HISTORY OF THE 351ST INFANTRY REGIMENT FOR THE MONTH OF
8 November 1944
As the month of October began, the 351st Infantry Regiment, still in action since September 23rd, continued its advance against the fanatically stubborn resistance of the German defenders. The unrelenting offensive towards the valley of the Po continued and the flat expanses of this rich goal could be seen from the heights now occupied by the regiment.
On October 1, 1944, the 1st Battalion (less Company C) and the 2d Battalion occupied positions northeast of Castel del Rio on the strategic Mount Cappello. In the hard fought battle for this objective, fifty-seven soldiers of the regiment had been killed and many more wounded. On Mount Cappello, enemy resistance continued and the positions were constantly subjected to heavy enemy mortar and artillery fire and periodic counterattacks. Numerous enemy snipers remained in the vicinity of the 1st and 2d Battalions, preying on litter bearers, wiremen and mule trains, causing several casualties before the area was successfully cleared of them. At this time Company C was located east of the Castel del Rio-Fontanelice Road south of Rio de Carseggio.
Orders were received at the Regimental Command Post in Castel del Rio on 30 September for the 351st Infantry, with Company A, 760th Tank Battalion, one platoon of Company A, 805 Tank Destroyer Battalion, and one platoon Company C, 84th Chemical Weapons Battalion attached, to attack with the 3d Battalion at 0600 hours, 1 October generally abreast of the 349th Infantry, and capture Mount Codronco --located some 1500 meters northeast of 3d Battalion's most forward elements. The 1st Battalion, (less Company C) and the 2d Battalion would consolidate and hold positions on Mount Cappello, while Company C continued movement northward up the right of the road toward Carseggio assisting the advance of the 3d Battalion and providing security for tanks located in that area.
At 0130 hours, this date, Lt. Col. Yeager, Regimental Executive Officer who had coordinated and supervised the attack of the 1st and 2d Battalions on Mount Cappello, reported to the Regimental Command Post having been wounded in the head and right leg. The Battalion Command Post occupied by Lt. Col. Yeager had been hit by German Artillery fire, killing 1st Lt. Foster C. Burch, Commanding Officer, Company H.
The 3d Battalion according to plan, launched its attack on Mount Codronco from positions north of Mt. Magnola at 0600 hours. At this time, the 349th Infantry was endeavoring to capture two commanding hills some 500 to 600 yards from the left flank of the 3d Battalion from which came deadly heavy machine gun fire impeding the advance of the 3d Battalion. An initial gain of 500 yards was made, but by 0900 hours the advance was halted by stubborn enemy resistance to the right and from the zone of the 349th Infantry on the left.
The situation was further hampered by mud and rain. The mountains north of Castel del Rio for several miles are less rocky, but equally as severe in slope, as those south of the town. As a result, the mud and the absence of surfaced and drained roads, forced utilization of mule paths and made supply a difficult problem.
The 1st Battalion, on the right of Mount Cappello position, received two counterattacks at dawn, both of which were repulsed at heavy loss to the enemy, and no ground was lost. The 2d Battalion received a mortar barrage during the counterattacks. Sniper fire from the enemy positions, continued unabated and the freedom of movement of our troops was greatly limited.
The welcome information that Captain Theodore W. Noon had been rescued, reached the Command Post. Captain Noon, badly wounded, had been between the lines in "no-man's land" for about twenty-four hours, and all attempts to get to him had failed up until the time an intrepid litter team with the Red Cross flag, evacuated him in daylight.
During the morning, both Brigadier General Kendall, Commanding General, and Brigadier General Kurtz, Commanding General, Division Artillery, visited the Command Post to discuss plans.
The tenacious enemy again attempted to regain Mount Cappello by counterattacking the 2d Battalion at 1645 hours. About thirty-five enemy attacking from the northwest under cover of heavy artillery and mortar fire were repelled with their losses many. Throughout the afternoon and night, both the 1st and 2d Battalions received heavy small arms and mortar fire from the enemy, all of which they successfully returned.
