ON 3 NOVEMBER VI CORPS, in pursuit of the retreating German divisions, was making careful preparations for its third crossing of the Volturno River, where the headwaters of that winding stream run through a flat valley between Venafro and Isernia (Map No. 30, inside back cover). The enemy had withdrawn west of the river, laying minefields and destroying bridges, and was waiting in the bald and rugged mountains which formed the eastern flank of the well-defended Barbara Line.
The German defense of this line, extending along the entire Fifth Army front from these heights overlooking the upper Volturno through the Mount Massico ridge to the sea, was designed to delay the attacking force until maximum construction could be completed on the Winter Line to the northwest. To reach its Sessa Aurunca-Venafro-Isernia objective, Fifth Army had to break enemy resistance along the whole Barbara Line. 10 Corps had already penetrated the line on the west coast, where patrols of the 46 Division and the 7 Armoured Division had reached the Garigliano River and the 56 Division was moving up against Mount Camino. VI Corps, to the east, was to encounter the heaviest fighting during the entire campaign before it could force the Germans to retire from the hills commanding the upper Volturno.
Between 1 and 3 November the Germans had reinforced the Barbara Line against Fifth Army's attack with two new divisions from Rommel's command in the north, bringing the total enemy strength to five divisions.2 The 94th Infantry Division went into position on the
2. The 26th Panzer Division, which had defended the Germans' east flank at the Volturno River against the attack of Fifth Army on 13 October, had moved into the Eighth Army's area two days later.
western flank and the 305th Infantry Division on the eastern flank. Strong German battle groups established road blocks, covered bridge sites, and, from commanding hills, kept the highways leading to Rome under fire. In the Mignano and Venafro areas, peaks like Mount Corno and Mount Camino provided the enemy excellent observation for artillery fire control. Whenever they withdrew the Germans exploited the precipitous cliffs, deep canyons, and high tablelands to make their delaying action effective. From these positions their artillery, automatic weapons, and small arms harassed the advance of forward elements of the Fifth Army.
In its continued drive to push the Germans into the mountains northwest of Sessa Aurunca, Venafro, and Isernia, Fifth Army was next expected to reach a line six to ten miles distant. The line starts high on the slopes at Isernia and runs across the headwaters of the Volturno and over mountains 1,200 to 1,300 meters high to Mount Passero. From Mount Passero it turns sharply southwest, passes through tangled hills and desolate mountains about thirteen miles to a point on the Garigliano River west of Mignano, and then follows the Garigliano to the sea. The area inclosed between this line and the upper Volturno is a great arc of mountains, beginning on the east side with the Roccaravindola spur, curving around Venafro, and ending in the high hills between Presenzano and Mignano. The brush-covered hills north and northwest of Roccaravindola rise from 400 and 600 meters above sea level, drop off into the narrow valley of the Ravindola River, and then rise to 1,036 meters at Alto Hill. The great rocky barriers of Mount Santa Croce (1,083 meters) and Mount Corno (1,052 meters) tower above the olive groves around Venafro. Northwest of Presenzano the peaks reach 1,170 meters in height at Mount Cesima. Only unpaved roads and mule tracks cross the area. The march to this new line, through the forward limits of German mountain defenses in depth, was to be a difficult uphill advance, where improvised mule columns carried supplies to forward battalions and infantrymen hugged the ledges as they crept along precarious routes.
The Volturno River itself, though flooded at this season, was not to be a difficult obstacle in front of the mountains. Here, at the headwaters, it flows in numerous streams, varying in depth from ten to twenty inches, through clumps of willows and over a gravel bed reaching a width of eight hundred feet. The valley on both sides is cut
MOUNT SANTA CROCE AND MOUNT CORNO mark an abrupt end to the Volturno Valley. Our troops advanced so high into the mountains that litter bearers of the 120th Medical Battalion, carrying the wounded from a forward aid station to an ambulance loading post in the valley, were three full hours on the trail.
by many other streams and by sunken roads and is covered with grain fields, vineyards, orchards, and olive groves. At Roccaravindola the intensively cultivated valley is less than two miles across. It widens to five miles at Venafro and narrows down to less than two miles northeast of Presenzano.
