HISTORY OF THE 351ST INFANTRY REGIMENT FOR THE MONTH OF

September 1944

Submitted: 

8 October 1944

Attachments: 

          In early September training and rehabilitation continued uninterrupted; and the program for recreation was effective and enjoyable to all ranks. Many officers and men visited Rome since the regiment arrived in this area. The morale is high. The regiment had an ample period in which to lick its wounds. Once again we are refreshed and battle ready. There is discernable an attitude of self-confidence: We can meet and defeat the enemy--on our own terms.

 

          Rumors have been indicating a resumption of large scale offensive operations in the near future and reversion from Army to Divisional control on 5 September 1944 predicts our participation. Upon the receipt of a Division warning order at 1242 hours 6 September 1944, the Operations Section prepared movement plans to a forward area in the vicinity of Galluzzo, several miles southeast of Florence. Heavy rains delayed the movement which was not completed until noon,9 September 1944. Several days were spent arranging camp in the new area.

 

          Our bivouac in the Florentine Hills overlooking the art-famed city of Florence in the Arno Valley was indeed delightful. Cool breezes and the shade of pine and olive trees made the days more pleasant. However, the countryside had not escaped the path of battle, and there are many evidences of the fighting leading to the liberation of Florence. Many villas are scarred and partially destroyed by shell fire. Here and there German and British graves could be found amongst the vineyards.

 

          Salerno Day, 9 September 1944, was honored with a regimental formation at 1730 hours. The Army Commander's Order of the Day, (7 September 1944) briefly tracing the valorous operations of the 5th Army Troops including the Salerno Landing, Naples, Crossing of the Volturno, Anzio, and Rome was read to the assembled regiment. At this time, a Distinguished Service Cross Decoration was awarded to First Sergeant Paul N. Eddy of Company "F", 351st Infantry. The Division Commander, Brigadier General Paul W. Kendall, spoke to the regiment commending its praiseworthy conduct in battle and its outstanding record: "Six of the seven Distinguished Service Crosses awarded in the 88th Division have been presented to members of this regiment"-­an indisputable testimonial. In conclusion, Colonel Arthur S. Champeny, Regimental Commander, addressed his officers and men reiterating the brave achievements for which we are justly entitled to be proud and which will spur us on to greater victories.

 

          A meeting of unit commanders with General Kendall was held at 1700 hours, 10 September 1944, during which the operations of the American II Corps in its newly started drive to the north were discussed in detail. The 1, 2, 3, and 4 staff sections of Division Headquarters presented their respective elements of information. In addition to the II Corps plan, the Dutchess Plan or Exploitation Plan, was discussed. The Italian order of battle was revealed to be: from right to left, British 8th Army, American II Corps, and American IV Corps. Within the II Corps sector, from right to left were the 85th, 91st, and 34th Divisions. The 88th Division was initially placed in Corps reserve. The two missions of the II Corps were emphasized:

 

               “1) Move boldly and rapidly with multiple columns across the Appenines, capture Bologna and Modena, and secure crossings over the Po River in the vicinity of Sermide and Ostiglia.

 

               2) Be prepared for further operations in the Po Valley to capture Verona, Brescia, Cremona, and Milano.”

 

          The 88th Division had the mission (FO #8, dated 7 September 1944):

 

               “1) Initially in Corps Reserve in assembly area pre­pared to move on six hours notice.

 

                 2) Displaces forward on short notice prepared to pass through an assault division with troops especially equipped for mountain operations to continue advance with maximum speed.”

 

          The terrain to the north, within the Corps sector, is traversed by the Apennine Mountains, a range running northwest and southeast between the valleys of the Po and Arno Rivers, whose courses are generally parallel, with the Po emptying into the Adriatic Sea and the Arno flowing west into the Tyrrhenian. The city of Florence is on the Arno, and Bologna, situated in the southern foothills of the Po Valley, is some eighty airline kilometers to the north. Highways to the north are few, No 65 being the best and most direct route from Florence to Bologna. A scarcity of lateral highways add to the problems of supply. The watershed crest of the Apennines runs northwest and southeast and cuts Highway 65 approximately half the distance from Florence to Bologna. At this point, known as the Futa Pass, is located the central anchor of the Gothic or Pisa-Rimini Line.

 

          Training in the reserve position south of Florence was in accordance with Training Memo #22, Headquarters 88th Infantry Division, dated 7 September 1944. Training of the individual soldier was stressed and a high standard of physical conditioning maintained by daily cross country marches. A night problem was held on the night of 15 September 1944, devoting periods of several hours duration to individual, squad, platoon, and company night training.