At midnight on 2 October 1944 the 3d Battalion renewed its attack for Mount Codronco against obdurate resistance. The 349th Infantry on the left continued the fight for the flanking Hills #449 and #362. The scheme of maneuver called for a flanking movement by the 3d Battalion around the enemy left thus by-passing enemy strong points on our own left flank.
In accomplishing this maneuver it was necessary to cross a deep draw to reach a "finger" ridge extending south from Mount Codronco. Initially, the maneuver progressed satisfactorily until the leading elements began crossing the deep draw. There, they were met by heavy artillery and mortar concentrations while numerous enemy machine guns fired cross fires along the slopes of the "finger" ridge. Further hampered by "schu" mines sown discriminately throughout the area Major Ayres, Commanding Officer 3d Battalion, with daylight approaching decided to withdraw his troops to the high qround south of the draw to approximately the same positions as they occupied at the beginning of the attack.
After a conference with the Regimental Commander at 0900 hours, Major Ayres was ordered to continue the attack -this time moving to the west along the high ground avoiding the draws. Throughout the day, the Battalion inched forward in the face of heavy artillery, mortar, machine qun and sniper fire. At 2000 hours, under cover of darkness, a coordinated attack was launched with two companies in the assault. By 2100 the initial objective (Hill #430) had been seized. as the attack gained momentum.
In the meantime, during the afternoon preliminary arrangements were completed with the 14th Armored Infantry Battalion, 1st Armored Division for relief of our 2d Battalion on Mount Cappello. Advance detachments were guided forward to inspect dispositions.
By 0200 hours 3d October the 3d Battalion meeting heavy machine gun and small arms fire had reached a point just 300 yards from the crest of Mount Codronco. By 0230 one platoon occupied the crest with Germans on the slopes. Moving in fast, two companies joined the platoon and by 0500 mopping up operations were completed with fifty-seven PWs taken and many Germans killed or wounded.
C Company, as did the 3d Battalion, met stubborn resistance in its attempt to advance towards Carseggio on 1st and 2nd of October. Due to the elimination of enemy observation from Mount Codronco, Lt. Visher, Tank Liaison Officer, 760 Tank Battalion was able to ford two platoons of tanks across the river which accompanied Company C in its attack. The advance was rapid until Rio Carseggio was reached at which point the progress of the tanks was impeded by a blown out bridge and accurate enemy self propelled gun fire. Faced with overwhelming machine gun fire and being unable to secure direct fire support from its tanks, the advance of Company C was halted.
By 0430 hours 4 October the 14th Armored Infantry Battalion had successfully completed the relief of our 2d Battalion on Mount Cappello. From Cappello the 2d Battalion moved to an assembly area 1500 yards southeast of Castel del Rio for twenty-four hours of much deserved rest. During this period the Battalion reorganized, reinforced and reequipped.
At 0430 hours this date, Company I began movement from positions vicinity Mount Codronco to occupy Hill #429 some 1800 meters north. At 0615 hours an erroneous report was received to the effect that the objective had been reached and occupied but; as daylight improved the map reading of the officers of Company I, it was found at 0830 hours that the company was actually 400 yards from its objective with heavy fighting in progress. The remainder of the 3d Battalion continued to improve and consolidate positions on Mount Codronco while advance detachments from elements of the 78th British Division arrived at the Regimental Command Post in Castel del Rio for planning of the relief of the 1st Battalion 351st Infantry night 5/6 October.
At 1930 hours the following directive was received from Headquarters 88th Division: "351st Infantry: a). Attacks with the 3d Battalion at 050100 October and captures and secures Hill #429 and Hill #502. b). After securing Hill #502, prepares to attack Hill #508 and continue the attack to the north or northeast. c). Night of 4/5 October moves one company 2d Battalion to Hill #429 and remainder 2d Battalion to Hill #450 (Mount Codronco). d). Protect Division right flank. e). Prepares for relief of 1st Battalion from Mount Cappello by elements 78th British Division night of 5/6 October".
As instructed above, the 3d Battalion launched its attack on Hills #429 and #502 on time while at 2355 hours the 2d Battalion had occupied positions on Mount Codronco vacated by the attacking 3d Battalion.
