After failing for two days to breach the Giogo Pass defenses, II Corps prepared to continue the attack on 14 September, using the forward positions as the line of departure. On the left of Highway 6524 the 91st Division, employing elements of two regiments, was to try again to capture Monticelli and Hill 844, which guarded Monticelli's western flank. On the right of the highway the 85th Division, with two regiments abreast, was to renew the attack at 0530. While the 338th Infantry was again to make the main effort against Monte Altuzzo, the 339th Infantry was to continue its attack up the eastern and western arms of Monte Verruca. The 337th Infantry was to remain in division reserve.1
In the 338th Infantry's zone the 2d Battalion was to drive along the highway to take Point 770, while the 1st Battalion was to strike again up the main ridge of Monte Altuzzo to capture the crest of the mountain. (Map 10) The 3d Battalion, in regimental reserve, was to move at 0500 from its assembly area near Scarperia to the rear of the 1st Battalion. It was to follow the 1st up Monte Altuzzo on order, prepared to push north-northeast to the hills about two miles beyond the Giogo Pass. Supplies of K rations and small arms ammunition had been brought to Ponzalla by jeep from the regimental supply point in Scarperia and hand-carried the rest of the way to the rifle battalions.
338th Infantry Plan of Attack
14 September 1944
By midafternoon of 13 September Colonel Jackson had worked out a new plan for the 1st Battalion's attack against Monte Altuzzo. Still regarding the effort as a developing movement, he
81-MM. MORTARS IN POSITION. Infantrymen of the 338th cleaning their mortars outside of Paretaio Farmhouse. Note trenches in background.
thought the cost in troops would be light. Company B, with one platoon of Company D's heavy machine guns attached, was to leave the forward assembly area at Paretaio Farmhouse at dark, cross la Rocca draw, and come up abreast of Company A on Hill 782. Together the two companies were to attack at dawn up the main Altuzzo ridge to the crest, Hill 926, Company A on the west slope and Company B on the east. After capturing Hill 926, Company A was to continue to the knob on the north (Knob 3) while Company B was to send a platoon to Hill 862 to block any counterattack from Pian di Giogo on the battalion's right front. The six 81-mm. mortars in position behind Paretaio Farmhouse were to fire on call at suitable targets.
While no preparatory artillery concentration was scheduled, artillery support was to be available on call after H Hour minus 10 minutes. The 338th Infantry's Cannon Company was to place harassing fire in the area 1,000 to 1,800 yards behind the switchbacks on the highway. At 0700 two platoons from the 84th
Chemical Battalion, which had moved its 4.2-inch mortars to positions a few hundred yards south of Ponzalla, were to start firing on selected targets in the Altuzzo area. For air support Colonel Mikkelsen, 338th commander, requested missions against German artillery positions and strong points 4,000 yards north and northeast of the pass and on the roads north of the pass from Barco to Firenzuola.2
During the night prior to the next attempt to take Monte Altuzzo, both corps and division artillery were busy firing harassing and TOT (time on target) concentrations on areas around Giogo Pass, most missions apparently designed to hamper enemy reinforcement and supply. Every hour the 403d Field Artillery Battalion placed harassing fire on areas around Barco Village. Besides firing three harassing missions on the north side of the Firenzuola road on either side of the pass, the 403d fired 180 rounds on Hill 1029 northwest of the pass and placed a TOT mission just beyond it. Three battalions of corps medium artillery put 485 rounds of harassing and TOT fire in front of the 338th Infantry. The targets were Hill 926, the north slopes of Monte Altuzzo, the slopes north of the pass, road junctions on the main Firenzuola road at Barco and a thousand yards north of the pass, and other sensitive points in the enemy's lines of communication. Although none of the missions were observed, the volume of fire would seem to indicate that they materially hampered enemy movement.3
The failure of Company A's SCR 300 about 2230 the night of 13 September cut off Captain King's only means of direct communication with the 1st Battalion, 338th Infantry. After a hurried examination showed the batteries were not functioning, King sent three runners to the battalion command post to secure replacement batteries. On the way the runners came under artillery fire in the Rocca draw, delaying their arrival at the battalion CP until 0200. Although they secured new batteries and started back toward the Company A command post, only one of the men arrived and then not until well after daylight the next morning. Even with the new batteries the radio would not function. Further examination showed that the trouble lay with the receiver. Another runner was sent back for new parts, but it was afternoon before they were received. Not until 1430, 14 September, was the radio put back into operation and communication restored with battalion. The platoon SCR 536's, which worked spasmodically, would not transmit over such a distance in the mountains, and telephone wire, strung during the morning of 14 September, was knocked out by enemy mortar or artillery fire almost as soon as it was put in.4
Captain King, despite his communications failure on the night of 13 September, went ahead with plans for the attack the
next morning. At a conference of his platoon leaders at the company command post, he outlined the formation to be used. The 1st Platoon on the left and the 3d Platoon on the right were to push up the large finger and the draw to the top of Hill 782, then swing left and advance just below the ridge line on the western slope of the main Altuzzo ridge to Hill 926. While these platoons were advancing, the 2d Platoon, following the 1st, was to advance to a place from which it could support the attack by fire. One hour after the jump-off the Weapons Platoon was to pass through the 2d Platoon and follow the 1st to give support in event of counterattack. Captain King expected that as soon as Company B, which had left Paretaio before Company A's radio went dead, reached the slope of Hill 782 the Company B commander would make contact with him.
While Captain King briefed his platoon leaders and tried to restore radio contact with the battalion commander, back in the foxholes the men of the company snatched a few hours of fitful sleep or stood watch through the dark night. In each foxhole the two or three men took turns at guard duty, and at all times at least three men from each squad were on the alert. Notwithstanding the fact that they had not occupied the crest of Monte Altuzzo or run into the company of the 91st Division through which they had been scheduled to pass, the men and officers of Company A were still in high spirits. They still expected the attack the next morning to be an easy one.
As the hours passed, the confidence of Captain King and his platoon leaders was tempered by anxiety over the whereabouts of Company B and their own failure to restore contact with battalion. Nothing had been heard from the runners who had started back to the battalion CP for new radio batteries. Because he expected the return of the runners at any moment, Captain King did not even consider stringing wire between the rear Company A command post on the nose of Hill 606, where the executive officer, 1st Lt. Joseph E. Pizzi, was located, and the forward CP on the lower slopes of Hill 782, where the rest of the company was in position. Besides, if wire were laid, when his men pushed up the crest of Monte Altuzzo the next morning they would soon outstrip the company's supply of telephone wire.
Company A Attacks the Outpost Line
Left to his own counsels by the break in communications, Captain King finally decided during the early morning hours of 14 September that even if Company B did not make contact with him Company A would move up alone just before dawn and occupy the next peak, Hill 782. Further advances would then await the arrival of Company B or the re-establishment of communications with Colonel Jackson. In line with this decision, Company A, with two platoons abreast, the 3d on the left and the 1st on the right, moved out at 0500 up the southwest slope of Hill 782 between the first and second fingers that ran down from the ridge line. (Map 11) Both platoons moved in close column of squads formation; the morning was too dark and initially the ground too bushy for dispersion.5
1st Battalion Attack
14 September 1944
With the 3d Squad in the lead, followed by the 2d and 1st, the 3d Platoon walked slowly up the slope of Hill 782, so steep that, to keep their balance, the men frequently had to crouch close to the ground and grasp underbrush for support. As soon as the leading squad reached the barbed wire entanglement, the men stepped over it, only to run almost head on into a German bunker. At the head of the column, the two scouts and Pfc. Hubert G. Albert, acting 3d Squad leader, could see only the bare outline of the German position through the darkness. The squad leader halted his squad and signaled to the platoon leader, Lieutenant Holladay, who was the fourth man in the column.
Anxious to avoid a fire fight, the platoon leader ordered the two scouts to withdraw below the barbed wire and move to the left. In compliance, the column moved about twenty yards to the left and the leading men started to cut through the wire with a wire cutter. As the last strands were being cut, the men saw a roving enemy patrol on the skyline about twenty-five yards away. They ducked below the entanglement, and Lieutenant Holladay directed them to move farther to the left to avoid the patrol. Before they had gone more than a few yards farther, the first eight or ten men lost contact with the rest of the platoon. As the leading men halted to regain contact, they heard the sounds of a fire fight to their right and began to receive hand grenades and light mortar fire. Still unable to penetrate the darkness very far, the men could not make out any Germans to the front. Finally, after four men had been wounded, the 3d Platoon received orders from Captain King to withdraw to its old positions below the barbed wire in the draw between the first and second fingers on the southwest slope of Hill 782. All reached safety except Pfc. John Lakowicz and Pvt. Marvin D. Beazley who lost their way near the rock formations and stayed there the rest of the day within a stone's throw of the enemy.6
On the right of the 3d Platoon, the 1st Platoon of Company A in a column of squads--1st, 3d, 2d--had pushed up the slope of the hill. Stepping easily through the low-strung barbed wire, the 1st Squad had gone a few yards beyond it when a German suddenly shouted, "Halt!" At the sound every man hit the ground, and S. Sgt. Herbert H. Davis, the squad leader, unable to determine the source of the cry, sent word back to the platoon leader for instructions. Lieutenant MacMinn relayed instructions for the squad leader to move his men over to the right. As the leading squad started out again, three Germans shouted at them. Pvt. Bruce A. Petty replied with his M-1 rifle, killing one German with his first shot and another with his second. Other Germans replied furiously, seemingly with every weapon they had. From close-in positions on the front and right front they lobbed grenade after grenade into the area. Mortar shells fell all around, and a machine gun in a dugout to the right front began to find the range. One grenade wounded Pvt. Murray C. Faller and knocked the rifle from the hand of Private Petty, blowing him off the bank of the slope.
The fire fight went on. In the darkness neither side could see the other well, and for both Germans and Americans the unevenness of the slope severely
limited effective fields of fire for small arms. The enemy nevertheless had some advantage in the grenade exchange because of his higher position and better knowledge of the terrain. As dawn approached Lieutenant MacMinn observed that his platoon held a very exposed position in the bare area beyond the barbed wire, and daylight could be expected to improve the enemy's chances. Thus, for the sake of better cover, the lieutenant, with Captain King's approval, ordered the platoon to withdraw to the positions from which it had jumped off about forty-five minutes earlier. While the platoon withdrew, Platoon Sergeant Van Horne, who had been tending a wounded man, Pfc. Raymond J. Charron, halted the 2d Squad a few yards below the barbed wire. Hearing German voices and movement on the slope above, Sergeant Van Horne and the 2d Squad fired in the direction of the sounds, but with undetermined results.7
All the platoon finally reached the jump-off point safely except Pvt. James R. Hickman of the 1st Squad, who had received no word from the men around him about the withdrawal. By the time he discovered that he had been left behind, daylight had come and he was afraid to move because of the exposed terrain. All day long he remained alone in this position thirty yards above the barbed wire near the German dugouts, only an eighteen-inch bank hiding him from enemy view. Frightened at first, he became more composed as the day wore on, finally rolling into his blanket, which he had carried with him in the attack. Above, he could hear the Germans; below, the men of Company A. Through the longest day he had ever spent he was sustained only by a couple of swallows of water, one stick of chewing gum, and the urge to get back to his outfit. After dark, he crawled back through the barbed wire and rejoined his platoon.8
After Company A's attack began, the machine gun section of the Weapons Platoon could not find the 2d Platoon, through which it was supposed to pass before taking up supporting positions behind the 1st Platoon. At the barbed wire, the platoon sergeant, T. Sgt. Thomas A. Culpepper, saw what looked like a mine and steered the machine gunners some distance, perhaps fifty to seventy-five yards, to the right. As the men started through the wire again, they heard the enemy open fire on the 1st and 3d Platoons, who were in the lead on the left. The Germans evidently spotted the machine gunners too and covered the area near them with flares, mortar fire, and grenades. Though his men miraculously escaped casualties, Sergeant Culpepper knew they were in a difficult position. In any case, before the Weapons Platoon could be of much assistance to the company, the platoon sergeant would have to get in contact with the other platoons. He decided to withdraw his men and try to regain contact with the company commander or the rifle platoon leaders. Too far to the right to reach the positions held the night before on the slopes of Hill 782, the machine gun section withdrew to a trail northeast of la Rocca; and before Culpepper regained contact with the rest of the company, the short-lived attack had ended.9
After its abortive attack, Company A stayed in covered positions on the southwest slope of Hill 782 below the barbed wire throughout 14 September. Captain King, out of communication with the remainder of the battalion, was in no position to co-ordinate with Company B, which had been scheduled to make contact with Company A before both units jumped off toward the crest of the mountain.10 At 1415 the 338th Infantry CP was informed that Company A was on the west slope of Monte Altuzzo beyond Hill 782 and on the upper central part of the bowl, some 250 yards north of its actual position on the southwest slope of Hill 782. The report also stated that Company A had been forced to pull back because of a pillbox and well-emplaced riflemen.11
Company B Moves Out
On 13 September, after Colonel Jackson had decided to commit Company B in a dawn attack with Company A, Capt. Maurice E. Peabody, Jr., Company B commander, ordered his 2d Platoon leader, 1st Lt. John M. Neuffer, to send a reconnaissance patrol to locate a suitable route of advance to the main Altuzzo ridge. The patrol left at approximately 1600 (13 September) from the vicinity of the battalion command post at Paretaio. It was headed by S. Sgt. Hugh C. Brown, 2d Squad leader, and included Sgt. Gamelil Mullins, Pfc. Harold Cetel, Pfc. Marion L. Boston, and Pfc. Kenny R. Beverage. Having followed the high trail from Paretaio to the thick woods that lay at the edge of the open field where the leading squad of Company A had first received fire that morning, the patrol crossed the woods and spied a little irrigation ditch that led across the open field toward the main draw of Rocca Creek. By use of this route, Sergeant Brown concluded, Company B could gain the shelter of the creek bed and once there would be at the edge of the lower slopes of Monte Altuzzo.
