HISTORY OF THE 351ST INFANTRY REGIMENT FOR THE MONTH OF

April 1945

Submitted: 

27 May 1945

Attachments: 

          The 351st Infantry continued training in the BARBERINO area until 6 April 1945, at which time the Regimental Combat Team formation was ordered and movement to the PISA-LEGHORN area was directed. Five days were spent near PISA, training with special river crossing equipment including LCVs, DUKWs, and storm and assault boats. On 11 April 1945, the Regiment moved by truck to PIETRAMALA, where it became II Corps Reserve and made final preparations for the II Corps offensive that started 15 April 1945. Over a month out of the lines had put the Regiment in excellent condition. The ideal training areas in the vicinity of BARBERINO coupled with unusually fine weather resulted in the accomplishment of much valuable training. Recreational facilities were adequately provided for and included USO shows, motion pictures, and a liberal allotment of passes to FLORENCE and MONTECATINI. Bathing facilities, improved rations, and clean clothing rapidly improved the appearance of the command not to mention a resultant boost in morale.

 

          April is notable in the history of the 351st Infantry Regiment in that it is a month marked by one of the most outstanding military operations of World War II. In a little more than fifteen days time the American Fifth Army debouched from the APPENNINES, entered the PO VALLEY, crossed four great water obstacles, the PANARO, PO, ADIGE, and BRENTA RIVERS, passed through the Italian ALPS and effected a junction with elements of the American 7th Army near BRENNER PASS. Prior to the unconditional surrender of German Army Group "C", in Italy, on the second day of May, over 230,000 prisoners of war were taken by the American Fifth Army and the British Eighth Army. Immense quantities of military supplies, motor transportation, armor and munitions were seized, in addition to great numbers of vehicles of all types destroyed by the Mediterranean Air Force. Throughout the offensive, the 88th Division drove forward with unrelenting speed with the 351st Infantry setting the pace for the Division. This was especially true during the pursuit phase; for the operation was clearly divided into two phases; the initial attack or assault phase, which destroyed the German defense zones in the APPENNINES and the subsequent, almost immediate, pursuit phase that drove the disorganized Wehrmacht across the plains of the PO and into the Italian ALPS.

 

          D-day for the 88th Division was 15 April 1945. H-hour was set at 2230 hours. 351st Infantry was assembled in the vicinity of PIETRAMALA near RADICOSA PASS and constituted II Corps Reserve. 349th Infantry and 350th Infantry were the assault regiments and seized the objectives FURCOLI and MONTERUMICI after three days of bitter fighting. On the night of 16 April 1945, the 351st Infantry moved to assembly areas in the vicinity of TRASASSO and was prepared to move forward on short notice to carry out one of three contemplated missions: to pass through either of the assault regiments and continue the attack; secondly, to assist either of the assault regiments, and thirdly, to be prepared to move through or assist elements of the 6th South African Armored Division to the left of the 88th Infantry Division. The latter mission to include a probable crossing of the RENO RIVER south of SASSO BOLOGNESE. As the battle progressed, IV Corps, further to the left, made a breakthrough in the 10th Mountain Division and 1st Armored Division zone leading· north from VERGATO. 85th Division was pushed through to exploit and on 18 April 1945, 351st Infantry was motorized and moved to VERGATO under II Corps control and reverted to 88th Division control when the remainder of the division closed in its new zone.

 

          After commitment near LAMA, south of SASSO BOLOGNESE, the Regiment coordinated an attach with elements of the 6th South African Armored Division (an Indian Battalion, the only of its kind in 6th South African Armored Division) and seized LAGUNE early on the morning of April 20th. Resistance was scattered and confined mainly to sniper fire although some mortar fire was encountered.

 

          Without pause, the regiment moved forward to capture MOUNT CAPRA which surmounts the northern end of a long ridge line running north from LAGUNE. MOUNT CAPRA is a great hill mass studded with many houses. Two hills compose the feature, one on the east and one on the west, the latter being the minor. At about 1200 hours, the 337th Infantry was contracted and requested to lift their artillery and tank fires from that area in order that the Second Battalion, 351st Infantry, which was already deployed, could advance. The Germans chose to defend the eastern hill covering the slopes of MOUNT CAPRA and the road that runs between the two hills, and eventually to GESSO, with fire from at least six 120mm mortars and many automatic weapons. Elements of the 157th Division, the 8th Mountain Division, and the 1st Parachute Division manned the defenses. This stubborn defense and heavy fire forced the Second Battalion and its supporting tanks to retire in a disorganized condition. This same heavy 120mm mortar fire hit the Regimental Forward Command Post killing several men, wounding six others and scoring a direct hit on the Regimental Commander’s car turning it over, fortunately without injury to the Commanding Officer or the driver. The assault battalion was reorganized and the Third Battalion was moved to give initial fire support for the renewed assault. Tanks, tank destroyers, and artillery laid down heavy counter mortar fire and neutralized the 120mm fire. Six of these mortars were later found destroyed with their crews dead around them. The actual assault of MOUNT CAPRA was accomplished with two rifle companies. Between the two hills a bald knob was cleared in which action over 100 prisoners of war were taken, 27 Germans killed and a number wounded. Rather than clear the entire feature, tank, tank destroyer and artillery fires were concentrated on the east hill neutralizing it and making it possible to by-pass it with the Third Battalion and the remaining elements of the Second Battalion. The First Battalion was left the mission of completing the job and by twilight had over 400 prisoners of war. In the meantime, the Second Battalion and Third Battalion pushed on until a foothold at RIALE, between GESSO and PALAZZO, had been consolidated.

