HISTORY OF THE 351ST INFANTRY REGIMENT FOR THE MONTH OF
4 August 1944
As the month of July began, the officers and men of the 351st Infantry Regiment were again engaged in a strenuous training end conditioning program in preparation for our return to the fighting front. Efforts to imbue all new officers and men with the traditional fighting spirit of the 351st Infantry appeared successful and the esprit of the regiment was high. All were filled with the desire to destroy the German Army of Italy and to liberate the portion of northern Italy still held by the enemy.
At 0900 hours, 1 July 1944, Major R. A. Cheeks S-3, 760th Tank Battalion, and Captain Nelson, Commanding Officer, Company C, same organization, visited the command post for a discussion of Tank-Infantry-Artillery coordination--a subject which was to be stressed during the remainder of the training period of the regiment while out of the "line". An intensive study was to be made of this subject in order to improve liaison, cooperation and coordination between Tanks, Infantry and Artillery. Field problems involving the battalion in attack, supported by one company of tanks and one battery of artillery, were planned. Communications between the company commander of the tank company and the infantry battalion commander were to be stressed. Plans were drawn up whereby the welding of a bracket on the rear turret of a medium tank and SCR 300 radio could be installed thereon, providing a rapid and easy means of communication between the Infantry battalion and the tank company. In addition, a tank liaison officer with an SCR 508 radio mounted in a light tank would accompany the battalion commander. Through these means, the tank commander would be able to keep abreast of the tactical situation as well as the tactical disposition of troops, enabling him to function effectively and efficiently.
During the morning, Lieutenant Colonel Treseder, Division Signal Officer, visited the command post for a discussion of the improvement of Infantry-Tank communications, from the point of view of a communications officer, and the development of more efficient communications between elements of the regimental command net during active combat operations. The pressing need of a simple telephonic code and the training of officers in the use of radio and radio security were discussed. The high percentage of killed and wounded American radio operators during the campaign was discussed as trained operators had become a critical item due to the difficulty of securing replacements.
At 1000 hours, Lieutenant Gelston-Gelles who had served the regiment with distinction during the campaign 12 May to 15 June 1944 as prisoner of war interrogator, reported to the command post with the notification that he had been transferred to the 91st Infantry Division, as Division Interrogator. The transfer of Lieutenant Gelston-Gelles was definitely a loss to the regiment, since through his untiring efforts, the regimental S-2 had been constantly supplied with information concerning enemy troops opposing this regiment in combat. As a reward for his fine service with the regiment, he had been awarded the Bronze Star. 1st Lieutenant Ruopp, the new prisoner of war interrogator who accompanied Lieutenant GelstonGelles to the command post was introduced to all members of staff.
Sunday, 2 July 1944 was the first holiday for this regiment in many weeks. Chaplain Werts, Chaplain Beyenka, and Chaplain Thompson conducted church services in each battalion area and reported an unusually large attendance. At 1045 hours, Brigadier General Kendall, Assistant Division Commander visited the command post for a discussion of training to be conducted by the regiment prior to its re-entry into combat. He expressed satisfaction with the training now being conducted and with that planned for the future.
During the day of 3 July 1944, the strenuous training program was continued. It was of vital importance that the many replacements which had been received by the regiment, be indoctrinated with the standards of the 351st Infantry, and the state of their training improved to the extent that the regiment could continue its success in battle. During the afternoon, Lieutenant Colonel La Motte, G-1, 88th Infantry Division, visited the command post for a discussion with the regimental commander of the number, type and suitability of replacements being received in this regiment.
On 4 July 1944 a holiday celebration was held in the Piazza Venetia, Rome, where the flag which had flown over our national capitol in Washington, during the Pearl Harbor incident and at the time of the Declaration of War with Germany, was unfurled over the first conquered Axis capitol. This incident was of particular interest to the men of this regiment due to the fact that troops of our 1st battalion were the first Infantry to enter the Eternal City. It was the hope and determination of all, that this regiment be instrumental in causing the same flag to fly over the city of Berlin.
No formal celebration was held within the regiment due to the necessity of completing our final phase of training prior to combat. At 1630 hours on this date an order was received from the division commander, cancelling all passes and alerting the regiment for movement into the active combat zone.
On the 5th of July 1944, word was received that Mr. Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, would make an official visit to the division on the following day. Our regiment was designated as the host organization and plans for the reception were immediately undertaken. Since Mr. Stimson's plane was scheduled to land at the Tarquinia air field, some 2 1/2 miles from the regimental bivouac area, that location was selected for the ceremonies.
During the morning, 1st battalion with company "C", 760th Tank Battalion and "A" battery, 913th Field Artillery Battalion, attached, executed an Infantry-Tank-Artillery problem which had been prepared by Captain Edmonson, Acting S-3. Major Edwin L. Shull acted as chief umpire. Dummy bunkers had been constructed, with wrecked German Vehicles placed within the combat area to be used as bazooka and tank targets. Major General Sloan, Brigadier General Kendall, Brigadier General Kurtz, and Colonel Jacobson (Division Artillery Executive Officer) were present to observe the execution of the problem. All expressed satisfaction with the administrative set-up of the problem, tactical solution of Captain Reid, (Acting Battalion Commander) and the performance of troops, tanks, and artillery in carrying out their respective functions. In the critique of the problem, Captain Reid was criticized for ordering the tanks to support the infantry instead of having them precede or accompany the infantry-their normal and logical function.
At 1230 hours, 6 July 1944, the regiment was formed with battalions in line on the Tarquinia Air Field, to receive the Secretary of War, Mr. Henry L. Stimson. At 1445 hours, four fighter planes swooped low over the field, acting as harbingers of the arrival of Mr. Stimson. Several seconds later, the big transport bearing the Secretary of War gracefully settled to the ground, coming to a halt in the center of the troops drawn up smartly to attention by Colonel Arthur S. Champeny, Regimental Commander. The Call of Colors was blown as Mr. Stimson stepped from the plane. After the troops were presented to the Secretary of War, he inspected the lines in a "jeep" distinguished by four stars, and flying the red colors of the secretary of War. Lieutenant General Mark Clark, and Major General John E. Sloan accompanied him on the inspection. Following Mr. Stimson in another "jeep" were Mr. Patterson, Under Secretary of War, Major General Surles, Army Chief of Public Relations, Major General Kirk, the Surgeon General, Major General Keyes, II Corps Commander, Major General Coulter, Commanding General, 85th Division, and Major General Livesey, Commanding General, 91st Division.
Immediately following the tour of inspection, Mr. Stimson was introduced by General Clark. "I have come a long way to see this sight," he said, "and it was worth coming." "The people back home have followed your course on the road to Rome with pride and admiration." "You need have no fear your countrymen will welcome you home with the heartiest of good will and the greatest of gratitude". "In Italy the thrill of victory is in the air everywhere."
Following the ceremonies, General Sloan introduced Colonel Champeny to Mr. Stimson as the "best Colonel of the best regiment of the best division of the United States Army"-a singular honor well-deserved.
Company "I" acted as Guard of Honor for this occasion, and the regimental colors flew the streamer signifying that at least 65% of the regiment had been awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge.
