THE 85th MOUNTAIN INFANTRY
4 JANUARY 1945 to 31 MAY 1945
John B. Woodruff
Captain, 85th Mountain Infantry
Historical Records Officer
Dedicated to our comrades in the 85th Mountain Infantry
who made the supreme sacrifice that we might live as free men.
From the original document located in the National Archives
Suitland, Maryland (Record Group 407), with minor editing.
John Woodruff was the 85th Regiment's Historical Records
Officer who, in 1945, wrote this official regimental history of its time
in combat. I made a photocopy of the original text, which is housed at the
National Archives in College Park, MD, 20740-6001; and my wife Barbara
Imbrie digitized the whole thing, I corrected spellings of place names as
needed, and other occasional errors. For example the Lt. from "I" Company
who was killed was not named Evans, but Keith Kvam. The early patrol went
to Ramoceta not Remissa. Etc.
25 May, 2000
Overseas Transport: Hampton Roads, Virginia to Bagni di Lucca
(4 Jan to 19 Jan)
Patrols and Raids from Montefegatesi and Monti di Villa
(20 Jan to 12 Feb)
Attack on Mt. Gorgolesco and Mt. della Torraccia
(13 Feb to 28 Feb)
Preparation: 13 Feb to 18 Feb
Main Attack: 19 Feb to 20 Feb
Defense: 21 Feb to 28 Feb
Attack on Mt. della Spe
(1 Mar to 31 Mar)
Preparation: 1 Mar to 2 Mar
Main Attack: 3 Mar to 4 Mar
Counterattacks: 5 Mar to 6 Mar
Defense: 7 Mar to 31 Mar
Breakout into the Po Valley
(1 Apr to 30 Apr)
Preparation for the Attack: 1 Apr to 13 Apr
And Then the Attack Started: 14 Apr
Into the Attack with the Third Battalion
And Now the Second Battalion
The Attack Continues: 15 Apr
The Second Battalion
The Reserve Battalion
The Withdrawal to Defensive Positions: 16 Apr
On into the Po Valley: 18 Apr to 19 Apr
The Dash across the Valley to the Po River: 20 Apr
Crossing the Mighty Po: 23 Apr to 24 Apr
Lake Garda and the Alps: 27 Apr to 30 Apr
Lake Garda TO SURRENDER
(1 May to 31 May)
At Long Last: Surrender: 2 May
The Disarming and Assembling of German Forces: 6 May to 7 May
Training for the Rest of the Regiment: 7 May to 8 May
Back into the Po Valley: 17 May to 20 May
Farewell to the Po Valley and On to Udine: 20 May to 27 May
Enclosure No. 2. Raid on Ramosceta by Company C (Patrol No. 428) 26 Jan 45
Enclosure No. 3. Raid on Ramosceta by Company C (Patrol No. 447) 30 Jan 45
Enclosure No. 4. Patrol Summary, 21 Jan to 6 Feb
Enclosure No. 6. Raid on Mt. Spigolino, 5 Feb
Enclosure No. 1. Combat Patrol To Hill 695 by Company K, 19-20 March
Hampton Roads, Virginia to Bagni di Lucca
(4 Jan to 19 Jan)
Overseas duty for personnel of the 85th Mountain Infantry became realistic when the U.S. Naval Transport USS West Point sailed at 1100 Thursday, 4 January 1945, from Hampton Roads, Virginia, with the entire regiment on board, and after a safe crossing entered the harbor of Naples, Italy, at 1400 on Saturday, 13 January 1945, amid a series of unpleasant rain squalls. The USS West Point docked at approximately 1600 and at 1800 Col. Raymond C. Barlow, commanding officer, issued orders and instructions on board ship for the move to Livorno.
Starting at 0730, 14 January, the regiment, less Service and M Companies, debarked and loaded on 15 LCIs and sailed at 1400. The convoy proceeded unescorted, closely followed the coastline, docked in Livorno the afternoon of 15 January, debarked and proceeded by truck to PBS Staging Area No. 3, located 3 kilometers west of Pisa. Service and M Companies boarded the Italian freighter Sestriere on 14 January and remained on board until it sailed at 1400 15 January. They arrived at Livorno at 1500 14 January and proceeded by truck to rejoin the regiment at Staging Area No. 3.
While at the staging area, the regiment bivouacked on the hunting grounds of King Victor Emmanuel and drew vehicles, additional clothing and equipment and ammunition. Advanced parties went forward to observe and reconnoiter positions held by the 86th Mountain Infantry. Four motor officers and 32 motor mechanics were assigned to the regiment and reassigned within the regiment.
Patrols and Raids from Montefegatesi and Monti di Villa
(20 Jan to 12 Feb)
The staging area was cleared on Saturday, 20 January 1945 (2 companies from 1st Battalion left on 19 January), and units proceeded by truck to bivouac areas and arrived on 20 January. The 1st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Donald J. Woolley, closed in Bagni di Lucca (268973); the 2nd Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. John P. Stone, in the vicinity of Gavinana (456014); the 3rd Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Warren Schelor, in the vicinity of Prunetta (4501); and HQ Company, commanded by Capt. Edward Lively, Service Company, commanded by Capt. Wesley Shurtliff, and the regimental CP in Limestre (446003). Upon arrival, the regiment was attached to Task Force 45 and given the following mission (FO No. 6, HQ TF 45, 19 January 1945): To occupy, patrol and be prepared to defend all of Task Force 45 area except that occupied by the 86th Mountain Infantry. Continue training under existing conditions (Training Directive No. 1, HQ 85th Mountain Infantry, 20 January 1945) to include reconnaissance patrols and raids.
At 1700, 20 January 45, the 1st Battalion started relieving Company I of the 86th Mountain Infantry in Bagni di Lucca and completed the relief by 2200.
On 22 January the 3rd Platoon of Company F relieved the 3rd Platoon of Company K, 86th Mountain Infantry, of all installations at La Lima (411025) and Company B assumed the responsibility for road patrol from Bagni di Lucca to La Lima on Highway 12. Company E opened a CP at Campo Tizzoro (496992) at 1200 and relieved the Recon Company, 894th TD Battalion, of duties as Task Force 45 CP security. Other units conducted training and the regiment entered its first stages of combat on the 22nd and 23rd of January with the initiation of patrols and the alerting of the 1st Battalion on the 23rd to prepare for possible enemy action down the Serchio Valley (north of Bagni di Lucca).
A regimental outpost of one platoon (1st) from Company A was established at Montefegatesi (27200275) at 1500 24 January. Patrolling by the 1st Battalion continued on the 24th and 25th with no enemy contact reported.
The first action with enemy forces was initiated on 26 January when a patrol of ten officers and 133 enlisted men (EM) from the 1st Battalion, led by Capt. Charles P. Smith, commanding Company C, engaged a force of Germans in a house in Ramosceta (290070).* During this action, the first enemy PWs and enemy weapons for the regiment or the division were captured and the first battle casualties for the regiment were incurred. Pfc. Walter E. Van Boven, Company A, was the first member of the regiment killed in action, and Pvt. Gordon E. Neff, Company A, was the first to be wounded. (For a detailed account of patrol action, see Enclosure No. 2.) This action was reported in Stars and Stripes, Mediterranean Edition, 29 January 1945:
Further west one of our raiding patrols captured several prisoners and a machine gun in a fierce fire fight a mile and a half northwest of Mt. Mosca, nine miles east of the Serchio River.
For meritorious achievement in this action, Bronze Stars were awarded to Lt. Col. Donald J. Woolley, CO 1st Battalion, and to Lt. Irving H. Johnson, 1st Battalion S-2.
Lt. Rolfe Jacoby, IPW from G-2, Fifth Army, was attached to the S-2 section on 26 January. On 27 January, Major Carl T. Schooley, regimental S-3, prepared and forwarded reinforcement plans for Vidiciatico sector, Cutigliano sector, and Bagni di Lucca sector to the commanding general TF 45. Also, the 3rd Battalion relieved the 2nd Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry, at Cutigliano (403065) and opened a rear CP in La Lima on the 28th. Company E was relieved of security duties at TF 45 by the MP Platoon.
On 27 January, five officers left for the Fifth Army Leadership and Battle School Detachment (Special Order No. 6, HQ 85th, 23 January) for three weeks training.
Patrolling by the 1st and later the 3rd Battalions (28 January) continued on the 27th, 28th, and 29th. Some enemy sighted and flank units were contacted but no contact was made with the enemy. Icy conditions forced some patrols to return. On the 28th, Pfc. Donald J. Schneider, Company I, was shot by a friendly outpost while passing out with a patrol in the vicinity of Cutigliano and died of wounds in the aid station.
Company C again distinguished itself in another raid on Ramosceta on 30 January which resulted in the capture of 8 Italian PWs and one dead Italian lieutenant. No casualties were incurred by our forces. This raid involved a long climb over hard-crusted snow on steep terrain and necessitated the tedious and tiring cutting of steps in the snow. Also the battalion HQ Company Cannon Platoon 75mm howitzers under Lt. Bensel were employed for support fire. During the raid, heavy enemy mortar fire started to fall, forcing withdrawal of all patrols involved. (See Enclosure No. 3).
The same day, a 22-man patrol (608) from 3rd Battalion led by Lt. Pierannunzi, Company I, was sent to Mt. La Serra (378084) northwest of Cutigliano to attack enemy positions and bring back prisoners. The enemy opened fire with automatic weapons and small arms from prepared positions. One German was killed and one officer wounded in the return fire but the enemy crossfire and light artillery fire split our patrol and forced it to withdraw. Four of our EM were wounded and were captured along with 5 other EM making a total of 9 EM captured by the enemy. Five were from Company L and four from Company I.
The next day, 31 January, 9 Medical Corpsmen bearing a Geneva Convention flag and wearing Red Cross helmets and brassards went in search of the men wounded on the 30th in Patrol 608 and were fired upon by automatic weapons. They withdrew to cover and after a second attempt was repulsed by fire, they returned to their unit. This marks our first evidence of violation of International Red Cross rules by the enemy.
The 1st of February the regimental surgeon, Capt. Edward C. Dyer, received notification of promotion to Major. One officer and 20 EM from 10th Division AT Battalion were attached to each battalion HQ company.
The first enemy artillery fire received consisted of 3 shells in the area of Company L on 2 February. One contained propaganda leaflets and no casualties resulted. The same day, the first deserters arrived when 4 Italians walked through the 3rd Battalion lines. The 1st Battalion tested a method of preventing the freezing of blood plasma by keeping it warm and next to the body. This proved very successful. The 1st Battalion also took over all guard, and bridge and traffic control in the area of Bagni di Lucca.
From 30 January through 9 February considerable patrolling was carried out by all battalions without any enemy contact. This patrolling was operational, reconnaissance, and contact, for trail reconnaissance, observation and contact of enemy positions, reconnaissance in towns, to take prisoners, and to contact friendly units. Some were very difficult and trying because of the deep snow, hard snow crust, icy trails and steep terrain encountered, and not all were completed. Enemy and enemy installations frequently sighted but never contacted. (See Patrol Summary Enclosure No. 4 .)
On 2 February it was planned to send one reinforced rifle company on 4th February to raid Piansinatico (3808), destroy German emplacements, capture PWs and withdraw to Ontani and Sestaione. (For complete plans and action see Enclosure No. 5 - not reproduced here.) Company K, under the command of Capt. Richard Cooper, was given the mission. Lt. Hames' platoon captured La Serra Ridge (377083) as left flank security for the main force, at 0830. The main body came under enemy small arms, automatic weapons and later mortar fire from vicinity of Piansinatico at 0757, which continued throughout the attack. By 1100, the attacking force had advanced to within 600 yards of Piansinatico, but at 1130 Capt. Cooper ordered withdrawal and went to Hames' platoon on La Serra to determine feasibility of flank attack to north of Piansinatico. At 1330, Hamesí platoon ordered to withdraw.
In this action, Pvt. Robert A. Morasco, Company K, was killed by fragments of an enemy 88mm shell and Pfc. Charles Hunnicut, Company I, was killed by a direct mortar hit. Five EM were wounded and evacuated. The first officer casualty occurred in this action when Lt. Putnam was wounded by shrapnel. No enemy PWs were taken.
The next day, 5th February, a raiding force from 2nd Battalion led by Capt. Otis F. Halvorson, consisting of one rifle platoon and supporting weapons, made a very successful attack on the summit of Mt. Spigolino (437094) at 0745. (See Inclosure No. 6.) During this action, two German PWs, 1 LMG 42 and 3 rifles were captured, 2 enemy killed, 2 believed killed and one possibly dead. No casualties or loss of equipment was incurred by the attackers.
First Lt. John C. Lancaster, Company B, was slightly wounded by a friendly outpost while on patrol observing enemy snipers.
The 3rd Battalion was relieved at Cutigliano by the 1st Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry, the night of 5-6 February and had returned by truck to Prunetta by 0800 the 6th. 3rd Battalion 85th Mountain Infantry in turn relieved the 2nd Battalion 86th Mountain Infantry. The mission of the 3rd Battalion was to continue training and prepare to reinforce or counterattack in any sector of TF 45.
Two platoons of Company F and one of Company H were sent to Bagni di Lucca from Gavinana and attached to the 1st Battalion for patrol training.
1st Platoon Company G relieved Company K, 87th Mountain Infantry, at Caliga (377045) on 9 February and established the 3rd Platoon, Company G in La Lima and the same day relieved Company K in La Lima.
Lt. Gen. Truscott, commanding Fifth Army, visited the regimental CP with his staff from 1510 to 1525 on 9 February.
250 more EM replacements from the 85th Replacement Depot were received on 9 February and assigned throughout the regiment.
A very successful raid was made on 10 February by a patrol (496) of two officers and 81 EM from Company B on a house at Borro al Fosso. The patrol killed one enemy, captured 11 Italian PWs, 2 MG 42s, 8 pistols, and destroyed all enemy rifles, a few stick grenades, 15,000 rounds MG ammunition, and burned the house. The patrol was under the command of Lt. Bruce J. Coggins, Company B, and assisted by Lt. John Creaghe, Company B.
On 9-11 February, Col. Barlow and staff began reconnaissance for future operations and on the 11th all battalion commanders and staffs accompanied Col. Barlow on reconnaissance for these operations.
Contact and reconnaissance patrolling continued with enemy sighted but no enemy contact made.
On Monday 12 February, the 1st and 3rd Battalions participated in a regimental field exercise east of Gavinana which actually was a dress rehearsal for combat operations that began one week later. The participating battalions were trucked from Bagni di Lucca and Prunetta respectively. The 1st Battalion closed in (449004) northeast of Spignana at 1345 and the 3rd Battalion closed in (462995) near Selvori at 1115 and awaited further orders. The 1st and 3rd Battalions moved by foot to a forward assembly area southeast of Gavinana.
The 2nd Battalion was designated Regimental Reserve and remained in their present locations. Company F, reinforced, took over the garrisoning of Bagni di Lucca while the 1st Battalion participated. The regimental CP remained at Limestre.
The exercise took the form of a regiment, less one battalion, tactically bivouacked in a forward assembly area during the day and launching a night attack (0300 13 February) with the initial objective of driving up Mt. Reciano (4601) held by an estimated one enemy battalion reinforced with artillery, with emphasis on bayonet and grenade fighting in the dark.
ATTACK ON MT. GORGOLESCO AND MT. DELLA TORRACCIA
(13 FEB to 28 FEB)
Preparation: 13 Feb to 18 Feb
Main attack: 19 Feb to 20 Feb
Defense: 21 Feb to 28 Feb
Tuesday, 13 February, all 1st Battalion platoons and supplies garrisoned at Montefegatesi were ordered withdrawn immediately to the parent unit at Bagni di Lucca. The 3rd Battalion arrived back in Prunetta at 1400 and the 1st Battalion was back in Bagni di Lucca at 1530 from the regimental field exercises.
On 14 February, one officer and four EM were attached to each battalion from the 604th FA Battalion for liaison work until further notice.
From 13 to 15 February, reconnaissance and friendly contact patrolling continued by all battalions without enemy contact. However, during this period much enemy contact, resulting in several patrol fire fights, was made by the 87th Mountain Infantry which had previously relieved many of our forward units.
During the night of 14-15 February, Company C moved under darkness to Vidiciatico (500140) and was attached to the 2nd Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry until 1800 D-2. At 0305, 15 February, Company C had completely occupied positions in Querciola (5116) with the mission of outposting the forward assembly area of the pending combat operation.
The same night 5 Italian deserters (later identified as 3 deserters and 2 friendly Partisans) walked into the 1st Battalion area in Montefegatesi and were sent to the rear for interrogation.
At 0600, 15 February, the 5th Italian Pack Company was attached to the regiment for future operations. During the operations, they were placed under the control of 1st Lt. Norman Commins, asstistant regimental pack officer from Service Company.
During the day, Company F and parts of Company H, attached to the 1st Battalion in Bagni di Lucca for patrol training, were relieved and returned to the 2nd Battalion at Gavinana.
Lt. Pierannunzi, Company I, was sent to the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (BEF) on Detached Service for six weeks to teach small arms, mortars, etc. to Brazilian troops.
From Wednesday, 14 February, through Saturday, 17 February, activity was concentrated on preparation for the impending attack. A limited number of ski parkas, rucksacks and small items of winter equipment were distributed. The men packed their duffel and barracks bags for storage. Company records and impedimenta were packed and stored in the S-4 warehouses at Limestre.
Small-unit problems were conducted and a final zeroing of weapons was performed.
General George P. Hays, the division commander, addressed the men and officers of each battalion on Saturday, 18 February, before they moved to the forward assembly area for the attack.
On Sunday, 18 February, preparations for the impending operations were nearing completion. The coming operation was to attack and seize the Mt. Belvedere - Mt. Gorgolesco - Mt. della Torraccia mass. This mountain mass dominates the Pistoia-Bologna Highway 64 and is the key terrain feature of the sector. Previous attempts to capture Mt. Belvedere had met with failure and it was on this strongpoint of enemy resistance that the regiment was about to sharpen its combat teeth. From Mt. Belvedere the terrain gradually drops off to the Po River Valley, 40 miles away.
The general plan of attack was for the entire regiment to move under the cover of darkness the night of 18-19 February to a defiladed assembly area south of Mt. Belvedere, remain there the next day, and cross the Gaggio-Montana-Querciola Road as the line of departure at 2300 19 February. The attack on Mt. Belvedere itself was to be made by the 3rd Battalion and the attack on Mt. Gorgolesco, to the immediate east, by the 1st Battalion. The initial operation was to be a night attack, employing hand grenades and bayonets only, and it was hoped that the initial objectives would have been reached by daylight 20 February. Upon the seizure of these two peaks, the 1st Battalion was to drive on to the northeast along the ridge toward Mt. della Torraccia until darkness. The 2nd Battalion was to follow the 1st Battalion and at daylight, 21 February, the 2nd Battalion was to resume the attack and capture Mt. della Torraccia while the 1st and 3rd Battalions consolidated and defended the high ground already taken.
The 85th Mountain Infantry was the spearhead of the Corps effort. Part of the 86th Mountain Infantry was to seize the Pizzo di Campiano-Mt. Macinello Ridge to the west of Mt. Belvedere, on 19 February, from which observation on Mt. Belvedere and the supporting supply route could be had. The 87th Mountain Infantry was to advance along the left flank of the 85th and seize the Valpiana Ridge running northwest from the peak of Mt. Belvedere. The BEF was to capture Mt. Castello, northeast of Mt. della Torraccia, after Objective F (Hill 1053) had been taken by us.
Units of the 85th Mountain Infantry were moved by truck on 18 February from their respective locations to a detrucking point near Saracca (526140) and proceeded on foot over old mountain trails to their bivouac locations in the forward assembly area south of Mt. Belvedere. The 1st Battalion cleared Bagni di Lucca at 1700 and the 3rd cleared Prunetta at 1840.
The regimental CP opened at a trail junction in the vicinity of Vaie di Sopra (51831511) at 1200, 18 February. The 10th Mountain Division CP opened in Lizzano-in-Belvedere (518129) at 0600 the same day, with the rear echelon remaining in Campo Tizzoro (496991). The 1st Battalion CP opened at 0115, 19 February; the 2nd Battalion CP at 0100; and the 3rd Battalion CP at 0120 in the forward assembly area.
One squad from 126th Engr. Battalion was attached (for mine clearance) and one platoon of tanks from 751st Tank Battalion in direct support. Associated Press photographers joined the regiment on the 18th. From D-day on, the 604th FA Battalion, Company A, 126th Engr. Battalion, and Company B, the 84th Chemical Battalion were attached in direct support of the 85th Mountain Infantry.
Patrolling was resumed the night of February 18-19 and continued throughout the attack.
Monday, 19 February, was a day of limited preparation for the coming attack. The men rested and slept throughout the day; ammunition, rations, etc. were distributed; and all packs were dropped in the forward assembly area. During the day, the 86th Mountain Infantry was successful in seizing all of its objectives in the Pizzo di Campiano area, thus removing the danger of observation of Mt. Belvedere from that sector.
The German forces occupying this sector were known to consist of four battalions of the 232nd Division with a reserve composed of the 232nd Fus. Battalion, 1st Battalion 1045th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion 1043rd Infantry Regiment and the 4th Sep. Mountain Battalion.
The acid test of battle for the 85th Mountain Infantry was underway at 2300, 19 February, when the 1st and 3rd Battalions crossed the line of departure and quietly moved up the mine- and booby-trap-infested slopes of Mt. Belvedere and Mt. Gorgolesco. Captured prisoners later revealed that the attack came as a complete surprise. The 1st Battalion, on the right, advanced steadily, unopposed, to a point just above S. Filomena (534170) where enemy resistance was first encountered at 0040 by Company B.
At 0100, the 3rd Battalion, on the left, had advanced to within 300 yards of the top of Mt. Belvedere and was receiving machine pistol, mortar and artillery fire and grenades. Enemy resistance was increasing but the battalion was advancing. Two machine guns were wiped out with hand grenades. A new 3rd Battalion CP was opened at (519164) at 0340 hours. Company I, commanded by Capt. Walter A. Luther, who was killed in this attack, was on the left; Company L, commanded by Capt. Russ. Gullixson, who was wounded in the attack, was on the right; and Company M, commanded by Capt. Kenneth England, in rear of Company K. Lt. Col. Schelor, CO 3rd Battalion, was at the head of Company K, moving right up the slope with them.
At 0235, the 2nd Battalion was ordered to be prepared to move at 0700 the next morning to follow the attacking echelons. At the same time, word was received that elements of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry, were on Valpiana Ridge, running northwest from the peak of Mt. Belvedere.
By 0300, the 1st Battalion was receiving heavy mortar fire but nearing the top of Mt. Gorgolesco. A half-hour later, they requested that all available weasels and jeeps be sent to the LD for evacuation of casualties. Company C, on the left, commanded by Capt. Charles P. Smith, sent out a strong combat patrol, using bazookas and hand grenades. At 0330, Company C was pinned down at 523175 by burp gun fire and Company B, commanded by Capt. Robert C. Overmayer, was moving in on enemy positions to wipe them out. Company A, commanded by Capt. Jerome C. Turner, was following in rear of Company B as battalion reserve.
At 0449, Company B was pinned down by fire and Company C had surrounded the objective and was ready to assault. However, at 0510, one platoon of Company B, commanded by 2nd Lt. Kerekes, had gone on ahead and the rest of the battalion was waiting for better light before assaulting the objective. At 0610, word was received that the 1st Battalion had taken Mt. Gorgolesco (Objective D) but was receiving very heavy mortar and artillery fire. They requested a maximum amount of counter-battery on enemy positions northwest of Mt. Belvedere immediately if they were to continue the attack toward Objective E at 0700 as planned. Company L of the 86th, moving on the right flank of the 1st Battalion, helped mop up enemy machine guns on the slope of Mt. Gorgolesco.
Capt. Charles P. Smith, Company C, had both legs shattered by a mine explosion while moving up the slope. Because of the numerous mines and booby traps it was impossible to evacuate him until a path had been cleared to him.
The top of Mt. Belvedere was first reported to have been reached at 0330 by part of Company L. Company L was reported on top at 0410 and Company K at 0420. All were receiving very heavy mortar and artillery fire. At 0500, Company I was definitely on the objective and the remainder of Company L was arriving at the top. The entire battalion was reported completely on the ridge by 0615 and in fair condition, but receiving heavy artillery fire.
Capt. Luther, Company I, was killed in the attack on Mt. Belvedere by a snipers bullet in the forehead. His company had been pinned down by enemy fire and he had gone around the flank to knock out the enemy position. He sacrificed his life, enabling the company to move on and take the objective. After the death of Capt. Luther, Company I was taken over by 1st Lt. Jerrold I. Bucher, the company executive officer.
Concurrently, the 2nd Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry, captured the Valpiana Ridge, its objective, running northwest from Mt. Belvedere.
Company A was ready to jump off for Objective E at 0730, with Company C following and Company B in reserve. The heavy weapons of Company D, commanded by Capt. Richard C. Johnson, were in position to support the advance. However, at 0800, heavy mortar fire had prevented Company A from moving forward as Company B was pinned down by enemy machine-gun fire and pretty badly shot up. A half-hour later, B and C Companies were consolidating on the ridge, mopping up bypassed pockets, and Company A was rapidly advancing toward Objective E, which it overran at 0845. In this early morning action Company C captured 7 German prisoners.
At 0820, the 2nd Battalion, still in reserve in the forward assembly area but ready to move, was ordered to move to the ridge and follow the 1st Battalion in the attack. At the same time, Company K, 86th Mountain Infantry, was sent forward to assist the 1st Battalion on the right flank. Col. Barlow moved forward with the 2nd Battalion and remained forward for the next three days, directing the attack from there.
Meanwhile, the 3rd Battalion was dug in on Mt. Belvedere and at 0915 General Hays directed that the 3rd Battalion prepare for the defense of Mt. Belvedere and Mt. Gorgolesco after the 2nd Battalion had passed through.
Company A was held up on Objective E by very heavy fire from Objective F, was digging in, and asked for supporting artillery and mortar fire to continue the attack. An enemy counterattack was successfully repulsed at 1115 just northeast of Objective E (at 540185). Approximately 40 prisoners had been taken in the drive on Objective E. The 1st Battalion CP moved to Pianotti (533173) at noon; and at that time Company A was still held up with the 2nd Battalion well behind it, and Companies B and C were consolidating positions on Mt. Gorgolesco and then moved out toward Objective E to consolidate positions taken by Company A. One platoon of medium tanks and one platoon of tank destroyers were ready to move up in support as soon as the road to the top had been cleared by the engineers.
Two hours later, Company A was attacking fiercely between Objectives E and F and advancing. By 1750, they had pushed forward and had taken the lower half of Objective F. Concurrently, at 1500, Col. Barlow ordered the 2nd Battalion to pass through the 1st Battalion and take the final objective (Mt. della Torraccia) at night.
The 3rd Battalion would be relieved of positions on Mt. Belvedere by the 1st Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry, and was to follow the 2nd Battalion, ready to consolidate the ground taken by the 2nd Battalion in its advance. The 1st Battalion would remain on Mt. Gorgolesco and the ridge to the northeast, prepared to repel enemy counterattacks.
The 2nd Battalion was ready to move out at 1615 and at 1755 the Battalion had passed through the 1st Battalion lines and was moving in to relieve the attacking elements. At 1824, Company G, commanded by Capt. Otis F. Halvorson, was reported moving onto Objective F in relief of Company A. The 2nd Battalion was informed that if they could seize the first high ground northeast of Objective G they were authorized to wait until daylight to continue the attack.
Late the same afternoon, the 1st Battalion, 1st Brazilian Regiment, was moving up to Mazzancana (554185) located downhill from the right flank of Objective F, and the BEF relieved the 3rd Battalion, 86th, which remained in reserve in the vicinity of Mazzancana. The BEF was to attack one half-hour before daylight on 21 February, regardless of the position of the 10th Mountain Division, and to take Mt. Castello (568192) southeast of Mt. della Torraccia, our final objective.
After being informed that his battalion was to follow and consolidate ground taken by the 2nd Battalion, Lt. Col. Schelor, commander 3rd Battalion, requested that his battalion be left in position for the night. His guns were dug in and sighted, which the relieving battalion would be unable to do on their new positions. It was finally decided that one company of the 1st Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry, would move into defilade behind the saddle between Mt. Belvedere and Mt. Gorgolesco and would start relieving our 3rd Battalion after daylight, 21 February. The line of the 87th Mountain Infantry would then extend from the left flank of our 1st Battalion on Mt. Gorgolesco, through the summit of Mt. Belvedere and northwest to Valpiana, then southwest to Polla (598176) and to a point east of Rocca Corneta.
At 2300 tanks were ordered to move at night to the Mt. Belvedere-Mt. della Torraccia Ridge to support the 2nd Battalion in its advance. During the dark, Company G pushed ahead to Objective G and took it at 2100. At midnight, it was under small arms, machine-gun and heavy mortar fire and called for artillery concentrations. At that time a small counterattack was developing against their position. The enemy forces to the front had been identified by intelligence as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Companies of the 4th Mountain Battalion of the 1044th Regiment.
Air support during the first day of the attack was excellent. Missions were flown all day long by P-47 fighter-bombers. They dropped 500-pound bombs on gun emplacements, troop concentrations, buildings, tanks, vehicles and other choice enemy targets. In addition, considerable effective strafing of enemy targets was carried out before returning for fresh bomb loads. Many direct hits were obtained.
