The Naval operations were composed of two main forces: the Western task Force and Force "H."
The Western Task Force was divided into two: the Northern Attack Force and the Southern Attack Force.
Force "H" consisted of a large covering force of battle ships, aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers.
Map by George Six]a, SP-(P)2C, in Magazine Shipmate, February, 1944.
LANDINGS OF SALERNO
STRONG GERMAN RESISTANCE DESPITE ITALIAN SURRENDER When the Allies landed at Salerno, on September 9, 1943, the Germans were there awaiting the invasion forces. This was not due to any prescience on Marshal Kesselring's part. He knew that the beachhead at Salerno was at the effective limit of Allied fighter range from Sicilian bases and had made plans accordingly. The result was a bitter and bloody battle, which, as it happened, the Allies won only by the skin of their teeth. The Italian battlefield was of our choosing. But once the fighting in Italy began, the Germans gave every indication that Italy was too great a strategic and political prize to be allowed to go by default. The surrender of Marshal Badoglio's government, the day before, did not prevent the Germans from offering strong resistance to our troops in the Salerno area of Italy.
LANDINGS ARE MADE IN HOTLY CONTESTED AREA At about 0400, on September 9, units of the United States Fifth Army together with British and Canadian forces, under the protection and cover of the Royal Navy and the United States Navy, landed on the Italian mainland in the Naples area. The landings were made along the rim of Salerno Bay, some forty miles southeast of Naples. United States forces disembarked south of the Sele River, seventeen miles south of Salerno. British units disembarked north of the river. Rangers and Commandos also landed between Amalfi and Maiori, west of Salerno. Troops, guns, and vehicles were disembarked according to schedule despite enemy air attacks on the convoys. Movement inshore at some points was delayed by a large number of mines, which had to be cleared by minesweepers, and on sane beaches considerable opposition was encountered. Coast artillery also opposed the landings. In opposing the landings around Salerno, the Germans had the advantage of strongly prepared positions and artillery emplacements. Secretary of Navy Knox described the establishment of the beachhead as the most hotly contested which landing American troops had ever made. In addition to the prepared positions on the beaches, the Germans were entrenched in hills overlooking the coastal plain area in which the fighting took place.
PRE-INVASION PREPARATIONS BY ALLIED AIR FORCES For several weeks before the Fifth Army invasion,, Allied air forces had pounded road and rail communications in the Naples area. On the night before the invasion, the rail yards at Battapaglia and Eboli were hit with a total of about 170 tons, and 160 tons were dropped on the roads leading to the beaches at Salerno. On the day of the invasion and every day thereafter, Allied bombers of all types continued their efforts to tie up the rail and road system supplying enemy troops in the Naples area. Among the targets were Sapri, the Lagonegro-Auletta road, Potenza, the Corletto-Auletta road, the Benevento-Ariano area, Formia, Mignano, and Isernia. In contrast to Axis air activity oyer the Salerno bridgehead, fighter opposition to these Allied attacks was light. Allied planes also continued to attack enemy
U.S. COAST GUARDSMEN SWING AN ARMY TRUCK OVERSIDE AS THEIR COMBAT TRANSPORT LIES OFF A BRIDGEHEAD ESTABLISHED AT PAESTERNUM
communications, troop movements, and gun positions in the southern part of Italy. No enemy opposition was encountered in these operations.
COMBINED OPERATION The Battle of Salerno was a combined operation, in which the Allied armies gained their final victory through the exceptionally heavy support given them by the Allied Navies from the sea and in the air. The task of the Allied Navies did not end with transporting the Army safely to its destination. The entire force had to be covered against possible attack from surface vessels and submarines and most of the fighter protection in the air had to be given by the Fleet Air Arm from aircraft carriers at sea. The assault was ordered to be "pressed home, regardless of loss or difficulty," and it was emphasized that the attack did not end with the arrival of the assault wave and the capture of the beaches. It was upon the rapid follow up of reserves and the swift landing of supplies by the Allied Navies that the Army relied to sustain the attack and give it complete success.
THE JOSEPH T. DICKMAN AT SALERNO
ARRIVAL AT BEACHES IN GOOD WEATHER On the morning of September 9, the Joseph T. Dickman, commanded by Captain Richard J. Mauerman, USCG, landed assault troops on the 2nd Battalion Combat Team, 142nd Infantry, 56th Division, U.S. Army and attached units, on Green Beach, Salerno Bay. In all, there were 81 officers and 1,623 enlisted men in the Army group. Weather conditions were excellent for lowering boats and ease of holding boats alongside. Little seasickness occurred among the troops on the trip from ship to beach.
LOWERING OF BOATS COMPLETED IN ONE HOUR Following the ships ahead in to the transport area, the Dickman passed the submarine beacon Shakespeare at 2333 on the 8th, at the departure point. At 0002 on the 9th, the Dickman stopped and drifted in her designated transport area. An LCS(S) boat, with a scout officer, was lowered into the water at 0020 and departed for shore to locate Green Beach. The beach was found and marked as planned without difficulty. The lowering of boats commenced at 0015 and was completed in an hour, with the exception of two boats that were damaged. However, the boat teams that should have been rail loaded in these two boats were expeditiously loaded at the White net and arrived in the rendezvous area in time to go in with their wave. (The two boats, in #1 starboard davit, upper and lower inside cradles, were damaged and wedged in by the strong-back that fell across the upper boat when the after davit arm dropped down, due to the breaking of the wire cable. This davit was repaired and in working order prior to 1660 on D plus 1 day). The third rail loading boat at #2 davit port side was delayed due to the cable becoming jammed on the drum. This boat was loaded at Yellow net port side. No delay at the rendezvous area was caused by this boat. Twenty-one LCVP's and two DUKW's were pre-loaded with boat team equipment and rail loaded with troops. Eleven LCVP's were pre-loaded with equipment and net loaded with personnel.
AT PAESTUM, SOUTH OF SALERNO, BULLDOZERS, AMPHIBIOUS "DUCK TRUCKS," AND OTHER HEAVY EQUIPMENT BEING UNLOADED
PC-625 LEADS The primary control vessel, PC-625, led the first three waves of boats from the rendezvous area, passed the restricted area marker boat PC-542, and proceeded on to the line of departure. All boats landed on the correct beach in excellent line and well spaced, but were ten minutes late in the scheduled time. This delay was due to the fact that the primary control boat was held up behind by the minesweepers. When the ramps of the first wave were lowered and troops crossed the beach, heavy machine-gun and HE shell fire opened up.
ENEMY FIRE DRIVEN OFF Quick action by the Dickman's LCS(S) scout beach marker boat in firing a barrage of 34 rockets caused a decided lull in the enemy's fire and drew fire on the boat itself. This factor was believed to have contributed much to the safe landing and retraction of all boats in the assault waves. The secondary control boat PC-624 departed from the rendezvous area on time with the fourth wave, but for some unknown reason delayed going into the line of departure sufficiently to make this wave one hour and fifty minutes late in scheduled time. When this wave retracted, and while proceeding away from the , beach, a medium calibre HE shell struck the starboard side of the ramp of a Dickman LCM(3) and exploded. Three of the boat's crew were wounded. The boat returned to the Dickman but could not be used for the remainder of the operation. A total of seven members of the crew were wounded.
CONGESTION ON BEACHES SOLVED Later waves of boats carrying vehicles were not allowed to land immediately on the beaches by the beachmasters because of machine-gun and artillery fire. As a result there was much congestion outside the line of departure by boats from all the transports, The support boats acted as traffic boats and when the beaches became tenable directed the boats to the proper beaches. Captain Mauerman reported that a faster and larger boat, about the size of an SC-boat, would be better adapted for traffic control boats. At about 0100, on the 9th, Captain P. D. Matterson, British Royal Engineers, Combined Operation Police Patrol 5, had arrived alongside from the HMS M. Shakespeare to act as beach pilot with a scout boat. That boat departed and the beach pilot was placed aboard the Boat Group Commander's boat, where he most ably gave advice and assistance in the guidance of boats along the shore line and into the beaches. Three LCVP's and four LCM(3)'s from the Oberon, two LCM(3)'s from the Procyon, and eight LCM(2)'s from the HMS Derwentdale, arrived alongside on time and were used to carry priority vehicles into the beach, going in as the 6th, 7th, and 8th waves. All boats from other ships worked smoothly and without interruption.