Immediately following the return from the inspection area, the movement of the regiment to the vicinity of Pomerance, Italy began. The regimental command post in the vicinity of Tarquinia closed at 1850 hours.
After a motor march of 165 miles, the regiment closed in its bivouac area northwest of Pomerance at 0915 hours, 7 July 1944. At 1300 hours, the regimental commander and S-3 met with commanding general at the Division Command Post located in an olive grove near Pomerance. Oral orders were received for a division attack to be launched at 0400 hours, 8 July 1944. The 350th Infantry would displace under cover of darkness to an assembly area, 2000 yards northwest of Saline; attack to the northeast and capture the hill mass 1000 yards northwest of Cipriano. The 349th Infantry would launch an attack from present positions to the northeast, by-pass the town of Volterra, and capture the high ground 1000 yards north of Volterra; this, together with the 350th Infantry, cutting all avenues of escape from this city bastion, which gave the appearance of another Cassino. The 351st would, after capture of objectives by 349th and 350th Infantry Regiments, attack to the north, making the main effort of the division, and capture the high ground in the vicinity of Palaia. Our regiment would make "the long forward pass run", as expressed by General Clark.
Immediately upon return from his meeting with General Sloan, Colonel Champeny called a meeting of battalion commanders and S-3's at the command post to discuss the pending operations. Colonel Champeny reported a remark of Lieutenant General Clark to General Sloan that he hoped the 88th Division would spend its 2d Anniversary in Florence, Italy. Orders were given that gas masks be worn at all times during combat operations. The importance of by-passing heavy resistance and pocketing the enemy to avoid a stubborn fight and consequent heavy losses was stressed. Major Sadler, Regimental S-2, in his discussion of enemy information, stated that G-2 reports indicated an estimated 4000 fighting men in the Division zone of action. The principal known enemy organizations were the 26th Panzer Division, the 3d Panzer Grenadier Regiment with foot troops from the 162nd Infantry Division, and the 1027th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. To our immediate front, two battalions of self-propelled artillery had been reported. Recent fighting in this area had been chiefly between armored units and consequently, due to the rough terrain, was restricted to roads. The enemy had resorted to extensive anti-tank mining operations and demolitions to impede our progress. Very few anti-personnel mines had been located. The tactics of the enemy continued to be the utilization of small, strong, isolated pockets of resistance for delaying purposes only.
Beginning at 0100 hours 8 July 1944, the regiment moved to an assembly area, southwest of Montecatini. All elements closed prior to daylight with the command post established in an old power station. Cannon Company took up firing position near the 913th Field Artillery Battalion to support the attack of the 350th Infantry since our regiment was not to be committed initially. All men improved individual cover and concealment and rested. Only a few spasmodic rounds of enemy artillery fire were received during the day.
At 1030 hours a message was received that General Clark, the Army Commander, would arrive at the command post shortly-the message specifying that Lieutenant Noon, Commanding Officer, Company G, be present. At about 1100 hours, General Clark, with Major General Crittenberger, Commanding General, IV Corps, Major General Sloan, Commanding General, 88th Infantry Division, and Major Henry Cabot Lodge, ex-senator from Massachusetts, arrived. General Sloan formed the command post personnel into two ranks, placing Colonel Champeny and Lieutenant Noon a few paces to the front of the group. As the group stood at attention, Lieutenant Myers, Aide to General Sloan, read the following citation: "ARTHURS. CHAMPENY, (08264), Colonel, Infantry, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action, from 11-14 May, 1944, at Santa Maria Infante, Italy. On the night of 11 May 1944, Colonel CHAMPENY was commanding a regimental attack on an enemy hill position when the advance of one of his battalions was halted as a result of the loss of key commanders. Completely disregarding his own personal safety, Colonel CHAMPENY moved through lanes of heavy enemy fire to reach the battalion area where he assumed command, reorganizing the force and resumed the offensive. He directed this attack for more than three hours, moving from unit to unit, encouraging and inspiring his men. Later that night, he personally directed a company flanking attack which forestalled imminent enemy counterattacks. The same night, noticing two disabled tanks, Colonel CHAMPENY proceeded through an enemy mine field to reach the tanks and supervise their removal in order to allow other tanks to move forward in support of the advancing regiment. On the morning of 14 May 1944, Colonel CHAMPENY observed a German battery in position approximately 400 yards beyond the crest of a hill. Under direct enemy machine gun fire, he moved to a company position to lead an attack on the artillery position. Inspired by Colonel CHAMPENY, who stood boldly erect in the face of enemy machine gun fire, these men left the cover they had previously sought, overran the enemy artillery battery and killed or captured approximately 100 Germans. The completely fearless and selfless actions of Colonel CHAMPENY inspired his troops to assume an offensive spirit which led to the capture of Santa Maria Infante, and the crushing of the southern hinge of the Gustav line. Entered the military service from Oxford, Kansas."
General Clark then pinned the Distinguished Service Cross upon Colonel CHAMPENY, congratulating him heartily and stating that it was such leaders as he, who had made the American Army a great fighting organization.
Lieutenant Myers then read the following citation concerning Lieutenant Noon: "THEODORE W NOON, Jr., (0-1285480), First Lieutenant, Infantry, United States Army. For extraordinary heroism in action, on 12 and 13 May 1944, near Santa Maria Infante, Italy. While advancing in an attack, First Lieutenant Noon's company became pinned down by enemy fire. First Lieutenant Noon was severely wounded in both arms by machine gun fire; but in spite of his wounds he rushed an enemy pill box and singlehandedly knocked a machine gun out of action. During this engagement, he received several wounds on his face and head, but returned to his company and led his men forward to take the objective. Refusing to be evacuated for medical treatment, First Lieutenant Noon led his company in an attack against another enemy position. While making a personal reconnaissance, he was wounded in both legs by shell fragments. Again refusing aid, he ordered the officers with him, to return to the company and start the attack. In the last phase of the attack, First Lieutenant Noon had recovered sufficiently to lead his men forward in the assault. When the objective was taken, he personally supervised the reorganization of his company. Only upon the order of his superior officer did he allow himself to be evacuated for hospitalization. First Lieutenant Noon's courage under fire, his prodigious determination and his aggressive leadership were an inspiration to his men, and his heroic performance reflects the finest traditions of the Armed Forces of the United States. Entered military service from Belmont, Massachusetts."
General Clark praised Lieutenant Noon for his extraordinary heroism and personally promoted him to the grade of Captain on the spot, pinning on both the Distinguished Service Cross and the Captain's bars (furnished through the courtesy of Captain Meeks who happened to be at the command post at the time).
Although the conventional parade ground setting for the awarding of decorations was absent, it was appropriate that these two battle leaders were decorated but a short distance behind the battle lines, in the field. The ceremony was poignant and impressive as the tall Army Commander pinned this coveted award on the shirts of these two fighting soldiers before the Corps Commander and the Division Commander, who had come to pay them tribute.
At 1600 hours Brigadier General Kendall visited the command post reporting that both the 349th and 350th Infantry had met stubborn resistance. It was his opinion that 350th Infantry would reach its objective by dark. This regiment, as Division reserve, would not be allowed to begin its mission until both other regiments had taken their objectives. However, the 3d battalion was ordered to advance at 2200 hours and capture hill 191 some 5500 meters north of its assembly area to protect the left flank of the 350th by closing a small gap created by their advance.
