81-MM Squad 82nd A/B Italy


In the conversation between Col Williams and the battalion S-3, it developed that Col Williams had Able Co. The S-3 had the 3rd Platoon of Charlie Co, all of Baker Co, and HQs Company less the 81-MM mortar Platoon. Somewhere, after the column had started, a platoon of Charlie Co, 307 Airborne Engineers Combat Battalion had tied in behind HQs Co. In addition, some twenty men of Baker Co, 505th Parachute Infantry, the flank security, had joined the column. Where the remainder of Charlie Co 504-PIR was, was unknown. No one on the Unnumbered Hill had seen Col Tucker. Col Williams then issued his order for the defense of the Unnumbered Hill. Able Co would continue to organize the top of the hill, extending along the north and northeast slopes. Baker Co would tie into the left of Able Co, extending along the west slope of the Unnumbered Hill and then along the southwest slope. The 3rd Platoon of Charlie Co would tie in on the right of Able Co and swing south. Between the platoon of Charlie Co and Baker Co, along the south slope, would go the Engineers and the men of 505-PIR. One two-gun light machine gun section was attached to Baker Co and the other to the 3rd Platoon of Charlie Co. All the platoons would go into the line to form the perimeter. Troops would be dug in and alert at daylight. While the companies prepared their positions, a patrol with the German prisoners was dispatched to the south to contact the 81-MM mortar platoon.

When the battalion commander and the S-3 walked around the positions, they noted a saucer-shaped depression between the 3rd Platoon, Charlie Co, and Baker Co. The depression was over ten feet deep. Without difficulty, troops could be moved from the southeast edge of the perimeter to positions behind Able Co or Baker Co. The Battalion CP was located in this saucer, about forty yards behind Baker Co’s main line of resistance. Some sixty yards east of the command post was a narrow, deep gully in which the Battalion aid station was located. The lone artillery observer was placed near the command post. Rapidly, he set up his radio and attempted to contact his fire direction center without success. Though on the wrong hill the battalion, except for the missing portions, was defensively set. As yet no radio contact had been established. Alternately, Col Williams and the S-3 dug foxholes and cheeked positions. The troops in Able Co and Baker Co were preparing positions some forty to sixty yards below the crest. Outposts of Able Co and Baker Co had been posted farther down the north slope of the Unnumbered Hill in order to overlook the ravine which separated it from the hill to the north (Hill 424). In the bright moonlight, troops were busy digging, off on Hill 424 an occasional machine pistol and machine gun fired, but not at the Unnumbered Hill.

The Tabacchificio Fischer, known to American troops as the Tobacco Factory, just north of the Sele River at Salerno. A stronghold of five brick buildings with massive walls, red tile roofs, and small windows resembling gun ports, the complex changed hands repeatedly during the battle

(Doc Snafu) I’m really sorry but despite the fact that I have in my archives more or less than 10k WW2 8×10 photos, many of which were bought at high prices during the constitution of the EUCMH collection in the late 1980s, I only have a few photos relating to Italy for the periods 1943, 1944 and 1945. I obviously have to thank the many people who send me photos from private collections, but unfortunately, they are often unusable (resolution) or not relevant to the texts I am dealing with. Of course, I keep asking those who have photos (or any other wartime documents of interest) to continue to send them to me (scans at 300 DPI (min) if possible – original items if you don’t care about them) because sometimes some are really great and have to be published. While remembering my friends and my readers that dedicating scrapbooks and photos to dust in your attics is not the best solution, EUCMH is definitely the place to render a well-deserved honor to your ancestors. (EUCMH is a Belgian non-profit and non-funded in anyway endeavor aimed at children’s education, mostly in the USA)(Google Adsense helps us covers the hosting costs – at least)

Before daylight on September 17, a machine gun from the direction of Altavilla opened up at the long-range and fired several bursts into the position of the 2nd Platoon of Baker Co. Then a messenger from Able Co and reported that someone had been heard yelling ‘Geronimo’ (509) from the hill to the north. Companies were alerted to watch for incoming paratroopers and were cautioned not to be tricked by Germans. Just at daybreak, several men of Able Co who had taken their squad’s empty canteens to the well were fired upon. Having only a carbine among them, they fled, leaving the canteens. At daybreak, Col Williams ordered Able Co to send a patrol to the hill to the north to investigate what appeared to be friendly troops. Capt Harrison ordered his 1st Platoon to move out. The 2nd Platoon was to hold the vacated positions with a skeleton force.

