Battle for the Pass
With the 34th Division on the left and the 91st Division to the right of Highway 65, General Keyes' II Corps on 10 September began to advance on a 15-mile front from a line of hills eight miles north of Florence toward the Sieve River, four miles away. To the right of the American corps the 1st Division of the British 13 Corps moved astride the Florence-Borgo-San Lorenzo road toward the Sieve. Since patrols had determined that the enemy had already departed, the first day's operation was little more than an approach march. Long columns of infantry moved in relative silence through narrow valleys and along crooked ridges. Ahead, shrouded in the blue haze of early autumn, were the shadowy outlines of the Northern Apennines, on whose slopes a watchful enemy lay concealed in hundreds of well-camouflaged firing trenches, gun pits, and concrete bunkers. That night the Allied troops crossed the easily fordable Sieve unopposed.1
Elsewhere other troops of the Fifth Army also stirred. On the coastal flank of General Crittenberger's IV Corps, Task Force 45 followed up the enemy's withdrawal fourteen miles beyond the Arno to the vicinity of the prewar beach resort of Viareggio. Inland the 1st Armored Division and the 6th South African Armoured Division continued abreast on broad fronts. Nowhere were the Germans in evidence. Occupying Pistoia, abandoned by the enemy, the South Africans pushed on into the hills north of the city.
On the 11th the II Corps continued its approach march, but as the day wore on, indications grew that an alert enemy waited not far ahead. An occasional burst of long-range machine gun fire; a cluster of exploding mortar shells that sent forward-patrols scurrying for cover; an isolated explosion revealing a hidden mine field. The troops were obviously nearing an outpost line somewhere in low hills fronting dominating peaks overlooking the Futa and Il Giogo Passes.
Plans and Terrain
Commanded since mid-1943 by General Livesay, a 49-year-old West Point graduate, the 91st Division after crossing the Sieve veered away from Highway 65 to follow the secondary road, Route 6524, toward the main objective of the II Corps, Il Giogo Pass.
Under General Keyes' plan, once the 91st Division had fully developed the
IL GIOGO PASS
II Corps Attack on the Gothic Line
10-18 September 1944
enemy's outpost line, General Coulter's 85th Division was to relieve those elements of the 91st Division east of Highway 65. The two divisions then were to move against the two terrain features commanding Il Giogo Pass. These were the 3,000-foot Monticelli massif on the left of the pass and the equally high Monte Altuzzo on the right. General Keyes had also directed General Livesay to deploy one of his regiments west of Monticelli in conjunction with a holding attack toward the Futa Pass by General Bolté's 34th Division astride Highway 65. In addition to taking the key height of Monte Altuzzo, the 85th Division was also to seize neighboring Monte Verruca and other heights to the east adjoining the sector of the British 13 Corps. (Map XI)
To defend Il Giogo Pass the Germans had constructed their Gothic Line positions so as to take full advantage of a watershed 3,000 feet high. On the forward slopes, streams flowing southward into the Sieve River had cut a series of sharp irregular parallel ridges and ravines. Except where rocky outcrops and cliffs provided no foothold for vegetation, stunted pines and scattered
patches of brush covered the narrow ridges, while lower slopes were generally well concealed by thick groves of chestnut and pine.
As was so often the case in the Italian Campaign, the nature of the terrain would impose strict limitations on the tactical choices open to the various commanders. Route 6524, for example, had to serve as a line of communication for both the 85th and 91st Divisions. At best the road resembled a two-lane, asphalt-covered American country road. Since its many sharp curves were under direct observation of gunners on the slopes of Monticelli and Monte Altuzzo, those portions close to the front would be unable to sustain much daylight traffic until heights flanking the Il Giogo Pass were in hand.
The Monticelli massif southwest of the pass consists of a long, steep backbone ridge with a concave southern slope. Slightly higher than Monticelli, Monte Altuzzo is a conical peak with a main north-south ridge extending southward for 2,500 yards from its summit. Numerous narrow wooded draws cut the slopes of the ridge and offered covered routes of approach for attacking troops.
