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Chapter 11: They Tried To Stop Us

(MOUNT CAPELLO, pp. 38-41)

Through a chilling, penetrating rain the Third Battalion attacked and overran German positions on Mount MAGNOLIA, while the Second Battalion launched a frontal assault on Mount CAPELLO. Here fanatical German troops, supported by heavy concentrations of mortar and artillery fire, determined to hold at all costs. The dead and wounded of both sides littered the slopes of Mount CAPELLO as the fighting raged up and down the hillside six times. Coming up to join the assault on CAPELLO, the First Battalion had to fight through savage resistance to reach its line of departure. One group of, thirty men from First Battalion Headquarters Company stormed a machine gun, and when they finally overran it, only two were able to walk off the hill. Such was the ferocity of the fighting, from 28 to 30 September 1944.

Men of 1st Battalion move up toward Mount Capra.

From 0840 hours until dark on 29 September, the Second and First Battalions hurled themselves again and again at the hill and ridge that formed CAPELLO. During this day of savage fighting those magnificent soldiers of the 351st Infantry wrote many an untold story of gallantry and heroism as whole squads and platoons were annihilated in the crossfire of dozens of German machine guns. Through the smoke and din of this unequalled fighting there emerged the story of the unknown and unnamed private who charged uphill with tears in his eyes to shove his bayonet clear through a German machine gunner, then grenade a second machine gun, only to stagger and fall to his death while assaulting a third. To these unsung heroes, we who survived those terrible mountains owe our everlasting gratitude and admiration -- for it was through their sacrifice and gallantry that CAPELLO was finally taken.

Fighting raged with undiminished fury throughout the night of the 29th, and shortly before dawn on 30 September the final assault of the Second and First Battalions began. The Regimental Executive Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Walter B. Yeager, took command of the combined battalions, while Major Frank W. Carmon, First Battalion Executive Officer, led Company B. So heavy had been the Second Battalion casualties that the Battalion Headquarters Company was employed as riflemen to bolster the depleted fighting strength. All morning the two battalions fought in the face of murderous machine gun and mortar fire, gradually inching their way up the hill and holding tenaciously to every foot of blood-soaked ground. At 1250 hours the first encouraging news came over the radio, "We are proceeding nicely." Three hours later the entire II Corps was electrified by Colonel Yeager's announcement: "Mount CAPELLO taken by First and Second Battalions of, the 351st Infantry Regiment!"

Nightfall that evening mercifully closed one of the most gallant and terrible battles this regiment has fought, but in enduring this trial by fire the 351st Infantry gave warning to the enemy that no matter the odds or the price, we would not be stopped. Heroic men like Lieutenant Foster O. Burch, and intrepid Sergeant Peter Pyenta are only a few of the fifty-seven men who gave their lives on bloody CAPELLO that we might carry on to victory.


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


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