Communications were a continual problem from the very start of the attack. Heavy enemy mortar and artillery fire was very effective in breaking wire lines and all communications personnel under Capt. John A. Pelner, regimental communications officer, Lt. Quentin S. Retzke, 1st Battalion, Lt. David J. Winton, 2nd Battalion, and Lt. Frederick E. Lengfeld, 3rd Battalion, did an excellent job, 24 hours a day, of repairing and relaying lines. Especially difficult to keep open were the lines from battalions to companies and they were kept open while working under steady, heavy enemy fire. Disruption of communications continued throughout the entire attack. So pressing were the difficulties that assistance was given by communication personnel from the division Signal Company.
Throughout the attack, enemy mines and booby traps were encountered continually. They caused many casualties as well as destroying vehicles.
In addition to supplying the attacking units, men from Service Company, under command of Capt. Wesley O. Shurtliff, were pressed into service as litter bearers and to evacuate dead and enemy prisoners. Capt. Charles T. Mincer was designated Graves Registration Officer for the regiment.
A total of 99 enemy prisoners was taken by all units of the regiment during the first day of the attack (20 February).
Casualties suffered were relatively light considering the dangers and difficulties of such an attack. On 20 February a total of 60 were killed and 169 wounded in the entire regiment, broken down as follows:
1st Battalion 27 68
2nd Battalion 3 7
3rd Battalion 26 88
Serv. Company 1 3
HQ Company 0 0
Med. Det. 3 3
All through the night of 20-21 February, harassing to heavy artillery and mortar fire was received by all three battalions, causing casualties. At daybreak, 21 February, Company C was ordered forward to fill the gap between the 3rd Battalion and the advancing 2nd Battalion. The rest of the 1st Battalion was alerted to be ready to move if necessary. Anther counterattack was thrown against Company G at 0530 up draws from the north, but it was successfully driven back with the aid of artillery fire from the 604th FA Battalion.
Immediately after this counterattack had been driven off, Capt. Ernest F. Bennett, commanding Company H, and 1st Lt. William O. Young, mortar platoon leader, Company H, moved to the company OP. While there, an 88mm tree-burst killed Capt. Bennett instantly, and Lt. Young died a short time later at the battalion CP from shrapnel wounds.
At 0600, the morning of 21 February, the 2nd Battalion jumped off again. One company from the 1st Battalion and one company from the 3rd Battalion were moving along the ridge to assist the 2nd Battalion. At 0640, General Hays ordered the attack to be kept up until Objective H had been taken. A heavy counterattack was sustained by the 2nd Battalion at 0700 and reorganization to continue the attack was necessary.
1st Lt. Lawrence W. MacKenzie, executive officer of Company G, was killed by shrapnel from an artillery barrage while checking one of the rifle platoons. The platoon leader, Lt. Hannu K. Tiesmaki, and the platoon sergeant had just been killed, and another counterattack was imminent at the time.
Lt. Col. Stone, 2nd Battalion, reported at 0745 that five counterattacks had been repulsed during the night, the Germans were 25 yards in front of them and that he couldn't take the objective assigned to him. At the same time, a counterattack against the 3rd Battalion was being beaten back with the help of artillery. To the southeast, the Brazilians had jumped off at 0530 and were making good progress toward Mt. Castello.
Smoke was placed on Objective H to help reduce the enemy effort.
At 0800, 21 February, Lt. Col. Schelor reported that Company I was not relieved by the 1st Battalion, 87th, but at 0840 General Hays ordered Company I to move along the ridge to Col. Barlow for orders. Company I was in the process of being relieved by the 87th at 0930.
More air and artillery support against enemy 88mm guns was requested at 0900 by the 2nd Battalion.
At 1010, Lt. Col. Stone reported that he was out of ammunition, food and water, and sustaining many casualties. He asked for relief of his battalion, or at least more men. General Hays arranged for a pack train to be fitted out with supplies and ammunition for the 2nd Battalion and sent Lt. Col. Burge (Division G-4) to the 85th. This pack train was led up the mountain (at night) by Lt. Col. Seiss E. Wagner, regimental executive officer. At the same time, General Hays ordered Company K to move forward to Objectives E and F to help the 2nd Battalion. The 87th was to take over the defense of Mt. Belvedere and the 86th was to defend Mt. Gorgolesco.
At noon, 21 February, the 2nd Battalion was disposed in the column of companies with Company G in the vicinity of Objective G (Hill 1027) and Companies E and F in the rear. One half-hour later, Companies A and B were moving to Objective F to be used as Col. Barlow saw fit, but at 1420 General Hays ordered the 1st Battalion to dig in and defend Objective E. At 1400, Company I was approaching Objective F to be used as additional support for the 2nd Battalion and at 1420 the General ordered that the 3rd Battalion dig in and hold Objective F. Also the 3rd Battalion Company on Mt. Gorgolesco (Company L) was to move to Hill 1029 (between Objectives E and F), dig in and defend it. The General further ordered that the 2nd Battalion, unassisted, would drive on to, seize and hold Objective H (Mt. della Torraccia) and that the 3rd Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry, (vicinity Mazzancana) would be committed on Mt. della Torraccia when the 2nd Battalion had been expended.
The picture thus created from west to east was as follows: The 87th was to hold Mt. Belvedere as its right flank. The 1st Battalion, 85th, was to hold Mt. Gorgolesco (Objective D) and Objective E. The 3rd Battalion, 85th, was to hold the high ground to the right of Objective E and to hold Objective F. The 2nd Battalion, now on Objective G, was to continue the attack to Mt. della Torraccia (Objective H) and hold it until expended.
The 2nd Battalion resumed the attack as ordered and at 1635 Company E, commanded by Capt. Robert C. Neilson, who was seriously wounded in the attack, was out beyond Objective G and advancing. At 1800, the 2nd Battalion was ordered to halt its advance at dark and set up a closed-in, all-around defense for the night.
The BEF took Mt. Castello at 1720 and were busy mopping up. By 1840, all 3rd Battalion, 85th, companies were dug in on the correct positions as ordered.
At 1926, the 2nd Battalion reported they were under heavy machine-gun and artillery fire and requested permission to withdraw behind the ridge for the night but they were ordered to dig in, hold their positions, and send in shell reports for counterfire. The front line troops were just below the ridge of Objective H in defensive formation. An hour later, Lt. Col. Stone had informed General Duff that he had taken Objective H, but at 0430, 22 February, the statement was corrected and the battalion was reported to be located 400 yards from Objective H and without artillery support because of lack of communication.
During the night, 21-22 February, the 3rd Battalion opened a new CP at 552191 on Objective F. The battalion defense extended northeast from Objective F to beyond Objective G where it was in physical contact with Company G. The 1st Battalion was still dug in on Mt. Gorgolesco and toward Objective E. Nearly three-quarters of all casualties on 21 February were suffered by the 2nd Battalion. The total for the regiment was 27 killed and 109 wounded:
1st Battalion 3 17
2nd Battalion 24 76
3rd Battalion 0 9
Serv. Company 0 1
HQ Company 0 0
Med. Det. 0 6
The old regimental CP near Vaie di Sopra closed at 0545, 22 February, and a new CP was opened at Gaggio Montano (549163).
The weasels used for evacuation of casualties were a disappointment because they all threw their tracks and had to be pushed off the road and left there.
Company E jumped off to take Objective H at 0740, 22 February. At 0855, division ordered that the 2nd Battalion would occupy and defend Mt. della Torraccia, set up a compact defense to clear out the slopes, and clear out Fosso del Malandrone to make contact with the BEF.
At 1020, the 2nd Battalion was reported to be on Objective H and consolidating on forward. Company F, commanded by Capt. Charles H. King, was on the ridge to the right of the objective and Company G was on Hill 1036 just beyond Objective G. At noon, a message from the 2nd Battalion revealed that Company E had reached Objective H at dark on 21 February without resistance, but upon reaching the objective they were fired upon by intense artillery and mortar fire which prohibited the reinforcement of the objective prior to dark. After dark, Company E was withdrawn to enforce the present defense of the battalion. The morning of the 22nd, Company E again took the objective against machine pistol and small-arms fire. The 2nd Battalion opened a new CP at 030, 22 February, at Ronchidos di Sotto (545182).
A 600-yard gap that developed between the 2nd and 3rd Battalions was ordered filled by the 3rd Battalion. At 1025, 22 February, the 87th Mountain Infantry received a counterattack at Valpiana and G-2 estimated that the enemy was capable of counterattack with the strength of one division.
Col. Barlow returned to the regimental CP at 1415 after spending three days up forward.
Lt. Col. Stone reported at 1700, 22 February, that he had only 400 men left and needed replacements, ammunition, machine guns, radios and water. He was ordered to hold what he had to the last man and supplies would be sent up to him.
At 2130, 22 February, the 2nd Battalion was ordered to contact the BEF (to the southeast) at 1400, 23 February, by patrol at Hill 902 (567198) which will be the limiting point of the 2nd Battalion.
During the night, 22-23 February, the 1st Battalion was still dug in on Mt. Gorgolesco and along the ridge through Objective E toward Objective F. The 3r Battalion was holding the ridge from Objective F northeast to the 2nd Battalion just short of Objective H (548188 to 555195). The 2nd Battalion was holding the ground seized on the south and north sides of Objective H but still had not taken the very top of Mt. della Torraccia itself.
Because of their forward positions on 22 February, the 2nd Battalion again suffered the greater percentage of casualties in the regiment: over 80 percent. The total for the regiment was 13 killed and 32 wounded:
1st Battalion 0 1
2nd Battalion 12 25
3rd Battalion 1 4
Serv. Company 0 0
HQ Company 0 1
Med. Det. 0 1
At midnight, 22-23 February, Company B, 84th Chemical Battalion, was detached from our support. From the very start of the attack, they gave splendid assistance with their 4.2 mortars, knocking out enemy positions and concentrations, covering targets with smoke, and identifying targets for air and artillery fire with smoke.
On 23 February, very little change in the front took place. At 0825, the 2nd Battalion requested that aircraft pick up German 88mm gun positions which were giving the battalion a lot of trouble. At 0900, Company F attacked and advanced 200 yards but was held up by 88s and machine-gun fire, as was Company E on the left. A heavy German counterattack was launched at 1000 between Company E and Company F with the greatest pressure against the left flank of Company F. All battalion reserves were thrown in to drive back this enemy effort. At 1100, Companies E and F were still pinned down by artillery and machine-gun fire and Company G was being sent around to the right of Company F.
A new regimental OP was established at 54801875 on Objective F just before noon.
Word was received at 1245 that the 3rd Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry, was to start relief of our 2nd Battalion at 1900, 23 February, and would jump off the morning of 24 February to take Mt. della Torraccia. The 2nd Battalion, upon relief, was to move to Gaggio Montano and billet there.
Shelling from one of our tank destroyers in the rear was reported at 1515 by Company K. Eleven men were wounded when one shell burst in the company CP area.
At 1450, Company F was still unable to advance because of small arms, machine-gun and heavy 88mm fire.
Capt. Morton E. Levitan, 2nd Battalion surgeon, left the aid station in the early afternoon to treat a badly wounded soldier up on the ridge. He was last seen at 1500 in rear of the right flank of Company G and was reported as missing in action.
At 1630, the disposition of the 2nd Battalion was three companies in the line with a 75-man battalion reserve. The heavy weapons of Company H were in support on Hill 1036, in rear of the line companies. The combat patrol sent out by the 2nd Battalion to contact the BEF on the right returned at 1830 and had taken one prisoner. Six more gave themselves up to the battalion at the same time because of effective mortar fire.
The CO, 3rd Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry, requested that tonight our 3rd Battalion leave Hill 1036 (555196) clear for his units and until the 3rd Battalion, 86th, had jumped off on the 24th for Mt. della Torraccia.
Three more PWs were taken by the 1st Battalion at 1940. The BEF reported at 2300 that many U.S. and German dead had been booby-trapped by the Germans, thus making evacuation a hazardous task. The 2nd Battalion CP at Ronchidos di Sotto closed at 2000 and a new battalion CP was opened in Gaggio Montano at 2230 in preparation for the relief of the battalion.
All patrolling by the 1st and 3rd Battalions was ordered halted at 2230, 23 February, until further notice.
Casualties on 23 February were much lighter than any day since the attack got under way. The 2nd Battalion had 8 men killed, 10 wounded and Capt. Levitan missing. The only other casualties in the regiment were 2 men wounded in the 3rd Battalion.
At 0440, 24 February, the 3rd Battalion reported that all was quiet and no changes. Relief of the 2nd Battalion was under way in the morning of the 24th. At 0710, Company G had been relieved and had pulled out for Gaggio Montano. The first of the battalion elements arrived there at 0750. The entire battalion closed in Gaggio Montano at 0910, 24 February. The 2nd Battalion was to remain there for 24 hours and then leave before daylight on the 25th for Campo Tizzoro for baths and rest.
The 3rd Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry, which had relieved our 2nd Battalion, jumped off at 0700 on the 24th, and at 0730 they were past Mt. della Torraccia (Objective H) and pushing toward the village of Borro and were preparing to continue the attack.
At 0940, the 3rd Battalion, 85th, was told to occupy the ridge between Hills 1026 and 1036 as soon as the 3rd Battalion, 86th, had completely moved out and to have a mobile reserve of two platoons in readiness in case of an enemy attack.
The situation was rather quiet the morning of the 24th, with the 1st and 3rd Battalions still in defensive positions on the top of the ridge from Mt. Gorgolesco to the base of Mt. della Torraccia.
At 1010, the 1st Battalion was informed that the engineers were building a loop road to their positions and the battalion 75mm howitzers were to be moved up into line. Also, defensive 4.2 mortar fire could be had on call.
The day (24 February) passed quietly except for occasional artillery and sniper fire. Total casualties for the day numbered 1 killed and 7 wounded:
1st Battalion 0 1
2nd Battalion 1 3
3rd Battalion 0 3
At 0550 the next day (25 February), the 3rd Battalion reported that all was still well.
Excellent P-47 air support, coordinated by Rover Joe, continued throughout the entire attack; through the efforts of the attacking aircraft, a large number of the deadly 88mm guns were knocked out. The lull thus created was often used by our troops to advance.
The 2nd Battalion CP in Gaggio Montano closed at 0530, 25 February, and the battalion was moved by truck to Campo Tizzoro. The battalion closed in at Campo Tizzoro at 0740. 1st Lt. Raymond Beu took command of Company H.
Throughout the morning of 25 February, the 3rd Battalion reported very little activity other than enemy sniper fire, which was returned. Col. Barlow inspected the 1st and 3rd Battalion defenses on the ridge during the morning. Casualties were very light on 25 February. The 1st and 2nd Battalion each had one wounded and the 3rd Battalion had 3 men wounded, a total of 5 for the regiment.
Patrolling was resumed on the night of 24-25 February by the 1st and 3rd Battalions. Reconnaissance into enemy positions was made. The night of 25-26 February, two strong combat patrols were sent out. The 3rd Battalion patrol, led by Lt. Eugene S. Hames, was sent to 541199 (vicinity Ranocchi) to deny use of the road to the enemy and to kill as many enemy as possible. The patrol sighted enemy, but enemy and friendly artillery prevented contact. Two casualties were sustained. The 1st Battalion patrol, led by Lt. Geary A. Steffen, Jr., was sent to 536194 (southeast of Il Serretto) to clean any enemy out of houses and to deny use of the road to the enemy. Twenty-two Germans were sighted and our patrol was attacked. The patrol set up an ambush but the Germans didnít come forward so the patrol moved to better positions. While there, they were attacked by 50 Germans and one tank. The patrol withdrew without casualties but with information on enemy positions.
At 2345, 25 February, a fire fight developed in front of Company L (Hills 1027 and 1036) and mortar fire was received. Rocket fire was being received by the 1st Battalion at the same time. By 0040, 26 February, Lt. Col. Schelor reported that the attempted enemy counterattack apparently had been broken with the help of artillery. However, heavy enemy fire continued falling in both the battalion sectors and near the regimental CP. At 0200, the 1st Battalion reported 1 killed and 1 wounded. Company B was receiving very heavy artillery, machine-gun and small-arms fire and the 3rd Battalion was receiving diversionary fire of all types. This fire died out during the night.
At 0830, 26 February, General Duff ordered the destruction of all houses in the vicinity of a road out to the front of the 1st and 3rd Battalions. The total casualties for the day were 1 EM killed and 7 wounded.
General Duff notified the regiment at 2200 that an enemy countermove of regimental strength was believed to be concentrating in the vicinity of Castellucio (522201) and that the whole valley was under smoke. The battalions and artillery were immediately notified. Casualties for 26 February were largely the result of the counterattack during the night 25-26 February. The 1st Battalion had 1 killed and 1 wounded and the 3rd Battalion had 3 wounded.
The night of 26-27 February passed quietly as did the following day. Col. Barlow and Capt. Reid were out on reconnaissance twice during the day. The BEF relieved the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 87th Mountain Infantry. At 2230 each of our battalions was told to have an officer report to and remain with the Brazilian battalions that were to relieve our 1st and 3rd Battalions on the Mt. Gorgolesco-Mt. della Torraccia Ridge the night of 27-28 February. This relief was accomplished by the following Brazilian units at times indicated.
Company K was relieved at 0220 28 February by 8th Company, 11th Regiment BEF.
Company I 0300 9th Company
Company M 0300 3rd Company
Company B 0235 1st Company, 1st Regiment BEF
Company C 1045 5th Company, 1st Regiment
Company A 1045 4th Company, 1st Regiment
Company D 1110
Upon relief, the 1st and 3rd Battalions moved by foot to an assembly area vicinity 5520 where they remained as division reserve for the next phase of the operation.
A total of 525 EM and 14 officer replacements were received from 4 January to 28 February. The total casualties suffered during the Mt. Belvedere-Mt. Gorgolesco-Mt. della Torraccia operation by the regiment was 110 killed, 350 wounded and 1 missing. These were divided among the units as follows:
1st Battalion 31 89
2nd Battalion 48 133
3rd Battalion 27 112
Serv. Company 1 4
HQ Company 0 1
Med. Det. 3 11
During the attack, evidences of German disregard for the Geneva Convention were displayed in their actions against medical personnel. An attempt was made on 20 February to wipe out the 3rd Battalion aid station but it was unsuccessful. Several cases were observed where enemy snipers deliberately fired upon litter bearers carrying wounded down off the ridge, resulting in the wounding and killing of our aid men.
The Medical Detachment under the direction of Major Edward C. Dyer, regimental surgeon, did a highly commendable job of evacuating and treating the wounded throughout the entire attack, often under heavy enemy fire. Through their tireless efforts many lives were saved at the cost of fourteen casualties within the detachment.
For the Commanding Officer
JOHN B. WOODRUFF
Capt. 85th Mountain Infantry
Information and Education Officer
ATTACK ON MT. DELLA SPE
(1 MAR to 31 MAR)
Preparation: 1 Mar to 2 Mar
Main attack: 3 Mar to 4 Mar
Counterattacks: 5 Mar to 6 Mar
Defense: 7 Mar to 31 Mar
During the night 27-28 February, the 1st and 3rd Battalions had been relieved of defensive positions on the Mt. Gorgolesco-Mt. della Torraccia Ridge by the BEF and marched to bivouac areas slightly in rear of the front lines where they remained in division reserve. The sector was very quiet during the first two days of March. The 1st Battalion area and CP were located at 542180 and the 3rd Battalion was at 553185.
The 2nd Battalion had moved to Campo Tizzoro on 25 February and was still resting there.
The regimental CP had moved at 1130 1 March to 579179, southwest of Bombiana. The 1st and 3rd Battalion anti-tank platoons were attached to the 604th FA Battalion at 1530 to assist in artillery support of the impending operations. They reverted to control of the 85th Mountain Infantry the night of 4-5 March to support the regimental attack on 5 March.
Phase B of the division attack was scheduled to start at 0700, 1 March, but poor weather conditions postponed the operation until 3 March. The only casualty on 1 March was one EM wounded in Company H.
The 2nd Battalion terminated its rest in Campo Tizzoro at 1750, 2 March 1945, and returned by truck. At 2145, the battalion had closed into its new bivouac area south of Mt. Castello. The battalion CP was established at 582173. No casualties were incurred on 2 March.
At 0700, 3 March, Phase B of the division attack got off to a very successful start. The 87th Mountain Infantry on the right and the 86th Mountain Infantry on the left crossed the LD on time. The 85th Mountain Infantry was in division reserve (vicinity 58197) prepared to counterattack in the division zone and to continue the division attack upon order.
The 86th Mountain Infantry attacked, with the 2nd Battalion on the right, with Mt. Terminale (Objective B) as its initial objective. The 1st Battalion attacked on the left with Hill 968, vicinity C. Vecchia dei Monti (Objective A) as its objective. The 3rd Battalion, 86th, continued to hold positions on Mt. della Torraccia.
The 87th Mountain Infantry attacked in a column of battalions in order of 3rd, 2nd and 1st Battalion to initially take Objective C and Mt. della Vedetta (Objective E).
At 0900, the 3rd Battalion, 85th, was moving forward from the division reserve area to consolidate and hold Objective A immediately after its capture by the 86th Mountain Infantry. Objective A extended generally from Hill 968 (C. Vecchia dei Monti) northeast to the town of Monteforte and then north to Hills 949 and 928. The 3rd Battalion was ordered to hold Objective A throughout the attack as left flank security for the division.
By 1130, 3 March, the 86th and 87th had taken Objectives A, B, C, D and were moving toward Objective E. Col. Barlow ordered the 1st Battalion to move to the draw southeast of Hill 1036 (555195) prepared to continue the attack upon order.
By 1200, half of Objective E had been taken and only slight resistance was being encountered. The 1st Battalion, 86th, was on Objective A awaiting the arrival of our 3rd Battalion to move in and consolidate the newly won positions.
At 1315, the 2nd Battalion was ordered to move forward to occupy Objective E (Mt. della Vedetta) and the roadblock at Pietra Colora (598220). Five minutes later, the battalion was moving forward. Objective E had been taken at 1310 by the 3rd Battalion, 87th, and one company was on its way to establish the Pietra Colora roadblock.
At 1440, General Hays ordered the 2nd Battalion to move forward as far as possible and to seize hills at 608224, 610223, and 612222 and then drive southeast and capture Mt. della Croce. The Battalion would be relieved by the BEF after Objective P was taken. This plan was later changed.
Companies L and I were in position on Objective A at 1345 and Company K was moving onto positions. The 3rd Battalion CP opened at 552208. By 1500, all of the battalion had relieved the 1st Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry, and was in position as left flank security. From northeast to southwest, the companies were in order K, I, and L. Company K was receiving heavy mortar fire.
The 1st Battalion CP opened at 1400 at 554193 (vicinity Carge) and the battalion was almost completely closed in. At 1530, General Hays ordered the 1st Battalion to move immediately around the eastern slope of Mt. della Torraccia to an assembly area on the eastern slope of Mt. Terminale (Objective B) and to dig in for the night. If the 85th moved out from Objective D (north of Iola), the 1st Battalion was to send one company to Hill 930 at the western end of Objective D, contact the 3rd Battalion, 85th, to the west (Objective A) and protect the area to the northwest between Objectives A and G. Company C, commanded by Capt. Herbert Wright, was sent at 1900 to Objective D. They closed in on the western half at 2200, 3 March.
At 1840, the 1st Battalion was ordered to guard bridges at 571223 (east of Casone) and 571226 (north of Casone) which were prepared for demolition by the Germans. One platoon from Company B, led by Lt. Kerekes, split the bridge detail. The 2nd Battalion, at 1745, had reached a bivouac area at 571213 southeast of Mt. Terminale.
The 2nd Battalion CP was opened at 572210 (Stancadora) at 1830 and the Battalion OP was established at 573214 at 1930.
Objectives F and G were taken by 1845 by the 86th Mountain Infantry and they were moving northeast to Objective I. However, at 2115, word was received that Objectives H and I would not be taken by the 86th and 87th until tomorrow.
At 2150, G-3 informed us that on 4 March the 10th AT Battalion would start relief of our 3rd Battalion elements on the southern half of Objective A, but this plan was never carried out. The 3rd Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry, at daylight 4 March, was to relieve our 1st Battalion elements (Company C) on Objective D and maintain contact with our 3rd Battalion on Objective A. The 1st and 2nd Battalions, 85th, as division reserve, were to be prepared to push forward and to leave their packs in their present locations when ordered to move forward. The 86th and 87th Mountain Infantry were to attack at 0800, 4 March.
A total of 9 EM were wounded and 1 EM was killed on 3 March:
2nd Battalion 0 4
3rd Battalion 1 4
Med. Det. 0 1
The attack was resumed by the 86th and 87th at 0800, 4 March, after a 15-minute artillery preparation. By 1100, the 86th, on the left, had taken Objective H (Hill 892 and Sassomolare) and also had advanced north from Objective G. Both battalions were still moving forward. The 87th Mountain Infantry had taken Objective I and Mt. Acidola and Prada to the southeast. The 3rd Battalion, which had taken Prada, was advancing to Objective P (Mt. della Croce).
Col. Barlow took the 1st and 2nd Battalion commanders and staffs forward on a ground reconnaissance at 1100 but the attacking echelons had not advanced far enough for the desired ground to be observed.
Our 3rd Battalion opened a new CP at 1300 at 559216 (vicinity of Objective A). On 4 March, 17 PWs from the 114th Division were taken on Objective A by the 3rd Battalion, 85th.
The afternoon of 4 March, the 86th Mountain Infantry captured Objective J. The 87th seized Mt. della Croce (Objective P) and Objectives K and L. At 1500, Col. Barlow again had the 1st and 2nd Battalion commanders forward on ground reconnaissance and issued an oral field order from Objective K.
The field order issued by Col. Barlow was changed at 1800 by the General and another field order was issued at 2127 to the 1st and 2nd Battalions: The 85th Mountain Infantry, with two battalions abreast, was to attack the high ground to the northeast at 0800, 5 March, preceded by a 20-minute artillery preparation and air bombardment of Objectives M, N, O and Q. The 1st Battalion was to capture the north half of Objective N and Objective Q. The 2nd Battalion was to capture the south half of Objective N and Objective O. The 3rd Battalion was to continue to hold Objective A as left flank security for the division.
At 2300, 4 March, a new regimental CP was opened at 582231. The 2nd Battalion advanced CP opened at 0230 at 605239 (vicinity Caneora) and the battalion closed into their forward assembly area at 0300, vicinity of Sprilla. At 513, the 1st Battalion had closed into their assembly area at 591247 and was receiving light artillery fire. The 1st Battalion CP was established at 599246. The regimental OP was established at 0520, 5 March, 6028 2508. The OP was raided at 0655 but the small enemy force was driven off. Six men were wounded on 4 March.
A liaison officer from the 751st Tank Battalion arrived at the regimental CP at 0600 and Rover Joe arrived at 0755. Col. Barlow went forward to the 1st Battalion OP at 0755.
The 1st and 2nd Battalions were in position at 0745, 5 March, and crossed the LD on time at 0800. The 2nd Battalion received scattered rifle fire as it jumped off.
Company G, commanded by Capt. Halvorson, was on the southern half of Objective N (Hill 866) by 0900. Company E, commanded by Lt. Charles Hanks, proceeded up the draw on the southwest slope of Hill 866 and started east across the ridge to Tora (620248). Enemy fire from the hill (625248) beyond Tora halted their advance.
At noon, the 2nd Battalion was ordered to bypass Tora to the south and to capture Objective O, using all available artillery.
The entire Company E backtracked down the draw and traveled south on the road from lower Canolle (615245) to the draw (618240), running up the west slope of Mt. della Castellana (Objective O). As the company moved east up the draw, Lt. Burton was killed by enemy machine-gun fire. The machine gun was wiped out.
At 1355, 5 March, all artillery fire on Objective O was ordered lifted and Hill 1005 (the south peak of Mt. della Castellana) was occupied by 1500. The enemy forces on Hill 998, 300 yards to the southwest, came out and surrendered.
As Company E continued northwest from Hill 1005, Company F, commanded by Capt. King, moved in behind and advanced toward Hill 1003 (the north peak of Mt. della Castellana). A platoon of Company F, commanded by Lt. Pierce, ran into enemy MG opposition which was knocked out with one round from a Company F 81mm short-tube mortar.
Meanwhile, Company E continued down the northwest slope of Mt. della Castellana to point 885 (625246) where they ran into a trench defensive system. Heavy fire was placed on the enemy and the opposition surrendered after Lt. Travers and 7 men placed bazooka fire on the two houses. This action occurred just before dark and the company held fast the rest of the night.
During the night, Capt. Edward J. Cleary, regimental dentist, was walking, unarmed, along the Canolle Road when he came upon a German. He ordered the German to surrender, took his rifle away from him and marched the prisoner back.
At 0200, a patrol from Company G was sent to Tora but no activity was observed.
Company A, commanded by Capt. Turner, followed by Companies B and C, led the 1st Battalion attack. By 0825, 5 March, Company A had advanced to Pianelli (608248) and had passed upper Canolle (613252) at 0845, but was receiving artillery fire. Objective N was taken against light resistance by 0900 and Hill 916 was cleared of enemy immediately following.
