The History of the 168th Infantry Regiment
(From October 1, 1944 to October 31, 1944)
Text which has been significantly corrected in, or added to, this document is enclosed in [square brackets].
This narrative for this period, especially 29 through 31 October 1944, is often a threading together of individual battalion and company reports; therefore you may see frequent repetition of content.
[ 1 October 1944 ]
At the beginning of this period the Regiment was attacking to the north with the mission of gaining control of the Sambro River valley. The enemy, having fought minor delaying actions at the Gambellata River on 26 September and at la Calcinara (775114) the night of 27 September, had disengaged his rear guard elements in the heavy rain of 28 September and had passed them through a prepared line which he was holding in strength approximately along the 18 Northing. The Regiment, attacking on a sixty-five-hundred meter front on 30 September, had failed to breach this line. The 2nd Battalion, with the mission of capturing Mt. del Galletto, had attacked with two companies abreast and, after both assault companies had been stopped by small-arms and mortar fire, had organized an all-around defense on the southern slopes of the mountain, with its most advanced platoon position at the 18.4 Northing. The 1st Battalion had initiated an attack along the ridge which commands the Sambro valley on the west with the objective of taking Hill 747 (771202), by the capture of which the Battalion would gain control of the lateral road to the Setta River valley which encircles the hill on the north. In this attack, elements of Company "B" had made two attempts to reduce an enemy strong point in a house at point 664 (776155) without success. The Battalion had then consolidated its position for the night with Company "A" on Hill 864 (778152), Company "B" in a position which extended from a point on the ridge just to the north of Hill 864 down to the road, where it had established a road block, and Company "C" on Hill 750 (786152). In the plan of attack for 1 October, the Regimental sector was reduced from the sixty-five-hundred meter front of the previous day to a three-thousand meter front by the relief of the 2nd Battalion. This relief would be affected at 0600 hours 1 October, when the 133rd Infantry Regiment was to pass through the 2nd Battalion in an attack on Mt. del Galletto. The mission of the 1st Battalion was unchanged. Supported by the 2nd Platoon, Company "B", 757th Tank Battalion and the 3rd Battalion, which was assembled in the vicinity of Qualto (794161), the Battalion would resume the attack at 0600 hours with Hill 747 as its objective. After this hill had been taken by the 1st Battalion, the 3rd Battalion, leaving one company at Qualto to secure the high ground, was to advance astride the Sambro valley road and occupy S. Benedetto. The 2nd Battalion, initially in reserve, was to pass through the 1st Battalion on the morning of 2 October.
On 1 October the 1st Battalion attacked in a column of companies in the order Company "A", Company "C", and Company "B". Company "A" jumped off in the attack from Hill 864 at 0640 hours and reported at 0915 hours that it was digging in on Hill 785 (777163). Upon receipt of this information, Lt. Col. John E. Golding, Battalion Commander, started Company "C" for Hill 726 (778159) and requested that the 3rd Battalion move forward to exert pressure on the right. Company "C" reached Hill 726 at approximately 1000 hours and sent a platoon to Hill 785 to support Company "A".
Two-hundred yards to the northwest of Company "A"'s position on the wooded crest of Hill 785 was Hill 789, from which the Battalion had received fire on the previous day. In a commanding position on the crest of the hill stood a church [Oratorio M. Armato], which the enemy had chosen to organize as a strong point from which to contest our advance up the ridge. The only covered approach to the church was through the scrub pine on the northwestern slope of the hill. On the south open fields sloped down on each side of a lane, which followed along the top of the ridge from Hill 785 to the church. The field to the east of the lane was approximately one-hundred yards in width, being bounded by the woods which covered Hill 785 and much of the eastern slope of the ridge, while the field to the west of the lane extended for several hundred yards down the western slope of the ridge.. Within thirty yards of the church were two out-buildings, one to the west and one to the southeast, and across an open field one-hundred yards to the north of the church was a house.
At 1115 hours Company "A" launched an attack against this strong point. The 2nd Platoon, twenty men in strength, led by 1st Lt. Arthur H. V. Treo, made the assault, supported by two tanks of the 2nd Platoon, Company "B", 757th Tank Battalion. While the tanks fired into the church from a position just to the south of Montefredente (779149), the Platoon moved through the woods on the eastern slope of the ridge past the church, and then, leaving the edge of the woods, attacked the church in assault waves from the northeast. While crossing the open field, it received small-arms fire from the woods to its rear. The Germans had been driven from the church by the tank fire, and as soon as it was lifted, the Platoon rushed the church, taking possession of it before it could be reoccupied by the enemy. The Platoon held the church for four hours, exchanging small-arms fire with the enemy in the pine woods twenty yards down the reverse slope of the hill. During this period, the other rifle platoon of Company "A", which included the men remaining in the 1st and 3rd Platoons, attempted to reinforce the 2nd Platoon, but it became involved in a fire fight with enemy in the woods on the eastern slope of the ridge and was unable to move. At 1500 hours, with no support in view and the danger of being cut off increasing with approaching darkness and a dwindling ammunition supply, Lt, Treo decided to withdraw his men from the church. The Platoon fell back to Hill 785 without incident, having suffered only two casualties in the entire action. When the Platoon had returned to its original positions, the tanks resumed fire and before the end of the afternoon had fired a total of one-hundred-and-five rounds into the church and out-lying buildings. The Battalion consolidated its positions for the night with Company "A" dug in on Hill 785, Company "C" at point 726, and Company "B" in a reserve position at point 664 (776155).
During the early afternoon the 3rd Battalion built up a line across the Sambro Valley from Hill 785 to point 615 (784160). Company "K" tied in with Company "A" on the southeast slope of Hill 785 (778161), while Company "L" organized a line which tied in with Company "K" on the left and extended across the road to point 615. While organizing this position, the Company received long-range machine-gun and rifle fire from the vicinity of Hill 789. Company "I", in reserve at Qualto, was fired on by machine guns and mortars and by a self-propelled gun in S. Benedetto.
While the 3rd Battalion was assuming these positions, the enemy was holding on a line approximately two-thousand yards to the north, which extended through S. Benedetto. A patrol from Company "I", which returned to the company position in Qualto at 1130 hours, reported having seen Germans in a dugout on Hill 647 (796170) and in the town of S. Benedetto. Observation was good on 1 October, and the enemy holding on this line provided a field day for the artillery. The Regimental Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, from an observation post on Hill 1036 [(797148)], directed fire on a flak gun, a self-propelled gun, and enemy personnel in S. Benedetto, and scattered enemy personnel who were preparing a bridge at 783184 for demolition. Concentrations were fired on what was believed to be a company of Germans digging in in the vicinity of Campiano (788188).
[ 2 October 1944 ]
At 0600 hours the 2nd Battalion reported that elements of the 133rd Infantry were passing through its front line positions. By 0930 the Battalion was assembled in a draw at 806157, where it remained during the hours of daylight, restricting itself to as little movement as possible. Then, under the cover of darkness, the Battalion crossed over the forward slopes of Poggio di Rosa and at 2345 hours closed into an assembly area in the vicinity of Faldo (782138).
According to the plan of attack for 1 October, the 2nd Battalion was to pass through the 1st Battalion and continue the attack up the ridge on the morning of 2 October, but at 1600 hours 1 October this plan was changed. The Regimental Commander, Colonel H. C. Hine, Jr., instructed Lt. Col. Golding at that time that the 1st Battalion would be relieved only after it had taken and out-posted Hill 789. Accordingly Lt. Col. Golding drew up a plan of attack for 0500 hours the following morning by which Company "A", supported by one platoon from Company "B", was to attack Hill 789, while Company "C" attacked on the left with the mission of seizing the houses at point 688 (771167). In support of this attack, the 175th Field Artillery was to fire one battery two rounds per minute on the village of Osteria dei Ruggeri (775170) from 0500 to 0510 hours, and then was to shift one battery two-hundred yards to the left.
At 0440 hours a composite platoon of Company "B", which included all the men remaining in the 2nd and 3rd Platoons, moved to Hill 785 with orders to support Company "A"'s dawn attack. Just at H-hour, when the two under-strength platoons of Company "A" were ready to move forward, the Company's positions were subjected to a heavy concentration of mortar fire which delayed the attack. Company "C", which had already initiated its attack on the left, reached Hill 697 without opposition. When the mortar fire had been lifted from its positions, Company "A" attacked on each side of the lane which led up to the church from the south. A hundred yards from the church the Company came under heavy small-arms and mortar fire which forced it to withdraw, after three men had been killed and four wounded. It became evident in this attack that the enemy had reinforced the position during the night, for he was defending from the house to the north of the church and from the out-buildings to the west and south of it, as well as from the church itself.
After Company "A" had fallen back to its original positions on Hill 785, a coordinated attack supported by tank fire was planned for 1000 hours, to be made by Company "A", with the composite platoon of Company "B" attached, and by Company "C". After the tanks had fired into the church, Company "B"'s platoon was to attack through the woods on the eastern slope of the ridge, while Companies "A" and "C" attacked across the open fields on the western slope, with Company "C" on the left.
In preparation for this attack, Captain Normand E. Yando, Commander of Company "A", led two tanks up the ridge from Montefredente to positions on the forward slope of Hill 785, from which the could fire point-blank into the church from a distance of two-hundred yards. After the tanks had fired twenty rounds into the church, the troops moved forward in the attack. Company "A" had hardly left its positions on Hill 785 when it received small-arms and mortar fire. When Captain Yando called for mortar fire on the enemy positions, the fire fell short into the company and broke up the attack. A runner was then dispatched from Company "A" to recall the platoon of Company "B", which had not yet contacted the enemy in its advance though the woods to the east of the church. Company "C", which had initiated its attack from Hill 697, was out of contact with Company "A" and continued the attack alone. The Company, in the strength of two platoons, which were led by 1st Lt. Edward G. Smith, Company Executive Officer, and 2nd Lt. Joseph W. Leary, advanced in a line of skirmishers. When it came within two-hundred yards of the church, a man on the hilltop took up a kneeling position and fired an M-1 rifle. This caused some confusion in the Company, since it could not be determined through the fog whether the man was German or American. The Company continued its advance, nevertheless, and built up a firing line thirty yards to the west of the church behind the stone facing of a terrace. There the Company engaged in a fire fight with enemy in the church and in the out-buildings to the south and west of it. From the church steeple and through doors and windows the Germans fired on the Company with several automatic weapons and threw a large number of "potato mashers" down on it. Having decided that the church could not be assaulted from the west, Lt. Leary, with his platoon sergeant and runner, made a reconnaissance on the left flank to determine whether the Company could shift to the north and attack the church from the rear through the scrub pine. Before they had gone far, they received machine-pistol fire from the woods and were forced to withdraw. A short time later the men on the left flank of the Company, believing themselves to have been over-run by the enemy, gave way. This necessitated the withdrawal of the rest of the Company, which was effected without casualties, a squad at a time.
With the enemy still resisting stubbornly on Hill 789, Colonel Hines planned in mid-morning to by-pass the enemy position by attacking with three battalions abreast. At 1330 hours the 1st Battalion would make its fourth attack on the church, while the 3rd Battalion attacked on the right astride the road, and the 2nd Battalion attacked on the left on the western slope of the ridge a thousand yards below the church. The 1st Battalion was to be pinched out just north of Hill 789. After establishing itself on the ridge by the capture of Osteria dei Ruggeri (772172), the 2nd Battalion was to pinch out the 3rd Battalion and continue the attack up the ridge. For two hours prior to the attack the artillery was to fire at the rate of twenty rounds per hour on twenty-four targets which were for the most part possible mortar positions, assembly areas, and routes of approach to Hill 789. Time-on-target concentrations were to be fired on le Serucce (762178) and Ripoli (762190).
Shortly after 1330 hours Companies "B" and "C", each having been reduced to the strength of two platoons, formed in the vicinity of point 697 and attacked the church in a line of skirmishers, with Company "C" on the left. Company "C"'s two platoons were led into the attack by 2nd Lt. Joseph W. Leary, and Company "B"'s by 1st Lt. Lawrence A. Gaffney and 1st Lt. Edward S. Everett. After the two tanks on Hill 785 fired a preparation on the church and its out-buildings, they lifted the fire of their 75mm guns and opened fire with their .50 caliber machine guns. With this supporting fire, and with the support of Company "B"'s section of light machine guns, and all the small arms of Company "A", the assault Companies advanced within thirty yards of the church and built up a firing line just below the terrace, where Company "C" had organized a line in the previous attack. In the fire fight which followed, the Companies received heavy small-arms fire, fragmentation and concussion grenades, and sniper fire from the rear and left rear. Lt. Leary, making his second reconnaissance of the day to the left flank to determine whether the enemy position could be flanked, again drew machine-pistol fire. Lt. Gaffney, having determined that his Company could not attack the church from the south, and being unaware of Lt. Leary's reconnaissance, was himself going to make a reconnaissance of the left flank when he was wounded by sniper fire from the rear. Company "C" had had no bazooka in the previous attack, to fire into the buildings, but now a man from Company "B" fired his bazooka into the church until he was wounded, and then his assistant continued to fire until all of the ammunition had been expended. Despite the heavy fire which the Battalion could put on the church, the enemy still held it and its out-buildings in strength. While the fire fight continued, Lt. Leary and Lt. Everett conferred on the advisability of assaulting the church, and since their ammunition was running so low that it was doubtful whether they could hold the position once it had been taken, they decided to withdraw. Moving a squad at a time, the two Companies effected an orderly withdrawal.