 

          Fierce and furious assaults by the II Corps finally secured a route through the main Gothic Line positions coincident with the seizure of the commanding features Mount Altuzzo and Mount Frena, the latter having been taken 20 September 1944. Elements of the 85th Division reached the town of Firenzuola. Several days prior to these gains, the 88th Division began moving north to assembly areas. The 350th RCT moved to San Piero on 16 September 1944 and was temporarily placed under 85th Division control. The 349th RCT was also alerted and moved to an assembly area north of the Sieve River. At the time a new plan of attack employing the 350th and 349th regiments under 88th Division control to attack through elements of the 85th Division from the line Montecelli-Altuzzo was received from II Corps. This attack was to jump off early 19 September 1944. However, an improvement in the progress of the 85th Division delayed the plan.

 

          The 351st Infantry moved to an area in the vicinity of Scarperia on the 20th of September 1944 and on the following day, a reconnaissance party under Lt. Col. Walter B. Yeager, Regimental Executive Officer, went forward to select forward assembly areas in the vicinity of Mount Frena, located three kilometers southeast of the town of Firenzuola. In the meantime, the 350th Infantry was passing through the 337th Infantry, two kilometers to the east to continue the advance northeast and the 349th Infantry was in movement to the left adjacent zone. By the 22nd September 1944, the 351st Infantry had moved again and was on the reverse slopes of Mount Frena.

 

          Apropos at this time would be a brief description of the terrain in this part of Italy and the ground that must be traversed in the 88th Division zone of action. Forty-two airline kilometers north of Firenzuola is Bologna, main supply hub of the Wehrmacht in Italy. Highway 9, running southeast from Bologna, leads to Imola and eventually Rimini, eastern anchor of the Gothic Line, but now in the hands of the British 8th Army. Imola is approximately forty-five kilometers north­east of Firenzuola and is connected with that town by a fairly good, hard-surfaced highway. Commanding heights running north­east on the south of the highway are: Roncaccio, 1044 meters; Faggiola, 1031 meters; Carnevale, 711 meters; Mount Cappello, 589 meters; Battaglia, 715 meters. North of the highway are: Coloretta, 970 meters; Il Sasso, 856 meters; Pratolungo, 802 meters; and Punta Delle Are, 662 meters. The sizeable towns along the Firenzuola-Imola Highway are Castel Del Rio, Fontanelice, and Tossignano, the latter being fourteen kilometers from Imola. From Tossignano to Imola the country prepares itself to meet the Po Valley. The mountains diminish and the small valleys broaden out; until, arriving at Imola, the terrain is part of the vast flat floor of the Po Valley. The mountains through which the regiment must operate are abruptly rising and precipitous, crossed only by a few tortuous mule trains. In many places the canyons are vertically walled and insurmountable. Circuitous routes afford the only means of advance. For this reason, the terrain lends itself heavily in favor of the defender. Many of these barriers need not be occupied by the enemy. Consequently, only the approaches require defensive organization by the enemy. Consequently, only the approaches require defensive organization. These positions are correctly labeled strongpoints and have a large proportion of emplaced automatic weapons. Flanking the approaches, well concealed snipers hinder and harass advancing columns, frequently requiring deployment and the resultant slowing down of our assaults on main positions. Precise registration by mortars and artillery on these approaches, causes further delay. This is true mountain warfare.

 

          At 0735 hours, 23 September, the 351st Infantry was ordered to prepare itself to pass through the 349th Infantry on the Division left, on the night of the 23rd. The 349th Infantry was meeting stubborn resistance and receiving a number of casualties from mortar and artillery fire. With the 350th Infantry, the advance was slowed down by machine gun and sniper fire. However, the two leading regiments continued to advance until the necessary wide deployment of the 349th Infantry weakened the impetus of its assaults and made imperative the commitment of fresh troops if the advance was to be continued. This situation found the 351st Infantry in the vicinity of Camaggiore some seven miles northeast of Firenzuola. The 3d battalion was on the high ground north of the highway, the 2d battalion was on the south side, and the 1st battalion nearer the bottom of the gorge and within five hundred yards of Camaggiore, where the regimental command post was located. Further information arrived at 1300 hours directing the regiment to move around the right of the 349th Infantry and continue the attack without pause. Later in the afternoon, Colonel Champeny issued his attack order to the battalion commanders at the forward command post. "H" hour was designated as 1800 hours with the 3d battalion on the left, 2d battalion on the right, and the 1st battalion following. The highway would be the boundary between battalions. One company from the 1st battalion would advance generally along the highway. It was only a short while after the conclusion of this conference that a concentration of approximately twenty-five rounds estimated to be medium artillery landed in the command post area wounding two men and killing 1st Lt. Bernard M. Moynahan 3d battalion Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon leader, who was some fifty yards down the road.

