Chapter 21: 351st On Patrol

Updated: Jul 31

(MAROSTICA-BASSANO pp. 66-69)


The regiment shuttled along Highway 11 behind the fast-moving 349th Infantry and closed into VICENZA by noon of the 28th. Knocked out tanks and bullet splattered walls testified to the intensity of the fighting that had taken place a few hours before, and it became evident to all that the enemy might yet attempt another organized defense. German units facing the British Eighth Army were stubbornly retreating to the Northwest, while the 88th Division was cutting in behind them in an easterly direction. It was this cross-current of two forces that led to one of the most confusing and widespread battles of the Italian Campaign.


Committed in a northeasterly direction from VICENZA on the evening of 28 April 1946, the regiment marched in column of battalions, Second, Third, First, until a blown-out bridge near SANDRIGO forced the tank-supported Second Battalion to detour. By daylight of April 29th the Second and Third Battalions met in the town of SANDRIGO and captured eleven anti-aircraft cannon, large quantities of ammunition and vehicles, along with more than three hundred prisoners. Four rifle platoons from the Second Battalion drove forward without delay to capture and secure MAROSTICA by 0700 hours, opening the way for the regiment to follow. Here in the ancient stone castle Colonel Miller received unusually accurate and timely information from a highly developed Partisan organization. Disposition and movement of German units were recorded, greatly facilitating the advance during the day.


Company A, mounted on tanks, moved out toward BASSANO DEL GRAPPA about midday, meeting scattered resistance along the way. As the task force approached within a few hundred yards of the town it encountered several road blocks and numerous machine guns hidden in the buildings. The men dismounted and deployed for two hours of stiff fighting. Private Robert M. Boston of First Battalion Headquarters Company lived up to his magnificent reputation as a fighting man by single-handedly assaulting a roadblock to kill and wound seven Germans in five minutes, while Sergeants Moffett and Richards of Company C fought a two-man war on the right flank, knocking out two machine guns and killing five Jerries. There were many instances of heroism and gallantry in the hard-fighting First Battalion during the afternoon as our troops smashed desperate resistance from German paratroopers and forced their way to the banks of the BRENTA RIVER.


While the First Battalion clawed its way into the town, large forces of enemy troops moved into their rear and cut the road between MAROSTICA and BASSANO, seriously endangering the regiment. Along the entire length of the regimental column-nearly ten miles-sharp and savage fire fights took place. Anti-Tank Company took up its rifles and engaged in several highly successful actions during the afternoon, while Second and

Third Battalions captured hundreds of prisoners in minor skirmishes. In BASSANO intense sniper and machine gun fire from buildings across the river constantly harassed our troops, and even the 913th Field Artillery cannoneers were forced to use grenades and carbines to beat off repeated infiltration attacks. With the cutting of the main road behind his battalion, Major Frank W. Carmon was ordered to organize a task force with one rifle platoon from the First Battalion and four tank-destroyers.


Striking back along the main road, the task force soon encountered a strong road block manned by two companies of Germans, four heavy machine guns, two "Panzerfaust" teams, and one heavy bazooka team. Intense small arms fire forced the riflemen to dismount and deploy. Major Carmon, who was riding in the leading tank-destroyer, seized the .50 caliber ring-mount machine gun and swung it into action. He killed two Germans with his first burst, knocked out a "Panzerfaust" team and the bazooka team, then went on to put all four machine guns out of action. The only break in his firing was when he stopped to reload his weapon. Between Major Carmon and his aggressive riflemen, eighteen Germans were killed, twenty wounded, and fifty-two taken prisoner in this sharp, ten minute fight. With this road-block destroyed, Anti-Tank Company came up to patrol and hold open the main road.


The task force had hardly returned to BASSANO when it was given a new mission on the regimental right flank. Moving south along the BRENTA RIVER to NOVE, the task force fought a few minor skirmishes and captured some prisoners. Turning northwest along secondary roads, the TD's and doughboys penetrated to within a mile of MAROSTCA, capturing about fifty prisoners along the way. Here the task force did an about face and returned to NOVE, then swung due west and captured the town of SCHIAVIO, where a few rounds of 76 millimeter cannon fire took the fight out of two hundred more Germans. Continuing on to SANDRIGO during the night, the task force circled back toward the BRENTA RIVER. One large column of enemy troops surrendered intact without a fight, and Major Carmon brought his task force back to its starting point about midnight. It bad been an outstanding success, for in their circuit the infantry and TD's had captured five hundred and nine prisoners, killed and wounded many, and succeeded in disorganizing several German formations.


While Major Carmon secured the right flank, the Third Battalion moved into BASSANO daring the afternoon and prepared to cross the BRENTA RIVER. A German footbridge was utilized to dash across the swiftly flowing stream and gain the far bank. With brave men from Company I clearing the buildings in that part of BASSANO east of the river, the Third Battalion spread out and secured a substantial bridgehead during the night of the 29th. This aggressive blow cut the German's last escape route into the mountains and marked the end of organized resistance in the PO VALLEY. It had been yet another amazing twenty-four hours of offensive fighting-three thousand two hundred and forty-four Germans captured, an estimated four hundred and fifty killed, and large numbers wounded and dispersed. In the prisoner bag were no less than one thousand forty-one Germans from the two best enemy outfits in Italy, the 1st and 4th Parachute Divisions. The men and officers in the 351st Infantry may well take pride in their achievements in this single day of fighting.



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