Il Giogo Pass had indeed been well chosen for the American main effort, for General Lemelsen, the Fourteenth Army commander, and Field Marshal Kesselring shared a conviction that the Americans would concentrate on the Futa Pass and the principal crossing of the Apennines, Highway 65. Although the 4th Parachute Division of Schlemm's I Parachute Corps was responsible for defense of both passes, two of its regiments focused on the Futa Pass, leaving only one, the 12th Parachute Regiment, to hold Il Giogo Pass, including both Monticelli and Monte Altuzzo, plus the other heights eastward to a boundary with the 715th Division of the LI Mountain Corps. Reduced by heavy losses during the fighting south of Rome to a small cadre of combat-experienced troops, the 4th Parachute Division had been fleshed out in recent weeks by inexperienced replacements, many of whom had yet to fire live ammunition. Two other divisions to the west opposite the 34th U.S. Division and the 6th South African Armoured Division were responsible for sectors of the Gothic Line averaging ten miles each, so that there was little possibility of drawing on them for reserves in the main battle. General Schlemm's corps reserve consisted of only two battalions of the Grenadier Lehr Brigade.2
Along that sector of the Gothic Line about to feel the main weight of the Fifth Army's assault, the attacking forces would enjoy a three-to-one superiority over the defenders. Before Il Giogo Pass General Keyes had concentrated half of his infantry strength, and each of the attacking divisions would have the support of an entire corps artillery group. Given those conditions, the Americans had every right to view the task ahead with confidence, in spite of the mountainous and forbidding terrain pocked with well-camouflaged positions manned by a foe with orders to defend to the last bullet.
During the afternoon of the 12th, Col. W. F. Magill's 363d Infantry led the
91st Division toward Il Giogo Pass. Although the volume of enemy fire was steadily increasing, the 91st Division thus far had run into only sporadic opposition, prompting General Keyes to delay ordering forward General Coulter's 85th Division. The absence of determined resistance reinforced a widely held opinion in the 91st Division headquarters that the objective was only lightly manned. Colonel Magill, for his part, thought his regiment could seize both Monticelli and Monte Altuzzo without help from the 85th Division.
Late in the day Colonel Magill sent a battalion against each of the two objectives. Faced by the heaviest fire yet encountered north of the Arno and advancing in growing darkness over unfamiliar ground against defenses that would eventually absorb the efforts of two divisions, neither battalion understandably made much headway. That night local counterattacks drove one company back along the main road. Radio communication in the convoluted terrain was poor, and deployed on slopes with few features recognizable on maps, Colonel Magill's troops were unable to advise their commanders of their exact whereabouts. About all that was certain as daylight came on the 13th was that the advances had come to a halt and that both Monticelli and Monte Altuzzo were still the province of the 12th Parachute Regiment. Until the location of the forward formations could be pinpointed, their presence was bound to inhibit the use of supporting artillery fire.3
The Attack on the Monticelli Ridge
The principal objective of General Livesay's 91st Division, Monticelli, was in effect a ridge line, forming a huge amphitheater whose two wings extended south from the main east-west divide. The west wing is Monte Calvi, a smooth dome-shaped hill. Monticelli itself is a long, steep-sided 3,000-foot ridge running in a northwest-southeasterly direction and forming the east wing of the amphitheater overlooking Il Giogo Pass. Stretching southward from the main ridge are two spurs, below which Route 6524 runs through Il Giogo Pass. Between those spurs are two deep, steep-sided ravines offering the only covered routes of approach to the upper slopes. On Monticelli's northwestern arms, scrub brush and a grove of chestnut trees near the hamlet of Borgo offered the only concealment. Narrow foot trails led to Borgo from the mountain's lower slopes, but beyond Borgo there were no trails, and the steep upper slopes would make supply and evacuation of wounded extremely difficult.4
So cleverly concealed were the Gothic Line defenses that they were almost invisible to the approaching troops. Many had been constructed of reinforced concrete or blasted into the rock. Roofed with three feet of logs and earth, each position could accommodate five men. In front of the defenses the Germans had strung at 100-yard intervals bands of barbed wire a foot high