In its attack on Hill #429 the 3d Battalion, while attempting to outflank it from the west, met not only stubborn resistance from #429 but also discovered Hill #475 northwest of #429 highly organized with stone Italian farm houses on commanding ground serving as enemy strong points. one company however was successful in reaching a point in rear of Hill #475 (as verified later by a PW) and could have taken the objective along with many PWs had their success been exploited. However, since it had lost contact with the Battalion, the company withdrew and #475 remained in enemy hands.
At 0600 hours 5 October the Regimental Command Post closed in a farm house in the draw just south of Mount Codronco a most uncomfortable location due to the fact that not only did it receive a great amount of intentional harassing artillery fire but also was the recipient of all "overs" meant for the friendly positions along the Codronco ridge.
All during the day the 3d Battalion met stubborn resistance from well prepared positions which prevented its advance. At 1055 hours Colonel Crawford, Commanding Officer 349th Infantry, after a telephone conversation with Colonel Champeny announced his intentions of requesting from the Commanding General that his 3d Battalion be granted permission to attack abreast of our 3d Battalion to eliminate resistance on Hill #475 and assist in the capture of Hill #502.
Meanwhile at 1100 hours Colonel Champeny requested that the 2d Battalion from positions on Mount Codronco be permitted to eliminate a reported enemy battalion in position on Hill #382, 1000 meters northwest of Codronco. The latter request was refused but the former received approval of the Commanding General and by mutual agreement between Regimental Commanders, Lt. Col. Walter B. Yeager was selected to coordinate the attacks of the 3d Battalion of the 349th and the 3d Battalion 351st. Lt. Col. Ohme, recently assigned to the regiment from 5th Army G-3 Section accompanied and assisted Lt. Col. Yeager. At 1405 hours orders were issued to 3d Battalion 349th to send at once one company to come abreast of the 3d Battalion 351st on the left at which time, in conjunction with the 3d Battalion, an attack would be launched on Hill #475. Another rifle company would continue to occupy positions on Hill #548 north of Pezzola until relieved by the 350th Infantry this date.
In spite of the assistance furnished by 349th Infantry, no appreciable gains were made during the night of 5/6 October. The 3d Battalion 349th Infantry only succeeded in reaching our most forward location before being stopped, as were our own forward elements, by heavy machine gun, mortar, artillery, and sniper fire.
At 0210 hours the 1st Battalion was relieved on Mount Cappello displacing for forty-eight hours to an assembly area some 1500 yards southwest of Castel del Rio for rest, bathing, reequipping, reinforcement and reorganizations.
During the morning after the aid of the 3d Battalion 349th had been to no avail, orders were received stating that it would return to its parent organization for another mission. In the meantime the 3d Battalion 351st Infantry continued to maneuver into position whereby Hills #429 and #475 could be flanked and captured.
The Regimental Command Post displaced from the draw southwest of Mount Codronco to ridge line running west from Mount Codronco at 1000 hours where heavy mortar fire continued to be received from vicinity of Hill #382 east of Codronco. At this location advance detachments from the Irish Fusiliers 38th Irish Brigade reported for necessary arrangements to accomplish relief of our 2d Battalion on Mount Codronco night of 6/7 October.
During the night of 6/7 October the 3d Battalion continued its attack but failed to advance --reporting that the organization of the ground on Hills #475 and #429 with many automatic weapons emplaced in and around the Italian farm houses, their most serious obstacle. At 0110 hours, 7 October, 2d Battalion reported that it had been relieved and was now in previously reconnoitered assembly area in draw west of Mount Magnola.
AT 1100 hours 7 October the Battalion Commanders of the 1st and 2d Battalions met with the Regimental Commander at the Regimental Command Post for planning of attack to capture Hills #429 and #475 now holding up the advance of the 3d Battalion. Plans were completed whereby the 2d Battalion would pass slightly to left of 3d Battalion, seize Hill #475 while 3d Battalion took #429 from the rear, 2d Battalion continuing its advance along the Monte Morosino ridge line to capture S. Apollinare and Hill #502. Meanwhile the 1st Battalion would attack and seize Hill #356, a prominent hill mass which had prevented maneuver on Hill #429 from the east due to excellent flanking fire afforded the enemy on our attacking troops. From #356 the 1st Battalion would continue northward along the ridge line, assist 2d Battalion in the capture of Hill #502 and capture La Morea being prepared to continue the attack northward to Gesso.