As the lead scout stepped out he was killed by enemy fire. The second scout ran out and was killed. The platoon leader running out to his scouts was wounded. As he lay out in front of his platoon position, Capt Harrison ordered the 1st Platoon back into their foxholes. As they covered him, he ran out and brought back the platoon leader, under both friendly and enemy fire. Apparently, Able Co’s patrol had run into a German force coming to the Unnumbered Hill. As the Germans attacked along the draw which leads into the hill from the northeast, the word was sent to Charlie Co’s 3rd Platoon to move through the saucer behind Able Co. In the firefight that followed the enemy was repelled. No enemy artillery was used. Only enemy mortar concentrations landed on the Unnumbered Hill. Evidently, the Germans had not expected to find anyone on this Hill. Anyway, the short action had cost Able Co two men killed and five others wounded.

In Baker Co’s sector riflemen observed a group of fifteen to twenty Germans moving to their front along the south slopes of Hill 424. When the Germans were taken under rifle and automatic rifle fire by Baker Co, the enemy was confused and withdrew to Altavilla. It was now about 0800, September 17. On the Unnumbered Hill radio contact with the regiment had not yet been established. The artillery observer had not been able to contact his battalion.

US 155-MM HOW just brought into a new position after being towed through thick Italian mud, is seen in action shelling the enemy beyond the hills Italy

Banner Hill 424

82nd Airborne504-PIROn Hill 424 Col Tucker and Captain Milloy had been busy. At daybreak, September 17, Col Tucker still had not been able to establish contact, either by patrol or radio, with the other elements of his regiment. Capt Milloy, at daybreak, had sent a small patrol toward the town of Altavilla. The patrol moved out down a steep trail that ran into town. Soon they were back. At the foot of the trail they had come upon a German self-propelled gun and a light tank, the same tank that had been ordered destroyed the night before. The patrol wanted a bazooka (Rocket Launcher) and then it would go back and attempt to knock the armor out. As they moved back down the trail they ran into a German combat patrol that drove them back. Another Charlie Co combat patrol was sent to the north to contact the enemy. Just outside the perimeter, it ran into a strong German force coming from the north. The patrol withdrew leaving one man dead. Then from the west, the tank and the self-propelled gun opened fire on the Charlie Co perimeter. The company commander could hear troops moving on the trail along which the earlier Charlie Co patrol had moved out. They made considerable noise as they came up the steep slope from Altavilla. When these troops came into sight they were seen to be a force of some fifty Germans. After they had gotten within seventy-five yards of the perimeter, Charlie Co opened fire, completely routing the force. As the Germans withdrew, the tank and the self-propelled gun intensified their fire. From the north, west, and southwest enemy small arms fired sporadically into the perimeter and then died down.

At 0930, September 17, Col Tucker unable to contact the remainder of the 1st Battalion and having identified friendly troops on the Unnumbered Hill, ordered a withdrawal to the Unnumbered Hill. Charlie Co and the regimental group withdrew without any enemy reaction.