 

          At 0600 hours, 21 April 1945, with the First and Second Battalions abreast, and RIALE as a line of departure, the regiment moved north to cut Highway #9 and thence northwest to S GIOVANNI, a Division objective. Lieutenant RALPH DECKER, with the Intelligence and Reconnaissance and Ranger Platoon, screened the regimental right flank and later in the afternoon killed one German and captured 44.

 

          Advancing against scattered resistance, both Battalions encountered strongly increasing fire as noon approached. The widespread advance by-passed groups of machine gunners and sniper these made a determined stand and delayed the regiment for four hours while the reserve Battalion cleared them out. During this time the regiment received consistent, but sporadic, artillery and mortar fire from the front and right flank.

 

          About 3000 yards south of SAN GIOVANNI there is a canal along which all bridges had been demolished. Along this canal and at the demolished bridges the enemy had organized a strong delaying position held by about 700 Germans who had nine tanks and self-propelled guns supporting them. A task force from the 6th South African Armored Division and the Third Battalion made a coordinated attach but failed initially to cross the canal. In the meantime, the First Battalion was swung 6000 yards to the west where it outflanked the enemy resistance and entered the outskirts of SAN GIOVANNI with tanks and infantry. Not long after this, the Third Battalion and the task force from the 6th South African Armored Division destroyed seven German tanks and forced a crossing of the canal. At twilight the First Battalion assaulted SAN GIOVANNI. Here, whether deliberate or not, the "white flag" trick was used by the Italian civil population; and, while ostensibly welcoming the liberators, two tanks and approximately 200 Germans opened fire, the latter firing from windows, roof tops, and the heavily fortified bank building. The Regimental Executive Officer, Lieutenant Colonel VICTOR W. HOBSON, JR., then Major, who was bringing a platoon of tanks forward, and coordinating their employment at about this time, went to the spot, forced a crossing of the dry canal which surrounds the town, eliminated several enemy machine guns enroute, and led the tanks into SAN GIOVANNI. There are two main streets in SAN GIOVANNI and scattered elements of the First Battalion were conducting a disorganized fire fight in both. Lieutenant Colonel HOBSON reorganized the elements in one street while the First Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel CLAUDE M. HOWARD, rallied those in the next street. Together these two groups cleared the town. Over 67 Germans were known to be killed and both enemy tanks destroyed. By midnight an outpost line had been set up two kilometers north of the town.

 

          CREVALCORE was the next objective on the 351st Infantry route of march. Early on the morning of 22 April 1945, the regiment advanced with the First Battalion on the left and the Third Battalion on the right. The Second Battalion, in reserve, advanced along the SAN GIOVANNI-CREVALCORE highway. The lead Battalions swung wide of the town and 3000 yards north of SAN GIOVANNI the Third Battalion met heavy resistance. Again aided by the 6th South African Armored Division task force, the Third Battalion cleared this resistance after a five hour fight. The First Battalion rapidly by-passed the resistance in front of the Third Battalion and at this time the Regimental Commander, Colonel FRANKLIN P. MILLER, decided to sideslip the First Battalion into the Third Battalion zone taking over the Third Battalion mission. Simultaneously, the Second Battalion, having moved almost parallel to the First Battalion, entered CREVALCO RE without resistance.

 

          At 1400 hours, the First and Second Battalions were moving toward the PANARO RIVER while the Third Battalion completed mopping up the resistance left behind. With the aid of the 6th South African Armored Division task force, the Third Battalion knocked out 9 enemy tanks in this action. The Third Battalion then became regimental reserve and moved forward. By 1500 hours, the First and Second Battalions reached the PANARO RIVER; but the First Battalion was engaged in a fight in which they were opposed by 2 enemy tanks, 2 self-propelled guns and about 300 infantrymen, in the vicinity of CASELLE. The Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel CLAUDE M. HOWARD, assumed personal command of Company A and the one tank available to him on the right flank and initialed an attack on CASELLE despite overwhelming odds. Simultaneously 351st Infantry Rangers led by Lieutenant RALPH DECKER and Captain CHARLES D. EDMONSON, Regimental S-2, attacked a village to the west and captured a German Signal Battalion intact taking 137 prisoners of war, killing 11 and wounding a number of others. Lieutenant Colonel HOWARD's attack destroyed the two enemy tanks and 2 self-propelled guns and in the ensuing fire fight the Division Artillery Commander of the 305 Division was killed, a Regimental Commander and two Battalion Commanders were captured plus 89 additional prisoners of war. A hasty count revealed 47 dead Germans in CASELLE.

