rounds into Kraut positions, 7,400 being fired in May alone.

The 1st platoon advanced to a new gun position on May 24. moving west of Isola Bella, into a ditch used as an irrigation channel at one time. No missions were fired by the platoons, and the 2nd platoon was ordered to move just south of Cisterna Di Littoria the same day, in case the 7th lnfantry Regiment requested a smoke screen on the town, or HE in the buildings to dislodge the enemy personnel. May 25 brought moving orders for the 1st platoon to move just ahead and to the left of the 2nd platoon position south of Cisterna Di Littoria, to establish a gun position. The mortars were set up along the base of a bank beside the road, after the area had been swept for mines by the company mine detecting crew, Privates Gerald Guerro and Raymond Rosati. The gun crews proceeded to dig into the bank on the opposite side by the road, stopping only to unload ammunition trucks bringing the ammunition forward. Movement was picked up by an enemy observer no doubt, unless it was just interdictory fire on the road behind the platoon. From the half-completed foxholes in the bank, the men peered out to see a pile of 4.2 ammunition smoldering from one of the nearby shell bursts. Lieutenant David Salasin and a truck driver from another outfit happening on the scene, advanced on the pile of burning projectiles with fire extinguishers in an effort to extinguish the now blazing wooden boxes. The fire gained progress so rapidly that the two men saw it was a hopeless situation to attack with such small fire fighting apparatus and ran to the slit trenches behind the bank. Not too soon either, for the ground was rocked, by the explosion of 250 rounds of ammunition, mostly HE, just a second after these men hit the dirt. Late that afternoon, the platoons were brought back to an assembly area at Antonio, where arrangements were completed for moving the company forward that night.

Taking a happy backward glance in leaving the Anzio hotspot, the company moved slowly by 2�-ton trucks, under cover of darkness, through Cisterna Di Littoria, and pulled into an assembly area between that town and Cori for a few hours rest. Daybreak of May 26 saw the 1st platoon loaded into 2�s again, moving forward on the road to Cori with the speed of the infantrymen's walk. The column swerved sharply left on the railroad track just below Cori, snailing along and taking a break whenever the doughboys rested their blisters. The 2nd platoon advanced by truck directly into Cori, narrowly escaping a dive bombing by our own air force. The advance continued by road past the gruesome sight of badly-mangled German bodies laying near their tank or artillery piece that had been destroyed by our advancing forces, on through Guilianello toward Artena until dusk, when the platoons pulled off the road about 2� miles south of Artena, to set up defensive positions.

The rear echelon group, consisting of supply, kitchen, motor pool, ammunition section, gun crews and communication men, met with a tragic accident on the road between Cisterna Di Littoria and Cori. A truck containing some 400 rounds of mixed ammunition caught fire, a camouflage net and powder bundles blazed away increasing the intensity of the fire. PFC Henry DeVivo, finding his clothes ablaze, sounded a call for help, bringing Private John Navarro who beat out the flames with his hands and led him away from the truck. Other men came running to the blazing truck to give assistance; realizing that the fire was beyond control, the group scattered for the nearest cover. Before they could get away, the truck exploded with terrific force killing five, seriously wounding twelve, and slightly wounding six. Private Frank DeMarca previously risked his life to drive the truck off the road, and was one of the seriously wounded. Those killed were, Lieutenant Ben E. Owen, whose promotion to 1st Lieutenant came the same day as the tragedy, Sergeant Stanley 1. Zitzner, PFC Raymond F. Stahl, PFC Leo Scallan, and Private Russell D. Small.

May 27 was spent in defensive positions with the 2nd platoon leap frogging the 1st to a roadside position nearer Artena. Early on the morning of May 28, the 1st platoon moved by jeep to a gun position about two miles southwest of the Artena objective, where a deep ravine was used for cover by the men. The position was in full view of the enemy on the left, and heavy counter-battery fire was received whenever the 4.2s had a fire mission. The road being used heavily was another attraction for enemy artillery fire, the platoon receiving most of the "overs" intended for the road. The 2nd platoon was called upon by the 7th Regiment to fire on a wooded area in enemy territory, and also to harass a junction on the Velletri-Artena road on the left flank. Lobbing 21 WP and 7 HE shells into the target area, forced the hasty withdrawal of the enemy personnel. Moving orders that night took the 2nd just opposite the 1st platoon position, to the left of the road where they set up behind a house and found a cave for protection in case of shelling. While carrying out firing missions the next day from these positions, observers credited the 2nd platoon with destroying a German Mark IV tank with a direct hit from a WP shell. The hit was observed to force the evacuation of the occupants when the tank burst into flames. These scampering men were then harassed with HE concentrations with excellent results.

May 31, the company was attached to the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division, and displaced to a new gun position one mile west of Artena. The 15th Regiment was scheduled to attack Valmontone the morning of June 1, the platoons giving support with preparatory barrages, starting at 0430 hours that same morning. Using 312 HE shells in a half-hour barrage, the platoons ceased fire at 0500 hours to wait for fire orders from Regiment after the pushoff. Upon scheduled intervals during the remainder of the morning, the 2nd platoon heavily harassed the area beyond the railroad track that cut the Valmontone-Artena road. With the consolidation of newly gained positions by the 15th Regiment, moving orders were passed down for the 1st platoon to advance forward to a more advantageous position effecting an immediate displacement to an orchard at the base of the hillside village of Artena. Movement could not be held off until nighttime now, since the infantry was moving forward so rapidly and mortar support was immediately essential. While the 1st moved forward, the 2nd platoon fired a smoke screen south of Valmontone, for the infantry moving up the road.

Continuing a full day's schedule, the 1st platoon was required to set up their weapons quickly in the new position to fire a screen east of Valmontone, along the southern bank of Highway #6, limiting enemy observation on the movements of American doughboys. As darkness gradually enshrouded a busy day, the men relaxed with expectation to rest, only to be called to battle stations between 2110 and 2130 hours to throw devastation upon an enemy counterattack. The frantic request for as much fire power as possible on the road just south of stubbornly-defended Valmontone was met with rapid fire from the company mortars expending every round of HE on hand. A call was made to Regiment to inform them of this fact, and to ask permission to start a concentration of WP in the threatened area. The call was answered with high praise for excellent, effective firing from the regimental commander, who personally observed the shoot and saw the exploding mortar shells from the 4.2 completely disorganize the attacking enemy. He informed them as to his happiness and gave the cease fire order since the counterattack no longer threatened. This was a commendation to make all retire that night of June 1 with a feeling that they alone could be credited with saving the day.

The fine job of effective firing to stop the counterattack was the last mission for the company before the Eternal City was entered. It wasn't the last gun position, however, as the platoons continued to leap frog each other when the advance up Highway #6 left the mortars out of range. By June 3, the platoons had passed through Labico close on the heels of the infantry, ever on the lookout for enemy stragglers who may have been left behind by a retreating German outfit. Came dawn of June 4, and the platoons had pushed 24 miles toward Rome from Labico, having no fire missions since Artena. A total of 1,302 HE and 199 WP were expended between this time and the last fire mission on Anzio before the breakthrough. The greatest part of this total was expended on June 1, as that day proved the busiest for the company all through the advance.

The route of approach up to this time had been over the main road, Highway #6, until a point just three miles east of the outskirts of Rome, where a northern approach was taken toward Highway #5. The assembly area was in a group of houses named Grotte, while the company commander, Captain Andino, reconnoitered for new positions. An overnight break was taken at this point awaiting further orders, also giving the rear echelon group an opportunity to move into the southern district of the Italian Capitol to another assembly area, which was in reality another gun position. Guns were trained on the railroad yards of Rome housing enemy tanks that had been by-passed by the rapidly advancing infantry. The inactivity of the tanks, which made no attempt to break out of the yards or harass the Allied advance, never necessitated the use of the 4.2 as a defensive measure on this pocket of resistance.

