Advance to the Crest
Although he still wanted another chance to take the crest of Monte Altuzzo, Colonel Jackson reported to the 338th Infantry after his 1st Battalion had been stopped at the enemy's main line of resistance on 15 September that his rifle companies had sustained considerable casualties and needed an opportunity that night for rest and reorganization. Since Colonel Mikkelsen had been sick with a cold and nervous exhaustion and was confined to bed with a high fever,
PAINTING OF MONTE ALTUZZO AREA from the slope in front of Paretaio Farmhouse. Painting by Sgt. Ludwig Mactarian, combat artist of the Fifth Army.
the 338th executive officer, Lt. Col. Marion P. Boulden, was left to shoulder most of the routine work. The plans were worked out by the assistant 85th Division commander, Brig. Gen. Lee S. Gerow, who had commanded the regiment during the training period in the States. The night of 15 September Colonel Jackson told General Gerow that Monte Altuzzo could not be taken without a co-ordinated divisional attack.
General Gerow agreed to Jackson's recommendation that the 2d Battalion attack abreast of the 1st the next day, and tentative plans were made later that night. They called for the 2d Battalion to advance up the highway at 2100, while the 1st Battalion would resume its attack against Hill 926 at midnight. The 3d was to pass through the 1st after Altuzzo's crest was captured.1 These plans were canceled by the 85th Division commander, General Coulter, in order to await the outcome of an attack by the 363d Infantry, 91st Division, against Monticelli at 0600 the next morning.2 A co-ordinated attack by the two assault battalions of the 338th Infantry was to follow as soon as Monticelli was secured. To prepare for this later operation, Company F of the 2d Battalion attacked just before midnight to secure a little knob along the highway 400 yards north of l'Uomo Morto on Monticelli's eastern arm. Although Company F knocked out two machine gun positions and tried until dawn to advance, the attack failed.3
While infantry plans were being shaped, corps and division artillery continued to harass the enemy's lines of communication. During the night, for example, the 403d Field Artillery Battalion put eleven TOT concentrations of thirty-six rounds each on the slopes of Hill 926, Pian di Giogo, Monte Verruca, and areas along the highway north of the Giogo Pass, and fired other harassing missions in the vicinity of the pass.4
During the night of 15-16 September the 1st and 2d Battalions, 363d Infantry, which had been attacking Monticelli, were hard-pressed to repulse five enemy counterattacks; well after dawn the next morning the 3d Battalion, 363d, scheduled to make an 0600 attack for which the 338th Infantry's attack was waiting, had not yet pushed off. About 0800, reports that the enemy on Monte Altuzzo, reinforced by the 10th Company, 10th Parachute Regiment, was planning a counterattack led the 85th Division to alert the forward infantry elements and artillery observers. The threat never materialized and did not interfere with the plans for resumption of the American attack.5
General Gerow's Plans for the 338th
On the morning of 16 September General Gerow visited the 363d Infantry
command post about 0800 and learned of the counterattacks that had delayed the 363d's attack. The regiment still could not move. While he was at the CP, General Keyes, the II Corps commander, came forward and stated that he wanted the 85th and 91st Divisions to make a co-ordinated attack at once against Altuzzo and Monticelli. After four days of unsuccessful attacks, he was most anxious to capture the pass and complete the corps mission.
General Mark W. Clark, the Fifth Army commander, had become even more impatient as each day passed without a break-through of the Gothic Line. After observing the successive failures of II Corps to crack the defenses in front of the Giogo Pass, Clark decided upon an envelopment on the right flank of the main effort. He ordered the 85th Division to commit its reserve regiment, the 337th Infantry, against Monte Pratone, northeast of Monte Altuzzo. The attack was launched on the afternoon of 16 September, only to bog down a thousand yards short of its objective.
Though General Keyes had not objected to General Clark's effort to outflank the Giogo Pass defenses, the corps commander still expected the troops along Highway 6524 to make the main break-through.6 To his request at the 363d Infantry CP for an immediate co-ordinated attack against Altuzzo and Monticelli, however, General Gerow replied that the 363d was not yet ready or able to push up Monticelli. A co-ordinated attack, Gerow maintained, was therefore out of the question, but he would direct his 338th Infantry to proceed with its attack against Altuzzo.
As he left the conference, General Gerow saw no solution but to give the 338th Infantry the entire task. From the time General Gerow had commanded the 338th Infantry during the training period in the States he had known its ranking officers well. Jackson had been his regimental adjutant and Cole, a battalion commander. Through intimate association in training and in combat, Gerow had formed a high estimate of both officers, and felt that the two battalion commanders could perform any mission assigned them. Gerow, however, had misgivings about Maj. Lysle Kelley, the 3d Battalion commander, and felt that, with Kelley in command, he could not rely on the 3d Battalion to break the crust of German resistance on Monte Altuzzo. As for the 2d Battalion, deployed along Highway 6524, the pressure of time and the open terrain precluded its use in the main effort.
Again, therefore, he decided to have the 1st Battalion make the main effort. (Map 15) Despite the battering it had taken, Gerow considered the unit ably commanded and still strong enough to seize the crest of Monte Altuzzo. He worked out in his mind the plan of attack: during the day Colonel Cole's 2d Battalion would push up the highway to locate enemy positions which might bring flanking fire against the main effort up the Altuzzo ridge, and under cover of darkness the 1st Battalion would resume the advance to seize Hill 926. Before dawn the next morning the 3d Battalion would pass through the 1st and seize the knob north of Hill 926.7
Plan of Attack
16-17 September 1944
About 0900 General Gerow went to the CP of the 2d Battalion, 338th Infantry, and ordered Colonel Cole to jump off as soon as possible, locate the enemy positions along the highway, and push up abreast of the 1st Battalion. Gerow envisioned the 2d Battalion advancing as far as possible without sustaining heavy casualties. If the 2d was unable to knock out enemy positions located, it was to call for artillery support to neutralize them. The battalion's assignment was tough, undramatic, and could be costly; its flanks would be exposed, and its route of advance lay over open terrain.8
The 2d Battalion Attack
The 2d Battalion's attack up the highway, beginning at noon, did not move far. Company F, which made the attack, spotted some machine gun positions and called for artillery fire but did not advance abreast of the 1st Battalion's positions on the main Altuzzo ridge.9 General Gerow became impatient for the decisive movement, the 1st Battalion's attack. He was most anxious for the 1st Battalion to reach its objective during the night and for the 3d to pass through the 1st before dawn. Changing his previous orders, he told Colonel Jackson to push out before dark so that if he received fire from the left flank in the 2d Battalion zone Colonel Cole could knock out the enemy positions or pinpoint them with supporting fire. Despite the fact that the 1st Battalion had suffered numerous casualties, General Gerow felt that the battalion could take Hill 926; in any case, he knew that the 2d Battalion by its own efforts could never break through on the exposed highway until the two mountains on its flanks were secured.
