HISTORY OF THE 351ST INFANTRY REGIMENT FOR THE MONTH OF
7 September 1944
The operations from Montecatini, Italy to the Arno River, during the month of July 1944 had brought much hard and bitter fighting to the 351st Infantry Regiment and the opportunity for rest and training was welcomed by all.
On 1 August 1944 the extensive training program in river crossing operations continued in all organizations. Intensive study and practical application of principles learned, was made of the employment of engineers in a river crossing; reconnaissance for river crossing sites; German methods of defending a river line; organization and employment of crossing groups based on a reinforced infantry battalion; and communications.
At 1120 hours, Lieutenant Colonel Armogida, Division Engineer, visited the command post for a conference with the Regimental Commander concerning coordination and cooperation with the engineers for river-crossing operations. He revealed that Company F, 19th Engineers would be attached to the regiment during this preliminary training phase, as well as for the actual crossing itself. This company would be an asset to the regiment due to the fact that it had actually participated in the crossing of the Rapido River in the vicinity of Cassino earlier in the Italian campaign. The lessons learned there would serve us well for our operations.
During the day, Lieutenant Colonel Drake, Regimental Executive Officer, Captain Edmonson, Assistant S-3, and a representative from each of 913th Field Artillery Battalion, Company C, 313th Engineers, Company F, 19th Field Artillery Battalion, Company C, 760th Tank Battalion, reconnoitered a combat team assembly area south of the Arno River (southwest of Empoli). Reporting to the 8th Indian Division command post for all available information concerning the proposed assembly area, clearance was obtained for the group to continue their personal reconnaissance. As the reconnaissance progressed, it was noted that a conflict with a Corps Artillery Group existed due to the fact that the same assembly area had been assigned to both the infantry and the artillery. This conflict was remedied by a conference with representatives of the Corps Artillery Group and 88th Infantry Division Headquarters.
On 2 August 1944, it was revealed during the day that a plan for a river crossing operation had been developed by II Corps. The 88th and 85th Infantry Divisions would cross abreast-each division forcing four crossings, employing one battalion in the assault at each crossing site. This plan was named the Pestoria Plan from the first Corps objective--the high ground in the vicinity of Pestoria. The Division Plan was to employ three Regiments abreast, in the crossing, the 349th Infantry on the left, crossing two battalions abreast, while the 351st Infantry in the center and the 350th Infantry on the right, each forced a one battalion crossing. The zone assigned the Division extended from the vicinity of Montelupo west to San Miniato. When the bridgehead became established, the 349th Infantry would be "pinched out", becoming Division reserve, while the 350th Infantry and the 351st Infantry continued to advance toward the Corps objective.
Up to this time, the 8th Indian Division had not completed clearing the area south of the Arno River of Germans-their line extending from the river bank at Montelupo generally southwest along the railroad track south of Empoli, to Osteria. The 8th Army had, however, agreed to drive the Germans north of the Arno river and plans were being made to accomplish the task.
The day of 3 August 1944 was spent by all battalions, special units, and combat team attachments reconnoitering the assembly areas assigned them, south of the Arno. In order not to create suspicion by heavy traffic in the new area, all organizations were limited to one "jeep".
At 1850 hours, in answer to a request of this regiment, Company F, 19th Engineers were granted road clearance beginning at 2200 hours to move into the new assembly area. Company F would clear the new area of mines, make necessary road repairs, and build a Bailey Bridge over the Elsa River. As the 8th Army moved forward to the Arno, the areas cleared of Germans would be carefully reconnoitered by this company and the necessary engineer work completed.
At 0600 hours 4 August 1944, Colonel Champeny, Regimental Commander, received by special messenger, a letter from the Commanding General, in which future operations were discussed. Strict compliance with the security plan as published by the G-3, 88th Infantry Division, was emphasized. Everything practicable to gain deception and surprise in our river crossing could be used. The question of dispersion in our bivouac areas would be a fact and not fiction. In connection with front line reconnaissances to be made, security detachments from the 8th Army would accompany our reconnaissance elements--this, in order to avoid any possibility of capture of our personnel which would indicate our presence on that front. The selection of remunerative targets for the expenditure of munitions, the importance of maneuver in the attack, and the indoctrination of all new men and officers into the spirit of the division, (the spirit of aggressiveness in combat, and the willingness to accept responsibilities) were fully discussed. For personal information of the regimental commander, in order not to establish undue optimism with reference to the immediate future of the division, provisional plans were to be prepared within each regiment for the civil administration of an assigned district. Each district would be assigned to a regimental commander, who would have under him, his entire regiment for the administration and control of his district. This information was not to be published to the lower units at the present time. The importance of careful handling of absentee ballots by designated soldier-voting officers, was emphasized. Any slip or criticism with reference to this matter would react most unfavorably with reference to the Army.