Carrying out Fifth Army's order to advance to its objective, VI Corps was directed to cross the Volturno on the night of 3/4 November and seize the ground along a line extending from Isernia through Mount Passero and Cervaro to Mignano. The corps was to push light forces to the phase line, making its main effort on the left and maintaining contact with the British Eighth Army across the Matese ranges. On the right, the 504th Parachute Infantry had moved into the great gray Gallo bowl high in the mountains and was advancing northwest through Monteroduni and Isernia in contact with the Eighth Army. It was to guard Fifth Army's right flank. On the left, the 3d Division was following slowly retreating elements of the Hermann Goering Panzer Division over the valley and through the lower hills toward Mignano. It was to guard the corps' left flank. The 34th Division, poised in the olive groves on the slopes overlooking the flat Volturno Valley, was to cross the river east of Venafro to drive
north to Colli. From corps reserve where it had been since 20 October, the 45th Division had moved from Piedimonte d'Alife up the valley and was, for the first time, to cross the river south of Venafro and seize the mountains east of San Pietro and the hills south and east of Cardito. The 4th Ranger Battalion was to drive across Cannavinelle Hill to cut Highway 6 northwest of Mignano. To accomplish these orders, VI Corps would have to envelop the enemy's Barbara Line.
The 45th Division Crosses the Volturno
The first efforts of the 45th Division together with those of the 4th Ranger Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Roy A. Murray, Jr., were to be directed toward taking Venafro, and cutting Highway 6 northwest of Mignano (Map No. 25, page 88). Company F, 180th Infantry, crossed the Volturno below Sesto Campano on the night of 2/3 November and went into position around that village high on the terraced slopes of Mount Calvello. The 4th Ranger Battalion then went across the river at 1800 on 3 November to drive over the mountains west of Sesto Campano toward Highway 6. The remainder of the 2d Battalion, 180th Infantry, crossed the river to the rear of the 3d Division southeast of Presenzano at 2000, climbed up the steep slopes of Mount Alto, and advanced northwest to occupy the ridge running from La Majo Hill through Rocca Pipirozzi. The battalion reorganized before midnight on the slopes of Mount Calvello and moved on to take Rocca Pipirozzi, a little stone village clustered around an old castle on one of the peaks of the narrow ridge.
The terrain over which the 2d Battalion, 180th Infantry, moved on the night of 3/4 November is extremely rugged. Men often had to use the bushes and rocks to pull themselves up the steep mountainsides. Maps were of little value in the darkness, and by dawn no one knew his exact location. Capt. Howard C. Crye and Capt. Elmer C. Dugger, climbing to reconnoiter the top of a ridge to the front, discovered over a crest a group of German officers. Capt. Crye waved to them and they politely returned the greeting. The two American officers walked off as nonchalantly as possible, gradually increasing their speed as they approached a nearby stone wall, and finally made a break toward it for cover. Capt. Crye's subsequent plan for capturing the officers failed, and the attempt started a fierce conflict for Rocca Pipirozzi.
MAP NO. 25
The battalion worked its way down the slopes of La Majo Hill and out onto the ridge. Small delaying forces of the 6th Parachute Regiment, which had reinforced the area the day before, clung tenaciously to their positions in and around Rocca Pipirozzi and counterattacked repeatedly under cover of tank and artillery fire. During the morning the enemy was driven from the ridge, and one of our artillery observers made his way into the village with the assault troops. When the street fighting was over at 0630 on the morning of the 4th, a German artillery observer at the other end of the village was a prisoner. The battalion continued northwest along the ridge and was ordered
late in the afternoon to dig in and hold that area. Contact was then made with the 4th Ranger Battalion, which had reached Cannavinelle Hill on the left but had not been able to advance to Highway 6.
Early in the morning on 4 November, Company K of the 179th Infantry, the regiment on the division's right flank, forded the Volturno near a destroyed bridge south of Venafro as advance guard for the 3d Battalion, the remainder of which crossed at 0545 ready to launch its attack on Venafro. The battalion advanced rapidly after dawn over the grain fields and through the vineyards of the flat valley but was pinned down about the middle of the morning a mile southeast of the town by machine-gun fire from the olive groves on the slopes of Mount Corno. Company K stubbornly continued forward and by 1245 had forced its way through the town, the center of German defenses in this section of the Volturno Valley, and into positions on the lower slopes of Mount Santa Croce. The rest of the battalion, held up by fire from the left, was unable to get above Venafro until after dark. Meanwhile, Company B, 120th Engineer Combat Battalion, was to complete a ponton bridge across the river south of Venafro. When it was finished at 2145, it bridged the river for all traffic, including tanks, and provided an approach to Highway 85, the main road south of Venafro.