Hill 916 was taken single-handed by the daring action of S/Sgt. Arthur E. Bystrom. The 2nd Platoon, Company A, was advancing against opposition from Hill 916 when the enemy put up a white flag from a bunker. S/Sgt. Bystrom ran forward to within 50 yards of the bunker when the flag was taken down and he was shot in the mouth and neck. In spite of his wounds, he continued on and cleaned out two enemy positions, one a MG position, and captured five prisoners, thus taking the company objective single-handed. The 2nd Platoon moved up behind him and took over. Sgt. Bystrom was killed 15 minutes later by a direct mortar hit.
At 1100, Company A reached the deep, open draw at 618254. Here they were held up for four hours by heavy MG, mortar and grenade fire from strongly defended positions on Hill 899 (616258). The 1st Platoon of Company A lost 17 men in working their way across this open draw. Company B fought its way onto Hill 899, and at 1500 Company B, commanded by Lt. Robert St. Louis, passed through and continued the attack to the final objective (Mt. della Spe). At 1805, 5 March, Company B was 200 yards from the top of the objective, and at 1820 Mt. della Spe had been taken against small arms, artillery and mortar fire.
The attack on Mt. della Spe was highlighted by the distinguished action of 1st Lt. John C. Creaghe, executive officer of Company B. After coordinating the attacking platoons, he left his normal position in the rear of the company and led the assaulting platoons over Hill 920 and onto Mt. della Spe, where he directed the placement of flank security and a hasty frontal defense. Then he led seven men on down the forward slope of Mt. della Spe against heavy enemy fire, which had forced the main body of Company B to remain on the reverse slope. After cleaning out the enemy on the forward slope, he made a ground reconnaissance of the area to assure himself that no enemy was left and to permit a thorough defense of the mountain.
The newly won positions were immediately consolidated. The top of Mt. della Spe was defended by Company B, the 1st Platoon of Company C, and the 1st Platoon of Company D, commanded by Lt. James Lunn,. An 81mm mortar OP was established by Lt. Chapin, mortar officer. The rest of Company C, commanded by Capt. Wright, organized defensive positions on the summit and reverse slope of Hill 920 (616259) directly south of Mt. della Spe, with the 2nd Platoon of Company D, commanded by Lt. James Johns, on the east slope of Hill 920. Company A sent one platoon to Hill 899 (616258) and the rest of the company dug in on the summit of Hill 916 (Objective N-618253) where they maintained contact with Company G on the right. The 1st Battalion HQ Company was in contact with the 1st Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry, on the left. All six 81mm mortars of Company D were set up in the draw at 615241. The battalion CP was established in upper Canolle (613252).
In conjunction with this action, the 87th Mountain Infantry jumped off at 1400, 5 March, to the left of our 1st Battalion, to take Castel d'Aiano and Hill 813 (600262) to the northwest.
During the night 5-6 March, Company B on Mt. della Spe withstood four heavy counterattacks and terrific artillery and mortar fire. The first counterattack was preceded by very heavy shelling under which the enemy worked to within 15 yards, and fierce bayonet fighting developed. First Sgt. Ponzio jumped into a shell hole and 2 Germans came in after him. He bayoneted one and shot the other.
While the 1st Platoon of Company D was reorganizing on newly won Mt. della Spe, it was ordered forward to more advantageous positions to prepare for possible counterattack. Pfc. Paul H. Ely, whose arm had been broken by shrapnel in the recent attack, was the first man to move forward under enemy fire. With difficulty, he picked up an HMG receiver and moved ahead, calling his comrades to follow. He refused medical treatment until the MG was in position.
Just before the first counterattack hit, the 1st Platoon of Company C had been sent up to reinforce the left flank of Company B. As they arrived on Mt. della Spe, the strong counterattack was in progress. S/Sgt. James P. Hurley, leader of the 1st Squad, realizing the desperate situation, immediately led his much-needed squad into the fight and helped avert an enemy breakthrough.
Lt. Creaghe again distinguished himself during this counterattack. He had been moving from man to man, checking their defensive positions. When the counterattack came at 2200, Lt. Creaghe rushed out to take charge of the left flank defenders and killed 2 Germans. The heavy rifle and grenade fire was too much and he was seriously wounded in the right leg, chest, right arm and lost the use of his left eye. He crawled into a foxhole, and after receiving slight first aid, he refused to be evacuated until 0800, 6 March, because the men required to evacuate him would weaken the company defense.
The Germans came back prepared to stay, because they brought packs and rations with them. The succeeding counterattacks were launched by the Germans at 0030, 0103 and 0440, 6 March. At 0110, 6 March, three enemy battalions were reported to be massing to the northwest. In all probability, they were committed to the last two counterattacks thrown against Company B. Just prior to the last counterattack, mortar and artillery fire was dropped into the German assembly area and helped whittle down the Krauts before they came up the hill. When they did come, there were approximately 100 of them, but Company B withstood them gallantly and drove the Krauts back for good.
Pfc. Frank P. Roccoforte, an Aid man with the 2nd Platoon of Company B, worked feverishly through the murderous machine-gun and artillery fire that accompanied the counterattacks to administer first aid to the wounded while continually exposing himself. He was only one of many Aid men who worked long hours under continuous danger to administer treatment to the wounded.
During the last counterattack, T/Sgt. Angelo V. Sposato, 2nd Platoon Company B, while wounded by shrapnel, rallied and led the support squad. It was this squad that finally checked the counterattack. He then gave aid to the wounded and was the last to be evacuated. Earlier in the night, under heavy machine-gun fire, he had gone to the aid of Sgt. Powell, who was wounded by machine-gun fire.
The repeated enemy counterattacks rapidly reduced the number of radio operators in Company B until none was left. Pfc. Dale J. Siebanaler, a messenger in the 1st Platoon of Company D, which was supporting Company B, voluntarily took over. Under heavy fire, he laid wire to all the forward platoons, his own HMG platoon and to the artillery OP, thus keeping communications open within the company. He also took over in the company CP, enabling the CO and executive officer to lead their troops in driving off the counter efforts of the Germans.
With all the radio operators evacuated, Lt. St. Louis carried the company SCR 300 on his back to keep the battalion informed of the situation; and in the last counterattack, he gathered all the men available in the CP area and led them into the firefight.
The heavy weapons of Company D, commanded by Capt. Johnson, worked feverishly in support of Company B in beating off the counter thrusts. In the opinion of Capt. Simpson, 1st Battalion S-3, It is doubtful whether Mt. della Spe could have been held without the excellent support of these heavy weapons.
Heavy German artillery and mortar fire continued throughout the night and the next day. It was so heavy that Company B was almost cut off from the rest of the battalion during that period.
Twenty-one were killed and 37 wounded in the 5 March attack. Except for one wounded man, all were casualties incurred during the attack against Objective N, Mt. della Castellana and Mt. della Spe.
At 0500, friendly planes were over our front, dropping flares and photographing enemy positions.
Heavy mortar fire was falling on the 1st Battalion on Mt. della Spe at 0500 and the battalion called for artillery counter battery. One half-hour later, the mortar fire was extremely heavy and the 1st Battalion requested priority on all 604th FA Battalion fire.
At 0645, the 1st Battalion requested additional litter teams to help evacuate a large number of casualties that had been brought to Canolle (614252) and again called for counter battery and counter mortar fire. The litter bearers were furnished by Major Dyer, regimental surgeon, from the Regimental Medical Detachment and the 10th Medical Battalion.
Capt. Halvorson, CO Company G, had been slightly wounded on 5 March and evacuated. Lt. Robert Beck sent one rifle platoon, led by Lt. Clark, and the weapons platoon, led by Lt. Kuhl, supported by one 81mm mortar section and one HMG platoon, on a sneak attack to Tora, Hill 912 (625249) and Montesinestro (623253). All were occupied against very little or no opposition.
The same morning, about 0730, Company E sent Lt. Murphy's platoon to I Monti (630246) which was held by two Germans. The platoon continued on to Mt. Spicchione and occupied it in the absence of any opposition.
Company F occupied Hill 985 (the eastern peak of Mt. della Castellana) without opposition and outposted Casella (638240)and San Cristoforo (635234), and occupied Hill 864 (624233). They also mined the road at San Cristoforo and established a roadblock there.
The old 2nd Battalion CP closed at 1130, 6 March, and a new battalion CP was established at 616244 (lower Canolle).
This action terminated the current offensive action by the 85th Mountain Infantry. Forty prisoners were taken up forward on 6 March. Of these, 35 from the 232nd Infantry Division were captured by Company E.
The 10th Recon Troop was attached to the 3rd Battalion (on Objective A) at 0800, 6 March. The troop was to be used only in restoring our lines after a counterattack and for patrolling. The 3rd Battalion took 39 more prisoners on 6 March on Objective A.
The 1st and 2nd Battalions were notified at 0945 that the slopes of Mt. della Castellana and Mt. della Spe were cleaned up and all buildings within the battalion boundaries would be cleaned out.
General Duff visited the regimental CP at 1053 and General Hays dropped in at 1400.
The regimental OP was shelled at 1000, 6 March. Rover Joe's air support continued throughout the day to bomb and strafe enemy installations, gun emplacements and troop concentrations.
During Phase B, the 604th FA Battalion was in general support as long as the 85th Mountain Infantry was held in division reserve. When the 85th Mountain Infantry was committed on 5 March, the 604th FA Battalion was placed in direct support of the regiment. Company A, 126th Engineers Battalion, was in direct support of the 85th Mountain Infantry from D-1 until the end of the operation. Company B, 84th Chemical Battalion, was attached in direct support on the night of 4-5 March.
At 1730, 6 March, Division directed that the 2nd Battalion was to send a patrol led by an officer to M. di Corba (63229) to contact the BEF at 1000, 7 March. The BEF would send a patrol and the battalion commander to meet our patrol at 1000 in the town.
Enemy tanks were reported by Division at 2130 to be assembling at the rate of one per minute in Villa d'Aiano (592272). No definite total was known, however.
The 2nd Battalion was receiving mortar fire at 2300, some of which started fires in the battalion area. Aside from scattered artillery fire, the night was quiet in the 2nd Battalion sector. Two PW's walked into the 3rd Battalion lines on Objective A at 0010, 7 March.
The total casualties on 6 March were 6 killed and 52 wounded. The 1st Battalion suffered 93% of all casualties. This was largely because of the heavy steady shelling it received the night of 5-6 March.
1st Battalion 5 49
2nd Battalion 1 2
3rd Battalion 0 0
Med. Det. 0 1
During Phase B of the division attack, there was a marked reduction in the disruption of our communication lines by enemy fire, and the lines were kept in much better shape. This was in part due to better efficiency gained from the Mt. Belvedere-Mt. Gorgolesco action in February. Phases A and B have revealed the superiority of wire to radio in mountain warfare, even in attack. Wire became the mainstay of communication. Because of this, the regimental wire section was increased 60 percent and battalion wire sections were increased one-hundred percent.
The regiment established a line of defense in the Mt. della Castellana-Mt. della Spe sector after these objectives had been taken. A thorough, intricate system of communication lines was laid by all wire personnel of the regiment. Units were tied in laterally as well as from front to rear. The 2nd Battalion alone laid 24 lines, all by hand, using 21 miles of wire.
Pfc. Dryka, a regimental wire man, was killed by artillery fire on 5 March while laying wire from the regimental CP to the OP. The two other men in the team, T/5 Bestul and Pfc. Kratovich, continued through the barrage and put the line in. For this meritorious action, they were recommended for the Bronze Star.
The heavy artillery fire received on Mt. della Spe kept the 1st Battalion communications personnel very busy repairing and relaying wires. The wires, which were hastily laid immediately after the objectives were taken, were gradually re-laid in defiladed draws to avoid disruption by enemy fire. During the heavy barrages of the night 5-6 March, Lt. Retzke and 4 men put in a line to Company B. On the return, T/5 Beauchamp and Pfc. Griswold were seriously wounded and the other two men were lightly wounded by shrapnel. All four men were recommended for the Bronze Star. The remaining three battalion communications men and Lt. Retzke worked long and hard to keep the lines in during the next few days.
S/Sgt. Melvin Johnson, 2nd Battalion communications chief, and wire chief Sgt. Fosberg worked for 3 days and 2 nights with little or no rest during the 2nd Battalion action on Mt. della Castellana to maintain wires under artillery fire and over rugged terrain. They were recommended for Bronze Star awards.
The wire from 2nd Battalion CP to Company E was at first continually exposed to observed MG fire but the men repeatedly braved this fire and repaired the wire whenever it was damaged.
The wire men of the 3rd Battalion had danger added to long hours when the 3rd Battalion relieved the 1st Battalion on Mt. della Spe. The line to Company L, on the summit, was kept in very well while the men braved artillery and mortar fire. Nine men of Lt. Lengfeld's section have been recommended for Bronze Stars. Col. Schelor, 3rd Battalion CO, decided upon a policy of maintaining wire communication with attacking echelons during actual attacks. This policy requires the communication personnel to be continually exposed to every type of enemy fire while performing their normal tasks, but a high standard of communication is effected.
At 0200, 7 March, 1st Battalion reported that a huge enemy barrage was falling in Castel d'Aiano (to their southwest) and houses were burning 1000 yards northwest of the town. During the day, 1 prisoner was taken by the 1st Battalion; 1 deserter and 1 artillery officer from the 232nd Artillery were taken by the 3rd Battalion.
The 1st Battalion sent out a mine-laying party of 1 squad under the command of Lt. Cummings, HQ Company, at 2300, 7 March. A field was laid at 612258 adjoining the Castel d'Aiano-Monteforte road and the party returned at 0230, 8 March.
The night passed quietly in all three battalion sectors. The total casualties for 7 March were 3 killed and 9 wounded. Of this total, the 1st Battalion suffered 2 killed and 6 wounded.
On March 8, the regimental sector was quiet and the battalions continued improvement of their positions during spasmodic artillery fire. A 9-man patrol sent out at 0800, 8 March, from the 10th Recon Troop by the 3rd Battalion destroyed 2 German 88mm guns at 548222 (vicinity M. Coveraie) and 1 37mm gun at 548223. Another patrol, sent out at the same time, destroyed piles of artillery, mortar and small arms ammunition and mines stacked along the road and in the houses along the road.
An evacuated civilian reported at 2020 that the town of Malino Piorotto (635261) was used as a German camp and was left heavily mined. At 2250, 8 March, the 2nd Battalion reported that a building near Company G CP in Tora was full of ammunition, small arms, rockets and TNT. They requested the engineers to clean it out and salvage materials. Company B took 1 prisoner from the 29th Panzer Division and the Company F medics brought in 2 prisoners from the 232nd Infantry Division.
The 10th Recon Troop, which had been attached to the 3rd Battalion since 6 March, was detached from the 3rd Battalion at 1800, 8 March, and attached to the 10th AT Battalion. The 10th AT Battalion, with the 10th Recon Troop attached, was attached to the 85th Mountain Infantry effective 0800, 8 March.
In compliance with FO #2, the 85th Mountain Infantry, with the 10th AT Battalion attached, was ordered to occupy, organize and defend the area of resistance, refit and prepare for further action. Two infantry battalions and the 10th AT Battalion were on line with one battalion in reserve. The 10th AT Battalion was given the mission of maintaining contact with the 81st Recon Troop on the right and sending out patrols as well as defending its assigned sector.
The night 8-9 March, Companies E, F and G sent out Recon and Observation patrols of 9 men and 1 officer at 1900. The Company G patrol cut a German wire on Hill 912 (625249) in several places. No enemy was seen by any of the patrols.
At 2305, 8 March, the 1st and 2nd Battalions were asked to observe Corps counter battery fire. The 2nd Battalion reported at 0015, 9 March, that the Corps artillery was doing some good because enemy artillery fire had stopped.
The 3rd Battalion, 85th, was relieved as left flank security on Objective A by the 3rd Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry, at 0115, 9 March, and reverted to division reserve. The 3rd Battalion closed into the new area (568211, south of Cimon della Piella) at 0400.
Col. Barlow, Maj. Schooley (S-3) and Capt. Reid (S-1) went forward on reconnaissance at 0755, 9 March, and returned at 1450.
The 10th AT Battalion CP (10th AT Battalion attached to 85th Mountain Infantry) opened at 638239 (vicinity of Casella) at 1600, 9 March. The battalion occupied positions on Mt. Valbura (645244) and Mt. Belvedere (652242). They also were to maintain contact with the 81st Recon Troops on the right (east) flank of the division.
At 1810, mortar fire started falling on our 1st Battalion positions on the west slope of Mt. della Spe. Enemy artillery fire continued falling all throughout the day inflicting some casualties, especially in Company B.
Companies E, F, and G again sent out Recon and Observation patrols of 9 EM led by 1 officer at 1900, 9 March. The Company E patrol saw 2 small German patrols at 645250. The Company G patrol observed artillery and MG fire. All patrols were back at 0500, 10 March.
On 10 March, the 3rd Battalion moved by truck from the division reserve area at 568211 to the division rest area at Montecatini for four days of rest. At 0900, 10 March, the 3rd Platoon of Company F was relieved of positions at San Cristoforo by the 10th AT Battalion and reverted to battalion reserve. Positions on Hill 864 and Casella occupied by Company F were relieved at 0900 and these troops reverted to Company F.
One prisoner from the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division was taken by the 1st Battalion.
Scattered artillery fire continued falling on March 10 and all throughout the night 10-11 March.
Recon and Observation patrols of 1 officer and 9 EM were sent out by Companies E and G at 1900, 10 March. The Company E patrol was caught in an artillery barrage for 25 minutes at M. di Ubaldo (543255) but did not suffer any casualties or see any enemy. The Company G patrol did not observe any enemy in buildings and along the routes checked by them.
Valuable information regarding German positions in the Mt. Pigna area (637288) was received from a civilian by the 2nd Battalion S-2 and forwarded.
Enemy artillery and mortar fire continued falling on 11 March, especially in the 1st Battalion sector on Mt. della Spe. Lt. William Baker, Company B, who had gallantly rallied his platoon and treated the wounded during the counterattack on the night of 5-6 March, was wounded by shrapnel and later died of wounds.
A Reconnaissance and Observation patrol of 1 officer and 9 EM was sent out at 2300, 11 March, by Company G. It observed mortar fire but did not see any enemy. A 5-man patrol sent out by Company E at 2300 observed a fire started by artillery in the vicinity of Le Ville (634269). A 1st Battalion patrol made contact with the 86th on the left at 0300, 12 March.
March 12 passed quietly on the front except for artillery and mortar fire. S/Sgt. Sigurd Olson, Pfc. Malcolm Black and Pfc. Andrew Hastings found a German code text and mortar concentration plans and positions in Company E area. They were forwarded to regimental S-2.
First Battalion patrols made contact with the 86th on the left at 2300, 12 March, and again at 0400, 13 March. A 6-man patrol from Company E sent out at 2400, 12 March, observed enemy fire but did not see or contact any enemy forces. Company G sent out a patrol at 0010, 13 March, of 1 officer and 4 EM which checked on buildings occupied by Italians and observed some enemy fire.
Artillery, mortar and some MG fire was received throughout the night, which was quiet otherwise.
The regimental CP moved on 13 March from 582231 to 62802315 (Campidello) and opened at 1130. A 6-man observation patrol from Company E sent out at midnight to observe several buildings found them all empty. Company G sent out an observation patrol of 1 officer and 9 EM at 2400. Heard enemy activity at 625258 and in other buildings along their route.
The 3rd Battalion left the Montecatini rest area at 1105 on 14 March for the division reserve area at Passatore (vicinity 6223). The battalion CP opened 619233 at 1800, 14 March, and the battalion had completely closed into the reserve area by 0400, 15 March.
Two men, Pfc. Herman Vogel and Pfc. LeRoy Heib, from Company C, established a listening post at 61352635 at 2000, 14 March. At 2230, they heard enemy in the vicinity and pulled a trip flare, disclosing 19 enemy. Artillery and mortar fire were brought onto the position. A friendly patrol investigated one hour later but could not find any enemy wounded or dead. Company A established a 2-man listening post at 62102583 at 2000 but heard nothing other than long-range enemy MG and artillery fire.
A 5-man observation patrol sent out by Company E at 2400 did not see or hear any enemy. Company F sent out a reconnaissance and observation patrol of 1 officer and 5 men at 2400, 14 March. They heard a small German patrol at 629254 using an ìowlî call as a signal.
Some artillery fire fell in the 2nd Battalion area at 2130.
Thirty rounds of artillery fell from 1600 to 1800, 15 March, in the 1st Battalion area on Mt. della Spe. The 1st Battalion was relieved on positions by the 3rd Battalion the night of 15-16 March. At 1845, 15 March, the 3rd Battalion CP at Passatore closed. A forward CP was opened at 614252 (Canolle) and a rear CP was opened at 621236 (Corgnole). Relief was completed by 0415, 15 March, without incident and with very little artillery fire. A contact patrol was sent to the 86th on the left. The 1st Battalion left at 0700, 16 March, for the Montecatini rest area and closed in there at 1200.
Company C established a 2-man listening post at 6135 2635 from 0200, 15 March, till 0300, 16 March, but there was nothing to report. An observation patrol of 1 officer and 3 men was sent out by Company E at 2400, 15 March. They heard heavy enemy vehicles near Roffeno (635266) and spasmodic 4.2 mortar fire was dropped on the road. Later, scattered enemy MG fire was heard. Company F sent out a patrol of 1 officer and 6 men which also heard the same vehicles and MG fire.
March 16 passed very quietly. Major Koeber, regimental S-2, and 4 EM left for a school at Aversa, near Naples. It was conducted from 19-23 March on the handling of PW's.
A heavy artillery barrage fell on Company F on Hill 1005 (Mt. della Castellana) at 2015. Company E established a 3-man listening post at 2400, 16 March, but heard nothing except some enemy vehicles on a road to the front and some harassing MG fire.
Starting the night of 16-17 March, a series of ambush patrols were sent out to capture PW's. A patrol of 16 men was sent out by Company K at 1900, 16 March. An ambush was set up at 626269 until 0220, but no enemy were seen. A combat patrol of 15 men, led by Lt. Clayton, left Company G at 2400, 16 March, to clear enemy out of the Company G forward area. At 623255, they heard considerable enemy activity and Lt. Clayton decided they were in a trap. He moved the men out, one at a time, to Montesinestro (623253) and had 81mm mortar fire dropped onto his former position.
At 0400, 17 March, one Polish deserter gave himself up to Company G at Montesinestro. He stated that the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division was to be relieved by an Italian division.
The sector was relatively quiet on 17 March except for scattered artillery fire.
This enemy artillery fire knocked out the supply route to the 3rd Battalion on Mt. della Spe. T/Sgt. John Mautner, HQ Company 3rd Battalion, took an AP squad to repair the road. Under observed enemy small arms and artillery fire, they worked until the job was completed. Just as they finished, Sgt. Mautner was killed and 4 men were wounded by shrapnel.
Division notified us at 2025, 17 March, that Montese (558245), to our left, was being heavily occupied by enemy troops.
Company E established a 3-man listening post at 2200, 17 March. From 10 to 13 enemy trucks were heard leaving Roffeno at 0145 and friendly artillery was dropped on the spot.
A 15-man combat patrol, led by Lt. Clark, was sent out by Company G at 2000, 17 March, but all places checked were clear of enemy. An ambush patrol of 1 officer and 10 men from Company K went out at 1900 but no enemy were seen or heard.
Company I sent out an ambush patrol at 1900, 17 March, of 16 men, led by Lt. Dole. An ambush was set at 624265 with a part of the patrol and the rest moved forward. Enemy MG and mortar fire suddenly opened up on the patrol, inflicting 4 light casualties. No prisoners were taken but one German was killed or badly wounded. The patrol was forced to withdraw because of mortar fire.
All was quiet again on 18 March. At 2350, a few rounds of phosphorous fell at 637249 (east of Mt. Spicchione).
Company E sent out an ambush patrol of 15 men at 2000, 18 March. They ran into an enemy patrol at 0120 at 634248 and set up an ambush. However, the enemy patrol got away before physical contact could be made.
Company L sent out a 5-man Recon and Observation patrol at 1900 to 612267. They observed until 0200 but saw or heard nothing. A 14-man patrol, led by Lt. Bugby, was sent out by Company I at 1900, 18 March. They did not encounter any enemy, but contacted a civilian at 623268, who stated that the enemy in that sector pulled back approximately 1000 meters the night of 17-18 March. Movement of enemy vehicles was heard several times during the night.
March 19 was another quiet day along the regimental sector. The 1st Battalion moved from the Montecatini rest area to the division reserve area at Passatore (619230) and closed in at 1945. They were to relieve the 2nd Battalion the night of 20-21 March. Two more prisoners from the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division were taken by Company G.
Two strong combat patrols were sent out by each of the battalions the night of 19-20 March. A 25-man patrol, led by Lt. Kavtis from Company K, got into a firefight in the vicinity of M. Acquaretto (627269). An estimated 8 enemy were killed. Three of our men were wounded by a German grenade. The enemy fire was so heavy that no prisoners could be taken and the patrol returned. (See Inclosure No. 1, 19-20 March 45.)
A similar patrol from Company I, led by Lt. Dole, ran into the Company K patrol firefight and halted. Later they were fired upon, and thinking it might be the Company K patrol, Lt. Dole withdrew to prevent a clash of friendly forces. (See Inclosure No. 1, 19-20 March 45.)
At 1930, 19 March, Company E sent out a patrol of 41 EM led by Lt. Catlett to capture PW's. The patrol traveled to the vicinity of Roffeno and stayed out until 0200, 20 March. Much information was brought back, but no enemy contact was made. The 32-man patrol from Company G, led by Lt. Tenenbaum, left at 2000, 19 March, and ran into a firefight during which 2 Germans were captured. The prisoners were sent to the rear and the patrol stayed out all day to support the E Company patrol. They returned the night of 20-21 March without further incident. (See Inclosure No. 2, 20 March 45.)
On 20 March, word was received from Division that no more PW patrols were necessary until further notice. The day was quiet all along the sector. The 2nd Battalion opened a rear CP at 62052290 (Passatore) at 1700, 20 March, in preparation for relief of its positions in the Mt. della Castellana sector by the 1st Battalion. The relief was completed at 0200, 21 March, except for a left flank security platoon, an AP mine-clearing detail and the forward CP which were maintained until daylight. The 2nd Battalion closed into the division reserve area at Passatore at 2330, 20 March. The security platoon rejoined the battalion in the reserve area at 0740, 21 March. All anti-personnel mines were cleared by the 2nd Battalion from the Mt. della Castellana area occupied by them.
Company L established a 7-man listening post at 1900, 20 March, at 620267. Enemy digging and vehicular traffic movement were heard intermittently. One German passed within 10 feet of the OP.
A 15-man security patrol led by Lt. Bugby was sent out by Company I at 1900. Houses to the east of Mt. della Spe in the vicinity of 623264 were investigated but no enemy encountered.
The 2nd Battalion moved from the division reserve area at Passatore to the rest center at Montecatini the afternoon of 21 March. The battalion closed into the rest area at 1040, 22 March.
At 1900, 21 March, Company K established a 15-man listening post at 619257 and Company L established a 7-man listening post at 619268. The night was very quiet with nothing to report.
The 22nd of March was uneventful. At 1930, 22 March, a 7-man listening post was established at 617266 on Mt. della Spe. They heard enemy digging at 617269 and horse-drawn vehicles along the road to Serra Sarzana and an enemy patrol of 6 men. Mortar and artillery fire was brought down on the enemy locations.
Company K sent out a 30-man Recon patrol led by Lt. Kadaiz at 2000, 22 March. Point 695 (627269) was occupied by enemy, and mortar fire was dropped on it. Lt. Kadaiz and 6 men remained at the established OP at 625266 all through the night and during the day, 23 March. An enemy MG on Hill 903 (625277) was knocked out at 2240, 22 March, by a direct mortar hit.
An air raid warning was sounded at midnight, 23-24 March, and two unidentified planes were reported over the 3rd Battalion area. One plane continued flying over the 1st Battalion area for one and three-quarters hours.
Lt. Sabin and a 15-man patrol from Company I left at 2000, 23 March. Part of the patrol relieved the listening post at 625266 (Hill 721) established the night before by Lt. Kadaiz and 8 men. The rest of the patrol set up a listening post and OP at M. Acquaretto (623268) and remained there until the night 24-25 March.
A patrol of 11 men led by Lt. Putnam was sent out at 2000, 23 March, by Company L to investigate enemy activity reported last night along the road to Serra Sarzana. While checking houses at Point 781 (612269), they were engaged in a sharp firefight by enemy forces. The enemy sprayed the entire area with small arms, mortar fire and grenades. One member of the patrol was killed; two were wounded and had to be left behind.
At 1900, 23 March, a 6-man patrol from Company C, led by Lt. Steffen, left to set up a listening post at 639255. On the way out it was noticed that German minefields were very well marked.
A 10-man patrol from Company B, led by Lt. Kerekes, left at 1900, 23 March, and set up a listening post at 634262. While returning, they encountered a 9-man patrol, later identified as friendly, and withdrew to their own lines.
Col. Barlow visited wounded members of the regiment hospitalized in Leghorn on 24 March.
General Hays ordered that all future patrols would be combat patrols to take PWs in an effort to secure more information.
