Chapter 6: Midsummer Fighting -- 1944

(MONTECATINI, p. 24)


The hard-pressed Germans, hurled back from their three defensive lines south of Rome, dropped back slowly through the hilly country until they reached a barrier of high ground running generally from Siena through Volterra, Laiatico, and down to the sea near Cecina. Here they determined to hold the attack of IV Corps while their armies facing the British could retire into the Gothic Line positions in the North Apennines. American armored units had been stopped with heavy losses, and the 88th Division

was ordered into the line to smash the German resistance. While the 349th and 350th Infantry Regiments drove for the hills near Volterra, the 351st moved by truck on 7 July to POMERANCE and then to MONTECATINI in division reserve.


On that same day General Clark, Major General Crittenberger, Commanding IV Corps, and Major General Sloan arrived at the Regimental Command Post. In brief ceremonies General Clark awarded Colonel Champeny the Distinguished Service Cross for his Extraordinary heroism and inspiring leadership during the battle of SANTA MARIA INFANTE. Lieutenant Theodore W. Noon was also decorated with a Distinguished Service Cross for his fighting valor while commanding Company G in the same action. That evening orders were received committing the regiment to some of the most bitter, cruel, aggressive warfare it ever experienced.


Attached to the 361st Infantry Regiment for this operation were Company E, First Armored Regiment, a medium tank company, Company C of the 701st Tank Battalion, and the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron. Four battalions of field artillery were massed in direct support of the regiment: 913th and 339th Field Artillery Battalions from the 88th Division, and two battalions from the 6th Armored Artillery Regiment. At the time it was anticipated that only strongpoints of resistance would be encountered and that the advance to the Division objective at PALAIA would be rapid. From the Observation Post at MONTECATINI the town of LAIATICO was plainly visible in the distance. Approaching this town was low rolling country with LAIATICO on top of a hill-mass, commanding perfect observation in every direction. As it advanced the regiment soon learned that it was to be no rapid move and that apparently the enemy was determined to stop the overpowering advance of the Fifth Army. And so began this costly, bloody, fierce Battle of LAIATICO, which again proved the mettle of the 351st Spearhead Infantry Regiment.