The 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry, crossed the river at 0900, the morning of 4 November, and moved in echelons to the right and rear of the 3d Battalion. On the following morning it passed through the 3d Battalion at Venafro and climbed along the steep slopes of Mount Santa Croce to Pozzilli. Enemy minefields and booby-trapped areas, small-arms and automatic fire slowed the battalion's advance to the town. Then the 1st Battalion, 180th Infantry, followed by the 3d Battalion, moved across the river and into the olive groves above Venafro to attack over the high saddle toward Concacasale between Mount Corno and Mount Santa Croce. The 2d Battalion held its positions on the ridge northwest of Rocca Pipirozzi and maintained a road block with antitank guns and bazookas between Vallecupa and Ceppagna on the road through the mountains from Venafro to San Pietro. On this road to the east, the enemy was holding, with tanks, a counterblock, and the 2d Battalion was attempting to keep these tanks from escaping toward Ceppagna.
Third Crossing of the 34th Division
The immediate objectives of the 34th Division across the wide Volturno, to the right of the 45th, were the villages of Santa Maria Oliveto and Roccaravindola in the hills to the northwest (Map No. 26, below). The 168th Infantry was to cross northeast of Venafro and seize Roccaravindola, a village around the ruins of an old castle on a high spur jutting out in the valley. The 133d Infantry was to cross east of Venafro and drive northwest to take Santa Maria Oliveto and the ridges to the southwest. Reconnaissance had been thorough and every effort had been made to insure surprise.
Shortly before midnight on 3 November, the 2d and 3d Battalions, 168th Infantry, and the 133d Infantry moved carefully down out of the hills and through the farms of the muddy valley to their posi-
MAP NO. 26
tions along the low river banks. Men of the 133d Infantry spread out in the vineyards and orchards of the delta formed by the junction of the Sava and the Volturno. The divisional artillery opened up at 2330 with a terrific concentration on enemy positions across the river and in the hills. The infantrymen, waiting on the banks of the river, could see great flashes through the murk of the night and could hear the crash of exploding shells which continually beat back and forth across the valley, dying away like the distant rumble of thunder. Thirty minutes later, a few hours after the first troops of the 45th Division had crossed on their left, the men of the 34th Division waded through the swift and cold waters of the Volturno River for the third and last time.
The 2d and 3d Battalions, 168th Infantry, forded the Volturno abreast. Mortar and artillery fire from the hills was heavy, but mines and booby traps were even greater hindrances. S-mines and Tellermines, separately and together, were planted thickly in the valley and along the embankment leading up to Highway 85. Trip wires were numerous, and many were attached to grapevines, fruit trees, and haystacks. At the regimental command post, high in the hills east of the river, the progress of both assault battalions could be followed in the darkness by the explosions of the mines. The 3d Battalion, 133d Infantry, waded quickly across the wide and shallow stream and advanced rapidly through the valley to the hills. The 1st Battalion followed on the left, and the 100th Battalion splashed across toward Pozzilli to get astride the road net in the valley and to protect the left and rear of the division.
The 3d Battalion, 168th Infantry, reached Hill 400 at 0620 on 4 November and quickly mopped up its area. The 2d Battalion was on the rocky saddle between Hill 400 and its objective, Roccaravindola, by the middle of the morning, but was held up by a mortar and a machine gun in a draw north of this village. After a white flag was reported waving above Roccaravindola, T/Sgt. Rudolf C. von Ripper, acting intelligence officer of the 2d Battalion, went with a twelve-man patrol to investigate. He and four men climbed the southeast slope of the hill into the village and gained a position above the draw. On their way through the village, members of the patrol heard directions shouted in English by the officer commanding the enemy position and were almost deceived into revealing themselves. Just before they
reached the crest, they had to silence a wounded German. Sgt. von Ripper then called down to the officer to surrender. When he did not yield promptly, the patrol started throwing hand grenades and firing down on the position. Sgt. von Ripper shot the officer through the shoulder with his pistol, and the young Germans immediately surrendered. Seventeen prisoners were then rounded up, and the 2d Battalion was in Roccaravindola at noon.