Starting at 2040, 24 March, the 10th AT Battalion and 10th Recon Troop (attached to the 85th Mountain Infantry) were relieved on position by the 1st Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry, which in turn was attached to the 85th Mountain Infantry for operations. The 10th AT Battalion CP closed at 2250.
A 24-man combat patrol from Company A, led by Lt. Tibit, went out at 1900, 24 March, to capture PWs. They went from Tora past Calvana (631261) but made no enemy contact. One enemy phone wire was cut. Houses and foxholes in Calvana and beyond were empty.
A strong combat patrol of 36 men from Company L, led by Lt. Putnam, went out at 2300, 24 March, to take PWs and retrieve the casualties left behind by the L Company patrol the night before at Point 781. The patrol was heavily supported by prepared artillery and mortar fires. The patrol reached an observation and rendezvous point at 614268, from which they observed the buildings at Point 781. At 0105, the patrol moved under the cover of a heavy box barrage and counter mortar and artillery fire to a jump-off point at 61272696. Enemy digging was heard at buildings 763 (616270) and artillery was dropped on them. At 0130, the patrol attacked the buildings at 781 with German Panzerfausts, grenades, mortars and rifles. Stiff enemy resistance was overcome by wiping them out. An estimated 11 enemy were killed. One PW was taken but died of wounds on the way back. Enemy were from the 3rd Company, Pioneer Battalion, 334th Division. The patrol withdrew and more artillery was dropped in, starting fires. Pfc. Roeder was missing, believed killed by a direct mortar hit from an enemy mortar; one man slightly wounded. Two bodies of the three left behind the night before were recovered.
The 2nd Battalion left Montecatini by truck on 25 March and returned to the division reserve at Passatore. The battalion CP opened at 1500 and the battalion closed in at 1730.
At midnight, over 100 large-caliber shells fell in the 3rd Battalion area on Mt. della Spe. Scattered artillery and mortar fire was received throughout the night by the 1st and 3rd Battalions.
No combat or reconnaissance patrols were sent out the night of 25-26 March. All was quiet along the sector on 26 March. A 12-man security patrol from Company I, led by Lt. Dole, was sent out at 2140, 26 March, to the north slope of Mt. della Spe to ambush the enemy. No enemy contact or fire observed, but several AP mines and booby traps were discovered and sketched.
At 1930, 26 March, a 20-man patrol from Company B, led by Lt. Kerekes and Lt. Cummings, went out and reconnoitered the area for a raid to be made on the night of 27-28 March. They ran into a 9-man enemy patrol at 629263, withdrew and had mortar fire dropped into the area. The reconnaissance was continued until 0400.
The 3rd Battalion opened a CP in Prunetta at 1950, 27 March, in preparation for the moving of the battalion for a training period at Prunetta. The 2nd Battalion relieved the 3rd Battalion on position (Mt. della Spe and vicinity) without incident during the night 27-28 March. The 2nd Battalion CP opened in upper Canolle (613252) at 0400, 28 March.
A patrol from the 2nd Battalion made contact with the 86th on the left at 2100 and at 1400, 27 March.
The 20-man combat patrol from Company B, led by Lt. Kerekes, that had reconnoitered the night before, left at 1930, 27 March, to take PW's. Often receiving some scattered long-range MG fire, the patrol reached its rendezvous point (628252630) at 2400. A 4-minute artillery barrage was put down on the objective (the buildings at Point 697ó632268). The fires shifted to a box barrage and the patrol attacked, using Panzerfausts along with regular weapons. No enemy was found. Later, an ambush was set at 628259 but no enemy appeared. The entire patrol was back in at 0400, 28 March.
The 3rd Battalion moved on 28 March to a division training area at Prunetta for training from 29-31 March. This training was highlighted by platoon problems, range firing, a battalion parade and a forced march.
The 1st Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry (attached for operational control to the 85th Mountain Infantry), was relieved on position on 28 March by the 10th AT Battalion with the 10th Recon Troop attached. Relief was completed by 1825. The 10th AT Battalion was again attached to the 85th Mountain Infantry (on the right flank of the regiment).
A convoy of enemy trucks was sighted on the road in the vicinity of 664279 by the 1st Battalion at 2230, 28 March, and an unidentified plane circled overhead for one and a half hours. A listening post was established by 6 men from Company A at 627255 but nothing was seen or heard. A similar post was set up by Company C at 632253.
Lt. Douglas, Company F, made an aerial reconnaissance of Serra Sarzana for a raid that night on 29 March, a very quiet day. An unidentified plane was reported flying over the 1st Battalion area at Mt. Spicchione at 2045.
Company A sent out a Recon patrol of 2 squads, led by Lt. Harden, at 1900, 29 March. A listening post was set up at 631255 (Mt. Spicchione). Artillery fire was called for on enemy machine guns firing from Calvana. The firing ceased. Two enemy seen, but no action occurred.
A 58-man combat patrol from Company F, led by Lt. Douglas, left at 2100, 29 March, to raid enemy positions in Serra Sarzana (6227) and capture PW's. On the way out, a search was made for previously reported AP mines and MG positions. None were found. Supporting fires were laid down at 0130 on Serra Sarzana and intense enemy artillery fell on the patrol position and they were forced to withdraw and reorganize. Time did not permit further action before daylight and the patrol was ordered to return.
Col. Barlow and 4 other officers attended a demonstration on Armored Bridging of Water by the 1st Armored Division outside of Prada (12 miles north of Florence) on 30 March.
A combat patrol of 2 squads, led by Lt. Lang, was sent out at 1930 on 30 March from Company B to capture PW's. They proceeded from Mt. della Castellana to the buildings at Point 701 (627259) but no enemy were encountered anywhere along the route.
The 3rd Battalion conducted a battalion parade at Prunetta on 31 March. General Hays, division commander, presented awards to members of the battalion. Machine-gun fire and 10 rounds of mortar fire hit in CO area on the south slope of Mt. della Spe at 1750.
Company H spotted an HMG, a SP high-velocity gun and heavy mortar to the front of Mt. della Spe at 2045. They were fired on by all available mortar and artillery.
A listening post of 1 officer and 6 men was established by Company E at 613266 the night of 31 March-1 April, but no enemy activity was seen or heard.
A combat patrol of 50 men, led by Lt. Douglas, left Company F at 1930, 31 March, to take PW's. They found the buildings at Famaticcia (611263) were clear of enemy and proceeded to Pra de Bianco (613269) where enemy were contacted in the buildings. The Germans fired at the patrol with Panzerfausts and light mortars. The patrol moved to the safety of a small draw on the left flank and called for mortar fire on the buildings at 616270 where activity was heard. People were heard leaving when the first rounds fell. When the fire lifted, all the buildings in the vicinity were empty. Other buildings and positions were investigated, but no further enemy contact was made. Included in the patrol action were Torre Iussi (621273) and Serra Sarzana (619279).
In the beginning of March, a regimental counter-mortar section was established to coordinate the counter mortar fire of the three battalions, supporting, and adjacent units. Reports of enemy mortar fire and positions were received and consolidated so that counter mortar fire could be put down with a minimum of delay and a maximum of accuracy. Lt. Oliver J. LaMere was appointed counter mortar officer, assisted by Cpl. Grant O. Hagen.
During March, a quota system was inaugurated whereby enlisted men and officers were sent to rest areas at Rome, Florence and Montecatini for periods of three to five days. This was in addition to sending the battalions, one at a time, to the division rest area at Montecatini for four days. The first man left on 14 March. A total of 81 officers and 640 EM were sent during the month.
March closed out with two battalions holding the high ground from Mt. della Castellana to Mt. della Spe and one battalion in the division training center at Prunetta. A total of 154 prisoners were taken during the month, increasing the overall total for the regiment to 298. The regimental front advanced 10,000 yards to the northeast from the eastern end of the Mt. Belvedere-Mt. Gorgolesco Ridge to the summit of Mt. della Spe.
For the COMMANDING OFFICER
JOHN B. WOODRUFF
Historical Records Officer
BREAKOUT INTO THE PO VALLEY
(1 APR to 30 APR)
Preparation: 1 Apr to 13 Apr
Initial attack: 14 Apr to 15 Apr
Breakout: 19 Apr to 30 Apr
From the 6th of March to date the 85th Regiment was committed to holding its newly won positions on Mt. della Castellana, Mt. Spicchione and Mt. della Spe. Patrolling was inaugurated and continued throughout the period with the primary mission of capturing PW's. Enemy artillery fire was heavy immediately following the attack on 5-6 March but it tapered off to scattered and spasmodically heavy fire during the rest of March.
In this static condition, the 85th Mountain Infantry entered the month of April 1945. The three battalions were being rotated through the division training area at Prunetta and quotas of officers and enlisted men were being sent to rest areas at Rome, Florence and Montecatini. Enemy artillery and mortar fire was scattered and light during the first week of April, inflicting some casualties.
The 3rd Battalion closed out of Prunetta after 3 days of training at 1400, 1 April. The 3rd Battalion relieved the 1st Battalion of positions on Mt. della Castellana and Mt. Spicchione on 2 April and the relief was completed by 2100. Upon relief, the 1st Battalion proceeded by truck to Prunetta for three days of training and closed in at 0030, 3 April. The 1st Battalion lived in pyramidal tents while at the training center.
Listening posts of 1 officer and 5 men were established at Famaticcia and L622262 by the 2nd Battalion during the night of 1-2 April. One post observed enemy machine-gun, rifle and mortar fire to the front.
The regimental OP picked up an enemy plane flying over our front at 0455, 2 April, and spotted it twice during the next hour.
April 1, being Easter Sunday, was an unusually busy day for the regimental chaplains. Capt. Fields, 1st Battalion chaplain, conducted four Easter services: the first in the Company C area on top of Mt. della Castellana, the second for the remainder of the 1st Battalion on Mt. della Castellana, one at the regimental Motor Pool, and an evening service at the regimental CP in Campidello. During the services, the grim reality of the war was kept before all by the booming of artillery and the droning of planes overhead. On this lovely Easter Day, Capt. Wingart, 2nd Battalion chaplain, conducted two services: one at the battalion CP in upper Canolle and the other at the 2nd Battalion rest camp.
A strong combat patrol of 33 men, led by Lt. Murphy, was sent out from Company E at 2040, 2 April, to raid and take prisoners at Point 909 (Serra d'Aiano - 614274). En route, an enemy flare went up from a house at 613269 and friendly mortar fire was dropped on it. Patrol continued to 614273 but lost radio contact and could not call for supporting artillery fire. That, plus the brilliant moonlight, and enemy MG fire to the rear, led Lt. Murphy to move the patrol back to its base. Two partially stripped enemy bodies were found along the trail at 614257. After searching the bodies, the patrol returned at 0450, 3 April.
A platoon of six 4.2 chemical mortars from Company B, 84th Chemical Battalion, was placed in support of the 85th Mountain Infantry on 3 April, to assist in counter mortar fire.
The last men and officers to be sent to rest centers at Rome and Montecatini left on 3 April. A total of 4 officers and 62 EM left during the first three days of April. The remainder of personnel scheduled to go were postponed until a later date.
That night the regimental OP reported enemy MG fire at 0020, 4 April, against 2nd Battalion positions on Mt. della Spe and the OP itself. More enemy MG fire was directed at the OP at 0330 without causing any casualties.
The 10th Recon Troop was detached at 0830, 4 April, from the 10th AT Battalion. The 10th AT Battalion remained attached to the 85th Mountain Infantry on the right flank of the regimental sector.
A patrol of 20 EM, led by Lt. Hurst, went out from Company L at 2100, 4 April, to reconnoiter for a raid to be held on 6 April. (The raid was later called off.) A total of 16 to 20 enemy were seen in the vicinity of the houses at 607267 and enemy installations were spotted on the forward slope of Hill 883 (607273).
Sixty men and officers attended a flame-throwers school at Staging Area No. 3, vicinity of Pisa, on 5 April. Thirty more men and officers received the same instructions on 6 April. All identifying insignia and clothing were left behind for security reasons.
The division Memorial Service held on 6 April at the U.S. Military Cemetery south of Florence was attended by Col. Barlow, an officer from each battalion, an officer from each company and an enlisted man from each squad that had a man killed in action up to that date. The eight-man firing squad was furnished by this regiment.
Following the Memorial Service, the 1st Battalion parade was held at Prunetta. General Hays and Col. Barlow presented awards and decorations to men and officers of the Battalion.
Considerable shifting of units was accomplished on the 6th and 7th of April in preparation for coming offensive action. The 3rd Battalion, 85th, which had been holding the Mt. della Castellana-Mt. Spicchione area, was relieved on position the night of 6-7 April by the 1st Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry. The relief was completed by 2130 and the battalion moved back a short distance to a division reserve area in the valley at lower Canolle (6124). Off and on since 8 March, the 10th AT Battalion, attached to the 85th Mountain Infantry, had been holding Mt. Belvedere and Mt. Valbura on the regimental right flank. The Anti-Tank Battalion reverted to division control on 6 April and was relieved by the 1st Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry, which remained under control of the 86th. The 1st Battalion, 85th, moved from the Prunetta training area on the afternoon, 7 April, to the division reserve area at Passatore (6122).
A combat patrol was sent out at 2000, 6 April, by the 3rd Battalion. The patrol proceeded to Ca del Conte (68267) and enemy mortar and rifle grenade fire started falling in the vicinity. At 0245, an enemy MG on Hill 913 fired tracers at the patrol, which called for a box barrage on buildings in Ca del Conte (608268). The patrol withdrew without suffering any casualties.
In preparation for the next attack, the regimental CP moved from Campidello on 8 April to lower Canolle (615245). The night 8-9 April, the 1st Battalion, 85th, relieved the 3rd Battalion, 87th, of positions in Castel d'Aiano (Company B), Mad. na di Brasa (Company A), and vicinity (Company C). The same night, strong artillery and MG shots were started to confuse the enemy as to when the impending attack would start and to induce them to reveal gun positions. Fifteen-minute artillery concentrations were placed on enemy positions, followed by fifteen minutes of MG fire from line company weapons. They continued nightly until the attack began on 14 April. Each night, the enemy countered with heavy artillery and mortar fire, which fell in all three battalion areas, and MG fire against Mt della Spe.
A reconnaissance patrol, led by Lt. Clayton, was sent out by Company G, 2045, 9 April, to observe enemy activity. Our own artillery fire prevented hearing any enemy activity until they reached Serra Focchia (612262). Here, they heard wagons moving to their left front. The patrol moved around the forward base of Mt. della Spe to Serra Sarzana (619269) but no contact was made with any enemy forces.
From dark till midnight on 10 April, a 1st Battalion mine-sweeping patrol removed the mine fields which had been blocking the road at Famaticcia.
At 0300, 11 April, an enemy patrol (from the 334th Division) hit Company B in Castel d'Aiano (698257). One Kraut was killed in the resulting firefight and the rest withdrew on the double. At the same time, 30 large-caliber artillery shells landed just north of the town without inflicting any casualties.
A mine-blowing demonstration was conducted by the engineers on 11 April at Mareno. One officer and one NCO from each platoon in the regiment attended.
PREPARATION FOR THE ATTACK
In Germany, the Nazi hordes were rapidly being thrown back into their very last bastion of resistance. More than half of Germany proper was in Allied hands. The U.S. 9th Army had only 50-odd miles left to complete its advance to Berlin; the Russians were poised along the Oder River, 35 miles from the Reich capitol, and had completed the liberation of Vienna.
In Italy, more than twenty-five German divisions were still guarding the Po valley, the last remaining bread- and supply-basket for the routed Nazis. All the world knew that the U.S. Fifth and British Eighth Armies would soon start their summer offensive to wrest the Po Valley from the enemy and then drive the Germans out of Italy. This also meant driving back or destroying some of the best troops left in the Wehrmacht, troops who could be expected to fight fanatically to protect their source of food and supplies.
Having proved itself in two recent offensive actions, the 10th Mountain Division was sure to play a major role in the coming offensive, and the 85th Mountain Infantry was selected as one of the two regiments to spearhead the division attack.
Preparations were more extensive, complete and exhaustive than any the regiment had seen. For nearly a month, patrols had been reconnoitering enemy positions, observing enemy movements and bringing in prisoners as a source of information.
The regimental and battalion staffs worked feverishly so that no little detail would be left unprepared for. Staff meetings were frequent to insure complete understanding and coordination of the formulated plans.
During the five-day period, 7-12 April, the regiment laid down approximately 70 miles of field wire, almost unheard of in flat land offensive action. The Regimental Communications Platoon installed a total of 16 trunk lines in addition to numerous local lines. This was necessitated by the many attached units and the requirements of the mountainous terrain of the zone of the coming action.
All platoon leaders in the regiment were carefully and thoroughly briefed by the Battalion and regimental S-2s as to the location of every known enemy gun position, mine field, etc., and this information was plotted on the map of each platoon leader.
Over 250 replacements were forwarded to Service Company from which they could be sent to the front line companies with a minimum of delay.
Reserve supplies of ammunition, food and equipment were stocked at the regimental supply point located close by the Canolle road leading directly to the front.
In direct support of the regimental attack were the 604th FA Battalion, 910 FA Battalion, 1788 FA Battalion, Company B, 84th Chemical Battalion, and Company A, 10th Medical Battalion. Company A, 126th Engineer Battalion was in general support.
Attached to the regiment were Company B, 751st Tank Battalion and Company B, 701st TD Battalion. Rover Pete was on hand to coordinate the support of one flight of P-47 fighter bombers every thirty minutes for the division.
Additional litter bearers were furnished to Major Dyerís Medical Detachment from Service Company personnel.
The initial IV Corps effort was to break the line of German resistance with the 1st Armored Division along Highway 64, the 10th Mountain Division in the mountains to their left, and the Brazil Expeditionary Force (BEF) on our left.
The mission of the 85th Mountain Infantry was to attack due north with two battalions abreast, seize Hills 913, 909 and 860 as initial objectives and then fight on to capture the final objectives; the 3rd Battalion to capture Mt. Righetti, Mt. Balgaro, Montalto (591300) and the high ground to the north; the 2nd Battalion to seize Ca del Oste (609302), Hill 870 (621311) and Montetortore (630302). The 1st Battalion, in reserve, was to support the attack by fire, consolidate the initial objectives, and protect the left flank of the regiment. The 87th Mountain Infantry was to push northeast from Mt. della Spe about 5000 meters and then the 86th Mountain Infantry would pass through and continue to drive on from there toward Tole and the Po Valley. After the 3rd Battalion took its initial objective, Hill 913 (610275) and removed enemy observation on the road through Famaticcia, the engineers were to clear and sweep mines from the road as quickly as possible.
The moment the road was cleared, the attached tanks and tank destroyers were to move up and assist the attacking battalions by direct fire.
When the attack began, one platoon of TD's was to remain in the valley in rear of Castel d'Aiano and support the attack by direct fire. The rest of the tanks attached to the 3rd Battalion were to proceed as quickly as possible to the top of Hill 913 and support the advancing infantry with direct fire, while those attached to the 2nd Battalion were to move along the road to Torre Iussi and break through on to the north.
It was a safe guess that the enemy was moving up reinforcements for an expected attack and a tough fight was anticipated. In spite of the collapse of German resistance in central Germany, no one was foolish enough to believe that this attack would be a pushover.
D-day was scheduled for 0700, 12 April, but heavy overcast skies meant no air support, and no air support meant no attack. It was postponed 24 hours, and threatening weather necessitated another 24-hour postponement until 14 April. Even that was tentative, but H-hour was finally set at 0945 on Saturday, 14 April.
AND THEN THE ATTACK STARTED
Air support to soften up and knock out enemy positions began at 0830 and continued throughout the day. A terrific 35-minute artillery and mortar barrage was placed on the initial objectives, and Pullano and Mt. Balgaro, from which the advance could be observed. The barrage soon covered the objectives with a heavy haze of dust and smoke which concealed the initial movements of the attacking elements.
One rocket from a P-47 was dropped accidentally on the regiment ammunitions dump near Passatore, setting fire to mortar ammunition. WO George Stengel and M/Sgt. William Dunn rushed out, hauled the burning ammo cases to one side and beat out the flames. Forty some rounds were ruined but destruction of the entire supply was prevented by their quick and daring action.
INTO THE ATTACK WITH THE THIRD BATTALION
Promptly at 0945, Company L, commanded by Lt. Eggleston, crossed the LD on time from the vicinity of Famaticcia for Hill 913 (610275) by way of Pra del Bianco (612269). They were followed by Company I, commanded by Capt. Bucher, and Company K, commanded by Capt. Cooper. Company I, with Company K following in reserve, swung to the left for Hill 883 (606273) and Pullano (604273). Very little fire was encountered by Company L as they jumped off, but when they reached the open fields just before Pra del Bianco, the dust haze had cleared and they were hit by heavy accurate German mortar fire. The men pushed on through it and by 1013 were deployed along the road running east and west through Pra del Bianco and under small arms and mortar fire. One German was foolish enough to throw a potato-masher grenade from a house in the direction of S/Sgt. Frank Mitkowski, because he tossed it right back and out came the remaining Germans with their hands high in the air.
A few minutes later, S/Sgt. Ralph Hebel, Company L, came by with about 15 PWs. Lt. Putnam, weapons platoon leader, Company L, rounded up 8 men, including S/Sgt. Mitkowski. They took the prisoners with them and rushed up to the top of Hill 913 and made the Germans point out their positions to them. However, our own artillery was still falling on Hill 913 and the entire group was forced to withdraw. A little later, a larger group, including some Company K men, went back up the hill to stay. About 11 more Germans came up the other side of the hill and surrendered. This small group of 3rd Battalion men stayed on top under German fire, and were gradually reinforced by other men from K and L Companies.
By 1100, the bulk of Company L had reached Hill 854 (611273) and Company I was 200 yards from Hill 883 (the southwest nose of Hill 913) and advancing. German snipers, hiding deep in bunkers and buildings, were unavoidably bypassed and they inflicted many casualties on our troops until finally cleaned out two days later.
Considerable enemy fire was received by Company I and Company K from Mt. Balgaro (595283) and steady friendly fire was kept on it in an attempt to silence the opposition.
The supporting 1st Battalion mortars were ordered to triple their rate of fire and the 4.2 chemical mortars were ordered to increase theirs.
By 1130, Company L was moving onto Hill 913 and the tanks were called up to assist Company I on the left flank of Hill 883.
The prisoners taken were from the 755th Regiment of the 334th Division. A captured German diary revealed that they had been warned that the 10th Mountain Division was about to attack and they would not take any prisoners. This undoubtedly accounted for the fanatical resistance that our troops encountered, which often meant digging the Germans out of their well-prepared bunkers.
By 1230, Company I had suffered so many casualties that Lt. Col. Schelor had Company K pass through to take Hill 913 from the southwest end. Lt. Keith Kvam, Company I weapons platoon leader, was killed instantly by a stock mine which went off when he stepped on the release string. Lt. John D. Mitchell, rifle platoon leader in Company I, was killed by a sniper's bullet while leading his platoon in the attack. Lt. Robert Dole, another Company I rifle platoon leader, was seriously wounded during the attack. The tanks, moving up to assist Company I, encountered difficulty when one struck a mine near Road Junction 771 (south of Famaticcia) and others were held up behind it.
In Company L, three officers were wounded in the fierce fighting to take Hill 913. Lt. Carl Burkhardt, company executive officer, and Lt. Clarence Hawkins, platoon leader, were seriously wounded. Lt. Robert Hurst was lightly wounded in the attack.
During the attack on Hill 913, Pfc. Jalkow, a BAR-man in Company K, was hit by a sniper. Lt. Frank Slight, rifle platoon leader in Company K, exposed himself to the deadly sniper fire by going out and bringing Pfc. Jalkow back to a covered position. Lt. Slight was killed shortly afterward while trying to locate the snipers who were picking off his men.
Lt. Burdell Winter, mortar section leader in Company M, accompanied the command group of Company L during the attack as a mortar observer. During one of the intense mortar barrages, he was killed instantly by shell fragments.
The Germans were well aware that this would be their last opportunity to hang on in the Apennines and they tossed artillery freely and everywhere. A steady receiver was the 3rd Battalion aid station in Famaticcia (612262) run by Capt. Gaffney. Artillery fire fell all during the attack but not one man at the aid station was hit.
The 1st Battalion in Castel d'Aiano received direct fire from the northwest, probably from Mt. Balgaro.
CAPTAIN WOODRUFF'S NARRATIVE OF THE APRIL 14 ATTACK ON HILL 913 CONTINUES:
At 1430, both Companies K and L were firmly atop Hill 913 under heavy artillery and mortar fire, but Company I was held up below Pullano. Capt. Bucher's men (Company I) encountered a heavy minefield on the route to Pullano and requested permission to move via Hill 913. This was only one of many minefields encountered in the attack. Hill 913 itself, and the buildings nearby, were strewn with mines, tripwires and booby traps. Numerous casualties resulted from these deadly instruments of death, readily distinguishable by a body lying directly over a freshly blown hole. Paths, clearly marked with tape, were cleared through the mine fields as quickly as possible. The piles of mines removed soon contained thousands, the majority being S, or Schu, mines. The tripwires were placed in a very canny, tricky manner. Often a double set of wires were used: one placed just high enough to be tripped by foot, and the other placed chest-high, with the result that while looking for one, the other would hit. While going forward on reconnaissance for company positions, Capt. Kenneth England, CO Company M, and his party stepped into one of these minefields. With him at the time was Capt. George Dorrington, 3rd Battalion S-3. Capt. England was seriously wounded by a mine and died in a hospital the next day from the wounds received. Capt. Dorrington was wounded and shocked by a mine explosion and evacuated. The next day, Lt. Eggleston, CO of Company L, assumed command of Company M and Capt. Frederick Finn took command of Company L. Capt. Finn had been CO of Company A at Camp Hale, Colorado, and he rejoined the regiment as a replacement officer the day before the attack started.
Lt. Col. Woolley was ordered at 1450 to alert Company A to move to the left flank of Hill 913 as flank protection for the 3rd Battalion and to be on the alert for minefields in that vicinity.
Permission was given to Lt. Col. Schelor to smoke Mt. Balgaro, to the west, to keep down the fire from there.
By 1530, the tanks were up on the left flank of Hill 913 but were being held up by the large minefield. The engineers were busy sweeping the field with the tanks ready to move through.
Twenty-four more PW's were taken by Company L on Hill 913 late in the afternoon.
Heavy small arms, machine-gun, mortar and artillery fire prevented the 3rd Battalion from pushing on beyond Hill 913. Progress through the mine fields was slow and many casualties had been suffered by all the 3rd Battalion companies, seriously reducing their strength. At 1800, Col. Barlow ordered the 3rd Battalion to button up at 1900 for the night, and plan to continue the attack the next day.
During the afternoon, Company A, commanded by Capt. Turner, moved up to the left flank of the 3rd Battalion in the vicinity of Hill 883 as ordered. The 3rd Battalion dug in and spent the night on Hill 913 with Company L on the right, Company K to their left, part of Company I on their left , and the rest of Company I in reserve on the reverse slope.
Company A was deployed on Hills 883 and 913 as left flank security. The 2nd Platoon (Lt. Harden), the Weapons Platoon (Lt. Gill) and 1 Platoon HMG's (Lt. Dodhey) consolidated Hill 883 proper; the 3rd Platoon (Lt. Winkeller) defended the saddle between 883 and 913; and the 1st Platoon (Lt. Tibit) took up positions to the left of the 3rd Battalion on Hill 913.
It was a gruesome night as enemy fire continued to come in amongst the weary troops with dead companions lying nearby.
Upon the capture of Hill 913, a regimental observation post was to be established there. Lt. Chafey, assistant regimental S-2, led a party of Intelligence personnel from Mt. della Spe to establish this post, but they were caught between the two hills in an enemy barrage. Lt. Chaffee was seriously wounded by shell fragments and evacuated. The CP was established later in the day by the Intelligence and Reconnaissance personnel.
AND NOW THE SECOND BATTALION
Protected by the heavy artillery preparation and the resulting dust haze, the 2nd Battalion moved from the LD at the base of Mt. della Spe promptly at 0945, 14 April. Company E on the right, commanded by Capt. Hamner, moved swiftly toward their initial objective, Hill 860 (618273). On their left, Company G, commanded by Capt. Halvorson, jumped off for Hill 909. Company F, commanded by Capt. King, followed as battalion reserve.
Company E reached the summit of Hill 860 under light mortar fire 30 minutes after they jumped off. Once on top, they were subjected to every type of enemy fire from the front and the flanks. Lt. Traveray, 2nd Platoon leader, was the only officer in Company E wounded during the attack and the following action. En route, they took 5 prisoners from an enemy OP, members of the 755th Regiment, 334th Division. To their right, the 1st Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry, was pinned down at 1045 at Torre Iussi (622273). Company A, 87th, was passed over Hill 822 and 860 to hit the enemy on the left flank. The advance of the 87th was doubtful, however, until Company G, 85th, took Hill 909 and could give supporting fire.
Company G encountered fairly heavy MG and SA fire from Hill 909 in addition to mortar and artillery fire. Friendly artillery fire was poured onto Hill 909 until taken by Company G. At 1115, Company G was deployed along the base of Hill 909 from 612272 to Hill 860. By noon, they were halfway up the hill, and at 1230, troops were attacking the two houses at Serra d'Aiano on Hill 909. However, at 1300, the bulk of the company was pinned down 100 yards from the top by MG fire. Once on the hill, they assisted the 3rd Battalion on Hill 913 by fire. The 3rd Battalion was assisted also by the 2nd Battalion MG fire from Mt. della Spe. Meanwhile, Company E had moved to the left to Hill 822 and assisted Company G in seizing Hill 909.
