World War Two: Italy; Volturno-Mountains and Bernhard Line (ISC-3-13)

By changing the corps boundary on 14 October to expedite the 10 Corps crossing of the Volturno, General Clark gave the British the 3rd Division objective, the long ridge running northwest from Triflisco for about twelve miles to Teano, and thereby freed the 3rd Division for a drive to the northeast. The modification delighted General Lucas. It narrowed his VI Corps zone and directed his elements along converging rather than diverging lines of advance.

Blow, a swift movement by the 3rd Division would assist the 34th Division, which was having some difficulty building bridges across the Volturno. That 10 and VI Corps would be drawing apart was not Lucas’ immediate concern, and in any event adjustments could be made later.

While General Clark informed General McCreery of his decision, General Lucas, who had been apprised first, instructed General Truscott to shift from a northwesterly to a northeasterly orientation. Thus, when Clark told Lucas, “Start it at once, Johnny,” Lucas could answer, “It is already on the way.”

The VI Corps temporarily continued to regulate traffic across the bridge ceded to the British. When a tank destroyer fell off the bridge during the night, drowning four men and fouling the structure, the corps halted movements for several hours until the wreckage could be cleared. However, enough British troops had crossed the river by then to relieve the Americans on the Triflisco ridge.

The drive beyond the Volturno would take the Fifth Army into what was then somewhat vaguely called the German Winter Line south of Cassino. Capturing the objectives assigned by the 15th Army Group headquarters, a line through the villages of Sessa Aurunca, Venafro, and hernia, roughly twenty-five to forty miles distant, would put the army into a position for a crossing of the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers and subsequent entrance, near Cassino, into the valley of the Liri and Sacco Rivers, the most direct route to Rome.

Blocking the Fifth Army was the XIV Panzer Corps, which had prepared a series of three fortified lines of defense. The forward wall was the Barbara Line, an ill-defined and hastily constructed position resembling a strong outPost line of resistance; it ran from Monte Massico near the west coast through the villages of Teano and Presenzano and into the Matese Mountains. The Bernhard Line -far more formidable-was a wide belt of defensive positions anchored on the mouth of the Garigliano River, on the forbidding masses of Monte Camino, Monte la Difensa, Monte Maggiore, and on the hulking height of Monte Sammucro.

Behind the Bernhard Line stood the Gustav Line-the strongest of the three-based securely on the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers and the natural fortress of Monte Cassino. The Gustav Line ran across the Matese range and into the Adriatic sector, where the LXXVI Panzer Corps was strengthening its defenses along the Sangro River. The Germans would defend the Barbara and Bernhard Lines stubbornly enough, but they would try to hold the Gustav position.

The principal object of the Tenth Army was to gain time-to fight cheaply, to use troops and materiel economically, to inflict maximum casualties on Allied forces while withdrawing slowly enough to permit construction of fortifications on all three lines, particularly the Bernhard and Gustav positions. The major purpose of the Fifth Army was to reach the German defensive positions before they could be organized and consolidated.

The fighting would take place in desolate mountains, creased by narrow valleys and deep gorges; on brush-covered heights, bald slopes, and high tablelands; along unpaved roads and mule tracks hugging mountain ledges. Late autumn weather would add fog, rain, and mud to the difficulties of the terrain.

After a few days of operations in this area the Fifth Army would characterize the enemy opposition as stubborn delaying action. Strong rear guard units were barring progress by well-executed demolitions, usually covered by long-range automatic and artillery fire, by frequent small-scale but intense counterattacks, and by tenacious possession of ground until threatened or attacked by superior forces.

Mountain Warfare

In the VI Corps zone immediately beyond the Volturno River, the existence of three roads in large part determined the corps maneuver. Each division was assigned a road: the 3rd, a dirt track winding for about ten miles through defiles and around craggy crests to Dragoni; the 34th, a secondary road running about seven miles up the western side of the upper Volturno valley to Dragoni; the 45th, an indifferent road on the eastern side of the upper Volturno leading to Piedimonte d’Alife. These poor roads, obstructed by demolished bridges, mines, booby traps, and roadblocks, would slow the corps.

When General Truscott received news on the afternoon of 14 October that the direction of advance for his 3rd Division had been changed, he immediately informed the 7th Infantry, which had occupied the western part of Monte Caruso and which had already started some troops northwest to Teano. Suddenly ordered to turn to the northeast, the regimental commander, Colonel Harry B. Sherman, at 1645 sent his 3rd Battalion to capture the hamlet of Liberi before dark. Four miles away, Liberi would be a good jump-off point for Dragoni, his eventual objective. Supported by tanks and tank destroyers, the battalion moved less than a mile before striking resistance at the Village of Cisterna. Although it fought all night to crack the defense, the German troops held their ground. Hoping to bypass the resistance at Cisterna, Colonel Sherman committed his 2nd Battalion on the left at midnight. Despite long-range enemy fire in the broken tableland north of Cisterna, the 2nd was a mile beyond the village by daylight, 15 October. Since the battalion could move but slowly in the mountains.

Sherman committed his 1st Battalion on the right at 0830. This battalion drove through the hamlet of Strangolagalli, then attacked directly across a series of small dash board ridges toward Liberi. The Germans at Cisterna, having delayed the American advance for one day and now about to be outflanked on both sides, withdrew. When the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, moved into Cisterna at 1500, 15 October, the Germans were gone.

The 3rd Battalion reverted to regimental reserve and the 1st Battalion on the right went on to secure a foothold on the high point of a ridge running through the village of Villa. About a mile short of Liberi, the battalion received such intense enemy fire that it was forced to halt. On the left, the 2nd Battalion, making steady if slow progress across broken ground, continued its advance after darkness, inching its way toward Villa. Shortly after midnight, machine gun fire brought this 2nd Battalion to a sudden standstill.

To get the attack moving again, Colonel Sherman recommitted his 3rd Battalion at 0330, 16 October, on the left of the 2nd Battalion. Twice repulsed by artillery and mortar fire in its efforts to storm a vital hill between Villa and Liberi, the gel Battalion was then hard put to beat off a sharp counterattack in approximate platoon size. The 1st and 2nd also fought off counterattacks.

At an impasse, Sherman scheduled a coronated attack for the following morning. He sent his Cannon Company up the road to support the 2nd Battalion in the middle. General Truscott helped out by temporarily attaching to the 7th Infantry the 3rd Battalion of the 15th Infantry, which was clearing the division left.

While Colonel Sherman prepared his reinforced regiment for the attack, the Germans withdrew from Liberi during the night and retired to another defensive position. When the 7th Infantry launched its attack at 0615, 17 October, there was no opposition. At 1000, the 2nd Battalion marched into Liberi. Sherman released the battalion of the 15th Infantry. The advance toward Dragoni continued until shortly before noon, when the leading troops of the 1st Battalion reached the next German delaying position.

Enemy rifle, machine gun, tank, and artillery fire pinned down the battalion and kept it immobile for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, the 2nd Battalion, followed by the 3rd, moved into the hills to bypass the German position. This accomplished, the troops returned to the road and moved forward until they struck resistance again. Once more the 2nd Battalion took to the hills, trying to envelop a German roadblock. Late that afternoon, as the Germans seemed ready to withdraw from Dragoni, General Truscott informed Colonel Sherman that he expected American troops to be in Dragoni by daylight, 18 October. To comply with this instruction, Sherman ordered the 3rd Battalion to blast through the opposition along the winding road.

The 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, attacked just before nightfall, apparently catching the Germans on the point of abandoning their positions. Shortly after midnight American troops were on high ground just south of and overlooking Dragoni, and during the hours of darkness patrols descended into the village.

When daylight came on 18 October, the battalion moved across and cut the Liberi-Dragoni road, securing in the process another and more advantageous hill. The 2nd Battalion, having taken high ground west of Dragoni, sent patrols to the northwest to cut the lateral road running from Dragoni westward to Highway 6. The 1st Battalion and the rest of the regiment came forward during the day and organized the high ground dominating Dragoni, and from there the regiment used mortar fire to interdict the road leading eastward across the upper Voltumo. Over General Truscott’s protest, General Lucas instructed the division commander to halt and wait for General Ryder’s 34th Division to come abreast. Truscott told Sherman to rest his regiment. “You have done a damn good job

with those battalions …. ” he said.

In the left of the 3rd Division zone the 15th Infantry had overcome much the same conditions and the same sort of resistance in advancing about ten miles to the villages of Roccaromana and Pietramelara. The regiment had jockeyed its units to outflank resistance as men climbed hills, reconnoitered for passes and trails, and sought to grapple with an elusive enemy. Many attacks made during darkness over steep, brush-covered hills had exhausted and scattered troops and intensified the problems of unit control. In each case, the Americans had dislodged small groups of Germans who had skillfully placed their few weapons so as to deny movement along the natural avenues of advance, forcing the small American units to make tortuous outflanking movements. By the time the Americans established fields of fire and ranges for mortars and artillery, the Germans, having accomplished their mission of delaying the advance, had retired to the next position, where the same dreary and wearisome process had to be repeated. In making this short advance during the five days from 14 through 18 October, the 3rd Division had sustained 500 battle casualties.

The Second Volturno Crossing

General Ryder had hoped to hold off the advance of his 34th Division for a day or two after crossing the Volturno and taking Caiazzo, because he wanted bridges installed to insure getting his heavy weapons and artillery, as well as an adequate flow of supplies, across the river. He secured permission from General Lucas the night of the 14th to confine his activity on 15 October to patrolling. But when General Clark phoned the corps commander a little later to tell him that the Germans seemed to be retiring and that he wanted VI Corps to pursue at once, Lucas called Ryder to tell him that he “must not lose contact and must push on as hard and vigorously as possible.” In compliance, Ryder ordered the 135th Infantry, in the right of the division zone, to drive ahead to Dragoni.

The 135th Infantry had captured the village of Ruviano on the morning of 15 October, but in the rolling grain fields, vineyards, and olive groves immediately beyond the regiment met stiff resistance that slowed progress. Trying to get his troops moving, General Ryder on the morning of 16 October instructed the 168th Infantry on the left to attack along the road from Caiazzo to Alvignano, a village about halfway between the Volturno River and Dragoni. He hoped thus to loosen the resistance beyond Ruviano. The 168th Infantry also struck firm opposition; it took a day of hard fighting to move about two miles to Alvignano.

The stubborn defense reflected the local importance to the Germans of the road network around Alvignano and Dragoni. At both villages, roads run northeastward to bridges, about two miles apart, across the upper Volturno. German units withdrawing from the pressure exerted by the 34th and 3rd Divisions needed these routes, and about three battalions of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division fought skillfully to keep the roads open.

While the 135th Infantry pushed doggedly beyond Ruviano along a ridge line for three miles to a height overlooking Dragoni, reaching that objective on the morning of 18 October, the 168th Infantry was moving with difficulty toward Dragoni. General Ryder had thought of passing the 133rd Infantry through the 168th to take Dragoni, but the advance of 3rd Division troops to ground dominating the village from the west and across the road west of Dragoni made it desirable for the 34th Division to block German movements eastward across the upper Volturno.

The German use of smoke in the area around Dragoni indicated that heavy equipment and large caliber weapons were still being evacuated across the bridge. A swift crossing by the 34th Division might disrupt that withdrawal and perhaps trap some German rear guards pulling back from the 45th Division, which was advancing along the eastern side of the upper Volturno valley from Monte Acero. To take the highway and the railroad bridge that was still intact a little more than a mile northeast of Dragoni became the task of the 133rd Infantry. Ryder had intended to reinforce the 133rd with contingents of the 135 th, but a savage counterattack against the 168th Infantry, apparently a last German effort to mask the final withdrawal from Dragoni on 18 October, prompted him to hold back the 135th to insure his security. Arranging with General Truscott to have the 3rd Division keep Dragoni and the river crossing interdicted by fire, General Ryder directed his 168th Infantry to seize the town, the 133rd to take the bridge. Later during 18 October, he would send the 135th Infantry to seize the crossing site at the destroyed bridge near Alvignano.

As the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 133rd Infantry attacked on the afternoon of 18 October up the west bank of the upper Volturno toward the Dragoni bridge, the 1st Battalion followed on the right rear, covering the regimental flank along the river. When the sound of heavy firing from the direction of Dragoni indicated that the two assault battalions were about to become involved in a fire fight for the bridge, the 1st Battalion commander came to an independent decision. Departing from the exact letter of his instructions, he sent a reconnaissance patrol to find a ford across the river. By crossing to the east bank, the battalion might bypass the resistance and drive rapidly to the regimental objective.