At about 1800 hours, 2d battalion, 351st Infantry which had made a reconnaissance of high ground in the vicinity of the town of Montecatini, earlier that day, was ordered to_ relieve the 1st Armored Regiment (1st Armored Division) northwest of the town as soon as possible. 2d battalion moved at once to the vicinity of the town of Montecatini, since it was necessary to take a circuitous route with some countermarching to escape enemy observation.
At about 1930 hours, General Sloan visited the command post with final instructions. The regiment (minus 1st battalion) would attack at 0400 hours, 10 July 1944 in column of battalions (the 2d battalion echeloned to the left rear of the 3d battalion) and capture the Division objective-the high ground in vicinity of Palaia. The 1st battalion (motorized as Division reserve) would remain in present position. One company of Sherman tanks and one company of Tank Destroyers were attached to the regiment for this operation. The 91st Reconnaissance Squadron would protect the left flank of the regiment and maintain contact with the 34th Division until relieved by two platoons of the 88th Reconnaissance Troop charged with the same mission.
At 2200 hours, the regimental command post began displacement to a new location at Montecatini, near the command post of the 2d battalion. At 2330 hours, the 2d battalion reported that the relief of the armored elements had been completed. Since these elements were covering a very broad front, it was necessary for the 2d battalion to occupy positions on the commanding terrain only, in order that it might form easily for the attack at 0400 hours the next morning.
At 0110 hours, 9 July 1944, the 3d battalion reported that its objective had been reached, (hill 191) without meeting enemy resistance. At 0330 hours, the 2d battalion moved forward to close the gap between the 2d and 3d battalions. At 0400 hours, the 3d battalion attacked, as the 2d battalion continued its advance. When the "jeep" of the artillery Liaison Officer, Captain Corcoran, struck a mine on the trail north of Montecatini, (luckily injuring only one man, although the "jeep" was completely destroyed) the regimental command post group parked "jeeps" and joined on foot, the command post group of the 2d battalion.
The 2d battalion moved forward without resistance until its forward elements had reached hill 201 some 5000 meters north of Montecatini, where the advance was halted by heavy small arms, machine gun, artillery and sniper fire--the machine gun and sniper fire emanating from the left flank (slightly to the left rear). The artillery liaison officers, due to faulty radio sets, were unable to contact 913th Field artillery for supporting fires. By relay from the regimental SCR 300 set, to the 1st battalion, thence to the 913th Field Artillery Battalion, artillery fire was placed on enemy positions. In the meantime, the regimental command post group was busily engaged in digging slit trenches with tools available (spoons, bayonets, helmets) to afford protection from artillery, machine gun and sniper fire which was falling uncomfortably close. The regimental commander actively aided 2d battalion commanding officer in organizing the 2d battalion for continuation of the attack.
If the tanks attached to the regiment had been present at this time, this resistance could have been neutralized without delay. However, due to extensive mine laying of the enemy, the tanks were experiencing extreme difficulty in reaching the foreword areas having lost six tanks to mines. The regimental Anti-Tank mine platoon was accompanying the tanks, removing mines and expediting their progress as much as possible. However, it was late in the afternoon before they were able to overtake the Infantry, thus depriving the regiment of most valuable fire cover in a critical stage of the attack.
To reduce the enemy strongpoint on the left flank of the 2d battalion Company G was sent around the left flank, of moving slightly to the rear to execute the maneuver, while 88mm mortars of Company H placed accurate fire on enemy positions. Company G progressed satisfactorily, capturing about 30 prisoners killing approximately 6 enemy and completely destroying this enemy strongpoint which had succeeded in delaying the battalion about two hours. The regimental command post displaced 1000 meters to the east to a house on a ridge which, although somewha1 exposed, provided excellent observation of the terrain to our front.
During the first phase of this advance from Montecatini, 2d Lieutenant Jack B. Spangenburg, a platoon leader in Company E, was leading and directing his platoon in a small arms fight against several enemy snipers, when the company was subjected to a terrific artillery barrage. Lt. Spangenburg was mortally wounded by shrapnel from these shells as he exposed himself to continue the fire fight.
In the meantime, the 3d battalion had encountered resistance similar to that of the 2d battalion, but forged ahead to a hill near the locality of la Mendriola where, due to excellent enemy observation, the battalion was unable to advance further in daylight as large casualties would have resulted. At this time, the company commander of K company was severely wounded and Lieutenant Edward E. Tucker, an old officer of the regiment, began to move forward with his radio operator to assume command. As he reached the crest of the hill, a terrific artillery barrage killed both him and his radio operator.
The 2d battalion, after reorganization, reached ridge Colle al Asino by nightfall. The regimental commander made plans for the continuation of the attack at 2230 hours, but after a telephone conversation with General Sloan, temporarily suspended plans pending arrival at the regimental command post of the Assistant Division commander, General Kendall, with instructions. All battalions were alerted for an attack at any time during the night. At 0240 hours, 10 July 1944, 1st Lieutenant Bedie, Liaison Officer of this regiment with the 350tt Infantry, reported that the 350th Infantry was planning an attack at 0500 hours, 11 July. As a result, instructions were issued to 2d and 3d battalions to plan an attack at the same time. Since the Assistant Division Commander had not arrived at the command post, it was presumed that he had been unable to locate it during the night, and that the Division would probably launch a coordinated attack with both regiments. However, about 15 minutes prior to the set "jump-off" time, wire communications were reestablished with the Division command post and the regimental commander was ordered to hold in present positions due to a counter-attack threat which had developed on the Division left flank.
A Division Artillery Air Observation Post had reported enemy troops of approximately battalion strength detrucking in the zone of the 34th Division on our left flank, a dangerous threat due to the fact that the 34th had been unable to keep abreast. However, the expected counterattack did not materialize and the regiment was ordered at 0805 hours by the Division Commander to continue the attack at 0900 hours. Both assault battalions "jumped off" on time, but the 3d battalion, after an advance of 350 yards received very heavy resistance from prepared enemy positions on the ridge to it's front. Captain Glen H. Erickson, Commanding Officer of Company I, leading the assault of his battalion, was killed by artillery fire. The advance of the battalion was halted.
The 2d battalion was more successful in its attack, and advanced through fairly heavy resistance for 900 yards to a position on ridge 150, north of the town of Suciano, before meeting resistance from slopes of hill 214 just south of Laiatico. The hill mass upon which the town of Laiatico was located (hills 214 and 196) presented a serious obstacle to our advance since it provided excellent enemy observation along our entire front as well as offering excellent terrain advantages for a defensive position. At about 1100 hours, General Sloan visited the command post, remaining for approximately two hours. During that time, heavy artillery fire observed and adjusted from the regimental command post was placed on Laiatico by the artillery liaison officer. One company of chemical mortars, which had been attached to the regiment, began registering on the town of Laiatico. Under instructions of the Division Commander, smoke was placed upon the town by the chemical mortars followed by heavy artillery concentrations. The smoke screen deceived the Germans into believing that we were attacking, causing them to leave their cover to occupy forward positions where our heavy artillery concentrations were placed.