UNLOADING HINDERED BY ENEMY FIRE IN HILLS PROCEEDS Unloading of vehicles and cargo proceeded expeditiously on September 9 and 10, and all unloading was completed by 1600 on the second day. Much of the unloading from boats was done by boats' crews. Thirty men from the Port Battalion were sent to the beach prior to noon on the 10th. The unloading on the beaches seemed to be held up principally by the continuous shelling of the beaches from artillery well hidden in the hills behind the beaches.
U.S. COAST GUARDSMEN HELP SLIGHTLY WOUNDED SOLDIERS COME ABOARD THE COMBAT TRANSPORT LYING OFF PAESTERNUM, JUST SOUTH OF SALERNO
Vehicles were again carried in #7 hold and lowered between decks, and gasoline was placed in them at the time of the unloading. This caused no delay and proved to be a great safety factor. The two LCVP'S which had been damaged and trapped in #1 starboard davit, were out of operation entirely. But seven rudders and five propellers which had been damaged were replaced. Boat handling by boat crews was excellent throughout the operation.
SALVAGE WORK The Dickman's salvage boat, operating in the vicinity of Green Beach, assisted and floated many boats and was able to keep the beach clear of stranded boats. One unidentified sunken boat was marked by an obstruction buoy. The salvage boat worked under artillery fire from shore most of the time. Five Dickman boats were stranded on the beach during the entire operation and all were recovered and immediately placed in operation.
COMMUNICATIONS Communications in general were good. No contact between Green Beach and the Dickman was established on the TBY because of damaged equipment on the beach. The FM 609 between ship and shore worked very well, but was jammed with too much traffic due to there being so many stations on the one frequency. The TBY worked well on the shore-to-boat circuits, but the distance was too great and contact could not be made.
AREA REPEATEDLY BOMBED Three enemy bombers made an attack in the area at 0743 on the 9th, and at 2140 enemy bombers made another attack, but due to the heavy smoke screen made by all the vessels and boats no bombs fell in the vicinity of the Dickman. At 0445 on the 10th, enemy planes attacked again and a smoke screen was laid by the Allied ships. From 2240 to 2312 on that night, as transports were preparing to depart, a large formation of enemy bombers lighted up the transport area with vari-colored flares that apparently marked the limits of the area. The transports ware subjected to heavy bombing. Apparently no vessel was hit. One bomb fell 600 yards astern of the Dickman. All vessels delivered a heavy barrage of anti-aircraft gunfire. Fire discipline on the Dickman was good. During this operation friendly fighter protection of the area was excellent. The Dickman's support boats patrolling the beach area fired at enemy planes over the beach, but there were no indications that any hits were made.
CASUALTIES TREATED ABOARD THE DICKMAN Fifty-seven casualties were evacuated from the beach and received treatment on board the Dickman. That number was well within the capacity of the ship.
TWO MAIN FORCES The Naval operations were composed of two main forces--the Western Task Force, and Force "H". The Western Task Force was divided into two--the Northern Attack Force and the Southern Attack Force. Force "H" consisted of a large covering force of battle ships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers. The Northern Attack Force was under
U.S. TROOPS MARCHING UP TO JOIN IN THE ATTACK ON THE GERMANS ON THE SALERNO SHORE. COAST GUARD MANNED LANDING CRAFT THAT BROUGHT THEM ASHORE ARE VISIBLE IN THE BACKGROUND
Commodore G. N. Oliver, R.N., in HMS Hilary. The Southern Attack Force was under Rear Admiral John L. Hall, Jr., U.S.N., in the USS Samuel Chase Commander Roger C. Heimer, USCG. Force "H" was under Vice Admiral Sir Algernon Willis, R.N., in HMS Nelson. Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian, R.N., in Force "H" commanded the carriers which gave most of the fighter cover over ships and beaches at the beginning of the assault. Rear Admiral Richard L. Conolly, USN, in the USS Biscayne, volunteered to serve under Commodore Oliver as a Task Group Commander though actually his senior in rank.
NAPLES THE MAIN OBJECTIVE The object of the Western Task Force was to land enough forces in the Gulf of Salerno to capture a bridgehead for Naples and to secure the neighboring airdromes. Between Salerno and Agropoli, about twenty miles south, the ground is fairly flat and the river Sele runs roughly half way between the two. The Northern Attack Force landed British troops and supplies from the north bank of the River Sele to a point ten miles further north and about three miles southeast of Salerno. The Southern Attack Force landed United States troops and supplies along the beaches from the south bank of the River Sele as far as Agropoli, eight miles further south. Concurrently with these two main landings, two smaller landings were made along the coast west of Salerno for the purpose of seizing important military objectives. A Task Group, partly United States, partly British, and including the gunboats Soemba and Flores of the Royal Netherlands Navy, was assigned the duty of occupying the islands off the Gulf of Naples--Ventotene, Ponza, Prociga, Ischia, and Capri. This Task Group was under Captain Andrews, USN, in the US Destroyer Knight. A Picket Group of sixteen United States PT's under Lieutenant Commander Barnes, USN. was assigned the duty of screening the vessels of the Western Task Force against attack by enemy "E" boats and other surface craft.
MINESWEEPERS PRECEDE LANDING CRAFT In both the Northern and Southern Attack Force areas. the first waves of landing craft, preceded by minesweepers escorted by destroyers, touched down on the beaches before 4.00 a.m. on September 9th. Extensive minefields had been laid in both areas, and we incurred casualties. Many mines exploded in the sweeps. Frequently under heavy gunfire, the minesweepers did their work with their habitual skill and gallantry. In the Northern area, the sweepers swept or exploded twenty mines during the assault and 135 in the first four days.
BEACHHEADS ESTABLISHED FIRST DAY In spite of enemy activity in the air and on all the beaches, the work of disembarkation continued. There were casualties in ships, landing craft and personnel. The orders that the assault was "to be pressed home with relentless vigor, regardless of loss or difficulty" was obeyed to the letter. The beaches were seized and held, in spite of enemy gunfire and counter-attacks. Contact had been made almost immediately with Germans, but despite strong opposition, the Allied troops successfully established bridgeheads on the 9th. A diversionary force captured Ventotene Island, about forty miles west of Naples, during the morning. The Italian garrison surrendered but, according to press reports,
U.S. OFFICERS AND TROOPS DISCUSS LAST MINUTE DETAILS OF THEIR JOB IN THE INVASION ABOARD A COAST GUARD MANNED COMBAT TRANSPORT SAILING FOR THE ITALIAN MAINLAND
about ninety German troops put up resistance before they were overcome. By 1530 on the 9th, the airfield at Monte Corvino, east of Salerno, was in Allied hands,
PORT OF SALERNO CAPTURED On the 10th, Fifth Army troops continued to establish themselves ashore, beating off several German counter-attacks. The port of Salerno about thirty-five miles southeast of Naples, was captured and steady progress was made inland. According to press reports, German tanks were in action near Salerno. Other reports said that the German counter-attacks were broken up with the assistance of naval vessels offshore, which poured shells into the German ranks at close range.
CHASE ARRIVES As the Samuel Chase approached her destination, the weather was fine and visibility was good, with the moon high on her starboard quarter. The sea was running Force 1, ideal for small-boat operations. At 2315, HMS Shakespeare was passed to starboard at point KING, and course was changed to take position in the transport area. The CHASE stopped her engines at 2350 and went to Condition Four at 0000 September 9, 1943. Huge fires and severe explosions could be seen in the vicinity of Salerno. An intercepted German message read "Night reconnaissance aircraft reported Allied shipping off Salerno at 0035B."
COMMANDER HEIMER SENT TO HEADQUARTERS THE FOLLOWING DETAILS OF THE TRANSPORT'S OPERATIONS AT SALERNO
LANDING CRAFT DEPART At 0035, LCM #1 departed for the USS Carroll to become part of their fourth assault wave. At 0130,LCS's 13 and 31, and LCVP's 21 and 26 left the Chase to escort 59 DUKW's to Red, Yellow, and Blue beaches of the Gasale Greco beach designated for this force. To avoid losing any DUKW's, boards with luminous letters to indicate the beaches were mounted on the stern of the escort lead boats and a simple set of signals arranged.
ARRIVE AMIDST ENEMY At 0345, as heavy gunfire of small and large caliber was observed on the beaches assigned to her force, the Chase received word that the first wave of boats had landed at 0340. At 0400, Wave-3 boats were lowered to proceed to the USS Stanton to become their fourth wave. At 0500, heavy explosions were observed near the beaches, presumably from mines. The Sweeper Group which had swept the transport area had then proceeded to sweep the boat lanes but was forced to discontinue until daylight because of the many small boats going back and forth. Between 0500 and 0530, an attack in the traditional manner was made on ships to the north. Much AA fire was observed.