When our heavy fire failed to dislodge the enemy from Hill 789, some credence was given to civilian reports that there was a crypt beneath the church, a tunnel which extended from Hill 789 down the eastern slope of the ridge to a reserve position at point 636, and extensive prepared positions on the hilltop. An examination of the hill several days after the enemy had withdrawn to the north showed that there was no tunnel in the vicinity of the church and no crypt beneath it, though there was a vestry room on the north side of the church which had been untouched by our fire. The prepared positions on the hill consisted of a shallow slit trench beside the out-building to the west of the church, a hastily-prepared dug-out on the eastern slope, and a covered fox hole on the reverse slope. Despite the meagerness of these positions, the fact remained that six men of the Battalion had been killed and seventeen wounded in four unsuccessful attacks on the hill. The strength of the enemy defense lay not in field fortifications, but in the lack of covered approaches to the position and in the out-buildings of the church from which the enemy could put crossed fire on our troops from whatever direction they attacked.. The enemy's use of these buildings in his system of defense was the more successful in that the bulk of our tank fire was directed into the church, as evidenced by the destruction of the entire south wall, while the out-buildings remained relatively intact. But whatever the distribution of fire, it required a determined enemy to remain in these building under the 205 rounds of tank fire that were directed into them on 1 and 2 October, and it is significant in this regard that the 36th Regiment of the 16th S.S. Division was identified as the unit opposing our 1st Battalion.
While the 1st Battalion was making its fourth attack on the church, the 3rd Battalion, still holding on a line between Hill 785 and point 615, established a strong out-post at point 636 (782167) on the Sambro Valley road below Hill 789. Under the cover of fog the 1st Platoon of Company "L" occupied the house at that point at approximately 1300 hours. As soon as the enemy detected the presence of the Platoon, it opened fire with small arms from the houses at 182169 and 184170, and began harassing the position with artillery fire. The Platoon called for tank support, and within the hour two tanks pulled up the road and fired into the houses to the north of the Platoon's position, silencing the enemy small-arms fire, but heavy artillery fire continued to fall around the house throughout the afternoon. The 2nd Platoon on Company "K" joined the 1st Platoon of Company "L" at 1500 hours, and together the two Platoons defended the position during the night. One man of Company "L"'s Platoon was killed and three wounded in the day's action.
The 2nd Battalion's attack was not initiated in time to exert pressure on the enemy's left flank while the 1st Battalion was making its fourth attack on Hill 789. Major Benjamin J. Butler had issued the attack order to his Company Commanders at 1100 hours. Companies "E" and "F" were to attack abreast with Company "F" on the right, on the western slope of the ridge, passing a thousand yards to the west of Hill 789. Company "G" was to follow Company "F". When Hill 789 had been by-passed, the assault companies were to swing to the right, Company "F" attacking the village of Osteria dei Ruggeri on top of the ridge. When this ground had been taken, Company "F" was to ride the ridge to the north abreast of Company "E", which would attack one-hundred yards down the western slope of the ridge. Hill 747 (771202) was the Battalion objective. When the attack order had been given, it was still necessary for the Company Commanders to make a reconnaissance of the forward areas, and it was not until 1420 hours that both Companies "E" and "F" cleared the Battalion assembly area in the vicinity of Faldo. In the attack Company "E" received scattered small-arms fire from the left, and Company "F", while advancing along the trail from point 579 (768157) to C. Banzole (768161), drew artillery fire but suffered no casualties from it. At 1810 hours a platoon from Company "E" was at C. Nuova (761165), with the balance of the Company at point 411 (762162), and Company "F" was at C. Banzole, from which it dispatched a platoon combat patrol to C. Piana di Ripoli (766166). This platoon drew machine-gun fire from the house at 767168, but continued to advance to its objective. Company "G", in the meantime, closed up to C. Nuova (771153[?]). In these positions the Battalion spent the night.
[ 3 October 1944 ]
At first light the 2nd Battalion sent out patrols to the north preparatory to resuming its advance. The enemy had not yet relinquished Hill 789, as was discovered by a ten-man patrol from Company "B", which at approximately 1030 hours was fired upon while approaching the church. The 2nd Battalion initiated its attack in mid-morning, and at 1340 hours Company "F" was in the village of Osteria dei Ruggeri, patrolling to the north, while Company "E" was at point 438 (762172). It was evident that by this time the enemy had already withdrawn from the church, for Hill 789 had been completely enveloped by the 3rd Battalion on the right and the 2nd Battalion on the left, and an hour-and-a-half later a patrol from Company "G" would find no enemy in the ruined church. During the afternoon the Battalion advanced rapidly, reaching the 19 Northing by dark. The advance had been so head-long that elements of the Battalion had lost contact. Such was the case of two squads of the 1st Platoon, Company "E", which were some distance to the rear, while the third squad was in lead of the Company. After the Platoon Leader, 2nd Lt. George D. Souers, had gone back to look for his two missing squads, Captain Honshell K. Johnston, Company Commander, ordered the lead squad to investigate the shrine on the crest of Hill 747, which he fancied as a C.P. This squad approached the church from the southeast and on the eastern slope of the hill surprised and captured two S.S. troopers who were digging positions with no immediate concern for the advance of hostile troops. After the squad had returned to the Company position with its prisoners, the squad leader, Sergeant Elvin L. Daughtry, went alone to the vicinity where the prisoners had been taken and threw hand grenades at a suspected machine-gun position, which he had observed on the crest of the hill. Having learned that Hill 747 was occupied by the enemy, Company "E" took up position around the houses at 770198, 768198, and 766198, approximately three-hundred-and-fifty yards south of the church. Company "F" organized its position around the houses at 772198, at Ca dei Sarti (774198), and at 773200. An Italian civilian who remained in a house at the first of these positions reported that there were four-hundred Germans in the village of Monteacuto Vallese, which was just over the hill, and that the enemy was occupying houses three-hundred yards to the north, around which he had dug positions. Company "G" took up a reserve position in the vicinity of point 729 (768193), with the mission of protecting the left rear of the Battalion, with special attention to the town of Ripoli, seven-hundred yards distant.
The 3rd Battalion attacked abreast of the 2nd Battalion during the morning and early afternoon. A reconnaissance patrol from Company "I" reported at 1040 hours that the enemy had withdrawn from S. Benedetto. The Battalion went into the attack, Companies "K" and "L" advancing on each side of the valley road, with Company "K" on the left, and Company "I" attacking with the objectives of S. Benedetto and the village at 786178. No resistance was encountered by the Battalion, and by 1330 hours Company "I" had taken its objectives, and Company "K" had entered S. Andrea (780178) and was occupying the high ground to the southwest of the village (775175). The Battalion held on this line during the night with the exception of the 1st Platoon of Company "I", which late in the afternoon was assigned the mission of out-posting the high ground to the north of S. Benedetto. As the Platoon was approaching the houses at point 655 (792184), machine-gun fire from a house at point 665 (791186) killed one man of the Platoon and wounded a second. The Platoon closed rapidly into the houses at point 655 and planned an assault on the enemy position. One squad would provide a base of fire from the houses, while the other two squads assaulted the position from the flanks. Additional supporting fire would be provided by a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a jeep and two .30 caliber machine guns located in S. Benedetto. In the ten minutes that the support elements fired, the assault squads attacked, one along the road to the west of point 655 and the other through the draw to the east of it. When the fire was lifted, they closed with the position, driving the enemy out of the houses.
Having been pinched out by the advance of the 2nd and 3rd Battalion, the 1st Battalion assembled in Montefredente and Faldo, closing in at 1740 hours.
[ 4 October 1944 ]
Early in the evening of 3 October the Regiment was instructed that the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron would pass by the 2nd Battalion the following morning. [Note: the 91st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized) was an independent 'battalion', attached by Fifth Army where and as needed; it was not the 91st Reconnaissance Troop of the 91st Infantry Division.] Though the 2nd Battalion had not yet gained control of the lateral road to the Setta Valley, the commitment of the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron had become feasible with the securing of the road junction at 781192. According to the attack order, elements of the Squadron were to pass by the right of the 2nd Battalion at 0600 hours, at which time the platoon of tanks and the platoon of tank destroyers attached to the 2nd Battalion would come under the control of the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron. It was expected that if the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron was successful, the entire Regiment could be relieved on 4 October, but in any event the 1st and 3rd Battalions would have a day of rest, the 1st Battalion at Montefredente and Faldo, and the 3rd Battalion at S. Andrea and S. Benedetto.
Shortly after dawn of 4 October a troop of the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron set out to the north from the road junction at 781192, and a platoon started up the road leading to Monteacuto Vallese. The troop could proceed no further than the blown-out bridge at 781199. The platoon had advanced to within a few hundred yards of Monteacuto when it received small-arms fire from the slopes of Hill 747 and was forced to withdraw. The squadron made no further advances during the day,and would be unable to advance on the right until a by-pass could be prepared around the blown-out bridge, and on the left while the enemy retained control of Hill 747
After the patrol action of the previous night, the enemy evidently were as curious as we to know the strength and disposition of the force opposite it, for at dawn on 4 October, just as Company "E" was preparing to send a reconnaissance patrol to the church, an enemy patrol of eight men approached the Company's position. Both Companies "E" and "F took the patrol under fire, killing three of the enemy and forcing the patrol to withdraw. For several hours afterward Hill 747 was heavily shelled by our mortars and artillery. Then, at 1130 hours, 2nd Lt. Souers, believing the enemy to have been driven off the hill by this fire, took one squad of the 1st Platoon to reconnoiter the hill. The enemy allowed this patrol to reach the top of the hill, and then opened fire from both the left front and right front. Having some defilade from this fire, the squad held its ground and signalled two Germans in a dug-out nearby to come out and surrender, and to a third German in a fighting hole, who seemed to be debating whether or not to give himself up, but these overtures were unsuccessful. The squad's position was particularly insecure in that it was lying in the field of fire of a machine gun, the gunner of which was looking and firing in another direction, and who fortunately never turned his head. In this precarious position, having found the hill still to be held in strength by the enemy, 2nd Lt. Souers ordered his [patrol] to withdraw.
With the enemy occupying the house directly opposite from its position, Company "F" had no freedom of movement in daylight to form for an attack, but in a feigned attack in mid-morning the Company drew heavy small-arms fire from the houses and from positions around them.
The 2nd Battalion area was harassed by mortars and artillery intermittently throughout the day, and, between the hours of 1715 and 1930, the Battalion was subjected to an extremely heavy shelling from mortars and from self-propelled, light, and heavy artillery. Two men of the Battalion were killed and ten wounded in the day's action, most of which casualties were inflicted by shell fire.
[ 5 October 1944 ]
On 4 October, the Regiment was instructed early in the evening that, with the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron attached, it would attack the following morning with the mission of seizing Objective Number "3" in the Division attack plan, which lay five-thousand meters to the north. Colonel Hine's plan of attack anticipated the possibility that the enemy would withdraw during the night, since, if visibility were good the next day, his position would be untenable with the 133rd Infantry Regiment holding the dominating heights of Mt. Venere. Therefore, Colonel Hine requested the artillery to harass possible assembly areas and routes of withdrawal throughout the night, and, against the possibility of pursuit, assigned to the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron the sector astride the main highway. He directed the Squadron Commander to send one platoon, with a platoon of tanks attached, against the enemy in Monteacuto, in coordination with the attack of the 2nd Battalion on Hill 747, and to initiate aggressive reconnaissance to the north astride the valley road. In the event that the enemy did not withdraw, the 1st and 3rd Battalions were to be prepared to attack on half-hour's notice, the 1st Battalion at any time after 0700 hours, and the 3rd Battalion after 1100 hours. The 2nd Battalion, after gaining its objective, Hill 747, was to pass into Regimental reserve. In preparation for the attack, the 1st Battalion moved after dark from its rest area in Montefredente to an assembly area in the vicinity of Campiano (778190), closing at 2115 hours.
But the enemy did not withdraw during the night. At 0640 hours Company "E" reported that the Germans were still holding Hill 747, and half an hour later word was received from the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron that one of its platoons had contacted the enemy one-thousand yards to the northeast of Hill 747 (778209). Colonel Hine issued orders for the 2nd Battalion to press its attack against Hill 747 continuing its advance to the north, and for the 1st Battalion to attack along the high ground to the right of and in coordination with the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron.
Major Butler, commanding the 2nd Battalion, studied the terrain to find a way by which the enemy's defenses might be outflanked. The Germans were still holding the houses in front of Company "F" in strength and, from several prepared positions on the gradual eastern slope of the hill, had grazing fire down the hillside to the southeast and south and across the forward slope of the hill. The approaches to the flat, cultivated ground on top of the hill were covered by this flanking fire, as well as rifle and machine-gun fire from two camouflaged positions which had been dug on the hillside itself, fifty yards south of the shrine. The western slope of the hill fell off sharply, defilading an attacking force from fire from the right, but offered no suitable route of approach to the hilltop. Major Butler decided to by-pass Hill 747 to the west , and in the early afternoon he assigned that mission to Captain Raymond C. Stillger, Commander of Company "G". It was planned that the Company would take the western nose of the hill, where it would build up a base of fire to support its attack on Monteacuto Vallese.
In the meantime, Companies "E" and "F" continued to exert pressure on the right. Company "F" registered mortar and artillery fire in on the houses three-hundred yards to its front with good results, while Company "E" directed fire on a heavy machine gun, which had been duelling with Company "H"'s machine guns, and on other enemy positions on the eastern slope of the hill. After a 60mm mortar concentration had fallen around his hole, one German raised a white flag and ran into Company "E"'s positions. He reported that all but one or two of his comrades had fled from the hill under our heavy mortar and artillery fire, but a few minutes later a man of the Company exposed himself and drew heavy machine-gun fire. At noon the 2nd Platoon of Company "E" passed through the 1st Platoon in an attack on the shrine. The enemy allowed the men to advance within a few yards of the flat top of the hill and then lobbed hand grenades down on them, forcing them to withdraw.