Arrival in Rome and R&R

With detachment from the 15th Infantry Regiment and reversion to battalion control, the entire company assembled in the courtyard of a large mansion north of Highway #6, about ten miles east of the city. First news of the landings made in Normandy gave much spiritual value to the liberation of Rome as did rumors that the company was due for a rest. Inspired by these two headline cuts, a sudden desire to celebrate overcame the men, exciting Rome of course being their choice of playground.

Being under battalion control, the company was ordered to bivouac in the battalion assembly area two miles north of the Via Flamina Bridge, crossing the Tiber River just at the back door of Rome. Passing en route through the city, there were loud appraisals of Italian beauty; the buildings, gardens and women. Civilization was a strange, almost forgotten sight after coming off the dusty battle-raked roads and fields that made up our environment for the past four months. By dusk of June 7, the company had set up in the appointed area, with the majority of the enlisted personnel already roaming the streets of the Roman city, getting acquainted with its layout, its facilities, and some of the Roman signorinas.

During the remainder of the month of June, the company bathed in refreshing rest, many privileges were given the men in order that the past trying months might be scratched from their memories. Those privileges came in the form of pass quotas for the Big City, nightly movie trucks to the Red Cross theater, afternoons free of training program, and there was even ice for the lister bag. Two parties were held for the company, the first on June 24, at the Rosetta Restaurant and the second on July 6, at the Apollo Club. There was the usual quota of Italian girls for dancing partners who came mainly because of the food served later in the evening.

A new T/O came into effect during this rest which provided for a third platoon and the reduction of personnel in the mortar squads. More ratings resulted from the new organization, but the company continued to operate only two platoons as before. When moving orders came July 8, the company departed from the vicinity of Rome with saddened faces, knowing that attachment was now made to IV Corps, meaning combat once more. The convoy moved through the outskirts of Rome receiving a "cheerio" from the civilians and settled down to a long trip north over Highway # 1. Many minds reminisced the joys of Rome, resulting in complete silence when darkness came and the last signs of habitation were passed.

Arno River

The barking of cannons heralded the return to the combat zone early on the morning of July 9 as the battalion closed into an assembly area in the vicinity of Riparbella, near the Cecina River. Attachment was made to the 88th Division, and we were to give mortar support in the advance on the Arno River. When company A moved into a gun position on the night of July 9, company D was held in reserve with the remainder of the battalion only 3� miles west of Volterra. Mopping up operations still progressed in Volterra, while the advancing 88th moved around the hill summit village on to the Era River. With long-tom rifles sounding off just across the road, the boys dug in for the night to rest their travel-weary bodies, not concerned in the least over the noise of the artillery.

Finally attachment came for the company to the 349th Infantry Regiment, 88th Division, on July 10. By 1900 hours, the platoons were moving by jeep over the winding unimproved road leading up to Volterra, which was by now cleaned out by doughboys, so we hoped! Civilians who had just been introduced to liberation, lined the narrow, roadway to cheer the passing platoons and hold up fore and index fingers to symbolize the letter V for Victory. Passing through the village and down into the Era Valley, there was confusion among the platoons in deciding where the newly selected gun position was located. After trying several approaches south of the river, a trail was discovered east of the road bridge that had been demolished by the Jerries and, having already seen use by tanks and other heavy vehicles, it was safe for the platoons' jeeps to ford the stream. The gun position was established by the forward crews on the edge of a cornfield, the 2nd platoon on the forward edge and the 1st platoon along the road approach on the backward edge. The CP was set up in a badly battered house about 200 yards to the rear of the mortar positions and all awaited the call from Regiment for firing missions.

When daylight came on the morning of the 11th, sleepy eyes investigated the surrounding terrain features. To the right there was open, desolate, flat land leading to foothills and mountains. It was not known whether these mountains were in the hands of Germans or, as everyone hoped, in the hands of the French, advancing in that sector. Little concern was given this fact, however, since there were more important things to train our attention - on the 349th requested fire on the village lying due north from the positions, Villamagna. Only 38 rounds of HE and 12 rounds of WP were expended this first day; these were more or less ranging and harassing rounds.

Commencing at the milkman's hour, 0515 in the morning on July 12, the company raised a 500 yard smoke screen on the southern edge of Villamagna to hinder observation by the enemy on the advancing American infantry. The platoons fired alternately throughout the day up until 2100 hours, leaving the hilltop village burning at spots from the heavy barrage of phosphorus shells. During the 15-hour period, the mortars belched forth 1,171 rounds of WP to complete the screening mission and thus enable the 349th Infantry Regiment to advance upon and take their objective. The ground conditions proved to be quite satisfactory after sweating out laborious months at Anzio; it was now possible to fire a great volume of rounds before the baseplate showed signs of needing re-digging.

An advance order came down for the platoons late in the night of July 13, and the calendar had time to turn over a new day before the mortar squads arrived in the new positions in the town of Villamagna. Silence covered the company's action since it was not known if the town had been completely cleared of the enemy or just how many of our own infantry boys were in front of the town; possibly we were in no-man's land. As slit trenches were dug for the night, bits of phosphorus were unearthed where the shells had thrown their contents during the previous day's shoot.

By the next day, the 88th Division had advanced farther north in the pressing drive to the Arno, and the company was moved into a regimental reserve assembly area near Fabrica De Peccioli. A call was sent for the company's services again at noon on July 16. Like an alert crew in the hometown fire company, the men mounted their waiting vehicles and proceeded to the chosen spot of Captain Andino's reconnaissance. En route, the leading 1st platoon jeep ran into a very unusual situation, a German soldier stepped out from the foliage of the roadside to give himself up. He was disarmed and frisked by Lieutenant Robertson and Lieutenant Salasin, while Sergeant Eric Hamburger exercised his native language to learn of the man's outfit and other personal information. At various times before this, prisoners were taken by men of the company, in all totaling about six.

Mortar positions were established in back of the village cemetery of Monte Foscoli, and as soon as the stubby cannons could be emplaced, they were put into action against the enemy 3,500 yards away. The platoons ranged in on the town of Partino with rounds of WP and HE just before midnight and then for 25 minutes the 2nd platoon harassed the enemy at the rate of two rounds per minute. Cease fire order came when an enemy plane hovered overhead and dropped flares in an attempt to pick up possible movement in the area. Early the next morning as daybreak was ushered in, the platoons were called to battle stations for the harassing of draws leading out of Partino. Many fires were started by the 30 rounds of WP expended, and an enemy tank was disabled and put out of use' by several of the 80 HE shells directed on the draws. As the pushing back of the enemy continued, the company moved through Monte Foscoli on east of the town over roads that were under direct observation in the brightness of the day. Some three miles east of the shelled village, the platoons pulled off the road to set up along the southern protection of defilade offered by the sloping terrain. Mortars were assigned azimuths, men dug slit trenches, and ammunition was dispersed, before time was taken to prepare the evening meal.