Finally, the Division Commander expressed his desire that every weekend, religious services be conducted in all units. An outline for the conduct of services was presented in which the Regimental Commander would, with all denominations in a group:
(1). Give a general orientation of the present international situation stressing the successes of the Allies.
(2). Discuss the operations of our Division and its successes using these as a background for establishing pride in our accomplishments.
(3). Stress the reason that we were able to accomplish these successes; the esprit, bravery, energy, enthusiasm and aggressiveness of our older men particularly those who were killed or wounded in action.
(4). Without too much optimism, to impress upon all present, the fact that by putting all we have into our next few operations, we have a splendid opportunity for ending the war with Germany in the near future.
(5). And stress the pride our people at home will take in our successful accomplishments. After this introductory program, the group would be separated into denominational groups and the regular religious services conducted.
At 1018 hours, Captain Davis, Commanding Officer of Company G, 84th Chemical Battalion reported to the Command Post for briefing and discussion of dispositions in the proposed forward assembly area. This company, having left the regiment when the Arno River was reached, in the vicinity of San Romano, had returned to us after supporting the 34th Division in its capture of Leghorn and later supporting an anti-aircraft brigade (acting as Infantry) which relieved the 34th Division south of the Arno River at Pisa. Captain Davis with two of his platoon leaders, left for the forward assembly area for a thorough reconnaissance of the area assigned him.
At 1450 hours, Captain Myers, aide to the Commanding General, visited the command post for a discussion of the program for a combat team formation for presentation of awards on Sunday, 5 August 1944, by Major General Sloan. The regimental theater area was selected as the site for the formation and a practice session for recipients of awards planned for the morning of 5 August.
At 1330 hours, 5 August 1944, Captain Sidell, Commanding Officer, Company C, 313th Engineers, conducted an interesting, instructive period in the use of prima cord for the clearance of a path through a minefield. The instruction began with a discussion and demonstration of the type mines which were most common in our new area, namely, the Holtz mine, the Schu mine, the Teller mine and the "S" mine. Each type was examined carefully, and the ways and means of converting the high-powered anti-tank mine into a deadly antipersonnel mine were demonstrated. It was decided by all present that the German investors of such hellish devices should definitely be classified as "war criminals" and be made to die by the direct action of their own handiwork.
Strands of prima cord were placed on all these mines; exploded; and the effect noted. One strand of prima cord was successful in detonating a Schu mine but had no appreciative effect upon a Teller. From experimentation, by trial and error process, it was decided that by utilizing four strands of prima cord, all anti-tank and anti-personnel mines (with one exception) would be cleared for a distance approximately one and one half feet on either side of the prima cord strands. The one exception, strangely enough, proved to be a German "S" mine which as a result must be cleared by use of a mine detector or by probing. Another interesting revelation occurred when it was discovered that trip wires in most cases would not be set off by the heavy explosion of the prima cord due to their streamlined surface.
Methods or means of throwing the prima cord into a mine field in order to clear a path were next demonstrated. The most successful means proved to be the use of the rifle grenade and the "bazooka" rocket. In the first case, four strands of prima cord bundled in rope fashion were securely attached to a rifle grenade and fired with a high angle of elevation. By constructing a crude trough for the "bazooka" rocket, attaching the prima cord securely to the shaft of the rocket, and setting the rocket "off" with a flashlight battery, the four strands were extended into the simulated mine field with a great deal of force, exerting a strong pull on a stake to which the end of a 200 foot length of prima cord was attached. In both cases, the rifle grenade and the rocket, the safety pin was not pulled preventing detonation of either the grenade or the rocket.
Brigadier General KENDALL, Assistant Division Commander who attended the demonstration, expressed satisfaction with instruction given, recommending that all rifle platoons train and equip men to clear paths with prima cord.
On 6 August 1944, the 351st Combat team assembled at the Regimental theatre (2nd Bn Area) for the presentation of awards and decorations by Major General SLOAN to members of this regiment for feats of bravery and outstanding accomplishment. In his introductory talk to the Combat Team, General SLOAN'S speech had marked signs of optimism and presaged a near end to the Italian campaign.