After the patrol returned with this information, Captain Peabody decided there would be no difficulty in moving his men to the position which the battalion commander had told him Company A occupied on the slopes of Hill 782. Since the main Altuzzo ridge was the only ridge in sight along the route his men would take, Peabody saw no need to ask for guides from Company A. He felt confident that he could make contact with Company A by SCR 300 when he came within radio distance.12 So sure, in fact, was Captain Peabody that, when he was asked how he knew he could find Company A, the Company B commander replied, "Oh, I'm an old hunter--I can't miss."13
Before the jump-off, Captain Peabody was also confident regarding the outcome of the attack. Although he had always regarded intelligence information skeptically, he had concluded on the basis of information he had received that the enemy held Monte Altuzzo only lightly and that the positions were far less formidable than those at the Futa Pass. A Partisan report, which Captain Peabody
had seen, emphasized the weakness of the enemy's defenses in the Giogo Pass area. The defenses consisted, so the story ran, of hasty machine gun fortifications lacking even protective mines or barbed wire. Having little confidence in the 363d Infantry, Peabody turned a deaf ear to the reports that its Company L had met heavy resistance during the day. The night before when he had visited the 3d Battalion, 363d, he had noted the conflicting statements which that battalion's staff officers had made about the location of its rifle companies.
As darkness neared, Company B made final preparations for attack. Captain Peabody briefed his platoon leaders, and before dark all commissioned and noncommissioned officers except the assistant squad leaders, who remained with the men, went to the top of the hill above the battalion command post and were shown their objective, the highest peak of Monte Altuzzo, Hill 926, and the ridge which led up to it. From their observation point the objective stood out like a giant inverted funnel, towering above the narrow valley and the smaller peaks around it. None of the men suspected that any other part of the mountain could ever be mistaken for Hill 926.
Throughout the day the men of Company B had been ready to move at a moment's notice. Each rifleman had been issued two bandoleers of .30-caliber ammunition totaling twelve clips or ninety-six rounds, each light machine gun squad 750 rounds, and each rifle squad three or four hand grenades.14 During the early evening most of the men ate a K ration supper, drank water, and received the daily issue of a package of cigarettes, a tropical chocolate bar, and a stick of chewing gum. To make sure that valuable information identifying the outfit did not fall into enemy hands, each man was checked by squad and assistant squad leaders for unit recognition material. The arrival of mail not long before the jump-off boosted morale, though it was too dark to read the mail and security too urgent to permit distribution. While three of the platoons left their mail at the battalion aid station, the 3d Platoon took its mail along in the care of the platoon guide, who later gave it to an assistant squad leader, Sgt. David N. Seiverd.15
At 2115, while Company B was forming for its attack, the enemy shelled the area around Paretaio Farmhouse but caused no casualties. Fifteen minutes later the company, with the 2d Platoon of heavy machine guns from Company D attached, crossed its initial point at Paretaio in a single column and walked north along the wooded slopes that stretched east of the Scarperia-Firenzuola highway. The company mission was clear: to reach Company A on the lower slopes of Hill 782 and, after making contact, to advance up the eastern slope of the main Altuzzo ridge while Company A advanced up the western slope until Hill 926 was occupied.
Leading Company B was the 2d Platoon, followed by the 3d Platoon, company
headquarters, the Weapons Platoon, the attached heavy machine gun platoon, and the 1st Platoon. At the end of the column was a five-man detail which, as it moved, laid light telephone wire from the battalion CP. Because of the difficulty of movement over the rough terrain, the attached 2d Platoon of Company D carried only two heavy machine guns instead of its normal complement of four. Although the whole column easily extended 500 yards on the ground, Captain Peabody considered the formation necessary for strict control because of the dark night (one could see scarcely ten yards ahead), the rugged terrain, and the narrow routes of approach to the line of departure and the objective.
Following the high trail that wound along the slope northeast of Paretaio, Company B struck a steep, narrow draw cut by a branch of Rocca Creek. Here the men turned east, crossed the branch, and stumbled and groped their way down the hillside toward the grainfield and olive orchard that stretched beside the main Rocca Creek. Reaching the edge of the field, the column followed a path across the open ground to the deep, broad draw of the creek bed at a point where large trees lined the stream. As the column moved across the draw, some mortar fire fell near by but did not delay the advance.
Throughout the march, contact between men was frequently broken. In most cases the break occurred at the rear of the column in the 60-mm. mortar section and the attached heavy machine gun platoon where the heavy loads made it hard for the men to keep pace with the riflemen. Every time contact was lost the whole column had to stop until it could be restored. During these periods of waiting, some men fell asleep and dozed until the column was ready to move out again. The delay would have been even worse without the constant use of SCR 536's between platoons and company headquarters.16
When Company B left the main Rocca Creek bed it moved up the steep, rocky slopes of the finger of Hill 624 on the lower part of the main Altuzzo ridge. The first two or three men who started up the hill grasped bushes for support, but their heavy weight pulled the bushes out of the rocky ground and those who followed had to help each other up the slope. After passing up their rifles, they gripped hands together and raised each other from one level to the next.
At the head of the column the 2d Platoon, going east toward the ridge line, moved about thirty yards past a trail on the slope of Hill 624 before the company commander ordered the men to come back to the trail and follow it through a group of big chestnut trees. Although the night was pitch black when the column reached this area on the northwest slope of Hill 624, Captain Peabody could see the crest of Monte Altuzzo lined against the skyline. He decided to follow the trail and guide on the peak in the belief that this course would bring him to Company A.17 At 0025, 14 September, the 338th Infantry telephoned the 85th Division G-3 that Company B was on the southwest slope of Hill 782 about 500 yards below the peak.18
Another Prominent Ridge
Moving along the trail, Captain Peabody lost sight of the main Altuzzo ridge and the highest peak, which the steep slope and the dark night now hid from view. As the trail wound back and forth around half-circle bends, it was hard for the company commander to be sure of the direction in which the column was moving. When he reached the lower slopes of Hill 782 on the trail near where he thought Company A was located, he tried in vain to raise Captain King on the SCR 300. The Company B commander then directed his men to continue around the last bend of the trail on the large finger of Hill 782. Reaching the base of the bowl where a big tree lay sprawled across the trail, he stopped the column to get his bearings and to mark out the route of advance.
Captain Peabody noticed now for the first time that there were two equally prominent ridges, one to his left and one to his right, both running in a north-south direction. He could not even see the highest peak of Monte Altuzzo, for it was now hidden by trees and the steep slope that led to it. Even in daytime the ridge line on the left would have seemed from the base of the bowl higher than the main Altuzzo ridge on the right, because the peak, Hill 926, was obscured from view. The sight of two equally high parallel ridges was a new and confusing idea to Peabody. Before leaving Paretaio, he had studied the terrain with field glasses, maps, and aerial photographs, and there had been no question in his mind but that the main Altuzzo ridge was the only prominent feature between Monte Verruca and Highway 6524 to the west.
After another unsuccessful effort to raise Company A on the radio, Peabody radioed Colonel Jackson that he was uncertain as to his location. So that he could orient himself, he requested one or two smoke rounds on the highest peak of Monte Altuzzo; but when the smoke was fired Peabody could not see the rounds land and could only faintly hear their explosions.
With smoke failing to identify his objective, the Company B commander decided that the peak he wanted to reach must be on the left. If so, he deduced, Company B was then on the slopes of Monte Verruca. Since the 339th Infantry was scheduled to place a thirty-minute artillery barrage on that feature and then attack it at 0500, he didn't want to prolong his stay in the area.
Before moving out again, he notified Colonel Jackson that he would lead his men to the ridge on the left, which he thought was Monte Altuzzo. The battalion commander, still out of communication with Company A and in no position to dispute Captain Peabody's judgment of his location, gave his approval.19
At the 1st Battalion CP, information regarding Company B's location was meager but highly optimistic. At 0200 Captain Quisenberry, the battalion S-3, reported Company B on the east slope of Hill 926 and Company A in the saddle to the north. Although he surmised that the two companies controlled the crest of the mountain, he awaited confirmation before reporting that information officially. On the basis of this report, the 338th Infantry at 0215 notified the 85th
JAGGED CREST OF WESTERN RIDGE leading to the summit of Hill 926. This is the route taken by Captain Peabody's men. Note rock slabs jutting out from the bare ridge line.
CAMOUFLAGED LOG BUNKER on western ridge. From this position effective fire could be placed on lower slopes of bowl and across la Rocca draw.
Division G-3 that the 1st Battalion, 338th, controlled Hill 926, with Company A on the left and Company B on the right of the peak. In the advance, the report indicated, neither company had met resistance except harassing mortar fire. The regiment reported that, while its companies might be even farther along, these locations were definite. It was 0430 before the 338th Infantry learned that its leading companies were not nearly so far forward.20
The ridge which Captain Peabody had selected as his objective was a boomerang-shaped spur of the main Altuzzo ridge. Branching off from Hill 926, the spur ran for some 500 yards almost due west and culminated in a rocky peak. From there it curved to the southwest and, continuing roughly parallel to the main Altuzzo ridge for another 700 yards, formed the western rim of the bowl at whose base Peabody stood.
About 100 yards long and 2,650 feet high, the rocky peak of this western ridge was studded with enemy positions which had been blasted from solid rock and covered the main ridge, the bowl on the east, the eastern arm of Monticelli, and the highway. For ninety yards across the top of the peak, about ten feet below the crest, a zigzag trench, three feet wide and six feet deep, connected heavy log bunkers. Covered with two layers of six-inch logs, the trench was topped by heavy rock fragments and soil which so merged into the natural rock formation that on first glance it was not visible from the outside. From two of the connecting bunkers, camouflaged with green matting and facing toward the road some 400 yards to the west, effective fire could be placed on troops attacking along the highway up the bare ridge that led to the crest of Monticelli. Another position--a double pillbox with apertures for two machine guns--faced toward the main Altuzzo ridge and could cover a large part of the bowl with flanking fire. A fourth pillbox faced south and covered the draw between the western ridge and the highway. Spaced at intervals along the connecting zigzag trench were two observation posts that faced the bowl. From them observers could detect movement up the main ridge from the crest of Hill 782 past the main line of resistance on Knob 2. German riflemen in these lookout posts might easily fire across the main ridge line and the slopes of the bowl.
South of the western peak a series of rock slab ledges extended down the ridge line for a hundred yards before giving way to bushes and trees for another thirty to forty yards. South of the wooded area more rocks jutted out for another twenty-five yards to the south. Below these rocks and almost halfway down the ridge was a bare, treeless, rockless area of about fifty yards. About midway through this open space, the enemy had erected a fifteen- to twenty-yard band of barbed wire which ran along the western slope of this ridge, across the ridge line, and over its bare eastern slope into the bowl. Consisting of several strands, the knee-high barbed wire was covered in the center of the ridge line by a manhole trench and on the east flank by a log pillbox. A machine gun from this pillbox could fire down the ridge line over the barbed wire and bring flanking fire across the lower half of the bowl, especially
the lower western slope of the main Altuzzo ridge. Another log bunker had been placed fifteen yards to the right rear of the first on the edge of the ridge line and sited to rake the lower half of the bowl.21 On the night of 13-14 September Captain Peabody was completely in the dark about these positions and the configuration of the hill he had chosen as his route of advance.
