Brief Combat Overview of the 351st

Updated: Mar 16, 2019

The 351st Infantry Regiment shipped from Hampton Roads, VA to Algeria where it arrived in early December 1943. While based in Algeria they prepared to enter the Italian Front by conducting extensive training exercises. Early in February 1944 the Regiment left Algeria and crossed the Mediterranean, disembarking at Naples. There they joined II Corps of 5th Army and began preparations to support the struggling beachhead at Anzio. Shortly before embarking onto transport ships plans were changed. The 351st instead was directed north by truck to support the continued assault on the line formed by the stronghold at Monte Cassino. In late February, 2nd Battalion was the first to enter combat as an attached unit to another division. In early March, 2nd Battalion rejoined the Regiment where together they attacked the west flank of the Gustav line. After taking heavy casualties, they broke through at Santa Maria Infante.

During the remainder of March, and throughout April and May, the 351st engaged in nearly continuous action with the enemy, pushing northward against heavy opposition. At 15:30, 4 June 1944, 1st Battalion entered the outskirts of Rome. They were noted as the “first infantry in force” of the Allied army to enter the city. Encountering scattered resistance, they moved into a blocking position on the north side, which they held through June 9th. On the 10th, the Regiment moved back from the line to rest and take on replacements, having been engaged in over 90 days of continuous combat.

During the first week of July, the Regiment returned to the front line assaulting and capturing the city of Volterra. After several days of fighting a deeply entrenched enemy, they captured the next city Lajatico and continued their advance northward. They engaged in several more battles during the month of July, capturing the towns of Partino and San Romano, ending the month in divisional reserve. At this point it was determined that there were so many replacements in the 351st that an extended training period was warranted. August and much of September 1944 found the unit in bivouac areas south of Florence, where they integrated replacements and studied mountain warfare tactics.

On September 23rd the Regiment moved back into the line to attack Maraduccio. Upon capture of the city they continued to Castel del Rio, where they engaged in a pitched battle. Upon capture of Castel del Rio they assaulted and captured Mt. Cappello. At the end of September, the Regiment left the line to take on replacements. By early October they renewed their attack northward and captured Gesso and Vedriano. At the end of October, the 351st left the line for Montecatini Terme to rest and refit. In the month of October alone they had experienced over fifty percent casualties (killed, wounded, captured).

The 351st spent one week in Montecatini integrating replacements in order to rebuild companies and battalions back to original strength. On November 8th they moved into the Idice valley where the Allied attack had halted and assumed an “active defense” role. Throughout the winter, the Regiment moved to different locations along the line where they resisted attacks from reinforced enemy patrols, conducted extensive patrolling themselves, and all the while endured nearly non-stop enemy shelling. At the beginning of March 1945, they left the line to prepare for a Spring offensive.

On April 11th, the Regiment moved from Pisa (where they were rehearsing for river crossings) to a staging area at Pietramala north of Florence and continued preparations to assault through the mountains to the Po Valley. On April 18th they moved to Vergato and assembled for an attack on Lama. Accompanying the 6th South African Armored Division, they captured the town on April 18th. They advanced from there to capture Fontana, a small town south of Sasso Marconi, where they then turned west into the high mountains and captured Lagune. They moved north toward Mt. Capra to attempt a breakthrough of a defensive position that stood in the way of the Po Valley. Mt. Capra was tenaciously defended, though the regiment made enough movement against it to allow 2nd and 3rd Battalions to bypass and continue attacking toward the Po Valley. 1st battalion battled for the mountain top while 2nd and 3rd battalions broke through resistance north of Mt. Capra and entered the Po Valley on April 21st at Riale, a western suburb of Bologna.

Upon clearing Mt. Capra, 1st Battalion joined the other two battalions and continued the assault through the Po Valley overcoming scattered, though occasionally stiff, resistance. The regiment captured San Giovanni and Crevalcore. They assaulted across the Panaro River at Camposanto, and moved to the Po River. On the morning of April 24th, the Ranger Unit (formed earlier in the year within the 351st) launched a daylight attack across the river via a damaged railroad bridge, followed by the 2nd Battalion who assaulted across in captured rubber boats. The remainder of the regiment followed by crossing in DUKWs and attacked toward Verona, where they arrived the evening of April 25th. They formed blocking forces at road junctions within the city, cutting off retreating enemy units headed north, as well as holding reinforcements at bay who were attempting to move south from the northern part of the city.

The Regiment exited Verona by heading east and forced a crossing of the Adige River at Zevio during the night of April 26th. They advanced through Vicenza toward Sandrigo. 2nd and 3rd Battalions attacked and captured Sandrigo and Marostica, while 1st Battalion moved further north to Bassano del Grappa and occupied positions inside the city at the Brenta river. After repelling counterattacks and fighting through the streets along the west side of the Brenta, elements of the regiment forced a crossing of the river on April 29th. From Bassano del Grappa the regiment advanced northward against scattered resistance, taking the towns of Cismon and Ospedaletto. By the early hours of May 2nd they occupied positions in Borgo. The Regiment was assigned the lead role in a renewed attack toward Trento, which was launched during the early evening of May 2nd. Shortly after 10 p.m. orders were received to hold in place. They suspended their attacks and at 1:35 a.m. May 5th, the 351st received the surrender of the 1st Parachute Corps, signaling the capitulation of the Italian front. Later the same day the regiment moved to positions surrounding Lago di Caldonazzo, including San Cristoforo and Levico Terme. Over the next several weeks the regiment operated throughout Northern Italy gathering prisoners, securing captured munitions, and guarding POW camps.

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