"We are here to honor our dead" he said, "and we should thank God for his blessings. We want to conclude this war so decisively that American men may never again face these conditions. We must not allow ourselves to be satisfied with the death of Hitler as he is only a figurehead. We must beat the German people, we cannot let them surrender. We must lick them so conclusively that they never again can wage war. "
General SLOAN encouragingly spoke of the mounting Allied successes on land, sea and in the air, declaring that the Germans are on the run. In addition, he expressed extreme thankfulness for being in command of the 88th Division, particularly the 351st Combat Team which "has never failed to reach its objective."
Upon completion of his speech General SLOAN presented the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the regimental commander, Colonel Arthur S. Champeny, and to the Regimental Operations Sgt., M/Sgt Chester A. Post. The Silver Star for gallantry in action was received by Capt. Leo Sautter, Company Commander Hq & Hq Co, Capt. George Schaeffer, CO Co "A", 1st Lt. Stanton Richart, CO Co "K", Cpl Mills, Co "M", Pvts. Rust and Freisinger and Pfc Deay of Hq Co 3d Bn.
Upon the departure of General SLOAN, Colonel Champeny addressed the assemblage. The magnificent accomplishments of the 351st Combat Team in the Italian Campaign were enumerated. Mentioned was the march from Spigno across the mountains to cut the Pico-Itri road, one of the finest marches in military history. The capture of Laiatico was spoken of as the greatest victory of the regiment.
"San Romano" was a success well earned," declared the Colonel. "The place was heavily defended--which proves that we can beat the Germans at their own game."
Colonel Champeny took pride in mentioning the high honor bestowed upon the regiment when Major General SLOAN stated to the Secretary of War, Mr. STIMSON, that ours was "the best regiment of the best Division in the Army."
The Regimental Commander then meted out well deserved praise to the 913th FA Bn whom he declared was the best Field Artillery Battalion in the army. Co "C", 315th Engr Bn and Co "C'' 313th Med Bn were also lauded for their achievements. The 349th Infantry was referred to as "good fighting partners on whom we could count at all times." The famous remark of Sally the German propaganda radio girl--"the 88th is a bunch of blood thirsty cut throats"--was repeated with pride and once more accepted as a great compliment.
Concluding with a note of optimism Colonel Champeny remarked that he felt the coming offensive would be our last in Italy.
After brief instructions by the new Regimental Chaplain, Captain E. B. Hoover, Chaplain, the formation dispersed into three denominational groups. It was with reluctance that the news was received that Chaplain Werts who had served the regiment so loyally and faithfully since its activation, was transferred to Division Headquarters as Assistant Division Chaplain, although all were happy to see him receive the promotion.
At 1330 hours on this date the Regimental S-3 with the Division G-3 met for a discussion of a new plan of attack of the II Corps known as the "Scramble Plan." This plan was based on a presumption that the 8th Army would be able to establish a shallow bridgehead in the vicinity of Florence, flanking the Arno River and causing the Germans to withdraw from its banks northward to the Gothic Line. The Division would execute a contemplated unopposed, or lightly opposed, crossing with a special combat team commanded by Brigadier General KENDALL, composed of the 349th Infantry Combat Team with additional engineers, tank and tank destroyers attached. The 350th and 351st Infantry Regiments would cross the river abreast, pass through the 349th Infantry at the bridgehead line, and continue northward to secure the Pestoria objective.
The 7th of August found the regiment actively engaged in river crossing exercises. Each battalion had selected a site within its allotted training area resembling the probable crossing site as nearly as possible. In spite of the fact that very little water existed in the stream beds chosen as training sites, organization commanders used initiative and ingenuity to make the training as realistic as possible. Each battalion had up to this time, accomplished one full scale daylight and one night river crossing exercise, employing all arms normally attached or in support of such an operation. In addition, indoctrination of new men and officers in the division standards continued. Refresher training for both new and old men was given. Discipline and courtesy were emphasized. Physical conditioning continued to be stressed along with the river crossing exercises. Marches over difficult mountainous terrain were being conducted by all organizations daily.
At 0815 hours, Major David H. Sadler, Regimental S-2, Captain Charles D. Edmonson, Assistant S-3 and Captain Sidell, Commanding Officer, Company C, 315th Engineers, departed for further reconnaissance of the forward Regimental Assembly area near the Arno river and terrain study as far as tactical situation would permit, of the banks of the river.