 

          By 1935 hours both assault battalions had made excellent progress. The 3d battalion had advanced almost 2000 yards meeting light artillery fire. The 2d on the right covered 1500 yards and ran into a machine gun that was quickly put out of action; however, a short while later, "F" Company had a sharp encounter with four machine guns, which they by-passed. By midnight both battalions had gained an additional 1000 yards. The 2d battalion contacted elements of the 1st battalion, 349th Infantry while Company "E" captured five Germans. Meanwhile Company "C" advancing up the highway had several brisk encounters and received small arms and self-propelled artillery fire. At 1340 hours; the twelve man patrol preceding Company "C" became involved in a scramble near a bridge and three men were wounded.

 

          Daylight found both battalions and "C" Company with substantial gains. The 3d had advanced an additional 2000 yards and the 2d was 2500 yards further ahead. Company "C" was 1500 yards further up the road.

 

          Progress became increasingly difficult as the day wore on. Early in the afternoon the 3d battalion received a vicious counterattack. On the right "C" Company had almost come to a standstill. In addition to determined resistance the battalions were receiving unusually heavy mortar and artillery bombardments. Several self-propelled guns further up the valley were particularly active and were silenced after heavy counter-battery fire was brought on them. Two tanks were sent up to support "C" Company by fire at 1500 hours. The 1st battalion still in reserve, continued to follow the 2d battalion and encountered only artillery fire with the exception of one sniper, who shot and killed 2d Lt. Charles L. Kennedy of Company "A".

 

          So bitterly did the Germans fight that the 351st gained little ground by nightfall. The 3d battalion was somewhat disorganized after the counterattack it had received earlier and darkness found them reorganizing on the ground they now held. The 2d battalion was shifting slightly to ground that offered better cover. Company "C" was ordered to hold, and Company "A" moved out at 2115 hours to pass through them and attack the village of Moraduccio. Several machine guns in the town were very difficult to silence, and it was not until early in the morning that the town was mopped up. The 2d and 3d battalions resupplied during the night and were ordered to continue the attack at 0300 hours.

 

          By 0715 hours the 3d battalion had advanced slowly, but the battalion commander and "K" Company were not definitely located. All of this advance was made under artillery and machine gun fire. During the early morning of September 25th, it was learned that "K" Company had run into heavy cross fire from well emplaced German machine guns. The extremely heavy fire coupled with the surprise effect created confusion among the men of Company "K" causing them to become widely dispersed and disorganized. Lt. Colonel Charles P. Furr, seeing that the battalion column was becoming disorganized, moved up with "K" Company to rectify the situation and it was this devotion to duty that resulted in his untimely death. Rather than slow the advance and lose the initiative, he took personal command. From Private Rickenbacker of Company "K", the following information was received. "Colonel Furr was leading. I was the third man in the column. We were moving down a small nose. In front of us, a curved ridge extended around both sides of the nose we were on. Colonel Furr turned left, while a platoon of K Company continued to move down the nose. I thought the Colonel must want to see if there was anyone on the left flank. A German stuck his head up and threw a grenade at the Colonel. It hit the right side of his helmet and exploded at the same time. The Colonel fell with a very bad wound in his right temple." Meanwhile, Captain Stanton D. Richart, Company Commander, K Company, who was with the platoon that had moved down in the draw, received heavy machine gun fire from both flanks and the front. Many were wounded, including Captain Richart and before the remainder of the platoon could extricate itself, the Germans launched an assault and captured several men, including Captain Richart.

 

          The loss of Lt. Col. Charles P. Furr is an irreparable blow to the regiment. In the eyes of all in the regiment, he not only proved to be the most promising leader, but also, he achieved a position that won him the genuine respect of all. He has been with the regiment since its activation on 15 July 1942, at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma. It can be said without reservation that in all things, attention to duty, loyalty to his men, cheerful acceptance of responsibilities, fearless leadership, he excelled.

 

          At 1050 hours, Major Harold B. Ayres, now commanding the 3d battalion, notified regiment that the battalion was being counterattacked. This counterattack was reported to be of battalion strength. It was repulsed with determined fighting and artillery fire by 1355 hours. One platoon of K Company was dislodged; but all other positions remained tenable.

 

          Lt. Col. Walter B. Yeager and Captain Edwin H. Marks, Jr., left the regimental command post early in the afternoon to join the 3d battalion. Arriving there, Colonel Yeager assumed command and reorganized the battalion. Colonel Champeny ordered the battalion to rest, resupply and resume the attack at 0600 hours on the morning of the 26th.

