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Bloody Salerno

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"Never a shot fired in anger," repeated one of our riflemen as he calmly adjusted his sight and aimed carefully at a new target. "I'd rather been born a girl baby," said his companion, busy with a Browning Automatic, to no one in particular.

Artillery came into position and our counterbattery and Naval gunfire began to silence enemy batteries. Wire communication had been established between the command post and the 2nd and 3rd Battalions. The command post displaced inland about 500 yards by 1200 hours. Landing craft had resumed use of the beaches, and armor and supplies began to pour into every available area.

The flood-tide of battle had passed. We were there to stay.

During the afternoon of September 9, 1943, the Germans attempted to bomb our landing beaches, but were driven off by anti-aircraft fire. The planes came in at high speed and dropped their bombs haphazardly, causing little damage, then veered sharply to the east and disappeared over the mountains. Friendly fighter coverage, although operating from bases in Sicily, 185 miles away, kept the skies relatively clear of enemy planes.

At 1900 hours, an attack plan was formulated. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions were to move south, going around the 1st Battalion, clear the Germans from the line of advance down Highway 18, and secure positions in the Hill Colina San Marco and hill masses northeast of Agropoli. This movement began, at 0001 hours, September 10, 194 3. A small amount of small arms fire failed to slow, the movement of the 3rd Battalion, and it was able to close into its sector before daylight. The 2nd Battalion observed enemy activity, but its movement into the high hills to the left of the 3rd was made without incident. Patrols preceding the units noted signs of hasty retreat — burned and wrecked vehicles, disabled tanks and quantities of supplies.

At 0750 hours, September 10th, communication was established with our 1st Battalion. About 300 men of the battalion, under the commander of Company B, proceeded to mop up enemy opposition in the area, capturing 17 prisoners. The 1st Battalion was then reorganized and moved into regimental reserve north of the 3rd Battalion.

On September 10th the regiment established the Agropoli-Ogliastro-Trentinara defense line guarding the right flank of the Army beachhead. This position was maintained without incident until the afternoon of September 13, 1943.

At this time our 2nd Battalion, less Company F, and our 3rd Battalion, less Company K, entrucked in the Ogliastro-Agropoli area, along with the command group, and moved to a sector between Highway 18 and the shore, southwest of Battipaglia. Here the Germans had been attempting to split our invasion forces and drive us into the sea. We were attached to the 45th (Thunderbird) Division, which had begun landing on September 10th and had elements on our right flank. The 23rd Armored Regiment, British, was on our left. We began to detruck in the, new area by dusk. The 3rd Battalion was to occupy the front line, supported by the 2nd Battalion in depth.

At 2200 hours, orders were received from VI Corps releasing the 2nd Battalion to the 36th Division. They were then moved by truck to an area south of the Sele River, east of Highway 18 in the Defensa hill mass, and attached to the 143rd Infantry Regiment. Company F rejoined the 2nd Battalion and took up positions to the left of Company E.

p23.gif (12872 bytes)The area occupied by the 3rd Battalion southwest of Battipaglia was the narrowest sector of the entire Army beachhead, being but two miles deep, and was the critical juncture of the American VI and the British X Corps. The battalion was subjected to several minor attacks by the Germans on September 15th, all of which were broken up. One full scale attack was received on the morning of September 16th, when the enemy assaulted with tank supported infantry. This attack was repulsed. Our 3rd Battalion remained on the defensive with slight adjustments in its line until the Germans began an orderly withdrawal. After following the retreating enemy to a position between Battipaglia and Eboli, the battalion was relieved on September 19th by elements of the 45th Division.

The 1st Battalion was moved into a defensive position east of Highway 18 near the Sele River. This sector was maintained with minor improvements until September 19th.

The 2nd Battalion remained in position on the Defensa hill mass, where they had moved on the night of the 13-14th September, until September 18th. Continual harassing fire was directed into their positions from enemy guns in the vicinity of enemy held Altavilla. Company F was attacked by tanks, but was able to maintain its positions. The crew of one enemy tank was killed while abandoning the tank after it had been stopped by mechanical difficulties. The high ground occupied by our 2nd Battalion afforded a good view of the entire beachhead. They were able to watch the tank attacks on the plains below and the bombing of the Tobacco Factory by our planes. "Hitler count your children" became a familiar expression. And when the German planes came over the beach, our men crawled out of their battered fighting holes to watch.

On the night of September 18th the 2nd Battalion was moved into a sector on the hill mass just below and to the west of Altavilla. Since the Germans had withdrawn, the move was accomplished without incident. That is, without incident except for a company commander who stumbled in the darkness, fell on his musette bag and fractured a rib on a C-ration can.

The battle for the Salerno beaches was over. The defeated enemy had begun its withdrawal up the Italian peninsula. On September 21, 1943, the regiment was ordered into bivouac below Altavilla near the Sele River, along with the remainder of the 36th Division which went into Army reserve for reorganization, replacement of equipment and a much needed rest. Naples fell and a great port for entrance of supplies was secured. With the realization of the great historical significance of our achievements came a new pride, the pride of battles — we had been the first American troops to land on the continent of Europe. We had met the enemy on the beaches and had driven him back.

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