1st Battalion Prepares To Attack
At 1450 General Gerow told Colonel Jackson that the 2d Battalion's advance had been stopped and suggested that the 1st Battalion launch its attack at 1530. Although Colonel Jackson agreed, he found that the attack preparations required more time than he had estimated and accordingly set H Hour back to 1630. General Gerow's order called for the 1st Battalion to take the crest of Monte Altuzzo during the night and hold it until the 3d Battalion passed through. Then the 2d Battalion's Company E, reinforced, would move to the switchbacks
on the highway as Company F advanced along the left of the highway to Point 770.10
Having received the attack order, Colonel Jackson arranged for supporting fires from the artillery, mortar, and direct-fire weapons. He arranged also for smoke to screen the daylight period of advance. The sectors to be screened included Monte Verruca on the right and the area along the highway on the left, for the weather was clear and observation excellent. For the new attack the artillery plan was to isolate the German infantry on Monte Altuzzo from resupply and reinforcement by concentrating maximum fire on the higher slopes of the mountain mass in the vicinity of the Giogo Pass as far north as Rifredo. Medium artillery was to harass supply routes and destroy communications north of Monte Altuzzo. On the western slopes of the mountain, including the western ridge, the 105-mm. howitzers were to place time fire in the rocky, wooded areas to wipe out Germans in open positions or in process of moving into position. Once more the 8-inch guns and 240-mm. howitzers were to concentrate against the dug-in and prepared positions located on both ridges and the slope between them. The 81-mm. mortars of Company D and the attached 4.2-inch mortars were to fire on close targets that were masked from the artillery.11
Already during the morning the heavy artillery had scored with telling effect in counterbattery fires. Using a ground observation post, a battalion of heavy corps artillery made three direct hits on a gun on Monte Castel Guerrino, 3,200 yards northwest of the Giogo Pass. This same battalion later fired on four heavy guns north of Firenzuola, scored two target hits, and had effect on all the guns. According to the air observation post, another heavy battalion neutralized four enemy guns one mile southwest of Firenzuola. In midafternoon, before the new attack was launched, the 178th Field Artillery Group fired a harassing mission in the draw between the Giogo Pass and Barco. Farther north along the Firenzuola highway, harassing fire from a heavy corps battalion traversed the area from the pass to Rifredo and Puligno, one and one-half miles to the north.
Twenty minutes before the 338th Infantry's new attack jumped off, the 403d Field Artillery Battalion completed firing a preparation of ninety-four rounds on the peak of Altuzzo's western ridge. Then, from 1610 to 1715, the 403d screened the western peak and the slope along the highway to the west with nearly 600 rounds of smoke. At the same time the 1st Platoon, Company B, 84th Chemical Battalion, smoked the area from Hill 926 to the pass. During the first hour of the attack, the 403d Field Artillery Battalion also fired harassing missions on Altuzzo's western peak, the highway, and the north slopes of Monte Altuzzo between Hill 926 and the pass.
On the night of 16 September, Company B, 752d Tank Battalion, in support of the 338th Infantry, moved one platoon to the 339th Infantry's sector in order to have a better position from which to fire on Monte Altuzzo. The tanks were to open fire at daylight on 17 September. During 15 and 16 September, Company B, 310th Engineers, continued to maintain
supply routes to the 338th's battalions.12
For air support the 338th Infantry acted on information received the night before that on 16 September the close air support program would operate from 1130 to 1330 and from 1430 to 1830. A few minutes before the 1st Battalion launched its attack, the 338th Infantry requested bombing missions against pillboxes and other defenses at Collinaccia, 6,000 yards north-northeast of the Giogo Pass; gun positions at Moscheta, 4,500 yards northeast of the pass; and mortars in a draw near Barco, about 1,600 yards northeast of Monte Altuzzo. An hour and a half later fighter bombers strafed and dropped four bombs in the area of the mortars. During 16 September the 239th Wing attacked bivouac areas between the Futa Pass and the Giogo Pass, and the 7th SAAF Wing bombed bivouac and defended areas near Puligno about 3,000 yards north of the Giogo Pass.13
Because of the narrow route of approach up the main ridge to the crest of Monte Altuzzo and the necessity for maintaining close contact in darkness, Colonel Jackson directed that his 1st Battalion's attack proceed in a column of platoons, designating Company C, which still had one fresh platoon, to make the principal effort. Behind Company C the 3d Platoon of Company A was to follow; during the night another platoon of Company A was to swing to the left to secure Altuzzo's western ridge. Company A's 2d Platoon was to remain in battalion reserve on the slopes of Hill 782, prepared to go as reinforcement to either the main or western ridge. The 81-mm. mortars and two heavy machine guns were to support the attack from their respective positions behind Paretaio Farmhouse and the top of Hill 624.14
Because of the casualties during the previous days, neither Company A nor Company C, even including weapons platoons and headquarters personnel, was at more than two-thirds normal strength. Instead of 120 men in its three rifle platoons, Company A had seventy-six men and Company C, seventy-two. Company A had borne the brunt of attacks on 13 and 15 September, although not more than one platoon of each company had been engaged in actual fighting. During the attack of 15 September, Company C's 2d Platoon, although still in reserve, had suffered many casualties from a mortar concentration. The two assault companies could count on no support from Company B, which had sustained such heavy losses on 14 September on the western ridge that it was in no condition to make another major attack.15
Colonel Jackson left the co-ordination of the advance to Captain King and Lieutenant Souder, commanding Companies A and C, respectively. Each company commander then planned his own attack formation. Company C was to advance in a column of platoons, the
fresh 3d Platoon leading. Following the 3d was to be the section of light machine guns, the 2d Platoon, and the 1st. Captain King of Company A ordered Lieutenant Holladay with the two squads left in his 3d Platoon to follow Company C. He designated Sergeant Van Horne to take the 1st Platoon, the 60-mm. mortar section, and the single machine gun squad left in the Weapons Platoon to the western ridge. The 2d Platoon was to be in battalion reserve.
In last-minute instructions to his platoon leaders, Lieutenant Souder outlined the disposition of his platoons when they should reach the crest of the mountain. The 2d Platoon, Company C, was to take up positions on the left and make patrol contact with Sergeant Van Horne's 1st Platoon, Company A, which would be on Altuzzo's western ridge; the 3d Platoon, Company C, was to be in the center on the peak of Hill 926; to its right was to be the 1st Platoon, Company C, and the 3d Platoon, Company A. Although he had never had a close view of Hill 926, Souder believed that four platoons, all considerably understrength, could get abreast near the top of the south slope of Hill 926. After the 3d Battalion had passed through the 1st on Hill 926, the men of Company C could then come back down the mountain to the vicinity of the battalion CP, relax, reorganize, and eat a hot meal.16
Leader of Company C's 3d Platoon, which was to spearhead the attack, was 2d Lt. Albert J. Krasman, a former platoon sergeant with a good deal of combat experience and an officer in whose leadership Lieutenant Souder had full confidence. At the beginning of the drive he had been an excess Company C officer at the regimental replacement pool in charge of approximately forty 1st Battalion replacements and had thus made no thorough map or intelligence studies. On 14 September when the company executive officer had been wounded by a shell fragment, the 3d Platoon leader had replaced him and Lieutenant Krasman had been called to take command of the 3d Platoon. Although the lieutenant had seen no defense overlays of the enemy positions, he secured enough information from Lieutenant Corey and Sergeant Thompson of the 1st Platoon about the positions they had encountered on 15 September to realize that in a new attack Company C could expect resistance at any point from halfway up the Altuzzo ridge to the crest. On the night of 15-16 September, after Lieutenant Souder had been informed that Company C might have to bear the brunt of the next attack, Lieutenant Krasman was sent with a small patrol to reconnoiter 400 to 500 yards in front of the company. He found a telephone wire which Company B had laid two nights before on the lower slopes of Hill 782 and followed it to the western ridge. There the patrol saw men of Company B who had been killed the day before and examined a bunker near the top of the western peak. Although Lieutenant Krasman searched several dead Germans, he found nothing of importance. From what he had seen himself on this patrol and from what he had heard from others, he expected a tough struggle before he took Hill 926 and anticipated that his men would encounter heavy cross fire from the left as they advanced up the main ridge.17
ENEMY CASUALTIES. These paratroopers of the 12th Parachute Regiment were found on the slopes of Monte Altuzzo.