The lieutenant at the head of the patrol, which consisted of a rifle platoon and several members of the Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon, located a place that looked fordable. He started infiltrating men across the river. Unfortunately, the river was too deep; every man wading into the water soon had to swim. Persisting in his search, the lieutenant around dusk discovered a shallow bottom not far upstream from the destroyed Alvignano bridge. By this time half his force was across the river and manning a rather thin and somewhat precarious defensive line. The lieutenant informed the battalion commander of his success in finding a ford, and the battalion commander received permission from regiment to cross.

Since it would be dark before the battalion could get across the Volturno, the lieutenant put his entire platoon on the far side of the river as a covering force. He marked the ford with willow sticks cut from bushes along the river and pushed into the mud of the river bed. Since he had no tape, he had his men tie toilet paper to the sticks to make them visible in the darkness. He placed guides on the near bank and instructed them to tell every man of the battalion to keep just to the left of the line of sticks when crossing.

German artillery fire was by then falling on the crossing site, but all the foot elements of the 1st Battalion waded the Volturno at a cost of one casualty. Pushing rapidly up the east bank, the battalion approached the Dragoni bridge around midnight, 18 October. At that point, German troops set off prepared charges and destroyed the structure, leaving only the low gray stone abutments and one arch still standing.

Fortunately, the Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon had been working at the ford, improving the crossing

site with rocks pulled from the river bed to establish a roadway of sorts. At daylight all the antitank guns and prime movers, the communication jeeps, and a 3/4 –ton truck loaded with ammunition moved safely across and joined the infantry near the destroyed Dragoni bridge.

Coming up on the west side of the river, the other two battalions of the 133rd Infantry reached Dragoni during the morning of 19 October and forded the stream. The relatively swift movement of the regiment, however, had trapped no German rear guards.

That night the 135th Infantry forded the Volturno near the Alvignano bridge, moving during the hours of darkness to avoid enemy artillery fire. Hampered by swampy ground, sporadic German artillery fire, and occasional mine fields, the regiment moved north for four miles along the Alvignano-Alife road during the dark and foggy morning of 20 October. That afternoon troops entered the old walled village of Alife. Bombed by B-25’s a week earlier, Alife was a mass of rubble, its bridge destroyed, its ruins full of mines and booby traps left by the Germans. There the 34th Division prepared to take over what had formerly been the zone of the 45th Division.

The Upper Volturno Valley

The 45th Division, after taking Monte Acero near the confluence of the Volturno and Calore Rivers, had driven up the eastern part of the upper Volturno valley, its advance obstructed by determined German rear guards bolstered by artillery and tank fire and occasional air attacks. Had General Middleton been able to secure close air support for his ground troops, he might have accelerated his progress. Between 11 and 17 October, he requested on six different occasions bombings of targets of opportunity spotted by forward observers-artillery positions, road traffic, and in one instance a column of German vehicles moving bumper to bumper. He was refused for a variety of reasons: “all fighter-bomber aerodromes unserviceable”; targets received too late for aircraft to take off“; “weather in area reported impossible.” Six prearranged missions laid on between 14 and 18 October to provide direct support to 45th Division forward elements were far from satisfactory-the weather had “interfered with the detailed execution of the above programme.”

A bombing and strafing attack by twenty German planes on 14 October and tank fire bolstered by strafing on the following day prevented the 45th Division from taking Faicchio, a village stronghold on dominating ground just beyond Monte Acero. Not until the Germans abandoned Faicchio during the night of 15 October did the division advance.

For four more days the 45th Division shouldered its way into the valley, covering the eight miles from Faicthio to Piedimonte d’ Alife by dogged persistence. Late on 19 October, when leading elements entered the village, the attack came to an end. On the following day the 45th Division went into corps reserve, leaving to the 34th Division the task of continuing the drive up the east side of the valley.

Placing his 135th Infantry in division reserve at Alife, General Ryder extended the control of his 168th Infantry over Dragoni to free the 3rd Division for an advance to the northwest, and sent the 133rd Infantry into the narrowing Volturno valley toward San Angelo d’ Alife, five miles away.

The advance of the 133rd Infantry had scarcely got under way when the Germans caught the 100th Infantry Battalion in open flats not far from Alife. From positions in the foothills of the Matese Mountains the Germans delivered rifle, machine gun, artillery, and Nebelwerfer fire on the Americans. The sound from the Nebelwerfer rockets, called “screaming meemies,” probably terrified the Americans more than the fire itself. The men scattered in panic. With the battalion disorganized, the regimental advance came to a halt before it really began.

Hoping to demolish the German defenses by firepower, the regiment saturated the area with mortar and artillery shells. But the enemy positions on the mountain slopes were difficult to pinpoint, and the fires were apparently ineffective. Two artillery battalions, the 125th and 151st, crossed the Volturno into the regimental area, but their fires, including a concentrated expenditure of 1,134 rounds delivered in a 20-minute period on the morning of 21 October, failed to stop the German guns. When a Cub artillery observation plane discovered several German tanks in a willow grove near the river, the 125th Field Artillery Battalion fired 736 shells with little result; the resistance remained firm.

For three days the 133rd Infantry tried to move forward without success. Then the Germans broke contact and withdrew. On the fourth day, the morning of 24 October, troops walked into the vacuum and took not only Sant Angelo d’Alife but also Raviscanina unopposed. The advance of seven miles in the upper valley of the Volturno during four days cost the 133rd Infantry a total of 59 men killed and 148 wounded. The entire 34th Division had suffered more than 350 casualties in the period of a week.

The week had not been easy for the Germans either. “We withdraw 5 kilometers,” a German noncommissioned officer wrote in his diary. “Are under heavy artillery fire. Had several wounded. Master Sergeant Bregenz killed …. My morale is gone.” [n3-13-10 Incl II to VI Corps G-2 Rpt 44, 1530, 22 Oct 43.]

The Coastal Zone

Headed toward the lower part of the Garigliano River, 10 Corps was fighting in the coastal area-a countryside of grain fields, vineyards, orchards, and olive groves, cut by drainage canals, tree-lined streams, deep ravines, and sunken roads, and rimmed by sand dunes and marshes.

A dozen miles north of the Volturno, a hill mass heaves up from the coastal plain; topped by Monte Massico and Monte Santa Croce, this high ground commanded the corps approach routes from the south as well as the Garigliano valley to the northwest. To the northeast stand still greater heights-Monte Camino, Monte la Difensa, and Monte Maggiore.

The 46th Division, working along the coast, had reached the Regia Agnena Nuova Canal, four miles north of the Volturno, by 15 October; there, strong opposition halted the division for three days. Late on the evening of 18 October, the 46th forced a crossing and secured a bridgehead, which was subsequently enlarged and reinforced. Three ferries operating continuously brought enough men, equipment, and supplies to the far side to make feasible a movement in force to Monte Massico and Monte Santa Croce.

Meanwhile the 7th Armoured Division, after bridging the Volturno at Grazzanise on 16 October, advanced slowly across low, wet ground, its progress obstructed by demolitions and rear guard resistance. At the Regia Agnena Nuova Canal the division made an assault crossing and fought through grain fields and olive groves for three miles to Sparanise on 25 October. Highway 7, leading through the Cascano pass between Monte Santa Croce and Monte Massico, was at hand.

In the right of the 10 Corps zone, the 56th Division had been fighting along the Triflisco ridge to open Highway 6 and gain access to Teano. The terrain was extremely rugged. Some ridge crests were so narrow that only a single platoon could be deployed. Supplies often had to be carried by hand. Furnishing fire support was frequently impossible. Yet the division moved forward and by 22 October was ready to concentrate for an attack into the Teano valley.

Since the ground in the center of his corps was not particularly suitable for armored operations, General McCreery halted his divisions and on 24 October switched the zones of the 7th Armoured and 46th Divisions, an exchange that was completed four days later. With his immediate objectives the heights of Monte Massico and Monte Santa Croce, McCreery set 31 October as the date for opening the attack. He directed the 56th Division on the right to make the main effort through Teano to Roccamonfina, five miles beyond; the 46th Division, now in the center, to drive up Highway 7 and through the Cascano defile to seize ground controlling the road network around Sessa Aurunca; the 7th Armoured Division to protect the left flank and simulate a threat up the coastal route through Mondragone. Ships offshore were to support the attack by furnishing gunfire.

Several days before the jump-off date, British patrols discovered that the Germans were about to disengage. As the enemy thinned his front-line dispositions and began to draw back, British units followed to maintain firm contact. By 29 October, the 56th Division was within a mile of Teano, the 46th was at the entrance of the Cascano pass, and the 7th Armoured Division reported definite German withdrawal in the coastal area.

Hoping to disrupt German movements, General McCreery launched his attack a day earlier. On 30 October, the three divisions pushed forward, the 56th taking Teano, the 46th advancing a mile into the Cascano pass, the 7th Armoured doing little more than making its presence felt because of extremely muddy ground that bogged down vehicles. The 10 Corps attack continued-the 56th Division capturing Roccamonfina on 1 November and Monte Santa Croce four days later; the 46th moving through the Cascano pass and taking control of the Sessa Aurunca area; the 7th Armoured clearing the coastal region as far as the lower Garigliano River. McCreery had failed to disrupt the German withdrawal, but his troops made good progress. On 2 November patrols from the 7th Armoured and 46th Divisions reached and reconnoitered the near bank of the Garigliano.

The advance had been surprisingly easy; the action for the most part consisted of eliminating numerous machine gun positions by small unit maneuver and firepower. The XIV Panzer Corps in its coastal sector had abandoned the Barbara Line.

Once through the Massico barrier and in control of the ground dominating the lower Garigliano valley, 10 Corps turned to the hills that stretched to the north-Monte Camino, Monte la Difensa, and Monte Maggiore. Held by the Germans, this unbroken lateral mountain barrier extended about eight miles between the Cascano pass and the Mignano gap, which provided an onening for Highway 6 on the way to Cassino, twelve miles beyond. To make possible a Fifth Army drive through Mignano to Cassino, 10 Corps would first have to gain possession of Camino, Difensa, and Maggiore on the left side of the highway, while VI Corps took the high ground on the right. In this area the Barbara Line was still intact.

More Mountain Warfare

In the VI Corps zone the 3rd Division was consolidating positions in the high ground immediately west of Dragoni, the 34th Division trying to advance in the upper Volturno valley, and the 45th Division was in corps reserve. When the 34th Division reached the head of the upper Volturno valley. General Lucas would have to shift his corps dispositions in order to draw closer to 10 Corps. At that time, he would have to send the 3rd Division to the northwest to attack toward the high ground dominating the Mignano gap, get the 34th Division and perhaps the 45th across the upper Volturno River to seize Vena fro, and make provision for protecting his right flank in the virtually impassable foothills of the Matese mountain range.

The immediate task was to clear the upper Volturno valley, and this entailed a continuation of the 34th Division attack. General Ryder passed the 135th infantry through the 133rd to continue the advance beyond Raviscanina. In support of the regimental attack scheduled for the morning of 26 October, the 34th Division Artillery began to fire successive concentrations at 0530, moving the fire ahead of the assault units 100 yards every six minutes. Whether the preparation was effective soon became academic.

Early morning darkness and a heavy morning mist obscured terrain features and the line of departure; combat units and supply parties soon became confused and lost their sense of direction. The attack deteriorated as the men became disorganized. Fortunately, there was almost no opposition on a side road to AiIano, and a battalion of infantry moved forward two miles and took the hamlet that afternoon. But resistance on the main road in the regimental zone prevented an advance to Pratella. For two days the Germans held. When General Ryder passed the 168th Infantry through the 135th on the morning of 28 October, the Germans, were withdrawing – even before the heavy artillery preparation and a fighter-bomber attack struck Pratella. American patrols entering the village on 30 October found the Germans had gone. With long-range artillery fire harassing the advance elements and contact with the enemy confined to scattered small arms and machine gun fire the 34th Division reached the bank of the Volturno River on 3 November.

Meanwhile, General Clark had given General Lucas the 504th Parachute Infantry to protect the VI Corps right flank. This experienced unit, equipped with light weapons and trained to operate independently, had a reputation for skillful patrolling and infiltration, valuable for a task that would involve scouting virtually impassable mountainsides and maintaining contact with the Eighth Army on the other side of the Matese range.

General Lucas dispatched Colonel Tucker’s paratroopers on 27 October five miles beyond Raviscanina to Gallo. After setting up a base there, Tucker extended patrol operations toward Isernia, about fifteen miles distant and just across the Fifth Army boundary in the British army zone of advance. Two days later Colonel Tucker reported that his troops were meeting only small and isolated German detachments and observing only very light enemy vehicular movements along the Venafro-Isernia road.