Company "G" attacked at 1600 hours. Before the Company could reach the defilade of the steep eastern slope, it received plunging machine-gun fire from the top of the hill and grazing fire from the houses on the western nose of the hill. Unable to advance against this fire, the Company organized a line from point 711 (771199) to the house at 768197.
The platoon of tanks attached to the 2nd Battalion attempted to support the Battalion with direct fire into Monteacuto in the late afternoon. The tanks approached within a few hundred yards of the town, where they received small-arms and mortar fire from the slopes of Hill 747. Unable to fire into the town because they were masked by a cut in the hillside, and since the visibility was closing down, the tanks withdrew to the vicinity of the bridge at 778194, where they spent the night.
Despite the occupation of Mt. Venere by the 133rd Infantry Regiment, the enemy continued to defend the valley road as well as the northwest slopes of Mt. Venere. The two platoons of the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron which attacked initially over the trails to the west of the valley road were engaged in a fire fight early in the morning. Continuing to maneuver on these trails during the day, they received occasional anti-tank fire, but in the late afternoon, succeeded in working a patrol across the Sambro River to C. Bonfiglioli, which was fired upon with mortars and small arms and forced to withdraw behind Hill 442.
Upon learning that the enemy had not withdrawn from in front of the 2nd Battalion and the 91st Reconnaissance Battalion during the night, Colonel Hine ordered the 1st Battalion to attack, according to plan, over the western slopes of Mt. Galletto, a maneuver intended to out-flank the enemy force which was blocking the Regiment's advance through the valley below. At 0830 hours, Lt. Col. Golding met with his staff and Company Commanders in the command post in Campiano and gave them the attack order. At 1000 hours, when Company "C" had already left for Molinelli (799201) and the forward command group was just clearing the Battalion area, forty-nine shells fell in the vicinity of the Battalion C.P., killing five men and wounding eighteen. The operation of the Battalion was disrupted for several hours by the loss of key personnel in this shelling, and the attack was delayed. Company "A" had suffered the heaviest casualties. A shell which had fallen through the roof of the Company C.P. had killed Captain Normand E. Yando, Company Commander, 1st Lt. John A. Bittner, Platoon Leader, Sergeant Charles C. Lee, acting Platoon Leader, and Staff Sergeant Aloysius A. Schulte, acting First Sergeant, and had wounded 1st Lt. Henry L. Harris, Executive Officer. In addition, eight enlisted men of the Company were wounded outside of the C.P. Company "A"'s loss of three officers brought to a climax the Battalion's already critical shortage of officer personnel and necessitated an extensive reorganization before the Battalion could resume the attack. Two officers from Cannon Company, 1st Lt. Lewis H. Bloom and 2nd Lt. Sidney O. Mathis, and 1st Lt. Albert S. Jacobson of Anti-Tank Company, were transferred to Company "A", along with 2nd Lt. Edward S. Everett of Company "B", who took command of the Company. A second officer from Anti-Tank Company, 1st Lt. Robert C. Bowen, was transferred to Company "C". From Company "D" 2nd Lt. John C. Kucwicz and 2nd Lt. Morton E. Haim were transferred to Companies "B" and "C" respectively. With the addition of these officers from Anti-Tank and Cannon Companies and from Company "D", the total officer strength of the three Rifle Companies was increased to ten. At 1330 hours, when the reorganization of the Battalion was well in hand, and Captain Justin J. Foley, Assistant Regimental S-3, had replaced 1st Lt. John C. Grier, who had been wounded, as Battalion Operations Officer, the forward C.P. group left Campiano, followed an hour-and-a-half later by Company "A" in reserve, which by that time had completed its reorganization. The Battalion was then advancing in the order Company "C", Company "B", and Company "A".
Since by noon, the 1st Battalion was still undergoing reorganization, and the Regiment had now received orders to reach the 24 Northing before dawn of the following morning, Colonel Hine directed the 3rd Battalion to slip past the right of the 1st Battalion, taking advantage of security offered on the right by the 133rd Infantry and of such blocking action on the left as, in the meantime, would have been achieved by the 1st Battalion. It was anticipated that the 3rd Battalion, meeting lighter resistance in its sector, would overtake and pass the 1st Battalion. By 1420 hours the 3rd Battalion had cleared S. Benedetto and was advancing toward Molinelli in the order Company "I", Company "L", and Company "K", By 1625 hours the leading elements of the Battalion had arrived abreast of the right elements of the 1st Battalion. Since there was only one trail on the western slope of the mountain in this part of the sector, Colonel Hine ordered the 1st Battalion to allow the 3rd Battalion to pass, and the 3rd Battalion to continue its attack to the north, with Hill 661 (792239) as its objective for the night. Company "I", having no contact with the enemy, made rapid advance in spite of heavy fog, and at 2400 hours occupied Hill 661. Company "L" stopped for the remainder of the night at la Mandria (793238) and out-posted the western nose of Hill 661 with one platoon. Company "K" and the Battalion command group stopped in the vicinity of Gabbiano (794224). Before it had been cleared by the tail of the 3rd Battalion, the 1st Battalion was ordered to stop for the night, and out-post its positions strongly, prepared to resume the attack in the morning. The Battalion was then disposed as follows: one platoon of Company "C" at 790215, with the balance of the Company at 791204, Company "B" at 795211, and Company "A" at 791204.
[ 6 October 1944 ]
Colonel Hine then directed the 1st and 3rd Battalions to continue their attack at dawn and to seize and out-post the forward slope overlooking the Setta River between the 25 and 26 Northings, from which they could control the Setta Valley road. The 1st Battalion, on the left, was ordered to guard the road and bridges against possible enemy attempts at demolition. Both the 1st and 3rd Battalions were ordered to establish OPs and direct artillery fire on targets of opportunity. The 2nd Battalion was to continue its attack up the ridge on the left of the Regimental sector, patrolling as far as the village of Rioveggio (766248).
When the 2nd Battalion received the order to attack, a four-man patrol from Company "G" had already found the houses on the western nose of Hill 747 to be free of the enemy, and the 1st Platoon of Company "E" had reported that only one German remained in the shrine on Hill 747. At 0830 hours Major Butler issued the attack order. The Battalion was to attack in the order Company "G", Company "F", and Company "E", first taking the town of Monteacuto Vallese, and then continuing the attack over the ridge to the north. Captain Stillger, Commander of Company "G", went into Monteacuto with a four-man patrol and found it to have been evacuated by the enemy. By 1000 hours the balance of the Company had entered the town along with the tanks and elements of the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron. Under cover of fog, the tanks then took the lead, but a thousand yards north of Monteacuto they bogged down. Elements on the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron then led the advance, two peeps driving into the village of Belvedere (770225), and a patrol continuing on foot to Montorio (771229). At 1330 hours Major Butler was ordered to consolidate his troops in Montorio, and to send a patrol to contact the 1st Battalion, but since Company "G" had already reached la Torre (769236), and Company "F" was following Company "G", he organized his defensive position further to the north. Company "G" remained at la Torre and established an out-post on the knob of the hill at 767238. Company "F" occupied the houses la Ca (770231) and la Casetta (770232) and at point 366 (766234), and Company "E" moved into Montorio and C. Marzolara (766229). The Battalion remained in this position for four days with the mission of protecting the left flank of the Regiment.
At first light the 1st and 3rd Battalions resumed their advance. By 1315 hours both Company "I" and Company "L" were on the objective. At the end of the afternoon, the 3rd Battalion had organized a line with Company "I" at 788257 and 793255 with an out-post at Cosse (791264), Company "L" at 781254 and 784255, and Company "K" and the Battalion C.P. at la Mandria (793238). The 1st Battalion had established its position with Company "B" at Rioveggio (767248), Company "C" at Polverara (775250), and Company "A" and the Battalion C.P. at Brigola (781237). The Regiment's advance during the day had been made under the cover of fog, which had been a material advantage since the northern end of the Sambro Valley and the ridge overlooking it on the west were under observation by enemy in position on the high ground across the Setta River. This advance probably would not have been possible on a clear day, as was evidenced by the enemy's heavy shelling of Rioveggio with self-propelled artillery when he noticed Company "B"'s movement into the village.
In his withdrawal from the Sambro Valley the enemy made such extensive use of demolitions that the valley road could not be opened until 8 October, forcing the 1st and 3rd Battalions to maintain their lines of supply and communication on the trail over the western slopes of Mt. Galletto and Mt. Venere. Since the 1st and 3rd Battalions both used this trail, the problems of the 1st Battalion can be considered to be typical. On October 5 and 6 ten miles of WR 110 wire were laid by hand from the 1st Battalion rear C.P., initially in Campiano, to the Battalion forward C.P. at Brigola. The spools of WR 110 wire were packed by mule, and because of a delay in obtaining sufficient mules, the Battalion forward C.P. did not have wire communication with the Regimental C.P until 0100 hours 7 October. The problem of supply was equally difficult. On the nights of October 6 and 7 rations and ammunition were carried to the Companies both on mules and in peeps, but the trail was so narrow that two peeps and several trailers were lost over the embankment. At 1600 hours, 6 October when a radio message was received at the Battalion rear C.P. at 788183 that the forward C.P. had been established at Brigola, the rear command group set out to join the forward. Ammunition, rations, and wire were loaded on mules, while the peeps traveled empty. When the mule train reached Brigola, rations and ammunition were transferred to peeps, in which they were carried to the Companies on the line. When the valley road was opened by the engineers on 8 October, there was no further necessity for using the difficult trail over the mountainside. The Regimental Communications Section established a forward switch at Molinelli (778232), which greatly decreased the Battalion's difficulties in maintaining its wire lines. With the road open, rations could be carried to the Battalion C.P. at Brigola by 1-1/2 ton trucks and from there to the Companies by peep. The Battalion was fed hot meals throughout the last phase of this operation.
[ 7-9 October 1944 ]
During the three days October 7-9, in which the Regiment occupied a defensive position over-looking the Setta River, our troops were comparatively inactive. The 2nd Battalion, which was protecting the left flank of the Regiment, rested in houses on the ridge and completed the issue of its winter equipment. Because of enemy observation from high ground across the river, the Battalion Commander ordered that movement outside of the houses in daylight be kept to a minimum. Company "C" was engaged in a fire fight in mid-morning of 7 October, when an estimated number of ten Germans, who evidently were withdrawing without a knowledge of our positions, walked past the Company C.P. A man in the C.P. observed four of this group of enemy and fired on them with a pistol. Immediately the Germans scattered and took cover. Small arms, heavy machine guns, and mortars were fired on them, but in mid-afternoon they made their withdrawal across the Setta River with only two of their number wounded. On the night of 7-8 October, a patrol from the 3rd Battalion found the bridge at 793268 to be intact and no mines in the stream bed for one hundred yards on each side of it.
While the activity on our lines was negligible during the three-day period when the Regiment was in the defensive position, the enemy provided numerous targets of opportunity for the artillery. The Germans were preparing defenses on the high ground beyond the Setta River, and at first they moved freely on the forward slopes during daylight. Several groups of Italian civilians and Germans digging positions on the forward slopes were fired on. At 1015 hours 7 October, Major Butler fired artillery, with excellent effect, on thirty Germans who marched past the railroad station at 751227 [Stazione di Grizzana], two-thousand yards from the Battalion O.P. in Montorio. In the early afternoon of 7 October, 1st Lt. Kenneth L Bailey, Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon Leader, observed from the Regimental O.P. in Montorio a German in his O.P. in [Molinello] di sotto (750237). The two observers duelled with artillery until they landed volleys close to each other's O.P., and then the duel ceased.
xxx The Regiment continued in position protecting the left flank of the Division until the night of 9-10 October, when its relief by the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron, which had been in progress since the night of 7-8 October, was completed. With the exception of the 81mm Mortar Platoon and the Intelligence Section, the 1st Battalion was completely relieved by 0300 hours 8 October. After spending the night in assembly areas a few thousand yards behind the front lines, the Battalion closed into Montefredente and Borgo at 1955 hours. The 3rd Battalion was relieved by 1730 hours and closed in S. Benedetto at 2210 hours, with the exception of Company "I" which went on to Qualto. The 2nd Battalion withdrew from its positions on the ridge after dark on 9 October and moved to the village of Faldo.
[ 10-14 October 1944 ]
Upon completion of the relief, the Regiment passed into Division reserve and enjoyed four days of rest. During this period the troops were bivouaced in houses where they had an opportunity to dry out. They were paid on 10 October and received an issue of canteen rations, which included beer. Motion pictures were shown for them in Piano del Voglio, and band concerts were given in Battalion areas.
After this four-day period of rest, the Regiment was ordered to move to an assembly area west of Highway 65, preparatory to relieving the 338th Infantry Regiment [85th Infantry Division] in position on the night of 15-16 October. On 13 October the 1st Battalion moved by truck to an area near Borgo di Bisano (917240), and, on the following day, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions moved into areas in the vicinity of il Poggio (905265).