 

          During this fight, unengaged elements of the First Battalion and the Second Battalion reconnoitered the river for crossing sites. Meeting heavy small arms and mortar fire they remained behind the levee on the south bank of the river.

 

          At 1530 hours, the Divisional Commander, Major General PAUL W. KENDALL, visited the Regimental Command Post which was in a house 60 yards from the levee. The Commanding General issued positive instructions that the river must be crossed before darkness. The levee was too steep for tanks to climb; however, with many attempts, one tank and one armored car reached the top. Both were promptly hit by self-propelled fire. The armored car was completely destroyed and rolled over several times before reaching the bottom of the levee. The heavy fire forced Company A to retire from the levee in disorganization until they managed to regroup in CASELLE.

 

          In view of the Divisional Commander's stringent orders and the absence of the Battalion Commander and Executive Officer of the First Battalion at this time, the Regimental Commander assumed personal command of Companies B and C and arranged to assault the river line later. The PANARO RIVER at this point was 60 yards wide flowing between 30 foot levees and averaged about 10 feet in depth; although air reconnaissance claimed it to be dry.

 

          Desiring a coordinated attack, the Regimental Commander proceeded to the Second Battalion which was 1000 yards to the west, and, using the levee for an observation post, arranged for and adjusted heavy artillery fires from the 913th Field Artillery Battalion. He also ascertained by personal reconnaissance that a crossing on the debris of a demolished bridge near his vantage point was possible.

 

          At 1900 hours, under a heavy curtain of artillery fire, the crossing was initiated by both Battalions. Having no means of crossing in its zone and no engineer bridging equipment present, the First Battalion made the crossing by swimming and using doors and timbers carried from the buildings in CASELLE. Both crossings were against diminishing opposition due to the heavy and accurate artillery fire. After crossing, the bridgeheads were joined and the Second Battalion struck 1500 yards to the west to clear the village of CAMPOSANTO. There, a German held bridge was captured intact. Over this bridge all vehicles, tanks and remaining infantry of the combat team were successfully passed by midnight to hold a bridgehead three kilometers deep. On this day, over 1500 prisoners of war were captured by the regiment.

 

          At 0500 hours, 23 April 1945, the 350th Infantry passed through the 351st Infantry and with the 349th Infantry operating on its right attacked north to seize crossing sights on the PO RIVER, in the vicinity of OSTIGLIA.

 

          The 351st Infantry followed through unbelievable scenes of utmost confusion. Every farm house was surrounded by abandoned German Vehicles, many of which were completely destroyed. One German Regiment of artillery had destroyed its guns and surrendered all surviving personnel. Although the 351st Infantry was in reserve and followed the 349th Infantry over 2000 bypassed Germans were taken prisoner with hardly a shot fired. The scene was one of debacle with enemy troops fleeing wildly or surrendering wholesale in shattered confusion.

 