The two assault battalions reorganized on their objectives, but their heavy losses from mines and booby traps prevented an immediate renewal of the attack. The 1st Battalion then came across the river after dark to pass between them and seize the ridge extending from Hill 518 to Hill 558 northwest of Roccaravindola. The men of this unit were delayed by severe losses from mines but reached the brush-covered base of Hill 558 at daylight on 5 November. Four platoons were directed against this obstacle and three platoons were sent to the right to take Hill 518. The assault platoon sent to Hill 518 was in position on its northwest slope and attacked at 1400. After our men had maneuvered among the rocks and scrub oaks for three and one-half hours, often within fifteen yards of the enemy, an artillery concentration was directed on Hill 520 to the north to reduce enemy fire and to cut off reinforcements. All three platoons delivered intense rifle fire on the enemy while he was being shelled, and the Germans decided they had had enough. Hill 518 was ours. Thirty-eight prisoners, thirty rifles, eight machine pistols, four machine guns, and stocks of supplies were captured on the hill. Although one of our men had a grenade thrown under him as he crouched behind a stone wall and another had a grenade discharger shot off the end of his rifle, we suffered no casualties in taking Hill 518. The attack on Hill 558 made slow progress during the day. The 1st Battalion, 135th Infantry, came up from division reserve to assist, and the last pockets of resistance were wiped out late the next afternoon.
The 1st and 3d Battalions of the 133d Infantry and the 100th Battalion were across the Volturno shortly after midnight Of 3 November and made good progress through minefields, booby-trapped areas, and against small-arms, machine-gun, and artillery fire. Enemy delaying elements were disposed along Highway 85 and the railroad, and resistance stiffened as the troops neared the hills. The 3d Battalion climbed the slopes up to Santa Maria Oliveto after daylight on the
ONE OF OUR PLATOONS, advancing along a similar mountain trail, met a German coming around a curve where the slope was so steep that he was forced to cling to the brush with his right hand. He held a machine pistol in his left hand, but if he had let go to fire it, he would have rolled down the hill. His only choice was to surrender. Along many other approaches the Germans laid mines and sited their weapons to place direct fire down the trails.
AN OBSERVER OF THE 100TH BATTALION reconnoiters the conditions forward. On 5 November the men of this unit had to reach their objectives, Hills 590 and 610, through mines and booby traps and then help defend these hills against the Germans' last attempt to retake them.
4th, and the 1st Battalion was on Hill 550 to the southwest by the middle of the morning. Casualties from mines and booby traps were particularly heavy in the 3d and 100th Battalions, and little progress was made during the afternoon. The 1st Battalion was driven from Hill 550 at daybreak on 5 November, and the enemy infiltrated back into Santa Maria Oliveto and caused the 3d Battalion further difficulties. The 1st Battalion regained the hill during the morning, and the 100th Battalion made an end run to the left to occupy Hills 590 and 61o to the northwest.
The 3d Division at the Mignano Gap
While the 34th and 45th Divisions were advancing into the mountains on the right, the 3d Division was driving on Mignano and against the heights on either side of the town (Map No. 27, opposite page). Mignano, is situated in a wide gap through the mountain
MAP NO. 27
chain which separates the valleys of the Volturno and Garigliano rivers. The brush-covered sides of Cannavinelle Hill and Mount Cesima rise to the northeast, and the huge mass of Mount Camino-Mount la Difensa-Mount Maggiore towers more than nine hundred meters above sea level on the other side of the gap. The Mignano Gap itself contains two formidable barriers, Mount Rotondo and Mount Lungo. Mount Rotondo rises 357 meters just west of Cannavinelle Hill and is densely covered with brush. Mount Lungo, a long barren ridge with several peaks, is an obstruction 343 meters high almost in the middle of the gap. The railroad from Capua to Cassino runs between Mount la Difensa and Mount Lungo, while Highway 6 passes between Mount Lungo and Mount Rotondo. Before the 3d Division could break through the Mignano Gap and pour into the valley south of Cassino, the enemy had to be driven from his well-selected and strongly fortified positions on the heights dominating the gap.