 

          The 2d battalion making better progress, moved ahead a good 1200 yards during the day, and reported "resistance light". Continuation of the attack was ordered for 0600 hours the next morning and an objective approximately 1000 yards southeast of the town. of Castel Del Rio was assigned to them. Company C had shoved well ahead and at 0255 hours was located to the left and approximately 800 yards beyond the 2d battalion.

 

          Castel Del Rio was the regimental objective and is worthy of a few remarks. It was here that the 132d German Infantry, commanded by Major Leitner, had its command post located in a castle from which the town derives its name. The present castle, situated in the north central part of the town, dates back to the 16th century and was built by one Caesar Alidosi, a direct descendant of Cardinal Alidosi. The castle in the form of a square with four castellated towers at the corners, rises five stories and the walls between the towers are fitted with battlements having small firing slits approximately four inches wide and twelve inches high. This castle was selected for the regimental command post and the massiveness of the walls were a welcome sight to the group when they later moved in; especially was the protection afforded appreciated, after a house in which the command post had been located, the day before, received three direct hits from 105mm, or larger, artillery fire, caving in the roof. Colonel Champeny, Major Hobson, Major Sadler, and several liaison officers, narrowly escaped injury or death. As it was, all were shaken up and a new command post was set up immediately, 500 yards away.

 

          The plan for the capture of Castel Del Rio specified that the 3d battalion move up along the high ground on the left and assault the town from the west. Company C would endeavor to enter the town from the south. Prior to 0600 hours, 27 September, the time set for the attack, the 3d battalion was 1000 yards southwest of the town. Company C was in the southern outskirts, and the 2d battalion was east and slightly south of the town. At 0700 hours, after moving all during the night, the 3d battalion succeeded in getting one company in the northern part of town in the vicinity of the castle. The enemy had well-located machine guns, covering all approaches. Company C was unable to advance in the face of several machine guns firing south along the main road. At 0730 hours, the Division Commander, Brigadier General Kendall, issued the following directive to the Regimental Commander: "3d battalion will take Mount Magnola and continue advance in Division left sector, left of the road. 2d battalion will take Mount Gausteto, continue to Mount Cappello and be prepared to continue advance in old sector on right of road. This regiment would protect the Division left flank. Must move ahead with all possible speed to clear route for 349th Infantry to cut across our rear and take over our abandoned zone." Suddenly, all organized resistance in Castel Del Rio was liquidated and town captured by 0910 hours; however, for the remainder of the day, the Germans gave the town heavy shellings. It might be mentioned that Colonel Champeny called for an air mission on Castel Del Rio the day before it fell, obtaining excellent results which were verified when the command group entered the town. Major General Geoffrey Keyes, II Corps Commander, and Brigadier General Paul w. Kendall, both sent congratulations to the 351st Infantry for the capture of Castel Del Rio.

 

          Company C was moved from the town and at 1500 hours, reached a position approximately 1000 yards east of the town. The 1st battalion moved to an assembly area in this vicinity, while the 2d and 3d battalions continued the attack, meeting stiff resistance. Second Lt. Amos C. Raley, of Company D, was killed when the 1st battalion received a shelling in their reserve position.

 

          The new objectives for the 2d battalion were designated as Mount Gausteto and Mount Cappello. Company C would move north, along the road as the 2d and 3d battalions moved to their objectives. By 1515 hours, the company had secured high ground 1200 yards northeast of Castel Del Rio. The 3d battalion aggressively seized Mount Magnola and at 1430 hours were 1000 yards northeast of that hill mass.

 

          The battle for Mount Cappello ends the history for the month of September 1944. It lasted for two days and turned out to be a very bitter struggle between German soldiers who would not withdraw and American soldiers who refused to be stopped. The bayonet was used, and Captain Frank W. Carmon of the 1st battalion, personally saw an unknown Private of Company A, kill a German with the bayonet on Mount Cappello.

 

          Mount Cappello is 3000 yards east-north-east of Castel Del Rio. The Italian word "cappello" means hat. Between the town and this feature, there are two ridge lines running northwest. The second ridge line from the town is the higher of the two. Cappello itself, is almost a ridge line running north and south and slightly to the east at the northern extremity. There is a slight saddle effect and the Germans set up a line consisting of about twenty-five riflemen and ten or twelve machine guns just below this saddle.