At the completion of the conference each Battalion Commanding Officer visited the Regimental OP on Mount Codronco for a terrain study of ground over which his attack would be launched. This terrain was extremely rugged --rocky, wooded ravines cut each of the ridge lines along which the assault Battalions would "ride".
During the afternoon of 7 October attached tank destroyers which had been brought along the ridge line trail leading to Codronco delivered under the direction of the Regimental Commander accurate fire on all houses which had been utilized as strong points to hold up the advance of the 3d Battalion. By 1745 hours the direct fire had softened the resistance to such an extent that the 3d Battalion was able to advance. By 1830 Hill #475 had been captured and the attack continued towards #429 from the northwest which too was in our hands at 2315. A grand total of forty-three prisoners were taken in this operation all of whom stated that the direct fire from the tank destroyers was so deadly that it caused the collapse of their resistance.
By 0100 hours 8 October the attacks of the 1st and 2d Battalions were proceeding as planned. Since the 3d Battalion had completed mopping up Hill #475 the attack of the 2d Battalion rolled on unabated along the ridge line meeting scattered resistance which was dealt with viciously. By 1915 hours enemy positions at both S. Apollinare and Hill #502 had been overrun by the 2d Battalion netting some thirty PWs while the 1st Battalion was nearing La Morea. During the night the enemy was pressed relentlessly. At 0700 hours 9 October, F Company occupied the high ground north of Qassatello while the 1st Battalion, which had taken sixty PWs, was meeting considerable resistance at La Morea, having repulsed a 40 man German counterattack on its right flank. From Gesso and Monte La Pieve (Hill #508) the 1st Battalion was receiving extremely heavy enemy self propelled and machine gun fire.
Action of the 2d Battalion on 9 October was limited to patrols to front and flanks for security and contact while positions were consolidated on high ground north of Sassotella. At 1900 hours the 1st Battalion launched attack on the town of Gesso --stepping stone to Monte La Pieve (Hill #508) a critical terrain feature in the enemy defense and a "sore spot" for our advance due to its excellent facilities for artillery and machine gun fires.
A Company advanced west of the road leading from Hill #502 to Gesso with the mission of capturing Gesso and turning east to continue attack to Hill #508. B Company advanced to capture Hill #408 and assist A Company in capture of Hill #508. C Company remained in reserve northeast of La Morea.
As the 1st Battalion attacked, the 3d Battalion moved to a new assembly area south of Hill #502, closing at 2300 hours. The 2d Battalion attempted to advance along the open ridge line extending northeast from Sassatello towards Ripiano --while moving his command group forward to join the leading elements of his Battalion, Lt. Col. Boyd, Commanding Officer 2d Battalion, received painful wounds of the neck and shoulder and was evacuated. Captain Marks assumed command of the Battalion and continued to exert pressure upon the enemy, but, with the arrival of daylight, the ground was so open and devoid of cover and the fire from the adjacent ridges on either flank so deadly that it was impossible to advance without suffering heavy casualties.
During the night, Company A in the face of murderous artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire reached the outskirts of Gesso taking nine PWs. At this point a counterattacking force equipped with flame throwers halted the advance of the company. B Company had been less successful in its attack, having been able to advance only a few hundred yards from La Morea. At 0558 hours, A Company in the edge of Gesso was forced by heavy enemy pressure to withdraw several hundred yards in the direction of La Morea where the troops remained throughout the day.
At 1600 hours 10 October, Lt. Col. Ohme, Commanding Officer of the 3d Battalion, reported to the Regimental Commander. Plans were completed for an attack at 2400 hours in which all Battalions would participate. The 2d Battalion would continue its attack along the ridge line from Sasstello towards Ripiano; the 1st Battalion would again attack Gesso continuing to attack and capture Hill #508; the 3d Battalion would, from its present assembly area, move around the western slopes of Gesso hill mass and assist the 1st Battalion in capturing Gesso and continue the attack northward to capture Mount Spaduro.