          On the 24th of April, at 0500 hours, the 351st Infantry moved into the interval between the 349th and 350th Infantry Regiments and occupied the town of REVERE on the south bank of the PO near the railroad bridge which had been partially destroyed by German demolition and the Mediterranean Air Force. At least one-third of the town was in total ruin and all streets were littered with abandoned German equipment and motor vehicles, the bulk of which were destroyed and still burning. A personal reconnaissance conducted by the Regimental Commander, Colonel FRANKLIN P. MILLER, and the Regimental Intelligence Officer, Captain CHARLES D. EDMONSON, convinced them that determined men could cross on the debris of the bridge despite the fact that personal experience indicated it to be defended by at least three 20mm guns, numerous machine guns and mortars. Prisoner information, found to be true, also indicated the north shore to be defended by six companies from the 1st Parachute Division sent there for the purpose. These troops had formerly been Field Marshall Albert Kesslring's personal bodyguard. To the east, crossing sites favorable for the use of ferrys and assault boats were discovered. Crossing equipment being unavailable, Captain EDMONSON volunteered to lead a picked detail of Rangers across the debris of the railroad bridge and secure a small bridgehead through which other troops might pass. Simultaneously, six abandoned German rubber boats were discovered by the Regimental Executive Officer, Lieutenant Colonel VICTOR W. HOBSON, JR. The Second Battalion, Major HAROLD B. AYERS, commanding, arrived at the river line and waited behind the levee on the south bank. The First and Third Battalions were enroute to the river bank at this time. Artillery and chemical mortars were in position to support the crossing. Tanks which had just been released from the other regiments had not as yet arrived. The Regimental Anti­Tank Company, commanded by Captain PAUL J. MAILANDER, was well forward as usual, available in REVERE. Briefly; the plan was as follows: Captain EDMONSON, Lieutenant DECKER and Lieutenant MAC DONALD, and 16 Rangers were to cross at noon and secure an initial bridgehead using the demolished railroad bridge for crossing and thereafter facilitating a crossing on the same bridge by Company G, commanded by Captain LIONEL R. KAYE. 800 yards to the east Company F, under the command of 1st Lieutenant JEFF P. ENOCHS, was to cross using the captured German rubber boats. Company E was to follow Company F. Company H. placed its machine guns on the south levee to cover and support the crossing by fire. Heavy artillery fire from 913th Field Artillery Battalion and others, was arranged for an OSTIGLIA and 300 yards in front of the con­templated bridgehead. The Second Battalion Anti-Tank Platoon and the Regimental Anti-Tank Company guns were placed on the levee to afford direct fire support in addition to which two multiple mount .50 caliber machine gun carriages were em­placed, greatly enhancing the fire power. The chemical mortars were to screen the crossing with smoke, placing their concentrations as near to the enemy as possible.

 

          To an eyewitness, the actual crossing was not only spectacular, but also gave the impression of having been rehearsed. At 1200 hours, Captain EDMONSON and his picked detail moved onto the bridge and immediately became the target of all enemy small arms fire, machine gun and 20mm gun fire within a thousand yards distance up and down the river. Three men were wounded before the demolished part of the bridge was reached. The 913th Field Artillery Battalion, reinforced by the 339th Field Artillery Battalion, laid intense fire on the opposite bank. Machine gun bunkers and 20mm gun positions were engaged by the 57mm Anti-Tank guns and the two .50 caliber "flak wagons". Reaching the gap Captain EDMONSON tied a rope from beam to beam and led his group on. At one point it was necessary to climb a 30 foot ladder left by the Germans who had used the same means for crossing earlier. Just before starting up the ladder, Captain EDMONSON was wounded in the hip by an explosive projectile from one of the 20mm guns as he forced his way through the debris and water that at times was waist deep. The Regimental Command Post was in a ruined house 200 yards east of the railroad bridge and on top of the levee. From this house, which received direct hits from 20mm and self­propelled fire, the entire operation was visible. It is interesting to note that some of the 57mm Anti-Tank guns were firing diagonally under the undemolished portions of the bridge at German positions to the west of it, while troops crossed above.

 

          Emerging from the German end of the bridge, Captain EDMONSON's detail became embroiled in a furious fire fight. Lieutenant DECKER followed by two men, crawled 100 yards to within 10 feet of a German machine gun emplacement. Although the gunner tried frantically to hit him, Lieutenant DECKER threw a hand grenade and rushed the emplacement. With his tommy gun blazing, he literally cut the German in two. Then running to a house 50 yards away, Lieutenant DECKER and his two men went to the third floor and looked down into an extensive network of German fortifications and trenches from which two machine guns were still firing on the bridge and bridgehead. With a Browning Automatic Rifle, one of the men killed one gunner at his gun and forced the others to take cover in a dugout. They also opened fire on the crews of three camouflaged 20mm guns about 100 yards away. Since ammunition was nearly exhausted, Lieutenant DECKER sent two volunteers, Private First Class WEISS and Private First Class CONRAD, back across the river in a captured German rubber boat. These men paddled back across six hundred yards of open water and never wavered once although the water was churned all about them by German fire. Captain EDMONSON placed Private First Class SHIPLEY and TRAVENNER in position on the north end of the railroad trestle to deliver incessant fire on the three 20mm positions. They wounded seven Germans and forced them to keep their heads down, although they were constantly sniped at by other Germans. Lieutenant DECKER, with his two original men then attacked a second house killing a German in a nearby foxhole while his two men killed another German and took three prisoners. Captain EDMONSON with three men was nearby and firing his carbine into a dug­out wounded one German and caused seven others to surrender. Lieutenant DECKER and Captain EDMONSON joined parties, put their prisoners under guard in the second house, rushed the three 20mm positions capturing seventeen Germans, many of whom they wounded. This highly successful action secured the initial bridgehead and Company G crossed without delay. 800 yards to the east Company F crossed meeting light opposition, although the south bank continued to receive heavy mortar and artillery fire. The lighter resistance met on the right demonstrates that the Germans had located their strongest defenses in the vicinity of the railroad bridge based on the premise that we would make our main crossing at that point. By 1600 hours, the Second Battalion was completely across and the bridgehead was finally established. Engineer equipment began to appear and LCVs manned by the 752nd Tank Battalion arrived. Prompt bulldozing of the embarkation site was performed by the engineers and the remainder of the regiment crossed in the order: Third Battalion, First Battalion. Soon thereafter, DUKWs arrived and supplies were ferried across the river.