U.S. SOLDIERS INVADING ITALY LINE THE RAIL OF A COAST GUARD-MANNED COMBAT TRANSPORT, WAITING THEIR TURN TO CLAMBER DOWN THE SIDE INTO THE LANDING BOATS THAT WILL TAKE THEM ASHORE
TROOP DISEMBARKATION COMPLETED Troop disembarkation was completed by mid-morning. At 0545, 0552, and 0600, the Chase rail-loaded and lowered boats of Waves 1, 2, and 4 respectively. Major General Walker, with 96 officers and 1,168 enlisted men, disembarked. Although light artillery was shelling the beach and boat lanes, and boats had to proceed with caution due to floating mines, our boats landed at 0752, 0800, and 0805. A dozen minutes before this, the ship had fired at a lone JU-88 reconnaissance plane. However, troops were all landed with the exception of port platoon and communication personnel, by 1005, September 9.
CARGO UNLOADING PROCEEDS UNDER FIRE Cargo unloading was begun at 0745, with but very few boats available. Because of the lack of boats, unloading had to stop for an hour at noon. At this time, the Chase was fifteen miles from the beach, the vessel having drifted with the others from its position in the transport area. In the morning, machine-gun fire, floating mines, and light artillery fire on the beaches and boat lanes delayed landing of LCT's, LST's, and small boats. As the enemy tanks on shore opposed the assault, they were taken under fire with shore gun emplacements by the fire support group. That evening, at 1701, the monitor HMS Abercrombie was observed to hit a mine and settle somewhat by the stern. Late in the afternoon, the Chase began moving in through the swept area and dropped anchor inshore, at 1948, in the Gulf of Salerno.
CASUALTIES AND PRISONERS BROUGHT ABOARD As the boats returned from the beach, they usually brought back casualties and prisoners of war. These were brought aboard and placed in charge of the medical department.
NO HELP AVAILABLE ON BEACHES As the boats became available and unloading could continue more rapidly, another factor interfered to slow the operation. There was no one on the beach to help the boat crews in unloading their boats. Rather, the crews had to manhandle each case or can, carrying it from where they beached to a point well up on dry shore, It was not until the morning of September 10 that they again received assistance. This Condition was a repetition of what had happened at Gela. At 0400, on September 10, unloading operations had to cease due to the congested beaches. All other ships had stopped before the Chase. At that time vehicles, gas, and oil were 100% unloaded, and ammunition was 90% unloaded.
UNLOADING IS RESUMED The Chase resumed unloading at 0700, this time with aid on the beach. The total cargo unloading time was 25 hours. The ship's cargo was completely unloaded by 1330. The Chase began to take boats aboard, with the exception of those kept in the water for despatch and possible smoke-lying purposes.
ENEMY PLANES TRY TO INTERFERE Throughout landing operations, enemy planes were active, but unable to stop our unloading. During the morning, about six FW-190's bombed and strafed the beaches. These were first taken under fire
THESE FOUR CREW MEMBERS OF A TANK LIGHTER ATTACHED TO A U.S. COAST GUARD-MANNED TRANSPORT HELPED PUSH THE GERMANS BACK FROM THE BEACHES AT PAESTUM, NEAR SALERNO. FROM LEFT TO RIGHT, THE INVADERS ARE: COAST GUARDSMAN LEONARD RUEHLE, 1249 15TH ST., DETROIT, MICH.; COAST GUARDSMAN COOK, KELLOGG ROAD, DERBY, N.Y.; A. E. LESSARD, U.S. NAVY, 27 BALCOM ST., NASHUA, N.H.; AND HARRY W. LESSON, U.S. NAVY, EAST STREET, SCHAGHTICOKE, N.Y.
by the Chase. Fighter bombers returned again about 1435. Meanwhile, our landing craft succeeded in carrying enormous amounts of cargo to the beaches.
"WELL DONE" FROM CTF AT COMPLETION Cargo unloaded consisted of 88 vehicles, all combat loaded, including thirteen 2 1/2-ton trucks and four half tracks; 251 tons of mixed ammunition plus two tons of pyrotechnics; 44 tons of gasoline and oil; and 125 tons of general cargo (water, rations, and engineers' supplies). Total trips made by Chase LCVP's were 35 for personnel, 172 for cargo, 15 miscellaneous; by Chase LCM, 17 with vehicles and personnel gear; by Andromeda LCVP's, 2 personnel and 5 cargo; and two LCT trips, one with vehicles and one with general cargo. CTF 81's message, replying to Chase's report of completion of unloading was "Well done."
Chase LEAVES AREA UNDER FIRE At 2215, on September 10, the Chase was underway, proceeding through swept channel to form a convoy leaving the area. Nine minutes later, enemy planes began dropping flares, and heavy AA fire was observed astern. The Chase went to General Quarters. Multi-colored flares were dropped all around, illuminating the ships and landing craft. A concerted bombing attack was then made by both medium altitude and dive bombers. Six bombs were dropped close aboard the Chase: two estimated 500# delayed-action bombs, 125-150 yards on the port bow, which splattered the forecastle with water and jarred the ship; an estimated 250# delayed-action bomb, which landed about 125 yards, one point on the starboard quarter; another pattern of two 250# bombs landed an estimated distance of 500 yards away on the starboard bow; and the sixth bomb of about the same size, landed one point abaft the starboard beam at a distance of several hundred yards. All air activity had ceased by 2315, so the Chase secured from General Quarters at 2320. At the time the transport had been traveling at a speed of 10 knots in the northernmost column, with the moon on its south or port side. It is believed that rather than expose themselves against the moon to AA fire the enemy planes contented themselves with attacking the northernmost ships.
VESSEL TORPEDOED As the Chase was forming a convoy out of the Gulf of Salerno, Italy, with the Andromeda on the port beam, Stanton astern, and Carroll on the starboard beam, there was an explosion, on September 11, at 0030, believed to be & depth charge. At 0135, the screen contacted some "E" boats and fired at them. At 0130 the Rowan was torpedoed by an "E" boat. The Bristol, which continued to stand by and search for the attacker picked up 70 survivors. The Chase continued with the convoy, and on September 14 moored at Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria.
FLOTILLA AT SALERNO
LCI'S UNDER HEAVY FIRE "Some found the landing tough," related Lieutenant (jg) Arthur Farrar, USCGR, whose LCI was part of the
THROUGH THE GAPING DOORS OF LANDING CRAFT, MOTORIZED INVASION EQUIPMENT HURRIEDLY ROLLS ASHORE AT PAESTUM
large invasion force at Salerno. "We found no opposition," he said, with masterly understatement, "except for occasional dive-bombing and strafing planes that kept sneaking in. The one-plane attacks came on an average of one every hour. Night raids were something else. They were terrific and would occur around 2300 and 0400. The Germans lit up the entire area with so many flares it was possible to read a paper by the light. Several LCI's got very close calls but none were destroyed. The 319 received the most serious damage when a plane that was falling strafed on the way down, causing casualties to some of the gun crew. The follow-up work was about the same as for the other invasion. We were based in Sicily for the operation and spent some time ashore. The flotilla was commended for its work and ordered to England. We were told it was because ours was the best LCI group in the Mediterranean."
ASSIST VESSELS UNDER ENEMY FIRE "The real work of the large LCI's began when the going was the roughest and toughest", said Lieutenant (jg) Charles Greene, of the Coast Guard, in reviewing operations in the Salerno area, "for their work was to tow and assist vessels aground, under enemy fire! Our vessel, Landing Craft, Infantry (large) was assigned as a part of four of such vessels in our group, including the flagship, to proceed in one of the very first convoys, with approximately thirty other navy landing craft, consisting of LCT's and a few British craft. Our duties were to carry troops, supplies, and fuel for the smaller LCT's and to discharge same upon landing in Italy, then stand by in the battle area and act as salvage vessels, to assist those craft which were aground, hit by enemy fire, or stranded on the beach.
REFUEL SMALLER CRAFT "We departed from our North African base in the early afternoon, a couple of days before the actual landings took place, and we proceeded through the swept channels and mined areas en route to a pre-designated harbor in northern Sicily (then Allied-occupied) for a short overnight stop to refuel the smaller craft which could not carry sufficient fuel or supplies. Our escorts consisted of one British destroyer-corvette, and a few PC's and SC's--small protection when one considers the final destination, with no rendezvous planned till we reached that area, right in the enemy's front yard! . . . We arrived at our first overnight stop right on schedule, and the refueling process was completed in four or five hours. The LCT's and SC's came alongside our LCI's, while we were at anchor, and moored for the time required to get fuel lines laid out, and the Diesel oil pumped over to them . . ."