The air forces, ranging far ahead of the infantry, had made numer-
THIS GERMAN DUGOUT in the Cannavinelle Hill area is typical of the enemy's effective defensive works. Simplicity and crudeness of construction and skill in blending the positions with the mountainous terrain were their outstanding features.
RUINED BUILDINGS IN MIGNANO are surveyed by a three-man patrol from the 3d Division. Because of its location on Highway 6 and the rail line to Cassino, both of great importance to the Gel-Mans and the Allies, the town was subjected to an unusual amount of bombing and shelling.
ous attacks on enemy communications and installations north and south of the Mignano Gap. On 2l October, for example, A-36's of the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group strafed ten prime movers on Highway 6, four miles south of Mignano, and dropped eighty-three 500-pound bombs on a railroad bridge north of that town. In October our bombers dropped more than two hundred tons of explosives on targets in and around Mignano and Cassino. The bombing and strafing missions during this month must have slowed, but did not stop, the enemy's preparations for delaying our ground troops. Patrols found that minefields had been laid, tank traps set, and machinegun positions built on Mount Rotondo and Mount Lungo, east and west of Highway 6; for the infantrymen an attack through the gap would be a hazardous operation.
155-MM HOWITZERS throw a barrage of smoke and high explosive shells on Mount Lungo. A captured letter written by a German private first class says, "The Americans are no sissies, and we are retreating 'victoriously.' The amount of material the Americans are using seems incredible. He pours planes and artillery shelling on its, in such a manner that we get tears in our eyes."
Since a frontal assault through the Mignano Gap would undoubtedly be costly, General Truscott planned to approach it from the heights on both sides. He sent the 2d Battalion, 15th Infantry, over Mount Cesima to Cannavinelle Hill, which overlooks the gap from the northeast, while the 30th Infantry went around to Rocca Pipirozzi in the 45th Division zone to launch an attack across Cannavinelle toward Mount Rotondo. The regiment passed through the 180th Infantry during the night of 5/6 November and climbed the brush-covered slopes of Cannavinelle. The 2d Battalion then moved down the other side of the hill toward Mignano and made an unsuccessful attack during the afternoon on Mount Rotondo. At the same time the 3d Battalion, 15th Infantry, tried, but failed, to seize the southeast nose (Hill 253) of Mount Lungo. On the foggy morning of 8 November
another coordinated attack was launched, under cover of the fire of eight battalions of artillery. The 3d Battalion, 30th Infantry, then pushed on to the crest of Mount Rotondo against medium resistance, and the 3d Battalion, 15th Infantry, took Hill 253. The 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry, next moved up and beat the enemy from Hill 193 in the horseshoe curve of Highway 6. Both regiments spent the following few days in repulsing German counterattacks, in digging in deeper for protection against mortar and artillery fire, and in trying to keep reasonably warm and dry.
Meanwhile, on the left the 2d Battalion, 7th Infantry, attacked on 5 November through Caspoli and Casale toward the high ridge between the jagged peaks of Mount Camino and the perpendicular cliffs of Mount la Difensa. The 3d Battalion came up to assist, and the 1st Battalion moved southwest from Mignano to hit the northeast slopes of Mount la Difensa. During the next ten days these battalions tried
IN THE HILLS NORTHWEST OF MIGNANO the enemy was determined to block our advance along Highway 6 toward Cassino. The enemy defending the gap between Mount Lungo and Mount Rotondo used an increasing amount of direct high-velocity fire which had previously been noted only prior to or during the early stage of a withdrawal.
in vain to scale the heights of Mount la Difensa. Their every effort was balked by a cliff fifty to sixty feet high running north and south some fifteen hundred yards along the top of the mountain. They met at every turn rifle and machine-gun fire from holes blasted in the rocky slopes and accurate mortar and artillery fire directed from commanding heights. The enemy paid heavily for holding his ground, and his counterattacks were often costly, but he was always able to shift his reserves to replace his losses. Supplying the troops was very difficult in this terrain cut by deep gorges and precipitous ridges. Food, ammunition, and equipment had to be brought up by carrying parties, and a man could manage only a small amount, for he needed both hands for climbing. Six hours were required to carry down the wounded. The men of all battalions suffered severely from exposure to rain and cold and from a lack of proper food and clothing.