A Piper Cub was spotted hovering high overhead which brought suspicious attention from the men since other cubs were flying back and forth at a much lower altitude. Some moments later, as the suspicion of the plane being a Jerry Cub was brushed aside, the area was suddenly shelled by enemy tank fire. Corrections must have been given by the plane since the shells came directly into the center of company activity the very first time. Men scurried for cover as the first two shells almost split their eardrums with their close detonation. A third shell hit powder bundles which blazed intensely near the piles of ammunition boxes. Experiences with burning ammunition before had left a feeling of horror in the back of the men's minds, and everyone immediately removed themselves hurriedly to other places of safety. More incoming shells set other powder bundles ablaze and soon the expected explosion of ammunition came. Approximately 100 rounds of HE and 50 rounds of WP were destroyed by the blast that ensued. Fortunately, most of the men had run to the top of the hill and the rock, earth, and shells thrown skyward fell harmlessly to the ground that had been occupied by the men.

This incident did not detain the 2nd platoon from moving forward to a new position just before midnight. The move was a westward jump to give our route of progress a checker board effect, for the previous move from Monte Foscoli had been an eastward jump. The new location was just one mile west of Partina, and mortars were hastily set up to await fire order of any kind. The morning of July 18, took the 1st platoon to a position � mile west of Palaia and, as the last resistance was met before reaching Arno River, the platoons joined in an assembly area only three miles south of the river to wait further orders.

The last day of service with the 88th Division was quite exciting as the platoons moved in just south of Montopoli. The mortars were emplaced in preparation to fire north of the Arno River, after which the men occupied themselves in preparing a 10-in-1 ration meal, or merely lounged around to await firing orders. The fire order soon came, only the order was given in German to the enemy artillery men. A great number of large caliber shells fell in the company area soon after the noon hour, one of them exploding on the bank above the 1st platoon's position. Sergeant Benny Dianella was running toward a wine cellar for cover when the rain of shrapnel came down upon him. His call for help was answered by Private Irving Jungreis, Medic for the 1st, and several of the nearby men who were unafraid of further shelling as they carried the wounded sergeant to the closest slit trench.

No fire missions took place from these last scattered positions, and it was relieving news to hear on the 21st that the company was detached from the 351st Infantry Regiment and the 88th Division. Assembly with the battalion took place in an area between Monte Foscoli and Peccioli. It was learned that more action was to be seen farther west with the 34th Division. Arising at 0500 hours on the morning of July 22, sleepy-eyed jeep and truck drivers raced their vehicle motors to sound call for all men to be on their toes ready to move. The convoy took to the dusty road and maintained the 50-yard interval as the column moved westward. After hours of seemingly circular movement in the hot sun, the chain of vehicles pulled into the battalion assembly area about two miles south of Colle Salvetti.

The company was attached to the 133rd Infantry Regiment of the 34th Division, and an immediate move was made by forward elements to establish positions to support this regiment. The 1st and 2nd platoons advanced to an assembly area at Vicarello, which is 2� miles north of Colle Salvetti, and there awaited the return of Captain Andino who reconnoitered for gun emplacements. Movement was cancelled until the following day, so gun crews and other members of the forward party could snatch forty winks in the houses of Vicarello. July 23 had the platoons moving several times in the day, being close at hand to fill the capacity of regimental reserve. Although there was no mortar action from these positions, it was an irksome task to dig new slit trenches and sweat out your new location.

In regimental reserve, the company found it advisable to join the company rear in the battalion assembly area south of Colle Salvetti, the 1st platoon closing there the night of July 23, and the 2nd platoon closing July 24. The short break came to an end July 28 when the company was relieved of attachment to the 133rd Infantry Regiment and the 34th Division, and ordered to move into position near the western coast. Movement of the platoons was scheduled for the evening of July 27, but the order was cancelled until the 28th when daylight could guide the jeeps into the pine forest chosen for gun emplacements. Reaching the new sector attached to the 435th Anti Aircraft Battalion, positions were established approximately four miles southwest of Pisa. The 1st platoon was located 800 yards south of the Arno River, and the 2nd platoon just beyond at 1,000 yards from the Arno.

Shelter construction was momentarily interrupted during the noon hours to range the mortars in on enemy roads that approached his river bank positions. Only five HE were used to range in the targets from the 1st platoon mortars, but that was enough for Jerry to suspect artillery of some sort in the area. The woods were immediately raked with return fire which sent everyone to the protection of his dugout. A new type of shell was introduced to us late that day. When put into action the gun report was that of a "belching cow," which name the men applied to the gun thereafter. The rocket shell was slow in flight and could be seen by an alert observer as it arced to its target. When the shell landed, it would explode with deafening concussion and spread flaming oil for many yards around. This was a dangerous threat to the platoons being located among the pines 200 yards in front of the 1st platoon positions and, fortunately for all concerned, there were some Italian farmers nearby who dug fire trenches and smothered the spreading flames with their shovels before any damage was done.

The "belching cow" artillery barrages, the tortuous sun, and the pestering flies were not enough; more troubles were in store with the approach of darkness, warning was passed on to the platoons to be on the alert for strong enemy patrol action. Security squads were posted forward and to the flanks of the platoons as a safety measure for the night and there was an air of uneasiness in the surroundings when total darkness brought its placidness. It was decided the next day that a platoon of mortars could well be used on the extreme left flank, and the present field of range sufficiently handled by the use of the other platoon. The 1st platoon loaded onto its jeeps to be transported over the picturesque roads of the pine forest toward the wide four lane highway that followed the coast line. Leaving the 2nd platoon in position in the woodland, the 1st platoon moved into Marina Di Pisa, a coastal resort town lying at the mouth of the Anzio River. The town was almost untouched off the immediate coastal road, and comfortable housing was easily obtained by the men. With four mortars emplaced right in the street, the crews could step from their guns to the front porch of their abode, where some of the more fortunate slept between sheets at night on spring beds, and had every convenience of their own home offered by the house owner.

As the 1st platoon set up in Marina Di Pisa, the 2nd platoon received a call from the OP to range their guns in on enemy movement seen on the north bank of the Arno. A 20mm anti-aircraft gun was observed firing at a Cub observation plane, and coordinates of the gun location were immediately sent back to the platoon. With one round of WP, bedrolls and equipment were set on fire around the enemy gun emplacement. Many HE shells followed in flight to score a direct hit on the gun pit and to eliminate any further visible movement of personnel in the vicinity. Various buildings were then turned into unsafe places of residence, when HE penetrated the tiled roofing, or a WP threw phosphorus around the outside to start fires that were hard to control. Any movement whatsoever brought feeling fire from the 2nd platoons' mortars and often an uprooted Jerry would run frantically to a different shelter when the 4.2 shell would land just a few feet away from him. Roads were continually harassed and the enemy in general was made very uncomfortable with insistent barrages.

Things had been luxuriously quiet for the Hun opposite Marina Di Pisa before the 4.2s of the 1st platoon moved in but, at 1600 hours July 29, their vacation came to a hazardous end. Upon the establishment of an OP on the river bank, fire was leveled with great accuracy from the mortars upon the numerous targets of great opportunity in plain view of the observer. German soldiers lay on the banks of the Arno, stripped to the waist and some even in shorts, to benefit from the sun's vitamin filled rays. The first round from the mortars landed some 300 yards beyond the river banks, and brought little concern from the sunbathers. The second shell however, brought them to their feet as it sent a pilloring column of WP smoke up from behind the house they evidently occupied. Following rounds of HE sent the half naked Jerries running helter skelter from hole to hole in an excited attempt to evade the shelling. As one particular Jerry was in mid-air diving toward his hole, an HE shell made its entrance ahead of him and the exploding shell blew his body skyward to fall dead into the river and float toward the sea. An 88mm gun emplacement was spotted overlooking the beach approaches, which attracted the fire from a second mortar. The gun scored hits in and around the pit, and one direct hit was made on the gun itself to spin it around 90 degrees from its original position. Poorly camouflaged machine gun nests, dugouts, and houses used as living quarters were turned into hot points by the harassing mortars. When the day grew near to its close, and time cards were punched by the gun and OP crews, hot chow, brought up twice a day by the kitchen, was waiting for the platoons.