By the time Captain Peabody had made his decision to go to the ridge on the west, the hours of darkness were fast running out. No one in Company B remembered the exact hour, but it must have been well toward dawn. Much time had been lost traversing the rough ground. There seemed to Peabody no good reason for delaying further by trying to reach Company A with radio, which had failed, or with patrols, which had not been tried. By this time he had the feeling that no matter what he did he would miss Company A. His primary concern was to lead his men out of the draw to his left onto high ground before daylight. From experience he knew that when dawn came the enemy covered draws and lower slopes with mortar and artillery fire.22
Stepping over the felled tree at the base of the bowl, the men of Company B walked up a trail that led west up the rocky western ridge. Reaching the ridge line, the 2d Squad of the leading 2d Platoon moved steadily northeast on the east slope until it ran into several strands of concertina barbed wire that stretched directly ahead across the eastern slope. Halting his squad, Sergeant Brown, the 2d Squad leader, began to cut the strands with wirecutters, but before the job was finished Lieutenant Neuffer, the 2d Platoon leader, decided that too much wire stood in the way. To find an easier route he ordered the platoon to about-face, swing to the southwest, and advance to the nose of the ridge line. Once there it would turn north and push up toward the peak of what presumably was Monte Altuzzo. Swinging in an arc along a little trail, the 2d Platoon soon reached the southern end of a bare, open space that ran straight up the ridge line for fifty yards. On the march to this point the company had sustained two casualties; an automatic rifleman in the 1st Platoon had wrenched his knee, although he continued to limp along in the column, and a Weapons Platoon ammunition bearer had been slightly injured when he fell from a steep ledge.
As soon as the 2d Squad, still in single file at the head of the 2d Platoon, reached the ridge line, the men moved just to the left of the crest and walked across a little dip in the open ground up to the barbed wire. There the file halted momentarily while Sergeant Brown, who had misplaced or left his wirecutters down on the east slope, sent for a pair carried by the assistant squad leader, Sergeant Mullins. After clipping the wire, Sergeant Brown reached the northern end of the entanglement and almost stumbled on a manhole trench hidden by a mesh camouflage net. While the
squad leader covered, the third man in the column, Private Beverage, probed with fixed bayonet into the position. It was empty.
Fire Fight at the Barbed Wire
Again the 2d Platoon's 2d Squad moved forward, but before the men had taken more than a few steps a German with a machine pistol in a dugout about twenty feet away on the right front opened fire. The first burst wounded Private Beverage in the left arm and killed Private Cetel, the rifle grenadier. Although the rest of the squad hit the ground, other Germans in the same dugout began to find the range with hand grenades. Both Pfc. Abraham Rubin, BAR man, and Lieutenant Neuffer were painfully wounded in the face and hands, and the platoon leader was temporarily blinded.
A moment later, from the right front a machine gun in the dugout above the barbed wire fired close to the men who were hugging the ground in the middle of the entanglement. Most of this fire went over the men's heads, but two other machine guns on the main Altuzzo ridge fired from the right flank and right rear, causing a number of casualties among the company's rear platoons. The most deadly fire came from a bunker which was dug into the side of the large finger of Hill 782. Again and again a machine gun from this bunker raked the bare ridge, making it worth a man's life to move.
As the enemy's defensive fire began in earnest, Lieutenant Neuffer, his face and hands covered with blood from his grenade wounds, ordered Sergeant Brown to pull the leading men of the 2d Squad back through the barbed wire and build up a skirmish line. The other two squads of the 2d Platoon built up on the left flank and right rear of the 2d Squad, and the entire platoon returned the enemy's fire.23
As soon as the fire fight began, Captain Peabody ordered the 3d Platoon to move up abreast of the 2d, build up a skirmish line on its left flank, and attack up the ridge line. Because of the heavy fire which raked the exposed ground, the 3d Platoon leader, 1st Lt. Clemens M. Hankes, formed a skirmish line to the left rear of the 2d Platoon at the southern end of the bare spot, which dropped sharply from the hump to a steeper slope and thus gave some protection from the enemy fire.24 The rest of Company B and the machine gun platoon of Company D had been stretched out in a zigzag column down the eastern slope of the ridge. At the sound of the first fire, the men in the rear had scattered for cover, hiding behind rocks and in little depressions in the ground.25
While the fire fight was still in progress, a German soldier shouting "Kamerad" popped out of nowhere and surrendered to the 2d Platoon's leading men. While Pvt. Frederick Koss, a BAR ammunition bearer, covered the enemy prisoner, Pvt. Idelmo Salmestrelli, an assistant squad leader, stripped him of a grenade belt
and tossed it out of reach. The 2d Platoon sergeant, T. Sgt. Fred C. Lang, quizzed the prisoner and learned that the enemy had posted about fifty men on the hill. Not far beyond the barbed wire, the German said, mines were planted on the left and right of the ridge line, but there were none in the center.
Before the brisk skirmish was over, the wounded platoon leader, Lieutenant Neuffer, went down the hill, leaving Platoon Sergeant Lang in command. Armed with the information supplied by the prisoner, Sergeant Lang realized that his men would have to push up the ridge and take the peak before the approaching daylight enabled the enemy to place accurate fire on the ridge and perhaps sweep Company B back down the mountain. Failing to reach the company commander by SCR 536, he directed the platoon guide, S. Sgt. Herman Ledford, to lead the way up the ridge with a small patrol and promised to follow close behind with the rest of the platoon.26
Taking with him four men from the 3d Squad, Sergeant Ledford moved through the barbed wire ahead of the rest of the 2d Platoon. In fear that the Germans who had put up the short but stiff fight were lying low while the patrol passed, Ledford's men examined the outpost position which covered the wire entanglement and the bare spot on the hill below. Just past the entanglement Sergeant Ledford looked into a bough-lined slit trench right on the ridge line and found it empty. On the right Pfc. Anthony J. Odierna examined the dugout from which the grenades and the close-in machine gun fire had come and found only a single dead German slumped inside, a hole through his head.
Followed by the rest of the patrol, Sergeant Ledford continued up the mountain through a space of brush and scattered trees a few yards to the left of the ridge line. Reaching the first rock slab ledge above the barbed wire, he placed his two rear men in a position to cover the further advance of the rest of the patrol. Then, followed by Private Odierna and Pvt. William C. Brodeur, he moved through a relatively open brush-covered space to a second rock ledge. Private Brodeur, a heavy man well into his thirties, was panting heavily and looked as if he could not continue. The other two men stopped suddenly at a path which crossed the ridge line and examined a sign tacked on a tree. The sign read: "Minen."
Because he believed what the prisoner had reported, that there were mines only on the east and west slopes and none in the center of the ridge, Ledford was not inclined to heed the sign's warning. He judged--correctly--from the way the sign was placed that the enemy intended it as a ruse to deny use of the trail.
Undeterred by the mine warning, Ledford motioned for the two men who were still in covering position at the first rock ledge to join him. When they arrived, he posted them as guards at the path to protect the rear while he and Odierna and Brodeur continued up the ridge.
Before moving out again, Ledford asked Brodeur, who had been well winded by the first leg of the journey, if he could continue. Although the older soldier did not answer, when Ledford and Odierna started out they noticed that
Brodeur was still with them. Advancing on the left of the ridge line, the three men passed through brush and small trees and finally worked their way into a rocky area. The higher they went, the steeper became the slope. Brodeur was now feeling the pace strongly and dropped from sight of the other two. Ledford and Odierna continued to climb upward, most of the time on their hands and knees over rocky ledges. They could hear the fire and watch the tracers from machine guns farther up the ridge firing over their heads down the mountain.
When they finally reached the bottom of the last rock slab ledge below the southern end of the ridge's peak, they paused briefly to get their breath and take stock of the situation. Just above them beyond the top of the ledge they could see dust raised by bullets from a German machine gun and could hear its staccato bursts. Sergeant Ledford climbed noiselessly up the face of the rock slab and stuck his head over the edge. There, in full view and a scant ten yards away, was the muzzle of the German gun.
Pulling his head down behind the rock ledge, Sergeant Ledford called for Private Odierna to pass up hand grenades. If the grenades failed to silence the machine gunner, Ledford whispered, Odierna was to finish the job with his rifle. While the gun above continued to sputter away, Ledford again edged up to where he could see and flipped a grenade to his right front inside the position. The machine gun abruptly ceased fire. Almost at the same moment, Odierna, who had seen another German through the embrasure of a bunker to his left front, warned Ledford to watch for action from that side.
Since no sound came from the left position, Sergeant Ledford thought that any Germans there were merely biding their time before opening fire. To make sure that they would not fire, he again crawled over bare rock to the top of the ledge. Crouched between the two positions, he tossed a hand grenade into the left bunker. Following the explosion, all was quiet.
Over in the right position the German moaned and jabbered. Aware that the near-dead sometimes miraculously spring to life, Ledford decided to make sure that both the gunner and his gun were out of action. Tossing another grenade into the right position, he quickly moved toward the barrel of the machine gun, which protruded from the embrasure. Keeping one eye on the German gunner, slumped inside but still moaning, he grasped the overheated barrel, unlatched the barrel and firing mechanism, detached them from the mount, and pulled the gun from the bunker.
Private Brodeur, who had fallen behind in the ascent, had by this time caught up and taken position near the other two men. Private Odierna investigated the left bunker and reported finding a badly wounded German, evidently felled by Sergeant Ledford's second grenade. Not long afterward another German came out of a position behind the two bunkers and a few yards nearer the ridge's peak. First to see this new target, Ledford killed the German with a shot from his rifle.
The sudden appearance of the last German whetted the desire of the men in the patrol to investigate the positions on the peak. Both Ledford and Brodeur climbed through the embrasure into the right bunker and strained their eyes
through the darkness, but inside the position all was quiet. They probed to find an interior exit; but in the inky blackness the rough-hewn chamber seemed a dead end, and they crawled back outside. Had they pressed the search, they might have discovered that the position was connected by a log-and-rock-covered trench with the bunker on the left and other positions farther up the peak.
By the time Ledford and Brodeur came back into the open, the movement around the two bunkers, if not the earlier shots and exploding grenades, had attracted the enemy on the upper slope of the bowl southwest of Hill 926. There on the right front where the Germans held positions in rocks and pine trees, enemy rifles and a machine pistol opened fire on the bunker area where the three Americans crouched. Although Sergeant Ledford replied with rifle fire, he had fired only a clip or two before a bullet wounded him in the nose and face. With blood streaming from his ears and nose, he called to Brodeur and Odierna, "I'm hit!" and started down the ridge.27 Odierna and Brodeur remained near the two positions at the southern end of the peak, taking cover alongside the German bunkers.28
2d and 3d Platoons Move Up
As the wounded platoon guide walked down the hill, the rest of the 2d Platoon was moving up the ridge above the barbed wire. After the first skirmish, Sergeant Lang had ordered the rest of his men to advance up the ridge, directing them to fire high in order to spare their comrades in the patrol but still to pin down the enemy. Dispersed in small groups and keeping no regular skirmish line or other formation, the men moved as rapidly as the steep slope would permit. A few at a time, they ducked through the low brush, the rocks, and the trees and pulled themselves from one level to the next. Although they fired occasional shots, most men saved their ammunition in case they should later run into stiff opposition. Early daylight was streaking the hillsides, but the morning haze screened the men from the enemy on the main Altuzzo ridge and along the slopes beside the highway. Because of limited visibility, the enemy put only harassing fire in the area, and most shots passed harmlessly overhead.
About one hundred yards above the barbed wire, the 2d Platoon passed through a heavily wooded area that stretched across the ridge line and up along the west slope toward the peak where a heavy rock formation dropped off sheer into a gorge. Beyond the trees the men came to another rock ledge where some took up positions. Others continued past waist-high rock slabs stretching across the ridge line. To keep their balance as they climbed, the men dropped almost to their knees. Another group walked to the left of the rocks through small, heavily foliaged trees until they came to a space between the top of the third rock ledge and another higher ledge lying just a few yards below the south end of the peak. Here most of the 2d Platoon stopped, but a few, including Pfc. Albert E. Wilson, Pfc. David R. Leon, and Pvt. Jules D. Distel, the 3d Squad's BAR team, climbed above the last rock ledge where they could see Brodeur and Odierna just above them.
Company B on Western Ridge
14 September 1944
After checking his men's positions, Sergeant Lang tried in vain to reach the company commander by SCR 536.29
Shortly after the 2d Platoon had reached these positions, but before the men had dug in, the two leading squads of the 3d Platoon came up to the third rock ledge. (Map 12) Singly or in groups of four or five men, they advanced up the hill in the face of only harassing fire. The squads kept no formation, and only about fifteen men went the whole way to the advanced positions. Of those that did, some stopped at the northern edge of the wooded area on the ridge line just to the rear of the 2d Platoon, and others took up positions between the second and third rock ledges from the peak on the left flank in the bushes and small trees to the west of the ridge line. With these men came T. Sgt. William A. Scheer, the 3d Platoon sergeant, who joined Sergeant Lang and organized his own men in defensive positions before he was hit in the arm by a burst of machine gun fire.30
Not long after the 3d Platoon reached the positions of the 2d, Private Brodeur, who from the highest rock ledge had the best observation, spotted an enemy tank moving from behind a house on the highway to the front. It moved off the road and came to a halt 500 yards to the north of and below Company B's advanced positions.