At 1720 hours, the 2d battalion again resumed the attack but were able to advance only 250 yards, suffering too many casualties to warrant continuing.
The 1st battalion which had moved by truck and marching to an assembly area in vicinity of Fecciano on 10 July, was ordered by the Commanding General to move at 0900 hours, 11 July, and seize the road junction southwest of Laiatico. Reconnaissance patrols were to be dispatched from that point to a road junction, 2500 meters to the northwest to gain contact with the 34th Division. The 1st battalion reached its objective without incident. The reconnaissance patrol which was dispatched at once, reached the designated road junction without contacting either the enemy or the 34th division. At about 1630 hours, 1st battalion from its position, was subjected to a counterattack by an estimated German company advancing under cover of artillery fire. Our artillery concentrations together with rifle and machine gun fire, repelled the counter-attack, inflicting about 25% casualties upon the enemy. During the day, plans were made by the regimental commander for an attack by the 1st battalion at 0800 hours 12 July to seize the town of Laiatico and the commanding ground in that vicinity. The 2d battalion and the 3d, would hold in present positions, while the 1st battalion flanked the town from the left. Brigadier General Kurtz, Division Artillery Commander, visited the Command post, to complete plans for artillery support for the attack. At 1930 hours Brigadier General Kendall visited the Command Post, studied and approved plans as made, and remained for the night.
The attack of the 1st battalion jumped off on time in column of companies, with company C in the lead moving just to east of the Laiatico road. After an advance of 500 yards, company C, , moving rapidly, was fired upon from both flanks by German machine guns. An enemy strongpoint had been penetrated, but due to heavy flanking machine gun fire, company C was unable to advance or exploit the penetration. The men of the company were widely dispersed and not under good control. The battalion commander then sent company B around the left flank of company C across the Laiatico road. However, the maneuver was not pushed and daylight found the battalion in the open ground on the western slopes of Laiatico hill mass under direct enemy observation. As daylight came, the enemy artillery fire increased in tempo and intensity. Due to the fact that the troops on our left were not abreast of our regiment, artillery fire was brought to bear on the 1st battalion from their left rear, a demoralizing direction; as well as from enemy gun areas just north of Laiatico. This artillery fire was deadly accurate due to the excellent enemy observation from Laiatico.
If the 1st battalion had pushed forward aggressively, instead of proceeding with undue caution, it is believed that the town of Laiatico and the high ground in the vicinity thereof, could have been taken in this attack. As it occurred, daylight came while the battalion was in positions which were under observation from the high ground in the vicinity of Laiatico. Sustained accurate artillery fire was placed upon the battalion all during the day, making any movement impossible.
On the 12 of July 1944, battalions reorganized and made reconnaissance of their respective areas studying the terrain to their immediate front. At 1500 hours, battalion commanders reported to the command post for orientation of terrain on the regimental front and discussion of plans for a night attack pursuant to a telephone conversation with Commanding General, 88th Infantry Division, about 1100 hours same day. The regimental Commander directed that as a tentative plan, subject to approval by higher headquarters, the 1st battalion would assemble in draws in rear of present position as a regimental reserve, reorganize, and protect the left flank of the regiment. The 2d battalion would make the main effort, seize hill 214 south of Laiatico, skirt the west edge of the town and continue to the high ground north of the town. The 3d battalion, which was to be relieved by elements of the 340 Infantry, would move to the left rear and follow the 2d battalion in the attack. After the capture of hill 214 by the 2d battalion, the 3d battalion would move to the right front and mop up the town, continuing northeast to capture high ground in that vicinity. Battalion commanders departed for their respective organizations to complete plans and wait for the "green light" from regiment. At about 1900 hours, a telephone message from the division commander was received to the effect that Brigadier General Kendall, Assistant Division Commander, was enroute to the command post with orders. Battalion commanders were immediately ordered to return to the regimental command post. At about 2100 hours Brigadier General Kendall arrived and orders were issued. The new plan was different from the original plan in that the regiment would attack, 2d battalion from the west, and 3d battalion from the east, instead of battalions in column. 1st battalion would have the same mission, i.e., to assemble in regimental reserve, protect the regimental left flank, and, in addition, be prepared to relieve either the 2d or 3d battalions on their first objective so that either might continue to the other regimental objective--the high ground north of Laiatico. The 2d battalion would attack generally northeast, seize hill 214, and continue the attack to capture Laiatico and hill 196 as the first objective. 3d battalion would attack to the northwest and seize the ridge projecting east of Laiatico as its first objective. Both assault battalions would be prepared to complete the regimental mission by moving north to capture the ridge running north from the town. The battalion to first accomplish its initial mission would be given the mission of taking the second objective. Company C, 760th Tank (medium) Battalion, was attached to the regiment for this operation in addition to Company E, 1st Armored Regiment (medium tank company) which had been supporting the regiment since the operation began. No artillery preparation was planned prior to H hour in order not to destroy the surprise effect. At H hours, three successive ten minute concentrations employing both light and medium artillery and chemical mortars were planned. The chemical mortars would fire two rounds of white phosphorous to each round of high explosive.
The attack was launched on time. The 3d battalion proceeded with greatest possible speed advancing on a relatively narrow front (column of companies) close behind the supporting artillery (fifty to one hundred yards at times), knifed into enemy defensive positions along the ridge running east from Laiatico, penetrating as far as the battalion command post of the 1st battalion, 1060th Grenadier Regiment. In the ensuing action, the Grenadier Battalion commander and Major Fabian, the German combat team commander, were killed by hand grenades thrown into the building used as the battalion command post. Confusion was so great among the Germans that over one hundred prisoners were taken without the loss of a single American soldier. By following so closely behind the artillery, the 3d battalion prevented the enemy from getting set in prepared defensive positions before our doughboys reached them. The 3d battalion continued moving rapidly up the ridge.
In the meantime, the attack of the 2d battalion was proceeding with similar success. Hill 214, which had proven to be an almost insurmountable obstacle in the daylight attack (due to the excellent observation and fields of fire of the German automatic weapons) was captured with comparative ease, and after mopping up, the 2d battalion continued the attack to seize hill 196, reaching the northern outskirts of the town at daylight. In this initial action, the 2d battalion captured one hundred forty German prisoners. By the time the 3d battalion had completed its mopping up operation, it had become daylight. Both battalions were then subjected to concentrated artillery fire as well as heavy fire from German automatic weapons in secondary defensive positions, but continued their efforts to press forward. The 1st Battalion was ordered to move northeast to a reserve position immediately in rear of the center of the assault battalions. During their move to this position, some 40 prisoners of war, which had been by-passed by the two assault battalions, were captured.
At about 0600 hours, the regimental command post displaced to the old 2d battalion command post, remained there for a short period of time, then displaced forward to a large German dugout just north of hill 214 on the south edge of Laiatico. During the day both battalions, continued to push forward employing attached tanks. The 2d battalion, due to the intense artillery and automatic weapons fire, was unable to advance beyond the northern outskirts of Laiatico. At 1300 hours, the 3d battalion launched an attack to the northwest but were halted after an advance of 800 yards. At this time, both assault battalions were ordered to reorganize and dig in. During the afternoon the town of Laiatico received the heaviest artillery bombardment ever experienced by any member of this regiment. Nebelwerfers together with artillery of many calibers were fired into the town from three directions; northeast, north and northwest. The hail of the artillery fire was incessant.