 

          Throughout the night, German aircraft bombed and strafed the crossing sites; however, the presence of many antiaircraft batteries and their concentrated volume of fire greatly reduced the effectiveness of Luftwaffe operations.

 

          Many of the houses on the far bank were found to be filled with German dead and wounded. The house seized by Regimental Headquarters for a Command Post contained seven bodies and nineteen badly wounded Germans.

 

          Radio instructions to press on with all possible speed to VERONA were received at 0600 hours, 25 April 1945, and shortly after dark of the same day, the 351st Infantry entered the city. One of the biggest problems after the crossing was to get armor across. During the night some armor was gotten across on the pontoon bridge further to the east; however, not in the quantities desired.

 

          The advance was made in two columns with the Second Battalion preceded by four tank destroyers moving north on the OSTIGLIA-VERONA highway and the Third Battalion marching on a roughly parallel road 3000 meters to the east. The Third Battalion was without armor but had a platoon of 57mm Anti­Tank guns along. The First Battalion was to follow the Second Battalion. Light resistance was encountered until NOGARA was reached at which time one light-tank and one armored car from the 88th Reconnaissance Troop joined the head of the column. The light tank was immediately sent to the Third Battalion to give it some armored assistance. At NOGARA, a determined enemy rear guard action was met at about 1300 hours. Captain STANLEY A. VAN TESLAAR, and seven other men were wounded in the first blast of enemy fire. The German defense consisted of 300 men, one 57mm gun emplaced in a for­tified mill, two 20mm guns and numerous machine guns, all. in long prepared positions. One tank destroyer was hit which rendered track repairs necessary and the armored car was knocked out by 57mm and 20mm fire wounding the occupants. Major HAROLD B. AYRES, commanding the Second Battalion, was nearby and courageously climbed atop the disabled scout car despite heavy enemy fire and dragged the three wounded men out of the burning vehicle. In the meantime, all others had taken cover in the ditches along the highway. Major AYRES ran back along the highway through the heavy enemy machine gun and 20mm fire and ordered Company E to make a flank attack around to the east. He then personally led the three remaining tank destroyers forward, using arm and hand signals to designate targets for them. He personally knocked out an enemy machine gun nest killing the gunner with one shot from his carbine. He directed tank destroyer fire on the 20mm. gun positions and on a house into which a German officer and one of the 20mm gun crews had entered seeking refuge from the terrible tank destroyer fire. Major AYERS threw two hand grenades into this house forcing the Germans to surrender. Major AYERS' brave action opened the way through NOGARA. With this resistance eliminated, over 200 prisoners of war, 27 Germans killed, and 7 machine guns, 1 57mm anti­tank gun, and two 20mm guns destroyed the advance was resumed.

 

          From here on, because the advance guard stayed well ahead, the main body was not delayed. The Third Battalion on the right was doing its share of fighting and supported by only one light tank fought four engagements in which it destroyed eight 20mm guns and numerous machine guns. At about 1800 hours, four more tank destroyers and five light tanks arrived at the column on the main highway and were carrying infantry which had been loaded on them as they passed. Three more engagements, all light, rear guard actions, took place between NOGARA and CA DI DAVID before the advance guard, now consisting of seven tank destroyers from 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion and five light tanks from 752nd Tank Battalion, carrying most of Company F, entered VERONA and crashed through until stopped by enemy resistance and the debris in the vicinity of the heavily bombed railroad yards at 2210 hours. This magnificent accomplishment- from the PO RIVER to VERONA -a distance of forty miles by roadway, was completed in slightly more than sixteen hours. The main body at this time including both columns in the vicinity of CA DI DAVID and was moving forward as rapidly as possible using all available transportation. Jeeps, anti-tank prime-movers and all other vehicles that could be found were used.

 

          The actions of the advance guard led by Lieutenant JOHN F. EBEL of Company E, is a story in itself. All members of his platoon and the crews of the three tank destroyers that accompanied him fought with aggressiveness and plucky determination that exemplified the highest qualities in fighting men. They were determined to close with and destroy the enemy. At one point in their advance they were opposed by a 75mm German self-propelled gun which was neatly dispatched with two rounds from one of the tank destroyers. The German vehicle did not appear damaged for it had not burned, but at a point dead center and one and one-half feet from the bottom of the chassis, two 76mm holes, almost keyholing each other, could be found upon a closer inspection. The combat infantrymen of the 351st Infantry discovered their teammates, 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion, knew how to shoot; and again later, and much more effectively, they saw what can happen to troops who congregate at a road junction under the surveillance of tank destroyer fire. The road junction in mind was in VERONA. Five burning vehicles and over fifteen German carcasses littered the road.

