HISTORY OF THE 351ST INFANTRY REGIMENT FOR THE MONTH OF

March 1945

Submitted: 

10 April 1945

Attachments: 

          Two distinct periods are the keynotes of March. The first period, up to, and including, March 9th was spent in the Loiano sector where the tactical mission of the 351st Infantry constituted being the division reserve. The rest of the month found the regiment in the pleasant Barberino area where training was stressed and the division was in II Corps reserve.

 

          The persistence of a continued period of sunny weather has almost reinstated the long since exploded myth of "Sunny Italy"; expounded so profoundly in the realm of poetic fancy. March has been a good month. There were no more than two or three rainy days.

 

          Rehabilitation progressed without interruption. "Men, motors, and weapons", a byword in the 88th Division, received considerable attention. Adequate bathing facilities and clean clothing were provided; including the excellent service rendered by the model shower unit organized and operated by the regimental supply section under the direction of Major William H. Klein, Regimental Supply Officer. Motor vehicles received the repair work and replacement of worn and missing parts that an extended period of combat duty over torturous roads necessitated. All weapons, with the exception of the Cannon Company howitzers, were fired on ranges within the regimen­tal area and ordnance repairs were made on those requiring atten­tion. Frequent inspections and care and cleaning put all weapons in first class condition.

 

          Training in the Barberino area was progressive and in accordance with Training Memorandum No. 3, Headquarters 88th Division, dated 1 March 1945. Tactical training was emphasized. One-fourth of all training was spent in night training. Small unit training beginning with the squad and progressing through platoon, company, and battalion exercises, culminated in a forty­eight hour regimental problem. The 88th Reconnaissance troop with the Regimental Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon and the Ranger Platoon constituted an enemy detachment under the command of Major William H. Clark. The problem stressed constructive thought and practice based on an endeavor to remedy tactical weaknesses discovered during actual combat operations. Primary importance was placed on the proper and effective employment of company, battalion, and regimental reserves. An innovation designed to enhance regimental fire power was devised and tried by the regimental commander, Lieutenant Colonel Franklin P. Miller. Two platoons of the Regimental Anti-Tank Company have been equipped with 81mm mortars (a total of six -two from each Battalion; since experience has proved that the present Table of Organization for 81mm mortar platoons provides more weapons than it is possible to adequately supply with ammunition). These platoons each have three mortars and have SCR 610 radios for communications in addition to the standard SCR 300. The addition of the SCR 610 makes these six mortars available to the battalion artillery officers.

 

          Competition within the battalions for the best Battle Drill squad were held and the winners competed in a regimental competition in which Staff Sergeant Edward Krolick's squad of Company A were the winners. This squad received a pass to Florence as a reward for their efforts. Colonel James C. Fry, Assistant Divisional Commander visited the training areas frequently. Range firing included firing the anti-tank guns, the new 37mm gun mounted on the caliber .50 machine gun tripod, bazooka, and rifle grenades. The two latter weapons were fired at a German self propelled 75mm as­sault gun. Up to two and one half inches of armor was pierced easily and the sieve-like condition of this piece of "Smiling Albert" Kesselring's ordnance convinced GI's that the bazooka and anti-tank grenade are effective weapons. The new 37mm gun shooting modified ammunition proved highly accurate. All battalions are experimenting with a system for packing this weapon by mule, and will employ them in the next attack.

 

          Future operations were given much thought; and planning was made for the execution of several tentative operations. In conjunction with these efforts many reconnaissance flights were made over the front lines by the regimental commander and his staff, battalion commanders and their staffs, and company commanders. First Lieutenant Hayden of the Division Artillery piloted all of these flights. General Paul W. Kendall, Division Commander, assured all officers at a meeting held March 31st that we will soon again be employed in offensive operations. The General also expressed his extreme satisfaction with the completeness, thoroughness, and spirited enthusiasm which the regiments of the division have devoted to training. Not previously men­tioned, but with considerable importance attached, was the special mine training conducted within the regiment. Many various means of crossing mine fields by the use of expedients employing explosives were studied and used in crossing actual mine fields set up within the area. The goal in our training has been to impress all with the fact that mine fields can and will be crossed. Mines have a psychological effect that is overrated. Exact figures are not available but the fact that eighty percent of all battle casualties in the Italian fighting came from artillery and mortar fire and the remaining twenty percent divided between small arms fire and mine action is proof enough of the relatively low casualties from mines.

 

          A unique event in the overseas history of the 88th Division took place on 31 March 1945 when, for the first time since leaving America, all units of the division were assembled at one time at a division review at the Florence Airport. A number of distinguished guests were present: General Mark W. Clark, XV Army Group Commander, Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Fifth Army Commander, and Major General Geoffrey Keyes, Commanding General of II Corps. General Clark spoke briefly recounting the splendid combat record of the division and concluding with a remark that the next time he hopes to see us we will be north of the Po River. Two members of the 351st Infantry received Distinguished Service Crosses: Lieutenant Ralph Decker and Lieutenant Linnsey L. Wheeler for extraordinary heroism during the regiments occupation of defensive positions in the Loiano sector.

 

          Relaxation and recreation were not overlooked in the Barberino area. Many day passes to Florence were granted and U.S.O. shows and movies provided entertainment in the evenings. The Red Cross Bar under the direction of Miss Louise Osborn has undoubtedly provided the finest facilities along these lines that the regiment has heretofore enjoyed. Boxing matches were held and all battalions including the Special Units entered contenders. The Second Battalion was the regimental champion.

 

          FRANKLIN P. MILLER,

          Lt. Col., F. A.

          Commanding.

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