The corps commander had called his division commanders together on 27 October to talk over plans, and the discussion had been, he remarked, “hot and heavy.” Not a council of war, because Lucas was determined to make his own decisions, the conference was wholesome, he believed. “These primadonnas feel,” Lucas wrote, “that they had their day in court and I get the ideas of men of great combat experience.”

From the conference and his own thinking emerged General Lucas’ instructions for the next phase of operations. On 29 October he ordered the 504th Parachute Infantry to cut the Venafro-Isernia road; the 34th and 45th Divisions to cross the upper Voltumo River; and the 3rd Division to be ready to seize Presenzano, a village that would give the division a foothold on the high ground overlooking the Mignano gap from the east.

The 3rd Division jumped off on 31 October. Attacking northwest from the Roccaromana area immediately west of Dragoni, two regiments moving abreast crossed the small valley carrying the lateral road that connects Raviscanina and Highway 6. Having cut the road, the 15th Infantry and the 30th Infantry took two hill masses dominating the hamlet of Pietravairano.

Because this advance had been relatively easy, General Truscott secured permission to advance on both sides of Highway 6 to the Mignano gap. Against a surprising absence of opposition, the 7th Infantry crossed Highway 6 and cut the Roccamonfina-Mignano road. By 3 November the regiment had gained the wooded height of Friello Hill west of Highway 6, where the troops found many mines and booby traps but few Germans. The 15th Infantry, also moving quickly, attacked up Highway 6, sending a battalion to seize the high ground above Presenzano. By 3 November, the 15th Infantry was at the southern edge of Mignano on the east side of Highway 6.

With 10 Corps holding Monte Massico near the coast and the 3rd Division beyond Presenzano, it became obvious that the German troops defending the Barbara Line had pulled back. They had gained time with little expenditure of men and materiel. They had used the terrain to good advantage, careful to employ defiladed ground for shelter and dense woods for concealment. Their artillery fires had been effective-having registered and adjusted artillery on the likely approach routes, they were able to fire without direct observation. Small mobile infantry units supported by long range artillery fire had conducted a skillful rear guard action.

The final surge by 10 Corps to the lower Garigliano, Monte Massico, and Teano had been made possible by intentional German withdrawal; the lower Garigliano provided the Germans with a better obstacle and the high ground immediately behind the river better positions than those they had abandoned. The final drive by the 3rd Division to the high ground around the Mignano gap had been made possible by anything but an intentional German withdrawal. Two inexperienced German infantry divisions, the 94th and 305th, had come from Rommel’s Army Group B area into Kesselring’s 0B SUED command for assignment to Tenth Army. The 94th was to come under the XIV Panzer Corps, the 305th under the LXXVI Panzer Corps on the east coast, When Kesselring, concerned about the possibility of Allied amphibious hooks, ordered Vietinghoff to speed the construction of coastal defenses to protect the deep Rank, particularly between Gaeta and Terracina, Vietinghoff assigned this task to the 94th Division. To help the 94th, he withdrew several engineer battalions from the Mignano sector. The transfer of the engineers delayed completion of a strongpoint under construction at Mignano and prevented work oft the-massif holding Prcsenzano, projected as an advancedbastion of defense, from being carried out as extensively as planned. There had been little to stop or slow down the 3rd Division.

Except for these swift advances, Allied progress had been slow and costly. General Clark Was irritated. “So am I,” General Lucas wrote in his diary. But he could see no other way. The troops could not be pushed beyond their capabilities.

“Things are going slowly,” he admitted. but as long as the Germans were effective and dangerous. there was no alternative to patience. In twenty days the Fifth Army had advanced between 15 and 20 miles along a 40-mile front. The troops had not succeeded in engaging the main body of the enemy forces. The senior commanders could only hope that the Allies had forced the Germans to withdraw faster than they had intended.

Rome was still a long way off. Nor was there evidence of an imminent enemy collapse, or the prospect of a decisive Allied strike toward the Eternal City Rome discouraging frontal advance would have to continue. Unless, of course, the breakthrough of the Barbara Line meant that the Germans were about La give up southern Italy. The third crossing of the Volturno River might tell.

The Third Volturno Crossing

Getting the 34th and 45th Divisions westward across the upper VoIturno River was designed to help the 3rd Division take the Mignano gap and open the way for an advance to Cassino and beyond. While the 3rd Division fought in the immediate vicinity of Mignano, the 34th Division was to cross the river and attack into broken ground around Colli, about five miles away, in order to anchor securely the right flank of the corps. The 504th Parachute Infantry operating still on the right flank in terrain so difficult that it was necessary often to communicate by carrier pigeon and sometimes to send food and ammunition by overhead trolley strung across deep mountain gorges-would lend assistance by cutting the Venefro-Isernia road. The 45th Division was to push up Highway 85, for about eight miles to Venafro, then turn west and, assisted by a Ranger battalion, seize Monte Sammucro, which blocked Highway 6 north of Mignano.

General Lucas was concerned about the river crossing. The operation would be complicated, he believed, particularly since the defenders held commanding ground across the river. Both assault divisions would have to be supplied over a single road under enemy observation and fire. Yet there was no avoiding it. “I must cross the river,” Lucas wrote in his diary, “if I am ever to get to Rome.”

Pushed continually by General Clark, who insisted that there were few enemy troops on the far side of the river, General Lucas just as frequently requested more time to prepare. He saw no point in incurring unnecessary casualties. Reluctantly, Lucas set the night of 2 November for the crossing, though he later had to Postpone the 34th Division operation for a day to give Ryder additional time to reconnoiter and get more artillery into supporting positions.

To the troops taking cover among the olive groves on the slopes overlooking the flat valley of the upper Volturno, the view to the west was far from comforting. Just beyond the river in the foreground lay Highway 85 and a parallel railroad to Venafro. Beyond these rose rugged and towering mountains. There the Germans, who had destroyed bridges and spread mines behind them, had to be waiting for those who would cross.

The first troops to ford the upper Volturno in this third crossing of the Volturno by VI Corps were from the 45th Division. During the night of 2 November, concealed by darkness, the men of Company F, 180th Infantry, moved through clumps of willows to the water, waded the shallow stream, and took up positions high on a terraced hillside to form a covering force. During the afternoon and evening of 3 November troops of the 4th Ranger Battalion crossed the river with little trouble. Following a steep and rocky trail in single file, the men climbed into the hills, moving west toward Highway 6.

About the same time the rest of the 2nd Battalion, 180th Infantry, crossed the gravel bed of the river downstream, struggled up steep ridges, and advanced northwest toward the village of Ceppagna, there to cut a mountain road connecting Venafro and Highway 6. There was no opposition until morning, when the battalion met German troops on a narrow ridge near Rocca Pipirozzi, a little stone village clustered about a castle on a peak. The battalion side-slipped to the Ceppagna area to block the road and sent patrols southwest to make contact with the Rangers, who had marched all night over jagged heights for 12 tortuous miles. In the morning they too had met Germans, and they dug in on Cannavinelle

Hill, 2 to 3 miles east of Highway 6.

Upstream from the crossing sites of the 180th Infantry, the 179th Infantry had sent its 3rd Battalion across the Volturno very early on 4 November. Advancing toward Venafro through the grain-fields and vineyards of the valley, the men made good progress against virtually no opposition. By midmorning the battalion was at the outskirts of Venafro, but there machine gun fire halted the troops. One rifle company fought its way through the town to the safety of a small hill immediately to the north, but the remainder of the battalion could not move from the flat and exposed ground until after dark. The 1st and 2nd Battalions had meanwhile crossed the river and come forward. On the following morning the regiment attacked into the high ground to eliminate the few defenders who had temporarily delayed the capture of Venafro.

The 34th Division crossed the Volturno with two regiments abreast, the troops moving through the farmland of the muddy valley to positions along the low near river bank shortly before midnight, 3 November. After an artillery preparation of thirty minutes, the troops waded the swift and icy stream. Some hostile mortar and artillery fire came from the hills, but the worst obstacle was the large number of mines and booby traps planted in the valley, their trip wires seemingly attached to every grapevine, fruit tree, and haystack. Commanders and staffs of the higher headquarters could follow the progress of the advancing troops by the explosions.

The assault regiments crossed Highway 85 and moved into the hills against stiffening opposition. By about noon of 4 November the leading units were on the initial objectives of the division. The heavy casualties caused by mines made it impossible to continue the attack without reinforcement, and General Ryder therefore brought over the rest of his division.

With VI Corps across the upper Volturno and hammering on the Bernhard Line, General Lucas’ concern vanished. “All is well tonight,” he wrote in his diary on 4 November. Good news, too, was the fact that the 504th Parachute Infantry had managed to get a patrol over the mountains and into Isernia; the village was clear of enemy troops no German troops were being assembled there for a strike against the VI Corps right flank.

The Germans at the Bernhard Line

The crossings of the upper Volturno River during the nights of 2 and 3 November had taken the Germans somewhat by surprise. They had expected crossings, since the river was fordable all along its upper reaches and the valley was difficult to defend, but not so soon.

The Germans had come to anticipate that American attacks, especially across rivers, would be carefully prepared. Consequently, the unit that had been defending the area, the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division (reinforced by small elements of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division) had planted a profusion of mines and left merely outposts to cover its movement into the Bernhard Line positions.

Kesselring had asked Vietinghoff to hold the Allied forces away from the Bernhard Line until 1 November, when the fortifications were expected to be completed, and Vietinghoff had performed this ticklish operation with skill, avoiding the loss of fighting strength and enabling enough forces to withdraw to the fortifications to insure a strong defense.

In the process his troops had destroyed bridges, culverts, tunnels, railroad tracks, engines, and wagons in the area they had evacuated; they had laid some 45,000 mines forward of the Bernhard Line and an additional 30,000 on its immediate approaches. Although Vietinghoff would have preferred to concentrate forces for a counterattack against either Fifth or Eighth Army, he was well aware of how useless this would be without air support. Fighting from the excellent defensive positions of the Bernhard Line would be almost as satisfying. Not a single line, it was rather a system of mutually supporting positions organized in depth to permit penetrations to be sealed off quickly.

A special engineer headquarters under General Bessell had planned the Winter Line with foresight and directed the construction work with great competence. Italian civilians, who were paid good wages plus a bonus of tobacco and food, performed much of the labor. Mussolini’s puppet government had also made available several quasi-military construction battalions.

Kesselring issued his “order for the conduct of the campaign” on 1 November. He now told Vietinghoff to be unconcerned about Allied amphibious landings in the deep flanks-OB SUED would take responsibility for repelling them: Vietinghoff was to give his full attention to a strong defense at the Bernhard Line while the construction along the Gustav Line was being completed.

A few days later, despite Vietinghoff’s skillful withdrawal, Kesselring showed dissatisfaction with what he considered to be the quick crumbling of the Barbara Line. He questioned Vietinghoff’s conduct of operations. Taking umbrage, Vietinghoff immediately requested sick leave. Kesselring approved the request and took temporary command of the Tenth Army until the arrival on the following day, 5 November, of Generalleutnant Joachim Lemelsen, who would command the army until 28 December, when Vietinghoff returned. Also in November, Hube was given command of an army on the Eastern Front and Generalleutnant Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin replaced him as XIV Panzer Corps commander.

German troops in contact with the Allied armies consisted of about seven and a half divisions. The XIV Panzer Corps controlled the 94th Infantry and the 15th and 3rd Panzer Grenadier Divisions, as well as a battle group of the Hermann Gӧring Division. Under the LXXVI Panzer Corps headquarters were the 26th Panzer, 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger), 305th Infantry, and 65th Infantry Divisions. The order of battle was not an altogether accurate measure of troop strength. For example, the 94th Division was neither experienced nor well trained.

“It is completely illogical to send us this division,” the Tenth Army chief of staff had protested in a telephone conversation with OB SUED. “It is not illogical,” Kesselring’s chief of staff replied. “Hitler has ordered it.” Logical or not, the division soon took responsibility for part of the front, but as it turned out the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, which it was supposed to replace, would remain as well. More important in measuring the strength of the German divisions was the reorganization that had taken place generally in October 1943. Until that time, the standard German infantry division had an antitank battalion; a reconnaissance battalion; three infantry regiments, each controlling three rifle battalions; a regiment of medium (150-mm. howitzers) artillery and three battalions of light (105-mm. howitzers or guns) artillery (for a total of 48 pieces, roughly the same number as in an American division). The division at full strength thus had a little more than 17,000 men.