However, by the end of the day, when mopping up operations were completed, 420 prisoners, the largest haul made thus far by any regiment in the Division, had fallen into our hands.
Due to their inactivity and lack of aggressiveness in this operation the battalion commander and the executive officer of the 1st Battalion were relieved of command. Captain Williams was designated as the new battalion commander and Captain Lanzendorfer as his executive.
At 2400 hours, the attack was resumed with the 2d and 3d battalions abreast; the objective being the north end of the ridge running north-south from Laiatico. The 2d battalion advanced to the west of the road; 3d battalion east of the road. The 1st battalion moved to a reserve position around hill 104 prepared to repel a counterattack from any direction and provide security for the regimental flanks and rear. Both assault battalions advanced with little resistance reaching their objectives at 0300 hours. According to Division plan, upon the capture of this objective, the regiment was pinched out by the 349th Infantry which had moved into the gap between the 351st and the 350th Infantry Regiments.
The 13th day of July was spent in reorganizing and resupply by all elements. At 1100 hours, General Sloan visited the regimental command post and outlined plans for an attack tonight, in which one battalion of this regiment would aid the 349th Infantry. At about 1830 hours, Brigadier General Kendall visited the command post with final plans concerning tonight's objective. The 1st battalion would attack at 2400 hours on the left flank of the 349th Infantry seizing hill 142 to include the town of Montevecchio. The 3d battalion would follow the 1st battalion in the attack, protecting its left flank from attack and, upon completion of the capture of hill 172 near Montevecchio by 1st battalion, relieve the 1st battalion. Upon completion of the relief, the 1st battalion would be attached to the 349th Infantry. The 3d battalion would dispatch patrols in the direction of Peccioli. The 2d battalion would remain in its present position and protect the left flank of the division by holding the high ground in the vicinity of Laiatico.
The 1st battalion crossed its line of departure on time (2400 hours) 13 July 1944, and proceeded across country, without opposition, to the town of Montevecchio. The 3d battalion followed the 1st battalion and took up defensive positions on high ground, hill 172, east of Montecchio. Upon arrival of the 3d battalion, the 1st battalion became attached to the 349th Infantry and moved out on order of the CO, 349th Infantry to hill 192 in the vicinity of the church of Madonna della Serre. 1st Lt. James H. Markham, 1st battalion Anti Tank Platoon Leader, while making a reconnaissance for Anti Tank gun positions closely behind his advancing battalion, struck a teller mine near a curve in the road, killing Lt. Markham and completely destroying the vehicle. One company of the 3d battalion, company L, was sent to mop up the town of Pecciole. Upon entering the town, two Mark IV tanks were encountered. One tank was knocked out by accurate "bazooka" fire of the men of company L, and the crew captured. The other tank escaped to the north. At 1100 hours Lt. Mayfield, Division Liaison Officer, reported to the command post at Montecchio with orders relieving the 1st battalion from attachment to the 349th Infantry and directing that this regiment (less the 2d battalion) continue its advance to the north. The 1st battalion which had already advanced to hill 192 was notified at once that it had reverted to this command and was ordered to continue the attack to seize hill 137 sough of Monte Foscoli. The 3d battalion, and capture hills-146 and 124. Company L, which was mopping up the town of Pecciole, would rejoin the battalion in the vicinity of hill 124. Both battalions reached their initial objectives with slight resistance which consisted mainly of scattered artillery and mortar fire. As the 3d battalion continued northward from hill 124, it received heavy artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire which halted its advance. The 1st battalion, making maximum use of all cover and concealment proceeded further forward to the high ground in the vicinity of P'Vio del Pratello at which point the battalion came under enemy observation and its advance was halted by machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire. The terrain to our front was natural defensive terrain, providing excellent fields of fire for automatic weapons and necessitating that the attacking troops cross a broad flat valley to reach their objectives.
The 1st battalion was ordered by the regimental commander to attack at 2300 hours and seize hill 137. The 3d battalion would remain in position on hill 124 protecting the left flank of the division. The 1st battalion crossed its line of departure on time. Upon moving up hill 137 the battalion was subjected to a very heavy cross fire from automatic weapons as well as heavy mortar and artillery fire. When the advance was halted about 1/2 way up the hill, all attempts to outflank the automatic weapons positions failed. As dawn approached, the battalion commander realized that the present position was a precarious one due to the observation that the enemy would have upon him at daylight. With this in mind, he withdrew his battalion back across the valley to its original position in the vicinity of P'Vio del Pratello.
Per instructions from division headquarters, the attack was continued at 0900 hours, 18 July 1944, with both battalions continuing the assault; the 3d battalion holding one company as regimental reserve not to be committed except on order of the regimental commander. The 1st battalion with great difficulty was able to cross the valley to its front and start up the slopes of hill 137. The thick growth of trees on these slopes, although providing concealment, proved to be the most dangerous area on the battlefield due to the deadly "tree bursts" of artillery and mortar shells placed on our advancing troops.
The fighting was extremely heavy all during the day as the 1st battalion inched its way up the slopes of 137 and the 3d battalion moved slowly across the flat land to hill 127. Through the untiring efforts of Major Cheek, Tank Liaison Officer of the 760th Tank Battalion, one platoon of tanks was worked down into the valley on the left flank of the 3d battalion, in spite of numerous mines which had been laid by the Germans on all roads and trails in this area. These tanks were able to deliver direct fire on suspected machine gun positions and observation posts, materially aiding the advance of the battalion. By darkness, the 1st battalion had succeeded in gaining the crest of hill 137 although German machine guns continued to be emplaced on the reverse slope while the 3d battalion had reached the saddle between hills 127 and 147.
During this action, 2d Lieutenant Edward L. Dolan, platoon leader of company K, 3d battalion, was wounded in both legs by enemy machine gun fire, as he was advancing with his platoon in the attack. As he attempted to return to the rear for medical aid, another burst from the enemy machine gun caught him in the chest, killing him instantly.
At 0300 hours, 16 July 1944, the attack was resumed, hoping to catch the Germans before they could complete a suspected withdrawal. The 1st battalion had the mission of capturing Monte Foscoli; the 3d battalion, hill.101; both battalions would continue the advance northward on seizing these objectives. As the 1st battalion was preparing to jump off in the attack, our artillery began to zero its guns in upon the enemy positions at 0230 hours. Several preliminary rounds fell short and landed close to the company A area. It was believed that no casualties were sustained, but as the zero hour approached, a runner was dispatched to the foxhole of Lt. Argonne C. Dixon, a platoon leader, with final orders for the attack, and the report was brought back that he was apparently asleep and could not be awakened. Upon further investigation, it was found that he was mortally wounded, and he died before medical aid could reach him.