SPOTTED BY ENEMY PLANE That night they lay at anchor, in cruising formation, each ship maintaining a full sea and gun watch, for they expected trouble from enemy bombers. But nothing happened that evening. Early the next morning, about 0530, on September 7th, all the vessels got underway upon orders from their flotilla flagship, and sailed on the final leg of their mission. They cruised without disturbance from any enemy action until 1300 o'clock on the 8th, when their small convoy was spotted by an enemy reconnaissance plane heading for his home grounds. "He took one quick turn around us, at very high altitude, out of range of our small 20 mm's and
U.S. COAST GUARDSMEN AND NAVY BEACH BATTALION MEN ARE SHOWN HUGGING THE SHAKING BEACH AT PAESTERNUM, JUST SOUTH OF SALERNO, AS A NAZI BOMBER UNLOADS ON THEM
departed for his airfield with the news of our coming," said Lieutenant Greene. "Our British destroyer escort had the only large calibre guns capable of reaching the plane, and he fired a few rounds at the enemy, with no result except to bring home to all that here we were, discovered, and in enemy waters--thirty miles from his own bases and only one large vessel for any protection which might be deemed adequate."
FLOTILLA ATTACKED BY PLANE On the afternoon of the second day, the flotilla was suddenly attacked and strafed by a German ME-109F. Describing the battle that ensued, Lieutenant Greene said that his ship was in Battle Condition No. 2 when General Quarters rang. "All guns were manned as the plane approached but we were forced to hold our fire because a sister ship was abeam to port, about 150 yards distant, and the approaching aircraft made its approach from that bearing, thus presenting us with the situation of killing our own friends in the nearby vessel. We held our fire as he dove, watching for a chance to give him a few bursts, but as he came down, a Flak ship and destroyer fired at him, from long range, The Flak ship scored a hit, but as the enemy plane came down at terrific speed, all his guns were blazing at us. The other LCI(L) commenced firing and later claimed several hits also, but the Messerschmitt's guns never ceased till he crashed between our two LCI's, showering us with shrapnel and debris. His aim was good, unfortunately, for we received numerous bullet holes in our vessel, and had five men hit. One of the wounded was our No. 2 gunner, who was shot above the heart. The other four men received shrapnel wounds, one in his eyes, causing permanent blindness, and the others minor wounds in face, legs, and arms."
WORK IS CONTINUED SHORTHANDED Through that enemy action, Lieutenant Greene's vessel lost one fourth of its crew and had to continue work shorthanded. The wounded were taken to a British hospital ship and cared for, while their shipmates carried on the fight even more intensely. As the Lieutenant remarked, "When your men are hit--or you ,-- then it is all seen in a different light'." Not a man complained of overwork, loss of sleep, or bad food, considering those discomforts as inconsequential. The work had to be done, and it was done, regardless. Two days later, they were ordered to stand by Salerno harbor to await a rendezvous for a return to Africa, where they were to be refueled, reprovisioned, and pick up reinforcements for our troops. When they left Salerno Bay that afternoon, every man was worn out from lack of rest, dirty, and practically "out on his feet," but their faces were smiling and it was thumbs up for victory.
LCI'S ATTACKED EN ROUTE TO SALERNO AREA--FIRE ON ENEMY "All was quiet for another hour," Lieutenant Greene continued, "then at 1400, we were subjected to a dive bombing attack out in the sun, by four Italian fighter planes. Our first warning of danger came when the destroyer opened fire, startling everyone; his guns had no sooner barked than a group of bombs fell into the sea, astern of him; one of these missed our flagship, which was in the lead, and about seven hundred yards distant, by a very close margin. Estimates ran as low as ten to fifteen feet, abeam to port. The entire vessel was hidden by the water geyser thrown up by the explosion,
THESE TWO BROTHERS MET FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THEY ENLISTED WHEN THEY BOTH PARTICIPATED IN THE INVASION OF SALERNO, ITALY. THEY ARE COAST GUARDSMAN JOSEPH H. BLUE, LEFT, AND ALOYSIUS BLUE, U.S. NAVY
and we later discovered that four of her gyro repeaters and magnetic compasses had been put out of commission by the near-miss. At this time all crews were at general quarters, in full war gear. One plane, identified as a Macchi 2001 fighter had the audacity to dive right over the stern of our convoy and fly up its second column, at a height of not more than 100 feet! No ships opened fire on him as they feared hitting their own men, but he came so close to our craft that we felt our fellow-men to be safe enough from our fire to open up. Guns No. 1, 2, and 3 tracked him to within 400 yards, then all commenced firing; at this time I was stationed up forward on our No. 1 gun, and observed the tracers to miss the plane by a wide margin--trouble; too much lead angle and that is unusual. The No. 2 gunner was a cool boy; he waited and saw his chance to fire just at the right time, with the result that he placed at least a dozen 20 mm shells into the enemy plane, each striking it just abaft the cockpit on the port side. Evidently the plane was armored, as the only noticeable effect was his wabbling antics in flight, and a loss of about 50 feet of altitude, this bringing him down to about our height above the water. He gunned his engine and zoomed away--headed for home."
ONE LCT IN FLAMES The flotilla did not escape unscathed, however, for one of the LCT's, the 624, was hit squarely by a bomb and burst into flames. The survivors were picked up and the craft sank in a few minutes. The oil slick on the surface burned for hours. "Miraculously, we were not attacked again that afternoon or evening," Lieutenant Greene reported, "for by that evening our large convoys with bigger ships had arrived, and were a few miles astern of us. The enemy bombers went after them and let us go." That evening, just after dusk, the convoys astern were subjected to an air attack, but they defended themselves well and men in the flotilla observed three flaming airplanes streak out of the sky in as many minutes and crash into the sea, burning and illuminating the horizon where they fell.
RAGING INFERNO ON D-DAY "It was D-day (9th September) and H-hour (0330) a few minutes away; we could see Mt. Vesuvius sputtering and flaring up on our port side, every minute or so," the Lieutenant went on, giving a vivid description of the battle scene. "Though the night was dark, there were all kinds of lights to be seen--flares, gun flashes, and the colored signal lights: red lights, green lights, white lights, flashing and steady. We stared at our watches, awaiting H-hour.--Suddenly we knew it had arrived. Countless gun flashes and explosions rent the air, both from ship to shore and vice versa. Tracer streams criss-crossed everywhere, and in several places we could see lines of fire running parallel to each other, but from opposite directions. The heavy batteries on the cruisers and destroyers opened up and displayed a beautiful yet awe-inspiring sight. You could see, following the yellow gun flashes, the path of the large projectiles as they took flight, not rapidly in a breath-taking ruse, but slowly. The shells appeared as red-hot rivets, easily recognized that rose slowly in a curving path till they levelled off, moved on a few more seconds, then dipped, fell slowly to earth, and exploded in a glaring flash. There was so much to see that
COMPARING CLOSE CALLS WITH DEATH WAS A FAVORITE CONVERSATIONAL SUBJECT AMONG SOLDIERS AND COAST GUARDSMEN ABOARD A COAST GUARD-MANNED TRANSPORT RETURNING FROM SALERNO
it was difficult to watch and grasp the immensity of the whole operation. It was tremendous. And it appeared more so when we realized that here, before our eyes, an alien force was present, and with its power and military might was seeking to destroy the defenders of a whole nation so that it might conquer that nation!"
LANDINGS HEAVILY REPELLED The invasion craft were due to go off that beach--a raging inferno of exploding shells and smoke--at H-hour plus 30 minutes, and stand by there for further orders. And when the time came, they were there. Landings by LCT's with their tanks, and LCI's with their troops were to take place at H-hour plus 50-60 minutes, but this was not possible with any degree of success, because enemy resistance was unusually strong. However, small craft were able to sneak in under the barrage of fire and discharge enough infantrymen to keep the enemy busy ashore, temporarily. Meanwhile, the large cruisers and destroyers were fighting it out with shore batteries and German tanks. Tanks had been brought to the beaches at Salerno by the Germans to repel the invasion. Our large ships had to fight off the tanks for we had none of our armored vehicles ashore to speak of.
