The History of the 168th Infantry Regiment
(From November 1, 1944 to November 30, 1944)
Text which has been significantly corrected in, or added to, this document is enclosed in [square brackets].
The document, as presently available, stops in mid-sentence at the bottom of its page 9. We will try to locate and transcribe the remainder.
At the beginning on the month of November, the 168th Infantry Regiment had been committed for fifteen days in the sector north of M. delle Formiche. On 16 October, the Regiment had spearheaded the Fifth Army attack which was aimed at breaking through to the Po Valley. Attacking against fierce resistance over difficult terrain, it had succeeded in extending the salient three-thousand yards to the north. Then, the advance having been virtually stopped along the entire front, the Regiment had been directed to assume the defensive, securing a main line of resistance extending generally along the 326 Northing, from Hill 358 (932326) to Sega Cra Moni (916326), and across the River Zena to Prato d'Olma (909324). On 1 November the Regiment was holding on this line with the 3rd Battalion on the right, the 1st Battalion on the left, and the 2nd Battalion in reserve. Company "I" was in a position extending north from Ca di Razzone (929323) to Hill 358; Company "K" was at Collina (929326), and Company "L" at Poggio (925325). Company "C" had a rifle platoon and a half, with a section of heavy machine guns, at C. Ronco Coresa, while the balance of the Company, less Company Headquarters, and reinforced with a section of heavy machines guns, was at Sega Cra Moni. Company "B" was occupying reserve positions at C. Costa (913312) and C. Faieida (914316), and Company "A" was west of the Zena River at C. Vigna (906322) and Prato d'Olma (909324).
[ 1 November August 1944, 1st Battalion ]
The ground occupied by Company "A" to the west of the Zena River had been taken as part of the plan by the Regimental Commander, Colonel Henry C. Hine, Jr., to secure a more advantageous main line of resistance. Though the Regiment had a mission of defense, he planned to attack a series of limited objectives, by which action he believed that the Regiment might succeed in concealing from the enemy that it was going over to the defensive, and, at the same time, secure piece by piece, a more advantageous main line of resistance. It was his hope that by coordinated attacks, the 133rd Infantry and the 168th Infantry might secure a line extending through M. Belmonte (903328) and the village of Gorgognano (912333), down the nose of the hill on the southeast through Casetta to Sega Cra Moni, northeast through the houses across the river from Sega Cra Moni to the houses at 921328, and southeast through Poggio and C. Collina to Hill 358. A more immediate purpose for the seizure of ground to the west of the Zena River was to cover the possible tank approach afforded by the river valley.
Company "A", at the beginning of the period with which we are concerned, had already made three attacks on Casetta, a key point in the proposed main line of resistance. Now it was planned that the Company would make a fourth attack on the position at 0500 hours 1 November, in coordination with an attack by the 133rd Infantry on Gorgognano. Prior to the attack a fifteen minute artillery preparation was to be fired on the Gorgognano church by the 175th and 151st Field Artillery Battalions. At H-hour the fire was to lift one-hundred yards to the high ground above the church. Then at 0515 hours, the fire was to lift another hundred yards to allow the troops to consolidate their positions. At 0530 hours, the guns were to cease fire but were to remain on call. Company "A" was to be supported in its attack by a company of tanks at Ca Nova (909293), which would have their guns laid directly on Casetta to provide close support if it was needed.
Company "A"'s previous attacks on Casetta had been launched from the foot of the hill. Now, in order to reduce the distance to be covered by the troops in their assault up the bare hillside, 1st Lt Arthur H. V. Treo, Company Commander, ordered his two under-strength rifle platoons, which were the 2nd and 3rd Platoons, to infiltrate to the nose of a small hill southwest of Casetta, in the vicinity of 913328, beginning early in the afternoon of 31 October. By dark the two platoons were dug in along this nose, prepared to attack Casetta at H-hour, at which time the 3rd Platoon was to assault the position at Casetta, with supporting fire from the 2nd Platoon, reinforced by a light machine-gun squad.