On the outskirts of Gesso the 1st Battalion encountered the same fierce resistance as had been met in the previous attempts to capture the town. On the western slopes of the Gesso hill mass, the 3d Battalion, led by Company L, advanced with extreme difficulty due to the numerous flares employed by the enemy and the deadly cross fire of their machine gun final protective lines. By 0450 hours the 1st Battalion had employed its reserve company without success.
With daylight approaching, the 3d Battalion due to its inability to move forward was finding itself in a position which would be unstable in daylight hours. As a result Lt. Col. Ohme moved his Battalion west across the draw to a position in rear of the 2d Battalion in the vicinity of Sassotello.
All during the day of 11 October the 2d Battalion continued its efforts to advance with little success. The 1st Battalion and 3d Battalion reorganized and made plans for a new attack on Gesso and Hill #508 during the night of 11/12 October. The Regimental Commander, from an excellent OP at La Vigua, could see all enemy-held territory to the immediate front in the Regimental zone, and from there, he directed tank, tank destroyer and artillery fire on the enemy in the vicinity of Gesso and Hill #508.
With engineer assistance one tank and one tank destroyer were enabled to move into direct fire positions on Hill #508. Through a telephone line laid directly to the tank commander from the OP and by radio to the tank destroyer, Colonel Champeny was able to "snipe" with these weapons at the many Germans concentrated in Gesso and to make the buildings being used as cover untenable.
An attack was tentatively planned at 1500 in which the 1st Battalion would advance under cover of these fires but, due to poor visibility later in the afternoon caused by the dust created by the exploding shells, the attack was postponed until evening.
At 2135 hours 11 October the Regimental Commander was notified by Brigadier General Kendall, Division Commander, that since Hill #508 was located in the British zone, it would not be captured by this Regiment. As a result, when , the 3d Battalion launched its attack at 0100 hours, 12 October, it would have to move along the Hill #502-Gesso Road with the 1st objective Gesso, then Hills #462 and #435 immediately east of Gesso and afterward be prepared to continue the attack on Mount Spaduro. The 1st Battalion moved from positions at La Morea to occupy high ground south of Hill #502.
At 0520 hours the 3d Battalion had reached the southern edge of Gesso and were engaged in a fire fight there. Soon after daylight the direct fire of tanks was brought to bear upon Gesso from positions on #502 directed by the Regimental Commander from his Op. Under cover of this fire the 3d Battalion progressed more rapidly. Many Germans who attempted to repulse our advancing troops were killed by the accurate 75mm tank fire.
As the troops of the 3d Battalion entered the most prominent building in the town of Gesso --the Church --a German engineer soldier operating a flame thrower fired his instrument through the window of the church. Stepping aside, an I Company soldier rushed into the shattered church door and shot the German. Inside the church were discovered several other flame throwers whose operators were put out of action before any damage could be done. In this same church basement seventy Germans were discovered huddling together to escape our devastating fire.
At 1700 hours, after fifteen minutes of artillery preparation, the 3d Battalion continued its attack to capture Hills #462 and #435 along the ridge just east of Gesso. The attack was successful with mopping up operations complete by 1824 hours and seventy more Germans rounded up --making the total bag for the day one hundred and forty PWs.
Extending north from Gesso and a part of the Gesso hill mass was a wide based ridge line which culminated in Hill #362 and sloped gently northward to a draw leading into Ripiano. Some few Germans still remained in the vicinity of Hill #362, and at 2300 hours, L. Company attacked with the mission of clearing Hill #362. Advancing with little resistance, Captain Carey newly appointed company commander of Company L, with two platoons moved 1000 meters north of #362 to an eastwest ridge line arriving there at about 0630 hours. These two platoons of Company L remained on the ridge throughout the day with little or no interference, sending a combat patrol to the vicinity of Spaduro (Hill #362) which met heavy machine gun fire. At 1830 the Germans launched a strong counterattack against Company L which was repulsed. After dark the plan was to reinforce the hard pressed troops of Company L in order that they might hold the ground gained. However, not realizing the seriousness of the plight of Company L, reinforcements were delayed to receive supplies at Gesso; and by the time they were on their way forward the Germans had placed so much strength against the Company L position that it became impossible to hold, and the company was forced to withdraw to Hill #362 north of Gesso.