ENEMY FORCED TO RETREAT Fighting had not diminished noticeably by 1030 the next morning, D-day, but our planes came over and spotted and bombed every enemy shore installation. Our larger ships then fought a duel with the enemy forcing them to retreat and permit the landing of tanks, trucks, men, and supplies. British destroyers and cruisers moved near shore and shelled German tanks, which were entrenched in the hills and firing down into Salerno Bay at the Allied vessels. Destroyers laid smoke screens to shield the landing barges and small craft from enemy view. One small boat was struck by an 88 mm tank shell on his starboard quarter and began to belch smoke before he raced away out of gun range at full speed. But the landings proceeded according to plans.
ALLIED SUPERIORITY IN THE AIR MAINTAINED During daylight, German planes made only quick, hit-run attacks. They made lightning fast strafing or bombing raids and then zoomed away into the hills, flying close to the ground. The Allies had air superiority, and were using P-38 fighters and Spitfires for air coverage. Although a few dogfights did take place, the Germans seemed to have great respect for the P-38, not staying long once they were seen and chased by the Allied airmen.
ENEMY ATTACKS AT NIGHT The worst hours were during the night. The enemy bombers struck just after dusk, their raids lasting from a few minutes to an hour and a half. Men rushed to battle stations as General Quarters was sounded as many as four times during one sea watch--four hours. "These attacks presented the worst aspect of the whole operation, for we, on the small craft, could not see the planes or shoot at
COAST GUARDSMAN STEPHEN G. FERKO, SEAMAN FIRST CLASS, OF ASHLEY, PA., ASHORE AT AN ITALIAN PORT POSES WITH A NEW CHUM
them, our guns being of too small a caliber, but we could hear the roar of engines as they dove, dropped flares, then came back to lay their eggs," Lieutenant Greene reported. "Very discernible above the noise of anti-aircraft gunfire were the high-pitched whine and whistle of bombs which fell and struck nearby. Close ones always detonated with a terrific roar, and small craft like ours would vibrate from the concussion."
MEN AWAKE PRACTICALLY ALL DAY AND NIGHT "The raids forced the officers and men to stay awake practically all night long," the Lieutenant continued, "and when you remember that our work of unloading transports of their troops and supplies took all the daylight hours, then you may well realize how much sleep was gotten. No one, I am sure got more than one hour's unbroken rest at only one time. Men would be relieved from gun stations, but would fall to the deck where they were and try to catch a few minutes' sleep. Chow was carried to the men at their gun stations by mess cooks. After three days and nights of this, human nerves became taut. Men would jump, startled at noises caused by the slamming of a hatch or the clatter of a falling helmet."
OFFICIAL REPORT OF FLOTILLA BY CAPTAIN IMLAY Captain Miles H. Imlay, USCG, Commander of LCI(L) FLOTILLA FOUR, of the U.S. Amphibious Force, sent an official report, dated September 14, 1943, to the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet.1 The report rich with detail, includes suggestions of great value in future amphibious combat operations, as regards the handling of LCT convoys.
IMLAY AGAIN DECORATED As in the Sicilian landings, so in the landings on the Italian mainland, Captain Imlay played a leading role, and was decorated. His citation follows: "For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Commander of the LST Convoy of a Major Task Force during the amphibious assault upon Italy in September 1943. Charged with the difficult assignment of bringing the vessels under his command safely through the hazardous course between Bizerte, Tunisia and the Gulf of Salerno, Italy. Captain (then Commander) Imlay performed his essential duties with outstanding skill, successfully reaching the designated assault beaches at the assigned time despite extremely adverse weather conditions and fierce enemy aerial opposition. By his keen judgment, brilliant leadership and tenacious devotion to duty, units containing vehicles and equipment necessary for the accomplishment of the attack were unloaded in accordance with previous landing plans, thereby contributing materially to the success of our forces in this vital war area."
THIS U.S. COAST GUARDSMAN HAS A USEFUL SOUVENIR OF THE FIGHTING IN THE NAPLES AREA -- AN ITALIAN MAIL BAG
THE COMMUNICATIONS ASPECT
Lieutenant (later Lt. Comdr.) Ed C. Phillips, USCGR, Communications Officer aboard the USS Bibb from April 23, 1943, to June 2, 1944, sent in the following account of Coast Guard operations in the Italian campaign, from the Communications angle:
It may be of general interest in considering Coast Guard participation in the late war for a general report from the communications aspect in connection with convoy operations between this country and the Mediterranean.
Most of the UGS-GUS (U.S.-Gibraltar-Mediterranean) convoy task forces were headed by Coast Guard cutters as flag ships, carrying a U.S. Navy officer aboard as the task force commander. The task forces themselves were made up of both Navy and Coast Guard destroyers and destroyer escorts. Convoy operations in the Atlantic were conducted under a command arrangement with the British Admiralty which divided operational control between American and British authorities at a CHOP line located at approximately 30 degrees west longitude. Communication requirements, therefore, necessitated considerable experience in both American and British operations.
During the early days of the war there were marked differences in the communication methods of these two allied services. Such differences were considerably lessened in later operations due to combined communication agreements and the combined use of certain of our coding devices. Most of the early convoys destined for the Mediterranean and beyond were turned over to British task forces at Gibraltar for escort beyond that point. Communications during the early operations were in many cases carried out under considerable confusion. New code books were called for and familiarity with British operations was essential.
In later operations the U.S. task forces continued their convoy escort duties into the Mediterranean as far as Bizerte. Because the Mediterranean area was an active war theater, and because theater operations called for communication activities of a different type than those experienced in the purely Atlantic operations, the theater command evolved a plan for the use of liaison communication officers within the Mediterranean area in an effort to smooth over the difficulties resulting from the differences in operating methods, etc. This plan in practice was very successful and, in this writer's opinion, was a most desirable and farsighted move on the part of the authorities responsible.
In actual practice the plan worked as follows: As a convoy approached Gibraltar one of the escorts was sent ahead to enter the port and there pick up an American liaison officer who had previously been trained in British communications operations. This officer was supplied with all the latest communication
A COAST GUARDSMAN GUARDS TWO SLIGHTLY WOUNDED NAZI PRISONERS ABOARD A U.S. COAST GUARD-MANNED COMBAT TRANSPORT OFF SALERNO, ITALY
operational information, code books, routing information, and other matters of vital interest to the task force commander. Upon boarding the task force flag ship, he served on the staff of the task force commander throughout the period that the task force was in the Mediterranean waters and was placed ashore at Gibraltar as the task force departed from the area.
During the days of the war covering this period, this writer made seven or eight round trips as the Communications Officer aboard one of the C.G. flag ships of the type mentioned and had an adequate opportunity to observe the remarkable progress and improvements made in naval communications, both within the U.S. Naval service and as they were applied jointly to combined operations. In retrospect, it seems hardly possible that what was done could have been done in the time available. The Communications organization of the Navy became geared in a very short time to a pitch of activity which allowed a task force of naval vessels to shepherd large convoys, in some cases amounting to 100 vessels at a time across the Atlantic and into the actual war theater with a minimum of uncertainty and lack of information.
Reports of other convoys, their positions, courses and speeds, the reports of enemy submarine movements, the reports of movements of our own and allied naval units, and the reports of neutral shipping were regularly received over the U.S. and British fox schedules. Such information, of course, enabled the escort vessels to maintain a continuous plot of the movements of all surface and underwater vessels, both friendly and enemy, at all times. One must have been on actual convoy operations to appreciate the utter confusion which can be caused by the unexpected appearance in the path of a large convoy of even a friendly vessel, to say nothing of the havoc that can be caused by an enemy unit.
It is doubtful whether any other service played a greater part in the remarkable record of convoy operations than that of the naval communications service. Aside from the fact that a large portion of the actual convoy operations were conducted by Coast Guard vessels and Coast Guard personnel, who became most proficient in naval communications matters, no special credit in this phase of the operations can be claimed by Coast Guard Communications, as such.
ACCOUNT OF CHARLES P. GIAMMONA, COX, USCGR
It was a dark, misty morning when we started in for Salerno. We heard the night before that Italy had given up, but we were taking no chances. Our control boats gave us the O.K. signal and the first wave started in before sun-up. As soon as the first boats hit the beach the Germans started to open up from the hills. I was in the fourth group going in, and it was like walking into a sheet of fire. We had swell air support, but the shells were splashing all about us.
AN AMERICAN CARGO SHIP HIT BY NAZI DIVE BOMBERS DURING THE INVASION OF SICILY. FIRE STARTED BY BOMBS DROPPED AMIDSHIPS SPREAD RAPIDLY TO THE SHIP'S MUNITIONS SUPPLY
We call them "whistling death." You can hear them whistle, then splash. I had learned from Sicily that it is the ones you don't hear that you have to watch out for.
