HISTORY OF THE 351ST INFANTRY REGIMENT FOR THE MONTH OF

December 1944

Submitted: 

9 January 1945

Attachments: 

          Throughout the month of December 1944, and since 10 November 1944, the 351st Infantry Regiment occupied defensive positions in the static situation some eight miles Southeast of Bologna. The terrain held included the bitterly fought for objectives of the 34th and 85th Divisions during the Fifth Army advances following the penetration of the main Gothic Line positions in the months of September and October. From our forward observation posts, Bologna, The Observatory at the University of Bologna, stretches of Highway 9, and bridges along this highway can be seen. The valley of the Po on a sunny day is clearly in view while the Italian Alps, snow covered and brilliantly white, can be seen across the valley. Thus the month of December, ending a period of over two hundred days of combat, found the 351st Infantry Regiment once more in defensive operations, a tactical situation similar to the one initiating them to combat at Cassino, 27 February 1944, and at the Garigliano sector near Minturno early in March 1944.

 

          Activity during the December period can best be described in the hackneyed and trite jargon of the news correspondent --"patrol clashes and artillery duels". But to the combat infantryman the month has meant sticking it out in the miserable weather, the mud, frequent artillery and mortar barrages, anti-personnel mines, and life on an Italian mountainside -best termed wretched. However, the men have not complained; and the issue of adequate winter clothing and footgear, and all other possible contributions to what little comfort they might enjoy, has had a good effect. The liberal quotas of passes to Rome, Florence, and Montecatini Terme were extremely beneficial. These brief interludes out of artillery and mortar range were of inestimable value. In addition to these passes each battalion was relieved once during the month and sent to Montecatini Terme for a period of four days.

 

          Patrolling throughout the period was aggressive and provided an excellent opportunity for new men and officers to gain valuable experience. Enemy artillery fire was heavy and reports of up to seven hundred and fifty rounds in thirty minutes are on record. All concerned are aware of the fact that the Wehrmacht in Italy is not running short on artillery and mortar ammunition; however, our counter-battery and counter-mortar program under the direction of Regimental s-2, Captain Charles D. Edmonson, and the Regimental Artillery Liaison Officer, Captain John L. Corcoran, has done much to keep the Krauts busy frequently changing their gun and mortar positions. The effectiveness of counter-mortar fire has been recognized by the front line companies who received the bulk of enemy mortar fire; and, as a result, they have learned to report mortar flashes promptly. During the month the troops, many of them new to combat have learned much and present defensive operations have been their introduction to combat.

 

          Future operations of an offensive nature received much thought and planning in accordance with the memoranda from higher headquarters. The Regimental and Battalion Staffs spent much time in observation posts and in confer­ences. Maps, air photos, and oblique photos were studied diligently and thorough reconnaissances made for possible supply routes, assembly areas, routes of advance, and posi­tions for supporting weapons. Two objectives were assigned to the Regiment by Field Order #14, Headquarters 88th Infantry Division, 5 December 1944 --a hill immediately in front of the right forward Battalion known as Hill 363 and further to the North the feature Poggio Scanno. As time passed variations were made and phase lines were introduced. The Corps plan did not contemplate the seizure of distant objectives. Each Battalion was required to prepare attack plans and made all necessary reconnaissances. Particular emphasis was placed on maximum initial surprise as set forth in the Corps directive. Consequently, the artillery plan did not include preparatory fires prior to H hour and thereafter only on call available to the Regimental and Battalion Commanders. In addition to artillery concentrations on the objective all 81mm mortars, chemical mortars, and Infantry Howitzers within and attached to the Regiment were registered on all known enemy mortar positions within the Regimental sector and would fire simultaneously with any artillery fire called for on the objective. All plans were written up with accompanying overlays and were submitted to the Acting Chief of Staff, G-3, 88th Infantry Division for approval. Major Victor W. Hobson, Jr., Regimental Operations Officer, coordinated all plans with those of the 350th Infantry on the· right and the 168th Infantry on the left. In addition to so-called "routine patrols", reconnaissance patrols were instructed to seek routes of approach to enemy positions. By careful expenditure of mortar and artillery ammunition a reserve was built up on positions. As the month wore on the date for the attack was postponed frequently and by the end of the month with the small German offensive in the IV Corps sector the postponement became indefinite.