The attack progressed satisfactorily. Each battalion destroyed the few machine guns and snipers to its front which constituted the German rear guard. The 1st battalion reached the town of Monte Foscoli at about 0800 hours, halting there until the regimental commander personally urged them forward to continue the attack on the town of Partino and destroy the retreating Germans. The 3d battalion, after capturing hill 101, moved to the valley beyond where stubborn resistance was again encountered from German machine guns emplaced along the Saletta (hill 143) Partino (hill 190) ridge. The 1st battalion continued its advance in a column of companies. As the leading company started down the slope north of Monte Foscoli, leading into the Tosola creek, it was met by heavy fire from machine gun, sniper, and German self-propelled guns. Due to the lack of cover and concealment, it was impossible for the 1st battalion to advance any further north in daylight under such heavy enemy fire without suffering heavy casualties.
The 3d battalion however pushed forward aggressively with the leading elements of company L (one platoon) reaching the southern outskirts of Saletta. Company L was ordered by the battalion commander to move to the left, generally along the north-south draw to the west of Saletta, outflanking the resistance opposing company I. Initially, the maneuver progressed satisfactorily, but soon, serious opposition was encountered from German automatic weapons and artillery.
The 2d battalion, which had been released to the regiment from division reserve, had moved to covered positions behind Monte Foscoli during the morning and was ordered by the regimental commander to pass through the 1st battalion, in its present position, at darkness and attack Partino, at 0100 hours 17 July 1944. The 3d battalion would attack at the same time, continuing north to seize hill 126. Upon completion of its relief, the 1st battalion would be attached to the Ramey Task Force--a special task force protecting the division right flank. Both attacks were launched on time, but the 2d battalion, due to stubborn enemy resistance, progressed very slowly. The 3d battalion captured Saletta, continuing forward at a rapid rate of advance, cutting the east-west road out of Colleoli, and advancing some 500 yards beyond, north of Ca’Monterari. During this attack, Company E, 2d battalion became engaged in a fierce fire fight in the vicinity of Colleoli, and had just captured two houses on the top of a ridge line, overlooking the town. Second Lieutenant Ray H. Cosby, a platoon leader, proceeded down the forward slope of this ridge, to check on the location of the wounded men of his platoon. As he did so, a German machine gun opened up on him; killing him almost instantly.
This rapid advance by the 3d battalion constituted a definite breakthrough in the enemy lines, which was evidenced by the disruption caused the enemy and their surprise at finding our soldiers so far to their rear. Accurate artillery fire was placed on fleeing enemy troops and vehicles by Lt. Hopkins, 3d battalion Artillery Liaison Officer, killing many enemy and destroying a number of vehicles. The 3d battalion organized a perimeter defense for its exposed position and delivered deadly small arms fire upon the Germans as they withdrew from forward positions by-passed by this battalion.
In the meantime, the 1st battalion moved by trucks to join the Ramey Task Force, thus again leaving the regiment with a force of only two battalions. If the 1st Battalion had been on hand at the time, the 3d battalion knifed through the enemy defense, the breakthrough could have been exploited. With only the 3d battalion, the front was too wide and the force too small to exploit the breakthrough successfully.
As the Anti-Tank Company was displacing to a new location where it could render effective aid to the forward elements, Captain Clarence R. Meeks, Commanding Officer, preceded his men on a reconnaissance for these positions. While travelling over a previously well-used road, he pulled his "jeep" over onto the shoulder to allow another vehicle to pass, and as he did so, the "jeep" struck an enemy teller mine, completely demolishing the vehicle and killing the radio operator instantly. Captain Meeks was mortally wounded, and died on the way to the Clearing Station, shortly afterwards.
All during the morning, heavy artillery concentrations were placed upon enemy, sighted withdrawing from the vicinity of Saletta and the ridge line to the west of Partino. The regimental command post provided excellent observation for the adjustment of this fire. At about 1130 hours, the 2d battalion, held up since early morning, rejuvenated its attack and surged forward, capturing Partino at 1245 hours and continuing to seize the town of Gello at 1615 hours. Company E refusing to be impeded by the German automatic weapons, slashed fiercely at the German rear guard. Its leading elements entered the southern edge of the town of Colleoli where heavy fighting took place. At nightfall, company E had captured approximately 1/2 of the town, holding that position until the attack was resumed at 0100 hours, 18 July by both battalions. The third battalion was ordered to take hill 161 continuing north to the town of San Bartolommeo, thence northeast to the high ground north of Montopoli which overlooked the Arno river valley. The 2d battalion was to continue north to hil 205, thence northeast to hill 132 in the vicinity of San Barbara continuing northeast to hill 139 and take up positions on the high ground overlooking the Arno valley. Both battalions advanced rapidly in spite of the fact that the 349th Infantry on our right and the 362nd Infantry (91st Infantry Division) on our left, were unable to keep abreast. Only slight resistance was encountered and final objectives were reached. It was with great enthusiasm and pride that the regiment reported to the Division Commander that part of the Division objective within the regimental zone had been taken and secured by 1300 hours. Combat patrols were immediately dispatched north to the Arno river, and organization of the ground was begun. One platoon of tanks, 760th Tank Battalion, was attached to each battalion as direct support, with company C, 84th Chemical battalion going into position behind the 3d battalion of our regiment and company D of the same battalion taking up firing positions in the rear of the 2d battalion.
The regimental command group received a great ovation upon entrance into the town of San Bartolommeo, being the first Americans to enter that place. As a part of the celebration, the Italian civilians rang their church bells loud and long, giving everyone a bad case of "jitters" due to the fact that the sound could cause the Germans to place artillery fire upon the town. The regimental command post was established in a large palatial residence just south of the town of Marti, previously occupied as the command post of the German Fabian combat group. Excellent observation posts were established forward of the front line battalions and accurate fire was placed upon Germans observed laying mines along the river bank. Brigadier General Kendall visited the command post during the afternoon, studied and approved the dispositions of the regiment arid remained for supper with the regimental commander. At 2115 hours, reports were received from reconnaissance patrols dispatched towards the Arno river earlier in the day. All patrols reported contact with the enemy along the improved highway running generally parallel with the river between the town of San Angelico, San Romano, and Fonte a Evola. The two patrols dispatched to the river bank were unable to reach their destination due to heavy enemy resistance.
During the 19th of July 1944, positions were prepared for all ground security. Observation Posts were established and improved and small reconnaissance patrols were dispatched in the direction of the Arno river. Major General Sloan visited the command post and discussed the disposition of troops within the regimental zone, expressing satisfaction with same.
At 1245 hours Colonel O'Brien, 5th Army G-5 section, visited the command post for conference with Colonel Champeny concerning rifle marksmanship. He was particularly interested in the attack of this regiment which cut highway 6 southeast of Rome. The 3d battalion of our regiment had destroyed 60% of a battalion of the Hermann Goering Division by small arms fire alone. This fact was substantiated by the captured battalion surgeon of the badly mauled German battalion.