The beach was wide and flat and as we hit the sand and unloaded the troops they seemed to concentrate on us. Those boys had plenty of guts. They couldn't see the enemy but they went right in and they were plenty sore, too.
After our troops were unloaded we pulled up the ramp and started back. We were congratulating each other on getting the guys in safely. All you think about is getting the boys in. Once the men are on the beach you know your job is done - for a while. We hoisted the ramp and started back to get another load when all of a sudden something happened. I didn't hear anything, but I felt as if I was hit by a sledge hammer and was numb all over. We were hit on the starboard side by a shell. I figured the boat was done for and I tried to get up. My lifebelt was blown off completely and my trouser legs were in shreds. My medal and dog chain were blown off my neck. Fortunately, my water canteen and jacket absorbed plenty of the shrapnel and they probably saved me. My buddies picked me up and laid me across the engine hatch and the coxswain gave me some morphine, but I still hurt all over.
We ran into a PC boat on the way back to the ship and they put me on board. A pharmacist's mate fixed me up with some sulfa drugs and while I was lying on the deck the PC kept firing, and I jumped every time a shell was ejected.
Finally I was transferred to a transport and a doc dug out some of the shrapnel. Later they gave me two pints of blood plasma, and I think I owe somebody a pint because I gave a pint to the blood bank when I was a civilian in Chicago, and the first chance I'll pay it back, too.
FIRST HAND ACCOUNT OF SALERNO INVASION
William F. Forsythe, Coast Guard Combat Cameraman sent in the following description of the invasion of Italy at Salerno:
These amphibious landings are getting monotonous in a ghastly sort of way. They're getting tougher as we go along, and don't let anybody kid you that the United States isn't paying a price for such places as Sicily and Salerno, Of course the radio reports and newspaper headlines sound very encouraging to the folks back home but there's a lot of American boys getting killed, but I suppose that's the price of war.
I was stationed aboard a Coast Guard-manned assault transport for the attack on the Italian mainland. Just before we arrived at
U.S. SOLDIERS WITH A SURRENDERED ITALIAN FLAG AT A VILLA A FEW MILES FROM THE BEACH AT PAESTUM, ITALY
the rendezvous one section of our convoy was attacked heavily by enemy bombers. The ack-ack looked like about a thousand Roman candles together. They finally went away and we proceeded to our rendezvous area.
There was some heavy firing north of us about 10 miles but, none in our immediate vicinity. "When the first few assault waves went in it was comparatively quiet, but when they landed and the ramps went down the bottom dropped out. The Germans had concealed machine gun nests that did a lot of damage to our first few waves. After daylight the Germans were pushed back from the beach about a mile and started laying it in with mortars and 88's. I was leaving the ship about 2 hours after daylight when two high altitude bombers dropped their load near us. After they left I proceeded in to the beach. The shelling was so heavy there that we had to wait out about a mile until it lifted.
Coast Guardsmen ran LCVP's in to the shore and the soldiers unloaded them. (An LCVP is a landing craft for vehicles and personnel). The Army engineers removed the mines on the beach. These engineers, incidentally, are all veterans of the Sicily and Africa campaigns. The Coast Guardsmen meanwhile took temporary charge of German prisoners.
All this time the Germans had fallen back to their prepared positions about three miles from the beach and were continually laying in on the beach and in the water their mortar shells and 88's. We had excellent aircraft protection but once in a while a Messerschmitt would sneak through and strafe the beach. Incidentally, those 88's sure make a noise and for some reason they certainly do spread the shrapnel. Upon returning to the ship I made shots of unloading and wounded coming aboard. There was very little enemy activity during daylight near our ship but that night I think everybody in the German air force, even Goering himself, must have been flying over us. We had the misfortune of a full moon until about midnight. I hate to say that the Germans are lousy bombers cause my remarks might bounce back on me but anyhow they didn't hit anything that night--but they sure scared most people.
The next morning things were fairly quiet and unloading went on in great haste. Then nightfall again, and the same old routine. Those Germans were certainly anxious for us to taste those bombs. We expended on this ship alone thousands of rounds of ammunition in a few hours. Then about midnight we shoved off. There must have been somebody tickling the stern of this ship because she really did get up the speed.
I have covered a great many stories in my 15 years as a news-photographer but I have never yet seen anything to equal the grit and courage of the soldier from Texas who had to have his leg amputated as a result of machine gun bullets. A young Coast Guardsman gave blood to help this boy through his operation. It's little incidents like this that make this world not a bad place to live in after all. The last thing the soldier said as I left him was "How about getting
INVADING AMERICAN COAST GUARDSMEN AND SOLDIERS MAKE FRIENDS WITH AN ITALIAN FAMILY NEAR THE BEACH AT PAESTUM
some pictures of my of my operation?"
The boat crews that manned the invasion boats certainly deserve the credit for continually running back and forth into the beach in the face of heavy enemy fire.
Coast Guardsman Bernard J. Miller, BM2/C, attached to the Dickman, acted as wave commander for a unit of British boats. When the first 88 hit his boat, he attempted to run It out of the line of fire but evidently the British engineer of the boat must have been wounded, and when the second one hit they had to bail out. Both 88's hit the boat amidship and killed approximately 20 soldiers. After remaining in the water for about an hour, he was picked up by a British support boat and taken aboard a British transport.
Ensign Walter R. Samuelson, USCG, also of the Dickman, silenced two machine gun nests long enough for the troops to leave the boat safely. Meanwhile, Coast Guard Coxswain, Jack N. Miller, of the Dickman, stayed at the wheel of the landing craft in spite of enemy machine gun fire, which knocked off part of the steering wheel and threw splinters in his hands and face. He brought the boat in to the shore.
Coast Guardsman Philip E. Barnard, CBM, of the Dickman, headed the crew of a landing craft which was hit by one of the German 88's. After the ramp of their boat was hit while they were returning from the beach following the unloading, two of the crew members were seriously wounded and taken off by a support boat. Barnard and one other Coast Guardsman brought the boat back to their transport alone after a hard struggle.
ITALIANS COOPERATIVE A gratifying feature of the Mediterranean campaign was the attitude of the Italian people. After momentary and quite understandable confusion, the Italian civilians welcomed our troops. They regarded the Americans not as invaders but as liberators who were freeing Italy from the twin tyrannies of Fascist misrule and Nazi domination. Most of the Italian troops were in German-occupied areas and for the most part were unable to offer effective resistance to the Germans, who were disarming them. However, some Italian units fought bravely against the Germans, and Italian civilians rendered very effective aid in sabotaging German installations and communications, and in guerrilla operations. The Italian Fleet was placed at the disposal of the Allies. Marshal Badoglio urged the Italian people to give us the fullest cooperation in attacking the enemy.
ARMISTICE SIGNED WITH ITALY Political events of that period far outran the military program. On September 3, 1943, Italian commissioners signed an armistice with representatives of the Allied headquarters in Sicily. This agreement provided for the surrender of the Italian Navy, for placing all Italian resources and facilities at the disposal of the Allies, and anticipated Italy's ultimate participation in the war on the Allied side. Because large German forces were known to be in Italy,
TWO CAPTURED MEMBERS OF A GERMAN PANZER DIVISION THAT MADE IT HOT FOR THE AMERICANS AT SALERNO TELL AN AMERICAN ARMY OFFICER AND A COAST GUARDSMAN WHAT THE BATTLE LOOKED LIKE FROM THE GERMAN SIDE
the announcement of the armistice was withheld until September 8th. As early as August 18, 1943, Allied leaders at the Quebec conference were said to have asked General Eisenhower to advance the date of an invasion of Italy in view of the collapse of the Fascist regime and the pending armistice negotiations.
ONLY GERMAN OPPOSITION MET On September 3, the same date on which the armistice was signed, the British Eighth Army under General Montgomery, landed on the eastern coast of the Straits of Messina between Villa San Giovanni and Reggio Calabria. This landing was opposed only by the German 1st Parachute Division, and General Montgomery's forces made rapid progress. The important Italian naval base at Taranto was occupied by a British landing force on September 9th. On the same day units of the United States Fifth Army, under command of Lieutenant General Mark Clark, together with British forces, landed on the Gulf of Salerno in a bold attempt to cut off German forces in southern Italy. General Eisenhower, realizing the hazardous nature of this attempt, used a familiar baseball expression to describe it: "It is now time to step up to the plate and try for a home run."