Soldier Look in Italy 1943


Over on the Unnumbered Hill, Baker Co, shortly after 0800, observed enemy troops moving from the edge of Altavilla into the valley and toward the Unnumbered Hill. As Col Williams and the S-3 watched this force of some seventy-five to one hundred Germans moving, another smaller enemy force appeared from the south edge of Altavilla and swung around Hill 315. As the Germans approached within three hundred yards of Baker Co, men opened fire. The Germans broke into small groups that moved forward from bush to bush and terrace to terrace. Col Williams then ordered troops on the east edge of the perimeter into position on the edge of the saucer facing Altavilla. Enemy artillery began to fall on Baker Co and into the saucer. By this time some fifty men including about six automatic riflemen were firing at the enemy. As the Germans sought cover, the 60-MM mortar of the 2nd Platoon of Baker Co drove them out into the open. The 60-MM mortar squad leader, Sgt Douglas Morehead, was directing mortar fire from the crest of the saucer. His mortar crew was some fifteen feet behind him. From down on the forward slope Lt William Meerman (3rd Platfeon leader, Baker Co) was calling out targets to Sgt Morehead. As the German attack slowed down and then dropped back Col Williams ordered the mortar to stop firing. It had expended much of its ammunition and resupply was not certain. Enemy artillery concentrations of thirty to forty rounds each and mortar fire hit the slopes of the Unnumbered Hill. Then a mist began to gather in the valley obscuring Altavilla and parts of Hill 424. The battalion waited. Though the mist did not last more than a half hour it seemed much longer. The troops on the forward slope were tense and the word was being passed back and forth to watch for infiltrations.

Unnumbered Hill. At the northeast edge of Altavilla, on the road that ran east along Hill 424 three German tanks could be seen. All three tanks soon began to fire into foxhole after foxhole along the northwest slope of the Unnumbered Hill. The tanks first fired on the foxholes on the west edge of Able Co, then along the 2nd and 3rd Platoons of Baker Co. A direct hit on a bazooka position of the 2nd Platoon, Baker Co blasted two men out of the position. The platoon leader of the 2nd Platoon of Able Co and his aid man ran down. They were joined by the 1st Platoon leader of Able Co and his platoon sergeant. Another shell burst wounded the Able Co platoon leader before the bazooka team could be evacuated. On the right flank, of the 2nd Platoon, Baker Co was a company strong point dug in among a cluster of trees. Two shell bursts killed six men there. As the tanks fired, a German attack was launched from the northwest along the draw against the 1st Platoon of Able Co. In a short firefight, the German force was driven back with some loss. Though the German tank support had hit the battalion’s northwest perimeter hard, the 1st and 3rd Platoons of Able Co had not been affected by the tank fire. While the tanks had been active, the artillery observer had gained radio contact. Soon, the VI Corps artillery was firing on Altavilla and on the tanks. As the German tanks and infantry withdrew, enemy artillery again began to pound the Unnumbered Hill. The battalion S-3 with a command post detail moved to the aid station to collect ammunition from the wounded. Some of the troops had reached a critical low in small arms. In the aid station were some twenty wounded. About ten men had been killed so far in the morning’s action.

No way to get the Shermans in support on the Italian Hills


In the lull that followed the last tank-infantry enemy attack, word reached Col Williams that Col Tucker and Charlie Co had come in through Able Co’s position. When Col Tucker got to Col Williams, he demanded ‘Where in the Hell have you been?’ In a brief conference, it was decided that Able Co would move out at once to seize Hill 424. Charlie Co would reorganize and then follow Able Co. Baker Co would take over the defense of the Unnumbered Hill until the 2nd Battalion could be brought up. While troops were changing positions, an evacuating group of walking wounded was organized. The least seriously wounded, armed with rifles, would protect the group. Included in this group were the regimental executive officer, the regimental S-1, two newspaper reporters (Richard Tregaskis, INS and Seymour Korman, Chicago Tribune), Able Co’s 1st and 2nd Platoon leaders, and some ten men. The group moved out toward Albanella supporting several of their party. Able Co, in single file and well dispersed, moved off rapidly along the west slope of the saddle that connected the Unnumbered Hill with Hill 424. The time was about 1030.