On the morning of 1 November, when the artillery fire had been lifted from the church, the 3rd Platoon attacked as planned. The Platoon Leader, 1st Lt Richard B. Jones and six of his men, who were in the lead of the Platoon, slipped up to Casetta unnoticed by the enemy and entered a room on the northeast corner of the house. Before the rest of the men could reach the objective, they were taken under fire by enemy who were still occupying the stable in the lower story of the building. Several men were wounded by this fire, and the rest took cover behind a ledge a short distance below the house. These men were observed from the 2nd Platoon's position, and at 0715 hours, when their position was reported to the Company Commander, he committed the 2nd Platoon to the attack. The 2nd Platoon had advanced but a few yards when it received machine-gun fire from the house at Casetta and from an emplacement to the west of it. Afraid to return this fire without knowing the whereabouts of all of the 3rd Platoon, the 2nd Platoon fell back to its original positions. In the meantime, the seven men in the house had been discovered by the enemy, who attempted to throw hand grenades into the room without success. But the men soon found that they were trapped, when two of them, in trying to escape, were wounded by machine-pistol fire. Since the 3rd Platoon was out of communication with the rest of the Company, it was not known that any of our troops had entered the house. Thus, when the 2nd Platoon was stopped by machine-gun fire, the Company Commander called for supporting fire from the tanks. The initial fire was directed at the barn door on the southwest corner of the house, from which a machine gun had been firing. The first round, a smoke shell, fell fifty yards short of the target, but the next three went right through the barn door. After firing three more rounds, the tanks ceased fire, for the house had collapsed. From that time on the action was fast. Activity was observed around a haystack just to the west of the house, and the area was taken under fire by the heavy machine guns at Prato d'Olma. A few minutes later a white flag was waved from an out-building beyond the haystack. The 2nd Platoon, with the light machine-gun section attached, then assaulted and, with the aid of the men of the 3rd Platoon who had been in covered positions near the house, captured an enemy officer and twenty-six enlisted men, many of whom were taken from a dugout beneath the haystack.
It was learned through interrogation of the German officer that he was the commander of a company of fifty men who had moved into the position at Casetta the night before the attack. Since Company "A" in its previous attacks had estimated Casetta to be merely an out-post position, this information led to the belief that the enemy had occupied Casetta with a company after our three attacks on the position had suggested to him that a major attack might be launched from there on his key position in Gorgognano. The company commander reported also that fifteen to twenty of his men had been killed in the attack. When asked why it was that his company had been taken by a force smaller than itself, he stated that his men had been driven from their positions by the tank fire and had been unable to return before the positions were over-run by our troops in their swift assault. Further testimony to the effectiveness of the tank fire was found in the strength of the positions which the enemy abandoned. To the east of the house were two machine-gun positions,and to the west there was the dug-out mentioned above and a third machine-gun position.
While the prisoners were escorted to the rear, and some of the wounded were evacuated, a hasty defense of Casetta was organized. At the same time, 2nd Lt Gordon J. Wehner, Weapons Platoon Leader, 1st Lt William M. Campbell, Leader of the 2nd Platoon, and three of their men began digging in the rubble to free the men of the 3rd Platoon who had been trapped in the house when it collapsed. They had dug one man out of the rubble and were still digging when the enemy laid a mortar and artillery concentration on the house and launched the first of a series of counter-attacks from Gorgognano, at about 0830 hours. The attempts of the 133rd Infantry Regiment, on the left, to take to Gorgognano hill had failed, thus leaving our force at Casetta in the precarious position of holding ground two-hundred yards down the slope of a hill, the crest of which was held by the enemy. In this first attack, as in all that followed, the enemy was able to approach, in the cover of a draw, from his positions at Gorgognano to within thirty yards of the house before assaulting the position as the mortar and artillery fire lifted. In this first attack two of the enemy took cover in one of the machine-gun positions to the east of the house. A light machine gun firing through a window in the east wall of the house forced them to keep their heads down, while Lt Wehner came in on their flank around the north side of the house. When the machine gun ceased fire, one of the Germans came up out of the hole and was killed by Lt Wehner with a carbine. The second German then raised his head, Lt Wehner pulled the trigger, but his carbine jammed. When the German raised his machine pistol to fire, it also misfired. The machine gun then resumed fire, and the German crouched low in his hole, while Lt Wehner withdrew into the house. After hand grenades had been dropped down on the enemy from the upper story and lobbed up around the machine-gun positions to the east of the house from a position behind a ledge to the northeast, the counter-attack was repulsed.