According to Field Order No. 6, 168th Infantry, the Regiment, with Company "A", 757th Tank Battalion, and Company "C" less one platoon, 804th Tank Destroyer Battalion attached, and with the 175th Field Artillery, 151st Field Artillery, Cannon Company 133rd Infantry, Cannon Company 168th Infantry, and the 84th Chemical [Mortar] Battalion in direct support, would continue the attack to the north, preparing to debouch into the Po Valley east of Bologna. In this attack the Regiment was to be the spearhead of a coordinated drive involving five divisions of the Fifth Army. All strong points were to be contained and by-passed by the major portion of our forces, and the principal effort directed against the enemy's supporting elements in the rear of these strong points. To insure maximum air support for the attack, an Air Corps radio team, through whom missions might be called for directly by the men on the ground, was to be at the Regimental command post.
A great deal of confusion seemed to exist among the elements of the 65th and 362nd German Infantry Divisions which had been identified between the 90-95 Eastings, as was indicated by the identification on 12 October of the 147th, 1060th, and 956th Regiments and the 362nd Fusilier Battalion, all in the M. delle Formiche area. Nevertheless, the enemy was fighting a stubborn defensive action with no indication of a voluntary withdrawal, and could be expected to make a determined stand before the city of Bologna.
[ 15 October 1944 ]
On 15 October a reconnaissance party, consisting of the Regimental Commander and his Battalion and Company Commanders, examined the positions in which the Regiment was to relieve the 338th Infantry. Relief would not be made man-for-man, but rather the strength of the relieving elements would be at the discretion of the Battalion Commanders.
The approximate line of departure for the attack extended through 930295, 923297, , 915297, and 905295, a line which was not far from the present positions of the 338th Infantry. On the east the Regimental sector was bounded by the River Idice, and on the west the boundary followed generally the 90 Easting. The Regiment was directed to attack with three battalions abreast, at 0500 hours 16 October, with a mission to secure the high ground, Objective Number 1, which lay between the 907 and 923 Eastings and the 307 and 318 Northings. Having consolidated this ground, it was to continue the attack to the remaining objectives, the last of which was the high ground overlooking Highway Number 9 and the Po Valley.
[ 16 October 1944 ]
At 0200 hours, 16 October, the Battalions had assumed control of their respective sectors and were in position to attack, with the 2nd Battalion on the left, and the 3rd Battalion on the right of the 1st Battalion. The relief had been effected as planned, with the exception that Hill 451 (921297) [Baragazza], on which the 1st Battalion was supposed to relieve elements of the 338th Infantry, was now in enemy hands.
It had been discovered at the time of the relief that the troops defending the hill in the center sector had been forced to withdraw. In order to secure the line of departure, an attack by Company "A" was planned to retake the hill before H-hour.
At 2400 hours, Company "A", in position on the reverse slope of Hill 488 (915296), sent its 2nd Platoon to the east and north, attacking along the steep southwest slope of Hill 451. Some three-hundred yards from their objective, they received a heavy concentration of mortar and small-arms fire, which forced them to dig in where they were. When Company "A"'s Commander, 1st Lt. Arthur H.V. Treo, learned of this, he committed the 3rd Platoon, which moved just before dawn down the forward slope of Hill 488, to attack Hill 451 from the northwest. Before the Platoon reached a position from which to assault, daybreak came and with it small-arms and mortar fire from Hill 451 and the high ground to the north. So intense and accurate was this fire that the Platoon was cut off and not extricated during the day of 16 October. The 2nd Platoon was then pulled back and, with the rest of the Company that had not been committed, moved around to the reverse slope of Hill 475 (917299) and prepared to take part in the attack on Crocetta.
At dawn Company "C" attacked the town of Crocetta. The Company approached within two-hundred yards of the town before daylight revealed its presence to the enemy. At that point, small arms, 81mm mortars, and high-velocity anti-tank weapons opened fire on it. Having found the town to be held in strength by the enemy, the Company withdrew behind Hill 475, to prepare to renew the attack, supported by armor.
At 0900 hours Company "C" resumed the attack, this time with the support of a company of tanks, and with Company "B" providing a base of fire from Hill 475. Company "C"'s 1st and 2nd Platoons attacked in a line of skirmishers astride the road, with the 1st Platoon on the right, while the 3rd Platoon moved with the tanks behind the assault Platoons. The troops reached a point within four-hundred yards of the fortified house, when fire was again received from automatic weapons, 81mm mortars, and anti-tank guns. As the lead tank came around a slight bend in the road, it was put out of action by a direct hit from an anti-tank gun. Unable to fire into Crocetta or to pass the lead tank, the rest of the tanks could no longer give effective support. Meanwhile the 1st and most of the 2nd Platoons had been pinned down and were unable to advance, particularly in the face of the fire from the high-velocity weapons. At this point the Commander of Company "C", Captain David H. Boals, ordered the men to withdraw. Most of the 2nd Platoon was able to get back to Hill 475, but only a few men from the 1st Platoon managed to withdraw before dark.
Although the Company had not suffered heavy casualties, the men missing from the 1st and 2nd Platoons served to weaken it as a fighting unit. Despite this fact, another attack was called for 1300 hours, in which Company "C" was to attack Crocetta abreast of Company "B", which would have the mission of securing the high ground to the northeast of the objective. Although the knocked-out tank was still blocking the road, the attack was not to be without armored support. Two tanks and four tank destroyers in full defilade on the reverse slope of Hill 475 were to fire into Crocetta and positions to the northeast, while two more tanks on the road were to fire on enemy positions above the town. The 175th Field Artillery and the 84th Chemical Battalions were called upon to cover the town and surrounding area with smoke prior to the attack.
At approximately 1300 hours the Companies moved forward in the attack, with the 2nd and 3rd Platoons of Company "C" astride the road, tied in on the right with the 2nd and 3rd Platoons on Company "B". Formed as a line of skirmishers,the men stretched from a point seventy-five yards west of the road, east over the crest of Hill 475, and halfway down its eastern slope. Despite the fact that the hill had been well covered with smoke, the Companies received the same heavy fire as before as they came along the road and over the crest of the hill, and this time it was supplemented by heavy artillery. Company "C" was again forced to withdraw behind Hill 475, while Company "B", which had received fire from Viaretta Ridge, took up positions on the crest of Hill 475.
At this point Colonel Hine, who had been observing the operations, lent personal assistance. He reconnoitered the forward positions and terrain to the front and flanks. Then directing Company "B" to maneuver to the nose about two-hundred yards to the northeast and establish a base of fire, he led Company "C" in launching an attack around the left flank at about 1600 hours. Having got them well under way, he took steps to remove the knocked-out tank from the road, while the action received the support of the tanks and tank destroyers from positions just north of Val Piola.
With great difficulty, Company "C" succeeded in reaching a position below Tazzola, where it contacted elements of the 2nd Battalion on the left. However, because of the exposure of Company "B" on the forward slope of Hill 475, which was under direct fire from the fortified houses, not only at Crocetta but also at Tazzola and Savignana, it was decided to make the final assault after dark. Therefore it was planned that Company "B", with the 2nd Platoon on Company "A" (which, in the afternoon, had succeeded in gaining positions on the reverse slope of Hill 475) attached, would attack Crocetta after dark. The 2nd Platoons of each Company were combined to make one platoon of fifty men. giving Company "B" two strong platoons and one support platoon of twenty men, besides the Weapons Platoon. On the forward slope of the hill one light [machine gun] and a section of heavy machine guns were in position to fire on the town. Another section of heavy machine guns were on the reverse slope, from which it could fire indirect supporting fire. At 2100 hours the Companies attacked.
Company "B", deployed as skirmishers, initiated the attack, with the men from Company "A" on the extreme left, guiding on the road. It soon became apparent that the darkness and broken terrain would make control of this line virtually impossible. Accordingly, on order, the men closed into five or six columns of files, some thirty yards apart. In this manner, cautiously, the troops advanced some two-hundred yards, when they received fire from automatic weapons at close range. The lead riflemen neutralized this fire, permitting the Company to resume its advance. Another hundred yards had been covered, when fire was again received from close range. Strangely, this seemed to come from at least one Browning Automatic Rifle and a number of M-1s. Thinking, possibly, they had met a friendly patrol, some of the men from Company "B" called out an identification. Then, when the opposition, rather than ceasing, increased in intensity, Company "B" opened fire. The enemy fire stopped as suddenly as before, and the Company was again able to advance. For the third time, small arms fired into the men from the houses and from the high ground to the northeast, plus long-range machine-gun fire from the left rear, which wounded two and killed one of the men from Company "A". At this point Company "B"'s Commander, 1st Lt. Ervin M. Frey, faced with the possibility of a trap and the fact that ammunition was running short, decided to withdraw. The withdrawal was made without incident, and the Company moved back to Hill 475. By this time a new attack order had been issued and the Company waited there while the Battalion assembled.
In the plan of attack of the 2nd Battalion, Company "F" was directed to attack Zenarella, while Company "G" attacked from its positions at 913297 toward Tazzola (913305). The Battalion was to be supported in the attack by four tanks and two tank destroyers, firing from the vicinity of Ca Nova (909293). Not until afternoon was Company "G" able to move, since in each of its attempts to leave the draw it was met by heavy concentrations of mortar and small-arms fire. Company "F", however, succeeded at approximately 1100 hours in moving its 1st and 2nd Platoons, in a column of files, to the creek bed due south of Zenarella. As the two Platoons approached the town, they drew fire from automatic weapons, from rifle-grenade launchers in the houses, and from snipers on the cliffs on either side of the creek bed. Unable to advance against the frontal and flanking fire, the 2nd Platoon dug in along the banks of the stream, while the 1st Platoon went into position on the high ground to the southeast of Zenarella.
Holding on to the ground which it had gained, Company "F" initiated reconnaissance to determine the strength and disposition of the enemy. A seven-man patrol from the 2nd Platoon, led by T/Sgt Garcia, went to investigate the first house in Zenarella, the Company objective. Under the cover of the cliffs, the patrol came almost to its objective before it was discovered by the enemy, who then opened fire with automatic weapons, rifles, and rifle-grenade launchers. Though wounded, T/Sgt Domingo Garcia and Sgt Harold P. Bietz ran forward to the house, while the rest of the patrol was pinned down by the heavy fire. Lacking the firepower to extricate the two Sergeants, the patrol was able to withdraw only under the cover of darkness, after expending most of its ammunition. T/Sgt Garcia and his companion were taken prisoner and remained the night in the house which was occupied by seventy-five to one-hundred of the enemy. On the following morning T/Sgt Garcia made his way alone to the Company positions, Sgt Bietz having died during the night, and reported that the enemy had withdrawn from Zenarella at 0700 hours, evidently leaving him behind because of his wounds. The Company occupied the town, and the 3rd Platoon was sent by the Company Commander to Hill 353 (910303).
Shortly after 1200 hours the 1st Platoon of Company "C" succeeded in crossing the draw to its front and, following the 2nd Platoon, with the 3rd Platoon remaining behind as support, moved on the town of Tazzola (903305). Six-hundred yards from the line of departure, the 1st Platoon came onto the road leading into the town from the south west. The leading elements assaulted the house on the outskirts of the town and, as they closed in, friendly tanks on Hill 475 began firing directly into the town, killing two men of the Company and wounding four. The rest of the men, demoralized by this mistake of their own supporting elements withdrew to the former positions at 913297, where they reorganized.
The 3rd Battalion was attacking on the right flank of the 1st Battalion during the day, having crossed the line of departure at 0500 hours. Company "L" initiated the attack, moving on the right, along the slope of the ridge above the River Idice, heading for the cliffs below Viaratta (926301), while Company "I" attacked on the left with the mission of capturing Hill 392 (924301), and Company "K" remained in reserve in the vicinity of Tre Poggi (922290). It was planned that once the high ground had been occupied, the Battalion would move to Objective Number "1", prepared to continue the attack to the northwest.
Company "K" reached the base of the cliff below Viaratta without opposition. Then, as the troops in the lead began to scale the steep bluff, the enemy dropped hand grenades down on them and fired into them with automatic weapons. Only Lt. Basil Swimm reached the top, where he was immediately pinned down by small-arms fire. With the enemy holding the escarpment along its entire front, the Company was unable to advance farther. Late in the afternoon the Company was instructed to pull back to Ulgnano (914294) to wait orders. As dark came, 2nd Lt. Swimm worked his way down the cliffs, across the river, into a command post of the 338th Infantry Regiment, from which he returned to his Company.
Company "I", having passed through Ulgnano, turned slightly to the left to attack Hill 451. THe 3rd Platoon, which was leading the Company, was on the hill by 0900 hours. The 2nd Platoon took up a supporting position on the forward slope of Hill 540 (917290), while the 1st Platoon followed the 3rd, swinging farther left to occupy Hill 422 (919298). These movements were accomplished without meeting any enemy infantry, though on the crest of the hill long-range sniper fire was received from the vicinity of Viaratta, and, as the men were digging positions, four of them were wounded by mortar fire.
[ 17 October 1944 ]
By 2100 hours 16 October it was evident that the enemy had a series of strong points at Zenarella, Crocetta, and Viaratta, towns generally along the 30 Northing. Whether or not the enemy had determined to make his defense line here could not be known, but it was obvious that the plan for continuing the attack must be changed to cope with the enemy situation. The 3rd Battalion had been stopped by impassable cliffs, and the 1st Battalion had met strong enemy resistance. But the 2nd Battalion had been able to move forward, its left company then being engaged with the enemy at Zenarella. Colonel Hine directed the 2nd Battalion to press its attack through Tazzola, heading for Torre del Erede (910309) and C. del Fabbro (912314). The 1st Battalion was to move around to the west and, after contacting the 2nd Battalion on the left, was to contain and out-flank Crocetta and then swing north and east to take Hills 461 (916311) and 431 (915315), key features of Objective Number "1". The 3rd Battalion was to shift from behind the barrier to its front, west to the vicinity of Hill 488, and attack north to the high ground northeast of Crocetta, by-passing the town and securing the Savignana ridge (919307). Such was the plan for the night of 16-17 October, a plan which necessitated quick action in order to gain sufficient foothold under cover of darkness to defeat the enemy's tremendous advantage of unobstructed observation in daylight.