Dwindling supplies of manpower in the fall of 1943 prompted a drastic overhaul to reduce the size of the standard division while retaining its firepower. By giving each of the three regiments only two battalions of infantry, the Germans reduced the division to about 13,500 men. Although Hitler in January 1944 would try to trim personnel to about 11,000 troops, OKH planners would compromise and slice off only 1,000 men, making reductions chiefly in supply and overhead units. A cut in the basic unit, reducing the rifle company to 140 enlisted men and 2 officers, gave the German division about 1,200 fewer riflemen than the American division.

Added to the reduction in the size of the infantry division, there was the difficulty of replacing losses, not only in personnel but in equipment. A battle strength of three to four hundred men in a battalion was considered good, though seldom attained. Artillery could not match Allied firepower because of limited ammunition stocks. The ground troops were denied consistent air support. There were no separate tank battalions to bolster the infantry units. Reserves were scarce.

But all the deficiencies that plagued the Germans were more than compensated by the superior defensive positions the terrain of southern Italy offered. On the Bernhard Line the German divisions would use all their infantry battalions at the front, usually keeping the reconnaissance battalion in immediate reserve.

Corps headquarters would try to have one battalion in reserve. Army would have no reserves at all, but would depend on withdrawing forces (normally an entire division) from quiet sectors to strengthen and give depth to threatened points along the front. At the beginning of November, Kesselring permitted Tenth Army to retain a. battle group of the Hermann Gӧring Division in the line, while the rest of the division went into reserve in the Frosinone area at the head of the Liri valley. Kesselring also positioned the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division in reserve at Velletri, on the southern approaches to Rome, particularly for use against coastal invasion.

A major question troubled the German command. Would the troops in the line actually hold after a year of constant retreat in North Africa, Sicily, and southern Italy? For the troops to take seriously the order to stand fast on the Bernhard Line, the commanders at all echelons would have to have their units well in hand. Otherwise the defense would collapse.

Into the Bernhard Line

The immediate objective of the Fifth Army offensive was some twelve miles ahead-the entrance to the Liri valley, the gateway to Rome. To reach the Liri valley, the army had first to clear the shoulders of the Mignano gap, then take Cassino, and finally cross the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers. If the troops could crack the defenses at Mignano, they might be able to rush across the intervening ground to the Liri valley.

At Mignano, Highway 6 and the railroad to Rome come together and run side by side, overlooked on the left by the Camino-Difensa-Maggiore mountain mass, on the right by the terrain around Presenzano, the Cannavinelle Hill, and Monte Rotondo. Just beyond Mignano the highway and railroad separate, the railroad tracks going around the western edge of Monte Lungo, the road running around the eastern edge. Passing between Monte Lungo on the left and Monte Rotondo on the right, the road heads for the village of San Pietro Inline, which is set like a jewel on the forbidding height of Monte Sammucro. Before reaching the mountain, Highway 6 swings left around the high ground, bypasses San Pietro, and runs straight to Cassino.

In early November 10 Corps was at the foot of the Camino-Difensa-Maggiore mass, with the 56th Division in position to attack Camino, a mountain of steep and rocky slopes and razorback main spurs with very little cover, looming some 3,000 feet above the Garigliano valley. Attacking on 5 November with two brigades, the 56th Division found the few natural approaches to the top carefully mined, booby-trapped, and wired, and covered by crew-served weapons in pits blasted out of solid rock.

After overcoming German outpost positions in several hamlets at the foot of the mountain, the troops started to fight up the slope on the afternoon of 6 November, a slow and backbreaking process. Units of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division defending the hill launched three counterattacks on 8 November and almost drove the British from the slope, but they held on doggedly, retaining a precarious position about halfway up.

Two days later, as the weather became colder and wetter, the British began to show signs of complete exhaustion. Losses sustained by continuous action since the invasion of Salerno had by this time so reduced combat efficiency that it became doubtful whether the troops could hold Monte Camino even if they captured all of it. An entire battalion was doing little more than carrying rations, water, and ammunition to men who were hanging to the steep slopes; evacuation of casualties was a long and wearying haul. When two rifle companies were surrounded by Germans, they held out for five days, even though they had only one day’s supply of rations and water, until a sharp local attack finally opened a path to them and made possible the withdrawal of the few soldiers who remained.

General Templer, the division commander, was ready to commit his third brigade on 12 November in a last attempt to secure the mountain when General Clark gave approval for the 56th Division to withdraw. During the night of 14 November the troops started to pull out. The hazardous job of breaking contact was completed without enemy interference, thanks for the most part to bad, weather. But this could not disguise the fact that the troops of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division) wearing thin, summer uniforms for sen’ice in “sunny Italy.” had won a defensive victory.

Much the same happened on Monte la Difensa, where the 3rd Division had committed the 7th Infantry across the corps boundary on the left of Highway 6. Attacking into a high ridge between the jagged peaks of Camino on the south and the perpendicular cliffs of Difensa on the north, the regiment employed all its battalions in the attack, hoping not only to take Difensa but also to help the British take Camino.

For ten days the regiment fought, trying in vain to scale the heights against strong resistance anchored on commanding ground-deadly rifle, machine gun, mortar. and artillery fire. It was difficult enough simply to exist on the narrow ledges above deep gorges. When a man needed both hands for climbing, he could carry little in the way of weapons and ammunition. Efforts to drop supplies from light planes proved unsuccessful the material came to rest at the bottom of inaccessible ravmes or fell into enemy territory. It took six hours to bring a wounded man down the mountain. Exposed to rain and cold, increasingly fatigued by the unceasing combat, the troops were unable to conquer Monte la Difensa.

The rest of the 3rd Division had meanwhile been trying to take the two mountains dominating the gap just above the village of Mignano: Monte Lungo on the left of Highway 6, and Monte Rotondo on the right. Patrols reported mine fields, tank traps, and machine gun positions on both mountains, and the assault troops found units of the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division and the battle group of the Hermann Gӧring Division in stout defense, despite their losses.

General Truscott had been resting the 30th Infantry, holding it in readiness for a final and decisive thrust in the area of the Mignano gap-an attack he intended to order when he judged the defenses on the point of crumbling. Instead, after General McCreery asked General Clark for more pressure from VI Corps to help the 56th Division on Monte Camino, and after General Clark relayed the request to General Lucas, the VI Corps commander directed Truscott to employ the 30th Infantry in a wide enveloping maneuver. Truscott protested that this would waste the regiment, but of course complied.

He sent the 30th Infantry by truck around Presenzano to the vicinity of Rocca Pipirozzi, in the upper Volturno valley. There the regiment was to pass through the troops of the 45th Division and attack westward across Cannavinelle Hill, where a Ranger battalion was dug in, to take Monte Rotondo from the east. In the meantime, a battalion of the 15th Infantry attacked beyond Presenzano and headed northeastward to bolster the Rangers on Cannavinelle.

After passing through the 180th Infantry during the night of 5 November, the 30th Infantry attacked the following morning. The regiment made little progress. Both the battalion of the 15th Infantry striving toward Cannavinelle and the battalion of the 15th sent to seize the southeast nose of Monte Lungo failed to reach their objectives.

It took another attack on the foggy morning of 8 November, this one supported by eight battalions of closely coordinated artillery, for the 3rd Division to seize its goals. The 30th Infantry broke through the defenses of the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division, smashed its way through the dense brush covering Monte Rotondo, and reached the crest.

The battalion of the 15th Infantry captured the southeast nose of barren Monte Lungo, while another battalion moved up Highway 6 between Lungo and Rotondo to secure the horseshoe curve a mile north of Mignano. During the next few days the troops of both regiments repelled counterattacks, dug more deeply into the ground for protection against hostile mortar and artillery fire, and tried to keep alive and reasonably warm and dry. Captain Maurice L. Britt of the 3rd Division was largely responsible, despite wounds from bullets and grenades, for repelling a bitter counterattack; for his action on 10 November, he was later awarded the Medal of Honor. Private First Class Floyd K. Lindstrom, a machine gunner in the 3rd Division, was awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism on 11 November.

The counterattacks against those units of the 3rd Division east of Highway 6 were launched for the most part by a paratrooper battalion that Kesselring had made available to Tenth Army specifically to regain Monte Rotondo. The battalion was to have formed the cadre of a new parachute division, but Kesselring judged the danger to the defensive positions below Cassino sufficiently great to justify the unit’s expenditure. Taking heayy losses, the battalion soon became ineffective.

N ear the hamlet of Ceppagna, the paratroopers had also engaged Rangers who were blocking the lateral mountain road between Venafro and Highway 6. The 1st Ranger Battalion had joined the 4th during the night of 8 November to bolster the blocking positions and permit the 180th Infantry to rejoin the 45th Division attack into the mountains behind Venafro. After a Ranger reconnaissance patrol reported a fortified German observation Post on a ridge of Monte Sammucro overlooking Venafro to the east and San Pietro Inline to the west, a Ranger company set out at dawn on 11 November to eliminate the position.

The Rangers drove the Germans down the ridge toward San Pietro, but more Germans soon returned to initiate two days of fierce, close-in fighting. Before it was over, two more Ranger companies had become involved. Another German counterattack on 13 November drove the Rangers out of Ceppagna and threatened to pierce the VI Corps front at Mignano, but the commitment of two more Ranger companies and heavy expenditures of 4.2-inch mortar shells restored the line. Understrength by this time, with cooks and drivers serving as litter bearers and supply porters, the Rangers held on, controlling an area of peaks on the eastern portion of Monte Sammucro and awaiting the arrival of the 3rd Ranger Battalion, promised as further reinforcement in the next few days.

In the 45th Division zone troops cleared jagged cliffs and precipitous peaks as they drove slowly forward. Supply was arduous and hazardous; even the pack mules were unable to negotiate the steep trails in many places. German positions blasted and dug into solid rock had to be taken one by one. Maps were of little value, positions difficult to report.

In similar terrain, perhaps even worse, where pack mules no longer solved transportation problems, the 34th Division struggled over a series of scrub-covered hills, clearing routes through mined areas by driving sheep and goats ahead of troops, engaging in extensive patrolling, and incurring heavy casualties from exposure to the rain and cold. The only action of consequence was the spurt of a task force under the assistant division commander, Brigadier General Benjamin F. Caffey, Jr., who sped up a mountain road for five miles with a composite force of infantry, tanks, tank destroyers, and engineers to seize the village of Montaquila and make contact with the 504th Parachute Infantry, which had pushed through equally rugged terrain west of Isernia.

The sudden if limited breakthrough by the 34th Division stemmed from the exhaustion of the widely dispersed units of the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division. Although Lemelsen called in parts of the 26th Panzer Division to bolster the grenadiers, the 34th Division’s advance did not particularly worry him. “Enemy gains,” as Vietinghoff later remarked, “constituted no great threat and every step forward into the mountainous terrain merely increased his difficulties.”

Nor was there much concern over developments on the east coast, where General Montgomery’s Eighth Army had secured the Termoli-Vinchiaturo line by mid-October to cover the Foggia airfields. When patrols met stiffening German resistance and air reconnaissance revealed considerable defensive preparations along the Trigno River, the next likely area for the Germans to make a stand, General Montgomery decided to consolidate his front, readjust his unit dispositions, bring up his rear elements, and establish a firm base before continuing his advance. However, events disrupted his plan to have 13 Corps attack toward Isernia near the army boundary in the mountains to cover a 5 Corps assault crossing of the Trigno on 28 October.

Instead, his troops were in close contact with the withdrawing LXXVI Panzer Corps a week earlier, and the 78th Division seized a bridgehead over the Trigno on the night of 22 October. This compelled the Germans to move quickly behind the river along the entire front. Blustery rain and thick mud foiled British efforts to expand the bridgehead and also forced a Postponement of the 13 Corps attack toward Isemia.

During the rainy night of 29 October, 13 Corps’ 5th Division jumped off toward Isernia, meeting increasing resistance in difficult mountainous terrain. The 5 Corps, assisted by powerful artillery and naval gunfire support, launched a heavy attack across the Trigno on 2 November. Two days later, as troops of the 13 Corps entered Isernia unopposed, meeting there a patrol from the 504th Parachute Infantry, the LXXVI Panzer Corps began to fall back toward the Sangro River. On 8 November 78th Division troops were holding high ground overlooking the Sangro, and the 8th Indian Division was coming up on the left. A week later the near bank of the Sangro was entirely cleared of Germans.

Hampered by demolitions, swollen streams, bad weather, and stiff opposition, Eighth Army in five weeks had pushed its 35-mile front forward approximately thirty miles along the coast, fifty in the interior. At the Sangro River General Montgomery faced a major defensive system, the eastern portion of the formidable Gustav Line, and there he paused to regroup and resupply his forces and to plan a co-ordinated effort for the next phase of his campaign.