As soon as the enemy had been driven from the position, Lt Wehner set about improving the defense. Almost from the moment that Casetta had been taken, it had been subjected to heavy harassing fire from mortars, artillery, and self-propelled artillery. The bulk of this fire was falling in the heavily mined corn field to the south of Casetta, especially along the trail which was the only approach to the position free of mines. Because of this heavy fire, it was necessary to initially organize the defense entirely within the house and out-lying buildings. Another reason for this type of defense was the seriously reduced strength of the two platoons which, after all the wounded had been evacuated, totalled two officers and seventeen men, of which eight were riflemen and nine machine gunners. Since ammunition was running low, it was redistributed, each rifleman getting three M-1 clips.
The position had been completely organized by 1200 hours, when the enemy counter-attacked for the second time. Following a mortar and artillery preparation, the Germans came up out of the draw and ran in among the buildings. Two of them were captured outside of an out-building to the west of the house, and the rest were driven back by small-arms fire.
Having no wire or radio communication, the force holding Casetta had several times sent back requests for reinforcements, when wounded were evacuated or prisoners escorted to the rear. 1st Lt Treo had no reserve of riflemen to draw upon, but shortly before dusk he started six mortarmen and four litter bearers for Casetta. These reinforcements, with the exception of one mortarman who was killed by a mine in the corn field below the position, were approaching Casetta during the dusk counter-attack. The enemy, after a brief mortar concentration and the supporting fire of a machine gun from the northeast had again rushed the position from the draw. The Germans were beaten back by small-arms fire, but not before two of the mortarmen who were coming up the hill had gained the impression from machine-gun tracers passing over their heads that enemy fire was coming from Casetta. They then returned to the Company command post with the report that Casetta had been retaken by the enemy. For a time the force at Casetta was believed to have been lost.
[ 2 November 1944, 1st Battalion ]
The position at Casetta continued to be harassed by mortar and artillery fire throughout the night. The Germans could be heard digging to the left front, but, without communication, no mortar fire could be brought down upon them. At about 0430 hours the enemy threw several hand grenades at the house. In answer, a machine gunner at the northeast corner of the house opened fire. Having located the position of the machine gun by this device, the enemy fired on it with rifle grenades and twelve rounds of bazooka fire, which collapsed the north wall. Fortunately, the first bazooka round missed its target, and the men were able to withdraw into the eastern half of the house. As soon as the enemy ceased fire, the machine-gun crew cleared the debris from their gun, moved it to a new position, and resumed fire before the enemy could close with the position. Largely through their quick action, the counter-attack was repulsed.
A short time after this counter-attack, twelve reinforcements from Company "B" arrived at the position. Most of these men were placed by Lt Wehner in fox holes to the rear of the house. Some time after dawn the first rations were brought up to Casetta, and communication by wire and radio was established.
The fifth counter-attack, which was the fiercest of them all, came just at dusk. It was preceded by a heavy preparation of mortar and artillery fire. Under this concentration the enemy worked in so close to the position that small-arms fire was exchanged while the shells were still falling. Despite the desperateness of this last attempt, the enemy was driven from the position by small-arms fire.
[ 3-5 November 1944, 1st Battalion ]
The dawn and dusk counter-attacks of 2 November, unlike the hastily organized efforts of the previous day, were coordinated attempts evidently aimed at retaking Casetta. After they had failed, the enemy made no further attacks on the position. Not until daylight on 3 November, were the men who had been manning their positions without sleep for forty-eight hours able to rest. During the three more days that the Company occupied Casetta, shell fire was consistently heavy. The least movement in daylight brought down fire upon the position. There was little activity on the part of enemy infantry, although each night enemy reconnaissance patrols were active.