At 1900 hours, the Regimental S-3 attended a conference with the Division G-3 where detailed plans of the Pestoria and "scramble" plans were discussed. Mission, objectives, and boundaries were carefully explained to each Regimental representative. The fact that the 8th Army had not cleared the area to the south banks of the Arno, thereby preventing reconnaissance to the river bank for crossing sites, was discussed in detail. All regimental commanders with two staff officers were ordered to assemble at the Division Command post of the 2d New Zealand Division, now completing relief of the 8th Indian Division, for a coordination and completion of plans for the river crossing. The 2d New Zealand Division would screen our movement into assembly areas prior to the crossing.
At 0945 hours, Colonel Champeny, Major Hobson, S-3, and Major Sadler, S-2, met Brigadier General Kendall outside the 2d New Zealand Division Command Post for final instructions prior to meeting with the New Zealand Commanders. The fact that the 8th Army had promised to clear the south bank of the Arno was emphasized by General Kendall, with instructions that each Regimental Commander insist that the mission be accomplished as soon as possible.
Representatives of the 85th, 88th and 91st and the 2d New Zealand Divisions then assembled at 1000 hours. Major General Freyberg, Commanding General, 2d New Zealand Division, welcomed all, expressing great pride and satisfaction in being able to work with the American Divisions which had accomplished so much in Italy. Each of his Brigadiers then briefly pointed out the tactical dispositions of their respective Brigades, giving all information known of enemy dispositions. The Division Intelligence Officer revealed that the 26th Panzer and the 29th Panzer Grenadier Divisions were occupying the proposed zone of action of our II Corps.
Brigadier General Kendall, representing our Division Commander, expressed sincere desire that the Germans be cleared from the south bank of the river in our sector, in order that the necessary reconnaissance for crossing sites be made. With the Germans occupying strong points along the railroad track from 1000 meters to 2500 meters south of the river such reconnaissances were an impossibility.
General Freyberg in closing the conference, promised that this mission would be accomplished without further delay and adjourned the meeting after directing that our regimental commanders confer with the Brigadiers occupying their proposed zones of action in order to discuss routes, attack positions, crossing sites, engineering reconnaissances, routes and movement to assembly areas, and plans for thinning out and later relieving New Zealand troops.
In conference with Brigadier Pleasants, Commander 5th New Zealand Brigade and his Brigade Major, Major Judd, such of these points as could be intelligently discussed with available information, were coordinated. Plans for another meeting at 1030 hours the next day, 9 August 1944, were made since the 5th Brigade planned extensive patrolling during the nights of 8/9 August to determine exact enemy strength and dispositions south of the river.
At 0940 hours, this date, Lieutenant Colonel Franklin P. Miller, Commanding Officer, 913th Field Artillery Battalion, visited the command post with the information that his battalion was now in receipt of six new towed 3" guns, a valuable addition to the fire power of his organic 12 105mm howitzers. At 1300 hours, final coordination in assignment of Arno assembly areas were completed with assignments to Captain Nelson, Commanding Officer, Company C, 760th Tank Battalion and Captain Chandler, Commanding Officer Company C, 804th Tank Battalion (Combat Team attachments).
AT 1300 hours, 9 August 1944, 1st Lt. Gillen departed for the Headquarters of the 5th New Zealand Brigade to act as liaison officer with that organization. The 5th New Zealand Brigade now occupied the zone assigned this regiment for the execution of a crossing of the Arno River. Since the Germans had not yet been driven north of the Arno, it was particularly important that this regiment be kept informed of the progress of the New Zealanders in accomplishing this mission in order that our reconnaissance parties could reach the banks of the Arno for reconnaissance of crossing sites.
During the day, the Regimental Commander, Colonel Champeny, and Regimental S-2, Major Sadler, visited the scene of the battle of Laiatico (terminated 13 July 1944--greatest victory of the regiment). German defensive positions were examined and found to be much more extensively prepared than was ever anticipated-German automatic weapons emplacements were well camouflaged, had extensive observation and fields of fire--some containing overhead cover for gunners. The number of such emplacements was appalling. The victory of the Battle of Laiatico gained magnitude when one examined the extensively prepared German positions and their observation upon our movements as well as the great quantities of abandoned German equipment and material.
At 1030 hours 10 August 1944, notification was received that our movement to an assembly area south of the Arno, scheduled to begin 11 August had been delayed one additional day allowing more time to complete final preparations for the river crossing operation.