Sgt. Wallace Baron, Company Recon Sgt. and Pfc. John Celentano, Company H, followed Company E as they moved from Mt. della Spe. Machine-gun fire pinned the two men down for some time. Later, they crept forward and fired upon the house at 763 (612270) and called upon the Germans to surrender. One came out, but they made him return and bring out the others, a bag of 13 prisoners. On the way back, they passed an 87th aid station and put the prisoners to work evacuating our wounded.
Company F moved off Mt. della Spe in rear of Company G as battalion reserve. However, before they even crossed the LD, Lt. Callahan, 1st Platoon leader, was killed by mortar fire about 0945. As the reserve company left Mt. della Spe, mortar fire wounded Lt. Pierce, 3rd Platoon leader, and several of his men.
At 1410, the 2nd Battalion was ordered to continue the attack to the north and northeast; in particular, to take Hill 898 (618278) and assist the 87th on the right. By 1540, the 87th had pushed up the draw to Bocca dei Ravari. Col. Barlow ordered Lt. Col. Stone to push along the ridge (toward 898) and clean out the eastern slope immediately. The tanks attached to the 2nd Battalion had been held up by a mine field. At 1530, they were ordered to bypass the field and move up to support the attack.
By 1630, Company F had moved onto Hill 909 but no further advance to the front was made by any of the companies.
Capt. Otis F. Halvorson, CO of Company G, was killed during the day's action. He was hit and killed instantly by machine-gun fire while moving forward in the attack to observe enemy positions on the right flank of the Company. Lt. Dalton Clark, Lt. John Clayton and Lt. Jay Tenenbaum, all from Company G, were wounded during the attack on Hill 909. Capt. Halvorson was replaced as company commander by Lt. Howard Beck, Company G's executive officer.
At 1810, Col. Barlow ordered Lt. Col. Stone to have the 2nd Battalion push the attack until 1900, then button up for the night with artillery and mortar fires prepared, contact the 87th on the right, send patrols forward for security and be prepared to continue the attack in the morning. However, at 1815, the inevitable German counterattack came. It was a local attack launched from the north against Company G on Hill 909. Men from Company F were rushed forward to assist, and the 3rd Battalion assisted by fire from Hill 913. The attack was successfully repulsed. The night was free from further counterattacks, but enemy artillery and mortar fire and mines played havoc with the battalion throughout the night. All three companies deployed generally along Hill 909. Company E was out toward Hill 915; Company F was to their left rear; and Company G held positions on the left (western) half of 909.
NOTE: The following remarks about Company G were taken from the Regimental Daily Journal.
From rebate White 6: G at 615271.
1115 Rebate Red OP: G from 612772 right to Hill 860.
1255 Rebate OP: Friendly troops on 909, pinned down 100 yards below crest this side.
1255 G around houses 909.
1355 G has taken Hill 909.
1625 G at 617277.
1815 Counterattack hitting G from north at 618277.
1825 Counterattack broken up.
1300 G - 25 prisoners, 898.
1510 Lt. Col. Wagner assumed command, 2nd Battalion.
1615 Rebate White: G jumped off for Hill 762.
1720 G - 300 yards short of checkpoint 7, Hill 762.
Lt. Winton and his wire men were out all night repairing and putting in lines, endangered by minefields and artillery fire.
The engineers were kept busy during the night removing mines from the road between Serra Sarzana (619270) and Torre Iussi.
Early in the attack, 9 prisoners were captured in the building at 763 (616270) and pressed into service as litter bearers. They were finally sent to the rear at 2200 carrying wounded.
Shortly before midnight, an advanced party went forward to establish a new CP. Once again German mines took their toll. Capt. William Shepard, Battalion S-1, was killed instantly in a minefield and four men were wounded. Capt. Shepard was killed while trying to assist one of his radio operators who had been wounded by an exploding mine. Lt. James, Battalion S-3, was trapped in a field but managed to safely extricate himself. The same night, Lt. Albert Diener, 81mm mortar section leader, Company M, was killed instantly by artillery fire which caught his party of 4 men while reconnoitering on Hill 909 for a mortar OP.
Because of the almost fanatical resistance put up by the Germans, it was necessary at times to dig them out of bunkers and buildings. The aggressiveness with which our troops went after the enemy is exemplified by a total of 114 prisoners taken by 2400 of the first day of the attack. All prisoners taken the first day were from the German 334th Division, one of the better combat units in Italy. It was badly battered in Tunisia and on up through Italy, but a recent reorganization had brought it up to strength. Ironically, they had not been informed of the transfer of their beloved Albert Kesselring to the western front but were immediately informed of the death of President Roosevelt.
THE ATTACK CONTINUES
The second day of the attack was prematurely opened with enemy rocket fire from north of Pullano, landing to the west of the 1st Battalion. Another terrific barrage, lasting twenty minutes, preceded the jump-off at 0700, 15 April.
Against heavy mortar and machine-gun fire, the 3rd Battalion pressed on from Hill 913 at 0700, 15 April. Company K, under Capt. Cooper, proceeded on the right with Capt. Bucher and Company I on the left. Company L, now commanded by Capt. Frederick Finn, remained in reserve on Hill 913. The heavy weapons of Company M, now commanded by Lt. Eggleston, who moved from Company L to Company M to replace Capt. England, supported the attack from Hill 913. Lying directly between Hill 913 and Mt. Righetti, the next objective, was Canobi. It was hit at 0750 by P-47 fighter bombers.
The troops advanced 200 yards from the summit of Hill 913, then all hell broke loose again and pinned the troops down. Evacuation of casualties from the forward slope was a very hazardous and dangerous task. In spite of the very heavy fire, by 0900 Company K had edged forward to Canobi (610255). This was the farthest advance made by the 3rd Battalion. Company I reached the rear slope of Hill 794 (605279). The 3rd Battalion was ordered to dig in and hold until the 2nd Battalion advanced, forming a solid front. Until the 2nd Battalion was up abreast of the 3rd, the right flank of the 3rd Battalion was very exposed and further advance was dangerous in terrain so heavily defended. Lt. Thomas Reiss, weapons platoon leader in Company K, was the only officer wounded in this phase of the attack. When the 2nd Battalion pulled up, Company I was to move to the forward slope and organize Hill 794. The 3rd Battalion spent the rest of the day under heavy artillery, mortar, and rocket fire which was countered with friendly mortar and artillery fire.
The tanks attached to the battalion still had not been able to reach the summit of Hill 913 to assist with direct fire. The route selected by the engineers was too rocky and steep. The first tank to try threw a track, and others were unable to get through. At 1030, Lt. Col. Schelor decided to try and send the tanks around the west slope of Hill 913. Early in the afternoon (1400), the tankers made plans to move around through Pullano with one platoon of riflemen from Company L riding the tanks, and the TDs were to be moved between Hills 883 and 913. At 1410, Lt. Col. Schelor was ordered to move his tanks around the road through Pullano at once. By evening, the 3rd Battalion tanks and the TDs were in Pullano, in position to drive back an enemy armored counterattack against the flank.
THE SECOND BATTALION
At 0715, 15 April, the 2nd Battalion renewed the attack as planned and moved out from Hill 909 abreast of Company K, on the left. The morning's action was gathered from accurate eye-witness accounts rather than from the Unit Journal.
Company E, on the right, was to push along on Hill 801 (621287). Company F, on the left under Capt. King, was to take Hill 810 (616282) and Company G remained in reserve on Hill 909. During the night, German troops had infiltrated back onto Hill 860 (618273) to the rear right of the 2nd Battalion. When the attack started, heavy machine-gun, artillery and mortar fire from Hills 915 (615275) and 860 pinned down Company E and part of Company F. Capt. Charles King, CO Company F, was seriously wounded by machine-gun fire from Hill 915 at 0810 while pointing out an enemy machine-gun position to Lt. Balch, machine-gun platoon leader in Company H. Command of Company F was immediately taken over by Lt. Wayne Makin, company executive officer.
At 0825, Col. Barlow ordered Lt. Col. Stone to keep pushing so as not to expose the flanks of the 3rd Battalion on the left and the 87th Mountain Infantry on the right, which had already taken Mt. Pigna (638286).
Progress was almost impossible until 1030, 15 April, when the 2nd Platoon of Company F, led by Lt. Douglas, took Hill 915. The platoon assault was supported by fire from Company E, the rest of Company F and MG's of Company H. Following this successful assault, the rest of Company F pushed on to Hill 898 and they cleaned all the Germans off of it. Approximately one company of enemy was either killed or captured; the prisoners taken numbered about 50. At the same time, a complete German counterattack plan was found by Tech. Sgt. Arthur Taylor, Company F, killed shortly afterward by mortar fire while leading the 1st Platoon.
Right after Company F took Hill 898, a strong enemy counterattack from the direction of Hill 810 was launched against Hills 898 and 909. It was repulsed, but at a cost of heavy casualties by Company F.
About noon, Company E passed through Company F on 898 to take Hill 801 (621287) but was held up at 620280 by heavy enemy fire.
Early in the afternoon, a shift in command was made, Lt. Col. Stone was relieved, and Lt. Col. Seiss E. Wagner, regimental executive officer, assumed command of the 2nd Battalion. In the morning, Capt. Russ Gullixson, formerly company commander of Company L, and S-1 since his return from the hospital, replaced Capt. Shepard, killed in the night by a mine, as 2nd Battalion S-1. Major Carl T. Schooley was elevated from regimental S-3 to regimental executive officer. The position of regimental S-3 was filled by Capt. McIntyre, formerly 2nd Battalion S-3, who had been assisting Major Schooley for the past week. When Capt. McIntyre left the 2nd Battalion, his position as 2nd Battalion S-3 was filled by 1st Lt. John James.
After assumption of his new command, Lt. Col. Wagner immediately made plans to push the attack by the battalion in an attempt to take their next objectives. Company G, commanded by Lt. Beck, jumped off on a wide front at 1615 to take 762 (613257), northwest of Marzola, and to be assisted by fire from the 3rd Battalion if possible.
Companies E and F moved out abreast to take Hills 801 and 810, respectively, east of Marzola. The renewed attack progressed favorably against determined resistance. Company F took Hill 810 at 1630 and at 1720 Company G was within 300 yards of Hill 762. Lt. Beck and his men seized Hill 762 at 1745. Meanwhile, Company E was ordered to take Hill 801 by dark. The hill was captured at 2030, 15 April, along with 40 prisoners. Companies E and F continued to take prisoners throughout the night.
At 1900, word was received to have the 2nd Battalion withdraw on order to the rear of Hills 913 and 909 and prepare for action along the left of the 87th Mountain Infantry, now advancing rapidly to the northeast. Company G was withdrawn to Hill 909 but Companies E and F remained on Hills 801 and 810 until the following afternoon. The capture of Hills 762 and 801 was as far as the 2nd Battalion advanced in this attack because of the change in plans.
Lt. Robert Beck, who had taken over command of Company G the day before, was wounded in this phase of the battalion action. The next day, Lt. Charles Hanks, executive officer of Company E, was sent to Company G as commanding officer.
Service Company had, in effect, been transformed into a temporary replacement depot. Hundreds of replacements were processed and equipped and rushed to the front line units when the situation permitted. Casualties had been very heavy. During the attack on Hill 913, Company L suffered more casualties than any other company in the division from the time the division arrived in Italy until the surrender in Italy.
The 3rd Battalion had 54 killed and 166 wounded. The 2nd Battalion had 42 killed and 169 wounded, and the 1st Battalion had 2 killed and 29 wounded during the two-day attack of 14-15 April. The units were brought back up to strength as rapidly as replacements could be sent forward.
THE RESERVE BATTALION
When the attack began on 14 April, the 1st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Woolley, supported the attacking battalions from positions in the vicinity of Castel díAiano. During the afternoon, Company A was sent to reinforce the left flank of the 3rd Battalion on Hill 913 and spent the night there under heavy fire.
After the 3rd Battalion jumped off from Hill 913 on 15 April to continue the attack, elements of Company A were sent out at 0915 to clean up the slopes on the left flank of the ground over which the 3rd Battalion had passed in their attack on Hill 913. This was done to remove small-arms fire and observation on the road through Famaticcia over which tanks and supplies were moving to the 2nd and 3rd Battalions. Lt. Harden and one squad from the 2nd Platoon cleaned up Hill 753 (603268) and the nearby villages. Nine prisoners and six civilians were taken and two Germans were killed, but Lt. Harden and Sgt. Kolecki were wounded while rushing one of the buildings. Sgt. Peters dashed in under heavy fire and removed Lt. Harden and Sgt. Kolecki to safety.
Sgt. Cooneyís squad, from the 3rd Platoon, went to Hill 799 (602273) but found it clear of enemy. Two other squads were sent to clear out Pullano so it could be used as a tank route, but were pinned down by MG fire. At 1630, the company was ordered to move to Hill 909 and the two squads were pulled back.
Late in the afternoon (15 April), Company A was moved to Hill 909, vacated by the 2nd Battalion when they jumped off for Hills 762 and 801. The night 15-16 April was spent under murderous German artillery and mortar fire, causing casualties in the company.
Meanwhile, at 0800, the 10th AT Battalion was placed under the control of the 85th. Fifteen minutes later, Lt. Col. Woolley was alerted to be prepared to move the remainder of the 1st Battalion forward to pass through and continue the attack. The 10th AT Battalion would relieve the 1st Battalion in Castel d'Aiano on the regiment left flank upon order, which it was ordered to do at 0920.
At 1255, the 1st Battalion was notified that as they were relieved they would move quickly to an assembly area in rear of Hills 913 and 909 and be prepared for quick employment. Reconnaissance parties were sent ahead to mark off the mined areas. By 1430, Company B, commanded by Lt. St. Louis, was assembled behind Castel d'Aiano and Company D, commanded by Lt. Hart, was in process of relief by the AT Battalion.
Two hours later, Lt. Col. Woolley was ordered to contact Lt. Col. Wagner on Hill 909 and to have Company A, moving to Hill 909, ready to exploit any possibilities. At 1710, Capt. Richard Johnson, 1st Battalion executive officer, was ordered to move one additional rifle company, reinforced, to Hill 909 as quickly as possible so as to arrive before dark to avoid mines. Company C, supported by 81mm and one platoon of HMG's, was sent.
The 87th Mountain Infantry had reached Lamina (627288) by 1900, 15 April. Company C was ordered to move to Hill 840 (627283), already taken by the 87th, to fill the gap between the 85th and the 87th. At 0700, 16 April, Company C was to seize Hill 801 (621287) from the west by way of Point 764 (626286), but this plan was later canceled when it was learned that Company E had seized Hill 801 at 2030, 15 April. At dusk, Company A, on Hill 909, filled the gap between the 2nd Battalion troops on Hills 915 and 868 and the 3rd Battalion on Hill 913.
THE WITHDRAWAL TO DEFENSIVE POSITIONS
Even though the capture of Hills 913 and 909 was possible only by a heavy sacrifice of blood and American lives, the effort was not in vain. These hills were the key to the Roffeno Ridge, and once they were in our hands the inevitable happened. After the 85th had seized them, the 86th and 87th were able to push rapidly to the northeast across Mt. Pigna, Rocca Roffeno and beyond.
Because of the rapid advance of the 87th Mountain Infantry to the northeast, it was decided to exploit the breakthrough and abandon any further attack through the heavily defended mountains to the north by the 85th. As a result of this plan, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were ordered on the night 15-16 April to withdraw to their initial objectives (Hills 909 and 913). Eventually, the 3rd Battalion was to organize and defend them; the 1st Battalion was to extend to the northeast to occupy and defend the ground taken by the 87th; and the 2nd Battalion was to move to an assembly area ready to follow the 86th and 87th to the northeast and consolidate newly taken terrain. The 10th AT Battalion was to defend the left flank from Castel d'Aiano to Hill 913 and tie in with the 3rd Battalion.
When the entire 85th Mountain Infantry and 10th AT Battalion eventually followed to the northeast in division reserve, Castel d'Aiano and Hills 913 and 909 would be taken over by the BEF.
The above plan was executed in a series of moves starting as follows: During the night, 15-16 April, the 10th AT Battalion established a line of defense from Castel d'Aiano north to include Hill 883 (607273).
The platoon of Company L and the 4 tanks and 4 TDs remained near Pullano. Companies I and K dug in on the forward slope of Hill 913. The remainder of Company L in reserve and Company M remained on the reverse slope of Hill 913.
Company A remained on Hill 909 and tied in with the 3rd Battalion on the left, on Hill 913, and Company F to the right, on Hill 915 (615275). Companies E and F defended Hill 915 and Hill 810 (617282) with Company G in reserve on the reverse slope of Hill 909. Company C, which had already been ordered to Hill 840 and left Hill 909 at 2300, was given the four tanks and four TDs that had reached Tabole (6328), occupied the terrain from Hill 810 east through Hill 840 (627283), and maintained contact with the 87th on the right by patrol. Company B was moved to Hill 860 (618273) before daylight, 16 April.
Difficulty was experienced during the night trying to contact Company C, supposedly at Hill 840. Capt. Johnson, 1st Battalion executive officer, used every means available. Finally at 0320, 16 April, Lt. Hart, Company D, who had moved two platoons of his heavy weapons to Hill 840, reported that Company C, under Capt. Wright, was on Hill 840 prior to 2400.
On 16 April, a general shifting to the right of defenses took place. At 1800, 16 April, Lt. Col. Schelor was told to effect relief of the 1st and 2nd Battalions on Hills 909, 915, 868, and 860 as quickly as possible and make a reconnaissance for positions. The limiting point between the 1st and 3rd Battalions was to have been Hill 810, but at 0900 it was changed to Point K 26 (the northeast nose of 868 at 619279).
Lt. Col. Woolley was ordered to have the 1st Battalion organize a general line from the northeast nose of Hill 898 through Hill 840 to Lamina (627288) and outpost Hill 801 (621267). At 0810, General Hays ordered an extension of the 1st Battalion line of defense to Mt. LeCoste (644301) so as to relieve the 1st Battalion, 87th, of positions from Lamina to Mt. LeCoste. The BEF was to eventually relieve the 85th Mountain Infantry of positions westward from the road west of Hill 801 (vicinity Marzola- 618283). At 0900, Lt. Col. Wagner was directed to make a reconnaissance for an assembly area for the 2nd Battalion in rear of Mt. Pigna (vicinity 637283). Once assembled, the battalion was to be in reserve and ready to consolidate ground taken by the 86th and 87th as they pushed to the northeast. The 2nd Battalion moved to their assembly area on foot during 17 April and the new battalion CP opened at 634286, 16 April.
Two platoons of 4.2 mortars from Company B, 84th Chemical Battalion, were placed in direct support of the 1st and 3rd Battalions. Positions were selected as far to the right as possible to permit rapid displacement to the northeast.
The regimental Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, commanded by Lt. Walter H. Gillis, did an excellent job of installing and maintaining regimental OPs during the attacks. Except for a skeleton force left in the regimental OPs, Lt. Gillis and the platoon were sent out at 0830, 16 April, to reconnoiter routes to a new CP and a new supply point to be established in the vicinity of Le Ville (633270). Capt. Reid, regimental S-1, and Capt. Pelner, regimental communications officer, made an extensive reconnaissance for a new CP. Major Purcell, regimental S-4, did the same for a new supply point.
At 0815, 16 April, Lt. Col. Woolley was told to include Hills 834 (637291), 802 (638296), and 814 (642292) in the 1st Battalion defense extending around the front (north) of Mt. Pigna to Mt. LeCoste, as ordered earlier by General Hays.
By 1000, 16 April, the 87th Mountain Infantry was at 720 (697308) and southwest of Tole, preparing to move into Tole with armor.
Lt. Col. Schelor completed his reconnaissance with his company commanders at 1100, 16 April, and they started moving their companies to the new defensive positions: Company L on Hill 913, Company K on Hill 909, and Company I on Hill 898. Supporting weapons of Company M were kept rear of Hills 913 and 909.
The regiment was notified at 1430 that all ground west of Hill 801 was to be occupied by the BEF upon IV Corps order. All elements of the 85th Mountain Infantry in the sector were to be relieved eventually. Guides were furnished to the BEF by the 3rd Battalion to aid in reconnaissance of the terrain.
At 1515, Lt. Col. Schelor was again ordered to make a reconnaissance, this time for a battalion assembly area west of Strada (vicinity 632278) and routes thereto.
The only units relieved by the BEF the night 16-17 April were the 10th AT Battalion and Company L. Company L was relieved at 0115, 17 April, on Hill 913 and reverted to battalion reserve.
The 10th AT Battalion moved to an assembly area north of Tabole (6327) to effect relief of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry, from Mt. LeCoste to the northeast by noon, 17 April.
Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, 85th, was relieving the 1st Battalion, 87th, as planned. From northeast to southwest the companies were in order of B, A, and C. Company B reached Hill 834 (636291) and by 1530, 16 April, it had completed the relief of Company C, 87th Mountain Infantry, and extended to the northeast. Company A extended southwest from Hill 834 and Company C held positions on Hill 840 and the forward slope of Hill 903.
The road south of Hill 913 was heavily shelled by the enemy at noon, 16 April.
Excellent progress was made in the drive to the northeast. By 1330, 16 April, the 87th Mountain Infantry had one company and armor in Tole and at 1430 they had Mt. Mosca (697309). The 86th was to pass through and spearhead the attack in Phase 2, as originally planned, with the 87th following.
The successful drive permitted use of the road from Vergato to Campidello, an important gain which no longer necessitated the movement of all supplies and vehicles over the long treacherous mountainous road south of Campidello.
At 2230, 16 April, the 2nd Battalion was warned to be ready to attack along the road from Mt. Ghiara (640310) to Papaloni (626332) on two hours notice. The battalion was alerted at 1015, 17 April, to move. Needed replacements were rushed to them by all available transportation. Later the alert was called off and the 2nd Battalion remained in the assembly area south of Mt. Pigna throughout April 17.
A new regimental CP was opened in a former hospital in Le Ville (63202705) at 1015, 17 April. However, the advance of the 86th was so rapid that Capt. Reid (S-1) and Capt. Pelner (communications officer) went forward to locate a future CP location.
At 1340, 17 April, the 1st Battalion, 85th, and 10th AT Battalion were buttoned up all the way from Bocca dei Ravari (6228) to Tole (65308), holding the ground recently taken by the 87th and defending the sector against possible counterattack.
At 1500, the boundary between the 1st Battalion, 85th, and the BEF (relieving the 3rd Battalion) was set as a straight line running from 615290 southeast to 627270. This kept Hill 801 (621287) in the 1st Battalion zone of defense. The Company C platoon on Hill 801 maintained contact with the BEF on the left by patrol.
The remainder of the 3rd Battalion was relieved on position by the BEF during the night 17-18 April. The relief was completed by 0200, 18 April. Company L, which had been relieved the night before, closed into the battalion assembly area at Strada (633278) at 1700, 17 April. Permission was granted to withdraw the tanks and men covering the road at Pullano.
ON INTO THE PO VALLEY
By nightfall, the possibility of a breakthrough to the Po Valley was rapidly becoming a reality. The 86th and 87th Mountain Infantry were steadily driving the Germans back down the Tole-Montepastore road, while the 85th consolidated the newly won ground, prepared to follow. The action often was a pursuit with rearguard delaying action. At other times the enemy offered stiff but temporary resistance.
The 85th Infantry Division and the 1st Armored Division were moved into the sector to add additional punch to the impending breakthrough to the west of Bologna. The 10th Mountain Division was to continue to drive northeast along the road and clear the commanding heights and ridges. The 85th Division was assigned a zone of action to our right and the 1st Armored Division was to drive down the Samoggia Valley to our left.
At 2100, 17 April, Col. Barlow issued the following verbal orders. The 1st Battalion was to be relieved on position by the 2nd Battalion prior to 0800, 18 April, except for Hill 801 which was to be relieved during darkness, 17-18 April. The 1st Battalion was to leave an assembly area near their present positions at 0900, 18 April, and march to an assembly area at 672317 (M. del Dottore) by noon, 18 April. The 4.2 mortars in support for the 3rd Battalion were transferred to direct support of the 2nd Battalion.
The next morning the displacement forward of the 85th was augmented. At 1800, 18 April, the 3rd Battalion was ordered to move forward without delay from their assembly area at Strada.
The 10th AT Battalion, still holding positions northeast of Mt. LeCoste, was attached to the 2nd Battalion which had relieved the 1st Battalion as planned.
At 0900, 18 April, the 1st Battalion passed their IP, the road junction at 641294. The 3rd Battalion was assembled at 631278 at 1000. Lt. Col. Schelor sent his trucks on ahead and the troops moved out on foot at 1300. That afternoon, in and about Tole, the 3rd Battalion caught enemy artillery fire which inflicted several casualties. They reached an assembly area without further incident at 712375 (across the road from the regimental CP in Mt. Nuova) at 0845, 19 April.
Word was received at 1230 that the 2nd Battalion would be relieved by the BEF of all defensive positions during the night 18-19 April and the 10th At Battalion, still attached to the 85th, would be relieved the following night (19-20 April).
The regimental CP moved out at 1400 to a tentative CP in the vicinity of the crossroads at 694392.
All of this movement was accomplished over a limited mountainous road network, jammed with tanks, guns, TDs, half-tracks, troops, mules, and trucks of every description through solid clouds of thick dust.
The Ski Troopers were exchanging snow for dust as the transition from mountainous warfare to flatland fighting unfolded.
Vehicles packed the Tole-Montepastore road, mile after mile, all moving toward the rapidly advancing front. This was possible because of the absence of enemy aircraft and the rapid withdrawal of their artillery. German dead lay beside the road as our troops went on. Prisoners poured through the cages to the rear, adding to the road congestion and clouds of dust.
The afternoon of 18 April, a strong combat patrol was sent by the 2nd Battalion to Montetortore (630301) and on to Mt. Giacomo (627320). If opposition was encountered on Montetortore, the 2nd Battalion was to attack and seize it. However, the patrol reached Mt. Giacomo without incident and returned.
The forward regimental CO was finally established in the shell-ridden buildings at Mt. Nuova at 2300, 18 April.
The BEF relieved the 2nd Battalion of all positions in the Mt. Pigna area during the night 18-19 April. At 0300, the 2nd Battalion left on trucks for an assembly area near Mt. Nuova, but did not arrive until 1500, 19 April, because of congested road conditions.
The big push was resumed at 0800, 19 April. On the right of the 10th Mountain Division was the veteran 85th Infantry Division and to the left was the seasoned 1st Armored Division. The 85th Mountain Infantry was the right-attacking regiment, carrying the ball along with the 87th Mountain Infantry on the left.
Lt. Col. Woolley's 1st Battalion passed through the lines of the 86th Mountain Infantry to continue the attack clear through to the Po Valley against remnants of the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division, the 8th Mountain Division and the 94th Infantry Division. Promptly at 0800, 19 April, the 1st Battalion crossed the LD in the vicinity of Gadia di Sopra (713394) in a column of companies with Company C, under the command of Capt. Herbert Wright, in the lead, followed by B and A. The heavy weapons of Company D were split amongst the three rifle companies.
Company C pushed along the ridges to the left (west) of the Montepastore-Gorizia road against opposition and by 0900 had advanced over 3000 yards to 737410 (beyond Monte S. Giovanni-Vecchio). Meanwhile at 0820, the 1st Recon Troop was attached to the 85th and immediately given the mission of operating to the left of the 1st Battalion sector and protecting the battalion left flank. Also, Company B, commanded by Lt. St. Louis, was on its way from the ridge down to the road with Company A, now under the command of Lt. Bruce Coggins, preparing to follow. Capt. Turner, CO of Company A, had been sent to regimental headquarters the night of 18-19 April as battalion liaison officer.
Company B drove rapidly along the road, fighting through small arms and machine-gun opposition with the aid of tanks. By 1015, they had reached the road junction at 751412. In this drive, Lt. Robert St. Louis, commander of Company B, was seriously wounded while leading an assault group into the hills against a machine-gun position which had halted the advance of Company B and the supporting tanks. He died, as a result of these wounds, five days later in an Army hospital. Lt. Lang replaced Lt. St. Louis as company commander and continued the rapid advance down the valley road.
Up on the ridge, Company C encountered stiff resistance in which Capt. Wright was seriously wounded and Lt. Merle E. Decker took over as CO of Company C. The company was ordered to bypass the resistance. Company I, under Capt. Bucher, was sent in to mop up and then follow the 1st Battalion.
By 1115, Company C had reached M. S. Michele (772469) and was moving forward against stiff resistance. The 10th Recon Troop mopped up and then continued on to protect the left flank of the battalion. Company B was still driving rapidly down the road and the ground to the right, with Company A following. The supporting tanks poured fire into the buildings at Gorizia (768429) which was overrun by Company B at 1255. A half-hour later, Company B swept up Pocapaglia (763435) and by 1400 Calderino (768442) was behind them, but they were receiving heavy artillery fire. This spectacular advance developed into the spearhead that burst into the Po Valley the following morning. In the hills to the right, the 337th Infantry of the 85th Division was advancing but at a point nearly 5000 yards to the rear of Company B.
