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Chapter 14: High Tide of Fifth Army


When the 349th Infantry captured the summit of Mount GRANDE, the last dominating mountain before the PO VALLEY, the 351st moved up on 22 October to secure the flanks. Through constant rain and ankle-deep mud the Third Battalion fought its way to the top of MONTECALDERARO on 23 October, while Company G of the Second Battalion attacked VEDRIANO with considerable success. Coming around behind the town and hill at VEDRIANO, the men of Company G surprised and captured a column of forty Germans, and after a short fight captured the town. The German commanders were quick. to recognize the potential danger of this threatening attack, however, and they committed the finest German troops in Italy to stop the Second Battalion.

As Companies E and F battled heavy resistance on 24 October in an attempt, to reach Company G, now surrounded and fighting desperately, the following radio message was intercepted from the 1st Parachute Regiment to the 1st Battalion, 4th Parachute Regiment: '"Attack VEDRIANO. VEDRIANO is decisive!" Men of the First and Third Battalions, themselves locked in battle against desperate German counterattacks, noticed the rattle of small arms fire coming through the mist from VEDRIANO. In the afternoon the sounds of firing faded away and a short time later another radio message was intercepted: "VEDRIANO retaken. Eighty Americans captured". Although they were overwhelmed and could not hold VEDRIANO, the men of Company G had approached closer to the Po Valley than any unit in Fifth Army -- for it was less than five thousand yards to Highway 9, the main lateral road for the German forces facing both the Fifth and Eighth Armies. The heroic men of the 351st Infantry Regiment had fought and suffered as long as was humanly possible -- had the orders come through to attack, they would have come out of their muddy foxholes and again stormed the German bastions in their characteristic savage manner. But, with over two thousand dead and wounded in thirty-one days of fighting, and a critical shortage of replacements and ammunition, the 351st dug-in and organized its bloody ground for defense.

The regiment came down out of the mountains to rest and relax in picturesque MONTECATINI TERME, near PISTOIA on 31 October 1944. For the, third time in less than a year the, 351st Infantry had distinguished itself by spearheading Fifth Army drive up the mountainous Italian Peninsula. Those who survived the bloody Gothic fighting could look upon their accomplishments with pride and thanksgiving; but none of us can ever forget those courageous men who sleep beneath white crosses -- those who gave their lives that we could carry on to total victory.


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


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