Soldiers on Mount la Difensa endured hardships and demonstrated bravery on its perilous slopes. One of them, Pvt. Floyd K. Lindstrom, of the 3d Battalion, was leading his platoon up the steep slopes of Mount la Difensa on ii November when it was stopped by machinegun fire. Pvt. Lindstrom charged through the rocks to within ten yards of the enemy and engaged the gunners in a duel. When this effort failed to neutralize the position, he again charged through machine-gun fire, killed the gunners with his pistol, dragged their guns back, and used them to beat off a fierce counterattack.
The 3d Division, as ordered, had made the main effort on the corps' left but had been stopped by the enemy's well-placed defenses on the hills southwest of Mignano.
34th and 45th Divisions Batter at the Mountains
The 34th and 45th Divisions had just reached the first heights on the mountains north of the upper Volturno by night on 5 November. Harder climbing and stiffer fighting were yet to come (Map No. 28, opposite page). Ground attacks in this area were preceded and accompanied by tactical bombing of enemy installations and communications. Within a range of fifteen or twenty miles from Venafro Allied fighters and fighter-bombers dropped 150 tons of explosives. However, close support of ground operations was very difficult in this mountainous region, where pilots could not easily distinguish one terrain feature or village from another.
MAP NO. 28
Following bombings and artillery concentrations, the advance of the 45th Division was continued on 6 November by the 1st Battalion, 180th Infantry, on its way between Mount Corno and Mount Santa Croce toward Concacasale. The enemy had to be cleared from the jagged cliffs and peaks of these precipitous mountains before the battalion could cross the high saddle between them. The 1st Battalion tried to drive up the steep sides of Mount Corno to the left, while Company L was sent to the right against Mount Santa Croce. The attack continued stubbornly through the next four days. Enemy resistance was strong and the mountainous terrain made progress almost impossible. Supplying the forward elements was an arduous task, for the 1st Battalion reached heights too steep even for the sure-footed Italian pack mules. Enemy positions, blasted and dug into the solid rock, had to be taken one by one, and if these prepared sites were not occupied immediately by our troops, the enemy infiltrated back to them at night. His positions on the forward slopes were lightly organized, but he held the reverse slopes strongly and his guns were sited to wipe out anything coming over the crests. One squad that worked its way up to a strongpoint near the peak was much surprised when the occupants surrendered without a fight. Inside their comfortable dugout, furnished with mattresses, the squad found a larder of ham, fresh bread and potatoes, and packages of silk hose and underwear ready for mailing back to Germany.
Company L, 180th Infantry, worked its way to the top of Mount Santa Croce during the next three days and assisted Company I, 179th Infantry, in its efforts to wipe out pockets of enemy resistance on the mountain. On 10 November the 1st Ranger Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. William 0. Darby, relieved the 1st Battalion, 180th Infantry, on Mount Corno. On the following day the 2d Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry, commanded by Lt. Col. William P. Yarborough, was attached to the 1st Ranger Battalion. It attacked up Mount Santa Croce before noon and by dark had driven the infiltrating enemy from the saddle between Hills 1083 and 970. The 4th Ranger Battalion occupied the slopes above the road between Ceppagna and Vallecupa on 10 November but was driven back three days later by a strong counterattack. The 3d Battalion, 180th Infantry, then moved up and regained the lost ground against the fiercest resistance.
A GERMAN PILLBOX guards an approach to Mount Lungo. Machine-gun bunkers, mortar emplacements, and personnel shelters were made of local stone and in a setting of rock walls were invisible at a distance. Timbers and ties supported their overhead cover. Direct hits of heavy mortar shells did not penetrate them.
On the morning of 6 November, the 2d Battalion, 179th Infantry, passed through the 1st Battalion at Pozzilli to seize the great domelike mass of Hill 769 southwest of Filignano. Stiff opposition was encountered from the brush-covered hillsides, and numerous casualties were suffered from artillery fire, S-mines, and Tellermines. Fighting over the slopes and through the valleys was fierce, for the enemy stubbornly defended every inch of ground. During the next six days the battalion pushed steadily forward and upward across mined ravines and valleys, over bullet-swept slopes, and through rain, fog, and bitterly cold weather. The 3d Battalion moved up on 7 November and advanced through the mist the next morning to take Hills 570, 58o, and 533. Fighting was intense throughout the day, and the battalion was driven back toward Pozzilli at dusk. The 1st Battalion then occupied Hills 570 and 580 on 10 November without opposition and three days later moved over to the east slopes of Hill 769. The 3d Battalion moved on to Hill 873 northeast of Filignano and sent patrols to Hill 1036 to contact the 168th Infantry.