The thirty men of Lieutenant Krasman's 3d Platoon were generally in good physical condition as H Hour approached. Most had had some combat experience, although only a handful had engaged previously in a hard fire fight; hence the men could scarcely imagine what a real attack would be like. Most of the noncommissioned officers and riflemen were aggressive and in high spirits. Platoon Sgt. Richard E. Fent and S. Sgt. Walter M. Strosnider, the 1st Squad leader, who was to lead the point of the attack, were both intelligent, combat-wise, and full of courage. The morale of some 3d Platoon men had been somewhat depressed the day before by news that the 1st Platoon had sustained heavy casualties from artillery fire, presumably American, and that the 2d Platoon, which had not even been engaged, had suffered almost as heavily from a German mortar concentration. Two men in the platoon became emotionally unfit for combat and did not join in the attack.18
In the other rifle platoons of Company C (the 1st and 2d), the survivors from
the previous day's attack still carried vivid impressions of what had happened then, but most were in good spirits and could stand a hard fight. Because of the previous casualties and the evacuation of a number of nervous exhaustion cases, the two platoons were far understrength, the 2d having eighteen men, the 1st, twenty-four. One squad of the 1st Platoon was sent by the company commander to bring the 2d Platoon up to greater strength, and the loss left the 1st Platoon with only a single squad, the equivalent of one squad having previously become casualties.19
In Company A morale was still high in the 1st and 3d Platoons, which were to participate in the new attack, but three days in the line had depleted effective strength by almost half. Moreover, what had happened to Company B on the western ridge on 14 September had inspired caution in Sergeant Van Horne, who was to lead the 1st Platoon, Company A, to the western ridge.20
During the morning of 16 September, the 3d Platoon, Company C, pushed up the southwest slope of Hill 782 to a small stretch of level ground forty yards below the barbed wire, where it relieved a squad of the 1st Platoon, which had set up outposts the night before. There the men of the 3d Platoon dug slit trenches while awaiting the order to jump off. They received some mortar fire, restricting movement but causing no casualties.
As the attack hour drew near, the men of Company C had supplies for a limited time only. Each man had the normal load of ammunition (one bandoleer of forty-eight rounds and one belt of eighty rounds), but hand grenades, which could be expected to be useful for close-in mountain fighting, were in short supply. Some men had lost or dropped grenades on the way to Hill 782; others had used them in the 15 September attack; and no resupply had been made. Although the 1st and 2d Platoons gave their remaining grenades to the leading 3d Platoon, the 3d Platoon still had only about twenty-five. During the day of 16 September refilling the water supply from Rocca Creek 300 yards to the rear was an arduous and slow process. Along the route artillery shells were falling throughout the day, and only a few men could get water at a time. Some were on outpost duty and could not go down to the creek, and because of the warm day the men drank more water than usual. They knew they were going to attack but did not know the jump-off time, and thus many did not go down at all for water. During the night K rations and a resupply of ammunition were brought up by the 1st Battalion Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon, and each of Lieutenant Souder's men was issued a day's K ration.
A few minutes before the attack was to begin, the enemy, from temporary outpost positions on the southwestern slope of Hill 782 near the ridge line, opened fire on Company C's 3d Platoon outposts. The men in the forward positions withdrew a short distance down the hill while Platoon Sergeant Fent moved up to find out what had happened. Fent could not find his outposts and surmised that they had been captured. Keeping on past the small stretch of level ground where the outposts had
been, he went several yards beyond the barbed wire, hid for a few moments behind a bush, and looked up the ridge. Spying a German soldier, Fent put his rifle to his shoulder and fired, but he could not tell whether he killed the German. Other Germans from positions on the slope above replied with small arms bursts, forcing the sergeant to return to his platoon.21
Capture of the Outpost Line
A few minutes later, at 1630, the 1st Battalion jumped off up the southwest slope of Hill 782. In the lead the 3d Platoon, Company C, moved in a skirmish line, two squads abreast, the 1st Squad on the left, the 2d on the right. (Map 16) The 3d Squad followed the 1st in an open squad column and protected the left flank. Although smoke shut off enemy observation from the crest of the mountain, the 3d Platoon's observation on Hill 782 was good, and Lieutenant Krasman's men could see as well as the steep, uneven slope permitted. They crossed the barbed wire through gaps cut in earlier attacks, and on the platoon's right flank the 2d Squad saw several dead soldiers from Company L, 363d Infantry, with their equipment strewn near the entanglement.
On the platoon's left flank, Sergeant Strosnider's 1st Squad had moved a few yards past the barbed wire when several German riflemen in trenches near the ridge line of Hill 782 opened fire. Their shots wounded Pfc. Albert W. Parker in the left ribs and raked the ground close to the rest of the men. As the squad hit the ground, the center and right flank men fired back in the direction from which they thought the enemy fire was coming. At first they could locate no one, but as they strained their eyes for the enemy an Italian soldier from the slope above came down and surrendered. He said there had been a few Germans with him.
The men of the 1st Squad began to crawl forward, only to be met by a barrage of hand grenades from the slope above them. About the same time a machine gun from the right front near the ridge line opened fire, kicking up dust at Sergeant Strosnider's feet. The sergeant shouted to the whole squad to throw hand grenades, and the men quickly tossed grenades up the slope toward where they thought the enemy to be. The BAR man, Pfc. Russell G. Elston, and his assistant, Pvt. Frank Bury, saw a single German in a patch of light brush to the front and fired at close range. Five Germans, eager to surrender, were flushed out. They had been in hasty positions on the ridge line south of Hill 782. The German machine gunner, who had fired only one long burst, had evidently escaped up the ridge. Two enemy soldiers were killed and six captured in the brief fire fight; the 1st Squad had one man wounded.
On the 3d Platoon's right wing the 2d Squad had engaged the enemy outpost positions on the southeastern slope of Hill 782. Although smoke hung heavily over Monte Verruca to the east, as well as over the western ridge of Monte Altuzzo to the west, the squad could see clearly up the southwest slope of the main ridge. Shortly after the leading men had crossed the barbed wire, Germans on the right front began to throw
Capture of Mt. Altuzzo
16-17 September 1944
hand grenades and opened fire with rifles. As the men hit the ground, the squad leader, S. Sgt. Pat H. Hinton, sent forward the first scout, Pfc. Paul Myshak, to reconnoiter. Crawling to the ridge line about 150 yards below the peak of Hill 782, Myshak saw nothing except the outlines of Monte Verruca to the east. Moving back toward his squad, he spotted a trail leading to the left a few yards below the ridge line. On the slope below the trail, he saw a lone German lying on the ground with his rifle pointed downhill. As the scout crept toward him, the German looked up; Myshak had him covered, and the German surrendered. Back with the 2d Squad, Pvt. Karl Adler quizzed the prisoner in German, eliciting information that two machine guns were on the right front just over the ridge line on the east slope of Hill 782.