Capture of Altuzzo and Monticelli
16-18 September 1944
and twenty-five feet deep. They had also placed mines in the two ravines leading to the upper slopes, for they too saw the ravines as logical routes of approach. On the reverse slope the Germans had built large dugouts extending seventy-five feet or more into the mountain, capable of accommodating up to twenty men, and 300 yards north of the Monticelli ridge they had blasted a 50-man shelter out of the solid rock.5
On 13 September two battalions of the 363d Infantry began to climb toward Monticelli's western ridge. Heavy and accurate enemy mortar concentrations, punctuated by machine gun fire, soon slowed the advance and caused so many casualties that the regimental commander committed his reserve. The
ARTILLERY BATTERY IN ACTION
pattern of the fighting for Il Giogo Pass was set that first day on the slopes of both Monticelli and Monte Altuzzo and those less towering crests to right and left.6 (Map 8)
The terrain and the nature of the enemy's defenses, the men soon discovered, would permit no grand over-the-top assault by co-ordinated formations. Of a mighty attacking army numbering over 262,000 men, those who would bear the brunt of the fighting at critical points sometimes constituted a platoon or less, seldom more than a company or two. Little clusters of men struggled doggedly up rocky ravines and draws separated by narrow fingers of forested ridges, isolated, climbing laboriously squad by squad, fighting their way forward yard by yard, often not even knowing the location of the closest friendly unit. Only a massive fire support, provided by the artillery of division, corps, and army, by the tubes of tanks and tank destroyers firing in battery in the manner of artillery, and
by fighter-bombers, gave to the many isolated firefights any real unity; but it was that very unity, however difficult to discern, that was in the end to decide the battle.
The experience of Company B, 363d Infantry, commanded by Capt. Lloyd J. Inman, was indicative of the kind of fighting that characterized the struggle for Il Giogo Pass. As the 363d Infantry renewed the attack on 14 September, Captain Inman's company was to lead one of two attacking battalions behind a rolling barrage fired by the 34th Field Artillery Battalion. The initial objective was the hamlet of Borgo on Monticelli's southwestern slope. From there the company was to gain the crest of the western ridge and push on to the summit.
A platoon of heavy machine guns from Company D was to support the attack with overhead fire from positions on one of the lower ridges extending southeastward from the Monticelli hill mass. When those fires became masked, the platoon was to displace forward one section at a time. Starting 20 minutes before the ground attack, the supporting artillery and 81-mm. mortars were to fire twenty minutes of preparatory fire against predetermined targets. Thereafter the artillery was to shift its fires to the base of the mountain, then commence a rolling barrage, lifting it 100 yards per minute as Company B's leading platoons followed at a distance of a hundred yards.
At 1400 Company B, with Technical Sgt. Charles J. Murphy's 1st Platoon on the left and 1st Lt. Bruno Rossellini's 2d Platoon on the right, crossed the line of departure. Off to the right Company C began to move. For the first half hour all seemed to go well as Captain Inman's men filed slowly up narrow trails. Suddenly a voice claiming to be that of the Company C commander broke into the battalion's SCR-300 channel, complaining bitterly that friendly artillery fire was falling on his troops. Although both Captain Inman and his artillery forward observer could see from their observation post that that was not the case, they were unable to convince the artillery battalion commander, who immediately halted the barrage. It was obviously an enemy ruse. No sooner had the barrage lifted than Germans who had been taking shelter in the innermost recesses of their dugouts returned to their guns and opened fire on Company B's forward platoons.
Yet in spite of that fire men of the two platoons, using every fold and wrinkle of the ground for cover, managed to reach Borgo and by nightfall had moved beyond the hamlet about a third of the way up the mountain. There grazing machine gun fire at relatively close range stopped them. In the deepening twilight it was impossible to locate well-camouflaged enemy positions. With ammunition running low and casualties heavy, Captain Inman ordered his men to dig in for the night. In the darkness the wounded made their way or were carried to the rear, while porters struggled forward with ammunition and rations.