Since the east coast offered few decisive objectives, the Germans remained relatively unconcerned. It was the other side of the Matese range and the Allied pressure around Mignano on the road to Rome-the 56th Division on Monte Camino and the 3rd Division at the gap -that caused the Germans anxiety. Not only was the Bernhard Line being threatened but the very route to Rome might suddenly be uncovered. Lemelsen regrouped his Tenth Army about 10 November. Leaving the LXXVI Panzer Corps only three divisions, the 1st Parachute(Fallschirmjäger) the 16th Panzer and the 65th Infantry-although the armored division was already earmarked for early transfer to the Russian front-Lemelsen gave the XIV Panzer Corj)s five divisions, the 26th Panzer, the 3rd and 15th Panzer Grenadier) and the 94th and 305th Infantry.

In army reserve he had most of the Hermann Gӧring Division near Rome Kesselring retained control of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division as OB SUED reserve. The reorganization promised little relief. The combat troops were reaching the point of utter exhaustion. Expecting an immediate breakthrough, Senger, the new commander of the XIV Panzer Corps, was of the opinion that all units in reserve ought to be committed at once to insure the integrity of the front. Then, suddenly, the Fifth Army attack came to a halt.

On 13 November General Clark told General Alexander that a continuation of the frontal attacks would exhaust the divisions, particularly the 56th and 3rd, to a dangerous degree. With Alexander’s approval, Clark halted offensive operations on 15 November. For two weeks the troops would rest and prepare for another attempt to smash through the Winter Line and reach the heights overlooking the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers and the entrance into the Liri valley.

SOURCE: SALERNO TO CASSINO; by Martin Blumenson (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Italy; Winter Campaign-The Volturno Crossing (ISC-3-12)


World War Two: Italy; Winter Campaign-The Volturno Crossing (ISC-3-12)

The Immediate Situation: In early October the U.S. Fifth Army had its left flank on the Italian west coast. Its right was anchored on the Matese Mountains of the Apennine range, a virtually impenetrable barrier along the boundary between Fifth Army and the British Eighth Army. The two armies were to advance abreast in their zones, each independently of the other, but their movements were to be coordinated because occasional lateral breaks in the barrier provided the enemy with access routes for attacks against the armies’ inner flanks.

Ahead of the Fifth Army’s front, which touched the Volturno River, was terrain difficult for offensive maneuver. North of the river for about forty miles was a mountainous region that separated the Volturno valley from the next low ground, the valleys of the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers. Narrow winding roads, steep hills, and swift streams characterized the divide, which favored defense. Sharply defined corridors would impose frontal attack on offensive forces. Allied planners constantly sought opportunities for amphibious flanking attacks and airborne operations, but the shortage of men and materiel, as well as the difficulty of the terrain and the weather, kept them from making definite plans.

In the coastal zone, where 10 Corps held a front of about twenty miles, the Campanian plain north of Naples peters out a few miles north of the Volturno River, and the relatively level area of fertile farmland, vineyards, and olive groves gives way to hills covered with olive trees and terraced plots. Inland, where VI Corps held a front of about thirty-five miles, the terrain consists of barren and rocky peaks several thousand feet high, with deep gorges, jagged ridges, and overhanging cliffs.

Traversing the area ahead of the Fifth Army were two excellent roads, both leading to Rome. Highway 7 runs from Benevento westward through Caserta and Capua to Sessa Aurunca and follows the coast. Highway 6, starting some miles above Capua, runs north for several miles before forking; the left fork goes to and beyond Cassino, the right becomes Highway 85 and passes through the upper Volturno valley to Venafro and Isernia.

The objectives that General Alexander had assigned to General Clark were the heights generally between Sessa Aurunca and Vena fro, the high ground overlooking from the south the Garigliano and Rapido River valleys. Crossing the mountain divide and reaching the objectives meant first crossing the defended river line of the Volturno. Blocking the Fifth Army as well as the Eighth, the Tenth Army had an assigned strength on I October of about 60,000 men. Facing the Fifth Army were about 35,000 troops of the XIV Panzer Corps, which occupied the north bank of the Volturno.

From the mouth of the river to a point just east of Grazzanise, the rested and highly efficient 15th Panzer Grenadier Division held a front of about twelve miles with one regiment in line and the remainder of the division guarding the coast against invasion as far north as the mouth of the Garigliano. In the center of the corps sector, on a front of about sixteen miles, almost to Caiazzo, the Hermann Gӧring Division, with four infantry battalions, a small armored group, and a large number of motorized assault guns and antiaircraft guns, possessed considerably more firepower than was normal. On the corps left, from Caiallo to Monte Acero, a distance of about ten air miles, were portions of the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division, a reasonably effective organization augmented by the attached reconnaissance battalion of the 26th Panzer Division on Monte Acero. In the Adriatic sector the LXXVI Panzer Corps controlled the understrength 26th Panzer Division, the highly effective 29th Panzer Grenadier Division, and the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) and 16th Panzer Divisions.

Had Vietinghoff, the Tenth Army commander, had his way, the strong defensive forces along the Volturno would have been even stronger, but General Montgomery’s amphibious landing at Termoli during the night of 2 October had disrupted his plans. When he had broken off the battle at Salerno, he had dispatched the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division to reinforce the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division in the Adriatic sector and to cover the gap between the paratroopers and the forces engaged at the Salerno beachhead; he had sent the 16th Panzer Division to construct fortifications along the Volturno. Montgomery’s amphibious operation at Termoli forced commitment of the LXXVI Panzer Corps reserve against the British bridgehead, but the reserve force, a single infantry battalion, was obviously too small for decisive effect. Kesselring, who was visiting Tenth Army headquarters early on the morning of 3 October when news of the British landing arrived, instructed Vietinghoff to shift the 16th Panzer Division to the east coast immediately.

Vietinghoff objected. He knew that a tactical success at Termoli would be good for morale, but he thought that whether the LXXVI Panzer Corps withdrew its left flank from Termoli at once or in a few days would make little difference in the long-range development of the campaign. He favored sending reserves with sufficient strength to block a British breakout and to insure a methodical withdrawal of the panzer corps, and to achieve these limited ends he suggested moving the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division, which was experienced in combat and available for transfer upon short notice. Vietinghoff believed the 16th Panzer Division important for defending at the Volturno, particularly in the difficult terrain immediately north of Caplla, which he considered the bulwark of his defensive line. Expecting the Allied forces to make their main effort toward Rome via the main highway leading from Capua through Cassino and Valmontone, he saw Allied success elsewhere as having no direct influence on operations in the main area.

Consequently, Vietinghoff was constructing a series of positions south of the Bernhard Line and placing his major defensive strength along the road from Capua to Cassino, and he counted heavily on the armored division. Sending the division on a long march across the peninsula through the mountains to Termoli would be wearing on the tanks, and even if the tanks arrived in reasonably good condition, the support of the division’s small infantry component of four battalions was hardly strong enough to eradicate the British bridgehead. Disturbed by Kesselring’s instructions, Vietinghoff started neither the 16th Panzer Division nor the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division off to Termoli.

The night of 3 October, around 2230, Kesselring learned from his chief of staff, Generalmajor Siegfried Westphal, that the 16th Panzer Division was not racing across the Italian peninsula as he had directed. Kesselring ordered Vietinghoff to comply with instructions immediately. Vietinghoff had no choice but to relay the orders, and on the morning of 4 October the 16th Panzer Division started to move to the east coast.

Making a forced march of more than seventy-five miles over the mountains, the division got some elements to Termoli late that morning; the bulk of the division reached the Italian east coast twenty-four hours later. Subsequent counterattacks failed to eliminate the British bridgehead. Two days later Vietinghoff approved the LXXVI Panzer Corps proposal to retire to the next defensive line, the Trigno River, and the withdrawal began that evening.

To Kesselring, it appeared that the 16th Panzer Division had arrived at Termoli belatedly and had entered the battle piecemeal. Vietinghoff, Kesselring was convinced, had bungled the operation. To Vietinghoff the commitment of the armored division had not only failed to halt the British but had deprived him of troops who were constructing and were therefore familiar with the key defenses behind the Volturno.

The 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division, not so good a unit in Vietinghoff’s judgment as the 16th Panzer Division, replaced the latter along the Volturno. A reinforced regiment came in first, the remainder of the division arriving in separate groups over a period of several days starting about 10 October. The bulk of the division would reach the area only after the Allied assault crossing jumped Off.

Two infantry divisions, the 305th and 65th, were moving south from northern Italy to strengthen Kesselring’s forces, but they were scheduled to be in Vietinghoff’s Bernhard positions in mid-October; they would have no influence on the battle at the Volturno. Later the 9Jth Division would become available to Vietinghoff. The 16th Panzer Division would eventually be dispatched to the Eastern Front in the USSR.

Since Hitler had stressed the need to gain time along the approaches to the Bernhard Line to permit fortification of that line, Kesselring ordered Vietinghoff to contest every foot of territory. He asked Vietinghoff to hold at the Volturno until 15 October at the least, and the Tenth Army commander promised to do so.

Having consolidated the Tenth Army front and having closed the gap between Benevento and the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division, Vietinghoff built up his front as solidly as possible, but retained mobile units in ready reserve to seal off penetrations and guard his open flanks on the seacoasts. He accelerated the work of the construction units, the engineers, and special division detachments that were trying to get the positions forward of the Garigliano ready for defense by 1 November.

Aside from the absence of air support, Vietinghoff’s primary weakness, as he saw it, was his inability to replace troop and materiel losses. He was receiving replacement troops for only a small percentage of his casualties, no artillery, and few serviceable tanks. Unless a drastic change in policy occurred, he could look for no improvement.

The Volturno River itself provided an excellent obstacle to defend, particularly in early October when heavy rains put the river in flood condition. Rising in the mountains near Isernia and descending southwestward to the vicinity of Venafro, the Volturno turns to the southeast and parallels the coast about thirty miles inland for a distance of some twenty-five miles. Near the village of Amorosi it receives the waters of the Cal ore River, which has flowed westward and northward for almost fifty miles. The Volturno then bends to the southwest, going for twelve miles through an intensely cultivated farm valley flanked by scrub-covered hills and barren mountains to the Triflisco gap; from there, at the beginning of the coastal belt, it meanders in large loops through olive groves to the sea at Castel Volturno.

While acknowledging the value of the river-from Amorosi to the coast-for defense, Vietinghoff was conscious of several disadvantages. The river bed was deeply cut in some places, and this would mean dead ground for some German weapons. The south bank, occupied by Allied soldiers, was higher than the north at some points. Hilly terrain near Capua and north of the river would hamper German observation and limit the effectiveness of German artillery. While the mountainous area north of the river favored delaying operations, it offered no natural barriers on which to anchor a defense.

From the Allied point of view, the lower reaches of the Volturno formed a serious obstacle along almost sixty miles of the Italian peninsula. Once across the river, the Fifth Army would have no assurance of easy progress. Hills could be covered by cross fires from mutually supporting positions. Demolitions and mines would certainly be used effectively. Destroyed bridges and culverts could be expected. Ambush was always possible, and crew-served weapons could easily cover the few natural avenues of advance.

For the Fifth Army, speed was essential for movement to the north. The autumn rains had swelled the rivers and turned the valleys into mud. But the approach of winter and worsening weather served as both carrot and stick to entice and drive the Allied forces on in the hope of denying the Germans time to fortify the ground beyond the Volturno that the Allied command was already calling the Winter Line.

To maintain the momentum of the advance north from Naples, General Clark instructed General McCreery, whose 10 Corps seemed to be making faster progress toward the Volturno than VI Corps, to cross the river without waiting for General Lucas’ forces to come abreast. But rains, enemy demolitions, and determined rear guard action delayed the 10 Corps approach to the river. Then swampy ground prevented a quick concentration of troops and supplies. A rapid and improvised assault crossing proved to be out of the question. McCreery estimated 9 October as the earliest date he could be ready to attack.

Still hoping to get across the Volturno before the Germans could fully organize their defenses along the river. General Clark told General Lucas to go ahead. The 3rd Division was in place and ready to make a crossing, and these troops alone, Lucas thought, gave him a superiority of three to one in men, tanks, and guns over the German defenders. But two divisions, he felt, were necessary in order to insure sustained progress on the other side of the river.

Confident that the 45th Division would advance from the Benevento area down the Calore River valley fast enough to protect the corps right flank near Montesarchio, thus making it possible to move the 34th Division from Montesarchio in time to accompany the 3rd Division in the assault crossing, Lucas planned to sideslip the 3rd Division to the left to make room along the front for the 34th.