While the tank was still too far away to make a good target, Brodeur called down to Sergeant Lang for a bazooka, and the platoon sergeant relayed the message to his bazooka team. Pfc. Leslie H. Albritton and his assistant bazooka man moved up to Sergeant Lang, but when the sergeant described the tank's location and the exposed position from which the men would have to fire the assistant bazooka man protested. Sergeant Mullins, assistant squad leader of the 2d Platoon's 2d Squad, heard the protest and told the soldier to hand over the ammunition. Taking the two rounds, Sergeant Mullins followed Brodeur and Albritton to a small bare spot between the two top rock slabs. Brodeur pointed out the target, and Albritton crawled five yards farther to place the bazooka in firing position amid a clump of bushes. With Sergeant Mullins loading, Albritton fired; the first round landed a hundred yards short.
The enemy tank started its motor and drove around a bend in the road. Again Sergeant Mullins loaded the bazooka, and Albritton fired. The second rocket fell within twenty-five yards of the target, bringing from the tank a quick answering round that barely missed the men on the western slope of the ridge. Having fired their only ammunition, the bazooka men withdrew.31
The infantry-tank exchange was scarcely over before the men in the 2d and 3d Platoons saw a half-dozen Germans walk nonchalantly down the highway to the northwest. At the same time the 3d Platoon leader, Lieutenant Hankes, and the 2d (support) Squad of the 3d Platoon, who were farther down the hill but on their way up, saw the same movement. Both groups of Company B opened fire. An automatic rifleman, Pfc. Ira Jones, killed one of the enemy, but the others
hit the ground quickly and deployed along the road or in the woods. One of the Germans remained there almost forty-five minutes while the Company B riflemen tried to pick him off. Finally the man rose, ran off a short distance, and plunged or fell into a ditch, possibly a victim of Company B's fire. A short while afterward the survivors of this German group set off a detonation which blew up a section of the highway just beyond the U-bend across the draw from the Company B positions.
All the while the men in the 2d and 3d Platoons were becoming more exposed to fire from the flanks and rear. As the day grew brighter, the aim of German riflemen from the main Altuzzo ridge and the slopes near the highway grew better. No matter how small the men managed to make themselves against the hard rock or bare ground, enemy sharpshooters picked them off at frequent intervals. German riflemen even tried to creep up and surprise them and before being driven away caused several casualties. Most men had cover on the front, but few had protection on the flanks or rear. Their attempts to dig foxholes in the rocky soil succeeded in little more than scraping away the topsoil. Sgt. Harvey E. Kirkes, acting 1st Squad leader, 3d Platoon, and Pvt. Willie L. Guy, his rifle grenadier, tried to dig a double slit trench in front of a big rock ledge. At first Private Guy dug while his companion watched for the enemy. When the hole was about six inches deep, they shifted places. Taking up the entrenching tool, Sergeant Kirkes had lifted it only a few times before a German from the left near the highway killed him with a rifle shot in the chest.
The German marksmen from the main Altuzzo ridge and the slopes near the highway fired often at Sergeant Lang, who moved around more than the others, giving orders and organizing the defense. When the sergeant's position became too hot, he moved to the middle of the two platoons and dug another shallow hole in the rocks. At two different times Sergeant Lang and Private Salmestrelli discovered Germans on the west slope trying to creep up on them but in both cases drove them away by fire.32
After the unsuccessful effort to knock out the tank, Sergeant Lang and his runner, Pvt. Thomas H. Sherman, tried repeatedly to reach Captain Peabody by SCR 536. Fully aware of his difficult and exposed position, the 2d Platoon sergeant wanted to have artillery fire placed on the tank, report the discovery of the Germans who had blown the road, and request reinforcements from the 1st Platoon, which, although he did not know it, was still below the barbed wire. After every effort to use the radio had failed, probably because its batteries were weak after all-night operation, Sergeant Lang told Private Sherman to go down the hill with a message.
As the platoon runner moved down the hill and reached the lower end of the wooded area where the mine sign hung on a tree, he met Lieutenant Hankes, 3d Platoon leader; Pfc. Noble R. Mathews, his runner; and Pfc. Morris H. Kruger, a rifleman, who were coming up the ridge. Behind them the 2d Squad of the 3d Platoon was still moving forward,
although the squad had not yet come in sight. Private Sherman told Lieutenant Hankes about Sergeant Lang's message to Captain Peabody, but he could not make clear the tank's exact location. Lieutenant Hankes felt that if Sherman showed him the way to the positions which the 2d and 3d Platoons held, he himself could locate the tank's position exactly so that accurate artillery fire could be placed on it. Blocking off the trail near the mine warning sign and leaving his runner, Private Mathews, to steer the support squad away from the mines, the platoon leader followed Private Sherman up the hill.33
Accompanied by Sherman and Kruger, Lieutenant Hankes had gone only a short distance when he ran almost head on into three Germans. Although both groups hit the ground quickly, the Germans had had the first view, and scarcely before the three Americans had time to duck behind a low rock ledge a German grenade landed at Kruger's feet. Unharmed by the grenade but knowing that the Germans had seen where they hit the ground, the three men shifted slightly to the right. The move gave no immediate relief, for more concussion grenades struck within a few yards of them. Stretched out on the ground, Lieutenant Hankes watched one five-second grenade land a foot away from his legs. At first he started to pick up the grenade and throw it back, but as he hesitated, fearful that the grenade might blow off his hands or face before he could get it away, it exploded. When he regained his senses, he found that he had been wounded in both legs.
Suspecting that the enemy was curious to know the effect of the grenades, the lieutenant poked his carbine over the ledge. The Germans fell for the trick. First a machine pistol, then a head, rose slowly above the edge of the rocks. Lieutenant Hankes fired, killing the inquisitive German. Then Private Sherman worked his way into a better position and fired. From the high-pitched scream that followed, he judged that he had killed another German.
With two of the three enemy disposed of, Lieutenant Hankes decided that Kruger and Sherman could manage the lone German that remained. Hampered by the wounds in both legs, the lieutenant wormed his way down the hill about thirty yards. When he examined his pack, he found that bullets and grenade fragments had ripped the cans in his K rations and splattered food over the inside of his pack.
After taking sulfanilimide wound tablets, the lieutenant continued down the hill to the company command post, found Captain Peabody, and explained to him the plight of the 2d and 3d Platoons. In their exposed position, he pointed out, they had suffered heavy casualties and needed reinforcements and artillery fire against the tank. Their rear, he added, was threatened continually by German riflemen wandering almost at will over the ridge. Peabody directed the lieutenant on to the battalion aid station and ordered the acting 1st Platoon leader, Sgt. William J. Kelsey, to move his platoon up the ridge, clear out the snipers who held out in rear of the lead platoons, and set up defensive positions on the flanks of the advance platoons.34
Farther up the hill, before the 1st Platoon moved up to carry out its mission, Sergeant Lang and his men near the top of the ridge were hit by a barrage from 50-mm. mortars, opening the first German counterattack. The men ducked for whatever cover they could find behind rocks or in their shallow holes. Pfc. Lucien Harpin was wounded in the back by shell fragments, and Pfc. William C. Leonard, Jr., was killed.
After a few minutes of uneasy quiet, the men were struck suddenly from the right front by approximately forty Germans. Machine guns and rifles on the front and right flank blazed away, and hand grenades zoomed through the air, tearing up bushes on the left and nicking the rocks on all sides. For the most part the aim of the German grenadiers was good; but casualties were few, apparently because the grenades were concussion-type instead of fragmentation.
Using BAR's, M-1's, and rifle grenades, the 2d and 3d Platoons returned the fire. On the right front the men could see the Germans darting from rock to rock, getting closer all the while. Every time a German came into view, Sergeant Lang's men fired back, and throughout the counterattack they kept area fire on the enemy force. Some men on the left, not in position to return the fire, moved a few feet to the right where they took cover behind rock slabs and joined the fight. Because of the danger of hitting their comrades, only a few of whom could be seen from any one point, none of the Americans threw hand grenades.
During the fire fight a few mortar shells landed in the area, and the Americans spotted one of the mortars on the left rear in the draw just west of the ridge. An automatic rifleman, Pfc. Alton Mos, kept the position covered the rest of the time. At intervals when the Germans would come out to man the mortar, which stuck out nakedly in open ground, Private Mos drove them back with rapid bursts from his BAR. Finally, after his fire had wounded one German, the enemy abandoned the mortar.
The superior firepower of the 2d and 3d Platoons finally beat off the counterattack and drove the Germans back to their bunkers and dugouts farther up the hill. Both sides had sustained several casualties, but neither knew the exact damage it had dealt the other.
Although alert and resolute action had stood off the first enemy counterattack, Sergeant Lang knew that his force had gained only a temporary respite and that if he were to continue to hold he needed reinforcements and more ammunition.35 He sent a second messenger, Pfc. John E. Catlett, to ask Captain Peabody for assistance. At the company CP below the barbed wire, Private Catlett, unable to find the company commander, delivered the message to the executive officer, 1st Lt. George O. Erkman. Lieutenant Erkman started up the ridge, but rifle and machine gun fire turned him back at the southern edge of the barbed wire. He returned to the CP and directed his headquarters men to set up security.36
Up the hill Sergeant Lang was growing more anxious. No messengers had returned and no reinforcements had arrived.
He sent two more men, Pfc. Donald J. Brown and Pfc. Patrick H. McDonald, Jr., with the same message for help. Although the two men started out together crawling over the rocks, Private Brown stopped for a moment to take a shot at a German. When Private McDonald looked back again, he saw that Brown had been shot and was lying on his back. Seeing that his companion was beyond help, McDonald moved on down the ridge. As he crossed the barbed wire under fire and approached the CP area, he met S. Sgt. George D. Keathley, 1st Platoon guide, and about seven other men from the 1st Platoon moving up the ridge. There too he found Captain Peabody and delivered Sergeant Lang's message.
Captain Peabody replied that help was on the way and that he himself was going up the hill at once. To remedy the ammunition shortage he radioed the battalion commander for resupply, and Colonel Jackson promised to send ammunition at once. He directed the Company B commander to hold his position at all costs. From the battalion command post Colonel Jackson sent a volunteer ammunition detail of twelve men carrying six boxes of ammunition. When the detail entered the open field beside la Rocca draw, small arms and artillery fire killed the leading man, wounded two others, and forced the rest to turn back. Captain Peabody himself sent two men to Company C for help. Heavy fire turned them back as well.37
Before dawn Colonel Jackson had reported that Companies A and B had been almost on top of Monte Altuzzo during the night and that he had ordered them to occupy the crest. By 0655 he had learned from Captain Peabody that Company B was in a fire fight, had sustained casualties, and was receiving effective small arms fire from Monte Verruca (actually Monte Altuzzo).38
1st Platoon Moves Forward
Soon after the first counterattack had ended, part of the 1st Platoon of Company B had responded to Captain Peabody's order to move up the hill to assist the advance platoons. Earlier, when the enemy had first opened fire on Company B at the barbed wire, the 1st Platoon had been stretched out behind the 3d Platoon and had scattered in search of cover. At the sound of the fire fight, Sergeant Keathley, the platoon guide, had told the leading squad leader, S. Sgt. Oliver N. Summerton, to remain in position while he made contact with Sergeant Kelsey, acting 1st Platoon leader, who was somewhere up ahead. Taking with him Sergeant Summerton's assistant squad leader, Pfc. Vincent C. Clarke, and six other men from the leading squad, Sergeant Keathley moved around the eastern slope below the bare spot and the barbed wire to the hump, where he found Sergeant Kelsey and Captain Peabody. For some time, certainly until well into the morning, this handful of 1st Platoon men remained in these positions while Peabody tried in vain to reach the 2d and 3d Platoons by radio.
Lieutenant Erkman, the company executive officer, attempted with more success to locate and concentrate the rest of the company around the command
post, including the Weapons Platoon and the heavy machine gun platoon of Company D. All except the main part of the 1st Platoon, which had so dispersed that the men were out of contact with each other, were readily located and instructed to put out security and lie low for the time being. Most men of the 1st Platoon were scattered over the eastern slope out of sight of each other and out of the physical control of their squad leaders. Accurate enemy rifle fire on the area added to the confusion and lack of control.