Determined to locate the guns that had stopped his company, Captain Inman sent 1st Lt. John C. Kearton and six volunteers from the 3d Platoon in search of the enemy positions. Concealed by darkness, the seven inched up the mountainside until halted by barbed
wire. Suspecting that the goal was near, Lieutenant Kearton wormed his way through twenty-five yards of barbed wire to the base of an enemy bunker before hand grenades drove him back. Satisfied that he had found the exact location of the enemy machine guns, Kearton withdrew with his men to report his find to his company commander.
The following morning--15 September--as soon as it was light enough to observe, Inman called in artillery fire on the enemy position. Firing a few rounds to adjust for range, the Company B forward observer brought in the fires of a battery of 155-mm. guns, partially destroying the enemy gun emplacement and breaching the wire entanglements before it. Hardly had the firing stopped when Lieutenant Rosselini and ten of his men assaulted the bunker and forced five dazed occupants to surrender. Accompanied by Sergeant Murphy's 1st Platoon, the rest of Rosselini's men came forward and both platoons deployed beyond the captured enemy position.
In that isolated little action, Company B had scored the first important breach in the defenses of Monticelli and the first in that sector of the Gothic Line. Although flanking units had failed to keep pace, the company pushed doggedly on toward the crest of the Monticelli ridge, but with both flanks exposed casualties were heavy, among them the company executive officer and the forward observers for both artillery and 81-mm. mortars.
By 1800 Murphy's and Rosselini's platoons nevertheless reached the comparative safety of a low embankment a few yards from the crest of the ridge. Only a foot high on the left where Sergeant Murphy's platoon sought cover, the embankment gradually increased in height as it extended to the right at a slight angle to the crest until, in Rosselini's sector, it reached a height of three feet. Sergeant Murphy realized that his platoon, huddled behind the lowest part of the embankment, had to move quickly or else risk certain discovery by the enemy. Ordering his men to fix bayonets, Murphy led them in an assault up the last fifty yards to the crest of the ridge. There they routed enemy soldiers from two dugouts and took five prisoners. Pinned down by heavy flanking fire from the right and the right front, Rosselini's platoon remained in the shelter of the embankment.
Captain Inman and his radio operator followed Murphy to the crest and immediately began adjusting artillery fire on groups of enemy soldiers withdrawing down the reverse slope. When Murphy drew his company commander's attention to a group of Germans to the right, apparently assembling for a counterattack, Inman called for artillery fire, but hardly had he asked for the support when enemy machine gun fire damaged his radio and drove him and the radio operator to cover.
Company B had reached its objective, the northwestern end of the Monticelli ridge, but enemy fire had reduced the company strength to about seventy men and again ammunition was running low. Committing his 3d Platoon to extend and cover his right flank, Inman ordered his men to dig in and defend in place. The attached machine gun platoon, following the assault platoons,
had already come forward and began to set up firing positions along the edge of the embankment just below the crest while Captain Inman signaled his battalion headquarters for a new radio battery, ammunition, and reinforcements.
The men were still digging in when approximately a score of Germans launched a small counterattack against Sergeant Murphy's positions on the company's left flank on the northwestern end of the ridge. In apparent response to Captain Inman's call for reinforcements, a 17-man detachment from Company A, consisting of riflemen and a light machine gun section under 1st Lt. Ross A. Notaro, arrived just in time to help repulse the enemy thrust. An hour later another small group of Germans mounted a second counterattack, but by that time Lieutenant Notaro and his men were well dug in on Murphy's left and halted the move before it could gain momentum.
Early that evening the Germans mounted their third and heaviest counterattack. Following a mortar and artillery barrage, the enemy scrambled over the ridge and headed again toward Company B's left flank. Inman called for previously registered defensive fires from the 81-mm. mortars, the regimental cannon company, and supporting artillery. As the counterattacking Germans neared his foxholes, Inman adjusted the fires so closely that occasional rounds fell within the company's perimeter. Although the Americans suffered no casualties, the fire took a heavy toll of the Germans, some of whom were so near that when hit their momentum carried them into the American positions. Anticipating hand-to-hand fighting, Inman ordered his men to fix
CARRYING SUPPLIES TO MOUNTAIN POSITIONS
bayonets, but the artillery barrage insured that no live enemy got inside the perimeter.