Platoon Sergeant Fent decided that with the 2d Squad he could knock out the two machine gun positions. He planned to move with two men of the squad to the right and then to the left toward the positions while Sergeant Hinton and the rest of the squad went to the left. Each group was to support the other with covering fire so that both could get near the enemy positions. While Sergeant Fent and his two men would try to knock out the machine guns, Sergeant Hinton and the main body of the squad would cover by fire, catching any Germans who tried to escape up the ridge. Taking with him Pfc. Walter W. Iverson, the automatic rifleman, and Pfc. Kermit C. Fisher, second scout, Sergeant Fent crawled to the right and over the ridge line. Before the three men knew it, they were almost face to face with two Germans who were in the first position and another who was lying beside it. It was camouflaged by bushes and harbored a machine gun. The two startled Germans jumped out of the position and ran to the left. The third man did not move so quickly, and, when Sergeant Fent motioned for him to get up, the German reached instead for his rifle. Fent fired point-blank, killing the German instantly, and moved then to investigate the other position. Sergeant Hinton and the remainder of the squad had come up in a skirmish line about twenty yards to the left. With their arrival the other two Germans surrendered, and the squad damaged the two machine guns by denting the firing pins and housing with intrenching tools.
Heading back with the prisoners below the ridge line to the western slope, the squad began to receive machine gun fire from Hill 624, where Company M's supporting machine guns were positioned. As soon as the fire was reported, it was stopped. By this time the 1st Squad had advanced to the north to a point where the route of approach up Hill 782 became very narrow, pinching out the 2d Squad. The 2d now followed the 1st.22
While the 2d Squad was taking the machine gun positions, Sergeant Strosnider's 1st Squad, which had captured six prisoners after a grenade exchange, had paused to reorganize. Continuing forward again, the men turned left in a skirmish line and approached the rocks near the peak of Hill 782. As they neared the peak, the skirmish line became too extended for the narrow approach and the men fell in behind Sergeant Strosnider in a single column.
Straight ahead the men saw a bush-flanked rock slab facing downhill. Noticing
something unnatural about the camouflage around the rock, Sergeant Strosnider looked closely and made out the muzzle of a machine gun pointing out over the slabs some ten yards away. Strangely, there was no fire from the position. After the squad leader heaved a grenade over the rock slab, there was still no sound or sign of life. Again Sergeant Strosnider threw a grenade; it did not explode. Assuming that the Germans were down behind the rocks, he drew back to get another grenade from his leading scout, Pfc. Carl Schwantke, and ran to the right of the position to throw it. Close behind the grenade's explosion Strosnider charged the position with his rifle at his hip. As he reached the rock slab and looked inside, he found that he had been tossing grenades at four enemy machine gunners, all dead. A small shell hole near the gun indicated that the crew had been killed by a mortar shell.
Fire Fight at Knob 1
Soon after the remainder of his 1st Squad had joined him, Sergeant Strosnider spotted two Germans at the next rise on the ridge line to the north, Knob 1. Both were walking south straight down the mountain. By this time the shadows had begun to lengthen and darkness was approaching. Thinking that the two Germans might need little urging to give up, Sergeant Strosnider directed Private Schwantke, who spoke German fluently, to shout to them to surrender. As Schwantke called out, the two Germans stopped dead in their tracks, for a moment replying with neither words nor fire. Again Schwantke called out. One of the Germans dropped suddenly to the ground and fired two bursts from a machine pistol; the other merely stood erect with his rifle in his hands and kept staring down the ridge at the Americans. Sergeant Strosnider, Private Elston, and Pvt. Fred D. Mingus opened fire with M-1 rifles and Pfc. Alfred D. Lightner with a carbine. The standing German slumped to the ground.
During the shouting and firing, two or three more Germans had come along the higher western slope of the ridge to the top of Knob 1. Schwantke and Lightner fired at them, while Sergeant Strosnider called for Pfc. Zemro F. Benner, rifle grenadier from the 2d Squad. Strosnider himself fired the rifle grenade and was certain that he hit one German. Two others on Knob 1 sprang up from the ground and ran back up the ridge line to the north.
Strosnider called for the Weapons Platoon leader, Lieutenant Ritchey, to bring up a machine gun and rake the area. He wanted the machine gun to put overhead fire on and north of Knob 1, from which the Germans had fled, while his rifle squad pushed on from Hill 782 to the knob. Lieutenant Ritchey, who with his machine gunners had followed closely behind the 3d Platoon, came up promptly. The lieutenant decided that overhead fire would fall too close to the advancing riflemen. Instead, after setting up his machine gun in the big rock slab at the peak of Hill 782, he ordered harassing fire on Knob 1, before the attack.
Thus far the 3d Platoon had received no machine gun fire either from the two Altuzzo ridges or from Monte Verruca on the right. By this time the darkness had become too deep for the enemy to see the advancing men or to place accurate fire on them. While Lieutenant Ritchey
fired the machine gun, the rest of the 3d Platoon remained in single column behind the leading squad. Lieutenant Krasman, 3d Platoon leader, was among the rocks in the middle of the leading squad. The lieutenant had adopted this column of squads in single file after reaching Hill 782 because the narrow route up the ridge line prevented wider deployment. He knew the formation would be useful for keeping contact between individuals and squads and for protecting the platoon's flanks and rear so that the enemy could not encircle his troops.
During the advance up Hill 782, a 3d Platoon runner had laid wire, and Lieutenant Krasman had a sound-powered telephone with him all the way. He used the telephone all night and during the next day, not having to employ his SCR 536. To the immediate rear of the 3d Platoon, the 2d Platoon stayed within visual contact.23
After Lieutenant Ritchey had placed machine gun fire on Knob 1, the 3d Platoon (Company C) again moved out from Hill 782. At the head of the column were Private Schwantke, Private Lightner, and Sergeant Strosnider, in that order. They had gone about fifty yards along the trail just below and west of the main Altuzzo ridge line when harassing fire from American supporting weapons--artillery, tanks, or tank destroyers--began to fall about fifty yards to the front. Strosnider and his scouts stopped, afraid to continue up the ridge in the face of this fire. The sergeant sent word back to Lieutenant Krasman, who was several spaces to the rear in the 3d Platoon column, and the lieutenant relayed the message to the company commander, who promised to have the fire lifted. The shells continued to land near the leading 3d Platoon men, who had stopped in a saddle on the main ridge line between Knob 1 and the next rise, Knob 2, at a point where the trail turned to the left around the west slope of Knob 2. The shells were landing close to the rock-hewn positions of the enemy MLR on Knob 2, positions which Sergeant Strosnider's men had not yet located.
As the American shells continued to fall and one of his men was slightly wounded by a fragment, Sergeant Strosnider went back himself to Lieutenant Krasman and insisted that his squad could not advance until the fire was lifted. The lieutenant again called Lieutenant Souder and was again promised relief. Fearing a repetition of the 1st Platoon's unhappy experience of the day before, Krasman held up his platoon for more than an hour to make sure that the shellfire had stopped. He guessed that it was only harassing fire, which might mean that more rounds would land at any time.24
As soon as the shelling report was received at the 1st Battalion CP, Colonel Jackson promised to have the fire lifted and ordered the 3d Platoon, Company C, to wait until he called back before resuming the advance. The 329th Field Artillery liaison officer, Lieutenant Farber, checked division and corps artillery without being able to find the unit which had fired or even the direction from which it was firing. When this search failed, all artillery in the II Corps was ordered to
cease firing for half an hour in the Altuzzo area and 1,000 yards on either side of the main Altuzzo ridge line.