But, though the resistance of the enemy throughout the day's fighting had been determined, the combined attacks of the Regiment, its supporting artillery, and the devastating direct fire of the attached tanks and tank destroyers had taken heavy toll on the enemy and forced him to pull back the bulk of his forces from the forward positions. For, by 0400 hours 17 October Company "G", leading the assault of the 2nd Battalion, and encountering but sporadic small-arms fire from beyond the town, succeeded in occupying Tazzola. There, it found two of its wounded, who had been hit the day before by our tank fire. The wounded men had been left by the departing Germans, but only after the enemy aid men had administered aid and had donated blankets to keep them warm. While the Germans had evacuated their own wounded, they left a number of dead, many on whom lay buried beneath the rubble of the buildings which had been leveled by the artillery and tank fire.
At approximately 0500 hours Company "E", passing through Company "G", cleared Tazzola, leading the attack on toward Torre del Erede. The men advanced against occasional fire from automatic weapons. Visibility was very poor and the approaches were steep, but at 1300 hours the Company had reached its objective and prepared to move to the houses at 911311, from which direction small-arms fire was still being received. To eliminate this obstacle, the 2nd Platoon maneuvered around to the east and secured the first house without difficulty, receiving only rifle fire from a retreating German. When this house had been taken a patrol was sent to investigate the house at C. del Fabbro. Heavy fire was drawn as the patrol approached the houses, forcing it to withdraw. At dusk the 3rd Platoon came to join the 1st, so that by 1800 hours the entire Company was in the houses at Torre del Erede and at 911311, out-posting for all-around security and receiving only occasional mortar fire.
Company "F", during the morning, had moved northwest from Zenarella (907300) and Hill 353 (900302) toward Sassolungo (905310). The Company moved very slowly because of the difficult terrain and poor visibility. As it reached the southwestern slope of the hill below Torre del Erede, it received small-arms and mortar fire from Sassolungo and the ground behind it. The Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Benjamin J. Butler, feeling it inadvisable to continue the attack in the fog and over unknown terrain, ordered the Company to take positions along the slope. When the Company had organized its position, patrols were sent toward Sassolungo to determine the strength of the enemy. The patrols approached the town several times, each time drawing heavy fire. Since a fight at Sassolungo would divert a significant portion of the strength of the Battalion away from its assigned mission, it was decided that the Company should remain for the time being at its positions near 905306, as flank protection.
The rapid advance of the 2nd Battalion to Tazzola paved the way for the attack of the 1st Battalion on the right. Taking advantage of the gains made by the 2nd Battalion, Companies "A" and "C" reorganized at Tazzola, assembling men who had been separated during the fighting of the previous day. Then, according to plan, the 1st Battalion attacked Hills 461 and 431. Lt. Col. Golding sent Company "B", which had been following in support of Companies "A" and "C", to attack Hill 461. When this ground had been taken, Company "C" was to pass through Company "B" to take Hill 431 and then patrol to the road to its front. By 0545 hours Company "B" had cleared Tazzola and, with Company "C" following, moved northwest toward the hill. This movement, hampered by thick fog and sporadic sniper fire for the flank, brought the Company to the crest and east slope of Hill 461 by 1125 hours. No enemy was encountered, although mortar fire was received from the house at C. Costa. The fire was soon silenced by Company "D"'s mortars. According to the plan, it was now time for Company "C" to attack Hill 431 but, through a misinterpreted radio message, the Company closed behind Company "B" and stayed there until dark awaiting rations. Company "C" initiated its attack at approximately 1730 hours and at 2000 hours reported it was on Hill 431, preparing to patrol to the road. A patrol was sent to reconnoiter the forward slope of Hill 431 down to the road, but it was fired upon before reaching its objective and withdrew. Companies "B" and "C" then consolidated their positions for the night. Company "A" remained in reserve in Tazzola until late in the afternoon, when it moved to C. Costa.
According to the attack plan, the 3rd Battalion was to pass to the east of Crocetta and occupy the ridge extending to the east from Savignana (916306). It was of prime importance that this move be completed by dawn, for in crossing the open terrain in daylight, the Battalion would undoubtedly be heavily shelled by the enemy. In order to rejoin the Battalion, Company "I" had to infiltrate through the draw just to the west of Hill 451. Enemy snipers on the high ground to the north made this withdrawal slow and difficult. Nevertheless, by 0300 hours 17 October, the Battalion had assembled behind Hill 488. The Battalion then advanced in a column of companies, with Company "I" leading, followed by Companies "K" and "L", along the ridge past Crocetta and seized the Savignana ridge. Company "I" established one platoon between the road and Savignana, with the rest of the Company in the houses at Savignana, while Company "K" took position along the ridge east of the town. Company "L", in Battalion reserve, moved into the town of Crocetta, which, having suffered the fate of Tazzola, had been evacuated by the enemy, leaving many of his dead behind.
Having been on the go continuously for a day and two nights, and having achieved its first major objective, the Regiment halted in its advance while the important ground gained was consolidated, and reconnaissance initiated preparatory to the next phase. There was, however, little rest to be had since the enemy reacted strongly to our newly acquired positions by stepping up his artillery and mortar concentrations, while attempts to feel out his positions were greeted by fire from well concealed snipers and machine guns. It was apparent that the enemy would give ground only to the extent he was forced and would make a determined effort to prevent our forcing a deeper salient that the one already well defined.
At 1700 hours 17 October, the Regimental boundary was changed to allow the 133rd Infantry Regiment to attack toward Castello di Zena (906315) and Mt. Belmonte (903328). The new Regimental boundary extended to the northeast along the bed of the River Zena and excluded the area around Castello di Zena.
[ 18 October 1944 ]
With the 2nd and 1st Battalions holding the key terrain dominated by M. della Vigna, and with the direct support of the 1st Battalion from the eastern position thereof, it was planned to continue the attack along the ridge to the northeast, utilizing the 3rd Battalion in the assault. The first major objective on this ridge was M. Ceresa and the small ridges running toward the northeast and across the front to the southeast. In between these ridges lay C. Collina.
During the night of 17-18 October, patrols from the 3rd Battalion were sent toward C. Vigna, C. Croce, and to the east. Contacts with the enemy were established, especially heavy small-arms fire having been received from the vicinity of C. Vigna and C. Croce.
Early efforts of the Battalion to advance having made no appreciable headway, Colonel Hine went forward to investigate. After reconnoitering the forward positions and observing the terrain to the front, it was evident to him that no advance could be made until the fortified houses at C. Vigna and C. Croce, from which the enemy directed mutually supporting fire across approaches, were reduced. He then reconnoitered for possible firing positions for tanks and tank destroyers. Although seemingly impassable to armor, and contrary to the recommendations of the tank commander, he nevertheless placed both tanks and tank destroyers along the Savignana ridge, despite steep slopes, soft mud, and heavy concentrations of artillery and mortar fire. From this position direct fire could be placed upon the strong points. He then directed a coordinated attack in which elements of the 3rd Battalion would make the assault at 0900 hours, supported by the armor and small-arms fire from the 1st Battalion on M. della Vigna.
Company "I" moved in defilade to a position near the base of Hill 461, and promptly at 0900 hours launched its attack. Against the blasting effect of the supporting fires, the Germans were unable to return fire, and the Company quickly closed on its objectives. The 1st and 3rd Platoons assaulted the positions at C. Vigna, while the 2nd Platoon on the right was given C. Croce as its objective. Notwithstanding small-arms flanking fire and mortar fire, the Platoons kept up this advance and took their objectives. This was followed up by an immediate advance to C. dei Genna, from which the enemy had retreated through the deep ravine in the rear. The positions were then out-posted and consolidated by Companies "I" and "K". That night, before 2400 hours, both Companies made four attempts to move forward from C. Vigna, but were stopped each time by heavy mortar and small-arms fire. Fires burning in C. Vigna and C. Croce silhouetted any movement that the troops might make. It was not until the early morning of 19 October that the fires had burned sufficiently low to allow any movement.
At daylight on 18 October Company "C" discovered that instead of being on Hill 431, it had actually dug in on the northwest nose of Hill 461. Enemy artillery fire was so accurate and intense that the men had to remain close to their slit trenches during daylight hours. Company "B", from positions along the southeast slope of Hill 461, supported the attack of the 3rd Battalion, maintaining an out-post on the top of the hill itself, while Company "A" occupied the houses at C. Costa (914312). Some consternation followed when friendly aircraft bombed and strafed the Battalion area at 1415 hours. At least three planes dove to strafe the road from the Battalion command post at Hill 525 (916293) to M. della Formiche. Several bombs were dropped before ground troops could signal with yellow smoke grenades provided for that purpose. As soon as the smoke became noticeable, the planes ceased their fire and began to circle the area. Fortunately no casualties were suffered by the Battalion from this mistake.
The 2nd Battalion, with the exception of sending a platoon from Company "E" to the houses at C. del Fabbro, did not change its positions during the day. The Battalion Intelligence Section operated an observation post at Torre del Erede, firing much artillery at enemy personnel near Castello di Zena and across the river in the sector on the left. One reconnaissance patrol from Company "F" went to Sassolungo and returned, having drawn fire from the houses and surrounding ground, while another patrol from Company "E" en route to Castello di Zena, also drew fire from Sassolungo in the 133rd Infantry sector.
[ 19 October 1944 ]
With the key terrain of Objective Number "1" now secure, and with the left portion of our original sector now assigned to the 133rd Infantry, the 2nd Battalion was taken out to constitute a Division reserve, available as a Regimental reserve if necessary. With the Regimental sector reduced to include the ridge running to the northeast, it was no longer necessary to commit more than two battalions at a time. The reserve battalion was to be prepared to pass through the forward elements to continue the attack as successive objectives were gained. In order to relieve the 2nd Battalion, it was necessary only for Company "A" to relieve Company "E", which then pulled back to Torre del Erede. The security of Objective Number "1" then became the responsibility of the 1st Battalion.
The daylight hours of 19 October were devoted to reconnaissance and directing fire artillery fire on targets of opportunity. After dark the 3rd Battalion prepared to continue the attack on M. Ceresa and vicinity the following morning, at which time Company "L" was to attack to C. Pietrafitta (922318). In preparation for this attack, Company "L" joined Company "K" at C. dei Genna after dark. When Company "L" established itself in C. dei Genna, the Company Commander, 1st Lt. Carl C. Norvald, took a reconnaissance patrol of six men to investigate the road in the direction of Pietrafitta. Scarcely had they moved one-hundred-and-fifty yards when an enemy out-post, in dug-outs close to the road, engaged them in a fire fight. During this action, Lt. Norvald sustained knife and small-arms wounds in a hand-to-hand struggle with the enemy and had to be evacuated.
At 1930 hours Company "A" set out to relieve the platoon of Company "E" at C. del Fabbro. Each time that the Company began to move, a heavy concentration of enemy mortar fire forced it to take cover. After three attempts, the Company Commander decided to wait until the area had become a little quieter. Finally, at 2400 hours, the relief was completed and the 2nd Battalion went into reserve.
[ 20 October 1944 ]
During the night, in a new Divisional Instruction, four phase lines were designated at intervals of about four-hundred yards, which were to be the regiment objectives in the next phase of the attack. It was to be expected that the enemy would continue to make a determined stand in the foothills below Bologna, where the terrain was so well adapted for defense. Accordingly, a series of limited objectives were to be taken by the Regiment, with one battalion in reserve, always ready to pass through the assault battalions as objectives were secured, in order to maintain continuity in the attack. Actually, this device did not materially affect the original plan of attack being followed by the Regiment.
In compliance with this Division directive, it was planned that the 3rd Battalion would move before dawn to Pietrafitta and C. dei Marchetti (933317), there to consolidate and remain there for the day. The other Battalions would also keep movement to a minimum, utilizing the daylight to fire on targets of opportunity. An attack north to Poggio (927325) and Collina was to be made by the 3rd Battalion either on the night of 20 October or on the following morning, at the discretion of the Battalion Commander. The mission of the 1st Battalion was to hold the high ground on Objective Number "1" and protect the left flank of the Regiment.
After receiving this new attack order, Company "L", at approximately 0100 hours, sent a combat patrol of platoon strength to Pietrafitta. As the patrol neared the houses, two machine guns opened fire on it. Deploying immediately, the patrol opened fire, killing one enemy and capturing five others. Following up this advantage, the patrol closed in but found that the enemy had been driven off, except that, while establishing out-posts, members of the patrol discovered an enemy tank in a barn next to the house. Being unable to open the tank turret and lacking bazooka ammunition, the men threw hand grenades against the side of the tank. The concussion of the grenades awakened the occupants of the tank, which hurriedly retreated in the direction of Collina (930325). Shortly afterward, tank fire began to harass C. Pietrafitta.
This success was reported, and the rest of the Company joined the platoon, setting light machine guns to cover the approaches to the position. By 0600 hours 20 October Company "L" was established at Pietrafitta, while Company "K" had taken position on the south slope of Hill 400 (927317), out-posting to the trail to the east, and Company "I" remained in reserve at C. Vigna and C. Croce. Company "L", after daylight, sent a reconnaissance patrol toward the houses at C. Ronco Coresa (925325). But the patrol soon ran into heavy small-arms fire, which forced it to retire to Pietrafitta after one man had been killed. For the rest of the day and night the Company stayed at Pietrafitta, out-posting the position.