During the attacks on Gesso, Hill #362, Hill #435 and #362 the 2d Battalion had continued its efforts to advance along the ridge line Sassatello-Ripiano but the murderous enemy machine gun, artillery, mortar and self-propelled gun fire (preponderantly flanking fire) continued unabated and limited the 2d Battalion to small advances.
At 0815 hours 14 October Brigadier General Kendall ordered that the 3d Battalion consolidate its positions on Hill #362, Gesso, and Hill #435 and for the 2d Battalion to continue its efforts to inch forward.
At 1600 hours orders were received directing the 1st Battalion to relieve the 1st Battalion-of the 350th on M. Delle Tombe as quickly as possible. Company C which had been moved to Gesso when Company L attacked Hill #362 was recalled and the relief of the 350th Infantry on M. Delle Tombe completed at 2350 hours.
At 2030 hours on the 14th of October it was reported that Lt. Col. Ohme, Commanding Officer 3d Battalion, had been killed in a foxhole in the vicinity of Gesso by self-propelled artillery fire. During his short period of duty with this Regiment as a Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Ohme had served with distinction. Without previous combat experience, he had skillfully and successfully led his troops in the capture of strongly held German positions, keypoints in the German defenses; namely, Hills 1429 and 1475, Gesso and Hills #462 and 1435.
The 15th of October 1944 was uneventful except for preparations for relief of components of the Regiment. The 1st Battalion relieved a battalion of the 349th Infantry west of its present position on Mount delle Tombe on the Falcetto Hill mass while a battalion of the 349th Infantry relieved our 1st Battalion on Mount delle Tombe. Our 3d Battalion was relieved at 2110 hours by a Battalion on the 36th Infantry Brigade (British) in the Gesso area and moved to a reserve assembly area in the vicinity of Villanova, west of Sassoleone, closing there at 2300 hours.
At 0630 hours 16 October the Regimental Command Post displaced to Villanova. Lt. Col. Yeager, Regimental Executive Officer, remained temporarily in command of the 2d Battalion while Major Sadler, Regimental S-2, remained at the Headquarters of the 38th British Infantry Brigade as Regimental staff representative until such time as the relief of the 2d Battalion was completed by the British this evening.
At 2340 hours with the relief of the 2d Battalion, the 78th British Division assumed command of the zone formerly assigned to this Regiment, and the Regiment minus the 1st Battalion completed its assembly in the Villanova area in Division Reserve for an estimated five days of rest, rehabilitation, reequipping and reorganization. For the first time in many days men were fed hot meals and given hot baths at the Division operated clothing exchange and shower unit.
"For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services during the period from 15 March 1943 to January 10, 1944", Master Sergeant John F. McGrath, Regimental Sergeant Major, was presented the Legion of Merit by Brigadier General Kendall at a ceremony before the Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Company drawn up in formation in the field in the vicinity of Villanova, Italy, on 17 October 1944.
At 1830 hours orders were received directing that the 1st Battalion (minus Company A) relieve elements of the 349th Infantry on Mount Della Tombe early in the night of 17/18 October and to secure and maintain contact with the 349th Infantry and the British on the right. A Company would continue to occupy a portion of the Falcetto hill mass.
At 0900 hours 18 October all officers of the Regiment (minus 1st Battalion) met with the Regimental Commander at the Regimental Command Post. Colonel Champeny reviewed recent operations with emphasis on combat lessons learned. The imminent operations in connection with the taking of Mount Grande (Army Objective) was mentioned when Colonel Champeny mentioned that the Army Commander had stated that he considered this Regiment the best suited for the job. The telegram from the Corps Commander, Major General Keyes, to the Division Commander, Brigadier General Kendall, which stated, "Please convey my congratulations to Colonel Champeny and the 351st Infantry for their splendid work. Their long period of aggressive combat has been a splendid example to us all", was read to all officers.