Individual soldiers using their own weapons aggressively and courageously also played a major role in checking the counterattack. On the company's far left flank Lieutenant Notaro's detachment was particularly hard pressed, but suddenly, Sgt. Joseph D. Higdon, Jr., section leader of the light machine guns, leaped to his feet and, cradling a light machine gun in his arms, ran toward the enemy, firing as he went. That bold and unexpected action sent the Germans fleeing back down the reverse slope. Severely wounded, Sergeant Higdon tried to return to his own position but collapsed thirty yards short of it. When his companions reached him, he was dead.
The counterattacks halted, Company B, despite severe casualties, continued to hold on the western end of the Monticelli ridge. To conserve his company's dwindling strength, Captain Inman consolidated his force, pulling back Murphy's platoon from its exposed position and placing it nearer Rosselini's platoon, but Notaro and his small detachment remained for the night in their exposed positions on the left. Throughout the night, by the light of German flares, the two sides exchanged small arms fire and hand grenades.
At dawn on the 16th, men whom Inman had sent back during the night for supplies returned with ammunition and a new battery for the company radio, which despite three bullet holes in its chassis had continued to function. As yet no battalion carrying party had reached the company. Although two attached litter bearer teams worked all night trying to evacuate the wounded, morning found some wounded still in the company area. The large number of casualties and a long trek over rugged terrain to the battalion dressing station had been more than the two teams could handle.
Meanwhile, to Company B's right, Company C, after breaching a mine field and overcoming an enemy position bypassed earlier by Inman's company, had reached a point within 200 yards of Company B, while on the left, Company G, attached from the 2d Battalion, took up position to Company B's left rear. That was the situation when soon after daylight a sudden burst of enemy small arms fire struck and wounded Captain Inman. Command of Company B passed to Lieutenant Rosselini.
The coming of daylight revealed that during the night the Germans had moved into the positions on the left flank held previously by Sergeant Murphy's platoon. That made Lieutenant Notaro's detachment on the extreme left flank even more vulnerable than before and also jeopardized Murphy's platoon. Reduced to 17 men, Sergeant Murphy gained reinforcements by integrating into his defenses seven men of a mortar section that had fired all its ammunition.
Throughout the 16th and well into the following day, the Germans attacked again and again against Company B's vulnerable left flank in desperate attempts to regain control of the ridge. Yet somehow the little band of Americans held. The successful defense owed much to Pfc. Oscar G. Johnson, one of the seven mortarmen that Sergeant Murphy had deployed as riflemen. Standing at times to get a better view of the enemy, Private Johnson directed a steady stream of fire at each of the counterattacks. During lulls in the fighting he crawled around the area gathering up all available weapons and ammunition from the dead and wounded and then returned to his own position to resume firing. When weapons malfunctioned, he cannibalized those he had collected for replacement parts. By the afternoon of the 16th Johnson was the only man left in his squad alive or unwounded. Nevertheless, he continued to fight through the night, beating back several attempts to infiltrate his position. Twice the intense fire drove back or wounded men sent to help him. Not until the next morning did help finally arrive. For his steadfast defense of Company B's left
CAPTURED GERMAN POSITION IN GOTHIC LINE
flank Private Johnson later received the Medal of Honor.7
Early on 17 September two enemy soldiers carrying a white flag emerged from an emplacement a hundred yards away. Ordering his men to cease fire, Lieutenant Rosselini went forward to meet them. Identifying himself as commanding officer of the paratroopers defending that sector of Monticelli, one of the Germans requested a truce so that the wounded of both sides might be evacuated. Rosselini immediately got in touch with his battalion headquarters for a decision, but before he received an answer, two dozen German soldiers, apparently unaware of the purpose of their commander's parley with the Americans, came down the slope and gave themselves up. Seeing his men surrender, the officer too submitted. That obviated any need for a truce.