After Captain Peabody's order for the 1st Platoon to move up the hill, Sergeant Kelsey, the platoon leader, sent forward Private Clarke and six other men from Sergeant Summerton's squad, who had been below the hump. Sergeant Keathley, the platoon guide, then returned to the eastern slope to assemble the rest of the platoon. Finding Sergeant Summerton, the platoon guide ordered him to move out with the rest of his men and to pass word back to the other squads to follow.
Sergeant Summerton notified the squads behind him and started forward with the two or three men remaining in his squad. He had taken scarcely one step forward before enemy fire from the main Altuzzo ridge wounded him. The two men nearest him, Pfc. Arley Perkey and Pvt. Hamilton Adams, moved back toward the company command post. Although Private Adams was wounded on the way, Private Perkey reached the CP, obtained a BAR belt from 1st Sgt. Volley Casey, and started again over the hump toward the barbed wire. As he entered the bare space, heavy small arms fire drove him back for the second time to the vicinity of the CP.
Despite the dispersion of the 1st Platoon, the message to move up filtered back to the other two squad leaders, Sgt. Nelson L. Simmons and S. Sgt. Charles J. Dozier. They, in turn, tried to pass word back to their men, but lack of a direct line of contact hampered their efforts. In all, only half the men of the 2d and 3d Squads responded to the order and followed their leaders. A few men, like Pvt. Louis S. Campbell and Pfc. Joseph T. Barrow, of Sergeant Dozier's squad, did not receive word that their platoon was moving up but, seeing men farther up the ridge, decided to join them. Others may not have heard the call, as they said, and some men either heard it or saw other members of the platoon ahead of them move out while they themselves stayed in place, afraid to follow because of the rifle fire the enemy was placing on the slope. Although one acting assistant squad leader heard a man shout from the slope above him that the 1st Platoon was moving up, he did not want to believe his ears and shouted back to the man above to find out more about the movement. Hearing no reply and seeing no movement, the assistant squad leader decided to stay where he was with the three men around him until somebody in authority came down and personally told him to move up. All in all, some twenty men of the 1st Platoon remained on the east slope or below the company CP throughout the day. Occasionally, one or two would return rifle fire against the main Altuzzo ridge; most made themselves as inconspicuous as possible and took no part in the action.
That half of the 1st Platoon which went up the hill had little trouble in crossing the bare space at the barbed wire
and sustained only two casualties before reaching the top of the wooded area. On the way, one group of the platoon, led by Sergeant Kelsey, had advanced to a point just past the lowest rock ledge when a machine pistol opened fire, killing the platoon radio operator, Pfc. Angelo F. Crespi. Dropping to the ground, the rest of the men briefly exchanged fire with the German and then pushed on up the hill to the north edge of the wooded area. There Pvt. Kenneth T. Moore was killed by a German rifleman who slipped in close on the left flank.
About seventeen men of the 1st Platoon reached the north edge of the wooded area and took up defensive positions. Private Clarke and six men went into position on the right flank on the east slope, Sergeant Dozier's squad on the left flank in the rocks just above the wooded area, and Sergeant Simmons, with four or five men, in the center.39 Only a BAR team was sent all the way up the ridge through the higher rocks to the direct assistance of the 2d and 3d Platoons; the others were, in effect, only guarding the rear of the forward positions.40 If the 1st Platoon had pushed out on the right flank of the 2d and 3d Platoons and tied in on a tight defensive line, the result might well have been disastrous. The eastern slope of the ridge where the 1st Platoon would then have been was exposed and, because of heavy underbrush to the front, had no field of fire. Even the rocks in the center, which offered some cover to the 2d and 3d Platoons, thinned out on the east slope. Although the heavy band of trees on the west slope would have offered concealment, it would have allowed the 1st Platoon no chance to observe enemy movement through the trees or to prevent surprise attacks.
From the positions which the platoon did assume in the center rear and right rear of the forward platoons, it could at least place area fire and, in some cases, direct fire on enemy counterattacks moving across the eastern slope. Still the 1st Platoon's coverage of the area was far from complete, and the right flank of the 2d and 3d Platoons remained exposed. Thus, owing largely to the open ground and the configuration of the hill, the 1st Platoon could not round out a perimeter defense for Company B.41
Neither Sergeant Kelsey, acting 1st Platoon leader, nor Captain Peabody knew how far ahead of the 1st Platoon were the 2d and 3d Platoon positions. Neither went up to find out or to see whether the rear and forward defenses were tied in tightly, and the men in the forward positions were left to wonder where the 1st Platoon was.42 Certainly they had no reason to believe that it had come to their relief or was even in a supporting position.43
Machine Guns and Mortars Move Forward
After half of the 1st Platoon had set up its defensive positions at the north edge of the woods, the Weapons Platoon and the heavy machine gun platoon of Company D followed suit, each going forward by squad bounds. Walking through the barbed wire one man at a time, Sgt. John D. Brice's light machine gun squad did not receive fire until the last man, Pvt. Raymond M. Babbitt, was hit in the hand. On the way up the ridge the same squad tried repeatedly to silence a German machine gun that kept firing from the main Altuzzo ridge.
The machine gun section leader, S. Sgt. Arthur O. Tomlet, went up near the 2d and 3d Platoons' sector to locate firing positions, while his two squads proceeded to the north edge of the wooded area. Returning from his reconnaissance, Sergeant Tomlet directed that the two guns be placed at the far end of the woods where they would face the road and cover the left flank. The forward gun was placed in the rocks at the southern edge of the third rock slab ledge. The second was set up ten yards to its rear and about halfway through the woods. In the rocks ahead and on the east slope, the section leader had found, there was neither zone of fire, cover, nor concealment for his guns. Hardly had the second gun been put in position before Sergeant Tomlet was wounded in the knee and toe by a rifle bullet.
Although the machine gun positions of the Weapons Platoon were useful for fire on the draw between the western ridge and the highway, they could not be used for repelling counterattacks except on the extreme left flank, because of the danger of hitting the riflemen on the ridge up ahead. At intervals throughout the day the machine gunners placed harassing fire on the left flank, but most of the time they found the uncovered firing positions too dangerous to man. Almost every time a machine gunner moved, enemy fire wounded or killed him.44
Behind the light machine guns the two heavy machine guns of Company D were moved up the hill a short distance above the east-west trail where they were set up in heavy brush at the southern edge of the woods. Although one heavy gun faced up the eastern slope of the ridge and the other up the western slope, neither was of much help to the Company B riflemen. For one thing the machine guns had to fire through woods, and thus fire could not be accurately observed. Except for some harassing fire, the guns were used only when Germans were actually seen--and none were seen until late in the afternoon. The disadvantages, moreover, of firing these weapons straight up the ridge line were considerable. Had they tried to cover the ridge line and the riflemen near the peak, the guns would have had to be moved into the open where they could have been easily knocked out. Even if the machine guns had shot straight up the ridge line, they could have covered only a small part of it, for the layers of rock ledges restricted observation and prevented accurate firing.45
However limited the usefulness of the machine guns to the defense of the ridge, use of the 60-mm. mortars was even more so. At the time of the 2d Platoon's fire
GERMAN TRENCH AND OBSERVATION POST, part of the enemy's main line of resistance along Highway 6524. Portion of the western ridge of Monte Altuzzo is visible in the background.
fight at the barbed wire, the mortar squads had been several hundred yards down on the lower east slope of the ridge. They remained below the hump until nearly noon when they received an order from Captain Peabody to move into firing positions above the barbed wire.
As the mortar men grabbed their equipment and started forward, German riflemen and a machine gunner on the slope west of the highway raked the ground around them with fire. After the Americans hit the dirt, the machine gunner soon stopped firing, but the enemy riflemen were persistent. Although most of the mortar men had some concealment, none had any cover. Only two men were wounded, one of whom was hit three times, but others had close calls. A bullet tore through the heel of one man's shoe, and others struck the clothing or equipment of at least four men. Digging in below the hump, the mortar squads stayed there the rest of the day, lack of communication with the forward platoons preventing use of their weapons.46
Not long after the machine guns and the 1st Platoon had taken positions in the wooded area above the barbed wire, the Germans launched a second counterattack. Although men of the 1st Platoon's right flank joined the defense with harassing fire, the main brunt of the attack was borne again by the 2d and 3d Platoons. Like the first counterattack, the second began with a mortar barrage, followed by heavy fire from automatic weapons on both the western peak and the main Altuzzo ridge. Machine pistols fired from close by, and a barrage of grenades landed among the men in the higher rocks. In greater force than before, the Germans pressed their counterattack while Sergeant Lang's men replied with BAR's and rifles, continuing to fire even though their ammunition was rapidly dwindling.
Because of the uneven slope and the rocks, the men on the right front caught only fleeting glimpses of the enemy. Those on the left saw no Germans at all but fired back over the rocks as the sounds of the battle came down to them. Suffering heavier casualties than before, the men in the forward positions finally managed to drive the Germans back to the peak. In the process individual supplies of ammunition were almost exhausted, and the men used the only means to refurbish the supply: those who were still in fighting condition removed clips from their dead and wounded comrades.
While the second counterattack was still in progress, Sergeant Lang more than ever felt the urgent need for reinforcements and resupply. The radio still would not work and, as far as Sergeant Lang knew, every effort to get word to Captain Peabody by runner had brought no results. Since he did not know where the company commander was or when help could be expected,47 he decided to send another messenger, Private Salmestrelli for help.48
After climbing over two or three rock slab ledges, Private Salmestrelli reached Sergeant Kelsey and the half-dozen men of Sergeant Dozier's squad of the 1st Platoon, who were in the lowest rocks at the north end of the wooded area. Upon receipt of the message, Sergeant Kelsey sent one BAR team, Pfc. John C. Garlitch and Pfc. George J. Van Vlack, to bolster the defense. Pointing the way to the two men, Salmestrelli started out behind them, but he had not gone far before rifle fire turned him back. Returning to the 1st Platoon sector, he helped Sergeant Kelsey remove two men, who had just been killed, from slit trenches about five yards apart. As soon as the holes were cleared, two other 1st Platoon men hopped in them. Private Salmestrelli and the 1st Platoon men in this area who had no holes then began to dig, but they were able only to scratch away the topsoil of the rocky ground. Hit in the head by enemy rifle fire, the 1st Squad's automatic rifleman, Pvt. George J. DiFabbio mumbled a few words and fell over dead into Sergeant Dozier's arms at the edge of his slit trench. Watching this, Private Salmestrelli tossed away his shovel and began to cry. He moved down the ridge until he met Captain Peabody above the barbed wire at the southern edge of the
woods. Almost hysterical and badly shaken by his experience, he cried that he could not stay on the ridge any longer. Realizing the man was a nervous exhaustion case, Peabody told him to go down below the barbed wire to the company command post.49
Sometime after noon, the enemy, using fewer men than in the second counterattack, launched a third against Company B's right front. Again the 2d and 3d Platoons felt the full force of the assault as mortar shells, grenades, and automatic weapons fire landed among the rocks. Again the Germans were repulsed, but before withdrawing to the peak they had inflicted several more casualties upon the two forward platoons.50
During and between counterattacks, while the casualties in Company B mounted, the platoon aid men worked constantly to bandage the wounded, ease their pain with shots of morphine, and bolster the morale of the more serious cases until evacuation could be accomplished. Until the 2d Platoon aid man, Pfc. Edward J. Babbitt, Jr., was wounded after the first counterattack, he moved back and forth under fire giving first aid. The rest of the day the wounded in the two forward platoons either treated themselves or were tended by their comrades. At times ingenious devices were improvised. To help T. Sgt. William A. Scheer, bleeding freely from a machine gun bullet wound in his arm, Private Albritton and Sergeant Brown took a shoe string which was being used in place of a lost carbine strap and applied it as a tourniquet. In some cases the men were too seriously wounded to respond to first aid treatment or were in positions too exposed to receive it. Because of the lack of litters, evacuation of the more seriously wounded to the battalion aid station, or even to the company command post below the barbed wire, was impossible. Even with litters it would have been a strenuous, costly task to carry the wounded over the steep, exposed ground.51
Although all the ambulatory casualties moved down the hill under their own power, for a long time most of them dared not cross the bare space at the barbed wire. In the area directly above the wire, Pfc. Joseph F. Bertani, 3d Platoon aid man, did yeoman service bandaging wounds and administering other first aid. By early afternoon some nine or ten wounded men had gathered in the brush above the entanglement. After several hours' wait, the bandaged men removed their helmets, stripped to the waist to show they were noncombatant, and passed through the wire behind Bertani, who improvised a white flag from a triangular bandage. The enemy let them pass without firing a shot.52
Company B's True Location
Through most of the struggle on the ridge, much of Company B's distress arose from the fact that no one except the Germans had correctly located its position. All day long Captain Peabody had reported to the battalion commander that his men were on the eastern slope of
Monte Altuzzo just below the peak.53 At 1130 the 338th Infantry reported that Company B was inching forward on the southeast slope of Monte Altuzzo. Two hours later the 338th stated that the company was on the east slope of the "first nose of Hill 926." Again at 1500 the 338th operations officer reported to the 85th Division that Company A was on the west side of Hill 926 and Company B on the east side. Actually, at the time of the report Company A was 500 yards southwest of the crest, Hill 926, and Company B was 700 yards west and 100 to 200 yards south of the location where it was reported.54
It was only by chance that Colonel Jackson discovered Company B's true location. Sometime during the afternoon Captain Peabody reported to battalion that he was receiving heavy fire from the west--the left flank--and asked for artillery fire to silence the enemy positions. As he weighed Peabody's call for help, Colonel Jackson decided that this fire must be coming from Altuzzo's western ridge, and he accordingly ordered fire placed there. When the shells began to land, Peabody radioed that the fire was falling just right--about two hundred yards straight ahead of Company B. For the first time Colonel Jackson knew that Peabody was not on the main Altuzzo ridge but on the ridge to the west. The company commander still insisted that he was on the main ridge,55 and it was that night before the men of Company B learned that they had never been on their objective.56
Notwithstanding the erroneous information at higher echelons about Company B's location, throughout the day supporting arms delivered heavy fire on the Altuzzo and Giogo Pass areas. (See Map 9.) During the day II Corps directed its divisional and corps artillery to maintain the "absolute practicable maximum of artillery fire" in the attack zone of the corps' main effort until the Gothic Line was breached. At the same time II Corps listed the priority of fires in this order: observed, counterbattery and countermortar, interdictory and harassing, and fires on known enemy positions, installations, or works.