July 30 was a field day for platoons, probably the day of the best firing on record for the company. The 1st platoon started the ball rolling at 1030 hours, when HE shells found their way through a pathless blue to harass houses and personnel in enemy territory. The two riverside houses of target concern, had a total of 14 HE shells pierce their walls and roofs. The personnel to evacuate these houses were followed with adjusted fire as they ran to foxholes and dugouts in the fields; some of them never reached their destination.

After having fired several rounds of HE during the night to harass the roads approaching the river position, the 2nd platoon again manned the mortars to join in on the great harassing of the many targets of opportunity. The accuracy of the mortar fire was proven by the innumerable times the Red Cross flag blossomed out in the target area so dead and wounded could be evacuated. More than fifteen different targets were the concern of the 2nd platoon's guns.

The 1st platoon continued its firing to score a direct hit on a pillbox and inflict heavy casualties upon the panic stricken enemy. It is known that three machine gun nests were knocked out and probably a fourth, which was camouflaged beyond recognition. A Volkswagen was practically demolished, and a jeep of enemy make was damaged beyond operation as it sped along the river road. At 1830 hours, the observers in the 1st platoon OP became confused and gazed with dropped jaws at the sight that was unfolding across the river from them. The Jerries had brought up a number of camels to be used for transporting their equipment out of the now highly dangerous territory. Calling back for fire on the group, the observers directed 26 rounds of HE to disperse the African beasts of burden and cause a general state of confusion. Not until darkness did the enemy have any rest from the insistent shellings that he was subjected to. There were 490 rounds of HE and 31 rounds of WP for the Krauts to sweat out during that day, with only a few in return. The 2nd platoon remained subject to the shell raking of the woods, while the 1st platoon had a picnic shooting away at their resort position in Marina Di Pisa, with not one round being thrown back into the town. Staff Sergeant Frank Pickell and Sergeant Robert Hushen can testify to the concussion of the "belching cow" rocket as they were in their shelter when one of the oil shells exploded only 100 yards away. The roof of their shelter was caved in by the blast and with aching backs and restrained temper they shook loose of the sandbags and timber that left only their heads exposed.

The last day of the company's presence along the Arno River was one of continuous firing up to the very hour of departure. The enemy had taken warning from the previous day's accuracy of mortar fire, and chose to stay undercover. It was hard finding movement this last day of July, so the areas that were known to hold personnel and houses still occupied, were given some more 4.2 treatment. The prize target of the day was a self-propelled gun spotted by the 2nd platoon observers. Sergeant Sam Friedman and his gun crew ranged in on the enemy gun to start a large fire and chase out the rats that made up the crew. As they ran toward the road in an attempt to escape, HE fire was adjusted on their retreat and all were either killed or seriously injured when a shell landed in their midst. Other mortars of the platoons took turns bothering the enemy to no end by putting HE through the roofs of his shelters, harassing his bivouac areas, and shooting up his points of tactical importance.

When vehicles were made ready to carry the platoons from these positions to a rear area, spirits were high knowing that we were to be relieved for a day or two at least. Moving out of Marini Di Pisa, over the coastal highway south to Leghorn, it was interesting to see the intensive preparation that the Germans had made to protect against Allied beach landings.

Leaving the Arno River and the battlefront behind them, the platoons had already forgotten about the 1,239 rounds of HE and 1,362 WP that were so expertly expended into enemy territory between Volterra and north of the Arno. By nightfall, the company was assembled in the battalion area two miles south of Colle Salvetti.

Volterra River

With moving orders in hand once more, the CO led the company onto dusty moonlit roads at 2200 hours, July 31, and joined the battalion convoy snailing inland toward the sector left only nine days ago. When the beneficial light from the luminous moon disappeared with night's age, the blackout lights of the jeeps and trucks gave little help to drivers trying desperately to keep on the road, as well as keeping awake. Two jeeps and trailers were helped from ditches before the assembly area was reached at 0430 hours on August 1. Few men knew where they were, but sleep was too engrossing to bother with much more than unrolling a bedroll and curving one's self around the bumps in the ground. The area of bivouac was northeast of Volterra where the battalion closed on August 1, attached to II Corps. Company D was attached to the 88th Division and, as rumor had it, would remain in the area for three or four days before going back on the frontline. The rumor of returning to the frontline within a few days did not materialize, so the company began a training program to keep bodies alert and minds occupied. Like every rest period, the boys spent much time in sporting for one another's pay, while the non-gamblers sat down to giving the mail censurers one grand headache by writing two letters to everyone they knew. Nightly movies were attended at a nearby clearing station, trucks made periodical trips to the riverbed shower unit, passes were given to Volterra, and there were always seconds in chow to help keep the morale at the highest pitch.

August 5, the battalion requested four men from the company to act as instructors, in the use of the 4.2. for the 45th Anti-Aircraft Brigade. Sergeants Dick Zatt and Robert Hushen, and Corporals Rudy Valek and Walter Barrington were chosen to perform the mission, which kept them on the Arno River front for an additional six days. Training schedules were posted by August 9, which provided for mornings of calisthenics, close order drill, lectures, and two-hour hikes. Afternoons were left free to the men so they could enjoy those four cans of beer drawn from the PX, or go to the creek and take a bath. Staff Sergeant Jack Layne kept the food piled high on mess kits so much rest was needed with a full stomach.

A new and different schedule of training commenced August 21. Companies C and D joined in on being introduced to the handling and care of the Italian mule for carrying the heavy mortar parts and ammunition over mountainous terrain and narrow trails. The mules were loaded and taken over selected routes, to an appointed spot for a gun position, where the mortars were set up and action was simulated. Training with the sulky animals ended August 23, and left the men feeling as though they were now qualified mule-skinners prepared for the mountains ahead.

Detachment from the 88th Division took place August 24, and immediately attachment was made to the 91st Division. We had gained a reputation similar to the prettiest girl at a stag dance, we never sat one out. August 25, the company departed from thebattalion bivouac area northeast of Volterra to take up a position closer to the 91st Division. Assembly was made about two miles north of S. Gimignano, where preparation was made to support the crossing of the Arno River. All had been brought to perfection while attached to the 88th, so there was a full schedule of rest for the ten days spent in this area. Lieutenant Anthony Harzynski joined the company here.

Advance to the Gothic line

Action came for the company September 4 when attachment was made to the 363rd Infantry Regiment, 91st Division. By the light of a bright moon, two hours before midnight, the company vehicles were in place to join the 91st Division convoy en route to the new area. Night moves being hard to execute when the roads are new and unknown to the drivers, it was not until 0400 hours the morning of September 5 that the cross-country hop ended in a hillside olive grove, four miles east of Florence. Florence lay majestically in the valley as the dawn of September 5 offered light rays to reflect from the many roofs and the great dome of the cathedral.

In the darkness of morning, September 6, the company crossed the Arno River, east of Florence, to advance to another assembly area at Gricigliano. Preparation was made to move the platoons into position to support the 363rd Regiment's advance on an enemy-held hill, but the Kraut withdrew before the attack and mortar support was not necessary. The motorized platoons left the assembly area at nightfall on September 9 and moved westward to the main northern approach, Highway #65. An advance of 14 miles north was made by the platoons before it was necessary to emplace the mortars and prepare for fire missions. Positions north of the Sieve River, assigned to the 2nd platoon mortars, became a mass of torn up earth when 39 HE and 74 WP were directed upon roads, houses, and enemy occupied positions.

