Battle of the Trigno, 27 October-4 November 1943

Battle of the Trigno, 27 October-4 November 1943

The battle of the Trigno (27 October-4 November 1943) saw the Eighth Army overcome the second of a series of German defensive positions on the Adriatic coast of Italy, in the aftermath of the initial landings in the south.

The invasion began with an Eighth Army landing at the tip of Calabria on 3 September. This was followed by another Eighth Army landing at Taranto and the Fifth Army landing at Salerno on 9 September. The Salerno beachhead was subjected to a serious German counterattack, but this was eventually defeated, and the Fifth Army advanced to the Volturno Line, the first of the many German defensive lines in Italy. This followed the Volturno in the west and the Biferno in the east.

On the Adriatic coast the Eighth Army had penetrated the German defences on the Biferno at the start of October, but Montgomery then requested permission to pause while he sorted out his lines of communication. This gave the Germans time to retreat to the Trigno, and to reinforce the defences of the Adriatic coast. These troops were formed into the 76th Panzer Corps, under General Herr. The 16th Panzer Division was on the coast, with the 1st Paratroop Division next in line, followed by the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division and finally the 26th Panzer Division on the right, beyond the Trigno valley. The Eighth Army advance had forced the Germans to move three divisions across to the Adriatic to support the paratroops, but they now had a good defensive position in mountainous territory.

Montgomery reorganised his army after the battle of the Biferno. For that battle 13th Corps had been made up of the 1st Canadian Division on the left and the 78th Division on the right, and was placed in the lead. The 5th Corps had the 5th Division and 8th Indian Division and was on the left-rear, guarding the flanks of the advancing 13th Corps.

Montgomery now gave the coastal front to 5th Corps, which kept the 8th Indian Division and gained the 78th Division and 4th Armoured Brigade, veterans of the fighting on the Biferno. 13th Corps was placed on the left to guard the sector from Larino to the Matese mountains. It kept the 1st Canadian Division, and gained the 5th Division, which was inserted into the front between the Canadians and the 78th Division. 13th Corps would face the 26th Panzer Division in the mountains, while 5th Corps had the task of breaking through the German defences, reaching Pescara and then threatening Rome from the north east. However October saw the start of a period of very heavy rain, which caused rivers to rise and turned the ground to mud, making all offensive operations much more difficult

The German defences on the Trigno were a continuation of the Barbara Line, taking it from the upper reaches of the Volturno, across the spine of the Apennines and along the line of the river. However the battle was conducted almost entirely separately on each side of the Apennines. Near the east coast there was a flood plain across the river, and the Germans held the ridges to the west of the plain. Further inland the river ran through a steeper valley.

There was about a 10-12 mile gap between the Biferno and the Trigno, which required a number of preliminary operations to secure. 56 Recce and the Royal West Kents took Montecilfone, ten miles to the south-wet of Termoli. The Recce then took Montenero, five miles to the north west. On the coast the Irish Brigade pushed out patrols as far as Petacciato, two thirds of the way between the two rivers. The Irish then captured Petacciato village on the night of 19-20 October, and followed this up with the capture of Petacciato ridge, to the south-west. Early on 23 October the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers attempted to capture a bridge over the river, but it was blown before they reached it. The Irish were still able to get across the river and establish a narrow bridgehead. On the coast the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers also established a bridgehead over the river.

The next major attack was planned for 3 November. It would be preceded by diversionary attacks by 13th Corps in the mountains and the 8th Indian Division. The 36th Brigade, supported by the 6th Inniskillings and tanks from the 46th Royal Tank Regiment, 23 Armoured Brigade, would attack towards San Salvo. On the coast 11 Brigade would attack San Salvo railway station on the coastal railway. The Navy would bombard Vasto, three miles up the coast.

In the mountains the Canadians were ordered to attack west/ north-west from Vinchiaturo towards the communications centre of Isernia, moving along a large valley in the heart of the mountains. By 24 October the Canadians had taken Colle d’Anchise, to the north of the valley, and Bojano, to the south. By 27 October they had cleared the area between Molise and Torella, to the north of the valley. The Germans withdrew to a new position at the western end of the valley, running north from Cantalupo. On 29-30 October the Canadians attacked towards Cantalup, which fell on 30 October. The Canadian advance left Isernia untenable. The Germans pulled out on 4 November, just as the 13th Brigade was planning to send the Wiltshires to attack into the town. On the night of 4-5 November a patrol from the Inniskillings beat them into the town, and to make it clear painted the regimental badge on every available surface. The Wiltshires arrived soon afterwards, to find the town already in Allied hands. Shortly afterwards an American patrol from the Fifth Army entered from the south, also expecting to be first into the town, but finding themselves third.

Ten miles to the left of the main attack the 8th Indian Division was given the task of taking Tufillo, a dramatically placed hilltop village to the west of the Trigno. This was defended by the 3rd Parachute Regiment, and the first attack, on the night of 1-2 November, was repulsed. A second attack early on 3 November was repulsed, as was a night attack on 3-4 November. Tufillo was finally abandoned by the Germans on the night of 4-5 November after their position at San Salvo collapsed, and the village was taken by the Indians on 5 November. Three miles to the south-west another part of the division took Celenza without any problems.

The main attack began on 2 November with a naval and artillery bombardment of the 16th Panzer Division position. On 3 November the 5th Buffs and 6th Inniskillings attacked towards San Salvo, and hit the boundary between two German battalions. The village had fallen by noon. The station took longer to take, but by the end of the day the Germans had decided to pull back towards Vasto. On the night of 3-4 November the West Kents were held up by a German rearguard west of San Salvo, but the Argylls then forced the Germans to retreat. A German attempt to hold Vasto failed, and they had to retreat to the Sangro. The 78th Division reached the Sangro by 9 November. The division held a line from Paglieta to Monte Calvo. On the left the 8th Indian Division wasn’t quite as far forward, with brigades at Atessa, Gissi, Castiglione and Torrebruna, in the mountains between the Trigno and the Sangro.

These successes forced the Germans to pull back to the Sangro, just a few miles short of the eastern end of the Gustav Line. The defences along the Sangro are sometimes seen as part of the Bernhardt Line and sometimes as the outlying elements of the Gustav Line itself, but in either case the Eighth Army would have to fight hard to get through them. The 78th Division followed up, and reached the Sangro by 8 November, but wet weather intervened, and there was another pause in the fighting.

Battle of the Treasury Islands

The Battle of the Treasury Islands was a Second World War battle that took place between 27 October Ώ] and 12 November 1943 ΐ] on the Treasury Islands group part of the Solomon Islands Δ] as part of the Pacific Theatre. The Allied invasion of the Japanese held island group intended to secure Mono and Stirling Islands so that a radar station could be constructed on the former and the latter be used as a staging area for an assault on Bougainville. The attack on the Treasury Islands would serve the long term allied strategy of isolating Bougainville and Rabaul and the elimination of the 24,000 strong garrison in the area. Ε]

The invasion, to be conducted primarily by the New Zealand Army, supported by American forces, was codenamed Operation Goodtime. Α] The New Zealand 8th Infantry Brigade Group, Α] assigned to the United States' I Marine Amphibious Corps, launched the invasion of the Treasury Islands at 06:06 hours on 27 October. Ώ] 3,795 men landed in the assault wave with the remainder of the Allied force landing in four waves during the following 20 days. Β] The operation was the first amphibious assault launched by New Zealand troops since the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915. Ζ]

On 1 November the flag was raised over the ruins of Falamae, the islands' capital, and civil administration was restored. Eleven days later the islands were declared clear of Japanese forces although Japanese holdouts were sighted in the jungles into January 1944. ΐ]

The operation, in conjunction with Operation Blissful, served to divert the attention of the Japanese Seventeenth Army from the next major Allied target in the Solomon Islands campaign. Α] The success of the operation also helped to improve the planning of subsequent landings in the Pacific. ΐ]

The Battle of El Alamein begins

In June, the British had succeeded in driving Rommel into a defensive position in Libya. But Rommel repelled repeated air and tank attacks, delivering heavy losses to the armored strength of the British, and finally, using his panzer divisions, managed to force a British retreat𠅊 retreat so rapid that a huge quantity of supplies was left behind. In fact, Rommel managed to push the British into Egypt using mostly captured vehicles.

Rommel’s Afrika Korps was now in Egypt, in El Alamein, only 60 miles west of the British naval base in Alexandria. The Axis powers smelled blood. The Italian troops that had preceded Rommel’s German forces in North Africa, only to be beaten back by the British, then saved from complete defeat by the arrival of Rommel, were now back on the winning side, their dwindled numbers having fought alongside the Afrika Korps. Naturally, Benito Mussolini saw this as his opportunity to partake of the victors’ spoils. And Hitler anticipated adding Egypt to his empire.

But the Allies were not finished. Reinforced by American supplies, and reorganized and reinvigorated by British Generalꂾrnard Montgomery, British, Indian, South African and New Zealand troops battled Rommel, and his by now exhausted men, to a standstill in Egypt. Montgomeryꃞnied the Axis Egypt. Rommel was back on the defensive𠅊 definite turning point in the war in North Africa.


Metz is located between the rivers Moselle and Seille. The fortifications of Metz consisted of several forts and observation posts with connecting entrenchments and tunnels. The city had fallen to the German forces when France was defeated in 1940. [3] Following the fall of France, the city was immediately annexed to the Third Reich, as were most districts previously annexed to the Reich that had been lost in 1918. Most of the Nazi dignitaries assumed it was obvious that Metz, where so many German army officers were born, [note 1] was a German city. At that time, the Wehrmacht did not consider it an important location and the city's defenses were reduced with many guns and equipment removed, although the fortifications were still heavily defended and well armed. [4]

However, after the Allied "break out" from the lodgement established by the Normandy landings, the U.S. Third Army raced 400 miles across France, with the German forces retreating in disorder. As Third Army supply lines became stretched, material (especially gasoline) became scarce, and Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower called a halt to the Third Army advance so that supplies could be stockpiled for Operation Market Garden, an attempt to break into the vital (and heavily industrialized) German Ruhr Valley in the north. This pause by Third Army gave the Germans time to reorganize and fortify Metz, in an attempt to contain the Allied advance. [4]

By the end of August 1944, German forces in Lorraine had managed to reestablish a defensive line around Metz and Nancy. According to an order issued by Hitler in March 1944, fortress commanders were to hold their positions at all costs, surrendering only with Hitler's approval, which he would never give. Metz was surrounded by forts built by the Germans between 1870 and 1919, then allowed to decay by the French, who possessed the Lorraine region until it was retaken by Germany in 1940. The German commanders of the Metz forts were required to follow Hitler's "hold at all costs" order when attacked, in September 1944, by the U.S. Third Army led by General George S. Patton, who had reached Verdun before Eisenhower's order to halt the advance and conserve supplies. Hitler understood the pause was due to a supply shortage, and would not last, and he recognized that the Third Army posed a threat to the Saar region of Germany. [4] Hitler ordered his commanders to hold the Allies "as far west as possible," to give time for the strengthening of the West Wall, which had been depleted to build up the Atlantic Wall.

The defense of Metz was undertaken by the German First Army, commanded by General Otto von Knobelsdorff. The number of German troops positioned in the vicinity of Metz was equivalent to four and a half divisions. [4]

Armored elements of the United States XX Corps, while on a reconnaissance operation in the direction of the Moselle, made contact with elements from the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division on 6 September 1944. On 18 September, U.S. reconnaissance units encountered Wehrmacht Panzergrenadiers again. The U.S. forces had not expected the German forces to be in the area, and had to bring together their units that were spread out. [4] Several small scale attacks were made by the U.S. forces after this encounter.

The first U.S. attack was launched by the 95th Infantry Division, in which they attempted to capture a bridgehead to the north of Metz. This attack was repelled by the German forces, as was another attack on the city that followed. In another attack, the US forces captured a small bridgehead across the Moselle to the south of Metz. [4]

By the end of September, German forces positioned to the north had moved to the southern area of Metz. Some troops were also withdrawn from Metz. After this development, the XII Corps launched another attack but was countered by the German defenders. In the following two weeks, the U.S. forces limited themselves to small scale attacks and patrolling in the Metz area. During this time, the XX Corps underwent a training program, experimenting with methods of reducing the defenses of the fortress. By this time, the U.S. command had decided to attack Metz from its rear, coming from the east. [4]

On 3 November a new attack was launched by the U.S. forces, which resulted in the capture of the outer defenses with the aid of the tactics developed during the training process. On 14 November Generalleutnant Heinrich Kittel was appointed as the new commander of the German forces. [5] By 17 November, U.S. forces had managed to isolate most of the forts, and were attacking the city. German forces had been retreating since 17 November, and U.S. forces pursued them for the following two days. [6] U.S. forces entered Metz on 18 November, and on 21 November Kittel was wounded and subsequently captured. Although the city itself was captured by U.S. forces and hostilities formally ceased on 22 November, the remaining isolated forts continued to hold out. [4] [7]

Direct assault was forbidden against the holdout forts in order to preserve artillery ammunition for the XX Corps' advance to the Sarre River and the isolated forts subsequently surrendered one by one following the surrender of Fort Verdun on 26 November. By the end of November, several forts were still holding out. The last of the forts at Metz to surrender was Fort Jeanne d'Arc, which capitulated to the U.S. III Corps on 13 December. [8]

Although the battle resulted in defeat for the German forces, it served the intended purpose of the German command of halting the advance of the U.S. Third Army for three months, enabling retreating German forces to make an organized withdrawal to the Sarre river and to organize their defenses. The level of casualties for both sides are unknown but high. [9]

The Germans were surprised at the American approach on the battlefield. Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz, C.O of Armeegruppe G, reviewed Patton's decision to launch a headlong attack straight into the fortifications of Metz by saying:

"A direct attack on Metz was unnecessary. in contrast a swerve northward in the direction of Luxemburg and Bitburg would have met with greater success and caused our 1st Army's right flank collapsed followed by the breakdown of our 7th Army."

The military strategist and historian Liddel Hart remarked:

"Patton's 3rd Army began to cross the Moselle as early as 5 September, yet was little farther forward 2 weeks later - or indeed two months later." [10]


Italy was a member of the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary. Despite this, in the years before the war, Italy had enhanced its diplomatic relationships with the United Kingdom and France. This was because the Italian government had grown convinced that support of Austria (the traditional enemy of Italy during the 19th century Risorgimento) would not gain Italy the territories it wanted: Trieste, Istria, Zara and Dalmatia, all Austrian possessions. In fact, a secret agreement signed with France in 1902 sharply conflicted with Italy's membership in the Triple Alliance.

A few days after the outbreak of the war, on 3 August 1914, the government, led by the conservative Antonio Salandra, declared that Italy would not commit its troops, maintaining that the Triple Alliance had only a defensive stance and Austria-Hungary had been the aggressor. Thereafter Salandra and the minister of Foreign Affairs, Sidney Sonnino, began to probe which side would grant the best reward for Italy's entrance in the war or its neutrality. Although the majority of the cabinet (including former Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti) was firmly against intervention, numerous intellectuals, including Socialists such as Ivanoe Bonomi, Leonida Bissolati, and, after 18 October 1914, Benito Mussolini, declared in favour of intervention, which was then mostly supported by the Nationalist and the Liberal parties. Pro-interventionist socialists believed that, once that weapons had been distributed to the people, they could have transformed the war into a revolution.

The negotiation with Central Powers to keep Italy neutral failed: after victory Italy was to get Trentino but not the South Tyrol, part of the Austrian Littoral but not Trieste, maybe Tunisia but only after the end of the war while Italy wanted them immediately. The negotiation with the Allies led to the London Pact (26 April 1915), signed by Sonnino without the approval of the Italian Parliament. According to the Pact, after victory Italy was to get Trentino and the South Tyrol up to the Brenner Pass, the entire Austrian Littoral (with Trieste), Gorizia and Gradisca (Eastern Friuli) and Istria (but without Fiume), parts of western Carniola (Idrija and Ilirska Bistrica) and north-western Dalmatia with Zara and most of the islands, but without Split. Other agreements concerned the sovereignty of the port of Valona, the province of Antalya in Turkey and part of the German colonies in Africa.

On 3 May 1915 Italy officially revoked the Triple Alliance. In the following days Giolitti and the neutralist majority of the Parliament opposed declaring war, while nationalist crowds demonstrated in public areas for it. (The nationalist poet Gabriele D'Annunzio called this period le radiose giornate di Maggio—"the sunny days of May"). Giolitti had the support of the majority of Italian parliament so on 13 May Salandra offered his resignation to King Victor Emmanuel III, but then Giolitti learned that the London Pact was already signed: fearful of a conflict between the Crown and the Parliament and the consequences on both internal stability and foreign relationships, Giolitti accepted the fait accompli, declined to succeed as prime minister and Salandra's resignation was not accepted. On 23 May, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary. This was followed by declarations of war on the Ottoman Empire (21 August 1915, [2] following an ultimatum of 3 August), Bulgaria (19 October 1915) and the German Empire (28 August 1916). [3]

The front on the Austro-Hungarian border was 650 km (400 mi) long, stretching from the Stelvio Pass to the Adriatic Sea. Italian forces were numerically superior but this advantage was negated by the difficult terrain. Further, the Italians lacked strategic and tactical leadership. The Italian commander-in-chief was Luigi Cadorna, a staunch proponent of the frontal assault whose tactics cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Italian soldiers. His plan was to attack on the Isonzo front, with the dream of breaking over the Karst Plateau into the Carniolan Basin, taking Ljubljana and threatening the Austro-Hungarian Empire's capital Vienna. It was a Napoleonic plan, which had no realistic chance of success in an age of barbed wire, machine guns, and indirect artillery fire, combined with hilly and mountainous terrain. [4]

Opening shots Edit

The first shells were fired in the dawn of 24 May 1915 against the enemy positions of Cervignano del Friuli, which was captured a few hours later. On the same day the Austro-Hungarian fleet bombarded the railway stations of Manfredonia and Ancona. The first Italian casualty was Riccardo Di Giusto.

The main effort was to be concentrated in the Isonzo and Vipava valleys and on the Karst plateau, in the direction of Ljubljana. The Italian troops had some initial successes, but as in the Western Front, the campaign soon evolved into trench warfare. The main difference was that the trenches had to be dug in the Alpine rocks and glaciers instead of in the mud, and often up to 3,000 m (9,800 ft) of altitude.

In the first months of the war Italy launched the following offensives:

In these first four battles, the Italian Army registered 60,000 fatalities and more than 150,000 wounded, equivalent to around one fourth of the mobilized forces. The offensive in the upper Cadore, near the Col di Lana, though secondary, blocked large Austro-Hungarian contingents, since it menaced their main logistic lines in Tyrol.

Italian offensives of 1916–1917 Edit

This stalemate dragged on for the whole of 1916. While the Austro-Hungarians amassed large forces in Trentino, the Italian command launched the Fifth Battle of the Isonzo, lasting for eight days from 11 March 1916. This attempt was also fruitless.

In June the Austro-Hungarian counter-offensive (dubbed "Strafexpedition", "Punishment Expedition") broke through in Trentino and occupied the whole Altopiano di Asiago. The Italian Army managed however to contain the offensive and the enemy retreated in order to strengthen its position in the Carso. On 4 August began the Sixth Battle of the Isonzo which, five days later, led to the Italian conquest of Gorizia, at the cost of 20,000 dead and 50,000 wounded. The year ended with three new offensives:

The price was a further 37,000 dead and 88,000 wounded for the Italians, again for no remarkable conquest. In late 1916, the Italian army advanced for some kilometers in Trentino, while, for the whole winter of 1916–1917, the situation in the Isonzo front remained stationary. In May and June was the Tenth Battle of the Isonzo. The Battle of Mount Ortigara (10–25 June) was Cadorna's attempt to conquer back some territories in Trentino which had remained under Austro-Hungarian control. On 18 August 1917 began the most important Italian offensive, the Eleventh Battle of the Isonzo. This time the Italian advance was initially successful as the Bainsizza Plateau southeast of Tolmino was captured, but the Italian army outran its artillery and supply lines, thus preventing the further advance that could have finally succeeded in breaking the Austro-Hungarian army. The Austro-Hungarian line ultimately held and the attack was abandoned on 12 September 1917.

Austro-Hungarian offensives of 1917–1918 Edit

Though the last Italian offensive had proven inconclusive, the Austro-Hungarians were in strong need of reinforcements. These became available when Russia crumbled and troops from the Eastern front, the Trentino front and Flanders were secretly concentrated on the Isonzo front.

On 24 October 1917, the Central Powers troops broke through the Italian lines in the upper Isonzo at Caporetto (the modern Kobarid) and routed the 2nd Italian Army. The Italian army commanders had been informed of a probable enemy attack, but had underestimated it and did not realize the danger posed by the infiltration tactics developed by Germans.

From Caporetto the Austro-Hungarians advanced for 150 km (93 mi) south-west, reaching Udine after only four days. The defeat of Caporetto caused the disintegration of the whole Italian front of the Isonzo. The situation was re-established by forming a stop line on the Tagliamento and then on the Piave rivers, but at the price of 10,000 dead, 30,000 wounded, 265,000 prisoners, 300,000 stragglers, 50,000 deserters, over 3,000 artillery pieces, 3,000 machine guns and 1,700 mortars. The Austro-Hungarian and German losses totaled 70,000. Cadorna, who had tried to attribute the causes of the disasters to low morale and cowardice among the troops, was relieved of duty. On 8 November 1917 he was replaced by Armando Diaz.

The Central Powers ended the year 1917 with a general offensive on the Piave, the Altopiano di Asiago, and the Monte Grappa, which failed and the Italian front reverted to attritional trench warfare. The Italian army was forced to call the 1899 levy, while that of 1900 was left for a hypothetical final effort for the year of 1919.

The Central Powers stopped their attacks in 1917 because German troops were needed on the Western Front while the Austro-Hungarian troops were exhausted and at the end of much longer logistical lines. The offensive was renewed on 15 June 1918 with Austro-Hungarian troops only in the Battle of Piave. The Italians resisted the assault. The failure of the offensive marked the swan song of Austria-Hungary on the Italian front. The Central Powers proved finally unable to sustain further the war effort, while the multi-ethnic entities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were on the verge of rebellion. The Italians rescheduled earlier their planned 1919 counter-offensive to October 1918, in order to take advantage of the Austro-Hungarian crisis.

Meuse-Argonne offensive opens

At 5:30 on the morning of September 26, 1918, after a six-hour-long bombardment over the previous night, more than 700 Allied tanks, followed closely by infantry troops, advance against German positions in the Argonne Forest and along the Meuse River.

Building on the success of earlier Allied offensives at Amiens and Albert during the summer of 1918, the Meuse-Argonne offensive, carried out by 37 French and American divisions, was even more ambitious. Aiming to cut off the entire German 2nd Army, Allied Supreme Commander Ferdinand Foch ordered General John J. Pershing to take overall command of the offensive. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force (AEF) was to play the main attacking role, in what would be the largest American-run offensive of World War I.

After some 400,000 U.S. troops were transferred with difficulty to the region in the wake of the U.S.-run attack at St. Mihiel, launched just 10 days earlier, the Meuse-Argonne offensive began. The preliminary bombardment, using some 800 mustard gas and phosgene shells, killed 278 German soldiers and incapacitated more than 10,000. The infantry advance began the next morning, supported by a battery of tanks and some 500 aircraft from the U.S. Air Service.

By the morning of the following day, the Allies had captured more than 23,000 German prisoners by nightfall, they had taken 10,000 more and advanced up to six miles in some areas. The Germans continued to fight, however, putting up a stiff resistance that ultimately forced the Allies to settle for far fewer gains than they had hoped.

The Battle of Germantown Begins

Four roads led to Germantown. Washington decided to send a separate force along each route, hitting the British from four sides at once. Like many of the plans Washington drew up in the early years of the war, his plan for Germantown was better suited for a theoretical exercise than for an actual 18th-century army composed in part of raw troops and poorly trained militiamen. Coordinating separate assaults from far-removed positions was always tricky an attempt to coordinate four separate assaults was likely doomed to fail. 

Washington’s army divided into four columns on the night of October 3 and marched toward the four separate staging points from which they were to launch their simultaneous attacks at dawn on October 4. One column had trouble finding its way and failed to reach the battlefield. A second column fired at, but did not charge, the enemy camp. The column tasked with attacking the center of the British camp, led by General John Sullivan (1740-95), was the first to engage the British in spirited combat. Sullivan’s column caught the British pickets by surprise and succeeded in driving back the startled British army. 

The tide of the battle turned, however, when the last column, commanded by General Nathanael Greene (1742-86), entered the fray. Greene’s column had had farther to travel than the center column and so had gotten a later start. By the time it reached the British camp, the field was obscured by a thick fog and gun smoke, and Sullivan’s column had already pushed well into the British camp, into Greene’s path. 

The two American columns stumbled into each other and, unable to make visual contact, fired upon each other. (It did not help that the commander of one of Greene’s divisions, General Adam Stephen, was noticeably intoxicated when he brought his men into the battle.) By the time the two columns realized what had happened, they faced a punishing counterassault from the British that drove them from the field.

Current Events October 30, 1943

U.S. warships threw their weight into the battle of Italy yesterday as the Fifth Army drove against the
Germans' Massico ridge line and the Eighth Army, by a six-mile thrust through the craggy country .of the
central Appenines, threatened to outflank the Nazi base of Isernia.

Northwest Arkansas Times

Allies Pushing Forward in Italy

British Troops
Cross Regia
Canal Today

New Nazi Line In
Italy Threatened
By Heavy Attack

Allied Headquarters, Algiers, Oct. 30-(AP)-
Britlsh troops of the f i f t h army storming across the Regia canal in a three-mile plunge have occupied Ihe seaside town uf Mondragonc to ram rely against lolly Mount Massico, western anchor of the new German line in Italy, It was announced today.
Farther Inland, American forces developed a flanking threat agninst Mount Massico, capturing PietravaJrano which dominates both the upper VoSturno river valley and the main Capua-Rome highway. Simultaneously, the British eighth army to the east forged ahead lo take Montemltro, on the lower bank ot the Trlgno river
14 miles Inland from their bridgehead In the San Salvo area, where the heaviest fighting on the Italian front still raged. Some 15 towns in oil felt to the allied advance, hindered by heavy rains and mud in all sectors. Mule transport had to be substituted for motor vehicles In some mountainous localities.
The British sprang from trenches and foxholes along the southern banks of the Regia canal to take Mondragone. They had been held to that line, paralleling the lower Volturno river, for more than'a week by heavy enemy sprang 'from the lower slopes of Maassico ridge.
Mondragone was deserted, and an allied otfier said the town, had become valueless to the Germans, who would make their realty' important stands from the ridge itself. Several bridgeheads forced across the canal all along the .line remained under fire of long-range German guns,

Daily Newspaper of U.S. Armed Forces in the European Theater of Operations
New York, N.Y.—London, England Saturday, Oct. 30,1943

Nazi Melitopol Army Split in Half
As Retreat Becomes Great Rout
Reds 40 Mi. From Crimean R.R .

Wehrmacht's Losses
In Huge Collapse
Are Enormous

Triumphant Russian forces surging westward from Melitopol last night had turned an already great Soviet
victory into a great German rout, had split the retreating Nazi army in two and had reached a point only 40 miles from the last enemy escape railway from the Crimea.
Across the Nogaisk steppe west of Melitopol stretched the debris of a broken army. Fleeing headlong before the Red advance, the Germans were leaving enough behind to set up an entire new army. Loaded with war material, 450 freight cars were deserted intact at the Prishiv and Akimovka railway stations along the Crimean railway.
Capturing over 40 settlements in their swift motorized thrust west, the Russians were driving toward the Perekop-Kherson rail line, and another 40 miles would bring them to it, severing Berlin's last hope of getting thousands of German troops out of the Crimea.
The Russian plan seemed to be to extend the wedge driven into the fleeing Nazi force and then turn the flanks of the spearhead north and south, destroying each half of the enemy army at will. Last night it appeared certain of success.
Must Fight Way Out
Already the smashing drive through Melitopol had killed any German hopes of extricating their forces retreating from Dniepropetrovsk southward across the lower Dnieper. These must continue to fight their way out of the Dnieper Bend through the ever-narrowing corridor between Krivoi Rog and Nikopol, along
the lower Dnieper, thus throwing an enormous strain on Nazi communications there.

Panzer Army Africa [ edit | edit source ]

(commanded by Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) Erwin Rommel) (Lieutenant-General (General der Panzertruppe) Georg Stumme was in command at the start of the battle in Rommel's absence on sick leave)

Army troops [ edit | edit source ]

German 90th Light Afrika Division [ edit | edit source ]

  • 155th Panzergrenadier Regiment (with 707th Heavy Infantry Gun Company)
  • 200th Panzergrenadier Regiment (with 708th Heavy Infantry Gun Company)
  • 346th Panzergrenadier Regiment (should be 361st, 346th assigned to 217th Inf Div, the 361st was formed in theatre from former French Foreign Legionnaires of German origin)
  • 190th Artillery Regiment
  • 190th Anti-tank Battalion
  • under command: Force 288 (Panzergrenadier Regiment Afrika, the three battalions listed after this are not part of this 8-to-10 company detachment)
    • 605th Anti-tank Battalion
    • 109th Anti-aircraft Battalion
    • 606th Anti-aircraft Battalion

    German 164th Light Afrika Division [ edit | edit source ]

    • 125th Infantry Regiment
    • 382nd Infantry Regiment
    • 433rd Infantry Regiment
    • 220th Artillery Regiment
    • 220th Engineer Battalion
    • 220th Cyclist Unit
    • 609th Anti-aircraft Battalion

    Ramcke Parachute Brigade [ edit | edit source ]

    • 1st Bn 2nd Parachute Regiment
    • 1st Bn 3rd Parachute Regiment
    • 2nd Bn 5th Parachute Regiment
    • Lehrbattalion Burkhardt
    • Parachute Artillery Battery
    • Parachute Anti-tank Battalion

    German Africa Corps [ edit | edit source ]

    German 15th Panzer Division [ edit | edit source ]

    (Brigadier-General (Generalmajor) Gustav von Vaerst)

    • 8th Panzer Regiment
    • 115th Panzergrenadier Regiment
    • 33rd Artillery Regiment
    • 33rd Anti-tank Battalion
    • 33rd Engineer Battalion

    German 21st Panzer Division [ edit | edit source ]

    (Brigadier-General (Generalmajor) Heinz von Randow)

    • 5th Panzer Regiment
    • 104th Panzergrenadier Regiment
    • 155th Artillery Regiment
    • 39th Anti-tank Battalion
    • 200th Engineer Battalion

    Battle of the Trigno, 27 October-4 November 1943 - History

    With the end of the North African campaign, Fourth Light was wound up and the brigade reformed as a normal armoured brigade, less one regiment to begin with. 3 RHA left us to join 7th Armoured Division, 2 KRRC settled down near Tripoli temporarily under command of 1st Armoured Division: The Royals became Corps troops of 13 Corps, KDG of 10 Corps. Brigade HQ left Sfax on May 21st to return to the Delta of Egypt for the last time reaching Beni Yusef on June 4th, coming under 13 Corps. June 1st was the official date when "Light" was dropped from our title. Our two new, regiments were 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) and 44th Royal Tanks. 3 CLY had been part of the original 22nd Armoured Brigade and had been reforming in Egypt since before Alamein. 44th Royal Tanks had come to the Middle East in the summer of 1941 and had first seen battle under 1st Army Tank Brigade in the Crusader operation. They had played a notable part in the fighting round Belhamed and Sidi Rezegh and later in the capture of Bardia by 2nd South African Division. In the Knightsbridge battle they were part of the ill-fated 1st Army Tank Brigade which suffered heavily with 151 Brigade. Reformed, they took part in the withdrawal to Alamein and in the battles round Alamein itself in June and July 1942. In the Battle of Alamein itself they had been equipped with flail mine-clearing tanks, the first regiment ever to be equipped with them.

    Both regiments were now fully up to strength and equipped with Diesel Shermans. Never had the brigade been so well and thoroughly equipped.

    13 Corps' planning for the invasion of Sicily was already far advanced: 3 CLY had already been placed under command of the 5th Division and 44th Royal Tanks under the 50th (Northumbria) Division. Tactical Brigade HQ was to accompany HQ 13 Corps for the invasion, the rest of the headquarters following on D+28. 2 KRRC were to remain at Tripoli. During June the regiments were loaded, distributed over a large variety of craft, Tac Brigade being at Port Said on board HMS Bulolo and LSP Dilwara. On July 5th we sailed from Port Said: after an uneventful voyage we arrived off the Sicilian coast on the night of 9/10th July. Brigade HQ was not controlling the two regiments and their stories must be given separately up to the 21st

    The Sharpshooters with 5th Division were due to land shortly after first light. It was not however till midday that the first tanks, half of C squadron, supporting 13 Infantry Brigade, came ashore. At 3 o'clock nine tanks of B Squadron also landed: they joined 17 Infantry Brigade beyond Cassibile in the late afternoon and entered Syracuse at last light. C Squadron meanwhile had had a small evening battle south of Florida. On the 11th the rest of the regiment landed, B Squadron meanwhile carrying on the advance north of Syracuse with 2nd Bn Northamptons. A party of enemy in the woods south of Priolo held up this advance all day and movement off the road was very difficult: in trying to move down the road three tanks were knocked out. A Squadron meanwhile sent a troop into Syracuse to help in the final clearing of the town. The half of C Squadron that was with 13 Brigade had entered Florida at eight after a short engagement: they continued the advance towards Taverna and had quite a battle to capture Solarino. For the loss of two tanks they destroyed one French R 35 tank and several guns and mortars. They were joined at Taverna by the rest of the squadron which had landed in the afternoon.

    On the 12th B Squadron with 17 Brigade entered Priolo at half past eight, but were held up on the river to the north where the bridge was held. The river was a considerable obstacle, and it was only after an attack with two battalions that tanks were able to cross. Just before last light, after several unsuccessful attempts, two tanks got over and supported 6th Bn Seaforths into Augusta during the night. On the 13th A Squadron relieved C Squadron with 13 Brigade, and continued the advance until the enemy were met at five in the afternoon north of Tentilla. An attack was put in, in which half of the squadron took part: the enemy counter-attacked strongly with tanks: six of the seven Sharpshooter tanks were knocked out. No further advance took place that day and the regiment was concentrated north of Priolo.

    At six o-clock in the evening of July 10th half of A Squadron of 44th Royal Tanks had landed with 50th Division, followed four hours later by the rest of the squadron. The following day the rest of the regiment landed, less 9 tanks of C Squadron which were lost when their ship sank before landing. The regiment concentrated east of Avola, moving on the 12th to east of Florida, less A Squadron which led the advance of 69 Brigade through Palazzolo, directed on Solarino. They met the enemy beyond Palazzolo and destroyed four guns, took sixty prisoners and killed many more. A further attempt to advance met strong opposition towards last light. After dark the advance was called off and the squadron withdrawn to Cancattini Bagni. On the 13th C Squadron, weak having lost 9 tanks at sea, was placed under command of 151 Brigade to clear the enemy still between Palazzolo, now held by the Highland Division, and Solarino. A mobile column from the brigade, led by a troop of C Squadron, was first held up by a burning lorry: the leading tank charged straight through it to clear the way for carriers to resume the lead. Round the next corner a R 35 tank engaged the first carrier: from then on the tanks went into the lead. The leading tank was fired on by ten R 35 s and in reply knocked out two R 35s, 4 cars and 3 lorries. This blocked the road completely. Looking on foot for a way round, the troop leader saw a white flag and, on going up to it, received the surrender of the commander and staff of the Italian 54th Napoli Division. Continuing the advance, an antitank gun and some 105 mms were met: with the help of a company of 6th DLI they destroyed 4 guns, 11 lorries and 3 more R 35s. Further on they met and destroyed 12 vehicles, 3 R 35 s and a motor-cycle, bringing their total for the day to 8 tanks, 6 guns, 29 assorted vehicles and 3 motor-cycles, a great effort for one troop. The rest of the regiment had been concentrated. 50th Division's advance towards Lentini through the hills past Sortino was going well, but it was not thought possible to get tanks through by that route. Meanwhile the Corps Commander had decided to concentrate the brigade and use it to continue the advance to Catania, through Lentini. Accordingly the brigade, consisting of The Sharpshooters, 44th Royal Tanks and A Squadron. of The Royals concentrated south of Priolo. 5th Division was no longer in contact with the enemy and we were told to move through Augusta to Villasmundo. To ensure that our route was clear half a squadron of Sharpshooters and a company of embussed infantry with carriers were to go as far as Villasmundo in the moonlight. There was considerable delay in getting this party married up and it was half past five in the morning of the 14th before they reported Villasmundo clear. The Sharpshooters led and passed through the town at eight o'clock. 50th Division were reported near Carlentini on the high ground to the south and we were placed under their command.

    At 9 o'clock a persistent stranger on the brigade forward control was spoken to by Brigadier Currie and turned out to be the Headquarters of the Brigade of 1st Airborne Division, who were to have been dropped during the night to capture Primosole bridge, south of Catania. We had heard that they had been dropped in the wrong place, but their brigade HQ an a handful of men held the bridge. Spasmodic conversations with them continued for an hour, after which we heard no more.

    Meanwhile the fight for Carlentini was going slowly: the Sharpshooters were having great difficulty with the going and progress was slow without the support of infantry or artillery, the latter being provided later by the voluntary help of 24th Field Regiment. Eventually they joined hands with troops of 50th Division. As there was only one road and that a very bad one, it was decided to pass 44th Royal Tanks through, the Sharpshooters having run short of ammunition. This took a long time as tanks were continually shedding tracks on the rocky hairpin bends. In addition the move entailed overtaking troops and transport of 50th Division in the tortuous streets of Carlentini and Lentini.

    Eventually 44th Royal Tanks caught up with the leading troops of 69 Brigade: they were opposed by two German tanks and had met several small parties of our own airborne troops, none of whom however knew anything about Primosole bridge. One squadron of the 44th Royal Tanks was placed in support of 151 Brigade, but for various reasons the attack on the bridge was postponed until the following morning. The attack was launched early in the morning of the 15th supported by 44th Royal Tanks, while the Sharpshooters protected the left flank.

    Owing to mines and vehicles blocking the road, tanks could not cross the bridge: 151 Brigade had succeeded in making a very narrow bridgehead but were later withdrawn. Before dawn on the 16th a further attack was made: 8 DLI secured a bridgehead just large enough to allow the sappers to clear the mines and obstructions, which they did in time to let a squadron of the 44th Royal Tanks pass over at first light. Unfortunately the bridgehead was under accurate anti-tank fire and four tanks were knocked out, the CO and 3 other officers being killed. During the day the Royals had engaged many small parties of enemy on the bridges between the left of 50th Division and the right of 30 Corps, the Sharpshooters being concentrated in reserve. A further attack in the bridgehead area had been put in by 6 and 9 DLI during the night 16/17th. At first light the Sharpshooters, relieving 44th Royal Tanks with 151 Brigade, passed over the bridge. The bridgehead area continued to be most unhealthy, until the source of trouble, a strong point about 300 yards north-west of the bridge, was finally located and cleared by the Sharpshooters. Before that was done the Sharpshooters had lost their CO and 5 tank commanders from sniping. The battle for the bridge was now over and the Sharpshooters supported the extension of the bridgehead, being relieved by the 44th Royal Tanks on the 18th. During the day they had one sharp battle, assisting 1st Royal Berks who had been surrounded, and lost five tanks in doing so. On the 19th 13 Brigade of 5 Division passed through, supported by B Squadron of the 44th Royal Tanks, directed on Misterbianco. Little progress was made in the face of stiff opposition, a further five tanks being knocked out or damaged. On the 20th the Sharpshooters supported an attack by 5th Division to cross the River Simeto. For the rest of the month the brigade was in reserve. Of the 95 tanks with which we had landed, 25 had been knocked out. On July 22nd our tank strength was 67: it had never fallen below 55 in spite of practically no respite from movement or action, a great feat by the fitters.

    On 1st August the advance was resumed against rearguards to Catania which was reached on the 5th, the brigade finally coming to rest at Aci Castello, a beautiful little seaside town eight miles to the north. 30 Corps now took over the advance up the coast and we came under their command. Our first task was to organise and command two sea borne expeditions to cut the coast road behind the enemy, one to land immediately behind the enemy line, within range of 50th Division's artillery, the other, known as operation Blackcock, to land an independent force near Cap D'Ali, the furthest north we could go without being troubled by coast defence guns on the Italian mainland. This force consisted of Tac Brigade HQ, No. 2 Commando, one squadron of the Sharpshooters, a troop of 56 Field Battery RA (SP), a troop of jeep-drawn 3.7 hows, a troop of 6 pounders and 295 Field Company RE less a platoon. The Commando were to sail in LSIs from Augusta, the rest embarking in LCTs at Catania. Within 48 hours the force had been collected east of Misterbianco, waterproofed and was ready to embark. Embarkation at Catania went very smoothly and the LCTs sailed punctually at eight in the evening of August 15th.

    46th and 50th Royal Tanks and 111 Field Regiment RA now came under our command from 23rd Armoured Brigade and we came into Army reserve.

    On September 16th, orders were received for the brigade, less 111 Field Regiment RA, to move to Taranto: the Brigade Commander went in advance to report to 5 Corps to get the form. All tanks and tracked vehicles were to move by sea and the wheels by ferry from Messina, thence by road to Taranto. Brigade HQ arrived at Taranto on 23rd September and received orders to move to Bari area and come under command 78 Division, being prepared next day to take command of forward reconnaissance elements of the division.

    Our force consisted of A Squadron The Royals, on squadron of the Sharpshooters, one squadron 56 Recce Regiment, recce squadron of 1Air Landing Brigade, one company of 1 Kensingtons, 17 Field Regiment RA less one battery, SAS squadron and a similar body known as "Popski's Private Army". 626 Field Squadron RE joined the Force by bits and pieces and subsequently became part of the brigade.

    This force had just captured Canosa and was meeting opposition across the River Ofanto, over which the bridge was blown: on the coast the town of Barletta was not yet occupied. Very little progress was made this day, but Barletta was finally entered and passed: 4th Armoured Brigade now became the spearhead of the Eighth Army in its advance up the east coast of Italy.

    Once again our main opposition was enemy rearguards and demolitions. Enemy antitank guns were well placed and cleverly concealed. When a crossing over the River Ofanto had been found, the brigade moved very fast, until held up by defended demolitions on the line of the railway and the river south of Manfredonia. The Sharpshooters, who were working up the inland road, passed through Cerignola meeting no enemy until held up six miles south of Foggia. The fight went on until dark, when the enemy blew the bridges and withdrew. The advance was resumed at first light on the 27th: after struggling with demolitions, we entered Foggia, still burning from the Royal Air Force's attack the night before, to find much abandoned equipment. Meanwhile the Royals had found Manfredonia clear. San Severo was clear and 56 Recce Regiment entered Lucera, releasing many British and South African prisoners, survivors of Tobruk. Patrol bases were now established at San Severo, Lucera, Troia Satriano and San Paulo: for administrative reasons no major move forward could be undertaken before October 1st.

    On this day the brigade was ordered to take the high ground on either side of Serracapriola and clear the way for 11 Infantry Brigade to advance to Termoli. For this operation 5th Northamptons came under our command. All bridges south of Serracapriola had been destroyed and there appeared to be only two possible crossings: one near the sea at Ripalto, the other about two miles upstream from the main road bridge. The Sharpshooters less a squadron were to cross by the latter and take the ridge south of the town: this done, 5th Northamptons were to cross nearer the main road. and attack Serracapriola through the thick olive groves round the town: meanwhile the Royals with one squadron of Sharpshooters and part of 56 Recce Regiment were to cross to Ripalto and take Chienti, the whole operation being supported by 17 Field Regiment RA. All went well and 5th Northamptons took over the defence of the town. During the night a heavy rainstorm broke, turning the country into a sea of mud and making movement off roads impossible. The country beyond Serracapriola appeared to be fairly good going for tanks and the brigade was ordered to continue the pursuit and seize the high ground overlooking the River Biferno. No opposition was met but progress was made very difficult by extensive demolitions and mines. By last light on the 2nd we had reached the line Portocanrione - San Martino, which was taken over by 11 Brigade. During this time the rest of the brigade was concentrating south of Foggia. 2nd Bn KRRC and 14 Light Field Ambulance came from Tripoli and we were joined by 98th Field Regiment RA, equipped with self-propelled 105 mm guns, who came from Fifth Army on the west coast. Leaving the Sharpshooters in reserve, Brigade HQ returned to the rest of the brigade. By October 5th the whole brigade, less the Sharpshooters and A Squadron of the Royals was complete near Lucera.

    On the night Of 4/5th, 11 and 36 Brigades of 78 Division had been counter-attacked on the far side of the Biferno. The Sharpshooters were ordered to support them. For two days a fierce battle was fought in which at one time the enemy got to within 400 yards of Termoli harbour, their objective. The Sharpshooters undoubtedly saved the situation. They lost 8 tanks and knocked out 6 before being relieved by 12th Canadian Tank Regiment.

    On October 9th, 46th Royal Tanks were sent up to join 78 Division on the coast road: on the 22nd 50th Royal Tanks joined 8th Indian Division on the inland route through Larino. The remainder of the brigade joined the Sharpshooters south of Serracapriola on the 24th. On the 27th 98 Field Regiment joined 78 Division. 2nd Bn KRRC moved to Termoli to guard the FMC. On November 2nd Brigade HQ moved to five miles north of Termoli.

    46th Royal Tanks had been supporting 78 Division who were facing the River Trigno, and 50th Royal Tanks had one squadron forward with 11 Indian Infantry Brigade, where they had done magnificent work, getting their tanks to places where it was hard to believe that a tank could possibly go. They were firmly positioned on a hill overlooking the River Trigno opposite Celenza, where they could only be supplied by mule.

    On 3 November the battle of the River Trigno began. In a hard morning's fighting 46th Royal Tanks lost 7 tanks, accounting for 6 enemy tanks and 2 SP guns. Meanwhile from the ridge south of the Trigno, at least 20 enemy tanks and SP guns had been seen coming down the road from Vasto to San Salvo. They were accurately engaged. In the afternoon the Brigade Commander was sent for by the Army Commander and ordered to bring 44th Royal Tanks from Serracapriola and take charge of the armoured battle.

    Plans were being made for an attempt to take the San Salvo ridge, when reports came in that the enemy had withdrawn, and 50th Royal Tanks were ordered on to the ridge. 44th Royal Tanks had moved up and were sent over the river, 46th Royal Tanks being left to reorganise and come into reserve. 5 Northamptons of 11 Brigade, supported by 50th Royal Tanks, with great determination over difficult country and in face of considerable opposition captured the high ridge south of Vaso. 2 KRRC were brought forward from Termoli.

    The advance continued along the San Salvo - Vasto road, 44th Royal Tanks following 50th Royal Tanks to the west of the axis, covering the left flank. The intention of the brigade was that 50th Royal Tanks would support 3 6 Infantry Brigade on the coast road, while 44th Royal Tanks and 98 Field Regiment RA would support 11 Infantry Brigade on the axis Cupello - Scerni. On 5 November Vasto was entered by 46th Royal Tanks, who had taken over from 50th Royal Tanks: on the Cupello - Scerni axis 676 Field Squadron RE were to prepare a crossing over the River Sinello. The Sappers were unable to do this, but 44th Royal Tanks managed to get all their tanks over and advanced on to the high ground on the far side the next day and established a bridgehead.

    On 7th November 11 Brigade moved on to capture Paglietta and Mt Calvo, the high ridge dominating the River Sangro. The next period was spent by 4th Armoured Brigade in collecting tanks and making plans for the assault on the River Sangro. On 16 November 46th Royal Tanks, much to the regret of the Brigade, received orders to rejoin 23rd Armoured Brigade, leaving their tanks behind. This just enabled the other three regiments to be made up to strength.

    Extensive reconnaissance of the River Sangro and the ground immediately beyond it were made, but the weather was against us from the start: every time the ground showed signs of drying, down came the rain again, upsetting all precious plans. Meanwhile both divisions had been pushing elements across the River and the brigade was ordered to infiltrate tanks across. 2 KRRC, now under command of 8 Indian Division, had been ordered to occupy Mt Calvo on 15 November: After six very uncomfortable days there, they were ordered to attack and capture the "Castle" feature on the left of the escarpment held by 8 Indian Division. This was a strong and difficult position, well defended with dug-in positions: though they failed in the first attempt, they made no mistake the second time.

    The rain kept falling and the river rose at times to such heights and the current to such a strength that it was quite unfordable: as a result supply of those troops across the river became most difficult. Bridges were built under most difficult conditions. The first tanks across were of 50th Royal Tanks on 21 November, followed by 9 tanks of Sharpshooters on 22 November. Later a better crossing further up the river was found, but it was not until 28 November that we had a total of 124 tanks across.

    The final Corps plan was for 8 Indian Division to attack up the Mozzagrogna road and for 78 Division, led as before by 4th Armoured Brigade, to pass through and mop up from Santa Maria to the sea. The attack was partially successful, 21 Brigade capturing Mozzagrogna but every kind of evil device - mines, booby traps and demolitions - prevented 50th Royal Tanks from getting to them: counter-attacked by tanks and flame-throwers, they were forced to withdraw. Sharpshooters and 6 Inniskillings were to capture R. Li Colle feature as far left as Santa Maria and 44th Royal Tanks and 2LIR were to pass through and mop up Fossacessia to the sea.

    An extremely bad anti-tank ditch was encountered, but with great determination Sharpshooters kept trying, until eventually a way through was found: great credit is due to the Sharpshooters and 6 Inniskillings for their determination not to be beaten that day. 626 Field Squadron performed a heroic task in sweeping and marking lanes under most unpleasant conditions.

    44th Royal Tanks eventually got through, going round by road through Mozzagrogna. On 30th November an extremely heavy barrage was opened on enemy defences in front of 44th Royal Tanks: as it lifted from block to block, a squadron of tanks and a company of infantry overran the area regardless of mines or ground, followed by another squadron and company on to the next block. The plan was entirely successful and the enemy was shattered and completely overrun. Fossacessia was entered and the area from there to the sea mopped up. BY 30th November the entire Sangro position was in our hands, many Germans killed, some 300 prisoners and much arms, equipment and stores being captured.

    The next objective was the big feature overlooking the River Moro. On 4 December 38 Bde took over the front, supported by 44th Royal Tanks. 44th Royal Tanks had some difficulty in crossing the river and it took all day to subdue the enemy on the feature. Sharpshooters made strenuous attempts to cross, but after 8 tanks had been bogged, further attempt was abandoned, Sharpshooters remaining in fire positions on the east of the river.

    From now until the end of the month the Brigade remained in reserve under command 5 Corps, less 50th Royal Tanks under command 8th Indian Division and 44th Royal Tanks and 98 Field Regiment under 1st Canadian Tank Brigade and 1st Canadian Division respectively. Sharpshooters and 626 Field Squadron RE withdrew to the Treglio area for rest and repair while Brigade HQ moved to the old HQ of 65 German Division in Treglio.

    At the end of December Brigadier Currie left the brigade to go home and take over the job of BRAC to First Canadian Army. He was succeeded by Brigadier H J B Cracroft, who had been commanding 12th Royal Tanks in North Africa. We were now told the great news that at last the brigade was to go to England for the first time in its history. 50th Royal Tanks left us to rejoin 23rd Armoured Brigade near Naples and the brigade moved to Lucera, where we handed in our vehicles and equipment and entrained for Taranto. Several days were spent in Taranto until we entrained again for Naples. Here we took command again, after a long absence, of the Royal Scots Greys. On January 27th 1944 we embarked on MV Tegelberg and HMT Almanzora and set sail for home.

    On February 7th our convoy arrived at the "Tail o' the Bank" after an uneventful voyage. We steamed up the Clyde to the King George V Dock at Glasgow, where the Black Rats first set foot on the soil of the homeland. We went straight by train to Worthing, where we came under 1st Corps, settled into billets and went off on leave.

    On March 16th Brigadier Currie returned to command us, Brigadier Cracroft transferring to 8th Armoured Brigade. We were re-equipped with Shermans, unfortunately not diesel, and got our first 17 pounder tanks. Discussions and training exercises were carried out mostly with 51st Highland Division, whom we expected to support when the great day came. June 1944 found us, as June 1943 had done, all teed up to set sail for an invasion.

    Battle of the Trigno, 27 October-4 November 1943 - History

    By changing the corps boundary on 14 October to expedite the 10 Corps crossing of the Volturno, General Clark gave the British the 3d Division objective, the long ridge running northwest from Triflisco for about twelve miles to Teano, and thereby freed the 3d Division for a drive to the northeast. The modification delighted General Lucas. It narrowed his VI Corps zone and directed his elements along converging rather than diverging lines of advance. Now, a swift movement by the 3d Division would assist the 34th Division, which was having some difficulty building bridges across the Volturno. That 10 and VI Corps would be drawing apart was not Lucas' immediate concern, and in any event adjustments could be made later.

    While General Clark informed General McCreery of his decision, General Lucas, who had been apprised first, instructed General Truscott to shift from a northwesterly to a northeasterly orientation. Thus, when Clark told Lucas, "Start it at once, Johnny," Lucas could answer, "It is already on the way." 1

    The VI Corps temporarily continued to regulate traffic across the bridge ceded to the British. When a tank destroyer fell off the bridge during the night, drowning four men and fouling the structure, the corps halted movements for several hours until the wreckage could be cleared. However, enough British troops had crossed the river by then to relieve the Americans on the Triflisco ridge.

    The drive beyond the Volturno would take the Fifth Army into what was then somewhat vaguely called the German Winter Line south of Cassino. Capturing the objectives assigned by the 15th Army Group headquarters, a line through the villages of Sessa Aurunca, Venafro, and Isernia, roughly twenty-five to forty miles distant, would put the army into a position for a crossing of the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers and subsequent entrance, near Cassino, into the valley of the Liri and Sacco Rivers, the most direct route to Rome.

    Blocking the Fifth Army was the XIV Panzer Corps, which had prepared a series of three fortified lines of defense. The forward wall was the Barbara Line, an ill-defined and hastily constructed position resembling a strong outpost line of resistance it ran from Monte Massico near the west coast through the villages of Teano and Presenzano and into the Matese Mountains. The Bernhard Line--far more formidable--was a wide belt of defensive positions anchored on the mouth of the Garigliano River, on the

    forbidding masses of Monte Camino, Monte la Difensa, Monte Maggiore, and on the hulking height of Monte Sammucro. 2 Behind the Bernhard Line stood the Gustav Line--the strongest of the three--based securely on the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers and the natural fortress of Monte Cassino. The Gustav Line ran across the Matese range and into the Adriatic sector, where the LXXVI Panzer Corps was strengthening its defenses along the Sangro River. The Germans would defend the Barbara and Bernhard Lines stubbornly enough, but they would try to hold the Gustav position. 3

    The principal object of the Tenth Army was to gain time--to fight cheaply, to use troops and matériel economically, to inflict maximum casualties on Allied forces while withdrawing slowly enough to permit construction of fortifications on all three lines, particularly the Bernhard and Gustav positions. The major purpose of the Fifth Army was to reach the German defensive positions before they could be organized and consolidated. The fighting would take place in desolate mountains, creased by narrow valleys and deep gorges on brush-covered heights, bald slopes, and high tablelands along unpaved roads and mule tracks hugging mountain ledges. Late autumn weather would add fog, rain, and mud to the difficulties of the terrain. 4

    After a few days of operations in this area the Fifth Army would characterize the enemy opposition as stubborn delaying action. Strong rear guard units were barring progress by well-executed demolitions, usually covered by long-range automatic and artillery fire, by frequent small-scale but intense counterattacks, and by tenacious possession of ground until threatened or attacked by superior forces. 5

    Mountain Warfare

    In the VI Corps zone immediately beyond the Volturno River, the existence of three roads in large part determined the corps maneuver. Each division was assigned a road: the 3d, a dirt track winding for about ten miles through defiles and around craggy crests to Dragoni the 34th, a secondary road running about seven miles up the western side of the upper Volturno valley to Dragoni the 45th, an indifferent road on the eastern side of the upper Volturno leading to Piedimonte d'Alife. These poor roads, obstructed by demolished bridges, mines, booby traps, and roadblocks, would slow the corps.

    When General Truscott received news on the afternoon of 14 October that the direction of advance for his 3d Division had been changed, he immediately informed the 7th Infantry, which had occupied the western part of Monte Caruso and which had already started some troops northwest to Teano. 6 Suddenly ordered to turn to the northeast, the regimental commander, Col. Harry B. Sherman, at 1645 sent his 3d Battalion to capture the hamlet of Liberi before dark. Four miles away, Liberi would be

    a good jump-off point for Dragoni, his eventual objective. Supported by tanks and tank destroyers, the battalion moved less than a mile before striking resistance at the village of Cisterna. Although it fought all night to crack the defense, the German troops held their ground.

    Hoping to bypass the resistance at Cisterna, Colonel Sherman committed his 2d Battalion on the left at midnight. Despite long-range enemy fire in the broken tableland north of Cisterna, the 2d was a mile beyond the village by daylight, 15 October. Since the battalion could move but slowly in the mountains, Sherman committed his 1st Battalion on the right at 0830. This battalion drove through the hamlet of Strangolagalli, then attacked directly across a series of small washboard ridges toward Liberi.

    The Germans at Cisterna, having delayed the American advance for one day and now about to be outflanked on both sides, withdrew. When the 3d Battalion, 7th Infantry, moved into Cisterna at 1500, 15 October, the Germans were gone.

    The 3d Battalion reverted to regimental reserve and the 1st Battalion on the right went on to secure a foothold on the high point of a ridge running through the village of Villa. About a mile short of Liberi, the battalion received such intense enemy fire that it was forced to halt. On the left, the 2d Battalion, making steady if slow progress across broken ground, continued its advance after darkness, inching its way toward Villa. Shortly after midnight, machine gun fire brought this 2d Battalion to a sudden standstill.

    To get the attack moving again, Colonel Sherman recommitted his 3d Battalion at 0330, 16 October, on the left of the 2d Battalion. Twice repulsed by artillery and mortar fire in its efforts to storm a vital hill between Villa and Liberi, the 3d Battalion was then hard put to beat off a sharp counterattack in approximate platoon size. The 1st and 2d also fought off counterattacks.

    At an impasse, Sherman scheduled a co-ordinated attack for the following morning. He sent his Cannon Company up the road to support the 2d Battalion in the middle. General Truscott helped out by temporarily attaching to the 7th Infantry the 3d Battalion of the 15th Infantry, which was clearing the division left.

    While Colonel Sherman prepared his reinforced regiment for the attack, the Germans withdrew from Liberi during the night and retired to another defensive position. When the 7th Infantry launched its attack at 0615, 17 October, there was no opposition. At 1000, the 2d Battalion marched into Liberi. Sherman released the battalion of the 15th Infantry.

    The advance toward Dragoni continued until shortly before noon, when the leading troops of the 1st Battalion reached the next German delaying position. Enemy rifle, machine gun, tank, and artillery fire pinned down the battalion and kept it immobile for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, the 2d Battalion, followed by the 3d, moved into the hills to bypass the German position. This accomplished, the troops returned to the road and moved forward until they struck resistance again. Once more the 2d Battalion took to the hills, trying to envelop a German roadblock. Late that afternoon, as the Germans seemed ready to withdraw from Dragoni, General Truscott informed Colonel Sherman that

    he expected American troops to be in Dragoni by daylight, 18 October. To comply with this instruction, Sherman ordered the 3d Battalion to blast through the opposition along the winding road.

    The 3d Battalion, 7th Infantry, attacked just before nightfall, apparently catching the Germans on the point of abandoning their positions. Shortly after midnight American troops were on high ground just south of and overlooking Dragoni, and during the hours of darkness patrols descended into the village. When daylight came on 18 October, the battalion moved across and cut the Liberi-Dragoni road, securing in the process another and more advantageous hill. The 2d Battalion, having taken high ground west of Dragoni, sent patrols to the northwest to cut the lateral road running from Dragoni westward to Highway 6. The 1st Battalion and the rest of the regiment came forward during the day and organized the high ground dominating Dragoni, and from there the regiment used mortar fire to interdict the road leading eastward across the upper Volturno.

    Over General Truscott's protest, General Lucas instructed the division commander to halt and wait for General Ryder's 34th Division to come abreast. Truscott told Sherman to rest his regiment. "You have done a damn good job with those battalions . . . ." he said. 7

    In the left of the 3d Division zone the 15th Infantry had overcome much the same conditions and the same sort of resistance in advancing about ten miles to the villages of Roccaromana and Pietramelara. The regiment had jockeyed its units to outflank resistance as men climbed hills, reconnoitered for passes and trails, and sought to grapple with an elusive enemy. Many attacks made during darkness over steep, brush-covered hills had exhausted and scattered troops and intensified the problems of unit control. In each case, the Americans had dislodged small groups of Germans who had skillfully placed their few weapons so as to deny movement along the natural avenues of advance, forcing the small American units to make tortuous outflanking movements. By the time the Americans established fields of fire and ranges for mortars and artillery, the Germans, having accomplished their mission of delaying the advance, had retired to the next position, where the same dreary and wearisome process had to be repeated.

    In making this short advance during the five days from 14 through 18 October, the 3d Division had sustained 500 battle casualties.

    The Second Volturno Crossing

    General Ryder had hoped to hold off the advance of his 34th Division for a day or two after crossing the Volturno and taking Caiazzo, because he wanted bridges installed to insure getting his heavy weapons and artillery, as well as an adequate flow of supplies, across the river. He secured permission from General Lucas the night of the 14th to confine his activity on 15 October to patrolling. But when General Clark phoned the corps commander a little later to tell him that the Germans seemed to be retiring and that he wanted VI Corps to pursue at once, Lucas called Ryder to tell him that he "must not lose contact and must push on as hard and

    vigorously as possible." 8 In compliance, Ryder ordered the 135th Infantry, in the right of the division zone, to drive ahead to Dragoni.

    The 135th Infantry had captured the village of Ruviano on the morning of 15 October, but in the rolling grainfields, vineyards, and olive groves immediately beyond the regiment met stiff resistance that slowed progress. Trying to get his troops moving, General Ryder on the morning of 16 October instructed the 168th Infantry on the left to attack along the road from Caiazzo to Alvignano, a village about halfway between the Volturno River and Dragoni. He hoped thus to loosen the resistance beyond Ruviano. The 168th Infantry also struck firm opposition it took a day of hard fighting to move about two miles to Alvignano.

    The stubborn defense reflected the local importance to the Germans of the road network around Alvignano and Dragoni. At both villages, roads run northeastward to bridges, about two miles apart, across the upper Volturno. German units withdrawing from the pressure exerted by the 34th and 3d Divisions needed these routes, and about three battalions of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division fought skillfully to keep the roads open.

    While the 135th Infantry pushed doggedly beyond Ruviano along a ridge line for three miles to a height overlooking Dragoni, reaching that objective on the morning of 18 October, the 168th Infantry was moving with difficulty toward Dragoni. General Ryder had thought of passing the 133d Infantry through the 168th to take Dragoni, but the advance of 3d Division troops to ground dominating the village from the west and across the road west of Dragoni made it desirable for the 34th Division to block German movements eastward across the upper Volturno. The German use of smoke in the area around Dragoni indicated that heavy equipment and large caliber weapons were still being evacuated across the bridge. A swift crossing by the 34th Division might disrupt that withdrawal and perhaps trap some German rear guards pulling back from the 45th Division, which was advancing along the eastern side of the upper Volturno valley from Monte Acero. To take the highway and the railroad bridge that was still intact a little more than a mile northeast of Dragoni became the task of the 133d Infantry. Ryder had intended to reinforce the 133d with contingents of the 135th, but a savage counterattack against the 168th Infantry, apparently a last German effort to mask the final withdrawal from Dragoni on 18 October, prompted him to hold back the 135th to insure his security. Arranging with General Truscott to have the 3d Division keep Dragoni and the river crossing interdicted by fire, General Ryder directed his 168th Infantry to seize the town, the 133d to take the bridge. Later during 18 October, he would send the 135th Infantry to seize the crossing site at the destroyed bridge near Alvignano.

    As the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 133d Infantry attacked on the afternoon of 18 October up the west bank of the upper Volturno toward the Dragoni bridge, the 1st Battalion followed on the right rear, covering the regimental flank along the river. When the sound of heavy firing from the direction of

    Dragoni indicated that the two assault battalions were about to become involved in a fire fight for the bridge, the 1st Battalion commander came to an independent decision. Departing from the exact letter of his instructions, he sent a reconnaissance patrol to find a ford across the river. By crossing to the east bank, the battalion might bypass the resistance and drive rapidly to the regimental objective.

    The lieutenant at the head of the patrol, which consisted of a rifle platoon and several members of the Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon, located a place that looked fordable. He started infiltrating men across the river. Unfortunately, the river was too deep every man wading into the water soon had to swim. Persisting in his search, the lieutenant around dusk discovered a shallow bottom not far upstream from the destroyed Alvignano bridge. By this time half his force was across the river and manning a rather thin and somewhat precarious defensive line. The lieutenant informed the battalion commander of his success in finding a ford, and the battalion commander received permission from regiment to cross.

    Since it would be dark before the battalion could get across the Volturno, the lieutenant put his entire platoon on the far side of the river as a covering force. He marked the ford with willow sticks cut from bushes along the river and pushed into the mud of the river bed. Since he had no tape, he had his men tie toilet paper to the sticks to make them visible in the darkness. He placed guides on the near bank and instructed them to tell every man of the battalion to keep just to the left of the line of sticks when crossing.

    German artillery fire was by then falling on the crossing site, but all the foot elements of the 1st Battalion waded the Volturno at a cost of one casualty. Pushing rapidly up the east bank, the battalion approached the Dragoni bridge around midnight, 18 October. At that point, German troops set off prepared charges and destroyed the structure, leaving only the low gray stone abutments and one arch still standing.

    Fortunately, the Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon had been working at the ford, improving the crossing site with rocks pulled from the river bed to establish a roadway of sorts. At daylight all the antitank guns and prime movers, the communication jeeps, and a ¾-ton truck loaded with ammunition moved safely across and joined the infantry near the destroyed Dragoni bridge.

    Coming up on the west side of the river, the other two battalions of the 133d Infantry reached Dragoni during the morning of 19 October and forded the stream. The relatively swift movement of the regiment, however, had trapped no German rear guards.

    That night the 135th Infantry forded the Volturno near the Alvignano bridge, moving during the hours of darkness to avoid enemy artillery fire. Hampered by swampy ground, sporadic German artillery fire, and occasional mine fields, the regiment moved north for four miles along the Alvignano-Alife road during the dark and foggy morning of 20 October. That afternoon troops entered the old walled village of Alife. Bombed by B-25's a week earlier, Alife was a mass of rubble, its bridge destroyed, its ruins full of mines and booby traps left by the Germans.

    There the 34th Division prepared to

    take over what had formerly been the zone of the 45th Division.

    The Upper Volturno Valley

    The 45th Division, after taking Monte Acero near the confluence of the Volturno and Calore Rivers, had driven up the eastern part of the upper Volturno valley, its advance obstructed by determined German rear guards bolstered by artillery and tank fire and occasional air attacks. Had General Middleton been able to secure close air support for his ground troops, he might have accelerated his progress. Between 11 and 17 October, he requested on six different occasions bombings of targets of opportunity spotted by forward observers--artillery positions, road traffic, and in one instance a column of German vehicles moving bumper to bumper. He was refused for a variety of reasons: "all fighter-bomber aerodromes unserviceable" "targets received too late for aircraft to take off" "weather in area reported impossible." Six prearranged missions laid on between 14 and 18 October to provide direct support to 45th Division forward elements were far from satisfactory--the weather had "interfered with the detailed execution of the above programme." 9

    A bombing and strafing attack by twenty German planes on 14 October and tank fire bolstered by strafing on the following day prevented the 45th Division from taking Faicchio, a village stronghold on dominating ground just beyond Monte Acero. Not until the Germans abandoned Faicchio during the night of 15 October did the division advance.

    For four more days the 45th Division shouldered its way into the valley, covering the eight miles from Faicchio to Piedimonte d'Alife by dogged persistence. Late on 19 October, when leading elements entered the village, the attack came to an end. On the following day the 45th Division went into corps reserve, leaving to the 34th Division the task of continuing the drive up the east side of the valley.

    Placing his 135th Infantry in division reserve at Alife, General Ryder extended the control of his 168th Infantry over Dragoni to free the 3d Division for an advance to the northwest, and sent the 133d Infantry into the narrowing Volturno valley toward Sant'Angelo d'Alife, five miles away.

    The advance of the 133d Infantry had scarcely got under way when the Germans caught the 100th Infantry Battalion in open flats not far from Alife. From positions in the foothills of the Matese Mountains the Germans delivered rifle, machine gun, artillery, and Nebelwerfer fire on the Americans. The sound from the Nebelwerfer rockets, called "screaming meemies," probably terrified the Americans more than the fire itself. The men scattered in panic. With the battalion disorganized, the regimental advance came to a halt before it really began.

    Hoping to demolish the German defenses by firepower, the regiment saturated the area with mortar and artillery shells. But the enemy positions on the mountain slopes were difficult to pinpoint, and the fires were apparently ineffective. Two artillery battalions, the 125th and 151st, crossed the Volturno

    into the regimental area, but their fires, including a concentrated expenditure of 1,134 rounds delivered in a 20-minute period on the morning of 21 October, failed to stop the German guns. When a Cub artillery observation plane discovered several German tanks in a willow grove near the river, the 125th Field Artillery Battalion fired 736 shells with little result the resistance remained firm.

    For three days the 133d Infantry tried to move forward without success. Then the Germans broke contact and withdrew. On the fourth day, the morning of 24 October, troops walked into the vacuum and took not only Sant'Angelo d'Alife but also Raviscanina unopposed.

    The advance of seven miles in the upper valley of the Volturno during four days cost the 133d Infantry a total of 59 men killed and 148 wounded. The entire 34th Division had suffered more than 350 casualties in the period of a week.

    The week had not been easy for the Germans either. "We withdraw 5 kilometers," a German noncommissioned officer wrote in his diary. "Are under heavy artillery fire. Had several wounded. M/Sgt Bregenz killed . . . . My morale is gone." 10

    The Coastal Zone

    Headed toward the lower part of the Garigliano River, 10 Corps was fighting in the coastal area--a countryside of grainfields, vineyards, orchards, and olive groves, cut by drainage canals, tree-lined streams, deep ravines, and sunken roads, and rimmed by sand dunes and marshes. A dozen miles north of the Volturno, a hill mass heaves up from the coastal plain topped by Monte Massico and Monte Santa Croce, this high ground commanded the corps approach routes from the south as well as the Garigliano valley to the northwest. To the northeast stand still greater heights--Monte Camino, Monte la Difensa, and Monte Maggiore. 11

    The 46th Division, working along the coast, had reached the Regia Agnena Nuova Canal, four miles north of the Volturno, by 15 October there, strong opposition halted the division for three days. Late on the evening of 18 October, the 46th forced a crossing and secured a bridgehead, which was subsequently enlarged and reinforced. Three ferries operating continuously brought enough men, equipment, and supplies to the far side to make feasible a movement in force to Monte Massico and Monte Santa Croce.

    Meanwhile the 7th Armoured Division, after bridging the Volturno at Grazzanise on 16 October, advanced slowly across low, wet ground, its progress obstructed by demolitions and rear guard resistance. At the Regia Agnena Nuova Canal the division made an assault crossing and fought through grainfields and olive groves for three miles to Sparanise on 25 October. Highway 7, leading through the Cascano pass between Monte Santa Croce and Monte Massico, was at hand.

    In the right of the 10 Corps zone, the 56th Division had been fighting along the Triflisco ridge to open Highway 6 and gain access to Teano. The terrain was extremely rugged. Some ridge crests

    were so narrow that only a single platoon could be deployed. Supplies often had to be carried by hand. Furnishing fire support was frequently impossible. Yet the division moved forward and by 22 October was ready to concentrate for an attack into the Teano valley.

    Since the ground in the center of his corps was not particularly suitable for armored operations, General McCreery halted his divisions and on 24 October switched the zones of the 7th Armoured and 46th Divisions, an exchange that was completed four days later. With his immediate objectives the heights of Monte Massico and Monte Santa Croce, McCreery set 31 October as the date for opening the attack. (Map 4) He directed the 56th Division on the right to make the main effort through Teano to Roccamonfina, five miles beyond the 46th Division, now in the center, to drive up Highway 7 and through the Cascano defile to seize ground controlling the road network around Sessa Aurunca the 7th Armoured Division to protect the left flank and simulate a threat up the coastal route through Mondragone. Ships offshore were to support the attack by furnishing gunfire.

    Several days before the jump-off date, British patrols discovered that the Germans were about to disengage. As the enemy thinned his front-line dispositions and began to draw back, British units followed to maintain firm contact. By 29 October, the 56th Division was within a mile of Teano, the 46th was at the entrance of the Cascano pass, and the 7th Armoured Division reported definite German withdrawal in the coastal area.

    Hoping to disrupt German movements, General McCreery launched his attack a day earlier. On 3 October, the three divisions pushed forward, the 56th taking Teano, the 46th advancing a mile into the Cascano pass, the 7th Armoured doing little more than making its presence felt because of extremely muddy ground that bogged down vehicles. The 10 Corps attack continued--the 56th Division capturing Roccamonfina on 1 November and Monte Santa Croce four days later the 46th moving through the Cascano pass and taking control of the Sessa Aurunca area the 7th Armoured clearing the coastal region as far as the lower Garigliano River. McCreery had failed to disrupt the German withdrawal, but his troops made good progress. On 1 November patrols from the 7th Armoured and 46th Divisions reached and reconnoitered the near bank of the Garigliano.

    The advance had been surprisingly easy the action for the most part consisted of eliminating numerous machine gun positions by small unit maneuver and firepower. The XIV Panzer Corps in its coastal sector had abandoned the Barbara Line.

    Once through the Massico barrier and in control of the ground dominating the lower Garigliano valley, 10 Corps turned to the hills that stretched to the north--Monte Camino, Monte la Difensa, and Monte Maggiore. Held by the Germans, this unbroken lateral mountain barrier extended about eight miles between the Cascano pass and the Mignano gap, which provided an opening for Highway 6 on the way to Cassino, twelve miles beyond. To make possible a Fifth Army drive through Mignano to Cassino, 10 Corps would first have to gain possession of Camino, Difensa, and Maggiore on the left side of the highway, while VI Corps took the high

    Map 4
    10 Corps Drive to the Garigliano
    26 October-4 November 1943

    ground on the right. In this area the Barbara Line was still intact.

    More Mountain Warfare

    In the VI Corps zone the 3d Division was consolidating positions in the high ground immediately west of Dragoni, the 34th Division trying to advance in the upper Volturno valley, and the 45th Division was in corps reserve. When the 34th Division reached the head of the upper Volturno valley, General Lucas would have to shift his corps dispositions in order to draw closer to 10 Corps. At that time, he would have to send the 3d Division to the northwest to attack toward the high ground dominating the Mignano gap, get the 34th Division and perhaps the 45th across the upper Volturno River to seize Venafro, and make provision for protecting his right flank in the virtually impassable foothills of the Matese mountain range. (Map 5)

    The immediate task was to clear the upper Volturno valley, and this entailed a continuation of the 34th Division attack. General Ryder passed the 135th Infantry through the 133d to continue the advance beyond Raviscanina. In support of the regimental attack scheduled for the morning of 26 October, the 34th Division Artillery began to fire successive concentrations at 0530, moving the fire ahead of the assault units 100 yards every six minutes. Whether the preparation was effective soon became academic. Early morning darkness and a heavy morning mist obscured terrain features and the line of departure combat units and supply parties soon became confused and lost their sense of direction. The attack deteriorated as the men became disorganized. Fortunately, there was almost no opposition on a side road to Ailano, and a battalion of infantry moved forward two miles and took the hamlet that afternoon. But resistance on the main road in the regimental zone prevented an advance to Pratella. For two days the Germans held. When General Ryder passed the 168th Infantry through the 135th on the morning of 28 October, the Germans were withdrawing--even before the heavy artillery preparation and a fighter-bomber attack struck Pratella. American patrols entering the village on 3 October found the Germans had gone. With long-range artillery fire harassing the advance elements and contact with the enemy confined to scattered small arms and machine gun fire, the 34th Division reached the bank of the Volturno River on 3 November. 12

    Meanwhile, General Clark had given General Lucas the 504th Parachute Infantry to protect the VI Corps right flank. This experienced unit, equipped with light weapons and trained to operate independently, had a reputation for skillful patrolling and infiltration, valuable for a task that would involve scouting virtually impassable mountainsides and maintaining contact with the Eighth Army on the other side of the Matese range.

    General Lucas dispatched Colonel Tucker's paratroopers on 27 October five miles beyond Raviscanina to Gallo. After setting up a base there, Tucker extended patrol operations toward Isernia, about fifteen miles distant and just across the Fifth Army boundary in the British army zone of advance. Two days later Colonel Tucker reported that his

    Map 5
    VI Corps Advance
    26 October-4 November 1943

    troops were meeting only small and isolated German detachments and observing only very light enemy vehicular movements along the Venafro-Isernia road. 13

    The corps commander had called his division commanders together on 27 October to talk over plans, and the discussion had been, he remarked, "hot and heavy." Not a council of war, because Lucas was determined to make his own decisions, the conference was wholesome, he believed. "These primadonnas feel," Lucas wrote, "that they had their day in court and I get the ideas of men of great combat experience." 14

    From the conference and his own thinking emerged General Lucas' instructions for the next phase of operations. On 29 October he ordered the 504th Parachute Infantry to cut the Venafro-Isernia road the 34th and 45th Divisions to cross the upper Volturno River and the 3d Division to be ready to seize Presenzano, a village that would give the division a foothold on the high ground overlooking the Mignano gap from the east. 15

    The 3d Division jumped off on 31 October. Attacking northwest from the Roccaromana area immediately west of Dragoni, two regiments moving abreast crossed the small valley carrying the lateral road that connects Raviscanina and Highway 6. Having cut the road, the 15th Infantry and the 30th Infantry took two hill masses dominating the hamlet of Pietravairano.

    Because this advance had been relatively easy, General Truscott secured permission to advance on both sides of Highway 6 to the Mignano gap. 16 Against a surprising absence of opposition, the 7th Infantry crossed Highway 6 and cut the Roccamonfina-Mignano road. By 3 November the regiment had gained the wooded height of Friello Hill west of Highway 6, where the troops found many mines and booby traps but few Germans. The 15th Infantry, also moving quickly, attacked up Highway 6, sending a battalion to seize the high ground above Presenzano. By 3 November, the 15th Infantry was at the southern edge of Mignano on the east side of Highway 6.

    With 10 Corps holding Monte Massico near the coast and the 3d Division beyond Presenzano, it became obvious that the German troops defending the Barbara Line had pulled back. They had gained time with little expenditure of men and matériel. They had used the terrain to good advantage, careful to employ defiladed ground for shelter and dense woods for concealment. Their artillery fires had been effective--having registered and adjusted artillery on the likely approach routes, they were able to fire without direct observation. Small mobile infantry units supported by long-range artillery fire had conducted a skillful rear guard action.

    The final surge by 10 Corps to the lower Garigliano, Monte Massico, and Teano had been made possible by intentional German withdrawal the lower Garigliano provided the Germans with a better obstacle and the high ground immediately behind the river better positions than those they had abandoned. The final drive by the 3d Division to the high ground around the Mignano gap

    had been made possible by anything but an intentional German withdrawal. Two inexperienced German infantry divisions, the 94th and 305th, had come from Rommel's Army Group B area into Kesselring's OB SUED command for assignment to Tenth Army. The 94th was to come under the XIV Panzer Corps, the 305th under the LXXVI Panzer Corps on the east coast. When Kesselring, concerned about the possibility of Allied amphibious hooks, ordered Vietinghoff to speed the construction of coastal defenses to protect the deep flank, particularly between Gaeta and Terracina, Vietinghoff assigned this task to the 94th Division. To help the 94th, he withdrew several engineer battalions from the Mignano sector. The transfer of the engineers delayed completion of a strongpoint under construction at Mignano and prevented work on the massif holding Presenzano, projected as an advanced bastion of defense, from being carried out as extensively as planned. There had been little to stop or slow down the 3d Division. 17

    Except for these swift advances, Allied progress had been slow and costly. General Clark was irritated. "So am I," General Lucas wrote in his diary. But he could see no other way. The troops could not be pushed beyond their capabilities. "Things are going slowly," he admitted, but as long as the Germans were effective and dangerous, there was no alternative to patience. 18

    In twenty days the Fifth Army had advanced between 15 and 20 miles along a 40-mile front. The troops had not succeeded in engaging the main body of the enemy forces. The senior commanders could only hope that the Allies had forced the Germans to withdraw faster than they had intended.

    Rome was still a long way off. Nor was there evidence of an imminent enemy collapse, or the prospect of a decisive Allied strike toward the Eternal City. The discouraging frontal advance would have to continue. Unless, of course, the breakthrough of the Barbara Line meant that the Germans were about to give up southern Italy. The third crossing of the Volturno River might tell.

    The Third Volturno Crossing

    Getting the 34th and 45th Divisions westward across the upper Volturno River was designed to help the 3d Division take the Mignano gap and open the way for an advance to Cassino and beyond. While the 3d Division fought in the immediate vicinity of Mignano, the 34th Division was to cross the river and attack into broken ground around Colli, about five miles away, in order to anchor securely the right flank of the corps. The 504th Parachute Infantry--operating still on the right flank in terrain so difficult that it was necessary often to communicate by carrier pigeon and sometimes to send food and ammunition by overhead trolley strung across deep mountain gorges--would lend assistance by cutting the Venefro-Isernia road. The 45th Division was to push up Highway 85 for about eight miles to Venafro, then turn west and, assisted by a Ranger battalion, seize Monte Sammucro, which blocked Highway 6 north of Mignano. 19

    General Lucas was concerned about the river crossing. The operation would

    REMOVING A GERMAN S MINE, called "Bouncing Betty" by American troops because it jumped into the air before exploding.

    be complicated, he believed, particularly since the defenders held commanding ground across the river. Both assault divisions would have to be supplied over a single road under enemy observation and fire. Yet there was no avoiding it. "I must cross the river," Lucas wrote in his diary, "if I am ever to get to Rome." 20

    Pushed continually by General Clark, who insisted that there were few enemy troops on the far side of the river, General Lucas just as frequently requested more time to prepare. He saw no point in incurring unnecessary casualties. Reluctantly, Lucas set the night of 2 November for the crossing, though he later had to postpone the 34th Division operation for a day to give Ryder additional time to reconnoiter and get more artillery into supporting positions.

    To the troops taking cover among the olive groves on the slopes overlooking the flat valley of the upper Volturno, the view to the west was far from comforting. Just beyond the river in the foreground lay Highway 85 and a parallel railroad to Venafro. Beyond these rose rugged and towering mountains. There the Germans, who had destroyed bridges and spread mines behind them, had to be waiting for those who would cross.

    The first troops to ford the upper Volturno in this third crossing of the Volturno

    by VI Corps were from the 45th Division. During the night of 2 November, concealed by darkness, the men of Company F, 180th Infantry, moved through clumps of willows to the water, waded the shallow stream, and took up positions high on a terraced hillside to form a covering force. During the afternoon and evening of 3 November troops of the 4th Ranger Battalion crossed the river with little trouble. Following a steep and rocky trail in single file, the men climbed into the hills, moving west toward Highway 6. About the same time the rest of the 2d Battalion, 180th Infantry, crossed the gravel bed of the river downstream, struggled up steep ridges, and advanced northwest toward the village of Ceppagna, there to cut a mountain road connecting Venafro and Highway 6. There was no opposition until morning, when the battalion met German troops on a narrow ridge near Rocca Pipirozzi, a little stone village clustered about a castle on a peak. The battalion sideslipped to the Ceppagna area to block the road and sent patrols southwest to make contact with the Rangers, who had marched all night over jagged heights for 12 tortuous miles. In the morning they too had met Germans, and they dug in on Cannavinelle Hill, 2 to 3 miles east of Highway 6. 21

    Upstream from the crossing sites of the 180th Infantry, the 179th Infantry had sent its 3d Battalion across the Volturno very early on 4 November. Advancing toward Venafro through the grainfields and vineyards of the valley, the men made good progress against virtually no opposition. By midmorning the battalion was at the outskirts of Venafro, but there machine gun fire halted the troops. One rifle company fought its way through the town to the safety of a small hill immediately to the north, but the remainder of the battalion could not move from the flat and exposed ground until after dark. The 1st and 2d Battalions had meanwhile crossed the river and come forward. On the following morning the regiment attacked into the high ground to eliminate the few defenders who had temporarily delayed the capture of Venafro.

    The 34th Division crossed the Volturno with two regiments abreast, the troops moving through the farmland of the muddy valley to positions along the low near river bank shortly before midnight, 3 November. 22 After an artillery preparation of thirty minutes, the troops waded the swift and icy stream. Some hostile mortar and artillery fire came from the hills, but the worst obstacle was the large number of mines and booby traps planted in the valley, their trip wires seemingly attached to every grapevine, fruit tree, and haystack. Commanders and staffs of the higher headquarters could follow the progress of the advancing troops by the explosions.

    The assault regiments crossed Highway 85 and moved into the hills against stiffening opposition. By about noon of 4 November the leading units were on the initial objectives of the division. The heavy casualties caused by mines made it impossible to continue the attack without reinforcement, and General Ryder therefore brought over the rest of his division.

    With VI Corps across the upper Volturno and hammering on the Bernhard


    Line, General Lucas' concern vanished. "All is well tonight," he wrote in his diary on 4 November. 23 Good news, too, was the fact that the 504th Parachute Infantry had managed to get a patrol over the mountains and into Isernia the village was clear of enemy troops--no German troops were being assembled there for a strike against the VI Corps right flank.

    The Germans at the Bernhard Line

    The crossings of the upper Volturno River during the nights of 2 and 3 November had taken the Germans somewhat by surprise. They had expected crossings, since the river was fordable all along its upper reaches and the valley was difficult to defend, but not so soon. The Germans had come to anticipate that American attacks, especially across rivers, would be carefully prepared. Consequently, the unit that had been defending the area, the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division (reinforced by small elements of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division) had planted a profusion of mines and left merely outposts to cover its movement into the Bernhard Line positions.

    Kesselring had asked Vietinghoff to hold the Allied forces away from the Bernhard Line until 1 November, when the fortifications were expected to be completed, and Vietinghoff had performed this ticklish operation with skill,

    avoiding the loss of fighting strength and enabling enough forces to withdraw to the fortifications to insure a strong defense. In the process his troops had destroyed bridges, culverts, tunnels, railroad tracks, engines, and wagons in the area they had evacuated they had laid some 45,000 mines forward of the Bernhard Line and an additional 30,000 on its immediate approaches. Although Vietinghoff would have preferred to concentrate forces for a counterattack against either Fifth or Eighth Army, he was well aware of how useless this would be without air support. Fighting from the excellent defensive positions of the Bernhard Line would be almost as satisfying. Not a single line, it was rather a system of mutually supporting positions organized in depth to permit penetrations to be sealed off quickly. 24

    A special engineer headquarters under General Bessell had planned the Winter Line with foresight and directed the construction work with great competence. Italian civilians, who were paid good wages plus a bonus of tobacco and food, performed much of the labor. Mussolini's puppet government had also made available several quasi-military construction battalions.

    Kesselring issued his "order for the conduct of the campaign" on 1 November. He now told Vietinghoff to be unconcerned about Allied amphibious landings in the deep flanks--OB SUED would take responsibility for repelling them Vietinghoff was to give his full attention to a strong defense at the Bernhard Line while the construction along the Gustav Line was being completed.

    A few days later, despite Vietinghoff's skillful withdrawal, Kesselring showed dissatisfaction with what he considered to be the quick crumbling of the Barbara Line. He questioned Vietinghoff's conduct of operations. Taking umbrage, Vietinghoff immediately requested sick leave. Kesselring approved the request and took temporary command of the Tenth Army until the arrival on the following day, 5 November, of Generalleutnant Joachim Lemelsen, who would command the army until 28 December, when Vietinghoff returned. Also in November, Hube was given command of an army on the Eastern Front and Generalleutnant Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin replaced him as XIV Panzer Corps commander. 25

    German troops in contact with the Allied armies consisted of about seven and a half divisions. The XIV Panzer Corps controlled the 94th Infantry and the 15th and 3d Panzer Grenadier Divisions, as well as a battle group of the Hermann Goering Division. Under the LXXVI Panzer Corps headquarters were the 26th Panzer, 1st Parachute, 305th Infantry, and 65th Infantry Divisions.

    The order of battle was not an altogether accurate measure of troop strength. For example, the 94th Division was neither experienced nor well trained.

    "It is completely illogical to send us this division," the Tenth Army chief of staff had protested in a telephone conversation with OB SUED.

    "It is not illogical," Kesselring's chief of staff replied. "Hitler has ordered it." 26

    Logical or not, the division soon took responsibility for part of the front, but

    as it turned out the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, which it was supposed to replace, would remain as well.

    More important in measuring the strength of the German divisions was the reorganization that had taken place generally in October 1943. Until that time, the standard German infantry division had an antitank battalion a reconnaissance battalion three infantry regiments, each controlling three rifle battalions a regiment of medium (150-mm. howitzers) artillery and three battalions of light (105-mm. howitzers or guns) artillery (for a total of 48 pieces, roughly the same number as in an American division). The division at full strength thus had a little more than 17,000 men. Dwindling supplies of manpower in the fall of 1943 prompted a drastic overhaul to reduce the size of the standard division while retaining its firepower. By giving each of the three regiments only two battalions of infantry, the Germans reduced the division to about 13,500 men. Although Hitler in January 1944 would try to trim personnel to about 11,000 troops, OKH planners would compromise and slice off only 1,000 men, making reductions chiefly in supply and overhead units. A cut in the basic unit, reducing the rifle company to 140 enlisted men and 9 officers, gave the German division about 1,200 fewer riflemen than the American division. 27

    Added to the reduction in the size of the infantry division, there was the difficulty of replacing losses, not only in personnel but in equipment. A battle strength of three to four hundred men in a battalion was considered good, though seldom attained. Artillery could not match Allied firepower because of limited ammunition stocks. The ground troops were denied consistent air support. There were no separate tank battalions to bolster the infantry units. Reserves were scarce. 28

    But all the deficiencies that plagued the Germans were more than compensated by the superior defensive positions the terrain of southern Italy offered. On the Bernhard Line the German divisions would use all their infantry battalions at the front, usually keeping the reconnaissance battalion in immediate reserve. Corps headquarters would try to have one battalion in reserve. Army would have no reserves at all, but would depend on withdrawing forces (normally an entire division) from quiet sectors to strengthen and give depth to threatened points along the front. At the beginning of November, Kesselring permitted Tenth Army to retain a battle group of the Hermann Goering Division in the line, while the rest of the division went into reserve in the Frosinone area at the head of the Liri valley. Kesselring also positioned the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division in reserve at Velletri, on the southern approaches to Rome, particularly for use against coastal invasion.

    A major question troubled the German command. Would the troops in the line actually hold after a year of constant retreat in North Africa, Sicily, and southern Italy? For the troops to take seriously the order to stand fast on the Bernhard Line, the commanders at all echelons would have to have their units well in hand. Otherwise the defense would collapse.

    Into the Bernhard Line

    The immediate objective of the Fifth Army offensive was some twelve miles ahead--the entrance to the Liri valley, the gateway to Rome. To reach the Liri valley, the army had first to clear the shoulders of the Mignano gap, then take Cassino, and finally cross the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers. If the troops could crack the defenses at Mignano, they might be able to rush across the intervening ground to the Liri valley. (Map 6)

    At Mignano, Highway 6 and the railroad to Rome come together and run side by side, overlooked on the left by the Camino-Difensa-Maggiore mountain mass, on the right by the terrain around Presenzano, the Cannavinelle Hill, and Monte Rotondo. Just beyond Mignano the highway and railroad separate, the railroad tracks going around the western edge of Monte Lungo, the road running around the eastern edge. Passing between Monte Lungo on the left and Monte Rotondo on the right, the road heads for the village of San Pietro Infine, which is set like a jewel on the forbidding height of Monte Sammucro. Before reaching the mountain, Highway 6 swings left around the high ground, bypasses San Pietro, and runs straight to Cassino.

    In early November 10 Corps was at the foot of the Camino-Difensa-Maggiore mass, with the 56th Division in position to attack Camino, a mountain of steep and rocky slopes and razorback main

    Map 6
    Fifth Army at the Winter Line
    5-15 November 1943


    spurs with very little cover, looming some 3,000 feet above the Garigliano valley. Attacking on 5 November with two brigades, the 56th Division found the few natural approaches to the top carefully mined, booby-trapped, and wired, and covered by crew-served weapons in pits blasted out of solid rock.

    After overcoming German outpost positions in several hamlets at the foot of the mountain, the troops started to fight up the slope on the afternoon of 6 November, a slow and backbreaking process. Units of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division defending the hill launched three counterattacks on 8 November and almost drove the British from the slope, but they held on doggedly, retaining a precarious position about halfway up.

    Two days later, as the weather became colder and wetter, the British began to show signs of complete exhaustion. Losses sustained by continuous action since the invasion of Salerno had by this time so reduced combat efficiency that it became doubtful whether the troops could hold Monte Camino even if they captured all of it. An entire battalion was doing little more than carrying rations, water, and ammunition to men who were hanging to the steep slopes evacuation of casualties was a long and wearying haul. When two rifle companies were surrounded by Germans, they held out for five days, even though

    they had only one day's supply of rations and water, until a sharp local attack finally opened a path to them and made possible the withdrawal of the few soldiers who remained.

    General Templer, the division commander, was ready to commit his third brigade on 12 November in a last attempt to secure the mountain when General Clark gave approval for the 56th Division to withdraw. During the night of 14 November the troops started to pull out. The hazardous job of breaking contact was completed without enemy interference, thanks for the most part to bad weather. But this could not disguise the fact that the troops of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, wearing thin, summer uniforms for service in "sunny Italy," had won a defensive victory. 29

    Much the same happened on Monte la Difensa, where the 3d Division had committed the 7th Infantry across the corps boundary on the left of Highway 6. Attacking into a high ridge between the jagged peaks of Camino on the south and the perpendicular cliffs of Difensa on the north, the regiment employed all its battalions in the attack, hoping not only to take Difensa but also to help the British take Camino.

    For ten days the regiment fought, trying in vain to scale the heights against strong resistance anchored on commanding ground--deadly rifle, machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire. It was difficult enough simply to exist on the narrow ledges above deep gorges. When a man needed both hands for climbing, he could carry little in the way of weapons and ammunition. Efforts to drop supplies from light planes proved unsuccessful--the material came to rest at the bottom of inaccessible ravines or fell into enemy territory. It took six hours to bring a wounded man down the mountain. Exposed to rain and cold, increasingly fatigued by the unceasing combat, the troops were unable to conquer Monte la Difensa.

    The rest of the 3d Division had meanwhile been trying to take the two mountains dominating the gap just above the village of Mignano: Monte Lungo on the left of Highway 6, and Monte Rotondo on the right. Patrols reported mine fields, tank traps, and machine gun positions on both mountains, and the assault troops found units of the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division and the battle group of the Hermann Goering Division in stout defense, despite their losses.

    General Truscott had been resting the 30th Infantry, holding it in readiness for a final and decisive thrust in the area of the Mignano gap--an attack he intended to order when he judged the defenses on the point of crumbling. Instead, after General McCreery asked General Clark for more pressure from VI Corps to help the 56th Division on Monte Camino, and after General Clark relayed the request to General Lucas, the VI Corps commander directed Truscott to employ the 30th Infantry in a wide enveloping maneuver. Truscott protested that this would waste the regiment, but of course complied.

    He sent the 30th Infantry by truck around Presenzano to the vicinity of Rocca Pipirozzi, in the upper Volturno valley. There the regiment was to pass through the troops of the 45th Division and attack westward across Cannavinelle Hill, where a Ranger battalion was dug in, to take Monte Rotondo from the east. In the meantime, a battalion of the


    15th Infantry attacked beyond Presenzano and headed northeastward to bolster the Rangers on Cannavinelle. 30

    After passing through the 180th Infantry during the night of 5 November, the 30th Infantry attacked the following morning. The regiment made little progress. Both the battalion of the 15th Infantry striving toward Cannavinelle and the battalion of the 15th sent to seize the southeast nose of Monte Lungo failed to reach their objectives.

    It took another attack on the foggy morning of 8 November, this one supported by eight battalions of closely coordinated artillery, for the 3d Division to seize its goals. The 30th Infantry broke through the defenses of the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division, smashed its way through the dense brush covering Monte Rotondo, and reached the crest. The battalion of the 15th Infantry captured the southeast nose of barren Monte Lungo, while another battalion moved up Highway 6 between Lungo and Rotondo to secure the horseshoe curve a mile north of Mignano. During the next few days the troops of both regiments repelled counterattacks, dug more deeply into the ground for protection against hostile mortar and artillery fire, and tried to keep alive and reasonably warm and dry. 31

    The counterattacks against those units of the 3d Division east of Highway 6 were launched for the most part by a paratrooper battalion that Kesselring had made available to Tenth Army specifically to regain Monte Rotondo. The battalion was to have formed the cadre of a new parachute division, but Kesselring judged the danger to the defensive positions below Cassino sufficiently great to justify the unit's expenditure. Taking heavy losses, the battalion soon became ineffective. 32

    Near the hamlet of Ceppagna, the paratroopers had also engaged Rangers who were blocking the lateral mountain road between Venafro and Highway 6. The 1st Ranger Battalion had joined the 4th during the night of 8 November to bolster the blocking positions and permit the 180th Infantry to rejoin the 45th Division attack into the mountains behind Venafro. After a Ranger reconnaissance patrol reported a fortified German observation post on a ridge of Monte Sammucro overlooking Venafro to the east and San Pietro Infine to the west, a Ranger company set out at dawn on 11 November to eliminate the position. The Rangers drove the Germans down the ridge toward San Pietro, but more Germans soon returned to initiate two days of fierce, close-in fighting. Before it was over, two more Ranger companies had become involved. Another German counterattack on 13 November drove the Rangers out of Ceppagna and threatened to pierce the VI Corps front at Mignano, but the commitment of two more Ranger companies and heavy expenditures of 4.2-inch mortar shells restored the line. Understrength by this time, with cooks and drivers serving as litter bearers and supply porters, the Rangers held on, controlling an area of peaks on the eastern portion of Monte Sammucro and awaiting the arrival of the 3d Ranger Battalion, promised as further reinforcement in the next few days.

    In the 45th Division zone troops cleared jagged cliffs and precipitous peaks as they drove slowly forward. Supply was arduous and hazardous even the pack mules were unable to negotiate the steep trails in many places. German positions blasted and dug into solid rock had to be taken one by one. Maps were of little value, positions difficult to report.

    In similar terrain, perhaps even worse, where pack mules no longer solved transportation problems, the 34th Division struggled over a series of scrub-covered hills, clearing routes through mined areas by driving sheep and goats ahead of troops, engaging in extensive patrolling, and incurring heavy casualties from exposure to the rain and cold. The only action of consequence was the spurt of a task force under the assistant division commander, Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Caffey, Jr., who sped up a mountain road for five miles with a composite force of infantry, tanks, tank destroyers, and engineers to seize the village of Montaquila and make contact with the 504th Parachute Infantry, which had pushed through equally rugged terrain west of Isernia.

    The sudden if limited breakthrough by the 34th Division stemmed from the exhaustion of the widely dispersed units of the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division. Although Lemelsen called in parts of the 26th Panzer Division to bolster the


    grenadiers, the 34th Division's advance did not particularly worry him. "Enemy gains," as Vietinghoff later remarked, "constituted no great threat and every step forward into the mountainous terrain merely increased his difficulties." 33

    Nor was there much concern over developments on the east coast, where General Montgomery's Eighth Army had secured the Termoli-Vinchiaturo line by mid-October to cover the Foggia airfields. 34 When patrols met stiffening German resistance and air reconnaissance revealed considerable defensive preparations along the Trigno River, the next likely area for the Germans to make a stand, General Montgomery decided to consolidate his front, readjust his unit dispositions, bring up his rear elements, and establish a firm base before continuing his advance. 35 However, events disrupted his plan to have 13 Corps attack toward Isernia near the army boundary in the mountains to cover a 5 Corps assault crossing of the Trigno on 28 October. Instead, his troops were in close contact with the withdrawing LXXVI Panzer Corps a week earlier, and the 78th Division seized a bridgehead over the Trigno on the night of 22 October.

    This compelled the Germans to move quickly behind the river along the entire front. Blustery rain and thick mud foiled British efforts to expand the bridgehead and also forced a postponement of the 13 Corps attack toward Isernia.

    During the rainy night of 29 October, 13 Corps' 5th Division jumped off toward Isernia, meeting increasing resistance in difficult mountainous terrain. The 5 Corps, assisted by powerful artillery and naval gunfire support, launched a heavy attack across the Trigno on 2 November. Two days later, as troops of the 13 Corps entered Isernia unopposed, meeting there a patrol from the 504th Parachute Infantry, the LXXVI Panzer Corps began to fall back toward the Sangro River. On 8 November 78th Division troops were holding high ground overlooking the Sangro, and the 8th Indian Division was coming up on the left. A week later the near bank of the Sangro was entirely cleared of Germans.

    Hampered by demolitions, swollen streams, bad weather, and stiff opposition, Eighth Army in five weeks had pushed its 35-mile front forward approximately thirty miles along the coast, fifty in the interior. At the Sangro River General Montgomery faced a major defensive system, the eastern portion of the formidable Gustav Line, and there he paused to regroup and resupply his forces and to plan a co-ordinated effort for the next phase of his campaign.

    Since the east coast offered few decisive objectives, the Germans remained relatively unconcerned. It was the other side of the Matese range and the Allied pressure around Mignano on the road to Rome--the 56th Division on Monte Camino and the 3d Division at the gap--that caused the Germans anxiety. Not only was the Bernhard Line being threatened but the very route to Rome might suddenly be uncovered. Lemelsen regrouped his Tenth Army about 10 November. Leaving the LXXVI Panzer Corps only three divisions, the 1st Parachute, the 16th Panzer, and the 65th Infantry--although the armored division was already earmarked for early transfer to the Russian front--Lemelsen gave the XIV Panzer Corps five divisions, the 26th Panzer, the 3d and 15th Panzer Grenadier, and the 94th and 305th Infantry. In army reserve he had most of the Hermann Goering Division. Near Rome Kesselring retained control of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division as OB SUED reserve. 36

    The reorganization promised little relief. The combat troops were reaching the point of utter exhaustion. Expecting an immediate breakthrough, Senger, the new commander of the XIV Panzer Corps, was of the opinion that all units in reserve ought to be committed at once to insure the integrity of the front. 37 Then, suddenly, the Fifth Army attack came to a halt.

    On 13 November General Clark told General Alexander that a continuation of the frontal attacks would exhaust the divisions, particularly the 56th and 3d, to a dangerous degree. With Alexander's approval, Clark halted offensive operations on 15 November. For two weeks the troops would rest and prepare for another attempt to smash through the Winter Line and reach the heights overlooking the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers and the entrance into the Liri valley.

    General Lucas later believed that a fresh division on the Allied side would have turned what had come close to a stalemate into a decisive Allied victory. Unfortunately, none had been immediately available. "Wars," Lucas remarked, "should be fought in better country than this." 38


    1. Quote from Lucas Diary, 14 Oct 43 Truscott, Command Missions, p. 974 Fifth Army OI, 14 Oct 43 (confirming verbal orders issued 1530, 14 Oct 43) VI Corps FO 8, 2100, 14 Oct 43.

    2. Although the Board of Geographic names prefers the spelling Monte Sambucaro, the more familiar Monte Sammucro, which appears on Fifth Army maps, will be used in this volume.

    3. Vietinghoff MSS 15th AGp Intel Summary 22, 27 Oct 43, Fifth Army G-3 Jnl.

    4. Vietinghoff MSS Steiger MS.

    5. Fifth Army G-2 Rpt 41, 2200, 17 Oct 43.

    6. 3d Div AAR, Oct 43. This section is based on the official records of the 3d Division.

    7. From the Volturno to the Winter Line, p. 65. See also Lucas Diary, 19 Oct 43.

    8. Quote from Fifth Army History, Part II, p. 31. See also 34th Div AAR, Oct 43. This section is based on the official records of the 34th Division.

    9. No. 7 Air Support Control Ltr, Requests for Air Support by 45th Div, 18 Oct 43, G-3 Jnl.

    10. Incl 2 to VI Corps G-2 Rpt 44, 1530, 22 Oct 43.

    11. The following is taken from the Fifth Army History, part II, pp. 36ff.

    12. See Rpt 90, AGF Bd Rpts, NATO.

    13. 504th Prcht Inf AAR, Oct 43.

    14. Lucas Diary, 27 Oct 43.

    15. VI Corps FO 12, 29 Oct 43.

    16. VI Corps FO 13, 31 Oct 43.

    17. Vietinghoff MSS.

    18. Lucas Diary, 29, 30 Oct, 1 Nov 43.

    19. VI Corps FO 13, 31 Oct 43.

    20. Lucas Diary, 29 Oct 43.

    21. See Altieri, Darby's Rangers, pp. 63-64.

    22. 34th Div, Volturno Crossing, 3-4 Nov 43, OCMH.

    23. Lucas Diary, 4 Nov 43.

    24. Vietinghoff MSS.

    25. Steiger MS.

    26. Tenth A KTB, 21 Oct 43.

    27. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 236-37.

    28. MS # T-1a (Westphal et al.), OCMH.

    29. See Vietinghoff MSS.

    30. Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 384ff. Lucas Diary, 6 Nov 43 Truscott to author, Sep 64.

    31. Capt. Maurice L. Britt of the 3d Division was largely responsible, despite wounds from bullets and grenades, for repelling a bitter counterattack for his action on 10 November, he was later awarded the Medal of Honor. Pfc. Floyd K. Lindstrom, a machine gunner in the 3d Division, was awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism on 11 November.

    32. Vietinghoff MSS.

    33. Vietinghoff MSS.

    34. The following is based on Montgomery, El Alamein to the River Sangro, pp. 133-39 Eisenhower Dispatch, pp. 134ff. De Guingand, Operation Victory, pp. 327ff. Fifth Army History, Part II, pp. 38-59 Vietinghoff MSS.

    35. See Eighth Army Msg, 1355, 17 Oct 43, and Liaison Rpts 68 and 72, 15, 17 Oct 43, all in Fifth Army G-3 Jnl.

    36. Steiger MS.

    37. MS # C-095b (Senger), OCMH.

    38. Lucas Diary, 6, 10 Nov 43.

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