From the vicinity of Calderino, Lt. Coggins led Company A back into the hills to the left of the road to capture and clear out troublesome snipers from C. Sarbnino (764445) and C. Ghedini (767447). This move also outflanked the Germans holding up Company C, which by 1400 had fought to M. S. Michele (745419) and was still held up there at 1630.
At 1430, Col. Barlow ordered Lt. Col. Schelor to move the remainder of his 3rd Battalion by foot northeast along the road and contact the 1st Battalion, then push on to Hill 223 at C. il Mucchio (772469), and from there drive due north and cut Highway 9 in the Po Valley if possible.
By 1515, Company B had reached C. S. Mamola (772455) with Company A moving along in the high ground to the left rear. After Company A cleaned out the snipers around C. Ghedini, they pushed on through the hills and by 1650 they were east of il Muchietto at 768451.
Word of a German withdrawal in front of the 87th on our left was received from Rover Pete at 1550. Col. Barlow immediately ordered the 1st Battalion to push on, keep the attack going and seize Hill 223 and C. il Mucchio.
The 2nd Battalion, in the assembly area near Mt. Nuova, was ordered to follow the 3rd Battalion without delay. Trucks were obtained to move the 2nd Battalion as far as safety conditions permitted.
The 2nd Battalion and the 3rd Battalion were to be committed to the left of the 1st Battalion which was driving initially for C. il Mucchio.
At 1640, 19 April, the 3rd Battalion, following the 1st Battalion, had passed Monte S. Giovanni (744397).
The 2nd Battalion left the Mt. Nuova assembly area on trucks at 1730, 19 April. About halfway between Mt. Nuova and Gorizia, the convoy was shelled, forcing the troops to proceed on foot to the new assembly area about 500 yards beyond Gorizia.
The 1st Battalion CP and an advanced regimental CP opened at Gorizia, at 1945, 19 April.
During the evening, Company B pushed past Ost (773456) and captured C. il Mucchio and Hill 223 (772469). Later in the night, they tied in with Company I on their left. The advance of Company A halted for the night at Ca Novetta (769452).
At 2000, 19 April, the 3rd Battalion jumped off from the vicinity of Ost to seize the ridges from C. Mezza Riva (769466) to S. Lorenzo in Collina (754463). Company I, on the right, seized C. Mezza Riva against light resistance. On the left, Company K pushed along the high ground to S. Lorenzo in Collina where a sharp firefight against fairly strong resistance resulted. All objectives were secured by 0130, 20 April. Casualties were very light. Company L remained in battalion reserve. The battalion established a new CP at 768461 at 1100 the next day, 20 April.
At 2400, 19 April, the 2nd Battalion left the assembly area between Gorizia and Calderino and marched down the road in a column of companies to Ost which they reached about 0100, 20 April. A relay station was left there and the battalion continued west on the road from Ost through Ca Nova to La Fornace. From La Fornace, the battalion fanned out to secure by daylight the ridges extending from M. Avesiano (735444) through La Fornace (747459) to S. Lorenzo (754463) which was to be used by the 86th Mountain Infantry at daylight as their line of departure.
Company E went right to S. Lorenzo; Company G cleared out the La Fornace area; and Company F went left and took M. Avesiano.
All objectives were occupied and the LD for the 86th was secured by 0530, 20 April, without suffering a single casualty. Ten PWs, including one officer, were captured. A new battalion CP opened southeast of La Fornace at 752456 at 0415. The battalion tied in with the 3rd Battalion on the right and requested that the road from Ca Nova (768457) to La Fornace (747459) be swept at once.
At 0115, 20 April, General Hays ordered that one company move to seize the crossroads at 796489 with the least practicable delay and to hold it until relieved by the 85th Infantry Division.
The 1st Battalion was immediately notified to send Company A not later than 0600, 20 April. Lt. Coggins and his Company A men left at 0600 on their mission and to make history.
The hard, tedious warfare in the Apennines reached the long awaited climax the morning of 20 April when Company A burst forth into the Po Valley. The first American soldier to enter the Po Valley was Pvt. Thomas Hatfield, 1st Scout of the 3rd Platoon. Twenty feet behind him was Pvt. Glenn Kolsky, 2nd Scout of the platoon. Lt. Herbert Winkeler, leader of the 3rd Platoon, was the first officer to reach the flat, green valley that had been gazed upon by hopeful eyes for weeks on end.
The breakthrough caught the enemy with their panzers down. A German officer, returning from pass in Bologna, was captured while returning to his unit on a motorcycle. A German mess sergeant, in search of eggs for his company, was another surprised by the swift advance of the Mountain Troops of the 85th Mountain Infantry. The entrance of Company A into the Po Valley was greeted with a hail of German 75mm artillery and machine-gun fire from down the road directly in front of them. None of the troops were hit and the weapons were knocked out by supporting artillery fire upon call.
The roadblock at 769480 was established at 0830 by Company A. Company B was relieved on C. il Mucchio by Company I and dispatched to reinforce Company A. Self-propelled 105mm guns were rushed to afford AT support. Company B joined Company A at the roadblock at 1000, 20 April.
The rapid advance of the regiment unavoidably left many small bypassed elements to the rear. At 0700, Company C, under the command of Lt. Decker, was ordered to proceed from their positions in the vicinity of M. S. Michele and mop up all bypassed elements, with particular emphasis on the buildings, along the ridge through Poggiolo (744435) to Il Poggio (756447). When the mopping up was completed, the company assembled near Le Caselle (762444). From there, they moved to positions near the edge of the valley that had been held by Company A the night 19-20 April, prior to their entering the Po Valley. Concurrently , the 10th Recon Troop performed the same mission on the east slopes of the ridge down to the highway and as far north as Calderino (770443).
Prisoners taken in the last of the mountains before the Po Valley were from the 65th Infantry Division.
THE DASH ACROSS THE VALLEY TO THE PO RIVER
With the high ground from C. il Mucchio through La Fornace and beyond being held by the 2nd and 3rd Battalions as the LD fro the 86th Mountain Infantry, and the roadblock in the valley firmly secured by the 1st Battalion, the 85th Mountain Infantry was given the general mission of holding their positions until passed through by the 86th Mountain Infantry and relieved by the 85th Infantry Division.
At 1115, 20 April, the 2nd Battalion was instructed to move the left flank up behind the 86th Mountain Infantry, which had reached C. Roberti (745501), and move to Cassoletta (742538) well out in the Po Valley. Elements of the 86th were still passing through the 2nd Battalion in the early afternoon, but at 1515 the battalion had closed the CP and was on its way.
The elaborate system of wire communications that had been maintained and relied upon in the mountains now gave way almost exclusively to radio communication.
The German forces were becoming more and more disorganized and the tempo of the attack was accelerated to rapid pursuit of the enemy. The weary plodding up and down mountains against determined, well dug-in resistance was at an end, replaced by weary, rapid movement mile after mile with only brief halts for food and rest. It was imperative that the enemy be pushed back relentlessly without time to reorganize or reinforce, until eventually organized resistance would become an impossibility.
Additional electrifying news was received at 1430, 20 April, when the Air Liaison reported that friendly tanks had cut Highway 9 at a point northwest of Bologna. This meant the severing of the German lifeline from Bologna through Modena and other important cities to industrial Milan and Turin.
At 1520, Lt. Col. Wagner was told to push as fast as possible and march at night if necessary to reach Cassoletta. Upon arrival, the 2nd Battalion was to tie in with the 86th at the junction (751556) of Highway 9 and the highway running northeast from Crespellano, and tie in with the 3rd Battalion, 85th, in the vicinity of Montelbano (741525). Roadblocks were to be established and the main body of the battalion was to be ready to move. The 2nd Battalion AT platoon, under Lt. Oliver LaMere, established roadblocks on the highway running east from Crespellano. One of these roadblocks was about one mile east of the town. At about 2300, 20 April, Lt. LaMere and his platoon sergeant, Tech. Sgt. Felos, were checking the gun positions when they ran into an enemy patrol. Lt. LaMere was killed in the firefight that took place as were two of the enemy patrol.
Likewise at 1520, 20 April, Lt. Col. Schelor was ordered to move the 3rd Battalion from the ridges in vicinity of C. il Mucchio-S. Lorenzo in Collina to Montelbano and to march at night if necessary. At Montelbano, the battalion was to tie in with the 2nd Battalion to the north and put in defensive positions and roadblocks from Montelbano south to Pedretta (745507). One platoon of 4.2 chemical mortars joined the battalion to accompany them.
The 2nd Battalion moved on foot along the road from La Fornace, Montevecchio (745470), S. Martino (738482) and north to the valley. Companies E and G encountered light resistance near the edge of the valley in the vicinity of 736495 and were slowed down. Lt. Nihill, Company G, was lightly wounded in the action. However, at 2015, forward elements of Company F made contact with the 86th at Pedretta and the main body pushed on to Cassoletta (742538). The 2nd Battalion CP was established at Torretta (741533) at 2155, 20 April.
CAPT. WOODRUFF'S NARRATIVE OF THE 20 APRIL ATTACK BY THE 3RD BTN NEAR LA FORNACE, NEAR THE PO VALLEY:
The 3rd Battalion proceeded down out of the mountains along the road from S. Lorenzo in Collina through La Montagnola (758475), T. Ghironda (757480), C. Broglio (766492) and into the valley which they reached as darkness fell. However, this march was not made without incident. At the road junction (763483), Capt. Frederick Finn, commanding Company L, and his messenger were killed by fire from a machine gun that had been unavoidably bypassed by the leading troops. Lt. Coomes took over the command of Company L. The battalion reached Pedretta at 2100 and continued on to take up positions as directed.
The first regimental CP established in the Po Valley was opened the afternoon of 20 April at 731510 one mile northeast of Crespellano.
The rapid dash across the Po Valley with both flanks exposed continued on 21 April. The attack was spearheaded by a special Task Force under the command of Brigadier General Duff, assistant division commander, with the rest of the division following and mopping up as they advanced. However, the enemy resistance had been so thoroughly disorganized by the rapid drive that many enemy forces were cut off or isolated, resulting in many firefights and surrenders by reserve and rear-area echelons.
At 0900, the order of march was announced at the 2nd and 3rd Battalions. The 1st Battalion was still deployed in the vicinity of the original roadblock at 769480 awaiting relief by the 85th Infantry Division. The 1st Battalion was relieved at 1000, 21 April, and was given the necessary routes and instructions to follow the regiment in its swift advance.
The 2nd Battalion, with a platoon of tanks attached, moved out of the Cassoletta (742538) area at 1000, 21 April, and the 3rd Battalion followed. The 4.2 mortars attached to the 2nd Battalion were ordered to follow the 3rd Battalion.
The 2nd Battalion moved north along the road to Highway 9 and turned left on the highway to Chiesaccia (741563). At Chiesaccia, the troops moved north on the secondary road and proceeded to S. Maria in Strada (744575). Friendly tanks already in Chiesaccia were drawing considerable enemy artillery fire, which caught the 2nd and 3rd Battalions until they reached S. Maria. One enemy air-burst seriously wounded Lt. Ofstie, Company M.
At 1215, the 2nd Battalion was ordered to push the foot troops across the Samoggia River on the footbridge at S. Maria and have the vehicles and armor follow later.
From the S. Maria footbridge, the troops marched across country to Tivoli (733629) which they reached at 1500. Meanwhile, General Duff's Task Force had pushed the attack to within one mile of Bomporto, and by nightfall it had seized intact the important bridge across the Panaro River.
German prisoners taken during the afternoon were from the 114th Recon Battalion which had been in Army Reserve and were moved into the sector that morning.
During the morning, the march CP left the regimental CP and opened at 1555 at 735625 (southeast of Tivoli). The 2nd Battalion opened a CP at 1645 at 719655 (south of S. Benedetto).
From Tivoli, the 2nd Battalion again marched across country and by 1745 the head of the column had passed S. Benedetto. The regimental march CP followed close behind and opened in S. Benedetto at 1815, 21 April.
Approximately three miles beyond S. Benedetto, the 2nd Battalion reached the network of canals of Ca della Veza (706710). While crossing the canals, the 3rd Battalion pulled up abreast of the 2nd Battalion. From there, the two battalions marched until dark (about 2000) and spent the night in the vicinity of Conventa (713734), after a day's march of 15 miles. The march was made without incident except for the shelling near Chiesaccia and spasmodic sniping along the route.
The 1st Battalion shuttled by truck to the road junction on Highway 9 at 751557 where they detrucked and moved by foot to the bridge at S. Maria and north toward Tivoli. The first troops started the shuttle at 1100, 21 April, and the entire battalion closed in at the road junction at 1630.
In the late afternoon, M/Sgt. Felix Taliafero, regimental operations sergeant, was killed in the march CP building near Tivoli while eating his supper rations in front of a fireplace. The bullet that killed M/Sgt. Taliafero also wounded T/5 Van Ormer, of the regimental S-4 section, who was sitting next to him.
At 2215, 21 April, Col. Barlow instructed the 2nd and 3rd Battalions to button up for the night and that in the morning the 3rd Battalion was to be motorized on organic vehicles and trucks from the 604th FA Battalion to join General Duff's Task Force. The 2nd Battalion was to continue the march on foot. At 2245, the forward regimental CP was opened at the road junction 708726.
As the troops moved forward, in an effort to keep pace with one of the fastest drives of the war, they accumulated an assorted collection of transportation. German trucks, cars, horses, wagons, carts, bicycles, motorcycles, and Italian Fiats were pressed into service to ease the aching backs and tired feet. The accumulation increased and much of the captured motorized equipment accompanied the units on across the Po River to Lake Garda.
On 22 April, the 3rd Battalion, 85th, commanded by Lt. Col. Schelor, replaced the 2nd Battalion, 86th, as the striking infantry unit in General Duff's Task Force. The remainder of the task force was composed of mixed armor, 91st Recon Cavalry Squadron, engineers and signalmen. Trucks from the 604th FA Battalion as well as organic transportation were used to completely motorize the entire 3rd Battalion. It met General Duff and left Bomporto at 0818, 22 April. This force was the spearhead of the entire division and army drive to reach the Po River and seize an area for a crossing of the river.
The task force bypassed Carpi and ran into enemy resistance in the vicinity of S. Lorenzo. An armored vehicle at the head of the task force was fired upon and the column halted. Not far behind was Lt. Col. Schelor's jeep. When the enemy opened fire, Col. Schelor and his party jumped out and made for a ditch. Almost immediately, the jeep was hit by a German Panzerfaust which wounded Col. Schelor and Lt. Barr, battalion S-2. Major Wikner, battalion executive officer, took over command of the 3rd Battalion. Company I, under Capt. Bucher, was committed to wipe out the German resistance centered in one building and an adjoining dugout. The company was assisted by a self-propelled gun and a tank destroyer.
After the enemy resistance had been overcome, Company I returned to their trucks and the task force continued, but only for a short distance. The head of the column ran into a German Motor Pool and another firefight resulted. Additional tanks were rushed up and the 1st Platoon of Company K, under Lt. Hames, was dropped off to wipe out the resistance. The rest of the task force bypassed the fighting and pushed on. Approximately 70 Germans surrendered to K Company. When the firefight was over, not one man in the platoon had been hit, but two Germans had been killed, three wounded and 169 more gave themselves up. S/Sgt. Fleener chuckled, "Hell, that makes 55 Krauts I've taken myself so far."
Pfc. Bendt and T/5 Conrad, regimental reporters, guarded the 70 prisoners, next to a burning and exploding German ammunitions truck, while the fighting took place. After they turned the prisoners back to Company K, they proceeded down the road, routed five more out of a farmhouse and captured a speeding German truck which they pressed into service as a prisoner van.
Lt. Hames and his men took the prisoners to the PW cage near Bomporto. When they arrived there, they had accumulated a total of 350 prisoners.
The task force continued on to the Po River against light but frequent enemy resistance that was knocked out by tanks and the infantrymen. As they proceeded, many abandoned German ammunition dumps in buildings and fields blew up from time bombs left behind by the fleeing Germans.
The mighty Po River was reached by the 3rd Battalion and the task force at 0045, 23 April, near S. Benedetto Po. A defensive ring was immediately set up around the area from which crossings were to be made. On the 23rd, the 3rd Battalion reverted back to the 85th and moved to a crossing point near Camatta where it remained until the crossing was made.
The 2nd Battalion moved out again the morning of 22 April with a platoon of attached tanks and 4.2 mortars. The Panaro River was crossed on the bridge at Bomporto that had been seized intact on the 21st by General Duff's Task Force. The battalion advanced with the tanks in front. The tanks moved ahead and then waited for the foot troops and the polyglot of transportation to catch up. This process continued throughout the day's advance.
At 0830, the 2nd Battalion had reached the road junction at 656760 where the road branched off to Carpi. The regimental supply point, water point, ammunition dump, and HQ Company were established in the vicinity of this road junction at 1140, 22 April.
The situation had become so mobile that at 1245 the order was received for all vehicles to display either red or yellow identification panels.
By 1315, the 2nd Battalion had crossed the Secchia River and reached the road junction (602778) one mile west of La Bottega. The battalion CP was opened there at 1340, 22 April.
When the battalion reached the city of Carpi in mid-afternoon, a German force was still active in the city. Company E, commanded by Capt. Hamner, was dropped off to clean out the city as the rest of the battalion bypassed Carpi to the east and continued north toward Novi. Company E fought its way into the city and by nightfall the city had fallen and 150 prisoners had been taken.
The rest of the 2nd Battalion continued on, passing Il Borgo (543860) at 1800, the road junction at 547875 at 1830, the road junction at 543823 at 2100 and arrived in the city of Novi at 2120. En route from Carpi to Novi, enemy firing to the right (east) flank necessitated the sending of a squad from Company G to clean it out.
The 2nd Battalion billeted north of Novi for the night 22-23 April after a day's march of 23 miles.
During the day, the 1st Battalion followed the route taken by the 2nd Battalion. They cleared Bomporto by 1530, 23 April, and one hour later the 1st Battalion had reached the Secchia River. At 2330, the 1st Battalion was in the town of Il Borgo (543860) and had reached a bivouac area at 0100, 23 April.
The regimental march command group moved at 1630, 22 April, to a new CP at 563815, which was opened at 1715. Shortly afterwards, another move was made and at 2016 the regimental CP opened north of Novi at 557945.
The morning of 23 April, the 2nd Battalion pushed on to continue the rapid advance to the Po River. They proceeded through Moglia (565952) and Coazze to an assembly area near Camatta which they reached at noon, 23 April. Defensive positions were set up until the battalion crossed the river that evening.
The 1st Battalion, still following the 2nd, started a truck shuttle movement at 0600, 23 April, to a farm just south of S. Benedetto. The movement was completed at 1100, but at 1300 the battalion again entrucked to move by shuttle to an assembly area in Camatta (595128). By 1600, 23 April, the battalion had closed in and made preparations for the crossing of the Po River which began that evening.
On 23 April, the regimental CP opened at 0820 in Bertolana (693068), but two hours later it moved again and was established at 1045 in Bardello (584119).
Thus the long, rapid, weary push across the southern half of the Po Valley came to an end, but it was only a breather in the overall drive to cut the Germans off at the Alps.
The roads across the valley were littered with burned and knocked out German guns, trucks, and other vehicles. Some were the result of strafing, some the result of tank, artillery and infantry assaults, while others were destroyed by the Germans as they retreated northward.
Bands of Partisans seemed to be everywhere. They played a very important role in cutting enemy communication and supply lines, rounding up snipers and isolated pockets of resistance, destroying German equipment and installations, and seizing Fascists. The Partisans were joined by throngs of civilians in greeting the troops as they pushed on, liberating town after town. Flags, cheers, wine and food were given freely, but many troops were too tired to return the enthusiasm shown by the native population.
German prisoners knew the 10th Mountain Division was against them and were still being told that we didn't take prisoners. They realized that the war was lost , but continued to fight for two reasons, even though many were glad to be captured. They fought on in defense of their country and for fear of retaliation against their families if they laid down their arms.
CROSSING THE MIGHTY PO
First crossings of the Po River were made by the 87th Mountain Infantry the morning of 23 April, under a terrific shower of German fire, including ack-ack flak. The crossings by the 85th began later in the day at a point further downstream. While waiting to cross the river, the regiment received a lot of enemy artillery fire that inflicted several casualties throughout the units and was strafed by low-flying German planes.
Crossing the Po River was made initially in assault boats furnished by the 126th Engineer Battalion. The troops embarked on the beach east of Camatta at 602129. Company I was completely across at 1630, 23 April, and the rest of the 3rd Battalion had completed the crossing by 1830.
Next to go over was the 1st Battalion. They crossed in order of B, A, C, D, and HQ Companies. The crossing was completed at 2000, 23 April, without anyone being injured or wounded.
During the night, the 2nd Battalion made the crossing and all three battalions were on the beachhead by daylight. The regimental Command Group crossed with the 1st Battalion and established a forward CP at 596148 (southeast of Governolo) at 2330. The rear regimental CP remained in Bardello.
The DUKWs (amphibious heavy trucks) were received the morning of 24 April for the transfer of essential vehicles and supplies across the river. The DUKWs were used continuously all throughout the day and night to supply the bridgehead.
Wire lines were laid across the river by weighting the wires with building blocks and sinking them to the bottom of the river.
On 24 April, the battalions expanded the bridgehead and completed occupying the positions assigned. The 2nd Battalion defended the area northwest of Sachetta, the 1st Battalion northeast of Governolo, and the 3rd Battalion was in the area northwest of Governolo to Gardola. The battalions set up a line of defense, tied in with adjacent units, and blocked all roads leading into the bridgehead.
The regiment was given the mission of protecting the right flank and rear of the division with a minimum number of troops until the tail of the division passed when the drive was resumed. The rest of the men were given time to bathe, clean weapons, etc.
At 0830, 24 April, General Hays ordered an extension to the left by the 3rd Battalion to secure the canal bridge and roadblocks at 557195 near Ponte Merlano, Garolda (584180), and the area between. The rest of the regiment was to check and report all bridges within the regimental sector. The 1st Battalion was ordered to extend left (west) to 594178 to relieve the 3rd Battalion in that sector.
At 1030, 24 April, 20 men were sent to Capt. Smith at Division to receive special instructions in driving enemy vehicles. Captured vehicles were permitted to cross the bridges but each one had to follow an American truck with a four-wheel drive.
Also at 1030, the 10th Recon Troop was ordered to relieve the 2nd Battalion immediately of defenses in the battalion area. The relief was not completed until 1800 at which time the 2nd Battalion moved to an assembly area east of Governolo at 619150. A new battalion CP was opened at 1845 in the building at 624143.
Artillery fire continued falling on the south side of the river during the day. Civilians reported that someone in the bell tower of the church in S. Benedetto was ringing the bell as a signal to the Germans. The bell was rung when troops were moving up or in position to make a crossing and the ringing of the bell was followed by German artillery fire. The bell was silenced and the enemy fire tapered off. The same morning, two Fascists were caught sending off flares and were apprehended.
During the morning, a terrific 20-minute artillery barrage landed in the Company E area which was discovered to be a preparation by the 85th Infantry Division for a crossing of the Po River. After the barrage lifted, an assault group from the 85th Division came storming through the fields but they were quickly informed of the presence of friendly troops.
The 1st Battalion reported at 1650 that all bridges in the battalion area were intact. By 2030, the 3rd Battalion had extended to the left and reported that all roads and bridges in the area were intact and capable of handling heavy loads. An SP 88 was captured intact by the 3rd Battalion at the road junction at 589191.
At 2210, the 10th Recon Troop was relieved from attachment to the 85th Mountain Infantry and its flank mission. It was not necessary to move any other troops back into the area because the 85th Infantry Division was now on the right flank.
The night 24-25 April, the 1st Battalion moved out to spearhead the division advance. On the morning of 24 April, Lt. Col. Woolley reported to regiment and received orders from General Hays to move north to seize the road net on the way to Villafranca. At 1910, 24 April, Lt. Col. Woolley was ordered by Col. Barlow to move out as quickly as possible, with armor if available, to seize the road net. Once it was seized, the remainder of the division was to follow and push on to Verona.
The 1st Battalion moved out on foot from its assembly area in the Po River bridgehead at 2120, 24 April, and had cleared Garolda (585179) at 2200. At 2245, tanks from the 751st Tank Battalion and 5 extra light tanks were sent forward to join the battalion in its advance. General Hays directed that the battalion push forward boldly and seize as much of the road as possible. Three tanks joined the battalion at 2330, and men from Company C, commanded by Lt. Decker, rode them.
The battalion advanced with the light tanks and the men of Company C led the way. By 0230, 25 April, the head of the battalion had passed Cade (560235) without encountering any enemy opposition. Eight more tanks joined the battalion at 0400 and Companies B and C rode them. Ghisiolo (534278) was reached at 0530 but no resistance had as yet been encountered. Civilians along the route reported that the Germans had withdrawn about two hours before the arrival of our troops.
An enemy detachment was encountered at 0600, 25 April. Company C immediately engaged the enemy in a short brisk firefight and drove them off. Capt. Simpson, 1st Battalion S-3, was slightly wounded in the encounter but he continued on with the battalion.
The initial objective, the town of S. Lucia (492325), was reached at 0800 and the entire battalion closed in at 0845 for one hour of rest before continuing the rapid advance on foot.
The battalion pushed on to seize their next assigned objective at about 1300, 25 April: the road junction with Highway 62 at 495384. Companies A and B established roadblocks in the vicinity. Word was received to push on at once and seize Villafranca and the airport. At 1400, Company C and most of Company D pushed forward toward Villafranca. En route, Company C again contacted the enemy and became engaged in a firefight. About 10 prisoners, from the 362nd Infantry Division, were taken in this encounter.
As Company C moved into Villafranca (5345), two German vehicles came tearing along the road and were completely surprised to see the American troops. The Germans immediately attempted to get away but were foiled. Capt. Simpson opened fire as did two machine guns mounted on jeeps. The two German vehicles were set on fire, several Germans were killed, and about 60 were taken prisoners. Capt. Simpson was wounded again in the firefight and evacuated.
Following the firefight, Company C pushed on to the 1st Battalion objective, the large Villafranca Airport. By 1700, 25 April, the airfield was entirely in the hands of the battalion and the CP was established across the highway east of the field. This terminated a rapid foot march, against opposition, of 25 miles in less than 20 hours. Companies A and B were relieved at their roadblocks and arrived in Villafranca at 1730, 25 April. New roadblocks were established by them at the north end of the city. Light artillery fire fell in the area during the day.
The closing curtain to this action came at 2200 in the form of a German Volkswolf 190 which landed on the north end of the airstrip. The plane, apparently out of gas, was captured intact but the pilot escaped into the nearby woods.
At midnight, 25-26 April, a Task Force commanded by Col. Darby, who replaced General Duff when he was wounded, passed through the 1st Battalion and proceeded on to Verona.
Back at the bridgehead, the IV Corps engineers threw two bridges across the Po River in the vicinity of S. Benedetto. The treadway bridge was opened at 1130, 25 April, and a heavy pontoon bridge was opened a short time later. This permitted the rapid movement of a greater volume of vehicles and supplies to the north bank.
Word was received the morning of 25 April that the city of Mantova, bypassed by the 1st Battalion, was in Partisan hands. On the 24th, they had jailed all Germans within the city.
In the early afternoon, 25 April, the 3rd Battalion reconnoitered the road from Ponte Merlano (558195) northwest to Frassino (503232) and the road running northeast through Derbasco (543228). All the routes were free of mines and all bridges were in.
The afternoon of 25 April, Col. Darby's task force left the bridgehead for Verona as the Division Assault Group. They followed in the wake of the 1st Battalion, 85th Mountain Infantry, which had driven ahead to Villafranca. The rest of the 85th Mountain Infantry spent the day in the bridgehead, resting, cleaning up, and observing German positions.
At 2130, 25 April, Col. Barlow issued a warning order to all unit commanders. The regiment, less the 1st Battalion, would probably move on 26 April to the vicinity of Villafranca.
A shuttle movement of the regiment to the vicinity of Villafranca started at 0830, 26 April, on organic transportation. The IP was the bridge at 597164 near La Salmistrera. The units moved out in the order of regimental Headquarters, 2nd Battalion, and 3rd Battalion. Company B, 84th Chemical Battalion, was ordered to move immediately to the Villafranca Airport and contact the 1st Battalion.
The 2nd and 3rd Battalions closed into an assembly area in the vicinity of S. Zeno in Mozzo (416517) two and one-half miles southwest of Villafranca on Highway 62. The 3rd Battalion closed in at 1710, 26 April, and the CP was established at 513412 at 1500. The 2nd Battalion closed into their area at 1930 and the CP was opened at 516415 at 1740. Both battalions bivouacked in this area for the night. The regimental Command Group moved to the Villafranca Airport for about two hours, but returned to Villafranca where the CP was established in the early afternoon, 26 April, on the south side of the city. At 1900, 26 April, the Supply Point, Ammunition Dump and Motor Pool opened at the Villafranca Airport.
Meanwhile at 0900, 26 April, Company C moved from Villafranca by truck to the bridge across the Adige River northeast of Pastrengo (503607). Companies A and D left Villafranca at 2000, 26 April, and joined Company C in guarding the bridge over the river. Company B remained in Villafranca until the regiment moved out on the 27th.
