HISTORY OF THE 351ST INFANTRY REGIMENT FOR THE MONTH OF
6 December 1944
November's history consists of two periods; the first, a week of rest and rehabilitation at Montecatini Terme; the second, back in the lines again, occupying defensive positions east of Livergnano and southeast of Bologna. Throughout October and part of September for a total of thirty-nine days the Regiment had been in continuous action against the enemy. The increasingly adverse weather and the savagely stubborn resistance of the enemy finally brought the impetus of our attacks to a standstill. At the farthest point of our advance within the division zone of action the 351st infantry had reached nearest to the Po Valley and with the subsequent stabilization of positions this regiment occupied ground nearer to Highway 9 than any other unit in the 5th Army. Although the unit suffered more heavily in casualties than ever before, and, despite appalling weather conditions, the 351st Infantry Regiment has added another chapter to its splendid and spectacular record of "long continued aggressive combat against the enemy" as stated by the Corps Commander in a message of congratulations to Colonel Arthur S. Champeny, Regimental Commander.
Upon receipt of relief orders on 30 October 1944, the situation was as follows: The 1st Battalion held ground in the vicinity of Hill 435 (003301); the 3d Battalion secured ground in the vicinity of Parr le Tombe (99272) and Mt. Trebbo (999376), while the 2d Battalion was in a forward assembly area in the vicinity of Colanco (977279). The mission of the regiment was to secure and hold. Fire plans were developed and plans for repulsing a counterattack were formulated. The 1st Battalion would remain attached to the 362d RCT.
With memories of Castel Del Rio, Gesso, and Vedriano still fresh, the regiment, less the 1st Battalion, slowly and laboriously made its way over the quagmire roads to Montecatini Terme, but at the end of this trek were baths and clean clothes, entertainment --and easier breathing.
Montecatini Terme was a quiet little town. Being a German hospital center the town was untouched with the exception of the railroad station. The people were for the most part, well-kept and well fed. Montecatini, approximately twenty-five miles west of Florence, was formerly a summer resort famed for its sulphur baths and many fine hotels. These hotels during our stay at Montecatini were used as billets for our men, much to their surprise. The sight of electric lights, dining halls, bathrooms with running water, and, in brief, the benefits of civilization --at first quite a novelty recreated the desire to live for the day when these will again be accepted as a normal part of life. The beneficial contribution to morale by these accommodations provided by 5th Army cannot be overstated.
Aims of the rest period as prescribed in TM 23, Headquarters 88th Infantry Division, were:
a. To promote high standards of morale and physical condition.
b. To indoctrinate and properly train replacements and inexperienced personnel.
c. To correct errors observed in combat.
d. To rehabilitate equipment.
The success of the 5th Army Rest Center at Montecatini Terme reflects much effort on the part of the 5th Army City Command Section. Lt. Col. Elam's efforts produced results that were appreciated by all. In all matters it was clearly evident that the City Command Section desired to do anything and everything within its powers to make the stay of the combat troops as pleasant and enjoyable as possible. Conveniences such as electric lights, running water, bathing and clothing exchange units, recreational features such as movies, stage shows, including the fine production of the "The Barretts of Wimpole Street", starring Catherine Cornell and Brian Aherne; all created a pleasant and refreshing atmosphere.
Preparations were immediately made for a concentrated training program. Since the regiment had so many new replacements, this program was of pivotal importance. Machine gun, mortar, and small arms ranges were set up three kilometers northwest of Montecatini and a firing schedule was organized with provisions for each battalion to fire all courses for as long as the rest period permitted.
Each morning at 1000 hours, the Regimental S-3 attended a meeting with the 5th Army G-3 representative, Lt. Col. Eyebold, at which time training was discussed and clarified, and training schedules were submitted to 5th Army for approval. Training hours extended from 0830-1200 hours and 1300-1530 hours with an additional hour every other day for officers and non-commissioned officers devoted to leadership, duties, and responsibilities.
On 3 November, the regiment gained a new Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Lewis, assigned as 3d Battalion Commanding Officer. At 2345 hours, two hundred new replacements, many former ASTP students and Air Cadets, who were transported by plane from France, arrived at three hotels reserved for them.
The following day, 4 November, at 0340 hours, the 1st Battalion, after travelling all night through cold, driving rains, arrived, thoroughly soaked and cold and were guided to hotels awaiting their arrival. The hot coffee prepared for them was indeed a welcome treat.
On the morning of 7 November, the regiment was highly honored by a visit from Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, Army Commander. Accompanied by Colonel Champeny, General Clark inspected the 2d Battalion in quarters, shaking hands with many of our soldiers and conversing with them about past operations. After this visit, the Army Commander expressed his great satisfaction with the fine and clean appearance of the men and their quarters, and concluded by praising highly "the grand job" the regiment has accomplished.