[ 1 November 1944, 2nd Battalion ]
At 2100 hours 1 November the 2nd Battalion completed the relief of the 3rd Battalion in position on the right of the Regimental sector. Company "E" relieved Company "L" at Ca di Razzone, Company "G" relieved Company "K" at Collina, and Company "F" took over Company "I"'s position at Poggio.
[ 2 November 1944, 2nd Battalion ]
The Battalion was still in the process of developing these positions, when late in the afternoon of 2 November the enemy launched a counter-attack, directed between the out-posts of Company "G"'s left flank and Company "F"'s right flank. Following a brief mortar and artillery preparation, twenty to thirty Germans attempted to drive between the two Companies. Alert for just such an attempt, machine-gunners and riflemen dispersed the assault force.
[ 3-4 November 1944 ]
After this counter-attack had failed, and with Company "A" now secure at Casetta, the activities of our troops on the front lines were reduced to patrolling, improving positions, and directing artillery and mortar fire on enemy targets. The enemy seemed content to man his out-post line and to put out security at night. Although he was not aggressive, his out-posts were extremely sensitive to our patrolling. Our companies on the line confined themselves, for the most part, to security and contact patrols. Company "G", whose forward out-posts were scarcely two-hundred yards from the nearest enemy position, made frequent contact with the enemy. Small reconnaissance patrols would encounter enemy out-posts a short distance to the Company's front and engage in sharp exchanges of small-arms fire. At Sega Cra Moni, Company "C" and later Company "L" posted security each night two-hundred yards above and below the bridge at 918326, but the enemy, remaining on the west side of the river, never challenged these out-posts.
During this static situation, the enemy stepped up his mortar and artillery fire on supply routes and forward positions. He fired one of the heaviest concentrations of the period on Company "C"'s positions at Sega Cra Moni and Ronco Coresa on the afternoon of 4 November. Within two hours 350 to 400 rounds of mortar and artillery fell at the latter position. A self-propelled gun registered thirty-two hits on one of the houses.
[ Artillery/Mortar Activity ]
With the increase in mortar and artillery fire, the Regimental OP on M. delle Formiche became increasingly important as the point from which counter-mortar and counter-battery fire could best be directed. This OP, established by the Regiment Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon in mid-October, offered good observation of the foothills and valleys south of Bologna across the entire Division sector. From this OP direct wire lines were laid to two medium artillery battalions, the 936th and 631st Field Artillery Battalions, in addition to two lines to the Regimental command post, through which the Division Artillery could be contacted. Especially during the first ten days after the observation post was established, while the enemy was still unaware that he was under observation, the Platoon directed fire on numerous targets of opportunity. There was scarcely a house in this sector that was not taken under fire, but the bulk of the fire was directed at enemy personnel within the four grid squares lying between the 91-93 Eastings and the 33-35 Northings. These ten days of almost continuous fire were followed by heavy rains during the last few days of October, when poor visibility precluded firing.
In the first week of November the weather cleared, and with the increase in enemy artillery fire, the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, under the personal supervision of the Regimental Commander, embarked upon an extensive program of counter-battery fire. Direct hits were made on a self-propelled gun at Poggio dei More (918338). A four-gun battery at 877397 and two three-gun batteries at 935367 and 924375 were silenced and believed to have been knocked out. In addition, fifteen counter-battery concentrations were recorded and the enemy gun positions harassed, most of which were located in the valley of the Zena River between the 38-42 Northings. After a few days of this counter-battery fire, there was a marked decrease in the amount of enemy artillery fire received from the northeast and northwest as well as from with the Regimental sector.
To coordinate the fire of the high-trajectory weapons, a Regimental fire control plan was put into effect. Selecting a group of basic targets, including known and suspected mortar positions and logical avenues of approach, the Regimental S-3, Captain Justin J. Foley, designated each of these with a three-letter code name and assigned it to the 60mm mortars, 81mm mortars, chemical mortars, Cannon Company, or the 175th Field Artillery according to the range. Each weapon was required to register on as many targets as possible within its capabilities. By this system, fire could be massed on the previously selected targets without a delay for adjustment and on intervening targets by estimating corrections from these pre-registered targets. Although the supply of mortar ammunition was now limited, the system was tested occasionally by firing battery one round by all weapons involved.