 

          The 1st battalion was ordered to occupy Mount Gausteto while the 2d battalion attacked Mount Cappello. The attack was launched at 0845 hours, September 29th. Lt. Col. Yeager was dispatched to the 2d battalion to assist the battalion commander. By 1335 hours, the 2d battalion reached a draw 800 yards southwest of Cappello. At 1340 hours, the Division Commander sent the following message: "Exert all effort with White. Cappello must be taken. Red probably cannot be used." In the meantime, Lt. Colonel Yeager had joined the 2d battalion and at 1417 hours made the following report: "Making steady progress-do not think I'll need the other family." However, at 1545 hours, the fight had become so fierce that one company from the 1st battalion was requested to assist the 2d battalion. As dusk approached, Lt. Col. Yeager reconsidered this request for aid, changing from a request of one company, to a request for use of the 1st battalion, less Company C. General Kendall after much consideration, granted the request, stipulating that Mount Cappello must be taken on this night. For the attack, the 1st battalion, less Company C was moved to the right of the 2d battalion, in a wide enveloping move, in an attempt to flank and surprise the enemy. The 2d battalion was receiving heavy resistance from mortar fire, while six machine guns were holding up Company A. Initially, the advance of the 1st battalion was rapid; the leading elements reaching a point forty to fifty yards from the top of Mount Cappello by daylight. Here a fierce fight ensued. One soldier stated: "The Germans would assault with a deployed squad and with two or three machine guns on its flank. These guns would cover their own displacement. While one gun was firing, another would advance almost in the line of fire, set up, and open fire." In the meantime, neither the 2d battalion nor Company B, could gain ground. At 0532 hours, early in the morning of the 30th September, Lt. Col. Yeager put Major Williams, CO, 1st Battalion, in command of Company A, and Captain Carmon, Executive Officer, in command of Company B. Within the 2d battalion, the battalion headquarters company was employed as riflemen to increase the depleting fighting strength. All morning the two battalions hammered away in the face of heavy mortar barrages and small arms fire. At 1250 hours, the first encouraging news came from Lt. Colonel Yeager: "We are proceeding ahead slowly. " For three more hours, the fight did not diminish in intensity. Finally at 1536 hours, Lt. Colonel Yeager sent the Message: "Mount Cappello taken by 1st and 2d battalions." The fighting did not end here; it had only shifted in such a way that the 1st and 2d battalions were now on their objectives. This continued for another hour, until the last German had been killed. Colonel Champeny ordered the battalions to hold Mount Cappello at all costs. The congratulations of the Corps Commander to the Regiment, for the capture of Mount Cappello, were phoned to Colonel Champeny by General Kendall, who added his commendation for the fine work of the regiment in this operation.

 

          There were many acts of heroism in this action. Captain George D. Schaffer, CO of Company A, fearlessly knocked out a machine gun nest with a hand grenade and then killed the two gunners with his carbine as they attempted to run to a secondary emplacement. This enabled his handful of remaining men to assault the position.

 

          First Lieutenant Foster C. Burch of Company H, was killed by a mortar shell landing near the 2d battalion command post on the morning of the 30 September 1944. It was not known until later, that Lt. Colonel Yeager was wounded by this same shell, but he refused to be evacuated. With the 3d battalion, Second Lieutenant George F. Sesselmann of I Company was killed the day before.

 

          In spite of fanatical German resistance, mud, rain, and mountains, the 351st Infantry Regiment continues to advance towards the valley of the Po; no obstacle, no hardship, no resistance has broken the regiments will to win and the desire to annihilate the enemy.

 

         

 

          ARTHUR S. CHAMPENY

          Colonel, 351st Infantry

          Commanding.

 

 

          --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

          C O P Y

 

HEADQUARTERS 88TH INFANTRY DIVISION

UNITED STATES ARMY

APO #88

 

29 September 1944

 

AG 330.13 - (D)

 

SUBJECT:  Congratulations on Capture of M. Battaglia and Castel Del Rio.

 

TO:            All Unit and Organizational Commanders, 88th Infantry Division.

 

           

 

                   1. The following telegram from the Corps Commander to the Division Commander was received on 27 September 1944: "Congratulations upon the capture of M. Battaglia and Castel Del Rio".

 

                    2. M. Battaglia was captured by the 350th Infantry. Castel Del Rio was captured by the 351st Infantry. The Commanding General adds his congratulations to each of these regiments.

 

         

 

By Command of Brigadier General Kendall:

 

/s/Martin H. Burckes,

/t/MARTIN H. BURCKES,

     Lt. Col., A. G. D.,

     Adjutant General.

 

Incl: #18

     to be added to booklet of commendations,

     Subject: "Commendations", dated 30 May 1944,

     CG, 88th Inf Div.

 

DISTRIBUTION

“A” "B" "BB"

 

 

          This is a Certified True Copy.

 

          ROBERT D. BROWN,

          Captain, 351st Infantry,

          Adjutant.

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