During the night, 26-27 April, General Hays informed Col. Barlow at 0030 of the plans for the continuation of the attack. On the 26th, the leading division elements had swung northwest from Verona to Bussolengo. It was planned that on the 27th, the division would drive to Lake Garda, push north along the east shore road, and continue on to Trento.
The regiments were to alternate as the division spearhead for eight-hour periods, with the relief regiment moving up by motor until it had passed through the attacking regiment. The leading infantry regiment was to have the support of one company of the 126th Engineers Battalion, the 1125th Armored FA Battalion and either the 701st TD or the 751st Tank Battalion.
The 87th Mountain Infantry started for Lake Garda on the 27th and the 85th Mountain Infantry was to pass through them in the evening with the 86th relieving the 85th in the early hours of 28 April.
At 0800, 27 April, Col. Barlow explained the plan of attack to the unit commanders and established the order of movement as 2nd, 3rd, and 1st Battalions. Sufficient trucks were made available at noon and in the early afternoon to move the entire regiment to Lake Garda and through the 87th Mountain Infantry. Ten DUKWs were made available for use on Lake Garda if needed.
During the day, Capt. Turner, 1st Battalion liaison officer to the regiment, returned to the 1st Battalion as S-3 to replace Capt. Simpson, who had been wounded in the drive to Villafranca. Lt. Lang, CO of Company B, was sent to the regiment as 1st Battalion liaison officer and Lt. Kerekes assumed command of Company B.
At 1600, 27 April, the regiment moved out on trucks to Lake Garda to take over the division attack from the 87th Mountain Infantry. The 2nd Battalion, commanded by Col. Wagner, led the regimental advance. As they moved through Palazzolo (515563), Company A, 126th Engineer Battalion, joined the 2nd Battalion column. The battalion reached Garda (433703) and detrucked about 1800, 27 April. They were joined by the 751st Tank Battalion and the 1125th FA Battalion and started out immediately on foot to push the division attack along the east shore of Lake Garda, having relieved the 87th Mountain Infantry.
By 2115, the head of the column had pushed through Torri del Benaco, and Castelletto di Brenzone to Boccino (489853). The forward regimental CP opened in Boccino shortly afterward.
The 2nd Battalion pushed the advance aggressively. At 2330, they were 2000 meters below Malcesine, which they reached at midnight, ending a forced march of 17 miles. The troops waited in Malcesine until relieved by the 86th Mountain Infantry at 0200, 28 April. The 2nd Battalion CP was established there in the Hotel Italia at 0900 and the troops billeted for the night.
Following the 2nd Battalion was the 3rd Battalion led by Major Wikner. The battalion likewise detrucked in Garda at 2000, 27 April, and continued along the coastal road on foot. They advanced as far as Assenza (497868) which they reached at 0030, 28 April, after a march of 14 miles. The battalion spent the night in the vicinity.
The regimental Command Group again moved forward and at 0030, 28 April, established the CP in the Villa Gruber (512897), formerly occupied by Field Marshal Kesselring.
Companies A, C, and D, which had been guarding the Adige River bridge near Pastregno, rejoined the 1st Battalion column at Lazize (450623) at 2000, 28 April. The battalion CP was established there and the troops spent their first night at Lake Garda in the town.
The Supply Point, Ammunition Dump, Motor Pool, Water Point, Service and Headquarters Command moved into 415706 (west of Garda) the evening of 27 April and moved to Malcesine the following day.
When the troops awoke on April 28, they found rugged mountains rising from both shores of Lake Garda. The Alps had been reached, ending one of the most unbelievable and spectacular advances of the war. The 10th Mountain Division, trained and equipped primarily for mountain warfare, had actually out-fought and out-raced all other units of the Fifth Army in the successful attempt to drive the enemy back, and at the same time, seal off the escape routes for the hundreds of thousands of enemy troops in northern Italy.
From Castel d'Aiano, the division had pushed the enemy back 23 miles and was the first unit to break out into the Po Valley. The regiment and the division had fought over the mountainous terrain for which it had been trained. Only a few dreamed that the mountain troops would, or could, actually show their heels to all other units and be the first to reach and cross the Po River and drive on to the Alps. But General Hays said that it could be done and it was done. Utilizing organic transportation to the breaking point and pressing an endless array of captured vehicles, the division remained out in front for 120 more miles until the major escape routes had been cut off and large forces were trapped in northern Italy. But the vehicles didn't do it all, by any means. Much of the credit goes to the feet of the infantrymen who pushed mile after mile and day after day with only a minimum of rest to keep going.
Now, once again, the mountaineers were back in the mountains, but it was the rugged formidable Alps that stretched for miles before them as a natural enemy defense. The rapid pursuit of the enemy hastily withdrawing across the flat Po Valley was at an end. With the natural escape routes north to the Brenner Pass cut off, the division was to cut the route leading to Trento from the southwest, but this meant slow fighting up narrow valleys and across the highest mountain range in Europe. If the Germans chose to resist fanatically, it would be slow, costly progress, but Germany was crumbling everywhere and either continued withdrawal or complete surrender seemed more likely.
LAKE GARDA AND THE ALPS
At 1115, 28 April, the battalions were notified that at 2100, 28 April, the 85th would again pass through the 87th and push the division attack for the next eight hours. However, during the day, the Germans succeeded in blowing one of the tunnels on the east shore road, which completely disrupted the advance of the division. Stubborn German resistance slowed the attack and the regiment remained in division reserve for the next two days.
At 1300, 28 April, the regimental CP moved to the Villa Rosa (51708975), approximately one-half mile below Malcesine, where it remained for the next ten days.
The three battalions spent the day, 28 April, in the areas which they reached the night before when relieved by the 86th Mountain Infantry.
In the early afternoon, 28 April, a long enemy horse-drawn convoy was sighted across the lake moving north along the west shore road of Lake Garda. Direct fire from self-propelled guns of the 1125th Armored FA Battalion and the 701st Tank Destroyers was placed upon the convoy throughout the afternoon, night and next day. The enemy was also attacked on 29 April by P-47 fighter bombers which repeatedly strafed the trapped troops.
At 2230, 28 April, the regiment was ordered to move all the battalions into an assembly area along the road from 520907 (south of Malcesine) to 530928 (one mile north of Malcesine). The battalions were to move on foot commencing at 0800, 29 April. No organic or supply transportation was to move on the road between 0800 and 1400, 29 April, but could move before or after the restricted hours.
The 3rd Battalion closed into an assembly area in the vicinity of C. de Campo (529992) at 1000, 29 April, and established the CP there. At 1030, the 1st Battalion closed into an assembly area in the vicinity of Masetta (533915). The 2nd Battalion remained in Malcesine and Service Company moved into the southern edge of town.
All of the captured enemy vehicles that had aided materially in the rapid move across the Po Valley were ordered turned in at once to the division ordinance officer at 524915 (north of Malcesine).
At noon, 29 April, the 1st and 2nd Platoon OP located a radio transmitter antenna in the hills above Capione on the west side of the lake. It was later attacked by P-47 fighter bombers.
At 1745, 29 April, Col. Barlow was ordered to send one reinforced company across Lake Garda to attack Gargnano (405830) and seize Mussolini's villa and office. Eventually, the entire road from Toscolano (3678) to Riva (550045) was to be cleared.
The crossing was to be made at 0150, 30 April, in 12 DUKWs. Company K, commanded by Capt. Cooper, and an HMG platoon of Company M, commanded by Lt. Bogan, were selected as an assaulting force. They were led by Major Eric Wikner, acting battalion commander. The party was furnished an ample supply of bazookas and hand grenades. Supporting fires were planned by the 604th FA Battalion and 4 tanks from the 751st Tank Battalion.
Promptly at 0130, 30 April, the forces left S. Zeno (463815) and crossed the 4 miles of open water without drawing enemy fire. As the DUKWs approached the west shore, the motors were cut and they glided in quietly. The landing was made at 421844 (2 miles north of Gargnano) at 0233, 30 April. Immediately upon landing, three roadblocks were set up for the night by the three platoons of Company K and the supporting machine guns. At dawn, the entire force advanced quietly to Gargnano. The DUKWs remained at the landing area for evacuation and withdrawal if necessary. The operation progressed very smoothly. By 0815, Mussolini's villa, his town office and Gargnano had been occupied without any opposition. A patrol cleared the road south to Toscolano for 5 miles. The 2nd Platoon, commanded by Lt. Kaytis, established a roadblock south of Bogliaco (394815). One squad from the 1st Platoon and one section of LMGs established a roadblock west of Gargnano, a second squad occupied the villa and a third squad guarded the town office. The 3rd Platoon, commanded by Lt. Jackiewics, set up roadblocks on the two roads leading north from Gargnano.
Partisan forces informed them that the Germans were in the hills nearby but offered no resistance to the landing. The very dangerous, daring undertaking was completed successfully without a single casualty.
The bridge at 418845 was found to be impassable and in a nearby tunnel several enemy trucks, half-tracks and anti-tank guns were discovered.
At 0345, 30 April, Division notified the regiment that 8 to 10 Germans were in a house in the hills above the division CP in Villa Gruber. Capt. Hamner, CO of Company E, investigated. They brought back 9 prisoners who had been locked up and turned over to them by Partisans.
At 0920, 30 April, Col. Barlow was ordered to prepare a second company to make another crossing of Lake Garda. Company L, commanded by Lt. Seery, was selected for the mission with the support of one battery from the 605th FA Battalion and 4 tank destroyers from the 701st TD Battalion. The tanks in direct support of Company K were no longer necessary and were released in the early afternoon.
Company L left the duckhead at S. Zeno at 1745 and headed straight across the lake toward Gargnano. As the force neared the opposite shore, they turned north and followed the shoreline. Lt. Seery, two AP men and the 3rd Platoon, led by Lt. McGale, landed at Piazza (440862) at 1840, 30 April. The party moved north along Highway 45 while the rest of the company followed in the DUKWs. As they advanced northward, they encountered numerous German mines, especially in the tunnels, which they neutralized, and took approximately 50 prisoners.
Lt. Seery and the 3rd Platoon advanced to a point about one mile north of Campione (473899) to assure a safe landing of the rest of the company on the beach at the north edge of Campione. The prisoners were sent back to the east shore in two DUKWs and the entire company spent the night, 30 April - 1 May, in Campione.
At 1815, 30 April, General Hays ordered a third company to cross Lake Garda, this time from the division duckhead (552956) about one mile north of Navene (545947), before daylight, 1 May. Company I, commanded by Capt. Bucher, was selected for the third crossing. Their mission was to move up Highway 45, contact elements of the 86th Mountain Infantry in Riva, and establish a roadblock at 5302 on the road to Molina di Ledro. Company I sailed from the duckhead at 0315, 1 May, and headed northwest for the point two miles north of Limone. The entire company landed without opposition at 0430, 1 May, at 533979, north of Limone.
As April ended, the rest of the regiment remained in the vicinity of Malcesine while plans were formulated for continuing the attack on into the mountains to Trento.
For the COMMANDING OFFICER
JOHN B. WOODRUFF
Historical Records Officer
LAKE GARDA TO SURRENDER
(1 MAY to 30 MAY)
With the advent of May, the 85th Mountain Infantry was at Lake Garda after participating in the rapid, spectacular and successful division drive out of the Apennines, across the Po Valley to the Alps. This action cut the major escape route from northern Italy to the Brenner Pass, thereby trapping a large portion of the German army in northern Italy. After seizing Verona, the 10th Mountain Division turned west to Lake Garda and started driving north along the east shore road with Trento as the ultimate objective. However, the Germans succeeded in blowing up one of the tunnels on the lake road, which slowed the rapid pace of the division advance.
On 27 April the 85th Mountain Infantry had pushed to Malcesine and the 86th Mountain Infantry resumed the offensive on the 28th. After much hard fighting against bitter resistance, Riva and Torbole, at the northern end of Lake Garda, fell and the 87th had pushed east across the mountains and captured Spiazzi (5577) overlooking the Adige River.
Companies K, L, and I, 85th Mountain Infantry, in that order, had made amphibious crossing to the west shore of Lake Garda on 30 April (see Enclosures Nos. 1, 2, and 3, 30 April 45). Company K had seized Gargnano (4082), Mussolini's' villa and office. Companies L and I crossed to clear Highway 45, and make contact with the 86th Mountain Infantry in Riva.
The remainder of the 85th Mountain Infantry was in the vicinity of Malcesine (5291) awaiting orders to push on through the leading elements and resume the attack. The 2nd Battalion was in Malcesine proper, the 1st Battalion was in the vicinity of Masotta (533915), HQ and Service Companies were directly south of Malcesine and the regimental CP was in the Villa Rose (51708975). The lull in the rapid push was a welcome change from the continuous, weary advance across the Po Valley and afforded a much-needed opportunity for the men to rest, clean up, and clean their rifles.
The famous Italian summer resort area was very well suited for the billeting of troops. Malcesine and the vicinity has many fine summer homes, several of which were vacant and used by our forces. Directly east of the lake-front area rose a series of precipitous, snow-covered ridges over 7,000 feet high.
On 1 May, Company L, commanded by Lt. Seery, left Campone at dawn and advanced along Highway 45 towards Riva. The DUKWs followed offshore. The company encountered numerous mines along the way, especially in tunnels, which the men neutralized. Most of the tunnels were fixed up as underground factories producing vital war materials for the Germans. The company reached Limone (510965) at 1000 where a halt was called for three hours while awaiting further instructions. Upon receipt of the awaited orders the company rapidly pushed on again and reached Riva (5504) at 1600 1 May. Thirty-two more prisoners were picked up by Company L as they advanced, and were sent back in DUKWs from Limone.
Meanwhile, Company I, commanded by Capt. Bucher, had landed at a point (535982) two miles north of Limone at 0430 1 May.
During the crossing, the lead DUKW caught fire in the cockpit from the hot manifold, but the fire was rapidly brought under control and extinguished. Immediately upon landing, the company established a perimeter of defense, including roadblocks to the north and south. Just before dawn the entire company moved out on both sides of Highway 45 and proceeded to Riva. As they advanced, the men cleared the road and tunnels of mines. No enemy resistance was encountered except for the capture of the guards left by the Fiat organization to safeguard the machinery set up in the tunnels for the manufacture of German diesel aircraft engines. The company reached Riva at 0915 1 May and made contact with the 86th Mountain Infantry.
The 1st Platoon of Company I was left at 540017 to set up a roadblock on the road leading to Molina di Ledro. After Company L passed later in the day, on their way to Riva, the roadblock was withdrawn and the platoon rejoined the rest of Company I in Riva.
Both companies moved to the northern edge of Riva where they remained for several days, prepared to push forward upon order. Much damage to Highway 45 was reported which made it impassable for vehicles in many places.
While at Riva, the men utilized the time to clean up and processed numerous prisoners who gave themselves up in the vicinity.
Back in Gargnano, Partisans informed Company K of the presence of a ministry building of the Fascist government in Bogliaco (395815). Men from the 2nd Platoon, already in Bogliaco, were assigned to guard the ministry building. Mussolini's villa in Gargnano revealed hundreds of priceless items that represented some of the gifts presented to Il Duce by the heads of Axis nations. There were swords given to the Duce as gifts of honor from Hitler, Hirohito and the people of Italy, his priceless Stradivarius violin, and many of his elaborate uniforms and decorations. Men from Company K took turns sleeping in the giant four-poster bed in the Ducess room or in the adjoining room of his mistress.
Company K continued to guard the villa, office and ministry building until relieved on 7 May by Fifth Army MPs.
During the morning 1 May, the 1st Battalion held a parade, at which time Bronze Stars were presented by Col. Barlow.
At 0600 1 May, a patrol of 45 men and 4 officers from Company E was sent from Malcesine southeast into the mountains on reconnaissance and to search houses for PWs. The patrol proceeded to 535870, turned south and continued to 532852 (Mt. Maggiore), and then followed west to the lake shore road. No enemy was seen along the route but contact was made with the Partisan leaders. The Partisans reported that they are very active in the area and that no Germans were left on the west side of the ridges below Malcesine. The patrol returned at 1730 1 May.
During the morning 1 May, elements of the 3rd Battalion 87th Mountain Infantry received fire in the vicinity of Bocca di Navene at 571932. At 1300 a 13-man patrol from Company A, led by Lt. Tippet, was sent out to investigate and to reconnoiter a route to the top of the ridge. They took the trail from Navene (545947) straight to the top of the ridge and on to 571933, but did not sight any enemy troops even though they passed within 500 yards of reported enemy OPs. The trail was found to be very steep, snow-covered, and passable only to mules and foot troops. The patrol returned at 2130 1 May.
Col. Barlow issued a warning order of the proposed plan for resumption of the attack to all unit commanders at 2000 1 May. The division was to advance by Rovereto, Trento and Bolzano to the Brenner Pass. The drive was to be made with the 87th Mountain Infantry on the ridge to the right, the 86th Mountain Infantry on the ridge to the left, and the 85th Mountain Infantry with armor down the valley. The operation was to start when the roads were reopened, probably in 4-5 days. Meanwhile special winter and mountain equipment was being requisitioned for all troops in the division. Snow was still deep on the higher mountains and treacherous storms were likely for several weeks to come. Until the operation began, the 1st Battalion was to carry out a mission of mopping up in the mountains while the 2nd and 3rd Battalions remained in their present positions.
The 1st Battalion 85th Mountain Infantry and the 3rd Battalion 87th Mountain Infantry were to mop up and clean out the hills overlooking the east shore of Lake Garda. However, this plan was never executed because of the cessation of hostilities.
At 0750 2 May, the regiment was warned to be on the alert for elements of a German division that eluded capture when the unit surrendered to the 34th Infantry Division.
With three 3rd Battalion companies separated from the rest of the battalion and the regiment by several miles of water, it was necessary to inaugurate an elaborate system of communication between them. Capt. Pelner, regimental communications officer, and Lt. Lengfeld, 3rd Battalion communications officer, drew upon regimental as well as battalion equipment to install a network between Companies I and L in Riva, Company K in Gargnano and the remainder of the 3rd Battalion on the east side of the lake.
At Long Last: Surrender
2 May is a day that will long be remembered by the many who fought in Italy and witnessed the end of the long, grueling campaign against Germans, mountains, rain, cold, dust, and heat. For several days, false and premature reports of surrender and peace feelers filled the air, newspapers and the grapevine. As plans for the difficult mountain operation against the enemy were being formulated, the welcome news of the surrender of all German forces in Italy and southern Austria broke like a bombshell at 1830, 2 May. The first word received was a radio broadcast announcing the surrender and describing the meeting of the various representatives who signed the terms. A short but vivid demonstration broke forth at once from one end of Lake Garda to the other. The stately Alps echoed the lusty cheers, shoots and pealing of bells that expressed the feelings of thousands. Soon the excitement passed as the grim realization that there was still a long road to travel before complete victory crept back into the minds of the troops.
The end of the war in Italy meant the end of one pertinent task: fighting Germans; and the start of another: rounding up the defeated enemy forces and occupying key points throughout northern Italy.
Directly following the surrender in Italy, General Hays addressed all men and officers in the division. The entire regiment, less the three companies across Lake Garda, were assembled near Malcesine at 1345. General Hays warmly expressed his thanks to the men and officers for their fine performance in the spectacular but grueling drive out of the Apennines and across the entire Po Valley. Companies I and L heard the General's address in Riva at 1000 with the 86th Mountain Infantry.
At 1000 3 May, Division ordered that one battalion be alerted to move by motor as part of a division task force to Austria. The 2nd Battalion was selected for the operation but at 1245 word was received that the 85th Mountain Infantry would not participate and the alert was called off.
With hostilities at an end, activity within the regiment was centered around orderly surrender of German forces, maintenance of security precautions, re-equipping of personnel, overhaul and maintenance of vehicles and weapons, and resumption of training to maintain a high state of military efficiency (See Training Directive HQ 85th Mountain Infantry 3 May). The next day the familiar sight of men drilling in columns of four returned to the regiment.
The first PX ration and beer in over a month was quickly distributed and eagerly received. Many wounded men started returning from the hospitals and even three men previously listed as missing in action were returned. They were Pvts. Hall and Black, and Cpl. Imbrogno from Company E and had been captured near Castel d'Aiano on 14 April. The three men were liberated near Lake Como by the 1st Armored Division.
These men were only a drop in the bucket of the thousands of people liberated by the German surrender in Italy. For days a steady stream of Partisans, liberated slave workers and dispossessed families flowed southward to return to their homes and a new start in life.
Because of the presence of isolated German forces scattered throughout the hills, it was possible that clashes could occur with these uninformed German groups. On 3 May, the 1st Battalion sent several patrols, including German- and Italian-speaking personnel, into the hills to inform German forces that the war was over and to guide them back to the nearest PW cage.
Partisans were to be disarmed through their own leaders and their weapons stored and guarded by their own men. The next morning many Partisans were seen coming out of the hills and turning in their weapons quietly and efficiently.
At 1710 4 May, the regiment was ordered to send one motorized rifle company to Bolzano at once to protect the HQ and HQ encampment of German General von Veitinghoff, commander of the German Southwest Command. Company F was sent with instructions to contact Col. Brisar of the Fifth Army Group for specific orders. All Partisans were to be kept out of the encampment and the Partisan leader was to be contacted to have them store their arms. The company proceeded by way of Torbole, Mori, Rovereto and Trento and arrived in Bolzano at 2300 4 May.
Meanwhile, two special task force groups including elements from the 86th and 87th Mountain Infantry were dispatched by the division to Austria to cut the enemy's lines of communication and prevent them from leaving Italy. The group under Col. Thompson reached Valpiana (A8777) at 2100 4 May and the 2nd group reached Bolzano at 2200. No resistance was encountered on the way. At 1120 the next day, Col. Thompson's group was across the Austrian border and holding Passo de Pesia (V3311) after making a truce with the Germans.
At 0845 5 May, Companies I and L were ordered withdrawn from Riva and returned to the east shore at once. The 3rd Battalion was granted permission to assemble in Porto di Brenzone. By 1740 5 May all of the 3rd Battalion, except Company K, had closed into their area and the battalion CP was opened in Porto di Brenzone (491859).
Company K was relieved of all guard duty in Gargnano by 5th Army MPs at 0900 7 May and returned to the east shore by DUKWs where they rejoined the battalion for regular duty.
At the same time, 5 May, the 1st Battalion was authorized to move as many troops into Malcesine as space would permit.
The Disarming and Assembling of German Forces
On 6 May, Division assigned Zones of Responsibility for the disarming and assembling of enemy troops (See Field Message HQ 85th Mountain Infantry 6 May 45, Overlay to Same, and Lake Garda - Austria Map - 1:100,000). The zone assigned to the 85th Mountain Infantry extended from the territory directly west of Lake Garda north to the Austrian border. The southern regimental zone was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, the center to the 1st Battalion, and the northern zone to the 2nd Battalion.
In general, patrols were sent into each sector with the mission of patrolling the roads in an effort to locate and assemble German elements, especially stragglers. The enemy forces were disarmed of all large-caliber and automatic weapons but were permitted to retain some small arms for protection and guard duty. German and Italian interpreters accompanied each patrol.
The 1st Battalion patrol consisted of the 1st Platoon of Company B, commanded by Lt. James Johnson, and Lt. Hughes, company executive officer. They left on 7 May and established their base in Madonna di Campiglio (A5543). While in the area, they coordinated the evacuation of approximately 1200 Germans, primarily from Dimaro (A5953). The patrol also contacted the German 3rd Flak Mountain Brigade at Mezzano (A5543). In Madonna di Campiglio the Germans had a large hospital unit, but only 14 patients and a staff of 6 remained. After four days in the area, a German colonel informed the patrol that he had received orders from Fifth Army to move his troops to Trento, leaving all equipment behind. Two jeeps and six men under Sgt. Trigg and Sgt. Kogen led the convoy to Trento without incident.
While in the sector, the patrol met a staff sergeant who had parachuted to safety from a crippled B-17. A friendly priest had cared for him until the surrender took place. He was sent back through channels by Lt. Hughes. The Germans were deeply impressed by the tremendous air power possessed by the Americans.
During the period of patrolling, a ticklish situation was brought to the attention of Lt. Johnson. A local citizen, claimed by the Partisans to be a war profiteer, was forced to pay 100,000 lire to the Committee of National Liberation and promise 300,000 more the next day for the support of Partisan forces. Lt. Johnson informed the Partisans that such acts would not be tolerated and war profiteers would be handled by the proper authorities. The Partisans returned the money and the incident was closed.
The platoon was relieved on 13 May by the 88th Infantry Division and returned to Company B.
A mixed patrol of platoon size under Lt. Ryan, S-2 from the 2nd Battalion, left at 0930 7 May, accompanied by a 5-man British party. The patrol base was established in Silandro (A5387). German elements in the Silandro area came from 16 different organizations and totaled 1250 officers and men. The largest unit was the He. Pi. Motorized Battalion. All the troops were disarmed and restricted to Silandro. A bakery and supply point at A3893, near Sluderno, was evacuated to Bolzano. Several small German units were located throughout the 2nd Battalion sector and assembled. Elements of the 86th and 87th Mountain Infantry were covering the area north of Malles. On 9 May, Task Force Thompson relieved the 2nd Battalion patrol which returned to Malcesine.
The 3rd Battalion patrol consisted of 41 men from Company L, Company M and HQ Company under Capt. Acosta. They left at 0800 7 May. Capt. Acosta, accompanied by S/Sgt. William Murphy and Cpl. Rudinger, went to Molveno to contact Major Heerdt, IA of the 51st Mountain Corps. The entire patrol then established their CP in the Central Hotel of Tione di Trento (A468213) where the German 163rd AA Battalion CP was also located. A total of 232 officers and men were in Tione and they had already been disarmed by the Partisans. The men in the patrol were the first Americans in the area and the behavior of all groups was very good. After taking over guarding of the Germans, the roads were patrolled in search of additional Germans. Seventy-three more were located and sent to the German CP in Tione. The patrol was relieved by the 88th Division on 13 May and returned to the 3rd Battalion.
All told, approximately 3,000 German officers and men were located and assembled in the regimental zone of responsibility.
Training for the Rest of the Regiment
At 0700 7 May, Company F was relieved of the mission of guarding the headquarters of General von Veitinghoff in Bolzano by the 88th Infantry Division. The Company returned to Malcesine by truck and closed back into the 2nd Battalion area at 1130 8 May.
The regimental training schedule was reduced to four hours on 7 May. Afternoons were to be devoted to care and cleaning of equipment, athletics, etc. However, whenever possible all troops were required to stand reveille in formation. The drastic change from combat to overseas garrison training was gradually being accomplished as the days of fighting slipped farther into the past.
At 2000 7 May, Division ordered the regiment to move to a training area in the vicinity of Garda on 8 May. Unit commanders were ordered to start a thorough police of the present areas and conduct proper disposal of all waste and trash. All ammunition, except that required for sentry and patrol duty, was ordered turned in and secured in battalion dumps.
Ever since the surrender of German forces in Italy the air had been electrified with anticipation of the complete and unconditional surrender of all German forces. For several days, rumor and speculation continued to be paramount. Finally on Monday evening 7 May, the first word of the official surrender of Germany was released to the world. Nearly six years of bloodshed and destruction throughout Europe was at an end. To the native populations it meant slow laborious rebuilding from the destruction of war, repatriation of millions and a search for food. To the American soldiers in Italy the surrender immediately raised the question: What will it be for me? The Pacific, occupation or demobilization?
On 8 May the regiment started the move from the vicinity of Malcesine and Porto di Brenzone to the training area further south in the vicinity of Garda.
Regimental HQ Company, Service Company, and the Medical Detachment moved into villas overlooking Lake Garda just west of the town of Garda. The regimental CP opened at 427706 at 1800 8 May. The 1st Battalion moved into Garda and the CP opened at 435698 at 1800 8 May.
The entire 3rd Battalion closed into Caprino (502734), 5 miles inland from Garda, at 1500 9 May.
Lt. Col. Schelor, 3rd Battalion CO, who was wounded during the Po Valley drive, returned from the hospital on 8 May and immediately resumed command of the battalion.
Pending future employment by General Hays, the 2nd Battalion remained in Malcesine and did not move to the Garda training area but participated in the training program.
May 9 was designated an Allied National Holiday in commemoration of V-E Day by the Army commander. All training except necessary fatigue and guard details was put aside and swimming, boating, ball games, sightseeing and relaxation were the order of the day.
A new training schedule calling for 36 hours per week was put out by Division to govern the training in the new area (See Training Letter, HQ 10 Mountain Division, 10 May 45). This schedule was followed during the next four days in the area.
Back into the Po Valley
On 13 May, General Hays informed Col. Barlow that the division was to move by noon 15 May to the vicinity of the Ghedi Airport to organize and guard all PWs captured by the II and IV Corps at the Fifth Army PW center. The present division sector was to be taken over by the 88th Infantry Division. Personnel were to live in tents but CPs, supply installations etc. could be in buildings. The 85th Mountain Infantry was to be located in the vicinity of Castenedello. This move meant exchanging the large villas and pleasant swimming at Lake Garda for the hot, flat Po Valley, but such are the fortunes of war.
The entire move was made by shuttling with organic transportation. The 2nd Battalion closed into its new bivouac area in a field at F109585 near Castenedello at 0600 15 May. The 1st Battalion started its move at 0800 14 May and was completely moved in by 1045 15 May at F109596. The 3rd Battalion moved on the 14th and 15th of May and closed into its bivouac area at F106598 at 1345 15 May.