Thereupon, the 3rd and 34th were to cross the river abreast, both employing the tactics of stealth and surprise. These preparatory movements would take time, and despite General Clark’s hope for an earlier crossing, General Lucas, like McCreery, estimated he could attack no sooner than 9 October.

The prospect of a simultaneous assault crossing by 10 and VI Corps on that date soon vanished. Neither McCreery nor Lucas was ready. When McCreery suggested he could attack on 11 October, General Clark instructed Lucas to attack on the preceding night. If American troops seized the ridges north and northwest of the Triflisco gap, they would hold the ground that dominates the plain as far as the sea and thus facilitate the British attack.

But this operation had to be Postponed too. “Rain, rain, rain,” General Lucas wrote in his diary. “The roads are so deep in mud that moving troops and supplies forward is a terrific job. Enemy resistance is not nearly as great as that of Mother Nature.”. It was more than rain and muddy roads that caused delay. The paucity of roads in the VI Corps area and German artillery fire hampered and slowed the movement of the 34th Division from Montesarchio to the Volturno.

On 9 October General Clark ordered the two corps to make a co-ordinated attack during the night of 12 October. An assault along the entire length of the river would disperse and stretch the enemy forces and facilitate crossings at many places. Once across, the troops were to continue toward and into the Winter Line.

One point drew Clark’s particular attention. Unless the 45th Division drove swiftly north and west from Benevento for twenty-two miles down the Calore valley to the juncture of the Calore and Volturno Rivers and then advanced into the valley of the upper Volturno, the forces on the right of the assault crossings would have an exposed flank. The nearer the 45th Division was to the Volturno by 12 October, the less uneasy the 34th Division would have to be about its right. And if the 45th Division could drive into the upper Volturno valley before the river crossings, it would threaten the left flank of the German forces defending the river line.

The Attack down the Calore Valley

General Middleton’s 45th Division was in control of the Benevento area on 9 October. Assigning a reinforced battalion of the 180th Infantry to guard his right flank and placing the 157th Infantry in reserve, Middleton sent the remainder of the division westward down the Calore Valley toward the confluence of the Calore and the Volturno. His only path of advance was a corridor four to five miles wide, obstructed by rough hills, deep ravines, and narrow roads, which gave German delaying forces ample opportunity for ambush, demolition, and harassment.

When General Lucas visited General Middleton on 9 October to press for speed, .Middleton said frankly he could not guarantee it. His men had been in continuous action for a month and were tired. Lucas did not “believe they are as tired as he thinks,” but he promised Middleton he would try to give the division a rest once VI Corps was across the Volturno. This apparently had the desired result, for Lucas found the division’s progress on the succeeding days excellent.

With the 179th Infantry clearing the northern part of the Calore valley and the 180th the southern part, the division fought the terrain more than the enemy for three days. On 12 October, as the division approached Monte Acero, it began to appear that the 45th would reach the valley of the upper Volturno without setback and secure the right flank of the two divisions that were scheduled to cross the river downstream that night. Sudden resistance developed during the afternoon and dashed that hope.

To the Germans, Monte Acero was a sensitive point. Defended by the reconnaissance battalion of the 26th Panzer Division) the height provided observation over the entire east-west Volturno valley. In the opinion of Hube, the XIV Panzer Corps commander, Monte Acero was essential if Vietinghoff was to make good his promise to Kesselring to hold the Volturno line at least until 15 October.

Machine gun and mortar fire from Monte Acero halted the lead elements of both American regiments, but the reconnaissance battalion in defense could not for long block the determined division. Advancing through the fire, the 180th Infantry took the village of Telese on the division left, while contingents of the 179th Infantry pushed onto the southern nose of Monte Acero itself.

Fighting continued throughout the night. The turning point in the action came when Company K of the 179th Infantry penetrated German positions on the southeast slope, then withdrew because it was unable to clear the slope of defenders. Unaware of the withdrawal, the Germans counterattacked before daybreak against the spot where the company had been. They were caught in an artillery firetrap and took heavy losses.

Shortly after daylight, Company K, reinforced by another company, cleared the eastern slope of Monte Acero. General Middleton then committed the 157th Infantry in the center, and elements of this regiment fought their way around the western side of the hill. By nightfall, 13 October, it was apparent that the Germans were withdrawing from Monte Acero, the eastern anchor of their Volturno defensive line.

It still took Middleton’s men another day to clear the Germans from the Calore valley. Thus, despite the withdrawal of the reconnaissance battalion from Monte Acero, Vietinghoff made good his pledge to hold at least until 15 October-not until that day was the 45th Division ready to drive into the entrance of the upper Volturno valley.

The Main Crossings

As it finally evolved, General Lucas’ plan to put VI Corps across the Volturno called for two divisions to force crossings over a Is-mile stretch of the river between Triflisco on the left flank and the Calore confluence on the right. The 3rd Division was to make the main effort between Triflisco and Caiazzo and assist British troops who were to advance along Highway 6 from Capua to Teano. The 34th Division, crossing on an 8-mile front, was to help the 45th Division get into the upper Volturno valley, then be ready to swing westward and laterally, also toward Teano.

The Volturno in front of VI Corps varied from 150 to 220 feet in width and from 3 to 5 feet in depth. Although the river was fordable at most points, the current, made swift by the rains, dictated some crossings by boat. The banks, from 5 to 15 feet high, were steep, and the rainfall that had made them muddy and slick would hamper boat launchings.

Brush and olive groves on the hill slopes on the far shore would provide some concealment for troops, but the open fields on the south side of the river gave no covered approaches to crossing sites. The road net at the Volturno was poor, inadequate for the quick movement of large bodies of men and their equipment and supplies. Despite these disadvantages, VI Corps headquarters was optimistic over the prospect of successful crossings.

In General Truscott’s plan of attack, two hill complexes immediately beyond the Volturno were vital for the success of the 3rd Division effort: the Triflisco ridge and Monte Caruso. Directly across the river from the American-held Monte Tifata on the division left, the Triflisco ridge is actually an extension of Monte Tifata, the two heights separated only by the bed of the Volturno. Here the river is so narrow that troops dug in on the northern slope of Monte Tifata regularly exchanged small arms fire with German soldiers hidden among stone quarries and olive orchards across the Volturno. Seizing the Triflisco ridge would facilitate a 10 Corps advance to Teano: eliminate dominant observation of the 3rd Division’s main axis of advance, a narrow valley leading northwest along the east side of the ridge; and remove commanding observation over the best bridge site in the 3rd Division zone, the narrow banks between the ridge and Monte Tifata. Although aerial photographs showed strong defenses on the southern nose of the Triflisco ridge, General Truscott expected the 10 Corps crossing near Capua to help the 3rd Division assault.

The other vital terrain feature on the north bank was Monte Caruso, opposite American-held Monte Castellone. About four miles north of the river, Monte Caruso commands both the valley of the Volturno and the narrow valley leading northwest. Standing in front of Monte Caruso and rising from the valley floor like mounds are two solitary hills, Monticello and Monte Mesarinolo. All three heights appeared to be strongly defended.

Figuring that the Germans expected an attack at or near Triflisco, General Truscott planned to feint there on his left while making his main effort in the center directly toward Monte Caruso, the troops to bypass Monticello and Monte Mesarinolo and leave them for the forces on the division right. Once he held Monte Caruso, he assumed he could place such heavy enfilade fire on the Triflisco ridge that this fire, in concert with the British attack outflanking the ridge to the west, would force the Germans to abandon the ground.

Specifically, General Truscott would have the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry, and the heavy weapons companies of the 30th Infantry make the feint by concentrating fire against the Triflisco ridge. If the Germans shelved signs of withdrawing, the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry, was to cross. Through it all the Germans on the ridge were to be cheated of their observation advantage by a blanket of smoke.

With the enemy thus diverted on the left, the 7th Infantry was to cross the river and drive directly to the westernmost tip of Monte Caruso. On the right two battalions of the 15th Infantry were to take Monticello and Monte Mesarinolo, then move to capture the easternmost tip of Monte Caruso. At daylight of 13 October, a company each of the 751st Tank and 601st Tank Destroyer Battalions, their vehicles waterproofed, were to ford the river.

Since surprise was an integral part of his plan, Truscott took special precautions to preserve it, He kept his artillery strength hidden by ordering half the pieces to be silent during the few days preceding the attack. He held the 7th Infantry in a concealed bivouac area near Caserta while the 15th Infantry alone maned the 3rd Division front. After the 34th Division came into the line, relieving the 30th Infantry of the 3rd Division, which shifted quietly out of the area, he arranged with General Ryder to have any 34th Division men captured while on patrol give a 3rd Division identification to deceive the enemy. Coupled with surprise was Truscott’s trust in punch. Once started, he told his subordinate commanders, the attack must be kept moving without pause.

On the evening of October, as darkness settled over the Volturno valley and a full moon rose, customary night patrols worked their way to the river, drawing an occasional burst of fire or flare, while artillery units were careful to continue seemingly normal fire patterns. In the rear areas, infantrymen of the assault battalions checked and assembled special equipment-rope for guidelines across the river, kapok life preserver jackets (luckily, a thousand had been found in a nearby Italian warehouse), rubber life rafts borrowed from the Navy, and improvised log and pontoon rafts. Engineers were busy with assault boats and rubber pneumatic floats. Artillerymen studied their fire plans. As H-hour approached, engineers loaded rubber pontoons on trucks, truck drivers warmed their motors, and long lines of infantrymen began to move to forward assembly areas.

At midnight the 3rd Division began its demonstration on the left against the Triflisco ridge. An hour later corps and Division artillery opened fire all along the front with high explosive. At 0155, 13 October, the gunners mixed smoke shells with the high explosive for the last five minutes of fire to screen the crossing sites. A few minutes before the artillery was scheduled to lift, men of the 7th Infantry slogged across muddy fields to the river. At 0200 they started to cross. The Germans by now were well aware that this would be no ordinary and uneventful night. Alerted by the suddenly heavy Allied artillery fires, they expected a major assault. They could anticipate attacks at some obvious crossing sites, but where the main weight would be thrown would probably become apparent only after daybreak.

While carrying parties of American soldiers on the near shore were struggling to get boats and rafts down the slippery bank to the water’s edge, advance groups of the 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry, waded the river to anchor guide ropes on the far side. Even with guide ropes it was hard to control the frail assault craft in the swift current. Weakened by days of rain, the roots of some of the trees to which the ropes were tied gave way. Improvised rafts sometimes broke up. Through it all, long-range German machine gun fire whipped the crossing sites. Fortunately, a high cliff like north bank created one of the dead spots Vietinghoff had been concerned with and prevented most of the fire from striking the men on the river itself.

Darkness and smoke also affected the accuracy of the enemy gunners. The crossing went more slowly than expected and dawn was breaking before the last man of the 1st Battalion reached the far bank. The accuracy of the German fire began to improve, and the last boat to pull away from the south bank took a direct hit from an artillery shell.

On the far shore, men of the 1st Battalion assembled along a sandbar under cover of the steep bank. They moved up-stream in column, clinging to the bank for protection against the enemy machine gun fire and for support against the current. A few mines exploded, most of them throwing up spectacular geysers of water and mud that caused little damage. Several artillery shells splashed harmlessly into the river. After walking up the bed of a small tributary of the Volturno, the men deployed across the fields just south of Highway 87, which parallels the Volturno. Here they dug in to protect the regimental left flank and to form a base of fire for the other two battalions that were to head directly for Monte Caruso.

The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 7th Infantry, in that order, had crossed the river in column, some of the men in assault boats, others wading through the icy water holding their rifles over their heads with one hand, clinging to guide ropes with the other. Scrambling up the muddy bank of the north shore, they struck out for the dark and massive bulk of Monte Caruso.

Machine gun nests and individual enemy soldiers fighting from irrigation ditches were quickly eliminated, and by 0900 the foremost elements of the lead battalion were at the foot of the hill objective. With good observation of German positions in the valley and on the hill, the infantry called for fire from artillery and tank destroyers. Against slackening resistance, the troops moved up the slope. By noon the advance elements were digging in on the western tip of Monte Caruso, and the rest of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were moving up to secure the ground.

Waterproofed tanks and tank destroyers had been trying to cross the river since daylight, but each time a bulldozer approached the river to break down the bank and give the heavy vehicles access to crossing sites, enemy fire drove it back. Around 1000, after learning from an intercepted German message that a counterattack was imminent, General Truscott ordered the armored vehicles to cross at once, no matter what the obstacles. Pick and shovel work by engineers finally tore down enough of the bank to allow the tanks to get to the water’s edge, and shortly after 1100 the first tank climbed the low sandbank on the far side of the river. By early afternoon, 15 tanks and g tank destroyers were across. The German counterattack never came, apparently having been broken up by artillery fire before it could begin.