Other points discussed included the need for the constant work on the increasing number of stragglers to return to their units, and the necessity for security and safety of keeping men away from buildings. Cases were cited of men congregating in buildings where they were either seen and unnecessarily severe casualties suffered, or many were captured because they were inside and not in a position to fight.
On the 19th of October air support was increased and German front line positions were heavily bombed and strafed.
In the early evening of the same day orders were received for the 1st Battalion with the 88th Recon Troop to continue on the present mission, 3d Battalion to relieve the 1st Battalion of the 350th Infantry that night and, upon completion of the relief, to be attached to the 350th Infantry as Regimental Reserve. The remainder of the Regiment was to assemble along the Sassoleone-Castel San Pietro Road between the 25.0 and 26.5 Northings. The relief of the 350th Infantry was to be completed on the night of 20/21 October.
On the night of the 19/20th the Division captured Mount Grande and on the night of the 20/2lst the 3d Battalion, attached to the 349th Infantry moved up to occupy a portion of that hill mass. The 1st Battalion remained in position and the 2d Battalion was alerted for movement on short notice from their assembly area (9626).
Orders were received on the night of the 21st for the 3d Battalion to attack Hill 568 (Mount Montecalderaro) the following night, the 2d Battalion to occupy positions now held by the 3d Battalion. The 3d Battalion was to be prepared to continue the attack and cut Highway 9 on the night of 23/24. The 1st Battalion was relieved by a Battalion of the 350th Infantry.
The 3d Battalion jumped off on the night of the 22nd and after a fierce all night fight was successful. They completed mopping up Hill 568 at 0730 hours and took 28 prisoners. Plans were made to attack Vedriano and for patrols to work into Vezzola and toward Vedriano. By 1010 hours two counterattacks, one in the strength of two hundred men were repulsed.
Orders were received at noon of the 23rd for one Battalion to attack Vedriano at night. One Battalion was to remain on Hill 568 and one on Mount Grande. It was decided that the 2d Battalion was to attack and the 1st spread across Mount Grande to occupy their positions. The 3d would remain on Hill 568 in their present position. The 1st Battalion of the 337th requested permission to move to their right and pass through our 3d Battalion in order to facilitate the attack of Mount Mezzano, their next objective. This permission was granted.
The 2d Battalion jumped off and fought forward through heavy resistance. G Company advanced well and morning found them at Vedriano. Forty prisoners including two officers were taken. E and F Companies were held up just east of Vezzola by enemy strong points along the Vezzola-Vedriano Road, which had been by-passed by G Company in their advance. A German radio intercept called Vedriano "decisive", and the Germans appeared to be much concerned over its loss. G Company received one small scale counterattack during the morning, and word was received from the Company Commander that he was dug in in good defensive positions and everything was under control.
At about 1400 hours, Lt. Col. Yeager telephoned the Command Post and informed Colonel Champeny that Captain Lanzendorfer, 2d Battalion Executive Officer, who was with G Company, was talking with the Germans and that he was unable to obtain details then. Later, a message stating that the Germans would allow C Company to withdraw to Vezzola if they would return forty prisoners taken by them was relayed by Lt. Col. Yeager. The Regimental Commander sent orders by radio to Captain Lanzendorfer to have nothing to do with the Germans and to fight, and he immediately went forward with the S-2 to take charge personally.
Plans were made to move the 1st Battalion and some tanks to reinforce G Company and E and F Companies were ordered to push rapidly. Planes were sent over the area to prevent the movement of German reinforcements, but a short time later Captain Lanzendorfer surrendered the company without a fight. A German radio intercept reported Vedriano retaken and eighty American prisoners captured.
Our goal had been within our hands and had been allowed to slip away. Feeling ran high in the Regiment --disgust and disappointment being uppermost.
It was decided to attack again that night with the 1st Battalion and E and F Companies coordinating. This attack was stopped by intense artillery, mortar, and small arms fire just short of a group of houses called Sasso where the Germans appeared to have a strong point at the west base of the Vedriano Hill mass. Withering small arms fire was poured from there in all directions, and it was evident that the Hill had been reinforced since G Company was taken.