The regimental CP was established in a large farmhouse between Castenedello and Brescia at F092617 and opened at 1800 14 May. HQ, Service Companies and the Medical Detachment moved into fields nearby. Except for CPs, tents were pitched in orderly fashion by all units (See Overlay of Positions 15 May).
At 0800 15 May, the regiment was alerted to move out on 24 hours notice. Battalion and company quartering parties were to move on call.
At 1540 15 May, word was received to move one battalion to F096560 along the left side of the road at the Ghedi Airport by 2100 15 May for the purpose of guarding and organizing German units. The 2nd Battalion was designated and Lt. Col. Wagner was ordered to report to General Ruffner at 0900 16 May for instructions. The entire battalion moved and closed into the new area by 1950. Tents were again pitched and the battalion CP was established at F096560.
The remainder of the regiment continued to comply with the Training Directive set forth on 10 May by Division. During off-duty hours men were permitted to visit nearby towns and the city of Brescia on pass and on 18 May, all men were trucked to Lake Garda for a half-day of swimming. The same day, the War Department film Two Down and One To Go was shown to the regiment as a follow-up to the victory in Europe.
Several changes in the regimental staff occurred during the middle part of May. Major Koeber, regimental S-2, was hospitalized 6 May for an ailment, and upon his return about 10 days later he was transferred by higher headquarters to PW work. He was replaced as regimental S-2 by Captain Reid, regimental S-1. Captain Russ Gullixson, 2nd Battalion S-1, was assigned on 10 May as regimental S-1 and his place was taken by Captain McIntyre who had been regimental S-3. Major Skinner was reassigned to the regiment on 8 May and assigned as regimental S-3.
The 1st and 3rd Battalions held retreat parades on 16 May at which time Purple Hearts were awarded to men in the battalions. Another parade was held the next day, 17 May, by the 1st Battalion for presentation of Bronze Stars by Col. Barlow.
At 0915 17 May, all units in the division were placed on a 48-hour alert status for a possible move to Udine in northeastern Italy because of trouble developing with Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia. A quartering party had been dispatched on 16 May but was recalled by plane liaison.
At 1930 18 May, Division notified the regiment that the entire division would move to Udine very shortly. The regiment was to move starting Sunday 20 May in one trip only. Extra trucks would be furnished by the division quartermaster to augment organic transportation. The quartering party left for Udine at 2330 18 May to prepare for the arrival of the regiment in the Udine area.
The 2nd Battalion was completely relieved of all duties at the Fifth Army Enemy Concentration Center at Ghedi Airport on 18th May. Relief of all division units was made by the 442nd Infantry Regiment of the 92nd Division and the 71st AAA Brigade. The battalion closed into a bivouac area at F114607 at 1445 18 May.
On 19 May, a letter was received from Capt. Levitan, 2nd Battalion surgeon, missing in action since 22 February, explaining the mystery of his disappearance. While going up the slope to the top of the Mt. Belvedere - Mt. della Torraccia Ridge to the aid of a severely wounded soldier, he took the wrong trail and was captured by the enemy. After being held within 100 yards of our lines for several hours, he was sent to the rear and ended up in a German PW camp where he remained until liberated by the surrender.
Col. Barlow was notified to report to Fifth Army Headquarters at Salo on 20 May prepared for a possible trip to the United States that was pending. During the two-day absence of Col. Barlow, Lt. Col. Wagner, CO 2nd Battalion, acted as regimental commander and reported to the regimental CP the afternoon of 19 May.
Farewell to the Po Valley and On to Udine
A complete, detailed regimental March Order (See Section VI) for the move to Udine was issued on 19 May. Compliance with the March Order was contingent on the arrival of the additional trucks from the division quartermaster.
Units of the 3rd Battalion were the first to leave on the morning of 20 May. The additional trucks failed to arrive as scheduled and the time schedule given in the March Order was seriously disrupted. Units moved when the trucks became available. The 2nd Battalion started to move in the afternoon and the first elements of the 1st Battalion left at 2215 20 May. The ten-hour trip was made via Route 11 to Vicenza, Route 53 to Treviso and Route 13 to Udine.
Upon arrival in the Udine area, all units of the regiment, except the 3rd Battalion, moved into the vicinity of Tarcento (C400365). The 3rd Battalion moved into a bivouac area (C541223) just west of Cividale off the highway and took over the positions that had been occupied the day before by elements of the 86th Mountain Infantry.
The 1st and 2nd Battalions established a tent bivouac near the east bank of the Torre River in the vicinity of Ronco (C410345). The 1st Battalion CP was opened at 411345 and the 2nd Battalion CP at 417344.
HQ Company and the Medical Detachment moved into Tarcento proper and the regiment CP was opened in the Villa Moretti overlooking the town. Service Company, the Supply Point, and the Motor Pool were established in fields at 402334 adjoining the Tarcento-Tricesimo road (See overlay of positions 22 May).
Upon arrival, each regiment was formed into a regimental combat team. RCT 85 was composed of the 85th Mountain Infantry, the 604th FA Battalion (in Tarcento), Company A 126th Engr. Battalion and Company A 10th Med. Battalion. It was enlarged on 23 May by the attachment of one platoon of tanks from the 751st Tank Battalion and again on 26 May by the attachment of Troop C, 91st Recon. Squadron.
The primary mission of the regiment in the Udine area was to prevent by peaceful means any additional western movement of Yugoslav forces and civilians. The entire area had to be screened and patrolled to determine the disposition and strength of all Italian, British, Partisan and Yugoslav forces and commanders and any change in their location and strength (See Field Message, HQ 85th Mountain Infantry 22 May). Road patrols were started and local commanders were informed that U.S. troops had now taken over military control of the area. Each battalion was assigned a zone of operation and contact was maintained with adjoining units (See overlay of Zones of Operation 26 May).
All of our men were warned to be extremely careful, especially when on guard and security during hours of darkness, and all men were required to carry arms. Every man was warned to use utmost tact and judgment in their actions and to avoid any semblance of an overt act which might inadvertently bring on armed conflict.
Aside from British Eightth Army forces, troops in the area were composed of three distinct elements: Yugoslav soldiers, most of whom left shortly after our arrival; Osoppos (Italian Partisans affiliated with the Christian Democrats) who wear green scarves; and the Garibaldis (Italian Partisans affiliated with the Communists), who wear red scarves. All three groups were well-armed and well-organized, but very few incidents occurred.
By 24 May the locating of all Osoppo, Garibaldi and Yugoslav forces had been completed by each of the battalions.
On 23 May the 1st Battalion moved from the fields adjoining the Torre River to the northern part of Tarcento and the battalion CP was established at 400375.
Troop C of the 91st Recon Squadron was attached to RCT 85 on 26 May with the mission of patrolling and protecting the road network within the regimental zone with M-S Scout cars. One platoon was assigned the 3rd Battalion area, one platoon was given the 1st and 2nd Battalion areas and the third platoon worked with the regimental Intelligence and Recon Platoon.
Three technical sergeants who had proven themselves in combat were awarded field commissions as 2nd Lieutenants on 23 May. They were T/Sgt. Robert Lewis, Company A, T/Sgt. Albert Twomey, Company F, and T/Sgt. Ian Watson, Company G.
Several more important staff changes also occurred about this time of the month. Lt. Col. Wagner, CO 2nd Battalion, left on 27 May on DS to work in the Redeployment Program at the Montecatini Rest Center. Major Skinner, regimental S-3, assumed command of the 2nd Battalion and he was replaced as regimental S-3 by Capt. Dorrington, 3rd Battalion S-3.
At 2030 25 May, Lt. Cummings, 2nd Battalion motor officer, and two men were fired upon near the bridge at 469399 in the mountains northeast of Tarcento. They returned the fire and both sides withdrew without casualties. It was believed, however, that they were fired upon by members of the Spolero Fascist Bandit Band operating in the mountains. Two Partisan battalions moved out shortly afterward to try to wipe out the Spolero Band.
By 26 May a gradual decrease in the number of Partisans in the area was very noticeable. Some were returning to their homes and the more adventuresome left to join up with Tito.
Active and thorough patrolling continued throughout the rest of May by the battalions, the I and R Platoon, and Troop C of the 91st Recon Squadron. Many civilians and Partisan leaders were frequently contacted so as to maintain an accurate check on the location and strength of all groups and to ascertain the extent of Yugoslav influence and intentions within the zone. In general, the situation remained orderly and quiet throughout the area but an air of alertness was steadily maintained. A few minor firefights between Partisan and Yugoslav elements were reported, but no trouble arose between elements of RCT 85 and Partisan or Yugoslav groups. Both Yugoslav and Partisan groups attempted to draft civilians into their units. On 29 May, instructions were issued that civilians requesting protection from violence or drafting by Yugoslav or Partisan elements were to be placed under armed protective custody and evacuated through AMG facilities.
Heavy rains created very unpleasant, muddy conditions in the 2nd Battalion bivouac area and permission was obtained to move the entire battalion to Tricesimo and vicinity. The move was made on 27 May and by 1415 the entire battalion had closed into the new area. The battalion CP was established in Tricesimo (392303).
On 28 May, three tank destroyers from Company A, 701st TD Battalion were attached to the 3rd Battalion for use in the Cividale area. The next day the 2nd Platoon of Company A, 701st TD Battalion, was attached to the 2nd Battalion in Tricesimo. However, on 30 May, both platoons were detached and returned to the parent organization.
The morning of 30 May, a special Memorial Day ceremony was conducted within each unit of the regiment in commemoration of those who gave their lives in the struggle for freedom from tyrannical rule.
One platoon from this regiment was selected as a guard-of-honor for British Field Marshal Alexander at his home at Callendon Camp (402331) between Tarcento and Tricesimo. The 1st Platoon of Company C, commanded by Lt. Donald Ferguson, was honored as the platoon to participate. They served on 30 and 31 May and returned as a guard-of-honor again in June.
On 24th May, it was announced that regular training would be resumed throughout the regiment. Battalions were instructed to select field firing ranges, submit unit problems and request ammunition for the conduction of small field exercises. Concurrently with the training, men and officers were granted short leaves to rest centers at Lake Maggiore and Venice, and hundreds visited Venice on one-day passes.
For the COMMANDING OFFICER
JOHN B. WOODRUFF
Historical Records Officer
Enclosure No. 2.
RAID ON Ramosceta BY COMPANY C
26 January 1945
(Patrol No. 428)
Planning of Raid:
On 15 Jan 45, a patrol from Company I, 86th Mountain Infantry, was fired on from the vicinity of Ramosceta (291069). Two observation patrols on 24 Jan observed 3 and 13 enemy respectively at Ramosceta.
Because of the nature of the terrain it was believed that an enemy outpost of at least 15 men was located in the vicinity of Ramosceta and it was decided to raid the outpost on 26 Jan, leaving from Montefegatesi with the following force:
Company D - 1 officer and 56 men 2 HMCs and 20,000 rounds
Company A - 1 officer and 38 men 1 81mm mortar and 110 rounds
Company C - 2 officers and 36 men
HQ Company - 3 officers and 3 men
The following guns and men in position at Montefegatesi to support the raiding party by indirect fire:
HQ Company - 19 EM and two 75mm AT howitzers
Company D - 1 officer
The plan as made by Capt. Charles P. Smith, commanding Company C, was to take his patrol to Ospedaletto and wait for Company A platoon to check houses in Ramosceta and then move on to Ospedaletto and cover Company C while they attacked. Company A platoon, with all supporting weapons attached, left Montefegatesi at 2400 on 25 Jan under Lt. H. L. Wusterbarth's command. Company C left Montefegatesi on 26 Jan at 0100 with Capt. Smith in command and Lt. M. E. Decker, the platoon leader, as his second in command.
Company A Action:
At about 0300 it began to rain and sleet. The mortar was put into position and wire strung following the patrol. At this time visibility was good about 400 feet above the mortar position. The patrol continued for another four hours. Around 0700 some houses became visible through the fog. Men were deployed, MGs placed in position and the houses searched out. At this time the patrol had been following a trail which was almost obliterated by snow. Visibility was approximately 30 yards. The patrol continued climbing and moving in the general direction of the objective. At around 0900 the CO, Company D, informed the battalion CO that his men were in a bad way due to their loads and weather. It was raining with occasional sleet. All men were drenched to the skin and morale was very low. Permission was granted CO, Company D, to find shelter, eat cold rations and await further instructions. The platoon leader of Company A and his platoon continued on toward the objective. At 0930 the platoon leader, Company A, reported he was not sure of his location, whereupon the battalion CO sent his S-2, Lt. I. H. Johnson, forward to give directions for the route the patrol was to follow. At the time we were 600 meters from the objective, Lt. Johnson moved from the rear of the platoon to take over the direction of the patrol. Also, at this time, the morale was the lowest among the men during the entire trip. The mortar men had been sent back due to no visibility. The machine gunner had dropped out of the patrol. The men were soaking wet, hungry, cold and near exhaustion. Lt. Johnson, following behind the two scouts, directed the patrol on the route to Ramosceta where we were fired upon.
When the patrol was fired on from Ramosceta the visibility was so poor that the sound of the enemy weapons was the only way to locate them.
Before returning the fire the battalion CO checked over the radio to be sure Company C was not firing at the patrol. Company C had become lost and was some 500 yards to our left rear. Under the direction of the patrol leader the men were worked into firing position and returned the enemy fire. The patrol leader took one squad, worked around to the very rear, captured a machine gunner with an MG 42.
Shortly after the firefight started, the CO, Company C, was ordered to move up the hill and join in the fight as he had the bazooka and rifle grenades. There was considerable delay while the battalion CO believed Company C to be on the way to join in the fight with weapons to shoot into the buildings. When the CO, Company C, arrived, he stated that the platoon was following. When told to return and get the platoon, the CO, Company C, returned in about ten minutes and reported that the platoon could not be located.
The MG, Company D, at the start of the fire fight had been ordered forward and arrived on the scene at 1130. MG fire was delivered into the building from 60 yards and later 30 yards.
No bazookas having arrived, the Company A platoon entered the building and dug three additional prisoners out of a cellar.
One dead German was left in front of the house. Two German and two Italian prisoners were brought to battalion CP and then sent to Division. The two scouts, both wounded, were moved into a barn 400 yards from the scene of the action. One of our wounded died a short time after.
The CO, Company A, accompanied by the battalion surgeon, brought a litter team to the wounded and organized a jeep convoy to move the various elements of the patrol back to Bagni di Lucca. The last men returned to Bagni di Lucca at 0230 the morning of 27 Jan.
The platoon of Company A, once they were in the fight, performed in a very creditable manner and carried the fight to a successful conclusion. A flanking force left the enemy position at the start of the fight, but had barely left the house when, realizing they were greatly outnumbered, they withdrew north, firing as they withdrew.
Enclosure No. 3.
RAID ON Ramosceta BY COMPANY C
30 January 1945
(Patrol No. 447)
On 28 January a reconnaissance patrol was sent to Ramosceta. From there they observed 8 enemy near a house at 292084. Enemy were later observed digging positions around this house, from the battalion OP.
Therefore, it was planned to make a raid on this objective to capture prisoners at 292084, and Company C was assigned the mission.
Trail reconnaissance had been made as far as Barbazzina 273072 so it was known to be quite passable to that point, but from observation the terrain appeared quite difficult to negotiate beyond and toward the objective. From the battalion OP the whole route and objective were visible and from there the battalion staff and patrol leaders made a detailed study of the proposed route. It was decided that the patrol would follow a trail two-thirds of the way up the side of a ridge running south from Rondonaio 274087. This would take them within a mile of the objective. However, from the end of the trail it was determined a climb would be necessary in order to strike the objective from above.
In order to have surprise in favor of the raiding party, a twelve-man patrol led by an officer was to provide a diversionary action near Mandria 288055.
For flank protection another squad led by an officer was to be on the high ground to the left of the main force. Two 75mm howitzers were to give support from a rear position 272026 and a forward observer was to be with the raiders.
Radio contact was arranged between the raider, the battalion OP, the aid station, the diversionary patrol, the forward observer, and the 75mm howitzers, all being on the same channel. A litter team and 2 medics were to accompany the raiders with their aid station set up at 275044.
Attack to be made at dawn. Patrols to leave at 2000, 27 January, in order to be in position to attack on time.
All participants were thoroughly briefed the preceding day, 29 January, by Capt. Smith of Company C.
Composition and Armament:
Company C: 3 officers and 48 EM
Company D: 1 officer (Lt. Lunn) and 13 EM
HQ Company: OP at 292032 with wire communication to
75mm howitzers and battalion CP
1 300 radio
2 75mm howitzers from cannon platoon
On the evening of 29 January at 2000 the raiding party left Monte di Villa. They were jeeped to a point beyond Tereglio 250021. From this point, movement was by foot on a trail considerably above the jeep road following the left side of the canyon. Climbing to this trail started at 2230. Scouts searched out the area ahead of the patrol to prevent ambush. When the patrol reached the point where it was necessary to climb in order to get above the target, they encountered hard-crusted snow and it became necessary to cut or pick steps on the steep sides of the mountain. This slowed the patrol to such an extent that dawn came while the party was still six to seven hundred yards from its objective.
At this time, 0730, Capt. Smith ordered the FO to deliver cannon fire on the vicinity to the right front in order to distract the enemy which as yet had no knowledge of the raid. The men of the patrol did not advance under the cannon fire, instead hit the ground. When the overhead fire was shifted to the right, the men again began to work forward to the last ridge between the enemy and objective. After about two hours of work the patrol was able to reach the protection of this ridge, but not without three men losing their footing and falling down the mountainside. One of these required prompt evacuation.
At this point a firing line was set up and cannon fire was ordered to be delivered upon the house 212084. Time 1115.
The patrol was also aided by distracting fire delivered by Lt. Lunn's patrol around the buildings 300 yards south of 288058. This unit spotted what may be OPs or mortar positions at 305086 and 303089.
When it became apparent that the enemy was not going to be driven from the house where they could be shot by the men on our firing line, the battalion CO from his OP ordered the patrol to move in on the house. The diversion patrol was ordered up to a position where it could assist the fire fight at 1330.
Lt. Decker organized the assault group while another group remained in position to deliver covering fire. The assault jumped off at 1330. Halfway to the target, one enemy from his post south of the house surrendered and came toward Lt. Decker. One NCO, Sgt. LaCoe, slipped from his position in the assault group and when he recovered himself at the bottom of the ravine, three Italians approached him to surrender.
Artillery fire (75mm) was supporting the assault group. Observation was difficult to obtain and many rounds were lost. When 40 rounds had been fired, the fire direction was shifted to Lt. R. S. Johnson at battalion OP, but results were not improved. Lt. Bensel then took over direction again and kept up a slow deliberate fire on the target area until our troops were within 150 yards of the objective. 89 rounds had been expended when the order to withdraw came at 1530.
The diversion patrol at this time, 1515, was subjected to two rounds of long-range rifle fire which was ineffective. They scouted out the houses in the vicinity of 286068. From a covered position of observation, two enemy with rifles were seen at 285069 behind some rocks. An attempt to capture them resulted in their withdrawal.
At 1530 mortar fire from unknown positions began to fall near both patrols. The raiding party was ordered to withdraw and while doing so picked up two more prisoners at the bottom of the ravine.
Before all men of the patrol could be moved out of danger, they had received from 50 to 75 rounds of heavy mortar fire in the space of one hour. 15 rounds were received by Lt. Lunnís patrol, the rest was divided between the base of fire and the assault patrol. Deep snow and poor aim were credited for preventing casualties from mortar fire.
The diversion patrol remained in position covering the withdrawal of the raiding party and then withdrew itself. It reached bridge 282062 at 1630.
No casualties were sustained except the injuries received in falls from the mountainside.
Six prisoners were taken. One Italian lieutenant was observed by Lt. Decker lying at the base of some rocks which he had probably fallen from. He appeared to have been dead for more than 12 hours.
The patrols were jeeped back to Bagni di Lucca from jeep-head 275044 at 1700.
Enclosure No. 4.
Lt. Irving H. Johnson, S-2, 1st Battalion, 85th Mountain Infantry, on 7 February submitted a summary of patrol lessons and observations gathered during the period of patrolling by 1st Battalion units from 21 Jan to 6 Feb.
1. Reconnaissance and Observation Patrols:
Most of these were 12-man, one-day, daylight and officer-led patrols.
Armed with 1 BAR, 2 submachine guns, two ë03s, 1 carbine and 6 M-1s. Patrol leader and NCO have binoculars and compasses.
Clothing: Mountain jacket, no helmets, shoepacs or Vermont boots when available and a few improvised whites. GI gloves not warm; men should have shells with liner.
Over-snow equipment: Until 5 Feb there was not enough over-snow equipment to outfit a patrol, i.e., had skis but no poles. Snowshoes unsatisfactory in most cases because of steep slopes. Crampons needed.
Lessons learned: Long patrols in mountain country should be overnight. (We were unable to do this because of lack of sleeping bags.)
Reconnaissance and observation patrols should be small, squad or less.
Be extremely careful about firing at suspected enemy until sure of identification.
All patrols must follow prescribed route and know position of all other patrols.
Make specific reports such as : Snow 18" deep, powder, drifts, skis can be used to advantage, trail width, steepness of grade in degrees and sharp switchbacks good only for foot troops of size no larger than platoon because of lack of cover.
Patrol leaders still cannot accurately follow mapped routes.
Improvements: More map study, better equipment and sun glasses, windproof clothing and climbing equipment.
Methods of observation: One man look for moving objects with eye, one search peaks, ridges, all high ground with binoculars, one search valleys, gullies, etc. with binoculars for emplacements and tracks. Binoculars for further identification of any persons or animals spotted by one observing with eye. Check trails, roads, and buildings for movement or occupancy. Telescope very helpful.
Things to look for: Dugouts, foxholes for MG or rifle, mortar positions, bunkers, caves (possibly occupied), buildings which show fresh tracks about, or smoke. Men digging, men observing. Patrol size, equipment, direction of movement, position observed at, place came from, time. Aerial photos are very helpful.
Enemy action: Digging in; few patrols; not aggressive; digging foxholes for OPs; MG and riflemen; enemy placements for mortars; possible bunkers.
Enemy reaction: Surrender or withdraw when opposing force shows signs of superiority.
2. Combat Patrols:
Varied in size from 60 to 200 men, armed with at least two bazookas per patrol with BARs and submachine guns supported by MG sections and mortar sections, 75 cannon and about half of the men armed with M-1s.
PWs captured: 2 German, 8 Italians. Casualties (our own): 1 killed, 1 wounded.
1. Have men review first-aid training.
2. Don't have more than one patrol on the same mission to attack from different route. Deploy after objective is reached.
3. Detailed reconnaissance is vital to the success of a raid.
4. Allow a large proportion of time as a safety factor in planning TDs for troop movement over rough terrain.
5. Keep plans as simple as possible.
6. Be sure all leaders understand their mission and above all, how to orient their maps to the ground.
7. Expect to have to push men into battle. They will not always be led.
8. Men still do not appreciate the use of artillery in battle and are too much afraid of own artillery.
9. Have alternate radio operators with each radio on long patrols.
10. Much effect of artillery and mortar fire is lost in deep snow.
Enclosure No. 6.
RAID ON MT. SPIGOLINO
5 February 1945
Report compiled from a critique held immediately at the conclusion of this operation and attended by all whose names appear herein:
Force G commanded by Capt. Otis F. Halvorson O-290765 left Vizzaneta (417053) at 0417053A Feb and the point squad reached the eastern crest of Mt. Spigolino at approximately 050700A Feb without being observed. The leader of this squad, 2nd Lt. Hannu E. Tiesmaki O-1327682 reconnoitered the northern slope of Mt. Spigolino and found the known enemy positions to be in exactly the place expected.
Main body under command of 2nd Lt. John B. Clayton O-1326128 arrived approximately 050730A and formed a base of fire, Lt. Clayton assisted by Lt. Tiesmaki and T/Sgt. Andrew F. Lopez 32017160, which succeeded in getting into position unobserved by approximately 050750A. Security groups and LMGs were posted as on sketch.
An enemy observer was noticed at Point C (sketch) and fire was opened. Fire was returned by the enemy, but friendly fire was so intense and accurate that total enemy fire throughout the action consisted of 3 wild bursts of LMG fire, several inaccurate rifle shots, and one rifle grenade that exploded harmlessly about 50 yards to the left of the base of fire.
Recon had disclosed that enemy position had dead space to his right front and an assault team composed of 2nd Lt. Hannu E. Tiesmaki O-1327682 SMG and four men succeeded in working up draw (see route on attached sketch) to point near enemy position at about 050830A. In the meantime, S/Sgt. Jack H. Troxel 18046364 worked his way straight ahead under cover of base of fire to a point about 30 yards above Point A where he was firing into enemy position and throwing grenades into it. At this time enemy machine gunner in C attempted to raise up and fire. Converging fire by BARs at base of fire immediately blew the top of his head off and the assault group charged, 2nd Lt. Tiesmaki and S/Sgt. Murphy finishing off the enemy at A with submachine guns.
One enemy then walked out of dugout and surrendered, ordered by S/Sgt. Murphy to Bring your buddy out, he returned and brought out the second prisoner. S/Sgt. Murphy, hearing sounds in the dugout, threw in 2 more grenades and the noise ceased. He entered but found nothing (at IPW pt, the two prisoners stated that three men had been killed at the position indicated and that probably this third dead enemy was in a dark corner of the dugout). The dead enemy was searched and three rifles and 1 LMG 42 were taken from the position.
At this time, Pfc. Duane C. Whitehead on security duty at (overlay) noted a 5-man ski patrol approaching and ordered Pfc. Daniel A. Profeto to get one of the LMGs. Before the LMG reached his position, the enemy patrol started to turn off to the south, increasing the range so Pfc. Whitehead opened fire, hitting one man who went down, then picked himself up and started to withdraw. Pfc. Whitehead fired again and believed the man fell again into a bush. At this time, the LMG of Sgt. James A. Winters 39618789, with No. 1 gunner Russell A. Buehlhorn 36669976 came up and opened fire. Two men escaped, one fell and did not move again (was observed for the next 20 minutes) and one other fixed a white cloth to his ski pole. He was motioned forward, and was about halfway up to the group when he managed to jump behind a cornice and escape. At this time, the group was forced to withdraw with balance of the force. (This paragraph and attached overlay are approximate as none of the personnel concerned had maps.)
Entire force withdrew at 050920.
Result of Operation:
Losses to enemy were two prisoners, two known enemy killed, two believed killed and one possibly dead.
One LMG 42 and three rifles captured. No casualty or loss of equipment to attackers.
Field Artillery: None fired, but forward observation was prepared to deliver observed fire at all times.
A. M-1 rifles were dry when taken out. It was found that occasional stoppages would occur after the weapon became heated by firing, and would sweat and freeze. It was advisable to crack the bolt occasionally to prevent this.
B. BARs were dry and functioned perfectly.
C. LMGs were dry and functioned well.
D. Rocket launchers functioned well but were ineffective. Of 22 rounds expended only one exploded. Firing was at extreme range 400 yards and wobble of projectiles and poor angle of impact prevented detonation.
E. Fragmentation grenades with adapter proved too short of range for effective fire and attacking force lacked booster charges. One effective air burst was fired by moving close to enemy position.
F. Signal communication, Artillery SCR 609 and Infantry SCR 300 was loud and clear at line-of-sight range of 2400 yards. Artillery SCR 609 had difficulty keeping up during the climb.
G. Partisan guides with the party proved valuable aides in maintaining direction and selecting routes.
H. AM vests proved invaluable as they were much less tiring to carry than AM in belts. Long parkas proved tiring as they tend to bind the legs and also lacked pockets on the white side. The cap, pile, alpaca was much favored as it is less irritating than the cap, wool, knit. But can still be worn under the helmet. The crampons being made locally proved superior for the present snow and ice conditions, except for bindings which occasionally fail, and are very unsuitable when worn with shoepacs.
I. It was found that gum-chewing cut coughing almost 100%.
J. It was found that though this climate is bitterly cold, at the halt overheating starts rapidly and the absolute minimum of clothing must be worn at the start of a hard climb.
Enclosure No. 1.
COMBAT PATROL TO HILL 695 BY COMPANY K
19-20 March 45
Patrol No. 307, made up of 25 EM and 1 officer, Lt. Kavtis, left at 1900, its mission to take PWs.
While investigating Hill 695 (622269), the patrol drew enemy fire from bunkers south of the hill. They engaged in a firefight in which an estimated 8 enemy were killed and 3 of our own men were wounded by Kraut hand-grenades. The radio was damaged by the first grenade.
During the firefight the patrol was split into three groups. The first group consisted of one half-squad and the platoon guide and was placed at 621268. The second group, one squad, was placed at 749 (623268). The remaining half-squad and the platoon leader proceeded to 695 to take up the firefight. The return fire was very intense and no Krauts gave themselves up, so after one half-hour, at 0130, the patrol withdrew, abandoning the damaged radio at 695. The patrol returned at 0400, because they had no communication. All houses were cleared at 749 and 621268, but the mission was not accomplished.
The finding of another radio (300) earlier in the evening partly made up for the loss of the patrol's set, but because of damage to the headset wire, it could not be used.