BITTER FIGHTING John Folk, Chief Photographer's Mate of the Coast Guard, in giving the following account, said that the invasion of Gela, in Sicily, was a "pink tea" compared with the invasion of the Italian mainland. Far from being able to cut off the Germans in the south, General Clark's army was forced to fight for its life from the very outset. For seven days, from September 9 to September 15, bitter fighting raged on the Salerno beachhead. "I went in with the first wave from our ship, the Dickman," said Folk. "Our task force landed near the town of Pasternum, south of Salerno. We were flanked on the left by British forces and on the right by Germans. The enemy was prepared for us. The beach where we landed contained hundreds of mines. Heavy artillery up in the hills dropped a constant rain of shells on us."
FOXHOLES NO PROTECTION "Immediately upon hitting the beach, I made for some sparse cover about seventy-five yards from the water's edge and proceeded to dig in," Folk continued. "Unfortunately, I had picked out the hottest spot for my foxhole. For about an hour I was forced to stay there. Shells were screaming over my head and landing on the beach. They actually clipped the grass above me. Two of them hit extremely close to me. One hit the ground just a few yards away, and the concussion kicked me in the chest like a mule . . . Those foxholes were a very good place to be when the enemy had the range. I picked a piece of hot shrapnel out of my life jacket which was lying on the ground. A souvenir!
DIVINE HELP SEEN "As soon as our forces got the guns that were giving us such a hot reception, I ventured out to begin making a few pictures," said the photographer. "Enemy guns up in the hills were very well hidden and difficult to erase; much more so than in Sicily. My stuff this time probably won't be so spectacular as at Gela. There
won't be any bombing shots, as we had marvelous air cover for this job. In one day, before noon, our fighter planes knocked down twenty enemy aircraft of their way to attack us, and repelled forty attempted raids . . . God rode the bridge with us again on this trip, and after my cruise to date. I am certainly humble in His presence. Please inform Headquarters that there are no Atheists on board this ship."
EXPERIENCES ON A PATROL CRAFT
Two U.S. Coast Guardsmen, whose dauntless little Patrol Craft led the invasion into Licata, Sicily and the Gulf of Salerno, Italy, then stood by as a reference ship doing highly important work for the protection and direction of the invasion fleets while the shooting war broke loose all about it, later gave vivid descriptions of their experiences.
John Raymond Herdt, USCG, Soundman 3/C, and Arthur Robert Davison, USCG, Fireman 1/C, were among the casualties of the Italian campaign, who later fully recovered due to excellent medical attention both in the war zone and later at the Naval Hospital in the Charleston Navy Yard. They were wounded in the legs by shrapnel from shells shot at them by a German plane. Davison was manning a 20-mm machine gun while Herdt was about five feet behind him passing the ammunition as fast as the gun could take it when the shell struck the deck and exploded between them. Six of their gun crew were splattered with shrapnel from the same shell. Four others later returned to duty.
Their little craft was patrolling the beach at Salerno early on the morning of the invasion, September 9, when the enemy plane dropped a flare over the ship and then strafed its decks unmercifully. This scrappy little Coast Guard craft was in the vanguard of the invasion fleets on reconnoitering duty in both the landings on Sicily and Italy. Then it stood by to direct the invasion barges into the harbor, its guns bristling in anticipation of the enemy aerial attacks, which came.
It went through similar operations at Licata in Sicily where, as a reference vessel, it approached the Sicilian shore about two or three hours ahead of the fleet, and anchored 1,500 yards off shore to direct the invasion barges into the harbor. Three searchlights played on the ship from behind the enemy shore batteries for hours, but nothing happened. "Talk about suspense," said fireman Davison, "I always heard about that in books and movies, now I know what suspense really means. Did you ever figure what it would be like sitting in the electric chair waiting for them to turn on the juice? Well, that's what it was like, I'm glad they didn't turn it on, though."
A COAST GUARD-MANNED PATROL CRAFT
Soundman Herdt's description of the approach to Salerno follows: "We drifted in toward the shore and cut off our motors. We'd start up one of our motors every once in a while trying to keep our position in the swells. We had left the convoy about 6 o'clock on the evening of the 8th and had gone ahead of it at increased speed. When we got close to Salerno, several miles off shore, it was about midnight. The Germans started bombing our convoy about that time. We heard the German planes come over and saw them bombing the convoy off in the distance. Our ships were about three miles behind us at the time.
"Our ships were firing their anti-aircraft guns. We could see their tracers. The sky was just red with them. We heard a big explosion and a big flash. That was when they got one of our Navy tugs, A German bomber came over us and our forward gunner, firing thirteen rounds of the 20MM gun, caught it in the right motor and brought it down. It flared into flames, hit the water and disappeared. This occurred just off the Isle of Capri.
"At the zero hour, early on the morning of the ninth, we were in our position and could see the convoy coming up slowly. Our skipper hollered to the LSTs and the LCIs, giving them their position and they went into the beach. The enemy gun positions on the shore began firing at us at this time.
"When our troops began making their landings, there were big explosions, fires and we could see some of our smaller barges get blown to bits. Our cruisers and British cruisers and destroyers opened up on the beach and shelled the h-- out of them. Then there really were some big explosions. It looked like the whole beach was on fire.
"That's about all I remember of the actual landing before I got hit.
"You know," Herdt continued, "we didn't really worry about anything while we were going into the beach. You don't have time. Everybody is excited, of course. But we all stuck together pretty close on our ship.
"Davison was manning a gun and I was standing right by the hatch of the after magazine, passing ammunition, and we were caught in the flares when the planes came over. There was a lot of gun firing and something hit the deck. It was a shell that splattered us all. It was early in the morning and dark shortly before the planes came. But when they dropped flares, the whole scene was lit up like a Christmas tree.
COAST GUARD MANNED PATROL CRAFT
"From what I've seen of invasions, they aren't very pleasant. Shells and bombs and flares are exploding everywhere, lighting up the sky all around you. I wasn't really scared. It was kind of exciting and I was just excited until afterward.
"Yes, you just sweat it out," chimed in Davison. "And I don't mind admitting that I was awfully nervous, especially when I knew the ship's anchor was down as it was at one time in the Sicily invasion."
"That was the time we anchored right off the shore of Licata," Herdt said. "We weren't attacked and never could figure that out. We were a good two hours ahead of the convoy and all the time we anchored there, there were three searchlights from the beach practically on us all the time. Everybody was worried about the searchlights. We didn't worry about anything else. We thought we were going to get it all the time and the popular remark after the lights were shot out was: 'I've aged about ten years tonight even if we get out of this.'"
Both Herdt and Davison were awarded the Purple Heart Medal in the Naval Hospital at Oran by Commodore C. M. Yates, Commanding Officer, U.S. Navy Operating Base, Oran, Algeria.
AMERICAN-BRITISH JOINT PLANNING SUCCESSFUL The landings at Salerno called for the same joint and meticulous planning as the assault upon Sicily. Above all, with Americans commanding British, and British commanding Americans, the operations provided one of the finest examples of the complete cooperation and unity of purpose of the British and United States Navies fighting side by side in action. It was the first occasion in which the American and British Navies were in action together against the enemy in full force and in a new type of warfare. The perfect cooperation and harmony of the Allied Navies in that very severe test augured well for the Allied cause in the Pacific as well as in the other theatres of war. Without the support of the Allied Navies, experts agreed, Salerno would never have fallen into our hands, and it was more than likely that the Fifth and Eighth Armies would have remained in the heel of Italy. As it was, the Army landed successfully on the mainland of Italy in the face of determined opposition by superior forces of the enemy.
CRISIS SUCCESSFULLY PASSED After the failure of the Fifth Army to break out of the Salerno beachhead, everything depended on the rate of advance of the British Eighth Army, which now assumed the role of a relief force. On September 10, General Montgomery's array reached Pizzo, 45 miles north of Reggio Calabria. Two days later, part of his
LT. GRADY R. GALLOWAY
army occupied the important port of Brindisi; and on September 17, advance elements of the British Eighth Army made contact with patrols of the American Fifth Army outside Salerno. The first great crisis of the Italian campaign was successfully passed.
NAPLES AND FOGGIA CAPTURED After the first failure to entrap German forces in the south, the immediate Allied objectives were the great Italian air base at Foggia, and the port of Naples. With Naples and Foggia in Allied hands, General Eisenhower's troops would have both a first-class port of supply and a first class air base at their disposal. Foggia was occupied by the British Eighth Army on September 28, and on October 1, advance patrols of the Fifth Army entered the outskirts of Naples. Before retreating from Naples and Foggia, the Germans had systematically destroyed these bases, and an immense amount of work was required to put them into shape for use.