Able Co, moving along the west slope of Hill 424, was soon fired on by a German machine gun. The fire killed three men at the point. Without much delay Able Co eliminated the machine gun and moved on along the north slope and into position on the west slope facing Altavilla. The foxholes that were occupied had been prepared by both Germans and Americans. As the company deployed, a German force, estimated as a company, without machine guns or artillery preparation struck the position. Capt Harrison radioed a request for artillery to Col Williams. He had spotted two tanks in the churchyard north of Altavilla. Relaying the message to the forward observer, Col Williams asked if Capt Harrison could adjust. As Corps Artillery fired, Capt Harrison adjusted the tanks and forced them to move. However, Corps Artillery now informed the observer that the limit of its range would carry only to the north slope of Hill 424. More distant artillery fire would have to come from the navy. A VI Corps Artillery report shows that Corps fired concentrations of four hundred eighty rounds each every ten minutes on the north slopes of Hill 424. About noon, a German force estimated by Capt Harrison as two companies attacked Able Co striking from the direction of Altavilla and the west slope of Hill 424. The attack was preceded by an intensive mortar barrage, and enemy machine guns covered the moving German troops. With the aid of the VI Corps Artillery, Able Co beat off the attack. The German force was disorganized by the artillery and small arms to such an extent that small groups of the enemy broke off and moved about without control.

As the Germans reorganized, small patrols began to hit Able Co. 0ne German patrol approached a platoon position. It moved up until only a walled trail separated the two forces. Not realizing how close they were, the German patrol leader gave orders to his men. A private, (Pfc Peter Schneider, German-born) heard the German officer. Calling first to his platoon sergeant, Pfc Schneider gave an order to the Germans. As he ordered them to move about he and the Platoon sergeant killed or dispersed all of the group of eight or ten Germans. Fearing that Able Co might be completely cut off after another attack, Col Williams ordered Charlie Co to move out at once. The Engineers and the men of 505-PIR would also move with the company. The battalion S-2 and the S-3 would take some men and move along the northeast slope of the Unnumbered Hill, along the east slope of the saddle, and join, the battalion commander on Hill 424.

Casualties evacuation Italy-1944 (Illustration)

At about 1300, the Charlie Co column moved out along the west slope of the saddle. No enemy was apparent as the S-3 and his group moved out along the west slope of the Unnumbered Hill. Only enemy artillery fell on Hill 424 and the Unnumbered Hill. Without incident except for mortar fire, the group reached the battalion commander on the west side of Hill 424. Charlie Co was placed in position along the north side of the Hill tying in with Able Co to its left. The east flank of Charlie Co was covered by the Engineers and the 505-PIR men.

The next German attack, at about 1500, struck against Able Co from the west slope of Hill 424 and against Charlie Co from the northwest. The attack was preceded by heavy artillery and mortar preparation that lasted about an hour. Again enemy machine guns covered the advance of an estimated two German companies. The Germans coming up the slopes could be seen as they got within some three hundred yards of the riflemen’s positions. As M-1s and automatic rifles took the enemy under fire, the Navy fire was requested on the main enemy force which was approaching Able Co. The mission would be fired but a comment was passed along with the approval that the force on Hill 424 would be in a dangerous position. As the men were warned to stay in their foxholes, a terrific naval bombardment pounded the northwest slope of the Hill. The Germans stopped, then broke off the fight, and withdrew. Another naval concentration was fired on the north slope of the Hill. During this attack, Able Co suffered approximately twenty casualties including the company executive officer and the first sergeant who were both killed by air bursts. The battalion S-3 had now established a command post on the south slope of the Hill against a high terrace wall, when he joined Col Williams at Charlie Co. Most of the troops had found foxholes already dug. Some of Charlie Co were occupying the same holes they had left in the morning.

Charlie Co was established along a narrow sunken trail. To his front, Capt Milloy had pushed out strong points after the Germans had withdrawn to cover the numerous draws that entered his position. Able Co occupied a position that overlooked the steep slopes toward Altavilla. Only from its outposts could the town itself be seen. On the south slope of the Hill the Engineers and the men of the 505-PIR were dug into terraces that overlooked the ravine. Though the fields of fire were short and observation was made difficult by the many draws and terraces only one weakness existed. That was on the south slope between the 505-PIR men and Able Co. As soon as Baker Co arrived, this could be remedied.

Meanwhile, the infantry consolidated their bridgehead and started liberating Italian towns

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