After the no-fire interval, Colonel Jackson reported at 0125 to the 338th Infantry that artillery was still firing in the area where his men were advancing. He believed it came from the rear and at about half-hour intervals. After this report, the artillery no-fire line was pushed from the crest of Monte Altuzzo 1,000 yards to the north. When no additional fire came in, Colonel Jackson ordered Company C to push on up the mountain. The time then was approximately 0200.25
1st Squad at Knob 2
As the leading squad of Company C's 3d Platoon again moved forward, Sergeant Strosnider and his two scouts heard the sound of German voices to the front. Warning his men that they were nearing the enemy positions, the sergeant instructed them to move quietly and to use grenades and rifles as a last resort. The night was so dark that the men did not have to crawl in order to keep their approach screened. Advancing slowly forward in a crouch and straining their eyes for the enemy, the men proceeded in single file from Knob 1 up the forward slope of Knob 2. In the lead and so close together that they touched each other were Privates Schwantke and Lightner and Sergeant Strosnider. Coming closer to where they thought they had heard German voices, they dropped to their hands and knees and crawled over the brush-covered slope a few feet to the left of the ridge line.
Schwantke and Lightner suddenly found themselves almost under the nose of a German machine gun sticking from a pile of rocks. No sign of life came from within the position. Sergeant Strosnider joined the two men. On the way up he had heard whisperings over on his left, but the night was too dark to determine the source. The cover of darkness had enabled the leading men of Company C to advance to the main German positions on Knob 2 without being discovered. Nor did the Americans discover the enemy positions until they had almost stumbled over them.
Strosnider whispered for Schwantke to toss a grenade behind the rocks and for Lightner to go to the right of the rocks to protect the flank. When Schwantke pulled the pin and threw his grenade, its explosion brought a howl from a German in a big hole a few feet away, directly behind the machine gun and the piled rocks. Another German, who evidently had been manning the weapon but had not detected the American's approach, cradled the machine gun and dashed up the ridge about ten yards to the higher and rockier part of Knob 2. As he fled, Private Lightner bounded after him and captured him just as the German was setting up the gun to fire. About the same time a machine pistol opened up from straight ahead on the higher part of Knob 2. Private Schwantke fired one burst in that direction but stopped when Sergeant Strosnider told him to use a grenade instead. After he threw a grenade, the machine pistol ceased fire.
Sergeant Strosnider heard noises to the left of the piled stones and tossed a grenade in that direction. Although he could not see anyone, he heard one German cry out in pain while another ran. The two had been in slit trenches fifteen
yards below and to the west of a big square hole in the center of Knob 2's ridge line. Following the explosion of Sergeant Strosnider's grenade, Private Schwantke called out to the Germans that they would be safe if they would come out with their hands up. One German asked who was calling. Schwantke replied that the Americans were all around them; they had better surrender. When a group of Germans fled up the west slope of the mountain to the left of the main positions, Schwantke called out again that the Americans had them surrounded and it was futile to try to escape. From below, on the upper western slope of Knob 2, the Germans answered, and eleven returned to give themselves up. Strosnider, Schwantke, and Lightner had surprised the enemy and seized three positions on Knob 2, had killed or captured several Germans, and had driven the rest from the MLR. These prepared positions were the last German defenses to the north except the bunkers and observation posts on the crest of Hill 926. But to the northwest along the wooded upper slopes of the Altuzzo bowl the enemy still manned positions behind tall rock slabs.26
Soon after the capture of the Germans, an enemy machine gun from somewhere in the woods to the left front opened fire and then suddenly stopped. Private Schwantke called to the German crew to surrender, and Lieutenant Krasman ordered all men in the platoon to fire if the machine gun opened up again. When it did, the 3d Platoon returned the fire until abruptly the German weapon ceased. Presumably it had been knocked out or the 3d Platoon's fire was too heavy for the enemy to continue the exchange.
After placing two guards at the big hole on Knob 2 to watch the eleven German prisoners, Lieutenant Krasman ordered the platoon to resume its advance to the crest of the mountain. The fire fight on Hill 782, the exchanges with the enemy on Knob 1, the delay caused by American shellfire, and the capture of the three positions on Knob 2 in the enemy MLR had all taken time. When Company C's 3d Platoon jumped off again, it must have been at least 0300.27
Advance to the Crest
Starting forward, Company C's 3d Platoon moved from Knob 2 on the slope to the left of the big hole. Still in the lead, Sergeant Strosnider's 1st Squad walked along a path that ran ten to fifteen yards to the left of the ridge line on the west slope of Knob 2. The squad came next to an east-west trail where it crossed the main ridge line at the lower end of a rock escarpment leading straight up to the peak, Hill 926.
Climbing a few yards up the steep rocks of the escarpment, the men of the leading squad could see that the ground was much higher on their right front and an advance straight up the ridge line would only silhouette them as they climbed. On the left the slope, although steep, was more gradual, and the advantages of defiladed and easier approach through heavy brush and trees prompted Sergeant Strosnider to turn his men to the left of the rock escarpment. Moving across the rocks to a little draw west of
ARTILLERY-SHELLED AREA. Medical aid man pauses in his search for casualties under pine trees sheared off at uneven lengths by supporting artillery fire.
the escarpment, the men reached covered ground on a finger to the southwest of Hill 926. The heavy underbrush on this finger made progress difficult, and after advancing about a hundred yards the 1st Squad took a short rest at a charcoal clearing to enable the other two squads to catch up. At the rear of the column near the east-west trail, a roll of telephone wire got out of control of the man who was carrying it and rolled down the east slope of the main ridge; a new roll was brought up and wire laid along the route the leading squad had taken.
Its short rest over, the 3d Platoon pushed on toward Hill 926. Initially the route was steep, rocky, and wooded. The underbrush was thick except for the last fifty yards, where the southern slope of the peak was pock-marked with shell holes and bomb craters. Passing large rocks and brush and then through a stand of large pine trees sheared to uneven lengths by artillery fire, the men at last emerged on the bare southern slope of
Hill 926, the long-sought crest of Monte Altuzzo.
Coming to a zigzag trench on the west side of Hill 926, the three leading men in the 3d Platoon, Private Schwantke, Private Lightner, and Sergeant Strosnider, turned right to a big crater that had once been a German observation post. They stopped there only a moment and then walked a few yards up the slope until they reached the top of the peak. Though dawn was fast approaching, it was still dark; when they heard voices close by to the front, they could not locate the source. The sounds actually came from a bunker a few feet away, half underground, and dug into the crest of Hill 926, but Sergeant Strosnider and his scouts did not discover that until later.28
Although a few of the leading men began to dig in, word came up the line for them to withdraw and dig in on the southern slope of the hill. As soon as they had moved back a few yards from the top of the peak to the southern slope, Lieutenant Krasman, the 3d Platoon leader, approached Sergeant Strosnider and asked why he had withdrawn. Sergeant Strosnider explained about the voices and the message.