The 157th Infantry reached Venafro on 7 November and prepared to pass between the 180th and 179th Infantry after dark and drive across the desolate hills toward Acquafondata. Threats of counterattacks on the 45th Division front delayed the commitment of the last regiment until 11 November, when the 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry, jumped off to take Hill 759 southwest of Hill 769, which was being attacked by the 179th Infantry. The terrain was extremely difficult, but the battalion reached the crest of the hill the next day. Meanwhile, the 3d Battalion pushed forward at daylight on 12 November to seize Hill 640, a massive knob on the southwest side of Hill 769. In order to reach Hill 640, the battalion had to pass over Hills 460 and 470, which are slight rises on a ridge running southeast from Hill 640, and then cross the road running from Pozzilli to Acquafondata. The top of Hill 460 is flat and partly cultivated and its left side falls away steeply into a narrow valley of a rippling mountain stream. The 3d Battalion made little progress during 12 November, for its line of advance was dominated by Hill 769. The A Battalion continued the attack the next day, and early in the morning Company L climbed the steep slopes of Hill 460 and chased a score of enemy across the road toward Hill 640. The company then reorganized to continue its drive but soon began to receive intense mortar and artillery fire. The men were advancing, open to fire from three sides. At noon, at 1330, and again during the middle of the afternoon the enemy counterattacked with about fifty men. He followed his artillery concentrations closely and was supported by small-arms fire from Hill 769. Company L suffered heavy casualties, and the artillery fire finally forced it to withdraw late in the afternoon. Col. (now Brig. Gen.) John H. Church, commander of the 157th Infantry, then decided that Hill 46o was untenable for both sides and advised Col. Robert B. Hutchins, commander of the 179th Infantry, that he could advance no farther until Hill 769 was cleared of the enemy.
The 133d Infantry continued its struggle northwest of Santa Maria Oliveto over a series of scrub-covered hills, where even pack mules could not carry supplies. The stubborn enemy was no longer retreating but was holding his position on the reverse slopes of the hills as long as he could. When driven from a position, he would infiltrate back to it through the ravines and valleys. Fighting and patrolling
IN VENAFRO, at the foot of Mount Santa Croce, engineers removed over two thousand pounds of explosives from mined buildings.
WHITE PHOSPHORUS SHELLS, thrown by the 2d Battalion 179th Infantry, burst on the northeast slopes of Hill 769. This hill was taken only after fire fights and hand-to-hand combat by Companies B and E.
went on steadily until the 133d was pinched out on 12 November by the 135th on the right and 179th on the left. The casualties of the 1133d Infantry in the third crossing of the Volturno and the fighting around Santa Maria Oliveto were not light. Four officers and 81 enlisted men were killed, 24 officers and 216 men were wounded, and 6 men were missing. Exposure to rain and cold, however, struck down even more men than did the enemy.
On 7 November, General Ryder ordered the 135th Infantry, the 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion, the 191st Tank Battalion, Company A, 3d Chemical Battalion, and Company B, 109th Engineer Battalion, to assemble in the vicinity of the highway-railway crossing in the valley southeast of Roccaravindola. This group, designated as Task Force A and commanded by Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Caffey, was to drive up the road to Montaquila. The 3d Battalion, 135th Infantry, led the attack the next morning and took the town and Hill 864 to the west. On 9 November, Company K, 168th Infantry, supported from Hill 558 by the fires of the 2d Battalion, seized the high ground
in the forks of the Ravindola River to protect the left flank of the 135th Infantry. The enemy fled so hastily from this area that he abandoned chickens freshly plucked for his evening meal.
The 135th Infantry spent the next few days of rain and cold patrolling north across the Rio Chiaro and west over the terraced hills toward Mennella and Selvone. Troops found extensive minefields north of Rio Chiaro and located routes through these mined areas by driving sheep and goats over them. Contact was made on 12 November with the 504th Parachute Infantry, which had pushed past Fornelli to Colli and was maintaining contact with the Eighth Army.