 

          The appearance of the 351st Infantry in VERONA was so unbelievable to the Germans that many units found themselves facing the road blocks, established by the Second Battalion, as they poured into the city from the less important side roads to the southeast and southwest while attempting to rally in the city. Our tanks and infantry had a field day capturing and killing large groups of disorganized Germans who tried to rush the road blocks.

 

          Reconnoitering forward shortly after 0600 hours, 26 April, Colonel FRANKLIN P. MILLER, Regimental Commander, contacted Colonel DARBY, Assistant Commander, 10th Mountain Division, near the railroad bridge at VERONA. Colonel DARBY's comment was, "You seem to have had an interesting brawl during the night, I heartily approve of the results". Elements of the 10th Mountain Division were at this time entering the city from the west.

 

          Shortly thereafter, the Regimental Commander, Colonel FRANKLIN P. MILLER, returned to his command post at CA DI DAVID and here, while receiving new instructions from the Division Artillery Commander, Brigadier General LEWIS, friendly aircraft bombed and strafed the Regimental Command Post. Two precious gas-laden trucks, for the tank destroyers, were destroyed. The "Rover Joe" (air support) radio operator and two other men were killed. Five other men were wounded and three jeeps damaged sufficiently to immobilize them, including the Division Artillery Commander' s car. The new instructions directed the 351st Infantry to move southeast out of VERONA and secure crossing sites on the ADIGE RIVER in the vicinity of ZEVIO, approximately 15 kilometers southeast of VERONA. Lieutenant RALPH DECKER and the Rangers motorized on jeeps entered the town of SAN GIOVANNI, which is situated half way between VERONA and ZEVIO and received the surrender of a regiment of Czechoslovakians at about noon. The regimental column preceded by tank destroyers carrying infantrymen, moved on towards ZEVIO. Hardly 2000 yards east of SAN GIOVANNI they were stopped by steel road blocks covered with small arms fire. Attempts to remove the road blocks by ramming, failed; and simultaneously, German rifle and machine gun fire rattled from the flanks of the halted tank destroyers and forced the infantrymen to take cover. A brisk fire fight ensued before the covering party of Germans was neutralized with tank destroyer and machine gun fire killing nine and resulting in the capture of thirty. By-passing the road block by using another route the 351st Infantry column continued on toward ZEVIO. At this time, a company of tanks and a platoon of tank destroyers arrived and made possible the complete motorization of the Third Battalion. Before ZEVIO was reached, the column encountered unbelievably large numbers of disorganized enemy troops who surrendered wholesale with their officers. In this bag, a German Field Hospital Battalion, complete with motor transportation, casualties, and nurses surrendered. So great was the number of prisoners of war that it became almost impossible to guard them; but they were not difficult to handle for the war was over for them and seemed happy. The regiment closed in the ZEVIO area prior to 2400 hours, 26 April 1945.

 

          On 26 April 1945, the Commanding General, 88th Infantry Division, Major General PAUL W. KENDALL, received the following commendation from the Commanding General, II Corps:

 

          "Congratulations to you and the other Blue Devils for a magnificent race won against great odds. Please convey my congratulations to Colonel MILLER and the 351st and their teammates from the 752nd (Tank Battalion) and 805th (Tank Destroyer Battalion)."

 

          Due to the rapid current and no available bridging materials, crossing of the ADIGE presented as difficult an operation as that met at the slower moving PO. Although the 349th Infantry and 350th Infantry were to continue the attack northwest toward VICENZA, all units of the 88th Division were ordered to cross the ADIGE with the least possible delay. 350th Infantry found an Italian ferry boat that handled much traffic before it finally became inoperative.

 

          During the night, foot elements of the 351st Infantry crossed the ADIGE using the debris of a destroyed bridge near ZEVIO, with no resistance. A partially destroyed railroad bridge at VERONA was soon made serviceable for vehicular traffic and during the day of the 27th of April, armor and supply vehicles of all sizes poured across the river.

 

          A task force led by Colonel JAMES C. FRY, Assistant Division Commander, 88th Division, raced east and northeast along Highway #11 and entered VICENZA before noon, 28 April. The 351st Infantry followed, shuttling with all available vehicles, and at 1500 hours orders from higher headquarters directed that SANDRIGO, MAROSTICA and BASSANO be taken. Between the latter two towns another swift river, the BRENTA, had to be crossed. On the night of the 27th, prior to the movement to VICENZA, Lieutenant Colonel VICTOR W. HOBSON, JR., Regi­mental Executive Officer, went north of Highway #11 and, in the vicinity of TREGNANO, accepted the formal surrender of 700 Russians and 6 Russian officers composing a Georgian Infantry Battalion.