Also available to the Regiment on call was the Division counter-battery program, begun in the last days of October. All of the known and suspected mortar positions within the Division sector were assigned to the artillery battalions by areas. When mortar fire was reported to be coming in from a certain general area, the Regimental Mortar Officer, 1st Lt Daniel S. Buhler, would call for the group or groups of concentrations covering that area. On a number of occasions this plan proved its worth by silencing or appreciably reducing enemy mortar fire.
[ 5-9 November 1944 ]
With the Regiment continuing to hold on a defensive line in cold, rainy weather, the problem of shelter for the troops became critical. Open fox holes and gun positions became partially filled with water, while hardly had new positions been dug, when the sides would cave in. Nor was there shelter near the front lines, where detachments rotating on reliefs from the fox holes could go for rest or to dry their clothes. Most of the houses near the front line positions had been destroyed by shell fire, and those that were habitable, for the most part, were dangerous to live in, as they were under observation and fire. In order to provide material for strengthening the defensive positions and for constructing living quarters, ten-thousand sand bags and a quantity of sheet iron were requisitioned. Working with these materials by day or by night, as the situation permitted, the troops improved firing positions and constructed dug-outs.
The fourth relief by battalion since the Regiment had assumed the defensive was accomplished on the night of 5-6 November, when the 3rd Battalion relieved the 1st Battalion. Company "K" relieved Company "A" at Casetta and Prato d'Olma; Company "L" relieved Company "C" at Ronco Coresa and Sega Cra Moni; while Company "I" took over Company "B"'s reserve positions at C. Costa and C. Faieida. The relief was completed without incident by 0130 hours 6 November.
As a security measure to prevent leakage of military information across the lines, the Regiment began of 5 November to evacuate all civilians north of the 28 Northing. The deadline for the evacuation was set by Division for 1400 hours 8 November. On 5 and 6 November approximately three-hundred Italians were evacuated from the rear areas, from Maceratoio, Rantigola, Ca Nova, Tazzola, and from the houses at 913297, by the 1st and 2nd Battalions and by Headquarters Company. Then on the night of 7-8 November, two-hundred-and-seventy-five Italians were brought back from the forward areas with the 2nd and 3rd Battalion ration trains. They were assembled at Crocetta and taken from there by truck to Maceratoio, where pyramidal tents had been set up to accommodate them. In daylight of 8 November this group, along with fifty-eight more who had been assembled at Val Piola by the 1st Battalion, was evacuated to Loiano by truck.
[ Relief, Replacements, Ceremonies ]
The relief of the Regiment in position by the 351st Infantry [Regiment of the 88th Infantry Division] was begun on 9 November. The 1st Battalion was relieved in the reserve position during the afternoon, in time to entruck before dark at Savazza (926273). The 2nd Battalion was relieved by 0400 hours the next morning. The relief was completed at 0100 hours, 11 November, when the 3rd Battalion cleared its positions.
The Regiment now had its turn to enjoy the Fifth Army Rest Area in the town of Montecatini Terme, some twenty miles west and north of Florence. Before the war this town had been a fashionable health resort, depending for its livelihood on summer guests. Now the hotels were empty, offering facilities for the housing of nineteen battalions of men. The tradespeople of the town had opened their shops, selling a wide variety of goods to the soldiers, who took the opportunity to purchase souvenirs and Christmas presents. Shower-unit-and-clothing-exchanges and a sulphur bath and clothing exchange were in operation each day. The American Red Cross furnished two snack bars, serving coffee and cakes. Three movie houses were made available for the showing of recent moving pictures. No effort was spared to insure comfort and pleasure for the troops.