In the afternoon, Company "K" sent a patrol to Ca dei Marchetti (932317), led by an Italian who claimed knowledge of a direct route. The patrol returned without incident, but discovered that it had been led to C. dei Sanadini (927310). As it was imperative to have men in Marchetti before the attack began, Company "K" planned to send a strong patrol there after dark.
Lt Col. Marcellus T. Wilson, Commander of the 3rd Battalion, decided to attack the night of 20 October. He planned to send Company "I" through Pietrafitta to attack northeast to Ca di Razzone (930324), while Company "L" pushed over M. Ceresa (932320) to C. Ronco Coresa, and Company "K" held the high ground east from Hill 400 to the vicinity of Marchetti. In order to protect the Battalion's left flank, Company "B" was to send a reinforced platoon to occupy the position at C. Croce, which would be vacated when Company "I" moved. In order to retain the element of surprise, no artillery would be fired in preparation for this attack other than the normal harassing fires. Tanks and tank destroyers, below C. Vigna (917313), would be alerted to fire on call at targets selected by the attacking Battalion.
[ 21 October 1944 ]
By 0120 hours 21 October Company "I" cleared C. Croce, leaving behind eleven men of the 2nd Platoon, who had refused to attack with the Platoon. These were the only men remaining in the Platoon, which had suffered many casualties, including its Platoon Leader, who had been killed, and its Platoon Sergeant, who had been evacuated for wounds. Their demoralization was attributed to fatigue, the loss of their leaders, and to the unusually heavy concentrations of artillery and mortar fire. After these men had been placed under arrest, the 1st and 3rd Platoons of Company "I" began to move toward Pietrafitta, which was their line of departure. On arrival there the men seemed to be so fatigued that the Company Commander, 1st Lt. William H. Burk, thought it unwise to begin the attack. Permission was then granted for the Company to remain at Pietrafitta to support Company "L"'s attack.
Company "L", led by the 3rd Platoon, moved toward M. Ceresa at 0100 hours. Immediately, from the northwest slope of the hill, four machine guns began to fire into the assaulting Company. The Company then swung around to the west slope of the hill, so that the enemy positions could be neutralized by tank fire. The mission was fired, and Company "L" again took up the attack. This time the enemy machine gunners waited until the lead elements were almost on their position before opening fire. Half the Company was cut off by this fire and was unable to withdraw until 0930 hours. At that time the Company fell back to Pietrafitta to plan another attack. The 3rd Platoon, at 1400 hours, tried once more to take the hill, but before it could form for the attack, was subjected to mortar fire and suffered further casualties.
Sensing that the attack had deteriorated into a series of ineffectual efforts by small units, Colonel Hine had, in the meantime, come forward to investigate. After making personal reconnaissance of forward positions and of the terrain to the front, he took action to consolidate forces and launch a coordinated attack against the key feature, M. Ceresa. Selecting a route for the attack around the west flank of M. Ceresa, he directed Company "B" to assist the assault of the 3rd Battalion by outflanking M. Ceresa, driving well to the rear, with C. Ronco Coresa (922323) as its objective. This move was initiated immediately, since it would take some time for the Company to make its way along the left to an initial position west of Pietrafitta. Then he directed all available tanks and tank destroyers to selected firing positions, some along the Savignana ridge, some along the road northeast of M. della Vigna (Hill 461), and others at C. dei Genna. The armor was to neutralize enemy tank fire coming from along the ridge paralleling our position on the left, as well as to furnish direct support of the assaulting troops. The plan further called for direct fire support from elements of the 1st Battalion on Hills 461 and 431, and from machine guns of the 3rd Battalion from the vicinity on C. dei Genna, and also counter-mortar and counter-battery fire. Sufficient time was allowed all elements to get into position and to prepare for the attack. H-hour was set for 1600 hours.. No preparatory fires were to be laid down. The success of the operation was premised upon surprise: a sudden gaining and maintaining of fire superiority and quick assault action by the infantry. Preparation for the attack was rendered extremely difficult by frequent heavy concentrations of artillery and mortar fire. As H-hour approached, this fire was so intense that two assault company Commanders requested a postponement of the attack. But, since it was anticipated that the extensive counter-battery program would do much to neutralize these concentrations, this request was denied, During Company "B"'s advance to its initial position, it was fired upon by snipers to its left front and by machine guns on the western slope of M. Ceresa. These were promptly reduced by our machine gunners at C. dei Genna, who covered the Company's advance. Upon arrival, the Company Commander, 1st Lt. Ervin M. Frey, contacted 1st Lt. John C. Hudson, Commander of Company "L", and together they coordinated their plans for the assault.
Promptly at 1600 hours all supporting fires opened up, including small arms, .50 caliber machine guns, tanks, mortars, and artillery, and the troops launched their assault. The effect was quite electrifying as immediately almost all enemy firing was silenced, including his artillery.
With Company "K" securing the right flank, Company "L" assaulted the crest and eastern slopes, while Company "B" assaulted over the west slope, its left elements driving toward the company objective, C. Ronco Coresa. The 1st and 3rd Platoons of Company "L" started from the bottom of the hill in a line of skirmishers, led by the Company Commander, Lt. Hudson. Following these assault elements came the 2nd and Weapons Platoons, also in a line of skirmishers, tied in on the left with "B" Company's assault platoons. After the first three-hundred yards there was no cover and the men were forced to advance over a completely open slope. Firing from the hip as they advanced, the assault troops quickly over-ran the enemy's forward positions. The enemy line broke, some escaping to the rear while others surrendered in their fox holes. Company "L" continued its assault down the forward slopes and swung around toward C. Ronco Coresa. Here elements of both Company "B" and Company "L" surprised a company of enemy forming for a counter-attack, killing a number estimated between twenty and thirty. About forty prisoners were taken in the entire action. It is remarkable to note that during the assault not a single casualty was suffered by our troops, so effective was the supporting fire and the surprise produced by the speed of the assault. It was not until our troops had out-posted their position and occupied C. Ronco Coresa that eight men of Company "B" and two men of Company "L" were wounded in the enemy artillery concentration that followed. All but two of the men from Company "B" declined to be evacuated for slight wounds.
This dramatic victory, following as it did a number of days of discouraging and fatiguing warfare, wherein many casualties were suffered, gave a decided boost to the morale, not only of the 3rd Battalion, but also of the 1st Battalion, which gloried in the success of its Company "B".
As Companies "L" and "B" moved on the hill, the 2nd Battalion was alerted to pass through the 3rd Battalion and continue the attack. The 2nd Battalion's mission would be to secure the "red line", the eastern anchor of which was the hill masses of 358 (932326) and 314 (931323). Lt. Colonel Butler then assembled Companies "E" and "F" on the reverse slope of Hill 461, preparatory to moving to a forward assembly area. When the Companies had been assembled and the attack plans discussed, Company "F" moved to an area along the road near C. dei Genna, where the men dug in and awaited the attack order. Company "E" followed and dug in behind Company "F". While the Companies were in this position, they received a constant shelling from light and medium artillery, which caused two casualties in Company "E".
[ 22 October 1944 ]
It was planned that at 0300 hours 22 October Company "F" would pass through Companies "B" and "L", to attack Poggio (925327). Company "E" would follow in column as far as Pietrafitta, where it would turn to pass through Company "K" in an attack on Hill 314 [(931313)]. Company "G", in reserve, would follow the Companies.
At H-hour Company "F" walked through Company "L"'s position with comparative ease and assumed positions on the trail some three-hundred-and-fifty yards south of its objective. Some artillery fire was received, but only of harassing nature, causing no casualties. From this position the 1st Platoon, with one light machine gun, was sent to out-post the crest of the objective and a house near the top of the hill. After the Platoon had occupied the house and out-posted the hill without meeting the enemy, the area began to be harassed with artillery and mortar fire, of gradually increasing intensity. Just before 1400 hours, the fire became constant, with the addition of high-velocity shells. After a ten minute preparation, the fire was lifted to the draw behind the hill, followed immediately with a counter-attack in the strength of thirty-five to forty men. Having formed in the vicinity of Collina, the enemy attacked [on] three sides of the house, over-running the position after a short, but bitter fire fight. Lt. Frederick C. Hyrne and fourteen men were captured, with the machine gun. The remainder of the Platoon made its way back to the Company along the trail to the south. As darkness was falling, and Company "E" had not secured the high ground to the left rear, it was decided not to attempt to retake the lost ground until the next day.
Company "E", arriving at Pietrafitta at dawn, stopped there while a small patrol went around to the south of Hill 400, toward Marchetti, to find a route of attack to Hill 314. While the Company waited at Pietrafitta the Company Commander, Captain Honshell K. Johnston, was wounded by a shell fragment and evacuated. When the patrol returned, 1st Lt. Albin P. Tomczac had assumed command, and by 1600 hours the Company was ready to move. As the men reached the deep draw leading to Marchetti, a heavy concentration of enemy artillery fire began to fall ahead of them. This concentration was fired intermittently until after dark, at which time the Company was able to move into Marchetti, where it stopped for the night, planning to attack before dawn.
The 1st Battalion, during this action, strengthened its position, Company "C" sent its 2nd and 3rd Platoons to Hill 431, while the 1st Platoon went to C. Faieida (914316). Company "B" at 1800 hours was relieved of responsibility at C. Ronco Coresa, returning to C. Vigna (917313) and the 1st Battalion's control. The 3rd Battalion remained in supporting positions at Ronco Coresa, Hill 400, and Pietrafitta.
[ 23 October 1944 ]
Operational Instruction Number 23, 168th Infantry, of 23 October directed that the 2nd Battalion should continue its attack to the northeast to seize the "red line" (Collina, Poggio, and Hill 314) and hold. The 1st and 3rd Battalions were to defend in their sectors and establish out-post lines to the north. The west boundary had again been changed, giving the Regiment all the ground southeast of the River Zena, including Castello di Zena, the northeast-southwest road along the river, and the bridge west of the castle. The 1st Battalion would take up the additional area by relieving with Company "A", Company "A" of the 133rd Infantry Regiment and, after this relief, would establish an out-post line along the road from Castello di Zena to the winding road leading up the hill to C. Faieida, with the main line of resistance extending from the castle to Hill 431 to Hill 461. The 3rd Battalion was to attempt to establish its main line of resistance from Sega Cra Moni (916325) southeast to C. Ronco Coresa, with out-posts ahead on this line
Before dawn of 23 October Company "E" started for Hill 314. The 1st Platoon approached the hill from the west, receiving some sniper fire, which wounded one man. The 3rd Platoon attacked up the hill a little farther to the east, building a line with the 1st Platoon just below the crest. The 2nd Platoon closed up to the assault platoons, and the Company dug in on the reverse slope. The enemy was established in caves on the other side of the ridge within hand-grenade throwing distance, so that it was impossible for either the men of Company "E" or the Germans to appear over the ridge line or to shell each other effectively. After one attempt to go over the top and one attempt to go around the flank, both of which were met with heavy fire, Company "E" was compelled to remain where it was, engaging the enemy in hand-grenade duels. The enemy seemed content to remain in his dug-outs, making no attempt to come over into Company "E"'s position. Knowing his troops were to be in this area for more that twenty-four hours, 1st Lt. Tomczac secured a room in one of the houses in Savignana, to which the men could go to dry themselves and to heat their rations. A squad at a time was released for a two hour period, after which it returned to relieve another squad. This rotation was effected during daylight only; at night the entire Company remained on the position.
[ 24 October 1944 ]
Company "G", on the night of 23-24 October, moved behind the assault companies to an assembly area at 924314. The men remained here for about twelve hours, receiving sporadic mortar fire. Before dawn the Company was to pass through Company "E" in an attack on C. Collina and Hill 358 (933326). But owing to poor visibility and the ruggedness of the terrain, Company "G" was not in position to attack until after daylight.
The best approach to the town of Collina. which is situated in a natural bowl formed by the hill masses of 458, 314, and 357. was believed to be the draw leading into it from the south. With a point of seven men, the 3rd Platoon attacked through this draw, deployed in squad columns. Under cover of the fog, the men in the point entered the town and occupied a building. from which they engaged the enemy in a fire fight. They received fire from within the town itself, but mostly from the high ground on three sides of it. After killing and wounding several of the enemy in the town, they forced the rest to withdraw to the hills. The remainder of the Platoon attempted to infiltrate into the town without success. Three of one group of four men who tried to sneak into the houses were wounded. After this attempt had failed, the Platoon was ordered to wait for the cover of darkness. Soon after dark, the entire Company occupied the town, placing two light machine guns and two heavy machine guns to cover the draw to the north and the high ground on each side of it. At this time, from casualties and sickness due to prolonged exposure to cold, rain, and mud, the Company's fighting strength was reduced to a little over fifty men. Nevertheless, a defense was established which would have made any attempt to retake the town extremely costly for the enemy.
While Company "G" was moving on Collina, Company "F" retook Poggio. After an intense machine-gun and mortar preparation, during which Company "H" fired over one-hundred-and-fifty rounds in a few minutes, Company "F" closed on the house on Poggio without opposition. Out-posts were established on the east and west slopes of the hill; one machine gun was placed to the right rear of the house; and two heavy machine guns were placed on the high ground south of the trail junction at 924323. After these defenses had been organized, enemy infantry activity opposite the position was negligible, although artillery and mortar fire were consistently heavy, coming at odd intervals, with concentrations at dusk and dawn. The enemy's out-posts were very close, but seemed to confine their activity to small "feeler" patrols which withdrew when challenged.