 

          Training during the month was pushed as vigorously as the tactical situation would permit. A small arms range was set up in a draw behind the reserve battalion and new weapons were fired. Many new men who were armed with weapons they had not fired had an opportunity to zero their weapons. Technical training with the Infantry weapons; mechanical functioning, stoppages, immediate action, care and cleaning received emphasis in view of previous experience within the Regiment of weapons failure. The training of non-commissioned officers was stressed by the Regimental Commander, Colonel Arthur S. Champeny; and examinations for promotions to fill vacancies were conducted by the Regimental Executive Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Walter B. Yeager.

 

          Care of the feet required constant attention and supervision. Daily massage of the feet and exchange of socks prevented trench feet. During the month no cases were reported -a record unequaled in the Fifth Army for December. The disease rate for the month was the lowest in the Division. On the other hand casualties from enemy fire was higher than that of the other two regiments.

 

          First Lieutenant John C. Clancy, while taking men of Company G in trucks for showers, was killed by enemy artillery fire, 7 December 1944. First Lieutenant Wilson G. Weisert of Company L, leading a patrol on the night of 7/8 December 1944, set off an enemy mine near Casa Collina (935327). Lieutenant Weisert lost his left foot and three men were wounded by the explosion. On the night of 22/23 December 1944, a patrol led by Second Lieutenant Timothy W. Healey of Company G, set off an "S-mine" east of the Collina position and one man was killed and three wounded including the patrol leader. Lieutenant Colonel Walter B. Yeager was seriously wounded 15 December 1944, near Monte Della Formiche, by artillery fire. The loss of Lieutenant Colonel Yeager is a blow to the Regiment. Having joined the Regiment as Regimental Executive Officer in August, Lieutenant Colonel Yeager had won many friends who respect him highly and wish him a speedy and complete recovery from his misfortune. Lieutenant Colonel Franklin P. Miller joined the Regiment on 16 December 1944 as Lieutenant Colonel Yeager's successor. Lieutenant Colonel Miller formerly commanded the 913th Field Artillery Battalion, part of the Regimental Combat Team, and has been with the 88th Infantry Division since its activation, 25 July 1942.

 

          Section 3, General Orders Number 188, Headquarters Fifth Army, dated 20 December 1944, cited the Third Battalion, 351st Infantry for "outstanding performance of duty in action" The Battalion is awarded citation streamers and individuals assigned or attached are entitled to wear the distinguished unit badge to identify such action. The action for which the Battalion was cited was the Battle of Laiatico, Italy, 9th to 13th July, 1944.

 

          Many distinguished callers visited the Regimental Commander. The II Corps Commander, Major General Geoffrey Keyes stopped by 22 December 1944 and had lunch with Colonel Champeny. General Bolte, 34th Infantry Division Commander made a call 8 December 1944. Both the Divisional Commander and Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier Generals Kendall and Sherman, visited the Regiment frequently.

 

          Christmas, 1944, was merely another day in combat for the majority of the Regiment; however, there were some members who were fortunate enough to be on pass at Rome, Florence, or Montecatini. Christmas Day marked the Regiment's two hundredth day in combat since February 27, 1944. In those two hundred days, the 351st Infantry has proved by its consistent aggressive action against the enemy that it is an outstanding Regiment. Those within its ranks can be justly proud to be members of a splendid fighting organization --the 351st Infantry Regiment.

 

         

          ARTHURS. CHAMPENY

          Colonel, 351st Infantry

          Commanding.

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