On 6 November, before coming off the line, the Regiment received sixty replacements, the first to be assigned to it since 3 October. This group of replacements had been diverted from France, where it had been intended for the Seventh Army, and flown to the Italian front. The average age of the men was twenty-six years. Forty of them had had seventeen weeks of basic rifle training, while twenty of them had had only eight weeks training in a replacement depot. It was decided not to assign these men until the Regiment came off the line. In contrast with the usual procedure in combat of sending replacements out to their companies at night with the ration trains, these men had pyramidal tents pitched for them in the Headquarters Company area. On 10 and 11 November, after the Regiment had arrived in Montecatini,two more groups of sixty and thirty replacements were received. The average age of these men was twenty-five-and-a-half years. They had all had seventeen weeks of basic rifle or heavy-weapons training. They too remained with Headquarters Company, pending a detailed survey to determine where the men might best be assigned. On 14 November the men were assigned to the rifle companies in accordance with a plan to give a platoon of replacements to one company in each of the battalions. In addition, to revitalize and strengthen Company "A", sixteen men were transferred out of the Company and forty-two replacements assigned to it, of whom twenty-two were from Texas and the rest also from the deep South. Captain William H. Harris of Bowling Green, Kentucky, who had just returned from the hospital, was given command of the Company. The other two companies to receive a full platoon of men were Companies "G" and "I". The rest of the men were assigned so as to even the strength of the rifle companies, insofar as it was possible.
During the Regiment's stay at Montecatini, two ceremonies for the presentation of awards were held. At the first, on 16 November, Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark presented to the officers and men of the 1st Battalion a War Department Citation for action on Mt. Pantano between November 19 and December 3, 1943. During the ceremony he commissioned seven NCOs of the Regiment who had received battlefield appointments and presented thirteen Silver Stars. Two day later a joint ceremony was held by the 168th Infantry and the 133rd Infantry, at which Major General Charles A. Bolte presented unit citations to the 1st Battalion Anti-Tank Platoon for close support of the assault elements in the attack on Castellina on July 6, and to the 3rd Battalion Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon for action on the Anzio Beachhead between March 23 and April 10, 1943. In addition, he presented members of the command with thirty-five Bronze Stars and two Oak Leaf Clusters to the Bronze Star.
[ 22-24 November 1944 ]
During three days beginning on 22 November the Regiment moved from Montecatini and relieved the 135th Infantry in the sector just to the east of Highway 65 between the rivers Zena and Cavinzano. One battalion moved by truck each day, detrucking in the vicinity of Barbarola (881279) and marching to the reserve position in the vicinity of Sassi (897290). The 1st Battalion relieved the 3rd Battalion, 135th Infantry, in the reserve position at 2240 hours 22 November and at 0035 hours the following night completed the relief of the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry, in the left battalion sector. Company "C" took over the left company position, with two platoons occupying the ridge from Hill 361 (886324) to 881322 and a third platoon in reserve at C. Valpiana (886318). Company "B" was on the right, with a platoon north of the road at 894328, a platoon less one squad south of the road in the vicinity of 894326, a squad on Hill 357 (893322), and the reserve platoon on the knoll at 893316. Company "A" occupied a reserve position in the vicinity of Hill 427 (889307). The 2nd Battalion, after spending the night of 23-24 November in the reserve position at Sassi, took over the defense on M. Belmonte (903328) from the 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry, at 2030 hours 24 November. The 3rd Battalion closed into the reserve position at Sassi at 1700 hours 24 November.
Prior to the relief, the Regimental Commander, Colonel H. C. Hine, Jr., warned Battalion Commanders that the operation of effecting relief of a unit in close contact with the enemy was in itself a critical operation and cautioned them to insure that the operation was preceded by adequate security measures by the unit being relieved. He directed further that, during the hours of daylight immediately following the night of the relief, the positions be carefully surveyed with a view to making immediate improvements under cover of darkness the following night.