Upon study of aerial photographs of the zone assigned to the regiment for the river crossing, the banks of the Arno were seen to be steep enough to require a climbing aid. Consequently, the 313th Engr. Bn developed several means of negotiating steep banks to facilitate and expedite the movement of troops. These developments were displayed for the Regimental Commander to select those considered desirable. Included in the display was a knotted rope with a grappling hook attached to one end, rope ladders, a steel ladder, and a collapsible wooden ladder. After careful study, it was decided that the rope without the grappling hook would be satisfactory for our use. The other aids were too bulky for use of fast moving infantry assault troops.
On 11 August 1944, the regiment was notified that the movement into the assembly area south of the Arno preparatory to forcing a crossing, had been postponed indefinitely. This order had come from Headquarters Allied Armies of Italy.
At 1145 hours, Lt. Gillen, Liaison Officer with the 5th New Zealand Brigade reported to the Command Post with information that the New Zealanders had pushed forward during the night, eliminated small pockets of enemy resistance and established outpost near the south river bank. Upon receipt of this information, the 3d Bn, S-2, and Bn "Ranger Platoon" leader, and 3d Bn company executive officers were dispatched with Lt. Gillen to the 23rd NZ Bn (5th NZ Bde) to make reconnaissances along the south bank of the Arno, cross the river if possible, and pick possible crossing sites. The New Zealanders would provide necessary protection for these officers to assure that none were captured.
At 1400 hours 12 August, all officers attended an interesting conference and demonstration on "booby traps" given by Capt. Sidell, CO Co "C'', 313th Engr Bn. Prior to the instruction period, the assembly area was quite well booby-trapped by men of Co "C'', 313th Engrs with blasting caps. As a result, as the officers began to take their seats quite a stir was created. After several of the caps had been exploded, it was with great difficulty that Capt. Sidell was able to convince the officers that the area was clear for a continuation of the conference.
On 13 August, the regiment was notified to recall all reconnaissance parties from the Arno river. This was done with reluctance on our part due to the fact that the delay in driving the Germans across the river had caused our reconnaissance of the riverline to be incomplete. Major David H. Sadler, S-2, who left earlier in the day to check the progress of the reconnaissances and he himself attempt to cross the river, was ordered at 1700 hours to assemble the parties and return to the command post at Montignoso.
While on patrol on the south bank of the Arno, Lt . Alfred Trubenbach, executive officer of Co "G", stepped on a "Schu mine". In spite of the fact that he was evacuated at once by New Zealand medical personnel, the effect of the mine was so great that he lost his life.
On 16 August, verbal warning orders were issued by Brigadier General Kendall that the regiment be prepared to move during the night to previously reconnoitered positions southwest of Empoli. However, training would continue as scheduled since the order at this time was quite indefinite. During the afternoon, the tension was relieved when Colonel McBride, Chief of Staff, called to inform the Regimental Commander that this movement had been postponed several days.
Training continued as directed by Training Manual 19, Headquarters 88th Division with emphasis on mountain training employing mules. Each communication section received practical training in dropping and picking up messages with artillery liaison planes. During the day, Colonel Champeny and Major Sadler again visited the battlefield of Laiatico for a further study of that action. The Counter-intelligence Corps detachment attached to the Division G-2 gave lectures during the day to all members of the regiment explaining the functions of the Counter-intelligence Corps and its relation to our combat operations in Italy.
At 0800 hours 18 August 1944, Lieutenant Colonel Walter B. Yeager reported to the Regimental Commander as the new Executive Officer replacing Lieutenant Colonel James H. Drake on rotation. Lieutenant Colonel Yeager is no stranger to this regiment as he commanded our 3d Battalion from the time of its activation until just prior to our departure overseas. His most recent duty was commander of the 3d Battalion, 349th Infantry, where he and his battalion made an excellent battle record.
The following directive was received from G-3; the 351st Infantry would 1-remain in present location in 5th Army Reserve, 2-maintain direct liaison with IV Corps, and 3-prepare to repel any enemy offensive action in IV Corps sector--plans for such action to be prepared in coordination with IV Corps.
Major Hobson, S-3, and Lt. Thomas, Liaison Officer, departed for the IV Corps Command Post where plans for the regiment under this new directive were discussed with the IV Corps G-3, Colonel Harrison. Three possible locations of enemy thrusts were designated by Colonel Harrison as places upon which counter-attack plans would be based. Lt. Thomas remained at the Corps Command Post for direct liaison with this regiment.
On 17 August 1944, all men of the regiment enthusiastic all: received a press release to newspapers at home giving the Italian battle history of the 351st Infantry--the first regiment in Italy to receive such a distinction. "The 351st Infantry Regiment," the release read, "commanded by Colonel Arthur S. Champeny, of Wellington, Kansas, is one of General Clark's Fifth Army units that played a major part in the recent offensive which drove the Germans from the Garigliano to the Arno River, it was revealed today.