The 1st Battalion, during the day 23 October, was concerned with relieving elements of the 133rd Infantry at Castello di Zena and occupying the ground up to the Zena River, which had become the responsibility of the Regiment with the change in the west boundary. In the afternoon a patrol of one officer and three men of Company "A" went to reconnoiter a route by which the Company could move to Castello di Zena. En route, the patrol entered a mine field in the vicinity of 906314, in which one of the men was killed. Choosing another path, the patrol continued to the castle and returned to guide the Company. Company "B", in the meantime, took position at C. Costa and C. del Fabbro, and at 2200 hours the relief was completed. Then, just at dawn, Company "A" was ordered to occupy the houses at C. Vigna (906322) [(There are two C. Vigna sites, this one is west of the Zena River)]. A three-man patrol was sent there, to remain until darkness, when it would be joined by a platoon. This was easily accomplished, since the enemy had already withdrawn from these positions. Another out-post was established in the ditch at 908319 to guard the bridge.
During the period in October when the 1st Battalion was occupying these positions, there was little activity except a nightly patrol down the winding road from C. Faieida to the river. In this static situation the Companies were eating two hot meals a day, breakfast and supper, brought to them as far as C. Vigna (917313) and Castello di Zena, where the trucks were met by carrying parties. Company "B" was the only Company to miss any hot meals, when it had to carry "K" rations in the attack on Mt. Ceresa. While not on out-post the men lived in houses, where they could keep dry and heat their meals. Each Company kept its own mules so that the carrying parties would not be over-burdened.
[ 25 October 1944 ]
On 25 October the Regiment undertook a series of moves, the purpose of which was to secure advantageous defensive positions. The Regiment had been given the mission of establishing a main line of resistance from 917826, east through Poggio, then northeast through Collina to Hill 358. Along this line the Companies were to assume positions which could be held with a minimum number of troops, so that as many men as possible could have shelter and rest in houses or dug-outs, close to the line. At this time, the center of the suggested main line of resistance had already been taken, but it would still be necessary to secure Sega Cra Moni and Hill 358. Then, because of the road along the Zena River afforded enemy tanks an excellent route of approach, it became necessary to take and hold in strength the ground to the west of the river, so that observation might be had at all times down the valley. Fortunately, one of these three objectives still to be secured was in each Battalion's sector, the ground to the west of the river in the 1st Battalion sector, Sega Cra Moni in the 3rd Battalion sector, and Hill 358 in the 2nd Battalion sector. Also of prime importance to the defensive system would be the establishment of suitable antitank defenses. The known enemy strength threatened possible battalion or two-battalion counter-attacks, supported by armor. Our tanks, tank destroyers, and 57mm antitank guns must assume positions from which they could cover the valley of the Zena and the draws and slopes to the immediate front of the troops on both sides of the river.
The possible tank approaches were covered from three principal firing positions. Seven tanks and one tank-destroyer were stationed on the reverse slope of a small hill south and east of Hill 461, in the vicinity of 917307, in which position the field of fire was limited by Hill 461 on the west and Mt. Ceresa on the east. Indirect fire from this position could be laid over either hill into the enemy across the river. Five tanks and two tank destroyers were at 916307, directly behind Hill 461, capable of firing northwest over the winding road and into the hills around Gorgognano. Further north, from a position in the vicinity of 914312, three tanks and one tank destroyer has fields of fire to the northwest, northeast, and north-by-east. The fires of four 57mm guns in positions just forward of Hill 461 near C. Costa, of four more to the northwest near 916314, and of one in position with the tanks at 917307, were coordinated with the fire of the tanks and tank destroyers.
At 0120 hours 25 October Company "L" sent a patrol from Pietrafitta to Sega Cra Moni, which was found to be occupied in force by the enemy. The patrol withdrew some two-hundred yards from the town to establish an out-post. Scarcely had the men begun to dig positions when a heavy mortar barrage fell among them, forcing them to return to Pietrafitta with six men wounded. Meanwhile, Company "I" had placed an out-post at 917321 and had been patrolling in that general vicinity. After daylight, patrols which were sent to Sega Cra Moni found that the enemy had withdrawn. At 1425 hours Company "I" sent its three rifle platoons, with a mortar squad and a .50 caliber machine gun, to occupy the position at Sega Cra Moni. Although the map distance from Pietrafitta to Sega Cra Moni is short, the terrain is extremely broken and steep. A single trail with steep banks permitted the passage of only a single file. With the 3rd Platoon leading, followed by the 1st, the men moved slowly along the slippery trail until they reached the point where the ground opened into a gentle slope above the village. Here the 1st Platoon took up a supporting position, while the 3rd Platoon entered the houses without resistance. Then the balance of the Company closed into position, and by 2130 hours Sega Cra Moni was secure.
The occupation of Sega Cra Moni established the 3rd Battalion along its main line of resistance, with Company "I" at Sega Cra Moni, Company "L" near C. Ronco Coresa, and Company "K" at Pietrafitta and Hill 400.
The 2nd Battalion, on 25 October, remained in the positions which it has assumed on the two previous days, with Company "E" on Hill 314, Company "G" in Collina, and Company "F along the Poggio ridge. The enemy was active throughout the day, shelling the Battalion's positions with mortars and artillery. Before daylight a small group of enemy attempted to infiltrate through Company "G"'s out-post line, which immediately drew back to the main line of resistance, and alerted the Company. Then at dawn, after a brief artillery and mortar barrage, the enemy attacked the Company's position. After several of the enemy who were leading the assault had been killed or wounded by small-arms fire, the others beat a hasty retreat. After repelling this attack the Company discovered that it could fire into the enemy dug-outs on the reverse slope of Hill 314. The Company took these positions under fire whenever it detected the slightest movement, but, despite this fire and the presence of Company "E" on the southern slope of the ridge, the Germans remained in the dug-outs until the morning of 27 October, when they withdrew, taking their dead and wounded with them.
The 1st Battalion, on 25 October, initiated the first moves in its plan to secure ground west of the Zena River. Company "A" sent a few men in daylight to out-post Prato d'Olma (908325), who were followed at dusk by a stronger force. By 2130 hours the entire Company was in position at C. Vigna (907327) and Prato d'Olma, preparing to send contact patrols to Maddalena (907327), where they were to meet a patrol from the 133rd Infantry. Three times the patrol started out, only to be stopped by heavy concentrations of mortar fire. Contact was not made until the next morning, after the meeting place had been changed to the bridge at 903318. Company "C" stayed in the vicinity of C. Faieida and Hill 431, while Company "B" was in a reserve position at C. Costa and C. del Fabbro. The Regimental sector was now well enough organized to permit it to be held by two battalions on the line, thus freeing one battalion to be in reserve and making it possible to rotate Battalions. Accordingly, Company "B" was brought from its reserve position to relieve Companies "I" and "L" at Sega Cra Moni and C. Ronco Coresa respectively. The 1st Platoon of Company "B" and half of the 3rd Platoon, with a section of heavy machine guns, took over positions at Sega Cra Moni, while the balance of the Company, reinforced by a section of heavy machine guns, assumed responsibility for C. Ronco Coresa. By 2330 hours the relief of Company "L" had been completed, and the 3rd Battalion, less one Company ["K"], had passed into Regimental and Division reserve.
It was the aim of the Regimental Commander that the reserve battalion be as comfortable as possible. Because of the weather, it was almost necessary that the men be in houses or in "tent cities". There was then the problem of finding towns, the buildings of which were still weather-proof, or areas reasonably safe from shelling, which would afford space for enough tents to shelter at least one company. Besides these requirements, the battalion could not be taken too far from the line, as it had to be in position for use as a counter-attacking force. In order to meet these various needs, it was necessary for the 3rd Battalion to spread its Companies out over a fairly wide area. Company "K" was quartered in the houses on Hill 469 (920293) and at Tre Poggi, Company "L" in Ulghano, Company "I" in Viaretta, Company "M" in Barragazza, and Headquarters Company in C. Croce. With the Battalion in these scattered positions, administration and transportation were somewhat difficult, but the troops were able to enjoy shelter and a chance to clean up, besides resting and eating warm food from "ten-in-one" rations.
As part of the plan to provide everything possible for the comfort of the troops when relieved, a shower unit and clothing exchange had been established on the morning of 25 October, 1st Lt. Harry E. Gallman of Service Company had been given the job of assembling the necessary equipment, putting in into operation, and maintaining the unit. The 109th Engineer Battalion furnished the mechanical equipment; the 34th Division Quartermaster [Company] furnished the clean clothing; and the 168th Infantry furnished the tents and stoves. The unit was erected by prisoners from the Regimental stockade, under the direction of Lt. Gallman, and was ready for operation late in the morning. A few men had taken showers, when the heavy rain of the afternoon washed the whole assembly down stream. The prisoners, working in water waist-deep, managed to salvage one tent and all of the clothing. Three days later, after having been moved to slightly higher ground, the showers were again ready for use. The capacity of this "Combat Shower Unit" was one battalion and one special unit in a day and a half.
[ 26 October 1944 ]
Company "I", on the morning of 26 October, discovered just across the river a group of enemy moving around openly in daylight, evidently unaware that Sega Cra Moni had been occupied by our troops. In fact, just after dawn, an enemy patrol of eight men came across the bridge at 917326, heading toward the houses. Four men were allowed to cross before the patrol was taken under fire. These four were killed, but the others returned to safety. At dark an enemy ration party came to the foot of the cliffs (924328) facing Sega Cra Moni. This party was dispersed by small-arms fire, leaving several of its members dead or wounded.
For the twenty-four hours that Company "I" remained in these positions, it was unable to get rations. The route of approach that the Company had been forced to adopt had been so difficult that it was impossible to bring mules to the position or to manhandle the "ten-in-one" boxes over the trail. The relief of Company "I" by Company "B" was completed at 0100 hours, 27 October. Then the men of Company "I" had to climb and slide through the mud for four hours to get to Pietrafitta and a level road.
[ 27 October 1944 ]
Company "B"'s position at Sega Cra Moni was subjected to harassing fire from 120mm mortars and self-propelled guns during the entire period that the Company remained there. But the Company maintained its positions and fired on the enemy as he showed himself. At C. Ronco Coresa the men were also receiving heavy fire, although they had no contact with enemy infantry.
Company "C" was still operating an observation post at C. Faieida and patrolling along the winding road to the river.
Company "A", at Prato d'Olma and C. Vigna (906323), was attempting to establish contact with the 133rd Infantry. Three times on as many nights a patrol went out to Maddalena at the appointed hour, and three times failed to meet the men from the 133rd Infantry. Finally, a patrol was sent with orders not to return without obtaining definite information. This time contact was made, although it was necessary to go beyond Maddalena some three-hundred yards before meeting the friendly patrol.
[ 28 October 1944 ]
It was not necessary for the 2nd Battalion to attack to secure Hill 358, the eastern anchor of the Regimental main line of resistance. On the morning of 28 October, a patrol from Company "E", having found the houses at 932327 to be clear, continued to the crest of Hill 358 without resistance. As soon as this patrol had reported to the Battalion, it was decided that Company "E" would occupy the southern slope of Hill 358 from Ca di Razzone (930323) to Company "G"'s position, while Company "G" would establish out-posts along the trail to the northeast slope of the hill.
Now that the right flank and center of the Regimental main line of resistance had been secured, it only remained for the 1st Battalion to improve its positions across the River Zena, by capturing Casetta (914330) and the houses opposite Sega Cra Moni near 917327.
On the night of 28 October the 3rd Battalion, after three days of rest, went back into the line, relieving the 2nd Battalion in its positions at Poggio, Collina, and Hills 358 and 314. Company "I" replaced Company "F" at Poggio, Company "L" replaced Company "E" at Ca di Razzone and Hill 358, while Company "K" took over Company "G"'s position at Collina. The 2nd Battalion, upon being relieved, went into reserve positions, with Company "E" at Castello di Zena, Company "G" at Torre del Erede, and Company "F" at Solara (927304). The relief was accomplished without difficulty other than that caused by the darkness and muddy, slippery trails.
[ 29 October 1944, 1st Battalion ]
As part of the 1st Battalion's plan to strengthen its positions across the Zena River, it now became necessary to take the houses at 917328. It was known that there was an enemy strong point here, but it was thought that it might be possible, by aggressive patrolling, to force the enemy to vacate the houses. For this purpose it was planned that a patrol from Company "B" would cross the river on the night of 28 October and occupy the position; if that was impossible, the patrol was to throw white phosphorous and fragmentation grenades into the houses before withdrawing. This was the plan in the afternoon, but it was changed as more of the enemy's positions were revealed. It was found that there were many automatic weapons in the cliff which commanded the site for a river crossing, as well as in emplacements in the vicinity of 917327. The flat area under the cliff and in front of the houses was a favorite point of impact for enemy 81mm mortar shells and for 77mm and 88mm projectiles.
After examining the situation from Sega Cra Moni, Lt. Col. Golding thought that it would be best to postpone the patrol until the next night, using the hours of daylight to fire into the cliffs with tanks, tank destroyers, and 57mm antitank guns from the vicinity of Ca Nova and C. Vigna (917313). Accordingly, Company "B" limited its patrolling activity to a reconnaissance patrol which stayed on the west side of the river, walking two-hundred yards either way. Then, as dawn broke the next day, Company "B" began firing into the enemy's positions across the river, along with all of the supporting weapons. The effects of this "shoot" could not be observed, as the enemy remained in their holes and houses, but the area was well covered with fire. Later an officer prisoner-of-war claimed that all of the eleven men on the face of the cliff were killed. At the time, the enemy's reaction was instant and violent. 120mm mortars, self-propelled guns, and tanks returned fire, principally on Sega Cra Moni. More than two-hundred-and-fifty rounds landed in Company "B"'s area between dawn and 1430 hours. Seven casualties were incurred in one house, when several direct hits from a tank collapsed the walls.