The enemy continued his retreat to the Gothic Line defenses, and again he looked down from the heights upon the heads of advancing Allies. The Allies made good targets as they moved across the low flatland, as proven by the continuous interdiction of a bypass two miles south of Scarperia. During the noon hour when observation was at its best, part of the 1st platoon, loaded on a 2�- ton truck, was stopped at the bypass to allow filling in of the road. The truck made a likely target, along with the bypass already in enemy gun sights, and efforts were made by the artillery gunners to score a hit. The men scrambled into the nearest house, since the repair of the road made passage impossible, and awaited the end of the barrage. After the "kitchen sink" had landed, the truck was able to continue on its journey to the southern edge of Scarperia, which was equally as hot as the bridge site. Both platoons there awaited orders to advance and sweated out large caliber shells thrown into the town and on the road approaches.

At 2000 hours on September 11, the 2nd platoon was glad to take leave of the hotspot, Scarperia, to move north of the town and emplace their guns in the yard of an isolated farmhouse. The 363rd at once requested the platoon to fire upon enemy activity in the vicinity of houses along Highway #65. In a short period, 21 HE and two WP had destroyed an enemy ammunition dump, hit two houses used by personnel and dispersed a group of Hun soldiers massing for an attack. By 0300 hours September 12, the 1st platoon had joined the 2nd at the farmhouse position, and together they fired upon the enemy at the very door of his mountain defenses. Dawn of September 12 saw the platoons in action laying smoke screens in front of the foothills that were thought to be so excellently defended by the Nazi war heads. Three separate screens were maintained for the advance of the 363rd in the vicinity of Casali, Casacce, and north of Ceruano on Highway #6528. These screens enabled the regiment to reach its objectives, and hid the infantrymen digging in to rest for the next plan of attack. Eight hours of screening, with mixed interdiction of HE on heads looking from enemy foxholes, put the infantry in positron to wield the death blow upon Mount Linari and Mount Calvi.

September 13 and 14 were smoke days again, the WP shells being used for a twofold purpose. One purpose was to raise screens so American infantrymen could improve their positions, the other was to burn out the enemy from his dugouts and trenches. This action was in the area of Hill 1029 as the doughboys moved in on IL Liaggione. Since the 2nd platoon was in possession of the jeeps, displacement was made to C. Bianca when the last rays of daylight erased possibility of the move being observed. Continuing fire support with WP and small percentages of HE, the 2nd platoon fired upon enemy emplacements to further the respect shown by the enemy for the 4.2 mortar. Targets were all on the approaches to Mount Castel Guerrino, the infantry's next main objective. In a leap-frogging move, the 1st platoon advanced further north. An increase in altitude was noticed and the tops of the mountain peaks were growing closer. The enemy had backed to his Gothic Line defenses, and the supreme test lay ahead to see if the conqueror could break through the mighty network of minefields, tank traps, barbed wire entanglements, cement pillboxes and natural mountain barriers. At 0740 hours on September 16, the 1st platoon laid a smoke screen on Mount Linari for the advance of the 261st Infantry Regiment, 91st Division. Throughout the day, the screen was renewed to cover up the striking blows of the infantry, when difficulty was met in obtaining the objective.

A period of idleness existed for a few days as the infantry met no resistance in the limited gains made to improve their positions. Only a few rounds of WP were fired upon Mount Alto when the advance got under way. With the line of resistance moving northward; the platoons were soon out of range affecting the 1st platoon's displacement to Cavallico, and the 2nd's displacement to Casali. One more move was made by the 2nd platoon on September 22, over the trail-like roads taking them to a position on Mount Castel Guerrino. The same day, they moved to the paved path of Highway #65, and advanced to a gun position one half mile east of S. Lucia. From this position the 2nd platoon gave the first supporting fire of the company to 91st Division doughboys entering the Futa Pass. WP was fired on Hill 952, northwest of the pass, so observation would be limited from the menacing artillery emplacements there. As one turned to look over his shoulder from these heights, there was reason for a low whistle to express amazement at the perfect observation the enemy had on the valley below. American doughboys met the supreme test - the Gothic Line was pierced.

On to Livergnano

The 1st platoon was soon to join the forces moving up Highway #65, and on September 23, assembled near the 2nd platoon northeast of S. Lucia. With the 9lst Division moving steadily, it was necessary for the 2nd platoon to leap frog into an appointed spot in Passo Della Futa itself. Naturally, the enemy has this important spot zeroed in and, before the platoon had time !o unload its equipment, a heavy barrage made it impossible to remain in the area. The 1st platoon was moving north on the highway as the 2nd returned and, being warned of the area undergoing continuous shelling, about-faced to accompany the 2nd to positions one mile south of the pass. Defensive targets were assigned to gun crews and the night was disturbed by only a few shells that interdicted the road.

Moving orders the next day, September 24, took the lst platoon to Traversa, one mile north of the pass, and the 2nd to a spot 300 yards forward of the Traversa position. The 2nd platoon gave supporting fire to the 363rd Regiment as they neared the two 4,180 foot peaks left of Highway #65, Mount Freddi and Mount Beni. A blanket of HE and WP was laid down at the foot of Mount Freddi, which successfully gave any of Freddi's friends a painful hotfoot. The 1st platoon in the meantime jumped into their trusty vehicles to be carried to Covigliaio, just 2,000 yards south of the 2nd platoon's target, and stood ready to meet any call for fire support.

The system of relief within the company provided for two complete changes of mortar men, communication men, and headquarters section which allowed one group to be on the line one week and spend the following week in rest. This system was appreciated by everyone except the platoon officers, who had no such relief, especially when the company was participating in a fast moving advance. In the rear area, there were no nine-hour mortar barrages like the 2nd platoon experienced September 27 near Traversa. Infantry troops passing at the time were caught in the barrage, and at least fifteen of the men were injured before they could obtain shelter. Commendable recognition should be given the 2nd platoon medic, PFC Frank Brancato, who personally aided nine of the above infantrymen while medics of the infantry's own aid station stood by and gaped.

The 1st platoon moved only a skeleton crew forward to La Mazzetta, since it was impossible to find adequate space for an entire platoon there. Driving rain made travel in an open jeep difficult, and bypasses were washed out by the strong rushing flood-waters from the mountainside. After the crews had crossed the bypass, just south of La Mazzetta, it became completely washed out leaving them stranded. A wide plank was thrown across the torrent of water and for at least 24 hours there was only messenger communication between frontline troops and supply points.

The retreat of the enemy sent the Allied units close on Jerry's heels, through Pietramala which was the last town of dominating height in the Apennine mountain chain. When Mount Oggioli and Mount Canda were cleared, Passo Della Radicosa was open to carry the 91st Division into the receding portions of the mountain defenses before Bologna. In the blackness of night on September 29, the platoons moved through Radicosa, the 1st platoon taking the wrong road at first which followed the edge of Mount Canda toward the right flank. The mistake was soon recognized since the valley was to lie to our right instead of the left; retracing the road to the pass, Highway #65 was followed to Montalbano.

Grabbing about six hours sleep in Montalbano, another advance was awaiting drowsy men when dawn came September 30. Moving one platoon at a time, all available jeeps were used to transport the 1st into position at Filigare, and then the 2nd into position a few hundred yards south. Hill 852 was used to advantage by enemy OP observers, and the mortars were prepared for the screening of that dominating peak. A limited number of rounds, HE and WP, were adjusted on the very top of the hill to make things mighty uncomfortable for observers. Late in the afternoon, the enemy launched a counterattack from Hill 852. Seventy rounds of high explosives were sufficient to successfully stop the Kraut in his tracks and make him run for dear life to the highway leading to Monghidoro.

