Chapter 2: 351 Infantry Meets the Enemy

Updated: Jul 5

CASSINO-MINTURNO (pp. 9-10)


Unbelievable destruction and a hungry population was the vista at Naples as the soldiers carried their heavy duffel bags down the gangplanks. Hundreds of Army trucks moving through the congested port area and soldiers of many nations made newcomers seem small and insignificant in comparison with the veterans of several campaigns. But the men of the 351st were willing to learn, and more important, they were eager to meet the German on his own ground. In the night the blinking of artillery flashes along the horizon toward Cassino served as a constant reminder of how close the enemy was. It was early February 1944 at Faicchio and the men slept in tents without cots during the rainy season. Although it was not a pleasant stay, the Americans soon learned how to drink a little vino and speak Italian with the local population. From this unfamiliar environment men of the 351st moved into the line.


On 27 February 1944 the Second Battalion moved by truck to San Michele, then climbed rocky Mount CASALONE in a driving rainstorm to relieve battle weary men of the 36th Division. Here in sight of Cassino Lieutenant Colonel Raymond E. Kendall led his battalion into battle, the first all Selective Service unit to face the enemy. The doughboys saw for the first time the power of their teammates, the 913th Field Artillery, in action. In seven days on line the 351st also came to know the price of freedom and victory, for nineteen men gave their lives in patrolling and securing this cruel mountain. These men were but the first of hundreds to follow them to a soldier's grave before the regiment could consider its job in Europe completed. Theirs was the greatest sacrifice-they answered a call to duty which neither we who are living nor America ever repay.


Early in March the 351st Infantry Regiment assembled, moved to the coastal sector near MINTURNO and TUFO and relieved the 201st Guards Brigade. The Tommies had been halted in January 1944 when they had encountered the formidable GUSTAV LINE. They had crossed the GARGLIANO RIVER and had taken the nearby hills only after repeated and desperate, attacks. Throughout March and April, except for brief rest periods in bivouac near CARINOLA, the regiment manned these defenses, incessantly probed enemy positions with patrols, and endured intermittent German artillery and mortar fire which took a daily toll of casualties. The vineyards and hillsides were deadly to enter for the enemy had sown countless mines, but 351st Infantry patrols went forward with characteristic determination and completed their missions. Living under combat conditions meant foxholes, dangers, mud, cold, hardships and personal danger -- the final battle indoctrination.


On 3 May 1944, Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark addressed the officers and men of the 351st Infantry in a natural amphitheater near CARINOLA. He expressed in a natural and informal manner his confidence in the combat ability of the regiment and he promised the 88th Division an important role in the coming offensive. General Clark then pinned the Distinguished Service Cross on Second Lieutenant John T. Lamb of Company K for his magnificent hand-to-hand fighting while on patrol. Colonel Champeny then addressed the regiment, praising the men and officers for the fine job they had done in defensive operations.


Field Order Number 6, Headquarters 88th Infantry Division, reached the 351st up in the foxholes on 9 May. This order outlined the part to be played by the regiment in the coming drive and indicated the supporting fires to be expected. The mission of the United States II Corps was to attack west with divisions abreast, the 88th Division on the right and the 85th Division on the left, to secure AUSONIA and to cut the PICO-ITRI road in the vicinity of ITRI. Corps artillery would fire counter-battery missions, while the 6th Field Artillery Group and the 639th Field Artillery Battalion were placed in direct support of the 88th Division. Also attached to the division were the First Armored Group, the 804 Tank Destroyer Battalion, the 601st field Artillery Battalion, the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron, and the Second Chemical Weapons Battalion. On receiving this warning order, the riflemen re-cleaned their weapons, wrote long letters home, and studied the ground before them -- for here at last was the biggest task the 351st had ever been called upon to face.


From: 351st Infantry Regimental Information and Education Office (1945). History of the 351st Regiment, World War II.