At 0730 hours 20 July 1944, Colonel Champeny departed for his daily inspection of all troops and installations. During the morning Major Beggs, Acting G-3, visited the command post, studied the disposition of troops, and went forward to the regimental observation post in Montopoli to make a terrain study of the banks of the Arno river. Major Beggs revealed that he had no knowledge of what future operations had been planned for the division, but that all indications were that the. situation would remain as is for the time being. He knew of no plans for a river crossing within the present division area. From our study of the banks of the Arno, to our front, as well as from patrol reports and interrogation of civilians, it was the unanimous opinion that a river crossing made here would be an extremely hazardous one for two reasons: (1) the nature of the terrain. The enemy could maintain excellent observation on any established bridgehead. (3) The extensively prepared enemy positions on the north bank of the Arno.
During the afternoon, Major Walker, G-2, called at the command post with a group of South American officers on an observation tour of the 5th Army front. After a short pleasant conference with the regimental commander, the delegation departed expressing regret that further observation of the front lines could not be made due to shortage of time available.
The troops continued to improve defensive positions as well as getting resupplied, rested and re-equipped. Patrol activity was intensified all along the front to obtain as much information as possible concerning our side of the river. From all indications, it seemed that the enemy were occupying only the town of San Romano in strength, although clashes with German patrols were reported to the east of the town.
During the night, all company kitchens were brought forward into company areas enabling the troops to get continuous hot meals for the first time since the start of the present operation on 10 July. Needless to say, the kitchen crews received a great ovation upon their arrival.
At 1200 hours, 21 July, the regiment was notified by G-3 that the two attached chemical mortar companies, Company A and Company D of the 84th Chemical Battalion, were detached and would assemble in their battalion headquarters area. It was with misgiving on our part, that this message was conveyed to the companies concerned due to the fact that both had rendered a fine service to the regiment. Their white phosphorous shell which created great fear and confusion among the Germans at Laiatico and Partino would be missed in future operations.
At 1800 hours, Lieutenant Mayfield, Division Liaison Officer, reported to the command post with a division directive which specified that the 351st Infantry would on the night of 22-28 July eliminate enemy in the vicinity of San Romano and Ponte a Evola, keep these points under observation and free of enemy with nightly patrols, and send small reconnaissance patrols across the Arno river to determine enemy strength and dispositions.
This directive was received with much enthusiasm due to the fact that it had been the desire of the regimental commander since our arrival on the division objective to clear the area specified, but orders from higher headquarters had limited us to patrol action in that area. At 0800 hours 22 July, all battalion commanders and battalion G-3's reported to the command post for orientation, discussion, and issuance of orders for the operation. The plan in general was to employ two companies from each of the 2d and 3d battalions. The 3d battalion would clear the area of San Romano to include the 91st Division boundary west of Capanne; the 2d battalion would clear the area San Romano (exclusive) to Ponte a Evola (inclusive). Each battalion would outpost the cleared areas with one company to prevent enemy infiltrations. The attack would be launched at 2500 hours with no artillery preparation in order not to destroy the surprise element. One platoon of tanks would follow each battalion to its objective to be available at dawn if needed.
At 1130 hours, Brigadier General Kendall, Assistant Division Commander, visited the command post for discussion or plans for this operation. The plans as announced were considered satisfactory and the Assistant Division Commander remained for lunch with the regimental commander. It was revealed that the 349th Infantry and 350th Infantry were launching their attacks on objectives generally on line but slightly to our right rear one hour earlier. than our "H" hour. However, coordination would not be disrupted due to the fact that the division right flank was refused, making the distance to their objective considerably greater than the distance to ours.
The attack was launched at the designated hour-2500 hours 22 July. The 2d battalion employing F and G companies, occupied its objectives with comparative ease, left F company as an outpost and withdrew G company to the vicinity of Stibbio where the battalion had established its defense area. The 3d battalion, however, proceeded with greater difficulty--K company swung northwest to the town of Angelico, then turned east along the road towards the main battalion objective--San Romano. In the meantime, L company moved northeast to strike San Romano from the east; thus both companies combining to execute a pincer movement on the town. K company reached San Angelico with no resistance, checked houses for Germans, and evidently became confused as to the location of San Romano, reporting that the western edge of the town had been reached when actually the company was still in San Angelico. Company L, too, became confused in the maneuver. Skirting the southern edge of town, company L contacted Company K, reporting at 0615 hours to the battalion commander that San Romano was ours. K company returned to its defensive area in the vicinity of Montopoli after sending one platoon to outpost the town of Capanne. One platoon, company L, was dispatched to outpost San Angelico with the remainder of company L located in the southern outskirts of San Romano.
At 0830 hours, 25 July 1944, the regimental commander, with Major Sadler, S-2, left the command post for an inspection of the L company outpost at San Romano. As Colonel Champeny and Major Sadler approached San Romano, fully expecting the town to be occupied by friendly troops, they came under fire of a German machine gun. Checking with an L company platoon located in a house nearby, it was discovered that German troops had infiltrated into the town during the night and had set up a formidable strongpoint utilizing the thick welled houses as pill boxes. On order of Colonel Champeny, the platoon of Company L immediately set to work clearing the houses. The 3d battalion commander was then notified to withdraw the platoon of company L form Angelico and utilize the entire company to clear the town of San Romano. This work was carried on throughout the day, a slow, methodical, house to house job with great harassment by German artillery, mortars and machine guns. By darkness, about 1/2 of the town had been cleared and two strong patrols were designated to complete the job to include the adjacent town of Buche. During the night, L company was subjected to an extremely heavy artillery barrage followed by a counterattack which forced the company to withdraw and reorganize in the vicinity of the road junction just west of San Romano.
On 24 July 1944, the town of San Romano which was rapidly becoming a tougher assignment every day, still remained under German domination. The 3d battalion commander was ordered by the regimental commander to utilize all forces under his command to accomplish the mission. The 1st battalion was alerted for possible employment. Accordingly, company L was ordered to attack east from present position while company K moved to the northwest and attacked the town from the west, a maneuver similar to that planned for the first attack on San Romano. Upon reaching the outskirts of town from either side, both companies encountered heavy enemy resistance from mortars, artillery, snipers and machine guns. Fierce fighting continued throughout the day with companies K and L advancing only a few houses in the face of the withering machine gun fire.
Lieutenant Colonel Furr, battalion commander, 3d battalion, who had been in the hospital for some time, returned to duty with his battalion in the afternoon of 24 July and reenergized the attack. At 2210 hours, efforts would be renewed to destroy the enemy strongpoint with companies K and L attacking simultaneously.
At 1100 hours, a reconnaissance party from the 362d Infant 91st Infantry Division, headed by Colonel Cotton, Regimental Commander, visited the command post to discuss plans for the relief of this regiment by one battalion of 362d Infantry which of course would occupy an extremely broad front for a battalion. Such details as could be worked out on a warning order were accomplished and the 362d Infantry reconnaissance party went forward to visit the battalion areas.