During the day the 329th Field Artillery Battalion in direct support of the 338th Infantry fired numerous TOT and observed missions on enemy mortars, machine guns, and personnel, including five enemy vehicles, 1,000 yards north of the pass. During the morning a 155-mm. howitzer battalion of the 178th Field Artillery Group fired five unobserved TOT missions of twenty to forty rounds each north of Monte Altuzzo on what were presumably suspected reserve positions, assembly areas, and enemy batteries. At 1145 the 338th infantry requested TOT on the area north of Altuzzo's crest and along the highway 300 yards northeast of the pass where counterattacking forces were thought to be forming or moving. Shortly after noon another battalion of the 178th Field Artillery Group fired two missions on enemy personnel between the crest of Monte Altuzzo and the Giogo Pass and in an area 500 yards northeast of the pass. Again the fire was unobserved.
Other supporting units were also active.
Beginning at 0800 all suspected mortar locations were brought under fire by the 85th Division's countermortar section, which included 4.2-inch mortars and artillery. As a result, the 338th and 339th Infantry noted a considerable decrease in enemy mortar fire. From 0615 to 1700 the 3d Platoon, Company B, 752d Tank Battalion, from positions 2,000 yards northeast of Scarperia, fired ninety-two rounds of high explosive in the Altuzzo area. During the day the 1st Platoon, Company B, 84th Chemical Battalion, in support of the 1st Battalion, 338th Infantry, fired twenty rounds of white phosphorus in the draw east of the Giogo Pass and on the slopes of Pian di Giogo. In direct support of the 338th Infantry, Company B, 310th Engineers, worked on supply and tank routes. One platoon with a bulldozer worked on a trail that supplied the 1st Battalion, 338th, from Highway 6524 north of Ponzalla over the lower slopes of di Castro Hill as far as Paretaio Farmhouse. Another engineer platoon cleared the road of mines from Scarperia to Ponzalla, and a third platoon worked on a bypass to a firing position for tanks west of the highway and about 1,100 yards south of Ponzalla.57
In support of the attack, fighter bombers of the 239th RAF and 7th SAAF Wings of the Desert Air Force were active against enemy artillery and defended positions. The 239th RAF Wing flew four missions south and southwest of Firenzuola, resulting in good concentrations and several direct hits which destroyed five buildings and caused a large explosion in a gun pit. The RAF 239th also bombed and strafed pits and diggings 2,300 yards north-northwest of the pass and another area on the Firenzuola road. The 7th SAAF Wing bombed defended areas at Firenzuola and exploded an ammunition dump and hit a German self-propelled gun and command post at Collinaccia, two and one-half miles northeast of the Giogo Pass. At 1805 tactical aircraft bombed and strafed troops in woods and buildings two and three miles north of the pass.58
Plight of the Forward Platoons
By midafternoon Company B, 338th Infantry, was hard pressed to hold on to its gains on Altuzzo's western ridge. (See Map 12.) At the end of the third enemy counterattack, the situation of the 2d and 3d Platoons, which had reached advanced positions near the peak of the western ridge, was almost desperate. Not only was their stock of ammunition dangerously short, but the repeated enemy assaults had reduced morale to a low ebb and their combined fighting strength to about twenty-five men. It seemed the longed-for relief would never come, and rifle bullets continued to spatter the rocks and cause casualties. Seeing the deadly accuracy of the fire--no doubt influenced by the clear, hot weather that provided excellent observation--many men felt they would not live through the day. As time dragged on, they talked freely of their situation,
asking one another and wondering to themselves why help did not come. Nerves that had been on edge all day were now strained almost to the breaking point. Two privates cried out that they could not stand it any longer, but Sgt. Albert A. Lusk grabbed both men and kept them near him.
Unless they received substantial reinforcements and supplies of ammunition, Sergeant Lang knew his men could not withstand another assault. Although the radio was useless and no messengers had returned from their mission of making contact with the company commander, the 2d Platoon sergeant still hesitated to leave his men. Finally, with his patience exhausted and his mind made up that he could delay no longer, he decided that he himself must go down the hill to see the captain. He must either obtain men and ammunition or secure permission to withdraw the two platoons to less exposed positions.
Since he wanted to be able to give the company commander the latest and most accurate information, Sergeant Lang ordered Sergeant Lusk to send a BAR man and a rifleman to the top of the peak. From there the men could observe enemy activity and note whether another counterattack was forming. As the two-man patrol moved up toward the peak, Sergeant Lusk directed two riflemen to cover on the right flank and a BAR man on the left. If the patrol was fired on, it could withdraw between the cone of fire formed by the covering men.
As soon as the BAR man of the patrol reached the peak, he stood upright, raised his gun to his shoulder and fired to the right down into the bowl. He had fired only two or three rounds when he was struck by automatic fire from the upper end of the main Altuzzo ridge. As he crumpled to the ground, the rifleman, who had followed closely, looked up at the top of the peak but could detect no enemy movement. Hesitating only for a moment, he scrambled down and reported what had happened.
Sergeant Lang Goes Down the Hill
When the patrol failed to disclose German intentions, Sergeant Lang, assuming that the enemy would be back again before long, told his men he was going down to the company commander. Assuring them he would be back within thirty minutes, he ordered them to hold until he returned. He left S. Sgt. John B. Spears, the senior squad leader, in command and started down the hill.
For a while after Sergeant Lang left, the men of the 2d and 3d Platoons felt more at ease. From experience they knew that the platoon sergeant was a man of his word and would do everything possible to relieve them from their precarious position. But as time wore on the men became anxious. A half hour passed; then an hour. Still Sergeant Lang did not return. Anxiety turned to premonition and then to certainty that their acting platoon leader had been either wounded or killed.
By this time the men seemed to themselves to be in a hopeless position. Down to their last few clips of ammunition, they could only watch and duck while the German snipers on the ridges to the east and west continued to pick men off. No one knew the whereabouts of the rest of the company. Each passing moment made them more certain that Sergeant Lang, whose courageous leadership had sustained them through the most hectic
day of their lives, would not return. It was thus little wonder that all the men wanted to withdraw; they waited only for permission from someone in authority. Some did not wait silently for that but pleaded fervently with the senior noncommissioned officer, Sergeant Spears, to give the withdrawal order.59 But neither Sergeant Spears nor the only other squad leader remaining, S. Sgt. William E. Ford, wanted to take the responsibility as long as Captain Peabody's and Sergeant Lang's orders to remain continued in efect.60
Farther down the hill at the lower end of the 2d Platoon's positions, a handful of men did withdraw about twenty yards soon after Sergeant Lang had started down the hill. Apparently out of contact with the main group of the 2d and 3d Platoons, these men started back because their ammunition was nearly exhausted. Sergeant Mullins, among those who withdrew, had only two clips left, and others in the group had even less. As soon as the men reached the northern edge of the wooded area they met Sergeant Kelsey, acting 1st Platoon leader. "You men will have to go back," Sergeant Kelsey said. "We have orders to hold the hill and we will hold it." The men returned to their positions.61
When Sergeant Lang descended the hill, he found Captain Peabody beside a rock at the southern edge of the wooded area and reported to him the desperate plight of his men. As the platoon sergeant and the company commander lay stretched out on the ground, a rifle bullet struck Lang in the head, killing him instantly.62
Calling to Sergeant Kelsey, acting 1st Platoon leader, Captain Peabody instructed him to take charge of all the men in the company's forward defense, including the 2d and 3d Platoons' advanced positions. When Sergeant Kelsey made his way through brush, trees, and rocks back to the northern edge of the wooded area, he ordered Sergeant Keathley, 1st Platoon guide, to take command of the 2d and 3d Platoons. Sergeant Keathley started up the ridge.63
Shortly after Keathley arrived at the rocks just a few yards below the 2d and 3d Platoon positions, the Germans launched another counterattack--their fourth and strongest. At the first sound of small arms fire and exploding grenades, Sergeant Keathley called down to the 1st Platoon to send up reinforcements. Enemy mortar shells began to explode in the rocks around him, and the sergeant was forced to take cover in a slit trench with a 3d Platoon rifleman, Pvt. William B. Herndon. As the fight continued, an exploding mortar shell blew Private Herndon out of the hole, and another shell, or possibly a grenade, exploded against Sergeant Keathley's abdomen, almost blasting his intestines from his body. Dropping his rifle and pressing his side, the sergeant stumbled down the
hill to the last rock above the wooded area and fell into a slit trench. Seeing him fall, Sergeant Dozier came to him. Writhing in agony, the wounded sergeant panted a request that Sergeant Dozier remove his watch and send it back to his wife. A moment later he was dead.64
Farther up the hill the fourth counterattack had hit the 2d and 3d Platoons hard. Physically and mentally exhausted, the men were almost out of ammunition and deprived of decisive leadership. Grenades and small arms fire landed close to their positions, and the men knew that a further stand was impossible. On the right flank and in the center, the attack seemed heaviest and at closest range. Soon after it began, Sergeant Spears, the ranking noncommissioned officer, called out to one of the other two squad leaders, Sergeant Ford: "If we don't pull off here, we're all going to get killed. The Jerries are overrunning our positions."65 He was going to withdraw, he shouted. Though no one heard Sergeant Spears give an actual order to withdraw, they did hear the shouting between the two sergeants. At that stage, the men needed no urging. When Sergeant Spears led the way, the men around him followed.
While Sergeant Spears' squad peeled off from its positions and started down the hill, the other men higher up and on the left front followed suit, some spontaneously and some at the orders of Sergeants Lusk and Ford. They formed a rough file that hurried down the mountain on the west side of the ridge line. When they came to the third rock slab ledge from the peak, which ran straight across the crest of the ridge and faced downhill, they turned west and walked through occasional trees and bushes along the upper side of the rock, the high rock slab shielding them against machine gun fire from the south. No fire came from the slopes along the road or from the draw to the west.
After moving west for approximately twenty-five yards along the upper side of the rock slab, the retreating men came to a place where the rock dropped off sharply. Since the rock at this point no longer shielded them from the south, the men stopped and bunched up at the opening, afraid to continue through it. As the machine gun fire from the south sounded ever closer, the Americans could see no way to get through the rock ledge without exposing themselves dangerously. The harsh sound of German voices floating up from the northwest added to the uneasiness. Having no idea that the 1st Platoon and their own company's machine guns were less than twenty-five yards away, the men were ready to believe the Germans had surrounded them. Some took off their ammunition belts and began to cry, "Kamerad."
An assistant squad leader, Sergeant Seiverd, afraid that he would be captured and with him the 3d Platoon's mail, which he had stuffed in his shirt, stopped in the brush beside a tree near the ledge and covered the letters with dirt. Finding a few moments later that he had not buried them all, he covered the rest hastily with brush, hoping thereby to keep from the Germans any intelligence information the letters might contain.