At about 1845 hours, this date, the following message from G-3 was received by telephone: "351 RCT RELIEVES 168 RCT COMMENCING NIGHT 9/10 NOVEMBER, RELIEF TO BE COMPLETED BY DAYLIGHT 11 NOVEMBER. UPON COMPLETION RELIEF 351 RCT ATTACHED TO 85 DIVISION. CO 351 INFANTRY WILL ARRANGE DETAILS OF RELIEF WITH CO 168 INFANTRY SUBJECT TO APPROVAL THIS HEADQUARTERS. MAKE PRELIMINARY RECONNAISSANCE 8 NOVEMBER AFTER CLEARING WITH 34 DIVISION HEADQUARTERS AT (870220). DO NOT RELIEVE BOTH FRONT LINE BATTALIONS SAME NIGHT."
Thus a short but most appreciated rest period was brought to a close. To describe the gratitude of a line soldier for such accommodations as were arranged for him by 5th Army is a difficult task, but the men of the 351st Infantry unanimously revealed their appreciation by maintaining a high standard of behaviour during their stay in Montecatini Terme.
While a party consisting of Colonel Champeny, Major Hobson and the three Battalion Commanders were forward making a reconnaissance of 168th Infantry sector east of Livergnano preparatory to beginning the relief, the range firing schedules on the Montecatini ranges proceeded as planned. On the 9th of November beginning at 0800 hours the 2d Battalion moved by motor to the vicinity of Savazzo, Italy, completing the relief of the 2d Battalion, 168th Infantry night of 9/10 November 1944. On the next day, 10 November, the remainder of the regiment cleared Montecatini by motor--1st and 2d Battalions relieving corresponding Battalions 168th Infantry on position during the night of 10/11 November. The new Battalion Commander of the 2d Battalion, Lt. Col. Farthing joined his command this day.
During the rest period several observers from other arms and branches joined the regiment for a brief stay. Major Paul D. Woodward and Captain Louie Reese, Jr., 900th AAA, came to accompany the regiment to the front to observe infantry tactics, and Captain Robertson, a B-24 pilot and Lieutenant Tatman, a P-51 pilot, both stationed in the vicinity of Bari, accompanied the troops on their return to the lines.
The Commanding Officer, 351st Infantry assumed command of the defensive sector at 0505 hours, 11 November 1944, the relief the 168th Infantry having completed at that time. Upon completion of the relief the dispositions of the regiment were as follows: 2d Battalion occupied positions extending from the vicinity of M. Ceresa (923320), to the vicinity of Ca di Razzone (934323). The 3d Battalion held ground from the vicinity of La Maddelena (908327) to Casseta (914329) to Ceresa. The 1st Battalion was in reserve in the vicinity of M. Della Formiche (917289).
According to TM 55, Headquarters 88th Infantry Division, dated 10 November 1944, the combat mission of the Division was the active defense of the assigned sector with two battalions of each regiment in the line and one in reserve. Battalions would be rotated so that a battalion would have twelve days in the line and six days in reserve. Replacements would join the battalions they were assigned to when the battalions were in reserve. Elaborate plans for the establishment of a casual Replacement Training Company were made and a schedule worked up by Major Marks, Assistant Regimental S-3, affording each replacement a minimum of one week's training prior to joining his organization. Replacements found deficient in training would be held in the casual company until declared proficient.
On 11 November 1944, cobwebs were brushed from the props of the Jus and the rusty gears of the Heinkels were oiled, for the Luftwaffe, long dormant on this front, staged the first of several nuisance raids. These brazen raids occurred about dusk. One such raid took place at 1800 hours 11 November 1944, when a single German plane, believed to be a JU 88, bombed the 2d Battalion kitchen train at Savazza (926273). Three light bombs were dropped. Casualties to personnel were sustained as well as slight damage to equipment.
By the nature of our mission, active patrolling was of course of prime importance. The first group of our patrols left our lines under cover of darkness night of 11/12 November 1944. One patrol searched out the area in the vicinity of Camerla (940328), and the vicinity west of this objective. Area was reported mined with "S" and Box mines. The other patrol, the first of several to probe an enemy strongpoint at (913333), some six hundred yards north and slightly west of Casetta. The vicinity just northwest of Vinaio (935328) was cleared by a thirteen man patrol, while another thirteen man patrol attempted to investigate the town of Cerrara. The latter was stopped by heavy machine gun and machine pistol fire from buildings, and, by accurate mortar fire.
