Chapter 23: "Cease Firing"

(TRENTO-GHEDI, pp. 72-73)


On the morning of 6 May Regimental Headquarters moved into San Christoforo, which also was the German headquarters. It was a strange sight, indeed, to see our infantrymen moving about the area with their weapons while German soldiers carried rifles and zipper pistols and wore swastika decorations. For a few days arrogant German officers rode by in convertibles and returned Hitler salutes. But this situation did not last long, for soon all arms were taken from the Germans and they were moved to concentration areas further south.


The 351st Infantry was given a large area to occupy, police, and govern two thousand eight hundred and forty-five square miles of terrain. First Battalion moved to LEVICO and the surrounding countryside, Second Battalion established itself near TRENTO, while Third Battalion occupied RIVA, on the northern tip of LAKE GARDA. For several weeks the regiment remained thus dispersed, with companies and even platoons separated by many miles from their higher headquarters. Command posts were established in towns and most Company Commanders assumed a quasi-political role as mayor of the town, judge, alderman, and advisor, as welt as commander of their own units. As the weeks passed, the regiment evacuated over fifty thousand prisoners of war, brought the civilian economy back to normal, and enjoyed the beauty of the mountains and lakes in the Dolomite Alps. Most Gl's collected more pistols and rifles than they could carry, and some came to know the local girls pretty well. In spite of guard details and motorized patrols, this period came as close to a regimental holiday as any period in the 351st Infantry's history.


Early June 1945 found the regiment concentrated in bivouac areas near SALO, where for one week the men enjoyed swimming in LAKE GARDA and passes to BRESCIA. On 12 June the 351st moved by truck to the airfield near GHEDI to assume the mission of guarding the sixty-five thousand German prisoners concentrated there. By this time the re-deployment program of the War Department began to affect the personnel of the regiment. Men worked over their "points" for discharge or reassignment and sweated out shipments home or transfer to other units. New faces appeared in the ranks as veterans of other good outfits came to us under the re-deployment program-but these new-comers, also, soon reflected the pride of a Soldier in the 351st Infantry Regiment.


Toujours Pret


In concluding this sketch of the Fighting 351st Infantry from July 1942 until July 1945, it can be stated that no one within the regiment knows for sure what the future of our unit will be. But whatever job is assigned for us to accomplish, the men and officers of the Spearhead Regiment will stand "always ready" to carry on for our Government and our beloved United States of America.

 

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