Part of the 88th Infantry Division, the first selective service infantry division to come overseas in World War II, the 351st was the first element of that division to enter combat. Its 2d Battalion was initially committed in the Gassino area during the latter part of February. Early in March, the entire regiment went into line in the Minturno-Tufo sector. Its most recent action was the capture of San Romano and adjacent high ground south of the Arno, battles which except for a brief rest period culminated almost continuous marching or combat from the Garigliano.
From March until 11 May, the 351st conducted aggressive patrolling in the Minturno sector. It participated in the great Fifth Army assault of 11 May, and three days later it had taken the important objective of Santa Maria Infante, a key enemy bastion.
Swinging west from that point, the regiment seized Mount La Civita the following morning in an overland movement so swift that an entire German mountain artillery battery and mule train were captured. The mules were utilized by the 351st in carrying supplies in the subsequent action which found the regiment operating in some of the most rugged terrain in Fifth Army's sector.
Fighting through mountains, the 351st as part of the 88th Division cut the Itri-Pico road, a vital enemy lateral link, and later seized the town of Itri after a brisk fight. Continuing as part of the Fifth Army's advance over the mountains, the regiment next seized Mount Passignano. It now had its first rest--three days as Corps reserve.
It then relieved a regiment of an adjacent division, and cleaned out patrols and pockets of resistance which were harassing the left flank of Fifth Army's French forces in the Sezze area.
This was followed by a motor movement to Nettuno where the regiment was held in Army reserve. Incidentally, this was the unit's first motor movement since the start of the offensive. Its fighting had been in rugged terrain, typical mountain warfare, with the infantry marching on foot all the way .
The stay at Nettuno was brief, merely a matter of hours, and the 351st relieved another infantry regiment, and with other units, was given the mission of cutting Highway 6 east of Collona. It accomplished this with the same dispatch that had characterized all of its action, and headed west for home. Passing through Rome, the 88th Division with the 351st in the lead continued its northward advance, and on 5 June, the regiment severed an important enemy lateral road some fifteen miles north of the Eternal City. The 2d and 3d Battalions were then attached to two task forces.
The 351st Infantry Regiment went into a rest area south of Rome about the middle of June, and early in July was inspected by Secretary of War, Henry L. Stinson, during his visit to Fifth Army.
Returning to combat in the Montecatini sector on 7 July, the 351st took up its efficient defeat and pursuit of the enemy. It won a singular victory at Laiatico on 13 July. Here, in a well-executed night attack, the regiment wrested the key defensive position from the enemy, capturing 400 prisoners in the process.
From there, the regiment as part of the Division fought its way north, participating in the capturing of Mont ecchio. On 16 July, it took Montefoscoli, and the following day, Partino fell. One after another, villages and terrain features in the 35lst's sector were taken. The capture of San Romano on 25 July, after bitter street and house to house fighting, brought the regiment along with other Fifth Army troops, to the south bank of the Arno River.
In addition to being the Division's first regiment to enter combat, the 351st was the first regiment to arrive overseas, the first to arrive in Italy, the first to have a DSC awarded, and the first to receive a battlefield promotion.
Colonel Champeny, the regiment's aggressive commanding officer, was graduated from Washburn College, Topeka, Kansas. He served overseas in the first World War, during which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre.
As a result of his outstanding service in the present campaign, he has been awarded a cluster to the Distinguished Service Cross, Legion of Merit, Croix de Guerre, and has received the Purple Heart and two clusters.
He joined the 351st Infantry Regiment at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, on 25 July 1942. Exactly two years later the regiment captured San Romano.
Colonel Champeny's foreign service included a tour of duty in China where he served under General Stilwell. He also served in Hawaii as assistant deputy chief of staff to Lieutenant General Delos C. Emmons, commanding the Hawaiian Department. Colonel Champeny was at Schofield Barracks when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
On the 24th of August 1944, because of the unfortunate illness of Major General Sloan, Brigadier General Kendall, Assistant Division Commander, assumed command of the 88th Division. The loss of General Sloan was regretted by all. He had been the Division Commander since the activation of the 88th Division at Camp Gruber, July 15, 1942, and his brilliant and enthusiastic leadership contributed greatly to the high standard of efficiency and to the many successes of this division.