GERMAN DIVISIONS PINNED DOWN Bitter fighting in the next months, although disappointing from the territorial or political view, were not without important bearing on the over-all picture of the war. Approximately twenty German divisions were pinned down in Italy that could not be used against the Red Army or against the main Allied invasion of Europe. Considerable enemy resources were being expended in a non-decisive theatre. A steady attrition cut down the effectiveness of German units, though they fought in Italy with all their veteran skill and accustomed tenacity.
MANY OFFICERS AND MEN WERE DECORATED
Lieutenant (jg) Grady R. Galloway was awarded the Silver Star for action in the initial assault at Salerno, Italy, where he played a conspicuous part in the invasions of Africa and Italy. His citation, issued in the name of the President, reads: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Amphibious Scout and Beach Marking Officer during the amphibious assault at Salerno, Italy, on September 9, 1943. Displaying great daring and outstanding skill, Lieutenant (then Lieutenant, Junior Grade) Galloway placed his craft in the center of the landing beach within two-hundred yards of enemy machine-gun emplacements. When intense hostile fire swept the area as the first wave of boats attempted to land, he coolly directed the "firing of a rocket barrage, overcoming immediate enemy resistance and enabling our forces to beach successfully. Lieutenant Galloway's inspiring leadership and tenacious devotion to duty in the face of grave peril were in keeping with the highest tradition of the United States Naval Service."
James Edward Hasburgh, was promoted to Chief Boatswain's Mate for shepherding 24 landing boats from his Coast Guard manned transport into the shell-torn beach at Salerno, without losing a single craft. It was a small-boat journey of more than twenty miles. Two days after the Salerno landings, Hasburgh escaped with his life by a quick dive into a
CAPTAIN RAYMOND J. KAUEBKAN, U.S. COAST GUARD, PRESENTS THE PURPLE HEART TO FIVE MEN WOUNDED DURING THE SALERNO ACTION. FROM LEFT TO RIGHT THE COAST GUARDSMEN ARE: JAMES M. HAMBLIN, POTOMAC MILLS, VIRGINIA; CLARENCE W. HOLLON, 2216 ARLINGTON AVE., MIDDLETON, OHIO; STEPHEN A. SPRINGSTEEN, GARDEN AVENUE, GREENLAWN, LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK; JACK N. MILLER, ROUTE 2, EUSTACE, TEXAS; AND CHESTER WITOWSKI, 8344 MAXWELL, DETROIT, MICHIGAN
foxhole. His landing boat had broached to on the beach after a heavy swell, and he had received permission to have a bulldozer give his stalled craft a shove into the surf. Just then a Nazi bomber suddenly swept down. Hasburgh jumped in one direction and landed in a foxhole. Two Army officers in charge of the bulldozer jumped for another spot. They were found dead without a mark on their bodies. This was attributed to concussion caused by the bombs when they exploded.
Other citations were as follows:
Lieutenant Commander Bernard Edward Scalan, United States Coast Guard: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a Boat Group Commander during the amphibious assault at Salerno, Italy, on September 9, 1943. Braving intense fire from enemy shore emplacements, Lieutenant Commander Scalan skillfully marshalled and led the first and succeeding boat waves to the assigned assault beach, maintaining effective control of landings in spite of fierce enemy opposition. Lieutenant Commander Scalan's brilliant leadership and tenacious devotion to duty contributed immeasurably to the success of our assault operations in a vital area and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
Philip E. Barnard, Chief Boatswain's Mate, United States Coast Guard: "For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service to the Government of the United States while attached to the U.S. S. Joseph T. Dickman during the amphibious assault at Salerno, Italy, on September 9, 1943. In the face of intense, accurate enemy gunfire, Barnard skillfully maneuvered his heavy landing craft to a successful landing on the correct beach and expeditiously unloaded the assault troops and vehicles. Although his boat was badly damaged and three crew members seriously wounded as he withdrew from the beach, he steadfastly maintained control of the craft, transferred two of the wounded to a nearby patrol boat and, with dauntless courage and untiring effort, guided the crippled boat over eight miles of mined waters for a period of six hours and returned it to the Dickman, By his expert seamanship and unwavering devotion to duty throughout this perilous mission, Barnard was directly responsible for saving the valuable tank lighter and contributed materially to the success of the landings."
Jack Neil Miller, Boatswain's Mate Second Class, United States Coast Guard Reserve: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Coxswain of a Landing Craft during the amphibious assault in Salerno Bay, Italy, on September 9, 1943. Courageously maneuvering his boat in the face of intense enemy gunfire, Miller skillfully effected a successful landing and, although painfully wounded when hostile machine-gun fire shattered the steering wheel in his hands, continued to carry out his important duties throughout the unloading operations, subsequently retracting his craft and returning it safe to the ship. Miller's expert seamanship and unwavering devotion to duty under extremely difficult conditions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
LIEUTENANT ROGER E. BANNER, U.S. COAST GUARD, OF FAIRLINGTON, VIRGINIA WAS AWARDED THE LEGION OF MERIT FOR EXCEPTIONALLY MERITORIOUS CONDUCT DURING THE AMPHIBIOUS INVASION OF ITALY OK SEPTEMBER 9, 1943
John F. String, Lieutenant, United States Coast Guard Reserve: "For conspicuous gallantry in action while serving as commanding officer of the USS PC-545 off Anzio, Italy, on March 18, 1944. When an enemy motor torpedo boat was sighted at night Lieut, String immediately ordered the attack. With an expert display of seamanship, he so skillfully maneuvered the ship that the first shots scored hits on the enemy craft before it was able to maneuver into position to effectively use its torpedoes, and the resulting fire caused it to disintegrate in an explosion. This successful action against the enemy contributed materially to the protection of shipping in the Anzio area, and to the successful maintenance of forces ashore."
The Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters, awarded the Legion of Merit to Lieut. (j.g.) Roger H. Banner, ('43), for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding duty; as Officer in Charge of a support boat he exercised great skill and courage in escorting fifty-nine amphibious trucks from the transport anchorage to the assigned beaches during darkness; he continued to navigate his support boat by the stars in traversing this distance of 12 miles through enemy mine fields and concentrated shell and mortar fire from shore defenses; his excellent judgment accountable for the rapid discharge of assault cargo without casualty and this contributed materially to the success of the invasion of Italy, the action occurring off Salerno on 9 September, 1943.
Lieutenant Commander James S. Hunt, USCGR, who served aboard the USS Samuel Chase during the invasion of Italy was awarded the Silver Star for bravery in that action by Vice Admiral H. K. Hewitt, Commander United States Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters. The citation with the Silver Star identifies Lieutenant Commander Hunt as being responsible for the efficiency with which assault boats of the Chase were enabled to search their designated beaches in the Gulf of Salerno. On September 10, 1943, as boat group commander of the Coast Guard manned transport, he made an extended reconnaissance of the beaches under heavy enemy fire. Information obtained on this reconnaissance materially assisted in the effective landings of the assaulting forces on strongly defended enemy positions. His citation reads: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Boat Group Commander of the assault craft of the USS Samuel Chase during the amphibious invasion of Italy on 9 September, 1943. Lieutenant Commander Hunt was responsible for the "high degree of training arid efficiency which enabled the assault boats of the USS Samuel Chase to properly reach the designated beaches in the Gulf of Salerno and expeditiously discharge the embarked troops and equipment against strong enemy opposition. On 10 September, 1943, he made an extended reconnaissance in an assault boat under heavy enemy artillery fire beyond the established beaches. It was almost entirely through his great skill and determination that this mission was successfully
ADMIRAL R.R. WAESCHE, COMMANDANT OF THE U.S. COAST GUARD, IS SHOWN AT THE LEFT PINNING THE SILVER STAR ON COMMANDER JAMES S. HUNT FOR BRAVERY IN HANDLING OF COAST GUARD ASSAULT BOATS AT SALERNO
accomplished and information obtained which materially assisted in the effective employment of the assaulting forces on strongly defended enemy positions. The exceptional courage, fearless leadership under enemy fire, and outstanding devotion to duty displayed by Lieutenant Commander Hunt were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Naval Service."
Bloody Salerno was a complete victory for the Allies. They put troops ashore in spite of the worst the enemy could throw at them.
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1. See Appendix M.