While Sergeant Strosnider had been at the top of the hill, Lieutenant Krasman and Lieutenant Ritchey, the Weapons Platoon leader, had disagreed about where Company C should take up positions. Krasman wanted to occupy the exact crest of the mountain; Ritchey thought a better defense could be set up by withdrawing slightly and digging in on the south slope.29 It is possible that some members of the 3d Platoon, hearing the discussion between the two officers, passed the message forward for the leading men to withdraw. Krasman called Lieutenant Souder, reported that the 3d Platoon was on the crest of Monte Altuzzo, and asked what defense should be set up. When Souder asked if he were sure of his location, Krasman assured him there was no doubt. Ordering his platoon leader to put out security, the Company C commander promised to check with Colonel Jackson and call back.30
Aware that 17 September was the battalion commander's birthday, Lieutenant Souder called Colonel Jackson and said, "Colonel, I've got a birthday present for you. We've captured Mount Altuzzo." Remembering vividly that, three days before, Captain Peabody had been equally sure Company B was on the crest of Monte Altuzzo, Colonel Jackson was dubious. But Souder insisted that Krasman was certain of his location. Reassured that finally his troops had gained the objective for which they had been fighting for four days, Colonel Jackson ordered Company C to set up a rear-slope defense at the southern end of Hill 926 and hold it until the 3d Battalion passed through.31
2d Platoon Follows to Hill 926
While Company C's 3d Platoon had been advancing to Hill 926, the other
units in the 1st Battalion column--except Company C's 1st Platoon--had stayed within contact distance all the way up the ridge but had taken no part in the action. Directly behind the 3d Platoon, the leading man of Company C's 2d Platoon had stayed close enough to touch the last man in the 3d Platoon. Only once during the night had the 2d lost contact, just after the 3d Platoon had seized the main enemy defenses on Knob 2 and had started up toward the crest of Hill 926. The platoon sergeant had then followed the wire laid by the leading platoon until contact was regained.32 The machine gun section of Company C followed the 2d Platoon and was in turn followed by two squads from the 3d Platoon, Company A, commanded by Lieutenant Holladay. In this Company A platoon were Sgt. Gordon K. Grigsby's squad of ten men and another squad of eight men led by Private Albert. Four men from the platoon took over from Company C the task of guarding the prisoners at the big hole on Knob 2.33
At the start of the attack one squad of the 1st Platoon, Company C, had been attached to the rear of Company C's 2d Platoon. The remaining squad of the 1st Platoon stayed with Lieutenant Corey and protected the right flank of Company C on the eastern slope of Hill 782. On the way up the mountain the leader of Company C's 2d Platoon had heard noises and movement on the flanks and had passed word down to Lieutenant Holladay (3d Platoon, Company A) to put out security on both flanks. Having heard noises himself, Holladay told the platoon guide of the 2d Platoon, Company C, S. Sgt. Robert W. Kistner, Jr., who was with the attached squad from the 1st Platoon, Company C, to move out as rear security for the column. In the movement to the rear of the column Kistner and the squad lost contact. When they reached a point just north of Knob 2 where the telephone wire forked, one strand going to the left and another to the right, they were unable to decide which wire to take. Afraid that if they advanced on a route different from Company C's 3d and 2d Platoons, they would be mistaken for Germans, Sergeant Kistner and Sergeant Price, the squad leader, decided to hold where they were. Not long afterward the squad was joined by the rest of the 1st Platoon, Company C--one squad--under Lieutenant Corey, the squad which initially had been used to guard the right flank on Hill 782. Corey had also come forward by following the telephone wire. Thus the understrength 1st Platoon was now back together at the east-west trail at the north end of Knob 2. The sound of digging reached the platoon from the left not far away, and in the belief that it might be coming from the 2d and 3d Platoons, which he knew were somewhere ahead, Lieutenant Corey called out. The digging stopped and all was quiet.
In order to prevent interception of his radio transmissions by whoever had been digging, Corey pulled his two squads back about fifty yards. He then tried to reach Lieutenant Krasman on the SCR 536 to ask for guides to lead his men up Hill 926. Failing, he radioed the company commander, who relayed his request. Krasman sent guides promptly for both the 1st Platoon and the 3d Battalion, whose leading men were just to
Corey's rear. Within half an hour six guides from Hill 926 arrived. Dropping off Pfc. Charles F. Gregory as guide for the 1st Platoon, the other five continued down the ridge to the companies of the 3d Battalion.
1st Platoon's Advance
With Private Gregory at the head, the 1st Platoon (Company C) moved out again from Knob 2 up the Altuzzo ridge. To the guide's rear in single file came Lieutenant Corey, the 1st Platoon leader; Sergeant Kistner, the 2d Platoon guide; and the rest of the 1st Platoon. The first five men advanced twenty-five yards past the east-west trail up the rocks and into a little draw directly west of the escarpment on the ridge line. At that point the enemy opened up with hand grenades and a machine gun from the front and left on the west side of the draw not more than a hundred yards away. The rest of the 1st Platoon was east of the rock escarpment. One of the first shots killed Private Gregory, and the other men hit the ground. The night was still dark. Unable to go back and rejoin the rest of the platoon because of the exposed terrain, Lieutenant Corey and Sergeant Kistner followed the telephone wire laid by Company C's 3d Platoon. The other two men who had entered the draw with them climbed up over the rocks on the main ridge line to the right.
The rest of the 1st Platoon--less than one squad--opened fire with BAR's and rifles from the rocks on the right of the draw. After a few minutes of this return fire, the German resistance ceased. Reorganizing, the little group from the 1st Platoon, minus Lieutenant Corey and Sergeant Kistner, who had followed the telephone wire on ahead, moved east of the rock escarpment and pushed on to the crest of the mountain.34
After the three rifle platoons and the machine gun section of Company C, reinforced by two understrength squads of Company A, reached the southern slope of Hill 926, they set up a rear-slope defense in accordance with Colonel Jackson's order, and Lieutenant Krasman disposed the men as Lieutenant Souder had directed. The 2d Platoon, which had the equivalent of two understrength squads, took up positions on the left flank. In the center was the 3d Platoon, which set up three outposts, one in the left zigzag trench, one in the center, and one on the right near the crest of Hill 926. Lieutenant Ritchey, the Weapons Platoon leader, placed his one light machine gun twenty yards to the right rear of the rifle platoons in a position that could cover the right rear and flank. On the right flank the defense was manned by the handful of men from the 1st Platoon, Company C, and the two squads from the 3d Platoon, Company A. The 60-mm. mortar section of Company C and the two machine guns of Company D were still in position on Hill 624.35
Advance up the Western Ridge
While Company C, reinforced by two squads from Company A, had been advancing to occupy the crest of the mountain, Hill 926, the 1st Platoon, Company A, had moved from Hill 782 to Altuzzo's western ridge. Starting out about dusk while the leading elements of Company C
were at the top of Hill 782, Sergeant Van Horne, acting platoon leader, led the twenty-two men of his platoon as the attached units followed. These consisted of a light machine gun squad, a 60-mm. mortar squad, and several wiremen who laid telephone wire along the route of march. The total force numbered some thirty men. They moved in a column of squads, the 3d Squad forward. Leaving their foxholes on the lower southwest slope of Hill 782 just north of la Rocca, they moved across the open space at the base of the bowl to the lower end of the western ridge. Then, going seventy-five to a hundred yards from the ridge line on the east slope of the western ridge, they encountered occasional mortar fire until they reached the barbed wire entanglement. The only casualty was S. Sgt. William Nowakowski, a rifle squad leader, who was wounded by a mortar shell.
When Sergeant Van Horne at the head of the column reached the barbed wire, he halted the men while he searched for trip wires. Because of the depth of the entanglement at this spot, Van Horne moved to the right, only to find more barbed wire in even greater depth. Crossing the wire without further search, the platoon continued up the ridge without drawing enemy fire. About twenty yards east of the ridge line, the men climbed in single file over rocks up the steep slope until they came within fifty yards of the western ridge's rocky peak. The early morning was still so dark that the men could see only a few yards ahead.