Having Brigadier General Kendall as the new Division Commander was welcomed by all officers and men of this regiment, for he had gained the reputation of being a "fighting, front line General". In the most serious situations, General Kendall always appeared in the front line and was a great source of encouragement to all.
On 25 August 1944, a new training memorandum from Division headquarters was received. New training hours were specified-morning training from 0730-1130, and afternoon training 1330-1630 hours. Supervised athletics could be scheduled the last two hours of the day. When scheduled, athletics would be fully organized and would provide for participation of all personnel available.
During the week beginning 28 August, each Infantry battalion would conduct a battalion mountain combat team problem of 24 hours duration. All supply during the course of the problem would be by mules and pack board. In these problems battalion commanders would experiment on organization of "stream-lined" battalion mountain combat teams giving consideration to what personnel and equipment could be spared in mountain operations in order to reduce supply problems.
On 27 August 1944, the regiment together with the attached Italian Pack Mule Co assembled on the 1st Battalion ball park for a retreat parade--the first since arrival overseas. The 29 piece Japanese band of the 442nd Japanese Regiment provided music for the occasion. Brigadier General Kendall, recently designated as Division Commander of the 88th Division during the sickness of Major General Sloan was the principal guest. General Kendall stated that the smartness, snap, and precision of our soldiers was excellent. He was especially pleased with the enthusiasm and fine military appearance of the Italian Pack Mule Company.
At 1400 hours 26 August, Colonel Champeny and Major Hobson attended a meeting at Division Headquarters with the new Division Commander, Brigadier General Kendall. The new Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Ramey, was introduced to all present. In his opening remarks, General Kendall stated that it was his aim to maintain the standards and reputation of the 88th Infantry Division. Improvement in saluting, discipline, and wearing of the uniform were stressed. Particular attention would be given to anti-malaria control as nine new malaria cases within the division had been reported. Referring to a map, General Kendall explained briefly the II Corps Bologna Plan of attack in which the 91st Division and the 34th Division on the left would attack with a line of departure across the Arno river east of Florence. The 88th Division would follow the 91st Division in the attack and be prepared to pass through and continue the attack. II Corps had been placed on a 96 hour alert by Headquarters Allied Armies of Italy. Major General Keyes, II Corps Commander, had stated that the watchwords for the coming offensive would be speed, aggressiveness, maneuver, and smooth passage of lines. No strongpoints would be attacked frontally but would be flanked or by-passed.
General Kendall concluded his meeting with a warning to all that Florence was "off limits" except to those holding passes issued by II Corps Provost Marshal. If and when the Division passed through Florence, no command post or installation of any sort would be established therein.
On 30 August 1944, Brigadier General Ramey, Assistant Division Commander, spent the day with the Regiment, visiting all battalions to inspect training. Company problems and battle drill were observed in the 2d Battalion area. The 1st Battalion was observed as it departed at 1300 hours for a 24 hour battalion problem being conducted over mountainous terrain between our present location and Mt. Nero. This problem was written so that contact with the enemy out post line would be made one hour before darkness with a continuation of the attack no earlier than one hour before daylight. Resupply of troops would be entirely by mule. Radio silence would be maintained and wire would be carried by mule. Between 1700 and 1800 an artillery liaison plane would drop and pick up messages from the battalion. The enemy detail consisted of Co "C" 313th Engrs, who would use blank ammunition and explosive charges extensively to enhance the tactical realism of the problem.
At 1900 hours this date, Lt. Thomas, Liaison Officer with IV Corps, reported to the Command Post with Field Order #8, Headquarters IV Corps. Under this order IV Corps would follow up an enemy withdrawal at any time after a II Corps attack, cross the Arno river, capture Pisa, secure Corps phase line running generally eastward through Pisa, and protect the left flank of the 5th Army. D Day and H Hour would be announced 24 hours in advance.
At this time, from the United States, was received a copy of a press release written by Eve Curie, daughter of the prominent French scientist, Madame Curie, who had visited our combat command post during the July offensive. Although this article was delayed in reaching the regiment, it was received with interest and enthusiasm. "I am back from a visit to our American neighbors of the 88th Division," Lieutenant Curie of the Volontaires Francaises wrote, "which has been fighting for so many weeks on the left flank of the French Corps. From French Headquarters to the American sector, the distance is not great. For some reason, however, one seldom takes those lateral trips behind lines, unless one has a liaison mission to perform. Going to an Allied Division's territory, to the right or to the left, is like travelling to a foreign land."