 

          Advancing swiftly toward SANDRIGO, the 351st In­fantry by-passed scattered enemy elements and cleared the town by daylight of April 29th, there capturing over 300 prisoners and eleven mm anti-aircraft cannon intact with prime movers, ammunition, and other pieces of transportation. A task force consisting of four rifle platoons, riding tanks and tank destroyers, pushed forward at 0600 hours and entered the town of MAROSTICA at 1000 hours. The Regimental Commander, Colonel FRANKLIN P. MILLER, contacted a Partisan Headquarters and before noon was receiving accurate, timely, intelligence through Partisan channels (one of which consisted of a com­mercial telephone line in communication with BASSANO Partisans) as to the enemy situation in BASSANO.

 

          Two possible crossing sites on the BRENTA RIVER were located; one at Bassano, consisting of an incomplete wooden bridge constructed by German Pioneers and the other site a ford further to the south at a place called NOVE.

 

          Several plans for continuing the operation were considered; however, the presence of large numbers of enemy forces made the situation a puzzling one to straighten out without considerable delay. The First Battalion was sent on ahead to secure the crossing sites near BASSANO with the view of passing the Third Battalion through the First to cross the river. In the meantime, the Second Battalion continued to assemble in the vicinity of MAROSTICA and coordinated with the Third Battalion in establishing a perimeter of defense about the town.

 

          By early afternoon with German columns advancing from the south and intercepting the already greatly extended regi­mental column and with a large force of Germans advancing south from SCHIO (to the northwest), with the apparent mission of assisting German forces to escape, the situation assumed a threateningly precarious aspect. The Regimental Commander, Commander FRANKLIN P. MILLER, directed that air and artillery be placed on SCHIO and then went forward to the First Battalion where Companies A and B were engaged in a street fight in the hamlet on the west bank of the BRENTA RIVER near BASSANO. Tanks were pushed forward and reached the river bank only to be driven back by bazooka and self-propelled fire from the opposite side. The Regimental Commander followed by several men, entered a house on the bank, and while doing so, the man immediately behind the Regimental Commander was hit by a burst of machine gun fire from across the river. Upstairs the windows could not be used for observation purposes because of this machine gun fire. The house was evacuated and it was decided to put the Regimental Command Post several hundred yards to the rear. While this incident was occurring, members of 1st Parachute Regiment, 1st Parachute Division, established a strong road block on the highway between MAROSTICA and BASSANO.

 

          A task force consisting of one rifle platoon from the first Battalion and four tank destroyers was hurriedly organized and placed under the command of Major FRANK W. CARMON, JR., with the mission of opening up the highway and clearing the area to MAROSTICA. This task force pushed forward aggressively and was soon in a furious fire fight. At least two companies of Germans held this road block which consisted of four heavy machine guns (two on each side of the road) two "Panzerfaust" teams (one on each side) and one 88mm bazooka team. The German riflemen were deployed on both sides-of the road. Major CARMON was in the turret of the lead tank when the enemy opened fire. He quickly seized the caliber .50 machine gun mounted on the turret ring and swung it into action. Simultaneously, the platoon of infantry riding the tank destroyers dismounted and sought defilade in the ditches along the road. Major CARMON's first burst of fire killed one "Panzerfaust" team; and then in succession he killed the remaining "Panzerfaust" team, the bazooka team and put four machine guns out of action. The only pause in Major CARMON's deadly hail of fire occurred when he stopped to place another belt of cartridges in the gun. By count, 18 Germans were killed, 20 wounded and 52 were taken prisoner. This action took place at about 1430 hours. -The road was then held firmly by Anti Tank Company and a patrol of four tank destroyers.

 

          Returning to BASSANO, Major CARMON'S task force was given a new mission. At 1500 hours, the task force moved south para1leling the BRENTA RIVER to reconnoiter the ford sites in the vicinity of NOVE. This completed, they then turned northwest on a road running in that direction and eventually to MAROSTICA and cleared this road to within one mile of that town. Many prisoners were taken. The force· now did an about face and returned to NOVE by the same route. From NOVE, the task force struck west toward SCHIAVIO and continued to round up Germans all the way. At SCHIVADID a large column of Germans were moving to the northwest. A few rounds of 76mm fire from the lead tank destroyer took all the fight out of them. Between 180 and 200 were captured. Light resistance was encountered all the way to SANDRIGO where the Regimental Service Company, Medical Detachment and a platoon of chemical mortars were "liberated". In the early morning, during the hours of darkness, this platoon had had a tangle with the Germans who succeeded in running away with two jeeps, one 4.2" mortar and 70 rounds of ammunition. Another task force consisting of one company from the Second Battalion, Anti-Tank Company and four tank destroyers, was given the mission of keeping the SANDRIGO­MAROSTICA highway clear.