Sergeant Van Horne did not yet know what progress Company C had made and had heard no sounds which might indicate that Hill 926 had been taken. Cautious, in view of Company B's experience on the same ridge three days before, he directed his men to dig in and wait until dawn when he could see and determine how to get up to the peak. Although Van Horne's force was merely to protect the left flank of the 1st Battalion's main attack force, throughout the night he and his men kept thinking that they had been given the mission of taking an objective which a whole company three days before had been unable to take and hold.
While the troops were still digging in fifty yards south of the western ridge's peak, two bursts of machine gun fire from the main Altuzzo ridge in the vicinity of the enemy's MLR hit about fifty yards to their rear. The men did not return the fire but waited for dawn and word that Company C had occupied the crest of Monte Altuzzo.36
During the advance of the main body of the 1st Battalion to Hill 926, the 3d Battalion had waited until Colonel Jackson's leading troops had reached their objective before advancing from Hill 782. About 0315 Company K, in the lead, was notified of the 1st Battalion's success and ordered to follow the telephone wire up the slopes of Altuzzo until it met the guides sent down from the crest. Companies L and I were to follow in that order.
Moving in single file, Company K crossed the barbed wire on the southwest slope of Hill 782 and before daylight advanced to Knob 1, some 300 yards short of Hill 926. When the company reached the east-west trail which crossed the ridge
line just north of Knob 2 and 250 yards south of the peak, it came under small arms fire from the left front around the top of the Altuzzo bowl. Not certain that it was German fire, the company commander did not permit his men to fire back but directed them to find cover on the right among the rocks beyond Knob 2. Company L, following with the rest of the 3d Battalion, lost contact. Well after dawn the leading elements of the 3d Battalion were still 200 yards short of the 1st Battalion on Hill 926.37
Daylight of 17 September thus found the 1st Battalion, 338th Infantry, on its objective, the crest of Monte Altuzzo, and the 3d Battalion strung out behind it on the main Altuzzo ridge subject to enemy fire from bypassed Germans along the top of the Altuzzo bowl to the west and Monte Verruca to the east. Besides the German troops who remained to be cleared from this area, other small groups were in the bunkers on the crest of Monte Altuzzo and on the knob north of Hill 926 in position to counterattack. Although much hard fighting still lay ahead before all German resistance in front of the Giogo Pass could be overcome, large gains had been made. Slowed by enemy resistance and shellfire, presumably American, Company C had nevertheless knocked out the defenses on Hill 782 and Knob 2 and had killed, captured, or driven back the forces manning the MLR on the main ridge. After this success, the bulk of the 1st Battalion had infiltrated under cover of darkness past the other rifle and machine gun positions around the bowl and the western peak to the crest of Monte Altuzzo. Colonel Jackson's force of barely a hundred men had seized the main Fifth Army objective and made the first penetration of the Gothic Line in the zone of the planned break-through.
The fact that the 1st Battalion advance had been slower than anticipated delayed the 3d Battalion's approach march. Two of its companies lost contact with each other, and the battalion failed to push forward aggressively. As a result, the 3d Battalion, which General Gerow had ordered to pass through the 1st Battalion at dawn, was not in position to exploit the success of Jackson's assault force. Gains elsewhere in front of Giogo Pass by the 2d Battalion, 338th Infantry, and the 363d Infantry, on the left, and the 339th Infantry, on the right, had been negligible.38
The Enemy Situation
By the time that the 1st Battalion, 338th, launched its attack late on 16 September, enemy reserves available for defense of the Giogo Pass had been seriously depleted. The 1st Battalion of the 12th Parachute Regiment radioed its lower units on Monte Altuzzo that the American attack had to be held at all costs because no more reserves could be sent. A loose chain of outposts was to be established that night to give warning of the attack.39
Besides small elements of the 4th Parachute Division and a Lithuanian labor battalion,
which could not be relied upon, the only unit available was the Grenadier Lehr Brigade, the I Parachute Corps reserve, which was still on the way to the pass sector and would not be free much longer. For the defense of the Giogo Pass area, Generalleutnant Richard Heidrich, the I Parachute Corps commander, considered essential the retention of the Lehr Brigade for three or four more days. Heidrich's need for his reserve was outweighed by the desire of the Army Group C commander, Field Marshal Kesselring, to use it to reinforce Tenth Army on the Adriatic coast. Kesselring in fact had agreed to leave the 16th SS Panzer Grenadier Division with Fourteenth Army only on the condition that the Lehr Brigade would be sent to Tenth Army on the nights of 18-19 and 19-20 September. Because of the Allied pressure on the Adriatic coast, Kesselring warned Fourteenth Army that the Lehr Brigade had to go to Tenth Army on schedule. Fourteenth Army accordingly directed the I Parachute Corps to put the Lehr Brigade in position where it could be disengaged quickly.40
During the night of 16 September more replacements were sent into the 12th Parachute Regiment's sector. Obviously throwing in any troops that could be spared from other areas or the rear, the enemy committed small units piecemeal. At 2300 a machine gun platoon of about twenty-five men who had just come from a battle school at Cucciano joined the Monte Altuzzo defenses with three heavy machine guns. During the day both battalions of the Grenadier Lehr Brigade--except the horse-drawn elements--had arrived at the I Parachute Corps, and that night the 2d Battalion of the brigade moved into position on Monte Verruca and Monte Altuzzo, arriving about the same time that the 1st Battalion, 338th Infantry, was pushing up the mountain. From a large group of 360 to 430 Lithuanians who had come from Southern France, approximately seventy-five replacements went into the Altuzzo sector the night of 16-17 September, twenty men going to each company of the 1st Battalion, 12th Regiment. Although the Germans watched the Lithuanians closely, about forty of them took the advice of their Lithuanian lieutenant to desert at the first chance.
Against movement of replacements to forward positions, American artillery was most effective. One group of thirty-three replacements, for example, had thirteen casualties on the way from Firenzuola to positions in front of the Giogo Pass. Prisoners captured from the 6th Company, Grenadier Lehr Brigade, said the heavy artillery fire demoralized their unit and inflicted heavy casualties as it moved into position on Monte Altuzzo during early morning of 17 September. According to the daily report of the Fourteenth Army on 16-17 September, American artillery, supported by unremitting attacks of Allied planes, was so heavy that on the east flank forward elements of the Grenadier Lehr Brigade negotiated the last kilometer to the front line only by crawling forward in small groups.41
Late in the afternoon of 16 September a battalion of the 178th Field Artillery Group fired thirty-two rounds at an estimated twenty-five to forty German
troops along the Firenzuola highway northeast of the Giogo Pass, and the air observation post reported good coverage of the target area. The 403d Field Artillery Battalion reported it had caught approximately twenty-five Germans in the open 1,200 yards north of the pass and wiped them out with 108 rounds. During the evening, as 200 Germans moved south of Firenzuola, they were brought under artillery fire with undetermined results. Just before midnight another battalion of the 178th Field Artillery Group fired three unobserved TOT missions on Monte Verruca, Pian di Giogo, and the slopes along the highway between Monticelli and Monte Altuzzo.