Deadly accurate fire was trained on his retreat until the last troops could no longer be observed beyond the curves in the road. The 362nd Infantry Regiment commander personally expressed his compliments to the platoon for the fine job done. It had been ten days since the 1st had opportunity to fire its mortars, and the men had anxious fingers to handle those 4.2 shells again. When they knew they were doing some good for frontline infantry, it was their delight to stick to their post and offer as much fire power as possible. Ammunition and gun men alike talked it up as though they were in an important deciding ball game with a million dollar crowd in the bleachers.

The next day, October 1, both platoons were handed interdiction jobs. The 1st platoon interdicted areas suspected of holding self-propelled gun posts, left of Highway #65, and the 2nd platoon harassed areas to the right of the highway in the vicinity of Colande and Campeggio. Houses or barns, used as shelter, became temporary homes for the GIs as they unrolled their blanket rolls on a bed of straw or maybe on the stone or wooden floor itself. Only shoes were removed when slipping under the blankets, for one never knew when an emergency would arise requiring haste in getting fully dressed.

The company's stay at Filigare was terminated by the 2nd platoon's completion of fire missions on October 2, on houses east of Monghidodo. Movement was cancelled for that night, however, since it was impossible to reconnoiter in such darkness for new positions. This day was the last of service for Lieutenant Francis Robertson with the 1st platoon of Company D. His transfer to Company C, left Lieutenant Anthony Harzyriski as sole officer in that platoon.

An early morning advance was made to LA CA by the 1st platoon where they awaited further orders to move into recently taken Monghidoro. Meanwhile the 2nd platoon leap frogged closer to Monghidoro, taking shelter in a house at Ca Del Costa. At this place they confronted two German soldiers lying prone on the ground near the entrance to the house, one of them badly mutilated and known to be dead. The other showed no signs of being injured outwardly, although he too was dead. Inside the building, an Italian civilian was found lying in one of the small rooms. He had died from the terrible beating that the Germans had given him. His back and face were horribly cut from the blows that the heartless Nazis had inflicted with either a horsewhip or a similar weapon.

When the 1st platoon entered Monghidoro, the last of the German snipers were cleared from the buildings by infantrymen and tankmen. One building on the northern side of the town that survived the heavy artillery barrage and bombings was occupied by the members of the platoon until definite orders carne for another move forward. Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, commanding general of the Fifth Army, paid a brief visit to the shambled town, congratulating all who were present for their success in throwing the enemy back. He remarked, "You've got them on the run, men. Mighty well done, keep them going!" The platoons took heed and hit the dusty trail once more. Another mile and a half north of Monghidoro, the company stopped at Mad. Del Boschi, where the best houses were picked for living quarters.

After a reasonably quiet night, the platoons were ready to ease forward with the advance. The 1st moved a few hundred yards northward, at the crack of dawn, to emplace the mortars .and fire on enemy personnel and a suspected OP at La Fratta. At 1200 hours, the 2nd platoon displaced to a new position 550 yards southeast of the 1st, where they situated themselves for some excellent supporting missions in support of the 2nd Battalion of the 362nd Infantry Regiment. About 1430 hours, Lieutenant David Solasin in the OP was connected with an infantry sergeant whose men were pinned down by enemy machine gun fire and SP fire, from the vicinity of Vignale. The company of men was advancing up a draw toward this place, when they were suddenly taken under fire. The fire direction was relayed over walkie-talkie, SCR 300 radio, and phones from the infantry sergeant to Lieutenant Salasin and back to the mortars. Through these channels, the company, for the first time, fired with corrections given directly from the infantry man in need of the support. He adjusted smoke shells on the mouth of a draw to cut off enemy observation, and then asked for HE in the area of the harassing guns. The 4.2 shells quieted the guns and enabled the sergeant's men to surround the enemy's strongpoint. Thus the 2nd platoon saved a company of infantrymen from being either wiped out or sustaining a high percentage of' casualties. Again the regimental commander had reason to shower appreciative compliments on the gunners of Company D and other personnel, necessary for a smooth operating mortar outfit.

On October 5, the 1st platoon smoked Mount Bastia to obscure enemy observation on the advance of the infantry into Loiano. Previous to this smoke mission, the men had watched the attempts of four tanks to shoot up the town. Two become the victims of direct hits from dug-in Jerry tanks as they neared a spot 1,500 yards south of the town. The tanks burst into flame and the crew members jumped to the road to take cover from further shelling. The remaining two decided to return before they met the some fate. While the two platoons were assembling in Loiano, and equipment was being unloaded for the night, an unexpected mortar and howitzer barrage fell upon the village. A mortar shell exploded close to one of the 2nd platoon sleeps to kill Corporal Lawrence Sochovit and PFC Fronk Brancato instantly. Corporal Arnold Taylor received a severe gash and five others were wounded slightly by hits of shrapnel. Lieutenant Salasin was also nicked but he remained for duty while the others were evacuated. By this time the men were hardened to the results of war, but there was always that shocking ping in the heart when hearing the news that buddies, who had seen so much action to date, fell in the line of duty.

A series of short moves were made during the next two days with the platoons finally emplaced together at Siole, just northwest of Sabbioni. The road entrance to the out-of-the-way position was extremely narrow and the heavy rains had turned the road into a deeply rutted lane. Hopes of relief were high as representatives from the newly-formed 100th Chemical Battalion visited the platoons for practical experience and instructions on the use of mortars in combat. One lieutenant and two sergeants were attached to each platoon for a number of days; then they would be relieved by another group, who were eager to see what the front line was like and how we operated.

The only firing from the Siole position was done by the 1st platoon on October 9. After one ranging round of WP, 29 HE shells were poured into enemy-held houses and mortar positions in the village of La Valle. Lieutenant Willbur Deininger was now with the 1st platoon to assist Lieutenant Harzynski in managing the platoon and sharing OP work. Following the same muddy road further inland and almost parallel to the paved Highway #65, a daylight move was made to Molinelli. A portion of the road was under observation and it was here that an S curve chose to be. When a vehicle finally churned its way out, the occupants could look back to see the tire ruts immediately fill in with the soggy mire. Arriving at the group of scattered houses in Molinelli, the platoons looked for the best places that would offer protection against shelling. If there was no cellar to a house, the first floor would be the last choice before resorting to hand-built shelters outside. Some men, like Private George Stein, however, were not to be moved by anything less than a direct hit on their bunk, so the top floor was good enough for him.

Only limited firing was requested of the mortars on October 11, giving the 1st platoon crews opportunity to harass a self-propelled gun position. October 12, the 2nd platoon was kept busy shooting up dugouts of the enemy southeast of Mount Adone, and along the banks of the Savena River. The old practice of uprooting with WP and then striking for the kill with HE was used on the dug-in Kraut. Many times, firing ceased to allow the flag-bearing medics to evacuate their wounded. The OP observer also assigned an interdiction mission to the 1st platoon to harass enemy personnel at Gruppi and in a draw east of that place. A just reward for good firing was a 48-hour relief period made possible by Company A moving in to replace the platoons. The company spent the two days of relief cleaning equipment, going to the showers in Firenzuola, and finishing up the recent supply of Schaefer's beer from the PX ration.

October 15, the platoons and CP moved into La Guarda located north of Mount Castellari. Great difficulty was again met in securing a place to house the men, since the 91st Division had practically taken the place over. Regimental and battalion command posts were located just 1,500 yards from no-man's-land, a characteristic true only of the 91st Division. The 2nd platoon soon departed for a new position on Highway #65, between Livergnano and the road junction at Predosa. The 1st platoon remained in La Guarda despite the protests from 91st Division regimental and battalion commanders who had their CP's there. Throughout the day, heavy concentrations of HE were laid in the valley between Mount Adone and the little house group of La Vallazza.