VI Corps was everywhere held up by bad weather, mountainous terrain, and stubborn enemy resistance. The enemy had strengthened his left flank again on 9 November by bringing in the 26th Panzer Division. The rains had increased since October and the nights were bitterly cold. Problems of supply became increasingly difficult as the Volturno River rose, the mud got deeper, and the men pushed farther into the mountains. Soldiers suffered from the rain and cold and from a lack of hot meals. The divisions needed rest and replacements if they were to maintain efficiency and high morale. General Clark considered these circumstances and stopped the advance on 15 November. VI Corps could now limit activities to patroling the front and holding its gains, while the Allied command laid plans for the next move against the German Winter Line.
TRUCKS TRY TO FORD THE VOLTURNO after autumn rains had destroyed a bridge north of Venafro. On 15 November the 120th Engineer Combat Battalion reported that all bridges across the Volturno upstream from Alife had been washed out by high water. In the foreground, near the jeep, are two ponton units.
British 10 Corps Attacks Mount Camino
From 3 to 15 November British 10 Corps found the enemy strongly entrenched on Mount Camino, on the high ground southwest of Mignano, and along the Garigliano River (Map No. 30, inside back cover). The longer the enemy delayed us in this area, the stronger he could build his defenses in depth on the Winter Line. He had prepared well for this delaying action: buildings were destroyed and trees felled to clear fields of fire; antitank ditches were dug; pillboxes were constructed; and machine guns, mortars, and artillery were sited so that fire could be directed on all approaches. The 7 Armoured Division, on the coast, discovered on 4 November that the enemy was flooding the lowland southeast of the Garigliano to prevent an easy advance to the river and to block a possible way of outflanking Mount Camino. From the fact that its patrols were now more closely restricted, 10 Corps suspected that the enemy might be stronger here than at previous delaying positions.
While the British 7 Armoured and 46 Divisions patrolled to the Garigliano River, the 56 Division moved up from the southeast against Mount Camino. (See sketch opposite). The part of this mountain mass facing the division consists of two main spurs running approximately north and south. The westernmost of these razor-backed ridges runs from Hill 81g down to Hill 727, and the eastern spur descends from Hill 963 (Monastery Hill). There is little cover on these jagged ridges and the surmountable approaches to them are few. The 201 Guards Brigade seized Calabritto on 6 November and continued the assault the next night up the slopes against formidable enemy defenses of weapons pits blasted out of rock, heavily wired obstacles, and mined and booby-trapped approaches. On 8 November, the 201 Guards Brigade beat back fierce counterattacks on Calabritto and gained a footing on Mount Camino by the seizure of Hill 727, northeast of the town.
The 201 Guards began to show signs of exhaustion by 10 November. The weather was becoming colder and the rains more frequent. Enemy counterattacks and probings disturbed the troops constantly. During the day reinforcements arrived, and the brigade took and held Hill 819 for a few minutes that night. The two forward com-
THE MOUNT CAMINO HILL MASS was the barrier between the British 10th Corps and the Cassino plain during the first of November. Of the German units defending this high ground the 129th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, opposing the 201 Guards Brigade, did most of the fighting and suffered heavy losses.
panies, attacking 819, suffered sixty percent casualties; almost all their officers were killed or wounded. During five nights and four days they had only a 24-hour haversack ration, an emergency ration, and one water bottle per man. Their wounded lay on the ground without blankets in cold that was almost freezing.
At least two more battalions would be required to take Hill 819 and Razor Back Ridge to the east. Maintenance of troops was becoming more difficult, although a divisional mule company with 120 mules had been formed, and a battalion of infantrymen manhandled supplies, water, and ammunition to positions on Mount Camino. On 12 November the decision was made and approved by General Clark to withdraw from the mount, and that somewhat hazardous operation was accomplished on the night of 14/15 November without the enemy's learning of the withdrawal. For forty-eight hours he continued to shell the positions the brigade had just abandoned.
Extremely bad weather, exhaustion from long fighting, and the determined resistance of the enemy had forced the 56 Division to halt for rest and reorganization. The fact that the tired men of the 201 Guards Brigade could scale the steep slopes of Mount Camino in the rain and darkness and in the face of a stubborn enemy is noteworthy, and their maintaining themselves in positions dominated by the Germans was an outstanding feat. They and the men of the other brigades of 10 Corps could now rest and prepare for a second assault on the forward edge of the German Winter Line.
page created 17 September 2001
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