 

          In the meantime, Major CARMON's task force turned east at SANDRIGO and headed toward the BRENTA RIVER. As they proceeded they captured many scattered groups of Germans. Several miles from the river they came to a road block con­sisting of five German trucks set afire in the middle of the road. Major CARMON and the officer commanding the tank destroyers went forward to investigate the possibilities of dragging the burning wrecks away; however, exploding ammunition within them forced both to retire. A parallel road farther to the south was found and the column continued its march. After moving about one mile, a great column of enemy troops was contacted. They surrendered without a fight. The task force then headed north along a road paralleling the BRENTA RIVER and returned to their starting point. In this circuit they had captured 509 Germans and killed and wounded many others. It was now 2000 and the Third Battalion was moving up to cross the BRENTA and seize BASSANO. Organized resistance in that vicinity had practically ended.

 

          By 2110 hours, the Third Battalion was across and mopped up the town before midnight. In the interim the First and Second Battalions and the second task force had collected a fantastic number of prisoners of war and placed them in the school house at MAROSTICA. 2735 were counted of which 1041 were from the 1st and 4th Parachute Divisions. This total does not include the 509 Germans captured by Major CARMON's task force. His prisoners were sent direct to SANDRIGO and did not pass through the Regimental Cage.

 

          On the morning of April 30th, the Regimental Command Post moved across the river into BASSANO. With its mission completed the 351st Infantry was to "assemble vicinity of BASSANO and MAROSTICA and protect the 88th Division left by blocking to the north"; however, at 1348 hours, 30 April, a change in orders arrived and immediate advance up the BRENTA River Valley was ordered. The objective was to be FONZASO; however, before reaching that place the regiment received orders to follow the valley to the west and seize BORGO. At a village called CISMON an important bridge was destroyed and some delay in getting armor across slowed the advance. The 349th Infantry, meeting increasing resistance in the next main valley to the east, was having difficulty advancing on FELTRE and therefore, one battalion from 351st Infantry, the Second Battalion, was sent to ARSIE, northeast of CISMON. At this town a lively firefight took place, the first engagement being a scrabble with a horse drawn supply column, part of the 1028 German Regiment. Many horses were killed, wagons destroyed and heavy casualties inflicted upon the Germans by tank destroyer and machine gun fire. 60 Germans were captured and 75 killed when the Second Battalion, led by Major HAROLD B. AYRES, mopped up the town. Partisans contacted near ARSIE led in 50 enlisted men and 4 Officers all ex-prisoners of war, and with the ex­ception of, one man from the 805 Tank Destroyer Battalion, all were from the 350th Infantry Regiment and had been captured several days before. In the meantime, the First and Third Battalions plus part of the Second Battalion, advanced north and northwest toward BORGO meeting very little resistance. The advance continued throughout the night and in the early morning of 2 May 1945, elements of the First Battalion entered BORGO. At this time it became necessary to halt the advance in order to assemble the regiment due to the greatly extended column that had resulted from two days of continued advance. In BORGO the first German Artillery fire received in several days landed during the mid morning and early afternoon. It was believed to be 88mm fire and the total number of rounds did not exceed twenty-five. Since it seemed to be coming from the vicinity of a town called RONCEGNO to the west, the 913th Field Artillery Battalion fired about five-hundred rounds into the reverse slopes in the vicinity of that town.

 

          At 1440 hours, Colonel RENNECKE, commanding the 1st Parachute Regiment of the 1st Parachute Division, came through our lines at BORGO and stated that members of the 1st Parachute Division had been informed of an armistice and had been ordered to hold in position until further orders were received. He also stated that he would riot fire unless we advanced; but because of his orders to hold, he would resist should we move forward. He then returned to his own troops.

 

          Orders from 88th Division and II Corps directed that the 351st Infantry continue its advance and a lively battle ensued. At 1800 hours, broadcasts from BBC and the AEF station were received announcing the first news of an armistice. At 2204 hours, Colonel JAMES C. FRY, Assistant Division Commander, arrived with orders to stop fighting and hold in place pending further orders. This order was complied with; but the recording of the surrender of the entire I Fallschirmkorps (1st Para Corps) complete, consisting of over 13,500 men and officers, tanks, armored cars, artillery, mortars, ammunition, equipment of all types, and four general officers, two days later, belongs properly in the succeeding monthly history.

 

          F. P. MILLER

          Colonel, Infantry

          Commanding

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