The position chosen by the 2nd platoon proved to be a reminder of the "hot days" at Anzio. Attempts were made by a smoke generator unit to screen the Highway and 105mm artillery emplacements on the opposite side of the road. When there was an eastward wind, the men of the platoon would bump into each other as they felt their way through the dense cloud. When there was a westward wind, the house stood out like a sore thumb, and movement was restricted since the enemy had observation from two sides.

Highway #65, being the main approach route to the bulk of the 91st and 34th Divisions, became almost unbearably hot as everything from mortar to 210mm shells combed the stretch from Livergnano back to Predosa. The artillery battery opposite the 2nd platoon received periodical counter-fire from the enemy and this also added to the disadvantages of the location. Men, hearts filled with suspense, manned the mortars to throw more than 200 rounds of HE into enemy positions the first day.

Through fog and inky darkness, on the night of October 17, the 1st platoon moved past the 2nd's positions to set up in Sadurano. The unimproved road that led off to the right of Highway #65, some 500 yards south of Livergnano, was the trail taken by the 1st to reach a group of buildings. The large Radar Battalion searchlights that illuminated the blacked-out roads on clear nights were of no use on this move, the air was similar to a night in London's heaviest fog.

With both platoons in firing position, targets were assigned to cover further attacks of the 362nd Infantry Regiment. In support of the 2nd Battalion, targets were interdicted day and night northeast of Mount Castella, which overlooked the highway from the west. An average of 240 HE shells were expended daily at the beginning of the attack, requiring much patience with soggy ground conditions. As the enemy resistance proved that he wished to hold out at all costs, a normal schedule of firing was followed and infantrymen dug in for the winter. The front line came to a standstill. There was nothing more to do than pick out targets of opportunity in the daytime, and fire on patrolling action or counterattacks after dark.

Here we should devote attention to the communication problems coped with by the headquarters and platoon linemen. Lines were maintained from the CP in La Guarda to the platoons by company headquarters men. Sergeant Michael Flanagan, chief of company communications, and Corporal Eugene Ruppelt will never forget the many times they hit the surface of "65" while out trouble-shooting a line to Sadurano and to the 2nd platoon. Incoming artillery barrages lengthened a half hour job to a two hour ordeal; most of the time was spent lying low in the ditches by the road. T/5 Harold McAtee and Private William Ryan faced this same test of fortitude when they would take over their share of trouble shooting.

Over two miles of line were laid by each platoon from the gun positions to the infantry battalion CP in Livergnano, and to the platoon OP's, established in that same area. These lines were knocked out by enemy shell fire on the average of five times every day, most of the breaks occurring in the hottest stretch of "65", between the Sadurano road and the town of Livergnano. Of course there were other causes of breakage, such as vehicular traffic, mules, landslides, and poor splicing, but shelling was the chief blame. T/4 Harold Hardman, Corporal Frederick Western, and Privates Martin Blumenthal and Kenneth Jones, will long remember the difficulties of the 1st platoon's means of contact. Likewise, Corporal Erhard Schwehm, and Privates James Holder, Julius Shuster, and Philip Tabor of the 2nd platoon, shared the headaches caused by that #109 strung to the north. After two weeks of trouble-shooting lines, it was decided to use the SCR 300 radio and risk the possibility of being picked up by German sets.

October 24, the 2nd platoon moved back to the Molinelli. The same targets could be reached from this former position as from the position being vacated, and in addition, there were hills forward of the mortars to obstruct enemy observation and offer protection against shelling.

There was the dreary atmosphere of Fall in the air now, the damp cloudy days were becoming colder as the winds bit from the north, and the sun's rays were not allowed to penetrate with their beneficial warmth. On a clear day, the Po Valley and scattered outskirts of Bologna could be seen from the rear echelon at Mad Del Bosch; the great objective was so near in sight, yet so far by mountain roads held by the enemy.

Up with the platoons again, the 362nd Regiment was desirous of getting as much support as possible from the 4.2s they now learned to rely upon. Every spurt of machinegun fire from the enemy at night, had to be answered with mortar fire upon the 2nd Battalion's request. Throughout the day, new targets were assigned the platoons when movement of personnel or the sound of artillery was found within range of the stubby cannons. Gunpits were turning into rectangular swimming pools as the baseplates sank into the earth. Soon the muzzle cover and three inches of barrel were the only parts visible.

October 26, Captain Jose Andino bade farewell and good fortune to his company of men to take up duties with battalion headquarters as battalion executive officer. He relinquished the commanding spot to Captain William J. DeWitt, former commander of the laboratory section of the 92nd Chemical Composite Company. The following day, Lieutenant Harzynski was called to the rear to be notified of his transfer to Company C. He strongly protested and requested to stay on with the 1st platoon men whom he knew so well. A few days later he returned, his request granted.

The 2nd platoon was detached from the 91st Division on October 27, to be put under jurisdiction of the 13Sth Infantry Regiment, 34th Division. The same targets left of Highway #65 continued to be on the receiving end of the 4.2s. Heavy concentrations were laid on house groups, road intersections, and entrenched personnel with very good results. The 1st platoon remained with the 362nd Infantry Regiment, to give support fire on such targets as a tank park and ration dump near Zula, personnel on Hill 387, SP gun positions in Ost. Nuova, and other targets of opportunity picked up by observers. The last counterattack of the enemy was met by Company D mortar fire, delivered by the 1st platoon on October 31. The attacking force formed in the vicinity of C. Boschi, and before any degree of organization could get under way the 4.2 explosives were falling in their midst. Thus, the Hun had no opportunity to effect a strong attempt to crack Allied positions.

Ground conditions were such that great numbers of mortar parts were broken or bent when firing. The company was now firing between 350 and 400 rounds per day, which is an all-day job for six mortars. Anzio troubles had returned with the breakage of' standards and bending of baseplates, all due to the muddy ground. The 1st of November came with everyone harboring the rumor that relief would soon come for the 84th Chemical Battalion. It was made known to the men that November 5 would be the day that relief would come for Company D. The last few days on the front were filled with far-reaching fire orders, with the company's mortars being the busiest in the battalion. Over 500 rounds were expended daily as a farewell kiss to the Krauts, and added to the service for which Major General William Livesay, commanding the 91st Infantry Division, presented the company a commendation on November 12. The company was commended for its splendid service with the infantry units attached to in the attack on the Gothic Line and the operations thereafter.

When relief came on November 5, Company A of the 100th Chemical Battalion took over 1st platoon positions at Sadurano, and Company C of the 100th Chemical Battalion took over 2nd platoon positions at Molinelli. One lieutenant and one sergeant from each of the platoons remained behind at the gun positions to familiarize the newcomers with targets, communication set up, and the general plan of maintaining a smooth operation of mortars. The company assembled in the rear area at Mad. Del Boschi to prepare for movement to the rest town of Montecatini.

Between the dates of September 16, 1943, at Salerno, to November 4, 1944, the company expended 31,120 rounds of 4.2 ammunition, 8,128 of this total being WP and the remainder HE. This is a total of 389 tons of destruction fired into German held territory on the battle grounds of Italy.