From 2100 to 0500 a battalion of the 178th Field Artillery Group put forty rounds of unobserved harassing fire on suspected enemy artillery positions in the vicinity of Molinuccio. During the night another battalion fired on enemy guns along the highway north of the pass and in the vicinity of Rifredo. The heavy guns of the corps artillery placed harassing and TOT fire on selected areas along the highway. The 403d Field Artillery Battalion fired twenty-eight harassing and nine TOT missions on areas around the pass as far away as Barco and Rifredo, and the 329th Field Artillery Battalion fired numerous observed missions on enemy pillboxes, mortars, and personnel.
About dawn on 17 September Colonel Jackson (1st Battalion, 338th) reported a general enemy withdrawal across his front,42 but the report was premature. His troops had breached the enemy's main line of resistance and occupied positions in its rear, but the Germans still held on to main defenses along the upper part of the bowl, and the infiltration past these defenses had not caused the enemy to make wholesale withdrawals. Although weakened by four days of fighting, the enemy still intended to hold Monte Altuzzo by committing additional reinforcements. From radio intercepts the 338th Infantry learned that remnants of the 3d Battalion, 12th Parachute Regiment, which had been relieved by the Lehr Brigade at 0300, would be sent to reinforce the 2d Battalion on Monticelli and the 1st Battalion on Monte Altuzzo.43
1. Combat Intervs with Jackson, Boulden, and Cole; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 15 Sep 44; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnl, 15-16 Sep 44.
2. According to 85th Division records, the 91st Division requested that the 338th Infantry delay its attack on Altuzzo until Monticelli was taken. Records of the 85th Division make no note of the fact that a vigorous attack against Altuzzo might have helped the 91st Division effort. Evidence from General Gerow and from the 91st Division tends to contradict this entry in the 85th Division records. 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 15-16 Sep 44; 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 15-16 Sep 44; Combat Interv with Gerow; Ltr, Maj R. H. Gordon, 91st Div historian, to the author, 10 Mar 45.
3. 2d Bn, 338th Inf, and 338th Inf Unit Jnls, 15-16 Sep 44; Combat Interv with Cole.
4. 403d FA Bn Mission Rpts, 15-16 Sep 44; 178th FA Gp and 423d FA Gp Mission Rpts, 15-16 Sep 44.
5. 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 15-16 Sep 44; 85th Div G-2 and G-3 Jnls, 15-16 Sep 44; 91st Div G-3 Jnl, 15-16 Sep 44; Strootman MS, Ch. III. See also Intervs with Strootman.
6. Interv with Col Robert W. Porter, II Corps DCofS, 30 Jun 50; 85th Div G-3 Jnl, 15-17 Sep 44; 337th Inf Unit Jnl, 15-17 Sep 44.
7. Combat Interv with Gerow; Interv with Gerow, 3 Dec 48.
8. Combat Intervs with Gerow and Cole.
9. Ibid.; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, AAR and Unit Jnl, Sep 44.
10. Combat Intervs with Gerow, Jackson, and Cole.
11. Combat Intervs with Jackson and Farber.
12. 403d FA Bn, 423d FA Gp, and 178th FA Gp Mission Rpts, 16 Sep 44; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 16 Sep 44; 752d Tk Bn AAR, Sep 44; 310th Engr (C) Bn AAR, Daily Sit Rpt, and Unit Jnl, Sep 44.
13. 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 15-16 Sep 44; MAAF Central Med Daily Operational Sum, 16 Sep 44.
14. Combat Intervs with Jackson, Souder, and King.
15. Ibid.; Combat Intervs with the following: 1st Lt Albert J. Krasman; 2d Lt Walter M. Strosnider and T Sgt Pat H. Hinton; Gresham, Van Horne, Colosimo-Grigsby-Albert, Corey, Thompson, and White.
16. Combat Intervs with Jackson, Souder, King, Van Horne, Corey, Brumbaugh, Thompson, Krasman, and Grigsby.
17. Combat Intervs with Krasman and Souder.
18. Combat Intervs with Pfcs Alfred D. Lightner, Loman B. Pugh, Frank Bury, Paul Myshak, and John K. Britton; Strosnider, Hinton.
19. Combat Intervs with White, Thompson, Orr, Brumbaugh, Corey, and all enlisted survivors in 1st Plat, Co C, 338th Inf.
20. Combat Intervs with Van Horne, South-Whary, and Grigsby.
21. Combat Intervs with the following: Lightner and Pfc Carl Schwantke; Thompson, Krasman, Hinton, Strosnider, Orr, White, and Lightner-Myshak.
22. Combat Intervs with Krasman, Lightner, Schwantke, Strosnider, Hinton, and Bury.
23. Combat Intervs with Ritchey, Strosnider, Lightner, Bury, Krasman, White, and Brumbaugh.
24. Combat Intervs with Krasman, Lightner, Schwantke, Strosnider, and Souder.
25. Combat Intervs with Jackson, Krasman, and Farber; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 16-17 Sep 44.
26. Combat Intervs with Lightner-Schwantke, Lightner, and Strosnider; Notes of terrain reconnaissance with Krasman and Strosnider, 21 Dec 44.
27. Combat Intervs with all enlisted survivors in 3d Plat, Co C, 338th Inf, Apr 45, and with Lightner-Schwantke, Krasman, and Strosnider.
28. Combat Intervs with Krasman, Strosnider, Bury, and Lightner.
29. Combat Intervs with Strosnider, Hinton, and Ritchey.
30. Ibid.; Combat Intervs with Krasman and Souder.
31. Combat Intervs with Jackson and Souder.
32. Combat Intervs with White and Brumbaugh.
33. Combat Intervs with the following: Ritchey and Colosimo-Grigsby-Albert; Albert; T Sgt Dale E. Burkholder.
34. Combat Intervs with Corey, Thompson, Kistner, Marx, Markey, and Orr.
35. Combat Intervs with Krasman, Souder, Ritchey, and Burkholder.
36. Combat Intervs with the following: Kohler and S Sgt James F. Reid; Van Horne and South-Whary.
37. Combat Intervs with the following: 1st Lt Mack L. Brooks and T Sgt Willie L. Kingsley; Maj Lysle B. Kelley and Souder. See also 3d Bn, 338th Inf, Unit Jnl and 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 16-17 Sep 44.
38. Combat Interv with Cole; 2d Bn, 338th Inf, AAR and Unit Jnls and 339th Inf AAR and Unit Jnls, 16-17 Sep 44; Strootman MS; 91st Div G-3 Jnl, 16-17 Sep 44.
39. 338th IPW Rpts and Intel Sums, 16-18 Sep 44; 85th Div G-2 Jnl and Rpts, 16-18 Sep 44; 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 16-18 Sep 44.
40. Entry of 16 Sep 44, Fourteenth Army KTB 4.
41. 338th Inf IPW Rpts, Intel Sums, and Unit Jnl, 16-18 Sep 44; 8th Div G-2 Jnl and G-2 Rpts, 16-18 Sep 44; Entries of 16-17 Sep 44, Fourteenth Army KTB 4.
42. 338th Inf Unit Jnl, 17 Sep 44; 403d FA Bn, 178th FA Gp, and 423d FA Gp Mission Rpts, 16-17 Sep 44; 329th FA Bn Unit Jnl, 16-17 Sep 44.
43. Entry of 17 Sep 44, Fourteenth Army KTB 4; 338th Inf Intel Sums and Unit Jnl, 17 Sep 44; 85th Div G-2 Rpt and G-2 Jnl, 17 Sep 44.