HISTORY OF THE 351ST INFANTRY REGIMENT FOR THE MONTH OF
18 July 1945
The month of June, 1945, found the 351st Infantry Regiment widely dispersed in the general area of Borgo, Trento, Rovereto, Riva, and north to the Bolzano region. The area occupied by the regiment was very large--approximately twice the size of Delaware, and with the coming of summer the entire area became beautiful and lovely, for the Dolomite Alps in this region are among the most beautiful mountains in the world. Regimental Headquarters was established in a hotel in the village of San Christoforo, on the shores of Lake Caldonazzo. For the past three weeks the regiment had been working vigorously to evacuate the thousands of surrendered enemy personnel who were concentrated in this area when the war ended in Italy. By the first of June the greater part of this task had been completed and only a few scattered units remained. Advanced parties from the Italian "Folgore Group" arrive on 1 June to discuss relief of the 351st, and almost immediately Italian troops began replacing units of the regiment. In addition to the Folgore Group, the 428th Field Artillery Battalion moved in to guard a large ammunition and vehicle dump north of Trento, and by 4 June the 351st was relieved of its responsibility in the whole area. After concentrating nearer to Trento for two days, the regiment moved by motor convoy on 6 June to a bivouac area a few miles south of Lake Garda, in the region of Gavardo and Salle. Light training schedules were maintained and the troops made full use of the Regimental beach on the shores of Lake Garda while waiting for further orders. In this area the War Department's redeployment program began to take effect on the personnel who had fought together throughout the Po Valley offensive. Several hundred men with over eighty-five points left for replacement depots, and a lucky few obtained air travel to the United States for discharge. Simultaneously, new men from other units came to take the place of those who had left, and gradually the regiment began to change. Many of the high-score men were key men who had been with the 351st since its activation, and it became necessary to train new First Sergeants, communications personnel, drivers, and administrative clerks. In this area Colonel Miller's Command Post was located in a beautiful villa a few kilometers from Sallo, and this villa had been the residence of Italian Marshal Grazianni and the occasional visiting place of Mussolini during the last three years of the war. It was from this villa that Mussolini drove to Lake Como to meet his death at the hands of the Partisans late in April.
After six days in this bivouac area a new mission was assigned to the 351st Infantry--to guard the huge concentration camp for surrendered enemy personnel at the airfield near Ghedi, twelve kilometers southeast of Brescia. The regiment moved by motor convoy on the morning of 11 June 1945 and went into temporary bivouac near the camp and prepared to relieve the Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Combat Team. At that time there were approximately sixty-five thousand Germans in the area and none had yet been repatriated. The weather in the Po Valley was very hot and humid, and living in tents did not help it to become more comfortable for the troops clad in woolen clothing. But the regiment had an important mission to perform and the officers and men quickly oriented themselves to their new environment.
Relief of the 442nd was officially completed on 14 June and the companies moved their tent camps closer to the concentration area and assumed full guard responsibilities. The system employed to maintain security around the enclosure was to have one battalion on guard, one on an alert status, while the third was free for passes and recreation. Some difficulties with the administrative Sub-Command about stopping of vehicles at the main gate were quickly ironed out and the 351st settled down to its routine duties. Intense programs of beautifying the tent and bivouac areas were initiated, largely with German labor, and soon all kitchens were screened, sidewalks installed, and unit signs posted. Several formations for the presentation of combat decorations were held, and over four hundred bronze stars were awarded to fighting men of the 351st for heroism and merit during the final offensive of the war. Steps were taken to initiate an Information and Education program for the enlisted men, and the compilation of the history of the 351st Infantry was begun. Enlisted men enjoyed evening passes to Brescia and small villages in the vicinity of Ghedi, while four and seven-day passes were allotted for Alassio, Lake Como, Milano, and Lake Maggiore. Garman personnel proved to be fairly cooperative and docile, and no escapes were attempted. Colonel Miller sent official congratulations to a Private in Company L for refusing to sell a package of American cigarettes to a German soldier, and all money was taken from the prisoners and held in custody.
And so the month of June passed quickly for the 351st Infantry regiment. A change from Category II to Category IV abruptly altered the composition of the troops and company grade officers of the regiment. For several weeks the 351st lost its low-score men and received new men with high scores; but near the end of the month a large group of very low point men was received from the replacement system, further changing the composition of the regiment. Every possible effort was made to keep the venereal disease rate at a minimum, but in spite of repeated lectures, warnings, and the installation of prophylaxis stations throughout the countryside, the number of infections increased slightly. The regiment was called upon to furnish individuals and detachments for specialized duty at various headquarters, and late in the month a platoon was sent all the way to Volturno, near Caserta, to perform guard duty. Direct liaison with MTOUSA was initiated in view of the wide dispersion of the 88th Division and in consideration of the mission for the 351st Infantry.
The closing days of June 1945 found the 351st Infantry Regiment still engaged in its normal mission of guarding and securing the largest enemy concentration camp in Italy, enduring the hot summer sun, and living by semi-garrison standards. June had been the first month in sixteen that the regiment had not heard the scream of German shells and the ripping noise of their machine guns--and the absence of battle sounds was a welcome occurrence to all.
F. P. MILLER
Colonel, 351st Inf.,