THE RAPIDO RIVER
|On the dark nights of January 20 and 21, the
Division, in an attack designed by the Corps and Army Commanders to gain control of the
Liri Valley and outflank Cassino, crossed the swift-flowing Rapido River. The Germans
anticipated the assault and they were ready.
a murderous struggle the initial bridgehead, slight holdings a few hundred yards inland on
the flat western side, became untenable with supply and follow-up impossible. Weary,
exhausted, with ammunition gone, men fought bravely until the weight of German
counterattacks forced a decision. The Rapido had been a failure.
JUST 100 YARDS FROM THE TREACHEROUS RAPIDO, INFANTRYMEN TAKE COVER
BEHIND ROCK-CONSTRUCTED STABLE.
New York Times correspondent C. L.
Sulzberger cabled this report:
"When the 36th Division sought valiantly and
vainly to establish itself across the icy Rapido River, it suffered losses that look heavy
to American military history. It was the boys of the 36th who stumbled through
night-screened, minefields, with assault boats on their shoulders and down to the
Rapido--suffering immensely en route. It was the boys of the 36th who crawled across a
thickly-iced rail-less bridge over a bloody little stream and fell under a bail of gun,
mortar and automatic fire in the gallant but vain attempt to establish a bridgehead.
"They call the 36th a 'hard luck' division
because it has never had an easy assignment. This writer saw one of its battalions when
what was left of it clambered back across the Rapido. They were tired but they remained,
in essence, fresh-faced boys from Texas. Their eyes mirrored no peace."
|81MM MORTAR CREW IN ACTION DURING THE RAPIDO RIVER STRUGGLE.
MEN WEAR POPULAR WINTER COMBAT TROUSERS.
||PIG STY. This thick-walled pig sty served as the 143rd's
message center while the fight was being carried across the river. Drinking K-ration
coffee is Pfc. Ralph G. Simpson, Cincinnati, Ohio, while Pvt. William Munves, Bronx, N.Y.,
answers the phone.
|SCORE. One Cannon Company platoon kept score of the damage it
was doing: two Mark IV tanks, three two and one-half ton trucks, one scout car and one
volkswagon. Close-up right is painted on the rear of a self-propelled mount.