By the end of the day the entire 7th Infantry was across the Volturno, and infantrymen held the western part of “Monte Caruso. On the division right, men of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 15th Infantry had climbed down the rocky slopes of Monte Castell one and headed for Monticello and Monte Mesarinolo, the isolated hills on the valley floor. After wading the river, the troops immediately found themselves in close contact with Germans along the river bank. Battle raged at short range until the weight of the increasing numbers of troops coming across the river broke the opposition.[n12-11] The troops then swept up their hill objectives, where they organized the ground. Rafts and rubber boats carried machine guns, mortars, and ammunition across the river and bolstered the positions.

Strong concentrations of German artillery Anti-tank fire pounded the two hills occupied by the 15th Infantry, but American counterbattery fire gradually forced the Germans to desist. During the afternoon, with enemy pieces virtually silenced, the two assault battalions pushed on to their next objective, the high ground on the eastern part of Monte Caruso, the Germans giving way before them.

[n12-11 Captain Arlo L. Olson spearheaded the regimental advance and knocked out at least two enemy machine gun emplacements. For these and similar actions during the next thirteen days. Captain Olson was Posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.]

On the division left, where the key ridge above Triflisco remained to be taken, the goth Infantry, assisted by the 1st Battalion of the 15th, had made a demonstration and kept the Triflisco ridge covered with smoke. With five infantry battalions of the division well on their way to securing their objectives during the afternoon of 13 October, General Truscott told the goth Infantry to cross the Volturno. The 2nd Battalion made two attempts to cross the water and storm the ridge. Both failed against stubborn resistance. Although the crossings of the 7th Infantry east of the Triflisco ridge threatened to make the ridge itself untenable for the Germans, the British assault on the immediate left had stalled.

The Germans remained in possession of the Triflisco ridge until nightfall. Under the cover of darkness, they began to withdraw. When troops of the 30th Infantry crossed the river during the night they found that they could march up the ridge and take it with little trouble. To Vietinghoff, the “very cleverly planned and forcefully executed attack” of the 3rd Division, which had feinted defenders away from the main crossing sites, was the key action at the Volturno.

In his Opinion, the 3rd Division had avoided the mistake made by Allied troops at Salerno: without waiting until pockets of resistance were cleared, it had advanced regardless of the threats on its flanks. Having won the dominating slopes of Monte Caruso and strengthened its positions with a rush of reinforcements, the 3rd Division could not be denied. The left flank of the Hermann Gӧring Division, holding the major positions in the center of the XIV Panzer Corps line, had been crushed on the first day’s fighting, and the 3rd Division bridgehead, four miles deep by the morning of 14 October, was too large to be destroyed.

Helping to give the bridgehead stability was the work of the engineers, who had moved their bridging equipment to the river during the early morning hours of 13 October. Working under fire, the engineer bridge construction parties incurred casual ties. Shells damaged rubber floats. Mines blew up several trucks. Although forced to take cover frequently, the engineers by the end of the day had built two bridges, a light one primarily for jeeps and an 8-ton structure capable of carrying trucks. Doth required frequent patching and repair as a consequence of enemy shell fragments. Early the next morning several German planes bombed and strafed the bridges, damaging them slightly.

Engineers were to have constructed a 30-ton bridge for tanks on 13 October, but they could not start work until the following day, after the Germans had relinquished their hold over the Triflisco ridge. Even then the cover of smoke was necessary. Six hours after work began, the bridge was ready. Not long thereafter approaches across muddy fields connected the bridge with Highway 87, and the ferry service that had operated continuously to bring equipment and supplies forward was no longer necessary. With three bridges assuring the continuous flow of men and materiel into the forward area, the 3rd Division was ready on 14 October to exploit its bridgehead on the north bank of the Volturno. Surprise and aggressiveness had contributed handsomely to the division’s achievement. Casualties during the crossing had not been excessive for an assault against a defended river line. The division had lost about goo men on 13 October, the first day of the attack.

The Crossing On the Right Flank

The objective of General Ryder’s 34th Division was a triangular area defined on the south and east by the Volturno and on the northwest by Highway 87, about four miles from the bend of the river. Outside the objective area but dominating the ground was Monte Acero, which General Middleton’s 45th Division was to take before the river assault crossings.

General Ryder divided his front into two regimental zones. He instructed the 168th Infantry on the left to take Caiazzo at the westernmost point of the objective triangle, the 135th to take the high ground on the right. One battalion of the 133rd Infantry was to be ready to reinforce the attack wherever needed. His attached tank battalion General Ryder kept in its assembly area because he judged the steeply sloping ground of a jumbled mass of hills on the far side of the Volturno to be unsuitable for armor.

A total of 96 guns and howitzers in support of the 34th Division opened general preparatory fires at 0145, 13 October. Fifteen minutes later, as infantrymen slid down the muddy banks of the Volturno, some to wade through the water, others to paddle across in assault boats, the artillery covered the crossing points with high explosive and smoke.

The first men of the 168th Infantry crossed the river without difficulty, but succeeding troops had a harder time. The swift current swept assault boats out of crossing lines. Men wading in shoulder-deep water lost radios and mine detectors. Enemy machine gun fire from the flat fields close to the river bank and from olive groves on the hill slopes added its hazard. It took almost five hours for the assault battalion to get completely across the river.

Once across, the troops found surprisingly little resistance until they moved into the brush-covered hills. Caiazzo, a fortified village on the brow of a steep slope, was a German strongpoint, and it was difficult to root out the defenders. Heavy and sustained artillery shelling seemed to have little effect, and not until the following morning, 14 October, when four tank destroyers forded the stream and gave direct fire support did the Germans evacuate the village.

Assault troops of the 135th Infantry had also crossed the river, all of them wading over during the early morning hours of 13 October. There was no serious resistance. The Germans withdrew at once. The Americans moved rapidly, and less than an hour after the initial crossings they were sending prisoners to the rear. A flurry of tank fire from Amorosi on the right flank briefly slowed the advance, and a pocket of bypassed Germans held up movement for a short time. But as the 45th Division reduced the defenses on Monte Acero off to the 34th Division’s right, the 135th Infantry easily took its objectives three miles from the abrupt bend of the Volturno River.

What explained the relative ease of crossing was the fact that only part of the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division had arrived at the Volturno, and that but recently. The units had hardly settled into their defensive positions when the attack struck.

Despite the quick crossing by the 34th Division, the operation almost came to a halt because all good bridging sites in the division zone remained under German observation. Whenever engineers tried to put in a bridge, German artillery dispersed them. In an effort to speed their bridging operations, engineers who had been assigned to span the river with a light vehicular bridge had inflated their rubber floats before loading them on trucks. When the head of the truck column reached the river several hours after daybreak on 13 October, enemy artillery fire disabled 3 trucks at once and shell fragments punctured many floats, some beyond repair. Unloading 12 trucks, the engineers launched three floats. Almost immediately, an artillery shell destroyed all 3, inflicted casualties on the troops, and brought activities to a halt.

That afternoon the engineers pulled their equipment back to a concealed assembly area, where they patched their salvageable floats. In the evening, after smoke pots had been moved to the river to screen the site, another bridging effort was made. To no avail. The German artillery fire continued to be heavy and accurate.

An engineer reconnaissance party finally located another bridge site. This one was defiladed, but the approach roads were poor and the river was seventy feet wider than at the original place. Because of the additional width of the river and the loss of nearly half the floats, the engineers had to borrow equipment. Moving to the new site at 0300, 14 October, the engineers completed a bridge by 1030. Not long afterward, as soon as the muddy approach routes could be improved and the far bank swept of mines, trucks began to cross into the bridgehead.

During the afternoon of 14 October, with the Germans no longer in possession of observation from Caiazzo, engineers began to construct a 3o-ton Treadway bridge, which they completed shortly after midnight. German planes made several unsuccessful passes at the bridge the next morning. By then traffic was rolling steadily across both bridges, including artillery.

Having cleared a substantial bridgehead almost four miles deep by the afternoon of 14 October, the 34th Division was ready to take up pursuit operations. The division had lost about 130 men during the crossing on the first day, 13 October.

The Crossings on the Left

Facing the Volturno River in the coastal area, 10 Corps had a difficult assignment. Between Monte Tifata above Capua and Castel Volturno on the coast, a distance of more than 15 miles, the ground is relatively flat on both sides of the river. Numerous canals drain the area, the most important being the Regia Agnena Nuova Canal, which parallels the Volturno from Capua to the sea about 4 miles north of the river. There were few trees on the south side of the river, but a belt of olive groves, vineyards, and scattered timber on the north bank offered the Germans excellent cover, while Monte Massico, about 8 miles north of the Volturno, gave them superior observation.

High river banks and flood levees obstructed British fields of fire. Recent rains had filled the river and canal beds to the point, here no fords were available and had turned all approaches to the river, except the few main roads, into mud. In the right of the 10 Corps area, the 56th Division had only one road in its zone, the major route that crossed the Volturno at Capua. The 7th Armoured Division in the center had only a single country road crossing the river at Grazzanise. The 46th Division had used a highway crossing the river at Cancello ed Arnone and a narrow unimproved road at Castel Volturno.

In many places these roads resembled causeways, built several feet above the adjacent fields. With their usual thoroughness, the Germans had destroyed all the culverts along these roads and had demolished the bridges across the Volturno. They had sited their guns to harass movements along the highways leading to the north. A hard-surface road paralleling the river on the south bank of the Volturno was directly under hostile observation and would be useless until the Germans were driven back beyond Monte Massico.

Because all possible bridge sites in the corps zone were within short range of German mortars and small arms, and because all reconnaissance movements during daylight hours drew immediate fire, British patrols were unable to cross the river. Thus, there was no way of measuring the width or depth of the Volturno with accuracy. Running through marshland, normally canalized between steep banks, the river had overflowed. Much of the coastal plain, which is at sea level or just below, was wet, for a drainage system of canals emptying water into the sea by means of pumps had not been in operation for about ten days and British troops had little success getting the pumps working.

The depth of the river, normally 6 feet, was estimated at 1 to 5 feet above normal, and could conceivably rise 15 feet above normal. At possible bridge sites, the river was thought to be from 250 to 300 feet wide, with steep banks from 10 to 25 feet high. To visiting Fifth Army staff members, the 10 Corps headquarters seemed pessimistic about a crossing. The lack of ground reconnaissance, the difficulty of launching assault boats, the time required to construct bridge approaches, the limitations on bridge sites imposed by the few and in adequate approach roads, and the shortage of bridge equipment that would allow little or no losses during the operation were problems that appeared to be well-nigh insoluble.[n3-12-16]

General McCreery first thought of making his main effort on the right in order to use the superior road network around Capua and to assist the 3rd Division. But the strong defenses on the Triflisco ridge dissuaded the corps commander and made him look to the coast. Hoping to spread the German defenses, he decided to attack on a wide front, putting his major weight on the left. He directed the 56th Division to make a demonstration from the hills immediately east of Capua and a crossing in battalion size just to the west. He instructed the 7th Armoured Division to launch a holding attack at Grazzanise, with an infiltration across the river if possible. He ordered the 46th Division to make a major crossing on a 2-brigade front between Cancelloed Arnone and the coast.

To compensate for the increased difficulty of assaulting near the coast line, General McCreery secured naval assistance. Warships would fire in support of the 46th Division and provide several LCT’s to ferry a tank company around the mouth of the Volturno for a landing on the north bank of the river.

Supported by massive artillery fire augmented by naval gunfire, the 46th Division attacked in the early morning hours of 13 October. In the right of the division zone, after overcoming extraordinary difficulties, a battalion crossed the Volturno in assault boats and took precarious and exposed positions on the north bank of the river northeast of Cancelloed Arnone. The men beat back two counterattacks launched during the day but could not resist a third that came at the last light. Their positions overrun, the men made their way back across the river as best they could.

On the division left, two battalions paddled across the river. After turning back a counterattack, the men dug in along a small canal. There they remained, waiting for daylight when LCT’s were to ferry seventeen tanks around the mouth of the river and land them to give direct support to the infantry.

[n3-12-16 Rpt on Condition of Volturno in 10 Corps Zone,10 Oct 43, Fifth Army G-3 Jnl.]

The amphibious operation went as planned, but except for a psychological lift, the tanks proved to be of little immediate use. Boggy ground near the coast immobilized most of the tanks. Mines planted in dry ground just off the beach knocked out several others. Not until engineer troops removed the German nonmetallic mines, a slow process that took most of the day, did some of the tanks become mobile.