At 2210 hours 24 July 1944, the 3d battalion again attacked the town of San Romano. K company, advancing from the east, L company advancing from the west. Company L reached a point 200 yards from the center of town before receiving any fire. At that point the enemy was engaged and a heavy fire fight ensued. At 0040 hours 25 July 1944, K company which had made a similar advance was held up by an enemy mine field, by-passed the mine field, and reached its objective, after heavy fighting, at 0200 hours. L company which was fighting for every inch of this town of many stone houses, advanced more slowly, reaching its objective at 0445 hours. During this operation, Captain Allen R. Vail, Commanding Officer of L company, and one of the outstanding company commanders of the regiment, had rejoined his company, after spending some time in the hospital for wounds received in earlier operations. The leading elements of the company were in a house that was receiving fire from enemy snipers, which were well hidden and impossible to locate from the cover of the house. Captain Vail decided to make a hasty reconnaissance and proceeded to dodge from house to house until he had reached the street corner. As he reached this position and began to search for the snipers, a direct artillery hit upon the corner building killing him instantly. Captain Vail was the holder of the Silver Star Award for Gallantry in Action. Artillery and mortar fire was extremely heavy on both companies during the attack. By 0510 hours K and L company had established contact and taken up positions for reorganization just north of San Romano between this place and the town of Buche. The news that the town of San Romano had finally been occupied, was received with great enthusiasm due to the fact that this bastion of a city had been a sore spot within the regimental zone. Its capture would have been completed much earlier, had permission been granted by higher headquarters. All during the day 25 July 1944, both 2d and 3d battalions were busily engaged in clearing our zone of Germans up to the Arno river. This operation was carried on by patrols of platoon size, and proceeded with some difficulties at times, due to stubborn opposition of isolated machine gun nests. The area was entirely cleared and the mission accomplished by nightfall. During this cleaning-up operation, Lieutenant Ernest I. Berk, a platoon Leader of Company K, was engaged in leading replacements from the company command post, to his platoon position, when a heavy artillery barrage landed in the immediate vicinity, killing him almost instantly.
On 26 July 1944, the regiment was officially notified that it would be relieved in its sector by the 2d battalion, 362d Infantry, 91st Infantry Division. Lt. Co. Thompson, Commanding Officer, this battalion, visited the command post, discussed the relief and proceeded to the forward areas to make a reconnaissance. Due to the fact that his dispositions would be somewhat different from ours, because of smaller strength, this reconnaissance was necessarily minute in detail. At 0840 hours, Brigadier General Kendall visited the command post and discussed the relief of the regiment, suggesting that the relieving unit maintain a smaller outpost along the railroad and patrol the south banks of the river.
At 1400 hours, Colonel Champeny addressed 22 new officers, recently assigned this regiment as replacements, who were enroute to their new organizations. This group, largely First Lieutenants, contained several Cavalry Officers who had been transferred from Cavalry to Infantry due to the small need for Cavalry in this war. Colonel Champeny in his talk briefly traced the history of the regiment from its activation, explaining its standards and traditions. The talk was enthusiastically received and as the replacement officer group departed, their expressions and actions indicated that they would maintain the fighting spirit of the regiment, enabling it to continue to be, as General Sloan has expressed many times, the best regiment in the Army.
On 27 July 1944, plans were completed for the relief of the regiment. The 2d battalion of the 362d Infantry would employ two companies to relieve the advance battalions of the regiment. Company E would relieve the 3d battalion within its zone, outposting the railroad and patrolling to the Arno river. One platoon of Company E together with a platoon of company F would occupy the San Romano-Buche sector. Company Gin reserve would go into position west of Stibbio, an ideal location with good routes of approach to meet enemy attack in any direction.
At 1120 hours, Archbishop Spellman of New York accompanied by Colonel Ryan, 5th Army Chaplain, and Colonel LeFebre, II Corps Chaplain, met Major General Sloan at the regimental command post and was introduced to Colonel Champeny, the staff, and command post personnel. The Archbishop heartily shook hands with all, expressing the hope that he would see all in New York soon. The party then departed for a visit to the 1st Battalion where Archbishop Spellman requested the names and addressed of all the soldiers whom he met in order that he might convey best wishes to their families when he returned to the United States.
The relief during the night of 27-28 July proceeded smoothly without incident. Due to the long distance from the outpost units to the entrucking point (necessarily so, in order to escape enemy observation) it was felt that some units might not be relieved in time to depart from the area by daylight. However, due to detailed prior planning by Lt. Col. Thompson, of the 362d Infantry and our battalion commanders, the outpost units reached their destination on time. The regiment was trucked to the area of Montognose. All organizations were closed in bivouac area by 0615 hours 28 July 1944. Particular attention was given to dispersal in, and camouflage of bivouac area. During the day, troops rested, cleaned and repaired clothing and equipment and were shuttled to a Quartermaster Clothing Exchange Shower Unit some 22 miles away at Saline.
At 1300 hours, all battalion S-3's and Special Unit commanders met with the regimental S-3 for discussion of training to be conducted during the ensuing rehabilitation period. The first and foremost subject for study and training was designated as River Crossing Operations. Concurrently, disciplinary training and physical conditioning would be stressed. The period from 28 July to and including 31 July would be devoted to cleaning, servicing and maintenance of motor vehicles and crew served weapons, orderliness, police, sanitation, and showers. On 1 August the regular drill schedule would begin, covering the principal subjects listed above to include training with and firing automatic weapons.
On the 31st of July, schools for officers and key NCO's in River Crossing Operations were conducted in each battalion. Officers and NCO's from regimental headquarters, engineer, tank, tank destroyer and chemical weapons units that normally would support or be attached to the respective battalions were distributed equally to battalion schools. Officers and personnel from Company C, 313th Engineers and Company F, 19th Engineers, (recent attachment from IV Corps) acted as instructors and demonstration crews from pertinent Engineer subjects while carefully selected Infantry officers instructed in the Infantry phases of River Crossing. The school covered a total of 8 1/2 hours instruction. All officers expressed the opinion that it would definitely improve training to be conducted for troops.
At 1800 hours, all officers of the regiment assembled in the 2d battalion area for a conference with the regimental commanders. The operations conducted since the regiment returned to the "line" on 7 July were reviewed with a discussion of mistakes made, corrections therefor, and lessons learned. The use of firepower was stressed. Since the Germans are adept at camouflage and their powder is smokeless and flashness, their gun positions are usually difficult to detect. Nevertheless, it is absolutely necessary that our troops return the fire immediately with all appropriate weapons on likely enemy locations. It can be logically assumed that, although such fire is inaccurate, the morale effect on the Germans will be the same, if not greater, than that caused by German fire on us. The effectiveness of a well planned and well executed night attack then a daylight attack had failed, was pointed out in describing the Battle of Laiatico. Greater use of the compass to maintain direction at night was emphasized. The regimental commander stressed the point that responsibility for the prevention of AWOL's and stragglers lies with NCO's as well as officers. Instances of poor patrolling in the San Romano area were cited with the directive that the standard of patrolling be improved. The regimental commander further stated that he expected the training period to be a "pep up" period with short, concentrated drill days giving troops ample time for athletics, recreation, and movies.
The fighting during the month of July had been some of the bitterest yet engaged in by the regiment. Casualties were heavy and many of the old members of the regiment had fallen as the regiment advanced and took the contested towns of Laiatico, Monte Foscoli, Partino and finally San Romano, on the banks of the Arno river. Soon, perhaps, the Arno River Line, and the vaunted Gothic Line would take their place along with the Gustav Line, the Hitler Line, and Rome, as another important German line that the 351st Infantry has helped to crush.
Colonel, 351st Infantry