[ 30 October 1944, 1st Battalion ]
A coordinated attack by Companies "A" and "B" was planned for 2400 hours 29 October to secure the houses at Casetta and 917323. Before the attack a reconnaissance patrol was sent to investigate Casetta. Strangely enough, when the patrol returned, it reported that it found no enemy in the house. This information brought a change in plan, because if Company "A" could occupy Casetta without opposition, it would be inadvisable for Company "B" to carry out its harassing mission. Thus, a reconnaissance patrol from Company "B" was substituted for the combat patrol, and it was planned that two platoons from Company "A" would be committed in the attack on Casetta.
Company "B"'s reconnaissance patrol left Sega Cra Moni at 2400 hours and proceeded across the bridge toward its objective. As the men drew near the houses, heavy small-arms fire from Casetta forced them to withdraw, just at 0200 hours. Company "A", meanwhile, had moved toward Casetta at 2400 hours. The leading elements of the Company were able to approach within two-hundred yards of the house, when they were challenged in German. The challenge was followed by concentrated fire from automatic weapons in and around the houses. Under this fire the men withdrew. In the dark the Company became lost, wandering around the area, until just at dawn it crossed the river into Company "B"'s position at Sega Cra Moni. Unable to return to its own area before dark, Company "A" remained with Company "B" during the day of 30 October.
While at Sega Cra Moni, Company "A" sent a patrol at 1100 hours to investigate Casetta once more, and to find a suitable route of approach for a second attack on the position. When the patrol returned at 1300 hours, it reported that it had gone within two-hundred yards of the house, meeting no enemy and receiving no small-arms fire. Upon receipt of this information, Lt. Col. Golding assigned Company "A" the mission of attacking and occupying Casetta as soon after dark as possible. This attack was to have the support of all available weapons that could be laid on Casetta. One light and one heavy machine gun were to be in position at Maddalena, one heavy machine gun at Prato d'Olma, and one .50 caliber and two heavy machine guns at C. Costa. In addition to small arms support, Company "A" would have the support of Company "D"'s mortars which would be registered in on the draw across the river and north of Sega Cra Moni, of tanks and tank destroyers, which would be prepared to fire on the church at Gorgognano, and of Cannon Company and the 175th Field Artillery, which would be registered in on the draws and trails behind the church. These fires were not to be preparatory, with the exception that Company "C" would harass the houses at intervals until the time of the attack.
The attack was planned to begin at dark. Again it was to be a coordinated attack, with Company "A" attacking Casetta and Company "B" attempting to take possession of the houses at 917315. Since Company "A" was still at Sega Cra Moni, it would be necessary for Company "A" to cross the river first, followed by a strong combat patrol from Company "B" which would have the mission, if not of occupying the houses, at least of creating a diversion from the main attack at Casetta.
Company "A" spend several hours reorganizing, since it was decided that the Company would have to return to its own command post before beginning the attack. Consequently, the patrol from Company "B" started before Company "A" could begin its assault. The patrol proceeded to the bridge without difficulty, and sent one man across to see whether the houses were clear. Having examined the houses without drawing fire the man returned, and the patrol then crossed the bridge. The two men in the lead had almost reached the houses when the enemy began to fire small arms from emplacements around the buildings and from the cliff to the west. One man in the patrol was killed, while the others returned to the east side of the river. The last man had just cleared the bridge when the enemy set off a prepared charge, demolishing it. Thereupon, the enemy mortared and shelled the area to his front, evidently hoping to have trapped some of our troops.
Only a few minutes after the patrol had returned to the Company C.P. at Sega Cra Mini, enemy personnel were discovered in the Company's position. One was killed, almost in the doorway of the C. P.; four others were seen and taken under fire. At the time it seemed that a considerable force had crossed the river. The 175th Field Artillery and Company "D" were alerted to fire defensive fires in case of an attack. As it developed, the enemy was only probing the position and, during the remainder of the time that Company "B" was at Sega Cra Moni, he made no attempt to cross the river.
[ 31 October 1944, 1st Battalion ]
This action further delayed Company "A"'s attack, and it was not until 0115 hours 31 October that the Company went into the assault. As the leading platoon neared Casetta it received fire from numerous automatic weapons. When the platoon attempted to deploy, two men stepped into a field of schu mines and were seriously wounded. Mine fields prevented the rest of the platoon from assuming firing positions. Unable to deploy his leading platoon and with heavy fire coming from emplacements around Casetta, 1st Lt. Arthur H. V. Treo decided to withdraw his Company to its original line in the vicinity of Prato d'Olma.
After this third attack on Casetta had failed. the Regimental commander ordered that Company "A" must take the position by the morning on 1 November, in coordination with an attack by the 133rd Infantry on the church at Gorgognano. In preparation for a determined assault, the Company began to infiltrate two or three men at a time in daylight, to build a line behind the nose of the hill southwest of Casetta. By nightfall the three rifle platoons were manning this line, prepared to assault with the 133rd Infantry the next morning.
Company "B" remained quiet during the day of 31 October, receiving occasional fire from mortars and self-propelled guns. At dark, Company "C" began relieving Company "B", and by 2200 hours the relief was complete. Company "B" then took positions at C. Faieida, Hill 461, and C. Costa.
[ 29-31 October 1944, 3rd Battalion ]
On the night of 28 October the 3rd Battalion relieved the 2nd Battalion in position along the main line of resistance established by the 2nd Battalion. Company "I" took position at Poggio, Company "L" at Hill 358 and Ca di Razzone, and Company "K" in Collina with out-posts along the trail leading up the northwest slope of Hill 358. On the right, Company "L" was tied in with the 338th Infantry [Regiment of the 85th Infantry Division] near Ca di Razzone; on the left there was a two-hundred-and-fifty yard gap between Company "I" and Company "C" at C. Ronco Coresa. Potentially this gap was a serious threat to the Regimental main line of resistance, as it afforded the enemy a possible covered route of approach. Rather than stretch the already depleted Companies to the breaking point, the area was covered by heavy machine guns at Poggio and C. Ronco Coresa, and Company "M"'s mortars registered in on the draw.
During the last few days of October the enemy opposite the 3rd Battalion showed few signs of aggressiveness, with the exception of nightly "feeler" patrols towards Collina. Enemy artillery fire, however, was unusually heavy. At Poggio and in the draws south of Collina, harassing fire fell almost constantly. Still, by taking advantage of their hastily prepared positions, the dug-outs prepared by the enemy, and the few rooms in the rubble of Collina and in the house at Poggio, the troops were comparatively safe from artillery fire, though exposed to the weather most of the time.
[ Summary ]
With the advent of winter the Regimental Surgeon, Major Robert B. McCready, foreseeing an increase in the evacuations for disease that would appreciably affect the Regimental strength, and knowing that many such cases require relatively simple treatment and a few days' rest, opened a holding station at the Regimental rear command post, where those cases could be treated. It was his belief that, by keeping the men in the Regiment, a definite saving of manpower could be effected. The station began operation on 20 October and received patients until 25 October, when the heavy rains necessitated a change in the route of evacuation. Despite the fact that the experiment lasted for only six days, the evidence was conclusive. During these six days 65 men were admitted, mostly for exhaustion and colds. Of these, 34 were returned to duty after three days, 13 were evacuated to hospitals, and 18 remained under treatment on 25 October. By 30 October, all patients had returned to duty or had been evacuated. Ordinarily these men would have been "absent-sick" for ten days or two weeks. The holding station clearly demonstrated its value in maintaining the fighting strength of the Regiment and, at the first opportunity, would again be put into operation.
A discussion of the morale of the 168th Infantry Regiment in the month of October would seem to be appropriate in this narrative, because it was in October that the low priorities on men and materiel in the Italian theater began to be felt by the Regiment, and that the autumnal rains set in in earnest, imposing great hardship on the troops.
When the Regiment was relieved on 9 October, it had been fighting continuously over rugged terrain and in cold, wet weather for eighteen days. During the period October 1-9 eighteen men had been killed and sixty wounded, and after illness had taken its toll, the rifle companies were well under strength, despite the fact that they had received one-hundred replacements on 30 September, and eighty more on 4 October. The 1st Battalion, during this period, had been handicapped by a serious shortage of officers, which had come to a climax on 5 October with the shelling of the Battalion C.P. Even after four officers from Antitank and Cannon Companies and two from Company "D" had been transferred into the rifle companies of the Battalion, they still had only four officers each. Despite these adverse circumstances, the Regiment had made substantial gains. On 8 October the short rest period began, during which the men had opportunity to visit motion pictures, take showers, rest, enjoy hot meals, and forget about dodging shells. After these few days of rest and recreation, the Regiment went into the attack on 16 October, with a morale rating of "good".
By this time the rain and cold which mark the beginning of the Italian winter had become constant. To some of the men, who had not yet spent a winter in Italy, these discomforts were not unbearable; others, who had fought at Cassino and Mt. Pantano remembered too clearly the rain, snow, and bitter winds that sweep the hilltops. With that memory came the realization that another winter would probably be spent in the mountains. Although the Po Valley was just ahead, the snow-capped Alps could be seen on a clear day, glistening in the distance - one more range of mountains in the campaign in which the troops had inched ahead, up one peak and down the next, until eventually they would reach the flatland, only to cross it speedily to the next group of mountains, where the battle would once again become slow and man-breaking.
Committed on 16 October in the M. della Formiche area, the Regiment was expected to continue the attack into the Po Valley. But the enemy was making a determined stand here, south of Bologna and Highway Number "9", and instead of spear-heading a break-through into the valley, the Regiment met resistance as stubborn, and seemingly as strong, as any yet encountered in Italy, and, against it succeeded in advancing the salient some three-thousand yards. Enemy artillery was more active than it had been since the [Anzio] Beachhead. The Regiment was fighting under difficult conditions of weather and terrain. Lateral routes within the sector were ox-cart trails which, in the heavy rains sometimes became impassable. A round trip from Service Company on Highway 65 to the Regimental forward C.P. would take as long as sixteen hours. Mules and men had to be used to supply the battalions, save in the rare instances that the troops were situated near the one passable road into the position.
The roughness of roads took a heavy toll on vehicles, for which replacements or parts were difficult or impossible to obtain. On 21 October, five days after the attack had begun, there were three 2-1/2 ton trucks and one 1/4 ton truck in second-echelon maintenance, and four 2-1/2 ton trucks and six 1/4 ton trucks in third-echelon maintenance. The situation became steadily worse, until on 31 October, four 2-1/2 ton trucks and one 1/4 ton truck were in second-echelon maintenance, while two 2-1/2 ton trucks and thirteen 1/4 ton trucks were in the third-echelon maintenance.
Perhaps even more critical than the shortage of vehicles was the shortage of men. Replacements were not available in this period, and, with the continuous attacks and inclement weather, the strength of the Regiment was rapidly diminishing. The rate of evacuation for disease increased, largely because of the exposure of the troops to the weather, and, at the end of the month a total of six-hundred-and-seventeen evacuations was reached. Added to this was the steady flow of casualties which, while not being excessive, were 32 killed, 157 wounded, and 26 missing-in-action during the period 15-31 October, was a constant drain on the strength of the Regiment which could not be replaced. The shortage of officers again became critical. When the 1st Battalion went into the attack on 16 October, it had only two officers in Company "C" and three in Company "A". By 20 October, however, the rifle companies in the Battalion had been brought up to five officers per company by the return of officers from the hospital, and by the transfer of two officers from the 2nd Battalion to the 1st. Then, on 22 October, Companies "K" and "L" were reduced to a strength of three and two officers respectively, and, during the rest of the month, the 3rd Battalion operated with three officers in each of those two Companies and four in Company "I". Toward the end of October the cold and wet and continuous combat began to tell, and the morale of the Regiment took a definite turn for the worse, accompanied by a corresponding increase in the number of AWOLs.
No effort was spared to minimize the hardships which the troops were under-going. The battalion in reserve was given every opportunity to rest and have good meals. A "Combat Shower Unit" and clothing exchange was established for the use of the troops. Moreover, during the month one-hundred-and-ninety-five men were sent to the rest camp in Florence, though they could scarcely be spared from the rifle companies. Fifty-five men were sent while the Regiment was in rest in the vicinity of S. Benedetto, and thereafter, thirty six men from the battalions were sent every four days. Despite everything that was done for the troops, morale on 31 October could only be rated as "fair".
By the middle of October the Fifth Army had crossed the backbone of the Apennines, and the terrain to the Regiment's front was lower than that through which it had already passed. A casual survey of the maps of the area would seem to show that the enemy was at a disadvantage, because our troops were on the higher ground, looking down into the valleys and draws. Actually this was not the case - the terrain was ideally suited for defense. The long ridge lines and deep valleys, through which troops could maneuver and good observation be had, were behind. Ahead were steep cliffs and short, twisting draws, over which, and through which men could move only with exceeding difficulty, and the attacking forces frequently could not be deployed. Many times in attack the men were forced to move beneath steep cliffs in single file, giving the enemy ample opportunity to fire into their midst or drop hand grenades. A handful of enemies could defend the short, narrow gullies and the precipitous rock escarpments, while open stretches were devoid of concealment and were covered by machine-gun fire and heavy concentrations of artillery, mortar, and tank fire. The enemy could scarcely have chosen a better place to build his line. It remained to be seen whether his strength and determination were sufficient for him to hold this line throughout the winter.