On 13 November 1944 the 1st Battalion began training at 0830 hours and also conducted range firing. Major General Coulter, Commanding General 85th Infantry Division, visited the Command Post in the morning and discussed the tactical situation and operations with Colonel Champeny. Intelligence activity for the day commenced with a report at 0500 hours from 85th Division's G-2 that several enemy agents were expected to enter our lines. Later a civilian interrogation of several Italians, who came through our lines (and who were subsequently evacuated) revealed German positions manned by some 200 Germans along the ridge extending from Cerrara toward Collina. Observation Posts reported Kraut activity, shell reports, and mortar positions. An estimated total of 489 rounds of enemy fire from the period 121800 to 131800 hours fell in the regimental sector, the bulk of which was mortar. Two reconnaissance patrols left our lines this night, returning without much success. Thus ended a typical day in our new positions.
During the day, the Regimental Commander, accompanied by the Regimental S-3 made his daily visit to front line organizations, this time calling at the 2d Battalion. Besides his visits to the battalions in line, the Regimental Observation Post was a favorite spot of the Regimental Commander, where he directed fire and observed terrain.
November 17, 1944, proved to be an exciting day for the 3d Battalion, particularly so for Company L. At 0250 hours a German patrol of undetermined strength attacked the forward positions and was driven off by small arms fire. At 2043 hours the Germans attacked again in the same vicinity (917326) and were again beaten off with small arms fire. Many of the men in Company L are new to the organization and this was their first taste of close combat. It was an opportunity for them to learn first hand the mettle of the German Infantryman. On the body of one Grenadier H. Kanzler, who died gloriously for his Fuhrer during this attack on Company L, was found an interesting document in the form of a court-martial order. It seems that Kanzler, whose hefty appetite forced him to eat his "Iron Ration" that was issued and duly entered into his pay-book, conceived the idea of red-lining this entry and signing the initials of the accounting clerk, thus falsifying a legitimate entry. What's more, Grenadier Kanzler, age 19, had intent to pull the wool over the Fuhrer's eyes by eating the remainder of his ration! His three month sentence was suspended to enable him to redeem himself by front line service. (See IPW Section for original.)
Brigadier General Paul W. Kendall, Commanding General, 85th Infantry Division, and Lt. Col. Beggs, G-3, visited the Command Post earlier in the day in anticipation of the Division's assuming command of this sector from the 85th Division. The situation of front line positions and the condition of the troops were discussed. Both visited the Regimental Observation Post with Colonel Champeny which provided an excellent view of the front.
A vigorous and vigilant counter-mortar (as well as counter-battery) program was maintained. The importance of shell reports was continually emphasized--with apparent favorable results. BC scopes scanned outlying enemy territory betraying any and all enemy activity that moved into their fields of observation. A record of all shell reports, flashes, and suspected mortar positions were kept on a special form. These reports were also sent on to Fire Direction Center (913th Field Artillery Battalion). From a compilation of these reports, an Enemy Mortar List Number 1, this Headquarters, was published on this date, including twelve concentrations known as the Collina Group.
During the night of 17/18 November 1944, an ambush patrol from Company F led by Lieutenant Decker captured six Germans at (937327), the first prisoners taken since the regiment's return to the lines. These Germans, carrying rations, were all headed for an enemy strongpoint in front of our positions when Lieutenant Decker and his patrol interrupted their plans. Lieutenant Decker challenged the Germans and quickly surrounded them. His fine work in securing badly needed prisoners for identification purposed was promptly rewarded by Colonel Champeny who allowed him to fill the one officer quota allotment of this regiment for a trip to Cairo, Egypt. Adroit interrogation by the Regimental IPW Officer, 1st Lieutenant Martin F. Ruopp, uncovered considerable information. (See attached IPW Reports, 18 November 1944).
On the following day, 18 November 1944, the Regiment had as its guest Major General Rooks, Chief of Staff, Allied Force Headquarters, who was brought to the Command Post by Major General Coulter, Commanding General 85th Infantry Division. Shortly after his arrival, General Rooks was conducted on an inspection of forward positions by the Regimental Commander. On the following morning, after remaining overnight at the Regimental Headquarters, General Rooks observed enemy positions from the Regimental Observation Post on Mount della Formiche.
According to Operations Instruction #66, Headquarters 85th Infantry Division, received at this Headquarters, 19 November 1944, the 88th Infantry Division:
a. Relieves the left battalion 85th Division (338th Infantry), commencing night of 18/19 November 1944 and completes relief by daylight 20 November 1944.
b. Relieves two battalions of the right regiment (339th Infantry), night of 20/21 November and the remaining battalion the night 21/22 November 1944.
c. Assumes command of 85th Division sector on completion of above relief 22 November and reports to II Corps hour of passage of command.
Early the morning of 19 November 1944, an enemy artillery barrage fell in the Regimental Motor Pool killing Captain Alvin Riga, Regimental Transportation Officer, Master Sergeant Downing, Regimental Transportation Sergeant, and wounding several others of the Regimental Transportation Section as they slept. Having maintained the highest standard of motor transportation care within the Division, as evidenced by the numerous commendations received from the Commanding General, Captain Riga's superior work will be sorely missed.
