Italy - Tank Warfare (Illustration)

At about 1500, as Able Co and Charlie Co were being attacked, elements of the 2nd Battalion had relieved Baker Co on the Unnumbered Hill. The company, moving out in single file and with a five-yard interval between the men, swung north along the slope of the Unnumbered Hill. As it started to cross along the east slope of the saddle several rounds of enemy artillery fell in its vicinity. Soon round after round fell along the column. As the men lay in a narrow sunken trail some one hundred rounds fell. Before a lull in the firing allowed the group to cross the saddle, two officers had been wounded and some fifteen men killed or wounded. The company commander estimated that some forty or fifty tanks, between one thousand and two thousand yards away, had shelled his company. Most of the rounds that fell seemed to be armor-piercing.

Someone on the Unnumbered Hill had observed this firing and had also picked up a German battery firing from across the Calore River. Again the navy fired concentrations north of the Calore River. When Baker Co arrived it took over the positions that the Engineers and the men of the 505-PIR, had occupied. The latter was moved along the south slope to cover the ground between Baker Co and Able Co. Now the battalion was formed in perimeter defense. On the Unnumbered Hill elements of the 2nd Battalion were in position. The battalion aid station was in operation taking care of some twelve or fifteen casual￾ties though no means for evacuation yet existed. Except for food, the battalion was comparatively well off for supplies. Troops of the 36-ID had left stacks of mortar ammunition, small arms, and grenades on the hill. As yet, no supplies had reached the battalion from the rear.

Italy - An artillery forward observer from the 34th Division (Illustration)


As the battalions’ positions were being improved and the wounded cared for and in 1730, a radio message came from the regimental commander. The battalion was ordered to withdraw to Albanella under cover of darkness that night (September 17/18). After a short exchange of radio conversation, the battalion commander declared he could hold the hill. Col Tucker agreed and instructed the battalion to await clarification. Shortly after dark, a regimental wire line reached the battalion command post. A call from Col Tucker then rescinded the earlier order and explained that Gen Dawley, lacking information of the day’s activities, had feared a route of the regiment. After Col Tucker had explained the situation, Gen Dawley rescinded the written message which had reached Col Tucker earlier. The battalion would continue to hold Hill 424 and report its situation every half hour. The night of September 17/18 saw considerable enemy artillery concentrations on Hill 424. Only an occasional enemy automatic weapon was fired.

Except for local security, most of the troops spent the night sleeping. Some of them had had no sleep for thirty-six hours. Prior to daylight, a patrol from Able Co was sent out under Lt D. Horton. His patrol was to move north on the slope of Hill 424 and come back through Altavilla. After daylight, the patrol returned. They had been through Altavilla and had found no enemy. Apparently, the Germans had evacuated the town. Shortly before noon the battalion commander entered the town and confirmed the patrol’s report. At about noon, the regiment ordered a combat patrol to move north of the
Calore River and establish enemy contact. Col Williams directed the battalion S-2 to take his section plus a 60-MM mortar squad as far north as the town of Serre if necessary to accomplish this mission.

The patrol with an SCR 511 reached Serre at 1500, they were informed by the Italians that the Germans had moved north about an hour before the patrol arrived. Thus, following the enemy’s last unsuccessful attack against Hill 424 he had withdrawn his forces. During the night of September 17/18, he had abandoned Altavilla, which he could not hold while the 1st Battalion held the Hill. After dark, on September 18, the battalion S-4 arrived leading a mule train. He had brought rations that the men had been without for almost forty-eight hours. Much of the load was ammunition which the battalion now had in sufficient quantity. Using carrying parties, the wounded were evacuated to the Unnumbered Hill where a regimental aid station had been established. Sometime before midnight, the S-3 received a message that elements of the 36th Division would relieve the battalion at dawn. As the battalion commander and the S-3 walked around the slopes of Hill 424 to alert the company commanders they ran into a column of 36th Division troops moving up. At dawn, September 19, the troops of the 1st Battalion 504-PIR, the Engineers, and the Men of the 505-PIR moved out of their foxholes and marched through the town of Altavilla. Their mission was accomplished successfully.

Gen John Lucas with Gen Robert T. Frederick (1-SSF) in Italy date uncertain

The End

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