[ 25-27 November 1944, 2nd Battalion ]
In studying the positions of the 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry, prior to the relief neither the Regimental Commander nor the 2nd Battalion Commander was satisfied with the defensibility of the forward platoon position (909335), at the very tip of the salient on the ridge north of M. Belmonte. This position represented the farthest advance of elements of the 133rd Infantry in support of an attack on Gorgognano and had since been held by a reinforced platoon. It was isolated from the rest of the company positions, being about three-hundred yards in advance of the next nearest strong point and nearly one-thousand yards ahead of the general line of the main line of resistance. It was out of sight and defiladed from supporting fire. In case of an attack, the platoon would have to depend entirely upon radio as a means of communication, as no telephone wires had been laid because of the danger of wire-tapping. The trail leading up to the position was harassed by machine-gun fire. Several nights prior to the relief a ration party had been ambushed along this route, and now supply and kitchen personnel were going up to the position at intervals of two or three nights under the protection of a combat patrol.
Despite the isolation of this position, it was required that the relief of elements of the 135th Infantry be made in place, and the relief by the 2nd Battalion was made without incident. But on the following morning, when the forward platoon of the 135th Infantry, after being relieved, reported that the platoon position was defended solely from a house and that they had been prevented from digging in by small-arms fire from enemy positions on Hill 394 (908336), within one-hundred yards of the house, Colonel Hine directed Lt Col Benjamin J. Butler, Commander of the 2nd Battalion, to secure Hill 394 that night. Lt Col Butler assigned this mission to Company "G". It was planned that a platoon of Company "G" would attack the hill, supported by fire from the forward platoon of Company "E". Upon securing the hill, the assault platoon was to out-post it, while the forward platoon of Company "E" organized its defense.
At about 1200 hours that day the leader of the forward platoon sent a radio message requesting two litters. Subsequent exchange of messages revealed that one man had been wounded and a machine gun destroyed by artillery, and later that the platoon was being heavily shelled and was in close contact with the enemy. The platoon leader requested assistance and was informed that reinforcements would arrive at dark. By 1630 hours no further contact by radio could be made.
At 1830 hours a patrol of one officer and twenty men from Company "G", with four litter bearers, set out for the forward platoon position with two heavy machine guns, ammunition, and two litters. Near the trail junction at 908335, the patrol walked into a machine-gun ambush. When the Germans opened fire, the patrol made two more attempts to reach the forward platoon. Each time they heard the enemy digging in the vicinity of the trail junction. In their last attempt to break through, they received fire from several machine pistols, and though they returned the fire, were unable to advance.
xxx At dawn the fate of the 3rd Platoon was still unknown. During the morning a three-man patrol attempted to reach a position where it could observe the house, but was stopped on the hill at 907333 by machine-gun fire from Gorgognano. The last attempt to rescue the Platoon was made at 0100 hours 27 November, when a patrol of one officer and thirty-four men set out for the forward position. A diversionary group of ten men took position along the trail in the vicinity of 908334 and harassed Hill 394 and the trail to their front with small-arms fire. The rest of the platoon worked around to the right and approached within a short distance of the house on the south. The patrol leader called out for the leader of the 3rd Platoon and, in answer, received rifle-grenade and machine-gun fire from Hill 394, which forced the patrol to withdraw.
The loss of the forward platoon position, with its light machine gun and two heavy machine guns, strengthened rather that weakened the defenses of M. Belmonte, since it was more of a liability than an asset. The loss of the reinforced platoon, however, was a serious drain on the already depleted strength of the Battalion. The 2nd Battalion Commander, on the night of 25 November, ordered the center platoon of Company "E" to improve its defenses, as it was now the forward platoon in the salient. But this was only the beginning of the extensive reorganization of the positions along the entire M. Belmonte sector, which was found to be necessary. Lt Col Butler, in his reconnaissance of the Battalion positions, had found that evidently they had been organized on the basis of an assumption that M. Belmonte could not be attacked from the north or northwest, presumably because of the steep draws on the northern slopes. On the contrary, these draws offering cover to the enemy up to hand-grenade throwing distances were the greatest threat. No friendly positions had been dug in on M. Belmonte. In fact, the 135th Infantry reported that enemy patrols occasionally fired machine guns from the very crest. This report was confirmed when Lt Col Butler drew machine gun fire from there, while making his initial reconnaissance. The Battalion's positions, as they ...