Both the 1st and 2d Battalions remained in position just west of Sasso throughout the 25th. Every movement drew heavy fire. In turn our tanks and tank destroyers, from their vantage point on Hill #568, fired into Sasso and at houses on Vedriano while the artillery shelled the area heavily throughout the day.
At 2100 hours E and F companies moved to the vicinity of C. Vaglio-C. Buferla to cover the left flank while B Company moved between them and Vedriano, swinging south to attack from the north. A Company moved along the road straight toward Sasso and C Company remaining in Battalion reserve, supported the attack by fire from original positions near C. Cola.
B Company advanced about half way up the north slope of the hill when they were met by machine gun fire. The company, composed largely of replacements recently received, scattered leaving only a handful of the older men. Some of these men later joined F Company and others joined A Company, which was stopped short of Sasso by a murderous hail of small arms and mortar fire.
The next day, the 26th, as the past few days had been, was foggy. Except for occasional moments, visibility was limited to 200 to 300 yards. Under cover of this fog, about thirty Germans completely surprised F Company; and, after a short but fierce fight, the entire company and that part of B which had joined F were taken.
E Company was rushed to F Company's assistance and engaged the Germans, but in spite of their efforts, all of the enemy escaped taking our men with them. One B Company man got away by running around a haystack and disappearing into the fog. He stated that the Germans fired at him several times but missed by a wide margin.
Word was received that the 337th Infantry had withdrawn from Mezzano and that the 349th Infantry had been driven off Hills #339 and #309. It was also determined that the Germans were reinforcing with the 1st Paratrooper Regiment, thought to be the 2d and 3d Battalions. These new troops in addition to remnants of the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 361st PGR gave the enemy numerical superiority as well as the advantage of fresh troops, our own men being tired from three days constant fighting in bad weather. Also, both flanks were now open for 1500 yards due to the withdrawals to right and left and own advance so that there was no alternative but to withdraw and consolidate.
New positions were taken up with C Company in the outpost 200 yards east of Sarti and the rest of the 1st and 2d Battalions dug in along the road from Sarti to Vezzola. This was accomplished by 1830 of the 26th, and Lt. Col. Yeager, Regimental Executive Officer, who had been sent out by Colonel Champeny, Regimental Commanding Officer, to coordinate the Battalions, remained with the 1st Battalion Command Post at Sarti. Patrols were sent to the flanks.
During the 27th, the Germans felt out our position with patrols throughout the day, and we inflicted heavy casualties on them while suffering a few ourselves. Major Harris, Assistant Division G-3, was escorted to Sarti by the S-2 in order to obtain a clear picture of the situation. Upon returning, he stated an immediate withdrawal to Hill 568 appeared advisable.
The Germans continued to work closer to the north flank and had taken up positions 200 yards east of C Company. They were machine gunning the road near Bertochi and fire fights were continuous. German tanks appeared in Vedriano and added their fire to that of the mortars and artillery.
Later in the day orders were received to withdraw the 1st Battalion to the west slope of Mount Grande, the 2d to Vezzola, and for the 3d to move L Company from Vezzola to a reserve positi9n behind Hill 568.
Before 2400 all Battalions had been successfully withdrawn, patrols were out, mines laid in the roads north and east of Vezzola, and contact made on both flanks.
On the night of the 28, the Regiment was relieved by the 350th Infantry. The 1st Battalion occupied positions in the vicinity of (907298) and the 3d at Parr le Tombe. The 2d Battalion assembled near C. Calanco, 2000 yards west of San Clemente. Reorganization and reequipping was immediately started, and the 1st and 3d Battalions laid barbed wire and installed silent sentinels.
After occupying these positions for two days, the 1st and 3d Battalions were relieved on the night of 30/31 by the 362nd Regimental Combat Team.
During the latter part of October the Regiment had fought almost continuously night and day. Constant rain, fog and cold together with supply difficulties had added to the increasing exhaustion of the troops. The Germans had constantly reinforced, using troops chiefly from the sector to our right. One prisoner from the 2 Company 577 Infantry (German) was moved from Mount Battaglia at 1100 one night and captured by the 3d Battalion of this Regiment the following night on Hill #568.
Colonel, 351st Infantry,