Although the surrender took some of the pressure off Company B, reduced
85TH DIVISION TROOPS ON MT. VERRUCA
at that point to 50 men, heavy fire still prevented Rosselini and his men from clearing and occupying all of the Monticelli ridge in their sector. That afternoon after making plans with Capt. Edward J. Conley, commander of the neighboring Company G, for a final assault to sweep the ridge, Lieutenant Rosselini was returning to his command post when enemy fire cut him down. Since Rosselini had been Company B's last surviving officer, Captain Conley absorbed the remnants of Company B in his own command.
For four days all the 363d Infantry's rifle companies had at one time or another been drawn into the fighting, yet the Germans still held Monticelli's summit. From there they could fire not only on men of the 363d Infantry but could pour flanking fire on men of the 85th Division struggling slowly up the slopes of Monte Altuzzo.8
After holding the 3d Battalion in reserve for three days, Colonel Magill had committed it during the afternoon of the 16th to move up the eastern slope of the Monticelli ridge, only to see the battalion seriously disrupted by heavy enemy fire, minefields, and the broken terrain. By dawn on the 17th the battalion was so thoroughly disorganized that the division commander himself, General Livesay, felt impelled to go to the battalion command post in an effort to restore control and morale. Yet so reduced in strength were the other two battalions that the 3d remained the only hope for responding to pressure from the II Corps commander, General Keyes, to get on with the task of securing Monticelli's crest.
A rolling artillery barrage again was to precede the assault. Just at dawn, Company K, commanded by Capt. William B. Fulton, led off while an anxious General Livesay waited in the background. Because the hard-pressed troops on Monticelli's western ridge could cover Company K's left flank, the task was easier than that faced earlier by Company B. Within half an hour after the jump-off Captain Fulton's company was within 600 yards of the summit but receiving heavy fire. Not until midafternoon of the 17th was tension in Colonel Magill's command post eased with word that Fulton and six of his men, including a radio operator,
were at the top of the summit. An hour later the rest of Fulton's company and of the 3d Battalion also made it.
Taking advantage of the excellent observation atop Monticelli, Fulton directed artillery fire that broke up a series of counterattacks while the rest of the regiment gradually consolidated its grip on the mountain. After nightfall, as wounded were still being evacuated, a company of the 361st Infantry, which had been attacking west of Monticelli, arrived to clear the enemy from Monticelli's western crest, where the intrepid Private Johnson was still holding almost singlehandedly what had once been Company B's left flank. Denied the honor of reaching Monticelli's summit, Company B had nevertheless played the key role in the breakthrough, for the company's determined advance up the mountain's western ridge and its dogged defense had made possible the 3d Battalion's final and successful assault on the summit.
More than 150 enemy dead were to be counted in Company B's sector along with at least 40 attributable to Private Johnson's steadfast defense of the company's left flank; the company also took 40 enemy prisoners. Company B lost 14 men killed and 126 wounded.
By 18 September the western height overlooking Il Giogo Pass was firmly in American hands, while in the meantime just to the east of Highway 6524 the 85th Division's 338th Infantry had reached the top of Monte Altuzzo after a five-day fight similar to that experienced by the 363d Infantry. Farther to the east, the 339th Infantry had by noon of the 17th captured the neighboring peak of Monte Verucca and during the afternoon the 337th Infantry on the corps right flank occupied Monte Pratone.9
Once the 363d Infantry had captured the summit of Monticelli, the 361st Infantry followed enemy withdrawal onto the hills west of Monticelli. Meanwhile, slightly farther to the west, a two-regiment containing attack had carried the 34th Division to within striking distance of the Futa Pass. By fostering the illusion that the Futa Pass was the focus of the Fifth Army offensive, as noted earlier, the 34th Division had assured that no enemy forces from that sector would be shifted to Il Giogo Pass. That ruse undoubtedly contributed to the breakthrough at Il Giogo Pass.10
East of Il Giogo Pass and the II Corps sector the British 13 Corps, constituting the Fifth Army right wing, had played a similar role by pinning down enemy troops that might otherwise have been shifted westward to oppose the army's main effort. As were units west of the pass, the British corps was echeloned to the rear of the II Corps. The flank units nevertheless had advanced sufficiently to afford favorable jump-off positions for exploiting what amounted to a breakthrough of the Gothic Line seven miles wide astride Il Giogo Pass, and troops on the Fifth Army's extreme west wing had drawn up to the line.