Despite lack of help from the tanks, the infantry battalions held where they were. On the following day, 11 October, they advanced about 600 yards to make room for substantial reinforcements. Into the bridgehead came four more infantry battalions and some artillery, all of which crossed the Volturno on two ferries that operated without harassment from enemy guns-British artillery and naval gunfire had proved to be highly effective. Although more tanks were loaded in LCT’s for a landing on the north bank, they were not needed. The Germans were withdrawing. By the evening of 15 October, the 46th Division had forward elements four miles beyond the Volturno and on the bank of the Regia Agnena Nuova Canal.

The 7th Armoured Division had launched a demonstration after nightfall on 12 October in order to feint the German defenders away from the other crossing sites. Assault troops at the river’s edge had managed to get a cable across the river as well and a platoon of men crossed, though heavy fire forced them to return. Since the cable was still anchored, another effort was made shortly after midnight. Crossing in boats pulled along the cable, a small contingent reached the far shore, but it, too, had to come back. A third attempt succeeded, and when dawn came on 13 October the division was holding a small bridgehead in the Grazzanise area. On the following day, the 7th Armoured Division, reinforced the men on the far bank and expanded the bridgehead about 1,000 yards.

Near Capua, the 56th Division opened a deception demonstration designed to make the Germans expect a strong crossing in the Triflisco area. Shortly after midnight, 12 October, a company crossed the river in assault boats to strengthen the feint. Fire from strongpoints on the Triflisco ridge dislodged the men, who withdrew before daylight.

This small crossing failed to secure surprise for the main attack launched near a destroyed railroad bridge at Capua. The site was an obvious one and under good observation by the Germans, but no other suitable place existed in the division zone. The leading elements crossing in assault boats met heavy opposition at once, and some of the boats were sunk. From the volume of German fire coming from the Triflisco ridge, the 56th Division commander judged that a crossing in that immediate area was impractical.

Learning on the morning of 14 October that the 56th Division had decided that no crossing in its zone was feasible, General Clark changed the corps boundary, shifting it to the right to give the 56th Division one of the three bridges erected by the 3rd Division. Although this change deprived the 3rd Division of its 30-ton bridge and some of its roads, the 56th Division now had the means of getting across the river to protect the increasingly exposed left flank of the 3rd Division. The boundary change also placed the Triflisco ridge entirely within the 10 Corps zone.

By the afternoon of 14 October-as 56th Division troops and vehicles crossed the bridge above Triflisco to the far bank, the 7th Armoured Division expanded its bridgehead, and the 46th Division substantially bolstered its forces north of the river-the issue at the Volturno was no longer in doubt. The 10 Corps would soon be ready to exploit its crossing and drive toward the Garigliano valley.

In making the crossing, 10 Corps had sustained severe casualties. The 15th Panzer Grenadier Division) which had taken the brunt of the British main effort, had captured more than 200 prisoners and had counted more than 400 British dead and wounded. To Hube, the XIV Panzer Corps commander, it seemed unlikely that Fifth Army could continue attacking along the lower Volturno because of the extremely heavy British losses on 13 October. He expected the Americans to press their attacks to enlarge their bridgeheads east of Triflisco and to attempt to enter the upper Volturno.

Little concerned then with his sector between Triflisco and the sea, Hube decided to hold there while withdrawing his left flank to Monte Acero, which would give him an anchor for his defenses and continued observation over much of the Volturno valley. While the British built up their strength north of the river on 14 October, the Americans seized important heights, in particular Monte Acero.

Hube then asked permission to withdraw to positions behind the Regia Agnena Niuova Canal and on the heights behind Caiazzo and Monte Caruso. Since Kesselring had stipulated that he was to hold the Volturno line only until IS October, Vietinghoff approved Hube’s request to withdraw. As he became aware of the threat posed by the 34th and 45th Divisions on the inner flanks of the XIV and LXXVI Panzer Corps, he directed the withdrawal to be made along the entire front in Italy.

While the LXXVI Panzer Corps backed off from the British Eighth Army in the Adriatic sector and withdrew toward the Sangro River, where the 65th Infantry Division was constructing field fortifications, the XIV Panzer Corps withdrew slowly and grudgingly into the mountainous terrain between the Fifth Army and the valleys of the Garigliano and Rapido Rivers.

SOURCE: SALERNO TO CASSINO; by Martin Blumenson (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Italy; Volturno-Mountains and Bernhard Line (ISC-3-13)

World War Two: Italy; Winter Campaign; The Strategy (ISC-3-11)

World War Two: Italy; Winter Campaign; The Strategy (ISC-3-11)

Several alternatives faced the Allied command after Naples. Should the Allied forces continue to move up the mainland of Italy? If so, how far and specifically where? The answer hinged on whether the Allied forces in the Mediterranean theater could better contribute to the cross-Channel attack scheduled for the spring of 1944 by threatening the Germans in the Balkans or by menacing southern France. And this in turn depended on the forces assigned: what units were available in the theater, how many should be committed in Italy to attain whatever goals were set for the campaign, and the extent of the additional resources that could be obtained from the Combined Chiefs of Staff. These choices were affected by estimates of German capabilities and intentions, decisions on global strategy, and worldwide allocations of shipping, materiel, and troops.

A major confusion in reaching a decision for Italy was the CCS directive that governed the operations. In exploiting the conquest of Sicily, the Combined Chiefs had stated, General Eisenhower was to eliminate Italy from the war and contain the maximum number of German divisions. The first was accomplished. But the second was so vague as to defy definition. The CCS had set no geographical objectives, and as a result the Italian campaign became, in retrospect, according to General Alexander, “a great holding attack.”

Yet the fact was that objectives had to be selected. They would determine not only how far north the Allied forces would go but also how much in terms of resources they would require. A vigorous campaign waged up the entire length of the Italian peninsula would obviously necessitate more troops, equipment, and supplies than an effort to secure, for example, Rome. In the debate that preceded decisions, a debate that stretched over the summer and fall of 1943, the matter of resources was ever present. Quite apart from the logisticians’ calculations of requirements, those who directed the operations sought to obtain all they could get, the better to assure success.

Allied Intentions

Before the invasion of Sicily, Allied Force Headquarters planners had believed that an Allied occupation of all or most of Italy was possible. At that time they had thought it unlikely that the Germans would reinforce a collapsing Italy. In the event of an Allied landing on the Italian mainland, the Germans would withdraw to the Alps or, more probably, to a line just south of the Alps, delaying an Allied advance by destroying communications, perhaps even by concentrating five or six divisions south of Rome. But the Allied forces, the planners believed, could build up enough ground and air strength in southern Italy to push rapidly north. Beyond Naples, Rome, for its airfields and political advantages, was obviously the next important objective.

Beyond Rome, the ports of Leghorn and Genoa beckoned, but were hardly essential. The heel of Italy was far more important-it would give Allied naval and air forces control of the south Adriatic and Ionian Seas, make it possible for these forces to interfere with the movement of enemy supplies to Greece and Albania, facilitate support to the Yugoslav Partisans, and threaten the Balkans sufficiently to contain German forces there. Similarly, Sardinia and Corsica would give the Allies control of the Tyrrhenian Sea and pose the threat of a landing in southern France. Ten French divisions, expected to be ready in North Africa for operational use early in 1944, plus heavy bomber attacks and the threat of amphibious and airborne operations launched from Italy and North Africa, would constitute a real and grave danger to the Germans in southern France and in the Balkans. Thus, the Allied theater command would comply with the CCS requirement of containing the maximum number of Germans if Allied troops occupied southern Italy as far north as Rome and the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. Given the current estimates of German strength, a total of ten Allied divisions would be necessary to accomplish this goal, and the commitment of such a force was reasonable in terms of the available resources.

After the invasion of Sicily, Allied theater planners, with mounting optimism, began to see an occupation of Italy as far north as the Alps as both desirable and possible. From northern Italy, overland and amphibious operations against southern France and the Balkans would be feasible. The only limiting factors would be shipping, landing craft, and German strength, but these hardly seemed serious obstacles to success.

General Eisenhower looked to the Po Valley, from where he could move east or west and from where he could provide ironclad security for air bases established anywhere in Italy. The ten divisions that the Combined Chiefs at the TRIDENT Conference in May had made available to the theater would be sufficient-provided, of course, the German troop commitment in Italy did not increase appreciably over expectations. [n3-11-3]

Was it necessary, planners in Washington asked, to go as far north as the Po Valley to insure effective bombardment of southern Germany? The reply was affirmative-the security of airfields in the Rome and Naples areas required control of the ground at least as far north as the Pisa-Ancona line. By inference, the theater planners seemed to be saying the Po Valley was not much farther north and the Alps were not far beyond that. As for operations to be developed out of a successful Italian campaign, an invasion of southern France was feasible, the principal problem being air cover; an offensive in the Balkans, which had been discussed, though no plans had been drawn, would be difficult-if undertaken, it was generally agreed in the theater, a Balkan invasion should go across the Adriatic and through a beachhead in the Durazzo area.[n3-11-4]

[n3-11-3 AFHQ G-3 Memo, Opns Against Mainland of Italy, n.d. (probably Aug 43)]

[n3-11-4 Extract, Min, JPS Mtg, 7 Aug 43, dated 9 Aug 43, ABC 384, Post-HUSKY, Sec ).

American planners at the Joint Chiefs of Staff level believed that operations beyond southern Italy would be justified if the Allied forces gained air bases near Ancona from which to intensify the bombardment of German-held areas in Europe, if the Allies drove toward an invasion of southern France in support of the projected cross-Channel attack, and if they secured bases-perhaps even in Albania and Greece-from which to supply Balkan underground fighters. The Allied ground forces, in the opinion of these planners, should move overland to Rome in order to cover strategic and tactical air bases in southern Italy, then maintain “unremitting pressure” against the Germans with the possible aim of seizing and establishing air bases in the Ancona area. No major land operations, they believed, should be launched in the Balkans. Economic aid, they also recommended, should be provided to insure tolerable living standards among the Italian people.

[n3-11-5 JPS, Plans for Occupation of Italy and Her Possessions, 7 Aug 43, ABC 384, Post-HUSKY, Sec 2.]

Early in August, General Marshall informed General Eisenhower that he could expect to have for future operations at least twenty-four American, British, and French divisions. These were more than enough, Marshall thought, for occupying Italy up to a line somewhere north of Rome, seizing Sardinia and Corsica, and making an amphibious landing in southern France-the ends Marshall believed desirable for an Italian campaign. Ten divisions could contain the German forces in Italy, the others could execute the invasion of southern France. A secure position in Italy north of Rome, occupation of Sardinia and Corsica, nothing in the Balkans-these were President Roosevelt’s immediate aims. So far as the Americans were concerned, there was to be no march all the way up the Italian peninsula.[n3-11-6]

If the Germans intended to reinforce their troops in Italy, and there were some indications to that effect in mid-August, General Eisenhower believed that a firm grasp on the Naples area would be a respectable accomplishment. Yet it would be impractical, in his view, to limit the occupation of Italy to a line just north of Rome. A balanced equation-with an Allied army in central Italy, German forces in northern Italy, and a no man’s land between-was inconceivable. Either the Allies would have to drive the Germans out of Italy or be driven out themselves.

The comparative weights of the resources employed by the opponents would decide the issue. His own capabilities, Eisenhower informed Marshall, were limited more by the shortage of personnel and materiel replacements, particularly of shipping and landing craft, than by actual strength in terms of divisions.[n3-11-7]

[n3-11-6 Marshall to Eisenhower, n.d. (about 7 Aug 43), OPD Exec 3, Item 4: Memos, Marshall for Handy and Handy for Marshall, 9 Aug 43, ABC 384: Interv, Mathews, Lamson, Hamilton, and Smyth with Marshall, 25 Jul 49, OCMH.]

[n3-11-7 Eisenhower to Marshall, 13 Aug 43, OPD Exec 3,Item 5-178]

The Allied leaders meeting in Quebec in August for the QUADRANT Conference received a warning from General Eisenhower that the immediate build-up in Italy was likely to be slow and that the Allied forces might face prolonged and bitter fighting. A firm hold on Naples might be the practical limit of the invasion at Salerno. Beyond Naples, Allied troops might have to fight their way “slowly and painfully” up the peninsula. Early exploitation to the Alps was a “delightful thought but … not to be counted upon with any certainty.”[n3-11-8]

General Eisenhower’s planners nevertheless continued to believe that the Germans would withdraw at least as far north as Pisa to shorten their lines of communication rather than reinforce their troops in Italy. