D Day
The First Hours on the Beaches

AT ONE MINUTE PAST MIDNIGHT on 9 September, loudspeakers on the transports called the first boat teams to their stations. Soldiers clambered down the nets into landing craft. Motors sputtered and then roared as the first boats pulled away. Soon the calm sea was alive with snub-nosed craft, circling to reach their proper positions. In the darkness some of the coxswains failed to locate their leaders. Lanes had been previously swept through the mine fields, but occasionally mines broke free and drifted into the paths which the boats were trying to follow. Spray drenched the men and their equipment. Many of the soldiers became seasick. But at length the LCM's (Landing Craft, Mechanized) and LCVP's (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel), carrying the first assault waves, turned east behind the guide boats toward the rendezvous deployment line, 6,000 yards from the Salerno beaches.

Under orders from General Clark, the VI Corps and, in turn, the 36th Division had prepared landing plans. The 141st and 142d Regimental Combat Teams (36th Division) were to land as assault forces, in six waves on the Paestum beaches, advance to the railroad about 2,500 yards inland, reorganize in assembly areas, then move on to their objectives—the hills 10 miles distant (Map No. 2, faces page 5). Once established on the hills, they would control the entire southern half of the Salerno plain. The 143d Regimental Combat Team (36th Division) was to land after the first two and be prepared to replace the


Sketch: The Beaches At Paestum

THE BEACHES AT PAESTUM were extensively mined. German defenses also included
machine guns, wire, and 88-mm guns placed within 400 yards of the beach. In the
foreground of his sketch of Yellow and Blue beaches is the dune line with an exit road
leading from the water's edge. Mountains near Agropoli are in the background (See
Map No. 3, page 20).

assault forces on either flank. While the infantry worked inland, engineer beach groups of the Army and Navy were to organize the beaches for following landings, communication, and supply. If the plan operated successfully, American soldiers of VI Corps would hold a beachhead of 100 square miles, within the 25-mile mountain arc from Ponte Sele south to Roccad'aspide and thence southwest to Agropoli on the coast.

Three and a half hours after the first call to stations, all the assault troops and necessary vehicles had left the transports. Behind them came other craft with tanks, antiaircraft artillery, ammunition vehicles, and heavy weapons. Dukws (2½-ton amphibian trucks) were carrying crews with light artillery and antitank guns. From the north, where the British were firing a bombardment on 10 Corps beaches, came the dull boom of heavy naval guns. In the vicinity of Salerno the sky was lighted by flares and fires burning on the mainland.


South of Salerno, the VI Corps made its assault on the beaches at Paestum without previous naval or air bombardment
(Map No. 3, page 20). According to plan, the four landing areas, designated by colored lights and panels, were to extend southward from the Fiumarello for a distance of 2 miles. Red Beach was to be 800 yards in length; Green, 500 yards; Yellow, 1,000 yards; and Blue, 1,500 yards. In actual operation, the frontage was narrowed because of initial heavy opposition, particularly on Yellow and Blue, so that each of the beaches was about 600 yards long.

Ahead of VI Corps, the beaches of Paestum were dark and silent. Then a strident voice over a loudspeaker, apparently from the landing area, called out in English, "Come on in and give up. We have you covered." Our troops came in. The first wave grated on all four beaches exactly at H Hour, 0330.1 Flares went up immediately, and enemy guns opened fire as our soldiers leaped into the shallow water, waded to the narrow strip of sand, and started inland for the assembly areas (Map No. 2, faces page 5). On the left at Red and Green beaches, the 142d Regimental Combat Team, commanded by Col. John D. Forsythe, began the push that was designed to take it eventually to the high ground extending from Ponte Sele through Altavilla, Albanella, and Roccad'aspide to Mount Vesole and Magliano. On the right at Yellow and Blue beaches, the 141st Regimental Combat Team, under Col. Richard J. Werner, was already meeting fire as it moved to maintain contact with the 142d at Mount Vesole and Magliano and to occupy key points in the mountain arc as far as Agropoli at the southern end of the Gulf of Salerno.

After H Hour the second and third assault waves hit the beaches at 8-minute intervals. On Red and Green beaches, the men of the 142d, creeping, crawling, and running, worked their way through barbed wire and around enemy machine guns and tanks dimly silhouetted in the light of flares. Behind them shells formed geysers in the water, and equipment from stricken craft floated offshore. On the left flank of the regiment, the 3d Battalion Combat Team, com-

1. On the to Corps left flank an American unit had landed 20 minutes earlier. The 4th Ranger Battalion, operating with the 1st and 3d Ranger Battalions and the 2 and 41 British Commandos, reached the coast at Maiori at 0310, meeting no opposition. The battalion secured the beachhead by 0345. The 1st Ranger Battalion arrived at Maiori at 0355; the 3d at 0400. By 0900 the 1st and 3d Battalions were on hill positions, 4 to 5 miles inland, commanding. the Nocera-Pagani pass, while the 4th, having cleared Minori at daybreak, advanced west toward Amalfi.


manded by Lt. Col. Thomas H. McDonald, was to reorganize at the railroad east of Paestum, advance north about 3 miles, then turn east to Tempone di San Paolo (Hill 140). On the right flank of the regiment, the 2d Battalion Combat Team, under Lt. Col. Samuel S. Graham, was also to reorganize at the railroad, then to advance inland along the Capodifiume River to occupy the nose of Mount Soprano, northwest of Hill 386. Under Lt. Col. Gaines J. Barron, the 1st Battalion, in reserve at the beginning of the assault, was to land later than the 2d and 3d Battalions, assemble, and take up a position at the southeast end of Hill 140.

The first heavy weapons of the 142d Regimental Combat Team were brought in at 0345. The 1st and 2d Squads of the Mine Platoon,


Map No.3: The Paestum Beaches, 9 September 1943


Antitank Company, also landed with the first assault waves. Despite the destruction of some of their equipment by enemy fire they began to clear the beaches of mines and wire obstacles. As soon as their work was completed, they moved inland, advancing as riflemen.

Both assault battalions of the 142d on Red and Green beaches were pinned down from time to time. Machine gunners and snipers in the 50-foot Tower of Paestum and in two-story buildings north of the tower fired on them. To the northwest they met similar opposition from Germans concealed in a grove of saplings and sheltered by the dunes overlooking the beach. Officers and men were separated. Nevertheless, elements of the 2d and 3d Battalions worked their way toward the railroad.

During the first hour of the landings, Pvt. J. C. Jones of Company E found about 50 leaderless men from various companies and guided them off the beaches through falling shells and small-arms fire. As they went, they destroyed several machine-gun positions, although when the reserve forces of the 143d landed, between 0640 and 0800, enemy machine gunners and snipers were still active in the Paestum area. T/Sgt. Manuel S. Gonzales of Company F discovered an 88-mm gun firing from the dunes toward our landing craft. Machine-gun tracers set fire to his pack, but he wriggled out of it and crawled on past exploding grenades toward the gun. Then he threw his own grenades, killed the crew, and blew up their ammunition.

On the right flank of the division, the assault battalions of the 141st Infantry landed on schedule and began working through wire obstacles and mines. Intense fire from machine guns, field pieces, mortars, and tanks made their progress difficult. On Yellow Beach, the area assigned to the 3d Battalion, under Lt. Col. Edward D. McCall, the first three assault waves were pinned down after advancing about 400 yards inland and could move only by crawling under fire. Part of Company L, however, led by Capt. Edgar Ford, headed toward its objective. Companies I and K were unable to reform, but the men fought forward singly and in groups of two or three. At one point the movement to reassemble was held up by an enemy machine gun, firing from behind a rock wall 200 yards forward. Pvt. James M. Logan, of Company I, advanced alone from an irrigation canal 800 yards from shore. With bullets hitting around him, he killed three Germans who rushed from a gap in the wall. Then, running through


Sketch: The Tower Of Pasteum

THE TOWER OF PAESTUM, a medieval watch-tower, is a 50-foot stone structure with
excellent view of the VI Corps beaches. From the balcony at its top German machine
gunners and snipers fired on the troops of the 36th Division.

a stream of fire to the machine-gun position, he shot the gunners and turned the weapon on the rest of the crew as they fled.

The 1st Battalion, under Lt. Col. Carlos C. Smith, landed about 500 yards south of Blue Beach, and the first two waves proceeded inland; but after the third wave resistance was so heavy that the subsequent landings had to be made farther north. In the third boat wave of the 1st Battalion three 75-mm self-propelled howitzers of the Regimental Cannon Company had attempted to land. The landing craft carrying one cannon was turned back; a mine destroyed another of the guns before it could clear the beach, killing four men who were bringing it in. The third pulled up in a defile on the dunes and went into action, with 1st Lt. Clair F. Carpenter directing the fire and Cpl. Edgar L. Blackburn manning the gun. The defile was swept by enemy machine-gun fire from both flanks, but the gun destroyed one machine-gun nest and knocked out a tank before a hit damaged its gunsight. Lt. Carpenter ran across the beach and took the sight from the cannon which had struck a mine. With the help of Cpl. Black-


burn he tried to adjust the new sight, but both men were exposed to machine-gun fire, which killed Cpl. Blackburn and seriously wounded Lt. Carpenter.

At 0415 enemy fire became especially strong. Some of the boats suffered direct hits and drifted helplessly while the men shed their equipment and swam to shore. A few vessels turned back or changed direction and landed at other beaches, but most of them came on with their cargoes of men, guns, and supplies. For a while the scene was one of great confusion. Flares dropped by enemy planes shed an unnatural light over the beaches and the ships at sea; the sky was laced by patterns of tracers. Meanwhile from Blue Beach, elements of the 1st Battalion worked their way to the vicinity of the railroad bridge over the Solofrone River, but the remainder were pinned down.

Scrub growth scattered over the area and shallow irrigation ditches provided the only available protection. As our men sought cover, the Germans poured machine-gun fire directly down the ditches and swept the patches of scrub. We had many casualties. To evacuate the wounded, a boat was sent out from Yellow Beach but was sunk by mortar fire before it could get in to load. Two other craft which made a similar attempt were forced to turn back.

Assault troops continued to come in. The 2d Battalion of the 141st, commanded by Maj. Norman A. Webster, landed at 0530 on Yellow Beach, 5o minutes late, under the same type of fire that earlier waves had encountered. Passing through and to the left of elements of the 3d Battalion dug in near the dune line, the companies slowly reorganized. The 1st Battalion was cut off. Col. Werner, coming ashore with the regimental combat team command group at 0550, began to coordinate the attack of the other two battalions. It was clear that heavier fire would be needed to throw the enemy back. In order to get support from offshore, Capt. Frederick A. Booth, commanding the Cannon Company, returned to the beach to look for Ens. Alistair Semple, naval gun observer. While searching on the beach he was hit by shell fire and seriously wounded. Col. Werner then went down to the beach himself and found the observer. Semple tried many times to reach the naval gunboats by radio, but the ships were too far out at sea for contact.

On all beaches, provisional batteries of antiaircraft artillery had come in with the first waves, supplying .50-caliber defense until the


Photo: DUKWS Come Ashore On D Day

DUKWS COME ASHORE ON D DAY. These 2½-ton amphibian trucks made it
possible to bring in artillery early for direct fire missions against tanks and guns. Dukws
making for the shore were exposed to machine-gun and shell fire but were partially
protected by smoke screens laid down by the Navy.

heavier guns could be emplaced. Light artillery and antitank guns, all on dukws, and antiaircraft guns on LCM's arrived shortly after dawn. As enemy opposition stiffened, boat schedules were upset, making it difficult for radio teams and gun crews to operate effectively. Men were separated from the crew-served weapons to which they were assigned; boats carrying needed parts of equipment were forced off their course. But the landing craft continued to pour men on the beaches and into the fight.

In the two crowded hours between 0530 and 0730, 123 dukws came ashore. The 133d Field Artillery Battalion brought in twelve 105-mm howitzers. Each of these guns was loaded on a dukw, together with 21 rounds of ammunition and a gun section of seven men. Other dukws carried additional ammunition and were equipped with small cranes for unloading the howitzers. At 0800, immediately upon landing, the dukws were driven over the dune line and unloaded. Ammunition was transferred to the gun dukws, and the ammunition dukws were sent back to the beach to assist in unloading the transports.

Guns of the 151st Field Artillery Battalion had reached the mainland with the fifth and sixth waves at 0555 and 0615, just in time to beat off an early German tank attack. The sixth wave also brought in our first tanks. By 0615 all six assault waves had reached the shore.

At 0640 the 143d Regimental Combat Team, commanded by Col.


William H. Martin, arrived at Red and Green beaches on schedule. Operating between the 142d and the 141st, this combat team was to cross the beaches, reorganize at the railroad east of Paestum, and then move to the road junction south of Hill 140, ready to assist the infantry on either flank. The ultimate objectives of the 143d were Hill 386 and the little town of Capaccio, less than 3 miles to the southeast, from which the routes to the east could be controlled.

By 0800 the 2d Battalion of the 143d Infantry, commanded by Lt. Col. Charles H. Jones, Jr., and the 3d Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Joseph S. Barnett, Jr., had arrived in four waves, landing under considerable artillery and mortar fire. The men were scattered on various beaches and organization was difficult. Singly, by pairs, and in small groups they worked toward the railroad. Enemy machine gunners were still firing on the beaches and snipers in the houses north of Paestum kept up their harassing of the 143d, but eventually the men reached the reorganization line and were ready to move toward the nose of Mount Soprano. Meanwhile the 1st Battalion, under Lt. Col. Fred L. Walker, Jr., had landed after the 2d and 3d and had gone north to guard the Division Command Post which had been set up at Casa Vannulo.

While the first elements of the infantry combat teams were hurrying from the landing craft to the dunes, engineers began their work of organizing the beachhead area for communication and supply, cutting gaps in the barbed wire, and searching for mines. The initial plans had directed that the 531st Shore Engineers, reinforced, a regiment of veterans from the African and Sicilian campaigns, under the command of Lt. Col. Russell S. Lieurance, was to support the assault troops on the beaches. One company of engineers was to work with each battalion combat team; one battalion in reserve was to be available for defense and assistance wherever needed.

Only veterans could have gone about their work coolly, handling supplies, setting up dumps, and fighting off the enemy at the same time. First Lt. George L. Shumaker, commanding Company D, 531st Shore Engineers, led a small group of his men in an attack against the Tower of Paestum where enemy snipers were firing on Green Beach. With the help of several infantrymen, the party destroyed the machine guns and even drove off tanks hidden behind the buildings. Cpl. Howard J. Tucker picked off the snipers. Shumaker was


Photo: Bulldozers Construct Roads

BULLDOZERS CONSTRUCT ROADS to carry heavy traffic across the beach, while
infantry reinforcements race to the dunes. Mines had to he cleared in the areas selected
for the roads, then bulldozers went to work, followed by the engineers laying the wire
mesh necessary to surface the sand roadways for the use of heavy vehicles.

wounded in both arms; but Tucker, Tec. 5 Nathan S. Perlman, and Sgt. John J. Schneider carried on the fight until all the Germans in these positions were killed or captured.

In the construction of exit routes the engineers had one of the most dangerous tasks, for the bulldozers were especially vulnerable targets for enemy fire. Ignoring the shells bursting around them, Tec. 5 Nolan D. Green and Pfc. Clarence F. Taylor operated their bulldozer on Red Beach until an 88-mm shell hit their machine and killed both of them. Even on Blue Beach, where resistance was so strong that positions there were abandoned the next day, the engineers, under fire from artillery as well as from tanks within 200 yards of the shore, completed an exit route before they were forced to leave.

Although enemy fire had forced some of the vessels out to sea, and many radios had been lost in the landing, ship-to-shore communications were established under the direction of the 4th Naval Beach Battalion, led by Lt. Comdr. James E. Walsh. Shore fire control parties landed and began to direct effective naval gun fire. At daybreak, naval support against tanks on the southwest slopes of Hill 140 was twice requested by the 3d Battalion of the 142d. Fire from the Philadelphia destroyed or routed the tanks. Offshore, a scout boat, commanded by Lt. (j.g.) Grady R. Calloway, U.S.C.G., supported the 142d by launching rockets at Green Beach, where enemy machine


gunners and snipers were concealed in the grove and behind the dunes. Shortly before dawn army units ashore and support boats laid down a smoke screen which proved effective in protecting landing craft against shell and machine-gun fire.

Some hostile planes slipped through our defenses to bomb and harass troops on the beach and in landing craft; but from 0605, when the first flights of our fighter planes began to roar overhead, enemy air operations were very much hampered. Four different types of aircraft made up our aerial umbrella. A-36's and British carrier-based Seafires covered from 6,000 to 10,000 feet; P-38's from 10,000 to 14,000 feet; and Seafires and Spitfires from 15,000 to 22,000 feet. Squadrons, varying in number from 6 to 12 planes, patrolled a 15- to 20-Mile area, receiving warnings of approaching enemy planes from control boats and ground control stations.

German Tank Attack

Almost from the moment of landing, enemy tanks in scattered positions had made it difficult for all combat teams to reach their objectives, but not until about 0700 did they attack on a large scale. The exact plan of the tank operations which developed on all beaches is not known; it is clear, however, that the Germans hoped to pin down and destroy our forces before they could reach favorable positions in the hills surrounding the plain.

The troops on Yellow and Blue beaches suffered the first concentrated tank assault. At 0700, the battalions of the Mist were still attempting to reorganize after their landing when they were attacked by 15 or more Mark IV's, belonging to the 2d Tank Regiment, 16th Panzer Division. Some of these tanks had apparently just come from the south; others had been stationed close by when our troops landed. Five or more were on each flank and four were in the center. Maneuvering back and forth across the flat terrain along the regimental front, the Mark IV's had the advantage of protection from machine guns, set up in the shelter of 4-foot stone walls and inside many small farm buildings.

Shortly after 0700, Flying Column No. 2 of the 36th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop landed on Yellow Beach and helped to fight off seven Mark IV's which were firing opposite our right flank. One


tank was destroyed; the others drew back to a peach orchard 600 yards from the shore. At 0800 four enemy tanks tried to break through the left flank. By this time two 105-mm howitzers, brought in on the sixth assault wave, were set up and, with this artillery support, the infantry again forced the enemy to retreat. Two tanks returned to attack through the center, but Sgt. Paul B. Walsh and Sgt. Delbert L. White, both of the 531st Shore Engineers, drove them back with horizontal fire from antiaircraft weapons.

Enemy snipers and machine gunners kept up their fire while the tanks were attacking. On the left flank, Capt. Hersel R. Adams, Operations Officer of the 3d Battalion, led a group of Company K men in an infantry charge against the oncoming vehicles. Capt. Adams was wounded but he urged his men to leave him beside a nearby canal and continue the fight. Their steady resistance broke up the tank formation for a time. Later when the tanks reformed and came back, Capt. Adams was exposed to their fire and killed. Pfc. Edward L. Rookey and Pvt. Lavern Counselman, members of a machine-gun squad of Company M, saw four enemy tanks approaching their position. Obtaining a bazooka from a wounded man, they crawled within 30 yards of the tanks and fired on them. Their fire and that of other men in their squad forced the Mark IV's to withdraw. Company L, which had moved forward out of contact with the battalion, now established communications by radio and directed mortar fire, forcing the tanks back several hundred yards. First Lt. William G. Brown, forward observer of the 131st Field Artillery Battalion, crept up to an observation point and obtained naval gunfire on the tanks in front of the 2d and 3d Battalions.

In the center of the 141st line, the men of the 2d Battalion beat off the tanks with infantry weapons. The regimental history reports the action:

Pfc. Juan R. Padilla effectively used his rocket gun against the tanks, and as the tanks withdrew he followed them, continuing to fire his weapon. Pvt. Manuel C. Gonzalez, in closing in on a tank position, was observed by the enemy and shot through the legs. As he lay helpless to move, one of the tanks ran over him and killed him. Pfc. Tirso F. Carrillo tried to remove Pvt. Gonzalez from the path of the tank and narrowly escaped being run over. Pfc. Salomon Santos, Jr., and Pfc. Abner E. Carrasco . . . placed their machine gun on top


of a rock wall while under fire from enemy machine guns and fired upon the German tanks menacing the front-line position. Their fire was effective in forcing the tanks to withdraw. Pvt. Harold B. Beaver scored a hit with his antitank grenade by slipping in close to an enemy tank. Pfc. Juan Pruitt placed his Browning automatic rifle on top of a stone wall and maintained a heavy volume of fire against the enemy, until his position was located by a German gunner who opened fire and killed him. Pvt. Ramon G. Gutierrez was wounded while firing his Browning automatic rifle at the enemy. Two bullets pierced Pvt. Gutierrez' helmet in such a place as not to injure him, but a third bullet caught him in the arm. Gutierrez, although wounded, moved forward, located an enemy machine gun and knifed the German gunner to death. First Sgt. Gabriel L. Navarrette, having been given the mission of reaching the battalion objective and determining the enemy strength if the enemy was encountered, was wounded in the hand when a German machine gun knocked the signal projector from his hand. . . . Pfc. Alfredo P. Ruiz, a member of Sgt. Navarrette's patrol, closed in on a tank and exchanged fire with a member of the tank crew who was firing with a machine pistol from the turret. Pvt. Ruiz approached so close to the tank that he was caught in the camouflage of brush used by the Germans and pulled for about 10 yards before being able to break loose.

The enemy tanks did not get through the 2d Battalion to the beach.

At least seven tanks threatened the 1st Battalion in the fields south of Blue Beach. Five Mark IV's went back and forth across Company C's position three times, firing point-blank with machine guns. A detachment of Company B, caught in an open field, suffered severely. Leading one platoon of Company B, Sgt. James A. Whitaker emptied a clip of his submachine gun through the aperture of a tank, apparently disabling the driver. The tank lurched but its weapons continued to operate and Whitaker fell, wounded in the legs. Reloading his gun, he too kept up his fire until he forced the tank to turn away.

By noon the main tank assault on the southern beaches had been brought virtually to a standstill. Naval gunfire and fire from mortars and howitzers had helped to make the operations costly for the enemy, but to a large extent the battle had been fought by the infantrymen, using infantry weapons. Meanwhile, the Regimental Command Post was moved 500 yards directly inland from Yellow Beach. By this time, communications were through to the 2d and 3d Battalions, but patrols


had been unable to reach the 1st Battalion because of enemy sniping, machine-gun and artillery fire.

On the north, the principal tank attacks against the infantry combat teams fighting their way inland developed somewhat later than the attacks against the teams of the Mist. At about 1020, 13 Mark IV's rumbled down from the direction of Battipaglia between Highway 18 and the beaches, approaching the 142d Infantry Command Post which had been set up at Capaccio Station. At the same time a dukw came up the road, pulling a 105-mm howitzer of the 151st Field Artillery Battalion. The gun crew went into action immediately with absolutely no cover. Observers disagree on the details, except in one particular: when the fight was over, 5 enemy tanks had been knocked out, and the remaining 8 had withdrawn.2

Another attack from the north came about 1145, when personnel from the 36th Division Command Post in the tobacco warehouse at Casa Vannulo saw 13 German tanks approaching. From the ditches along the railroad, where they had taken cover, the men watched the enemy come within easy range. The tanks opened fire at noon, but the attack was broken up by the combined opposition of bazooka teams of the 142d and 143d Infantry Regiments; a 75-mm self-propelled howitzer of the Cannon Company, 143d Infantry; two 105-mm howitzers of the 151st Field Artillery Battalion; and a 37-mm antitank gun of the 36th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop. The 75-mm howitzer crew, commanded by 2d Lt. John W. Whitaker, destroyed 3 tanks. The 37-mm antitank gunners claimed 2 tanks knocked out at 170 yards. By the time the next attack occurred in this area, at about 1300, three howitzers of the 133d Field Artillery Battalion were also available and 3 of the 10 enemy tanks were destroyed. The attempt to break through on our left had cost the enemy at least 13 tanks, and his armor made no more threats from the north against the beaches.

Progress of the Combat Teams

After the concentrated tank attacks shifted from Yellow and Blue beaches to those farther north, the 211d and 3d Battalions of the 141st were able to proceed inland and reorganize at about 1000 (Map No. 4,

2. It is probable that the howitzer shattered two tanks, and that one was destroyed by an A-36 fighter-bomber and two by naval fire.


Photo: Highway 18

HIGHWAY 18, through the coastal plain, skirts the beaches and runs close to the
Tobacco Warehouse at Casa Vannulo, seen on the right. The Fifth Army landings at
Salerno prevented the enemy from using this macadam highway, which extends from the
toe of Italy to Naples, as an escape route from the south.

page 32). Maj. Webster moved units of the 2d Battalion across the Capodifiume and stopped to complete the reorganization 300 yards east of Highway 18. Col. McCall assembled the 3d Battalion along the Capodifiume about 1,000, yards from the shore, in a position which it held until midnight.

At noon, when the Regimental Command Post was moved inland from Yellow Beach, the shore and dunes were still swept by artillery fire, and the landing of equipment and personnel was proceeding under extremely hazardous conditions. Even the command post was bracketed by fire from 88's, but no direct hits were made. Artillery and naval gunfire began to silence the enemy guns on Hill 78 and Collina San Marco.

The 1st Battalion remained pinned down all day north of the Solofrone and west of the railway tracks. The companies tried to reorganize, but the slightest movement of grass or brush or the snapping of a twig immediately brought enemy fire down on them. The 2d Platoon of Company D, led by 2d Lt. Stanley Schuyler, operated with


more freedom than other elements of the battalion and reduced several German machine-gun positions. The platoon observed the machinegun fire, crept in close and used grenades with excellent results. Strongly entrenched machine guns and mortars of the enemy, however, kept patrols from reaching this unit, and it was not until the morning of D plus 1 that radio contact with the 1st Battalion was finally established.

On the left flank of the division, Col. Graham had assembled elements of the 2d Battalion, 142d Infantry, near Paestum station at 0645 and with them moved east to the Capodifiume River a half hour later. In the vicinity of Paestum a tank approached with one of the crew firing his machine pistol from the open turret. A rifleman picked off


Map No.4: D Day Progress, VI Corps


the German; then Sgt. John Y. McGill, a member of Company H, jumped on the tank and dropped a hand grenade down the turret, putting the tank out of action. Throughout the morning, as the battalion worked northeast along the river, the men were forced to dodge in and out of the cold stream to escape sporadic tank attacks.

The 3d Battalion had advanced inland on the left regimental flank. Companies I and K turned north on Highway 18 and at 0730 arrived at Hill 140, their initial objective. Company L had at first headed north toward Ponte alla Scafa, but machine guns and tanks had forced it back to the railroad crossing. The 1st Battalion in reserve had been unable to make orderly landings owing to floating mines and enemy fire. During the day, however, it had moved to its position at the southeast end of Hill 140, less Company B, whose mission was to destroy enemy installations between Green Beach and the Sele River and join the battalion later.

Various units attached to the 142d had come ashore and prepared for action. Each of them had met opposition from machine-gun and sniper fire, artillery, tank attacks, and bombing and strafing from the air, but most of their artillery, tanks, and tank destroyers were ashore and organized before nightfall. Brig. Gen. John W. O'Daniel, Assistant Commander of the 36th Division, landed during the morning about a mile north of Red Beach and ordered a fifth beach, called Red North, to be opened there. The 191st Tank Battalion (M), commanded by Lt. Col. Percy H. Perkins, assembled in the afternoon and moved up Highway 18 toward Ponte alla Scafa to take a position about a mile south of the bridge. The 645th Tank Destroyer Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Van W. Pyland, moved into the area where the Mark IV's had been successful earlier in driving back Company L, 142d Infantry. This time our destroyers upset an attack and knocked out four tanks. The Germans then blew up Ponte alla Scafa, a clear indication that they considered Highway 18 south of that point no longer usable by their forces.

Throughout D Day, while the 142d, on the left flank, fought toward Hill 140, and the 141st on the right struggled to reorganize, the 143d Regimental Combat Team was forced to scatter widely as it advanced. On Red Beach and around Paestum, the 2d and 3d Battalions had to clear the area of snipers and machine gunners before


Photo: A German 88-MM Dual-Purpose Gun

A GERMAN 88-MM DUAL-PURPOSE GUN, emplaced on the north of the VI Corps
beaches, was demolished on D Day. This type of gun, designed in 1934 as an antiaircraft-antitank
weapon, was used in the Spanish Civil War in 1936, against Poland and France
in 1939 and 1940, and against Russia. In North Africa and Sicily, British and American
tank forces met its effective fire.

they could reach the railroad where they were to reorganize. The 1st Battalion, landing later than the others, went north to guard Division Headquarters at Casa Vannulo. By 1000, Col. Martin, commanding the 143d Regimental Combat Team, had assembled the men of the two attack battalions at the railroad. Their objective was Hill 386, a projection running northwest from Mount Soprano and ending abruptly in a cliff just above the junction of the roads to Capaccio and Roccad'aspide. Mount Soprano, the most dominant height in the entire area, was to be the focal point for both flanks of the 36th Division.

From Hill 386 every movement on the plain and the beaches could be seen by the enemy, who had set up an observation post and stationed three artillery pieces on the cliff. These pieces fired steadily on the invading forces until naval gunfire silenced them on the afternoon of D Day. At 1530 members of the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 143d moved to take Hill 386. One company was to occupy Capaccio to forestall any danger that the units advancing toward Hill 386 might be cut off from the rear. The Germans had pulled out of Capaccio,


and at 1815 the town fell without opposition. Meanwhile Company F captured Hill 386, after a 2-hour attack. Company K occupied the base of Mount Sottane, more than a mile southeast of Capaccio. By nightfall on D Day the 143d controlled the southeast slope of Mount Soprano and a vital stretch of the road leading to the plain.

At the End of D Day

While the 36th Division was battling the enemy south of the Sele River, the British 10 Corps on the Fifth Army left flank faced a critical situation but was making slow progress (Map No. 2, faces page 5). Even before the first waves of the 46 and 56 Divisions hit the beaches, the enemy opened fire. Allied warships took up the challenge and blasted the areas behind the beaches; nevertheless, troops of the 64th Panzer Grenadier Regiment (16th Panzer Division) held on stubbornly. In the face of extremely bitter resistance, British troops slowly slugged their way inland. Before nightfall 10 Corps, supported by naval gunfire, pushed forward more than 3 miles to the Montecorvino airfield just west of Highway 18 and had patrols in Battipaglia. The Ranger force on the left flank had landed unopposed at Maiori. The Commandos had met some opposition at Vietri sul Mare but succeeded in establishing a beachhead and moved east into Salerno.

Sketch: The Wall Of Paestum



Photo: LST's Bring In Trucks And Tanks

LST's BRING IN TRUCKS AND TANKS. On the right are rolls of beach matting used
in building roads over the sand. In the center are members of the medical battalions,
which had collecting companies on the beaches as early as 0400 on D Day.

Throughout the day practically no communication existed between 10 Corps and VI Corps, and a dangerous 10-mile gap lay between them.

On the whole, VI Corps met with considerable success on D Day. The 36th Division, untried in battle, had landed under fire, overcome prepared beach defenses, and reached its initial objectives. Our troops controlled the plain south of the Sele River and occupied the high ground, an average distance of 5 miles from the beaches. Only on the right flank was the issue in doubt. But there, too, the infantry had absorbed vicious enemy attacks without being routed and were ready to reorganize on 10 September. Men, vehicles, artillery, and supplies continued to pour on to the beaches where the engineers labored efficiently under constant fire. The hours of confusion had passed. Dumps were set up, exit roads were operating, antiaircraft batteries were in position, and communications were finally working. VI Corps had won a beachhead.


page created 23 July 2001

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