When the three squad leaders, Sergeants Lusk, Ford, and Spears, reached the opening in the rock slab, none of them tried to exercise firm control over the men, nor did they pause long at the opening. Braving the danger of fire from the south, they merely led the way, calling out that it was possible to get through and letting anyone follow who wished. No one knew how many men remained and were captured, but altogether there must have been about fifteen men in the group who went through the opening and withdrew safely.66
As fast as these men arrived at the 1st Platoon and Weapons Platoon positions, Sergeant Kelsey met them and began to place them in a new defense which Captain Peabody ordered set up at the north edge of the wooded area. But before they could form a new line the German counterattack hit them again. Many of the Company B riflemen could not return the fire because their ammunition was gone; others had only a clip or two left. The most effective small arms fire came from Sergeant Mullins, Private Wilson, and Private Barrow, who had found several BAR magazines and kept the barrels of three automatic rifles hot with bullets.
Despite the efforts of these men, the Germans, using hand grenades and rifle fire to good effect, overran a portion of the right flank. The other men heard cries of "Kamerad." Many thought at first the sound came from the Germans but soon saw that Company B men were surrendering. As the men who continued to hold looked up the hill, they saw a column of about fifteen men file up the ridge through the rocks. In the lead was an American private holding a stick with a roll of white toilet tissue streaming from it. As the men surrendered, Private Wilson, an automatic rifleman, wanted to fire on them, but Sergeant Simmons, a 1st Platoon squad leader, forbade it. Some of those surrendering might be wounded men, and, in any case, Sergeant Simmons thought, the Germans would kill all the prisoners if the remaining Americans opened fire. Although someone yelled, "Put that G . . . D . . . flag down!" the cry went unheeded. The prisoners continued to climb over the rock ledges toward the peak and finally disappeared from sight.67
Help from Artillery and Mortars
Weakened by the capture of these men, especially by the collapse of the whole right flank, the rest of Company B was saved only by timely artillery and mortar fire. After the counterattack had begun, the forward observer of the 329th Field Artillery Battalion, 2d Lt. Joseph P. Lamb, who was with Captain Peabody, had radioed to the command post of the 1st Battalion, 338th Infantry, reporting tersely, "Counterattack," and then had snapped off his radio. On the receiving end of the message Lieutenant Farber, artillery liaison officer, who had learned from Colonel Jackson earlier in the afternoon the correct location of Company B, called for fire on neighboring German positions and the counterattacking forces.68
At 1650 two 155-mm. howitzer battalions of the 178th Field Artillery Group
fired a total of 184 rounds on the slopes between Hill 926 and the peak of the western ridge. In midafternoon the 403d Field Artillery Battalion had fired a total of 141 rounds of harassing fire on enemy machine gun positions along the highway northwest of the western peak and on other suspected enemy positions generally north of Monte Altuzzo. Most of the missions by the 403d were unobserved, and their part, if any, in influencing the local situation on the western ridge cannot be definitely determined. From the forward battalion observation post in front of the command post at Paretaio, 2d Lt. Robert P. McGraw of Company D had noticed the movement of the enemy against Company B and had directed 81-mm. mortar fire in its support. Though the mortar and artillery shells landed dangerously close to Company B, none of the men were injured. Giving ground to the accurate and close-in fire, the Germans finally abandoned their fourth counterattack.69
A few minutes later Captain Peabody reported to Colonel Jackson that Company B had left only fifteen effective riflemen, two light machine gunners, and a platoon of heavy machine gunners. The report did not include the 1st Platoon riflemen or the mortar men below the barbed wire and the hump. The 1st Battalion commander ordered the company to remain on the ridge until dark and then to withdraw to the battalion command post at Paretaio. By 1630 the regimental command post had received the report that Company B had been counterattacked from three directions and was off the peak of Monte Altuzzo. Colonel Mikkelsen, 338th commander, still did not know Company B's exact location.70
When the fourth counterattack was over, Captain Peabody ordered what was left of his company to withdraw to the southern edge of the woods and build up a defensive position around the two company D machine guns. Using a perimeter defense, the company commander had the machine guns set up on either flank and the riflemen face up the ridge between them. On the left and right flanks of the guns the ammunition bearers of the Company D platoon stood guard, while on the rear another handful of Company B riflemen took over the same job. Other riflemen were assigned to cover the trail that crossed the ridge line south of the new defensive position.
With the defense reorganized, Captain Peabody and 1st Lt. Roberts Clay, commander of the attached machine gun platoon, discussed withdrawal to the Company B command post below the barbed wire. The memory of the capture of the fifteen men still fresh in their minds, both officers recognized the necessity for controlling the movement strictly. They planned for the riflemen to infiltrate across the open space at the barbed wire while the machine guns covered the crossing. To screen the movement the company commander asked battalion to place smoke at the head of the draws to the northeast and northwest of Company B's position. The first rifleman started off and, although fired on by a sniper,
safely reached the southern edge of the wire. Other riflemen followed.
The withdrawal was still in its initial stages when a German rifleman opened fire from the left front near a bend in the highway. When Lieutenant Clay, the machine gun platoon leader, failed in pointing out the German position by rifle fire, he grabbed the left machine gun himself and began to fire it. Although the tracers kicked up dirt all around the sharpshooter, they all missed the mark. As soon as the platoon leader would cease firing, the German would resume fire at anyone who tried to edge across the open space at the barbed wire. Only a handful of Company B men and none of Company D had managed to filter through the wire. Some were still north of the entanglement when Captain Peabody decided to abandon the attempt to withdraw until after dark. When night did come, the remainder of the company and the attached platoon were at last able to withdraw.
Before all the men had reached the CP area, they came under misplaced American artillery fire. Captain Peabody radioed Colonel Jackson, who at 1900 telephoned the 2d Battalion that artillery fire which was being used to stop a counterattack against Company E was falling short on Company B. The fire was promptly raised.
As Company B prepared to continue its withdrawal from the western ridge, Private Bertani, 3d Platoon aid man, with the assistance of several other men, improvised two litters from blankets stretched between rifles with fixed bayonets. Two nonambulatory wounded men were placed on them, but Peabody decided that their evacuation with the rest of Company B would hamper the withdrawal. He ordered that the wounded be left there until litterbearers could be sent back from the battalion aid station. Pvt. Charles C. Smith, one of the wounded men, guessed what was happening. "You're going to leave me here, aren't you?" he asked. Private Bertani could only assure him that litterbearers would return soon to complete the evacuation.
After reorganization was completed, Company B and its attached machine guns moved off in a column of twos through the darkness. Utterly fatigued, but relieved from the tension that had gripped them all day, the men walked directly down the ridge through la Rocca draw and up the slopes along the highway, arriving at the 1st Battalion command post at Paretaio after a three-hour march. There the men were fed hamburgers and hot coffee and sent to the slopes south of the farmhouse, while litterbearers evacuated the wounded who had been left on the ridge.71
The Day's Action
For the second day the 1st Battalion, 338th Infantry, had failed to breach the enemy's main line of resistance on Monte Altuzzo. Instead of the co-ordinated assault which Colonel Jackson had planned, Companies A and B had made separate attacks on the main ridge and the western ridge of the mountain. Major factors in the outcome were the failure of Company A's radio and Captain Peabody's mistake in judging his
PEABODY PEAK looking to the south. Dust from Highway 6524 can be seen in background. Photograph was taken 22 September 1944.
location. Despite its lack of communication with the battalion and with Company B, Company A had at least jumped off at dawn toward the peak of Hill 782, but after a brisk fire fight and a short advance the two leading platoons had drawn back to their starting positions. Notwithstanding repeated efforts to restore communication, the company had remained out of touch with the battalion commander until midafternoon and knew nothing about Company B's plight on the ridge to the west.
During the day-long battle, Captain Peabody's men had penetrated the main line of resistance on the western ridge but had not occupied the main bunkers on the peak. Since they had not consolidated their gains, the attack was abortive. The company's flanks had been exposed continuously, because the units on its right and left were too far away to be of assistance or were out of contact. The only tangible gain from Company B's attack was the development for the first time of the strong enemy defense on Altuzzo's western peak.
By the end of the day Company B could not have held its gains without reinforcement, for the day's casualties
had sharply reduced its fighting power. Out of its strength at the jump-off of about 170 men, it had suffered ninety-six casualties including twenty-four killed, fifty-three wounded, and nineteen captured or missing in action.72 Even the survivors were in no condition to continue the battle or stand another harrowing day like 14 September. Under the circumstances Colonel Jackson had no choice but to withdraw Company B and renew the attack against Monte Altuzzo with fresh troops. To the men who had fought there so hard, the western ridge came to be known as Peabody Peak.73
While Company B had been making its heroic but futile effort near the peak of Altuzzo's western ridge, the units on its flanks likewise failed to break through the enemy's defenses. On the 338th Infantry's left wing the 2d Battalion made isolated advances along the highway but in every case gave up the ground and at the end of the day found itself back at its old positions near l'Uomo Morto.74 On the 338th Infantry's left flank the 91st Division's 363d Infantry had attacked up the western slopes of Monticelli but had been stopped short of the enemy's main line of resistance. East of Monte Altuzzo the 339th Infantry of the 85th Division still was unable to take Monte Verruca despite extensive use of artillery, tanks, and tank destroyers.75 In front of the Giogo Pass the troops of II Corps had failed everywhere on 14 September to breach the enemy's MLR and take the objectives which would outflank the Futa Pass.
The Enemy Situation
By the morning of 14 September the German forces on Monte Altuzzo were numerically stronger than they had been the day before. During the night (13-14 September) the 1st Company, 4th Antitank Battalion (Kampfgruppe Hauser), with a total strength of between 90 and 150 men, was sent to reinforce elements of the 1st Battalion, 12th Regiment, 4th Parachute Division. Although these men sustained some casualties while moving into position, most of them arrived in Altuzzo's forward bunkers and were attached either as individuals to the 1st Company or as a separate unit under the regiment. Initially forty-two men from the 4th Antitank Battalion were committed on the east flank of the 1st Company, 12th Parachute Regiment, but casualties reduced the number of effectives to twenty-five. Though originally armed with 75-mm. assault (antitank) guns, the company had only its complement of ten machine guns for its Altuzzo defense.
Besides these reinforcements, the enemy had at least three understrength companies of the 12th Parachute Regiment in the vicinity of Monte Altuzzo: the 1st Company with forty-four men and the 3d and 11th Companies with fifty to sixty men each. The enemy's MLR on Altuzzo was manned by 250 to 300 men in all--numerically the equivalent of one understrength German battalion or one and one-half companies of American infantry. Because of the terrain, poor communications, and lack of control, at no single time during the five-day battle did the Americans throw as many troops into
action on Monte Altuzzo as did the defenders.
By noon of 14 September American intelligence reports indicated that the 1st Battalion, 12th Regiment, plus reinforcements, was on Monte Altuzzo, the 2d Battalion extended east from Monte Verruca, and the 3d Battalion was on Monticelli. Even at this point every battalion of the 12th Regiment plus the 3d Battalion's reserve had been committed, although the enemy still maintained a mobile reserve counterattack force of combat engineers. Though forced to bring up various noninfantry units for reinforcement, the local German commanders had decided to hold Monte Altuzzo and the mountains on the east and west of the Giogo Pass with all the strength they could muster.
During the day civilian and prisoner reports and air observation located many enemy weapons which were supporting the German infantry in the Giogo Pass sector. In the afternoon a Mark IV tank with a short 75-mm. gun was reported 200 yards north of the pass. It may have been the same tank that Company B, 338th Infantry, tried unsuccessfully to knock out during the morning with a bazooka. At 1430 eight artillery pieces in position at Barco less than a mile north of the pass moved two miles north up the Firenzuola highway to a cluster of houses at Molinuccio. Three batteries (twelve guns) of 150-mm. caliber were at Corniolo three miles northwest of the pass. In addition, the 12th Parachute Regiment was supported by two 170-mm. guns from the Artillery Lehr Regiment in position about 700 yards west of Firenzuola. The enemy fired only a small amount of artillery into the 85th Division area on 14 September, but most of that received, mainly 88-mm. and 170-mm., was directed against the 338th Infantry.
The main enemy effort on Monte Altuzzo during 14 September was directed toward dislodgment of Company B from the rocky western ridge. Besides heavy machine gun cross fire from both flanks, the enemy struck with counterattack forces from behind rocks and over the most covered approaches. After the first counterattack between 1000 and 1100, the 12th Parachute Regiment reported that Monte Altuzzo was again in its hands. At 1150 the 1st Battalion, 12th Regiment, was ordered to reassign strength along the MLR and commit all reserves. That the other three German counterattacks of the afternoon cost it heavily is attested to by the 1st Battalion's later report that it unconditionally needed a reserve company. Among those killed was the commanding officer of the 1st Company, 12th Regiment.