The six-day fight had taken an inevitable toll of the three assault divisions of
LOOKING NORTH FROM FUTA PASS
the II Corps: a total of 2,731 casualties. Yet those could be considered light in view of the results achieved. German losses, although unrecorded, were unquestionably far greater. While the isolated, fierce little engagements at close quarters between opposing infantrymen on the steep slopes and mountaintops were costly to both sides, the Germans lost considerably more men to American supporting fires. Hardly any of the little batch of reinforcements moving into the line got through unscathed.
From the first the Germans had been faced with a dilemma. So great was the pressure exerted by General Bolté's 34th Division in what was actually a holding attack against the Futa Pass that German commanders never divined that the main effort was directed against Il Giogo Pass. The Fourteenth Army commander, General Lemelsen, and the I Parachute Corps commander, General Schlemm, saw the main effort extending across a nine-mile front encompassing both passes. Yet even had they discerned the American plan from the start, they could have done little
about it. Once the 4th Parachute Division had committed every possible man to the fight as infantry--antitank gunners, engineers, even men of an untrustworthy Lithuanian Labor Battalion--all that was left were the two battalions of the Grenadier Lehr Brigade. Although Field Marshal Kesselring on 15 September authorized commitment of those battalions to help defend Il Giogo Pass, he stipulated that they had to be released three days later to reinforce the Adriatic front.11
In thus displaying greater concern for the Adriatic front, Kesselring revealed a recognition that a breakthrough by the British Eighth Army might have a more far-reaching effect than one by the American Fifth Army. There were other positions in the mountains that still might be used to delay the Fifth Army, but a breakthrough by the British might outflank the entire German army group.
That the German command recognized that American penetration at Il Giogo Pass was inevitable became apparent in early evening of 17 September when General Lemelsen ordered the I Parachute Corps to abandon the Gothic Line and fall back to build a new defense in the heights north of Firenzuola.12 That move meant that General Clark's plan had succeeded. A breakthrough at Il Giogo Pass had indeed outflanked the more utilitarian Futa Pass and prompted German withdrawal from the Futa Pass.
1. II Corps AAR, Sep 44; Sidney T. Mathews, "Breakthrough at Monte Altuzzo," in Charles B. MacDonald and Sidney T. Mathews, Three Battles: Arnaville, Altuzzo, and Schmidt, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1952); Chester G. Starr, From Salerno to the Alps (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1948), pp. 311-24. Unless otherwise cited the following sections are based upon these sources.
2. AOK 14, Ia KTB Nr. 4, 6-8 Sep 44, Doc. 62241/1. See also Fifth Army History, Part VII, pp. 53-54 and 72.
3. 363d Inf Jnl and Opns Rpt, Sep 44.
4. Capt. Lloyd J. Inman, Inf., The Operation of Company B, 363d Infantry, in the Attack on Monticelli, Study, The Infantry School, Ft. Benning, Ga. Unless otherwise indicated the following is based upon this source.
5. 91st Div Opns Rpt, Sep 44.
6. Maj. John Brock, Inf., Operations of the 363d Infantry at Monticelli, Monograph, The Infantry School, Ft. Benning, Ga. The following section is based upon this source.
7. See The Medal of Honor of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1948), p. 343.
8. 361st Inf Regt Hist, Sep 44; 363d Inf Hist, Sep 44. Unless otherwise indicated the following is based upon these references.
9. See Mathews, "Breakthrough at Monte Altuzzo," in Three Battles for a detailed account of the breakthrough operation in the 85th Division sector.
10. In the course of the attack, 2d Lt. Thomas W. Wigle, Company K, 135th Infantry, distinguished himself in action on 14 September on Monte Frassino. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
11. AOK 14, Ia KTB, 12-18 Sep 44, AOK 14, Doc. 62241/1.