At noontime, November 6, the company moved into Montecatini to take up billets in the Albergo Progresso and other smaller buildings reserved by the Fifth Army for use of combat troops for rehabilitation and rest. The rooms were slightly crowded with eight or more men and their equipment to a compartment. This was naturally overlooked, since rest was so desirable, and the activities of the town had such attraction that little time was devoted to quarters. Incoming mail was plentiful; PX rations were distributed free of charge; there were passes to Florence; and the all-rest schedule, combined to make a pleasant stay for ten days in the Italian resort town. The pleasantness of the rest period was to be marred by the news brought by Lieutenant Colonel Forrest Love, that Company D was to be dissolved under the new T/O, which called for a headquarters company and three weapons companies. Gathered in the little courtyard, officers and men of the company felt the sting of the colonel's statement and stood electrified at the thought of being disbanded. To them, Company D was the best company in the 84th Chemical Battalion, with a reputation that they alone helped to establish; now all their hard work was to be scattered to the winds. Slowly the men recovered from the violent disturbance of their feelings, and in earnest disapproval pleaded for a fighting chance to keep the company together. It was suggested that the question would be settled by the drawing of cards, low card the loser. Company representatives gathered in the presence of Colonel Love, with Lieutenant Richard Blach drawing the card for Company D. The card drawn was the fatal one, the six of clubs. Company D had come to the end of its trail.

When the newly named 84th Chemical Mortar Battalion completed its rest in Montecatini on November 15, the personnel of former Company D were absorbed and joined with Headquarters Company and the three weapons companies. The 1st platoon went to Company C, and 2nd platoon went to Company B, company headquarters and a small percentage of men from the platoons were divided between Headquarters Company and Company A. Thus ended the once proud unit that its members had made possible, Company D.

     Honor Roll
     Official record
     History staff

Honor Roll of Dead

Miele, Dominic J., PFC, Arzew, Algeria, 6 June 1943
Newell, Leslie H., Pvt, Bizerte, Tunisia, 26 July 1943
Ives, Howard E., Pvt, Paestum, Italy, 16 September 1943
Clark, Julian B. Jr, 2nd Lt, Acerno, Italy, 27 September 1943
Dorthlon, Cleo, Pvt, Certa, Italy, 11 October 1943
Acker, Clarence A., S/Sgt, S. Clemente, Italy, 14 October 1943
Gallup, Lloyd A. PFC, S. Clemente, Italy, 14 October 1943
Shapiro, Sanford C., PFC, Dragoni, Italy, 21 October 1943
Campbell, Robert L.. PFC, Naples, Italy, 21 October 1943
Hale, Martin, T/5, Venafro, Italy, 21 November 1943
Jones, Robert M., PFC, Traverce, Italy, 21 November 1943
Johnson, Harley L., Pvt, Traverce, Italy, 21 November 1943
Glass, Edward R., T/4, Venafro, Italy, 27 November 1943
Miller, David J., Sgt, Venafro, Italy, 6 December 1943
Lowe, Ernest E., Sgt, Venafro, Italy, 10 December 1943
Lombardo, Louis J., Venafro, Italy, 10 December 1943
Tuella, Frank, Pvt, Aquafondela, Italy, 24 December 1943
Pirolli, Domonick, PFC, Anzio, Italy, 2 February 1944
Herz, John K., Sgt, Anzio, Italy, 3 February 1944
Lawrence, Harrison J., 1st Lt, Anzio, Italy, 6 February 1944
Launo, Giovanni N., PFC, Anzio, Italy, 7 February 1944
Essy, Ernest, 2nd Lt, Anzio, Italy, 13 February 1944
Martin, William J. Jr, Cpl, Anzio, Italy, 13 February 1944
Manzella, Peter, Pvt, Anzio, Italy, 16 February 1944
Lorell, Charles F., Pv t, Anzio, Italy, 16 February 1944
Goggins, Hugh, Pvt, Anzio, Italy, 1 March 1944
Guthrie, Robert E., PFC, Anzio, Italy, 2 March 1944
Hollingsworth, Charles E., Pvt, Anzio, Italy, 2 March 1944
Ivie, Otis L., Pvt, Anzio, Italy, 3 March 1944
Einbinder, Philip, Pvt, Anzio, Italy, 8 March 1944
D'Amato, Anthony F., Cpl, Anzio, Italy, 9 March 1944
Rosakomski, Alexander, PFC, Anzio, Italy, 22 March 1944
Rosales, Antonio G., PFC, Anzio, Italy, 23 March 1944
Owen, Ben E., 1st Lt, Anzio, Italy, 26 May 1944
Zitzner, Stanley L., Sgt, Anzio, Italy, 26 May 1944
Stahl, Raymond F., PFC, Anzio, Italy, 26 May 1944
Scallon, Leo , PFC, Anzio, Italy, 26 May 1944
Small, Russell B., Pvt, Anzio, Italy, 26 May 1944
Jacobson, Jacques E., PFC, Anzio, Italy, 30 May 1944
Rasmussen, Emil A., Pvt, Rome, Italy, 7 June 1944
Petronaci, Joseph , PFC, Italy, Italy, 2 July 1944
Humphrey, Sam A., PFC, Laiatco, Italy, 12 July 1944
Palty, Isadore J., PFC, Montopoli, Italy, 20 July 1944
Rogers, Charles F., PFC, Tavernelle, Italy, 12 September 1944
Sochovit, Lawrence, Cpl, Loiano, Italy, 6 October 1944
Brancato, Frank, PFC, Loiano, Italy, 6 October 1944
Camp, Eddie H., Pvt, Monzuno, Italy, 9 October 1944
Munnings, Charles F., PFC, Monzuno, Italy, 9 October 1944
Kraus, Francis O., PFC, Savazza, Italy, 20 October 1944
Crystal, Hyman L., Pvt, Savazza, Italy, 31 October 1944
Blach, Richard A., 1st Lt, Loiano, Italy, 10 December 1944
Perrone, Anthony, PFC, Loiano, Italy, 10 December 1944
Ridgeway, Wallace A., PFC, Loiano, Italy, 10 December 1944
Dillon, Edward F., PFC, Loiano, Italy, 10 December 1944
Harzynski, Anthony F., 1st Lt, Gaggio Montano, Italy, 16 February 1944
DeWitt, William J., Capt, Gaggio Montano, Italy, 18 February 1944
DePalma, Charles A., Pvt, Farne, Italy, 9 March 1944
Korpi, William G., Pvt, Farne, Italy, 9 March 1944
Sosa, Israel G., Pvt, Castel D'Aino, Italy, 6 April 1944
Finnegan, Herman L., Pvt, Torrella, Italy, 18 April 1944
Weiler, Joseph , Sgt, Torboli, Italy, 2 May 1944

Official record

Activated at Camp Rucker, Alabama: 15 June 1942
Left New York Port of Embarkation for overseas: 29 April 1943
Entered combat, Salerno, Italy: 9 September 1943
Last day of combat, Riva (Lake Garda), Italy: 2 May 1945
Deactivated in Rome, Italy: 25 September 1945
Number of days in front line: 152
Number of missions fired: 5,320
Number of WP shells fired: 62,797
Number of HE shells fired: 119,244
Toal round expended: 182,041
Number of battle stars (major campaigns): 4
(Note: WP is white phosphorus; HE is high explosive)

History staff

Editor, Capt. Paul F. Flamm
Adviser, Lt. Col. Forrest E. Love
     Company A, Cpl John E. Gallagher
     Company B, Sgt Dean O. Haley
     Company C, Sgt Milton Orshefsky
     Company D, Cpl Philip W. Smith
Art work:
     Cover and maps, PFC James H. Devlin
     Sketches, George Schoenberger
Clerical work:
     Sgt Christian F. Wehmer
     Cpl Joseph T. Corso
     PFC August A. Machart

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