"We reached the command post of the regiment installed a few hours before, and for a few hours previous to that in a half-demolished house. With the colonel and the younger members of his staff, was Major General John N. Sloan himself. A short, wiry divisional commander whose sunburnt face and light, amazingly keen eyes immediately suggest dynamic action. He stood on the balcony of this excellent observation post."
"He looked through field glasses at the villages of Partino and Palaia on a hill facing us. They were only recently in American hands. Groups of enemy snipers still infested the slopes that were being cleaned up by one of the battalions. I stood there motionless with the two French correspondents whom I had brought with me on this trip. Having finished what he had to do, the general took off his helmet and his glasses. Meantime, somebody had told him my name."
"At once he greeted me charmingly in his quick, animated manner. 'Hello, welcome to you--I am glad to see you here. So you French came to visit the old 88th? You know, we like to think of ourselves as "American Goums" --because of the historical march of ours, across mountains in the first days of the May offensive. People said we couldn't make it. We did.' Before leaving the room, he added: 'Go and see my regimental commanders. They are the finest officers I know. Talk to them. Ask them what they think of the French. No, you cannot get to the battalion positions--not by daylight, at least. The going is hard, the Germans are putting up a stiff resistance. Come dine with me at headquarters after you are through. '"
"Without taking off the thick coat of dust that covered our faces, which whitened our hair and eyelids, we had a quick lunch with Colonel Arthur S. Champeny of Wellington, Kansas, who commands a regiment. A veteran of the last war, he won the Legion of Honor in France on the Vosges battlefields. This strong, quiet man has been with his division since it was reactivated July 15, 1942.
"A few more miles on the road and we stopped at a house in another Italian village. In a dilapidated room, the command post of the regiment, five men in tired uniforms, carry on a quiet, attentive conversation. One of them who bends over a map is Lieutenant Colonel Joseph B. Crawford, the youngest colonel of this division. He is entirely concentrated on his task. He looks like a student. But he is also a strong fellow who can march twenty miles without being tired, work nights, and go without food. Before coming to this division, he got the Distinguished Service Cross from President Roosevelt for his achievements in the Tunisian campaign."
"His regiment is the one which protected the left flank of the French Corps from May 21 to May 29 during the difficult progression across Mounts Ausoni and Lepini. In the boldly advanced positions, they had to win together or fail together. They won."
"We have learned many things from the French," he said. "For instance, we learned to use artillery power en masse; also how to progress in very rough country and to fight always on the heights." There is not such time, however, for conversation. There is fighting to be done this day. The colonel calls one of his battalion commanders on his field telephone as we slip out."
"Our jeep covers one more mile. Now we are with another regiment, one that fought alongside the French at the start of the Garigliano offensive. The reception we receive at this command post gives me an idea of what my two French friends and myself must look like under our crust of dust. As we enter the house, one third of which was annihilated a few hours ago by a shell that killed one officer and wounded three enlisted men, somebody looks at us with interest and says: 'Are these the three German prisoners?'"
"When we say 'No', we feel there is a genuine disappointment among these Americans who were eagerly awaiting freshly captured prisoners of war to collect valuable information. They had expected enemies and we were only friends."
"Colonel George C. Fry, who was out on reconnaissance, then entered the command post. He talked with us awhile, sipping coffee and munching green prunes. We heard of Monte Calvo where the battalions were attacked on the flanks, where rations, medical supplies, ammunition, had to dropped by parachutes; the colonel gave us figures of casualties-heavy ones-and told us of the amazing width of fronts that at times this regiment had to hold by itself. "
"And he spoke of the French in direct words indeed. 'Why do I like fighting with the French? I will tell you. Because they are always there. When I am told they will advance up to such and such a line, on my right, I just know they will get to that line at the assigned time. I don't have to worry for my own doughboys. There is nobody I would rather fight with, than your people.’”
"It just so happens that I spent the last few days with Moroccan troops and with Tabors' Moroccan Goums--with the very officers and men who fought alongside General Sloan's 88th. It can be said in complete truth that the prodigious march of the 88th from Garigliano to Rome to Volterra, is something which has filled with respect--everybody in the French Expeditionary Corps. Our liaison officers with the 88th keep on mentioning the American outfit as 'their division'. "
This month spent in the hills of Tuscany, south of Florence, was of great value to the men of the regiment. The officers and men were rested, morale was excellent, and the "fighting spirit of the 351st Infantry'' had returned to the battle weary veterans and was instilled in the new replacements. The training program was extensive and valuable. The 351st Infantry was ready and anxious to join the offensive to annihilate the German Armies of Italy.
Colonel, 351st Infantry