Command of the 85th Division sector passed to the 88th Infantry Division as of 0001 hours 22 November 1944. The tactical situation of this Regiment remained much the same. To date, the 3d Battalion occupied the same positions as on the initial relief of the 168th Infantry, and the 1st Battalion, having relieved the 2d Battalion the night of 20/21, held the ground extending from the vicinity of Mount Cerrara (923320) to the vicinity of Ca di Razzone (934323). Both battalions in line maintained a program of vigorous patrolling. Meanwhile the battalion in reserve in the vicinity of Mount della Formiche followed a training schedule which stressed weapons and small arms firing.
A second counter-mortar plan was published by this Headquarters, this date, consisting of slight changes to the original Collina Plan and the new Casetta Plan. During the day Brigadier General Kendall, Commanding General 88th Infantry Division and Brigadier General Sherman, Assistant Division Commander, called at the Command Post--one of their very frequent visits to the regiment while in the line.
On 24 November 1944, facts about the Battle of Laiatico, still considered the foremost accomplishment in the long and continuous fighting history of this regiment, were brought forth again. A unit citation was proposed and forwarded through channels to 5th Army, for the 3d Battalion, whose gallantry in action under almost insurmountable odds was responsible in taking this key enemy strongpoint, thus enabling the regiment and Division to continue the advance to the Arno River.
At 2130 hours 24 November men of the 1st Battalion were improving their positions at Poggio when they were subjected to a mortar barrage. Since the positions were as yet inadequate to afford protection, the men fell back on the reverse slope for cover. When they moved forward again they found that the Germans, believed to have been patrol strength had occupied the hill. At 2155 hours a report was received that an attempt was being made to drive the Germans off. At 2300 hours the following message reached Regimental Headquarters: "Baker on Poggio. Situation straightened out."
The second intra-regimental relief operations in this sector was completed by 2336 hours, 26 November 1944, when the 2d Battalion relieved the 3d Battalion on position.
At 2134 hours, 27 November 1944, the Regimental Headquarters was subjected to a heavy artillery barrage, the first shelling to threaten the Regimental Command Post. As a result, the CP truck was partially destroyed and a generator that supplied the electric current was hit. No casualties were sustained by the Regimental Headquarters personnel.
Two Germans on outpost guard were captured at 0200 hours the next morning (28 November) by Company F's forward platoon in the vicinity of (913331). Both prisoners were Yugoslavs and of the 7th Company, 15th Infantry Regiment, 29th Panzer Grenadier Division. One prisoner, a corporal of twentytwo years, was very cooperative and willingly gave much information to the extent of pointing out positions from the Regimental Observation Post. Later, the Regimental IPW Officer, Lieutenant Ruopp, was able to secure more detailed information as to strength and disposition of enemy units occupying defensive positions facing the left portion of the Regimental sector.
A message was received from 88th Division G-3 on the 29 of November that Task Force 45 in the IV Corps sector was pushed off Mt. Belvedere, a key terrain feature, as a result of a counterattack by a force of 600-1000 Germans. Four raids were also reported in the 34th Division sector. Possibilities of a similar attempt by the enemy in this sector appeared quite possible in lieu of this information.
Lt. Col. Van Alstyn assumed command of the 3d Battalion this date. This post was vacated when Lt. Col. Lewis left the regiment to become a Regimental Commander in the 34th Division.
At 1838 hours a report was received that Company B was being counterattacked. A force believed to be approximately thirty Germans moved in under heavy artillery and mortar bombardment, attacking a Company B platoon position. The platoon leader reported that one flank was caving in. As an immediate precautionary measure, the reserve company of the 1st Battalion, Company C, was alerted. The 3d Battalion was also alerted for action should further developments prove dangerous. One German, relying on an old ruse, ran forward shouting in English to our troops that they were surrounded and that they should therefore give up. The situation from our angle however was explained to this Kraut when he ran into a bullet fired by a member of Company “B”. The Company held its ground, and with the aid of defensive artillery fires, the attack was repulsed without having to press the reserve company into the fight. Two Germans were known to have been killed, and later two machine pistols with fresh blood stains were picked up. Company B sustained two men killed and one wounded in action.
This brings to a close the regimental history for the month of November--a month including a brief rest period and then a return to defensive operations. The latter period has been, in some respects, one of good fortune, because of the fact that the regiment has many new men and officers, who, by the present nature of operations have had a gradual introduction to actual combat conditions. They have had an opportunity to learn to know each other better; they have patrolled together; they have endured mortar and artillery barrages; they have learned to live under actual combat conditions. In short, they have become a part of the Regimental Team, thoroughly battle indoctrinated, and prepared to defeat the enemy in battle.
Colonel, 351st Infantry,