During the night of 14-15 September a squad of German engineers laid mines facing the 1st Battalion, 338th Infantry, on Monte Altuzzo and the 339th Infantry on Monte Verruca. On the main Altuzzo ridge S-mines were laid in the barbed wire on the southwest slopes of Hill 782, but the mission was carried out only partially--the mines neither were numerous enough nor covered an area large enough to slow subsequent advance.
Although prisoner statements indicated that the highway from the Giogo Pass to Firenzuola had been knocked out by American bombers, on the afternoon of 14 September the enemy was reported to have that main supply route open. Thereupon the 85th Division asked II Corps to put the road out by bombing, and II Corps approved the request,
adding that if air power could not knock it out harassing artillery fire would be placed on it. Evidently one or the other was effective, for the enemy's front-line positions did not obtain rations on 14 September. At 2300 that night TOT artillery fire was placed on the knob north of Monte Altuzzo's crest.76
At the end of 14 September the Fourteenth Army was well aware that the 4th Parachute Division was bearing the brunt of the Fifth Army attack against the Gothic Line. But in light of Fourteenth Army reports the enemy had clearly not realized that Fifth Army's main effort was restricted to the Giogo Pass area. The reports indicated that the main effort was on a nine-mile front from Monte Frassino southwest of the Futa Pass to Monte Altuzzo. The pressure along the whole II Corps front was such that the Germans still had not divined Fifth Army's plan of outflanking the Futa Pass by breaching the Gothic Line at the Giogo Pass.
Because of the anticipated withdrawal of the west flank of the German Tenth Army, the I Parachute Corps was told during the day to prepare for withdrawal of its east flank to the crest of Monte Altuzzo. For reinforcement of the 4th Parachute Division, the 2d Battalion, Grenadier Lehr Brigade, which had been in I Parachute Corps reserve, was entrucked the night of 14-15 September. Preparations were made also to send the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Lehr Brigade, which had been in XIV Panzer Corps reserve, to the 4th Parachute Division the following night.77
1. 85th Div and 91st Div G-3 Jnls, 13-14 Sep 44; 337th, 338th, and 339th Inf Unit Jnls, 13-14 Sep 44.
2. Combat Intervs with Cole, Jackson, Peabody, and King; 338th Inf and 2d Bn and 3d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnls, 13-14 Sep 44; 338th Inf and 2d Bn and 3d Bn, 338th Inf, AAR's, Sep 44; 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 14 Sep 44. Two direct bomb hits and two near misses were subsequently scored by planes on enemy positions north of the pass.
3. II Corps Arty Jnl, 13-14 Sep 44; 403d FA Bn Jnl and Mission Rpts, 13-14 Sep 44; 178th FA Gp and 423d FA Gp Rpts and Jnls, 13-14 Sep 44.
4. Combat Intervs with King, Jackson, and Gresham; 1st Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44.
5. Combat Intervs with the following: King, MacMinn, and Gresham; S Sgt Joseph K. Colosimo, S Sgt Gordon K. Grigsby, Sgt Hubert G. Albert, T Sgt Darius L. Daughtry, Van Horne, South, and Whary.
6. Combat Intervs with Colosimo, Grigsby, and Daughtry.
7. Combat Intervs with King, MacMinn, Van Horne, South, and Whary.
8. Combat Intervs with Van Horne and Hickman.
9. Combat Interv with Culpepper.
10. Combat Intervs with King and Gresham.
11. 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44
12. Combat Intervs with Brown, Mullins, and Peabody; Intervs and Notes of terrain reconnaissance with Peabody, T Sgt Herman Ledford, and 1st Sgt Charles J. Dozier; Capt Maurice E. Peabody, Jr., Narrative of the Attack on Peabody Ridge, MS, Nov-Dec 44 (hereafter cited as Peabody MS), 1st Bn, 338th Inf, S-1 Files.
13. Combat Interv with Souder.
14. Combat Intervs with Peabody and with 2d Lt Clemens M. Hankes, 2d Lt William J. Kelsey, and all surviving EM in Co B, 338th Inf. At the start of the Gothic Line operations, the 85th Division had twelve flame throwers; but since these weapons weighed seventy pounds when filled with fuel they were not considered suitable offensive weapons in mountainous terrain where every extra pound counted and where the problem of fuel resupply was great. Memo, Maj Charles L. Badger to 85th Div CofS, 14 Sep 44, 85th Div G-3 Jnl File, Sep 44.
15. Combat Intervs with all surviving offs and EM in Co B.
16. Combat Intervs with the following: 1st Lt Roberts Clay; all surviving offs and EM of the Altuzzo action in Co B, 338th Inf; Peabody. See also Intervs and Notes of terrain reconnaissance with Peabody et al.; Peabody MS.
17. Intervs and Notes of terrain reconnaissance with Peabody et al.
18. 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 13-14 Sep 44.
19. Combat Intervs with Peabody and Jackson; Intervs and Notes of terrain reconnaissance with Peabody et al.; Peabody MS; 338th Inf and 339th Inf Unit Jnls, 14 Sep 44.
20. 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44.
21. The discussion of terrain and defenses on the western ridge is based on at least ten trips to the area by the author from November 44 to April 45. Particularly valuable reconnaissances were made with Lieutenant Kelsey and Sergeant Dozier, 23 December 44, and with Captain Peabody, Sergeant Ledford, and Sergeant Dozier, 24 March 45.
22. Peabody MS; Combat Intervs with Peabody and all other surviving offs and EM in Co B, 338th Inf.
23. Combat Intervs with Peabody, Brown, Mullins, and Pvt Idelmo Salmestrelli; Intervs and Notes of terrain reconnaissance with Ledford; Peabody MS.
24. Ibid.; Combat Intervs with the following: S Sgt William E. Ford, Lusk, Pfc Patrick H. McDonald, Jr., and Pfc Willie E. Guy; Hankes.
25. Combat Intervs with the following: T Sgt Arthur O. Tomlet, T Sgt Louis S. Campbell, S Sgt Joseph T. Barrow, S Sgt James M. Burrows, S Sgt John D. Brice, Pfc John S. Ptaszkiewicz, Sgt Howard C. Pecor, Sgt Alvin L. West, Pfc James W. Wright, and Pfc Arthur E. Collins, Kelsey-Dozier.
26. Combat Intervs with Ledford and Salmestrelli.
27. Combat Intervs with Brodeur and Ledford.
28. Combat Interv with Brodeur.
29. Combat Intervs with Ford, Mullins, Salmestrelli, Pfc John E. Catlett, Pfc Leslie N. Albritton, Pvt George Itzkowitz, Distel, Leon, Wilson, and Pvt Thomas H. Sherman.
30. Combat Intervs with Ford, Lusk, Guy, and McDonald.
31. Combat Intervs with Brodeur and with Mullins, Albritton, Catlett, Salmestrelli, and Itzkowitz.
32. Combat Intervs with the following: Hankes and Seiverd, Mullins, Catlett, Leon, Guy, Lusk, Salmestrelli, Itzkowitz, and Wilson; Pfcs Alton Mos and John Campbell; Brodeur and Pfc William Alberta.
33. Combat Intervs with Hankes and Sherman.
34. Ibid. Combat Intervs with Peabody, Kelsey, and Dozier.
35. Combat Intervs with Brodeur-Alberta and with Ford, Seiverd, Mullins, Lusk, Guy, Distel, Leon, Wilson, Salmestrelli, Itzkowitz, and Catlett.
36. Combat Interv with Catlett.
37. Combat Intervs with all enlisted survivors in Co B, 338th Inf, and with Jackson and Peabody; 1st Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44; Peabody MS.
38. 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44.
39. Combat Intervs with the following: Kelsey-Dozier; Dozier, Campbell, Barrow, Burrows, Simmons, and Casey; Pecor, Pfcs Luther Ingram, Marvin Cobb, James O. Brooks, Joseph T. LaMonica, Arley Perkey, and Pvt Edward L. Lazowski.
40. Intervs and Notes of terrain reconnaissances with Kelsey-Dozier; Combat Intervs with all survivors from 1st, 2d and 3d Plats, Co B, 338th Inf, especially Salmestrelli.
41. Terrain information based not only on interviews, but on several trips by the author to the western ridge from November 1944 to April 1945.
42. Combat Intervs with Peabody and Kelsey and with all enlisted survivors in Co B, 338th Inf. Captain Peabody stated that he never realized until he went over the ground with the author how far ahead of his position were his 2d and 3d Platoons.
43. Combat Intervs with all enlisted survivors in 2d and 3d Plats, Co B, 338th Inf.
44. Combat Intervs with Brice and with Ptaszkiewicz, Collins-West.
45. Combat Interv with Clay.
46. Combat Interv with Sgt Lester F. Wise.
47. Combat Intervs with Ford, Seiverd, Mullins, and with Lusk, Guy, Salmestrelli, Distel, Leon, Wilson, and Alberta.
48. Combat Interv with Salmestrelli.
49. Ibid.; Combat Interv with Dozier.
50. Combat Intervs with Ford, Seiverd, Mullins, and with Lusk, Guy, Distel, Leon, Wilson, Alberta, and Brodeur.
51. Ibid.; Combat Interv with Albritton.
52. Combat Intervs with the following: Bertani, Mos, Alberta, and Pfc Donald Brouthers.
53. Combat Interv with Jackson.
54. 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 14 Sep 44.
55. Combat Interv with Jackson.
56. Combat Intervs with all enlisted survivors of Co B, 338th Inf.
57. Memo, II Corps for divs and II Corps arty, 14 Sep 44, 85th Div G-3 File, Sep 44; II Corps Arty Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 178th FA Gp Jnl and Mission Rpts, 14 Sep 44; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 752d Tk Bn Opns Rpt, Sep 44; 84th Cml Bn AAR and Jnl, Sep 44; 310th Engr (C) Bn AAR, Daily Sit Rpt, and Jnl, Sep 44; Combat Intervs with Jackson and Farber; 329th FA Bn AAR, Sep 44.
58. 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44; MAAF Daily Central Med Operational Sum, 14 Sep 44.
59. Combat Intervs with Ford, Lusk, Mullins, Distel, Leon, Guy, Brodeur, Itzkowitz, and Seiverd.
60. Combat Intervs with Ford and Guy. Guy's position was very close to Spears' foxhole.
61. Combat Intervs with Mullins, Kelsey, and Dozier. Both Kelsey and Dozier confirmed the action as related herein but added certain details which the author was unable to substantiate.
62. Combat Intervs with Kelsey-Dozier and Peabody; 1st Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44; Peabody MS. Sergeant Lang was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
63. Combat Intervs with Peabody, Kelsey, Collins, and Burrows.
64. Combat Intervs with Mullins, Burrows, Kelsey-Dozier, and Collins. Collins' statement of Keathley's action was based on information given him by Herndon. Sergeant Keathley was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
65. Combat Interv with Ford.
66. Combat Intervs with Seiverd and with Ford, Lusk, Distel, Guy, Itzkowitz, Leon, Wilson.
67. Combat Intervs with Kelsey-Dozier, Mullins, Ford, Seiverd, Burrows, Barrow, Simmons, Lusk, Campbell, Leon, Distel, Guy, Wilson, Itzkowitz, and Collins-West.
68. Combat Interv with Farber.
69. Combat Intervs with the following: Peabody, Clay, Kelsey; all enlisted survivors in Co B, 338th Inf; 1st Lt Robert P. McGraw. 403d FA Bn and 178th FA Gp Mission Rpts, 14 Sep 44.
70. Combat Intervs with Jackson and Peabody; Peabody MS; 1st Bn, 338th Inf, Rpt of Opns, Sep 44; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44.
71. This section is based on the following: Peabody MS; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44; Combat Intervs with Clay, Bertani, and all enlisted survivors of the action still in Co B, 338th Inf. Direct quotes are from Clay and Bertani.
72. Co B, 338th Inf, Morning Rpt, 14 Sep 44, in 1st Bn, 338th Inf, S-1 Files, Sep 44.
73. Combat Intervs with Jackson.
74. Combat Interv with Cole; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, AAR, Sep 44.
75. 91st Div G-3 Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 339th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Sep 44; 339th Inf AAR, Sep 44; Strootman MS.
76. Foregoing information on the enemy situation is based on IPW Rpts, radio intercepts, and other intel info in 338th Inf Unit Jnl and 85th Div G-2 Jnl, 14 Sep 44, and in 85th Div G-2 Rpts, 14-18 Sep 44; Intel Sums and IPW Rpts in 338th Inf Jnl Files, Sep 44.
77. Entry of 14 Sep 44, Fourteenth Army KTB 4.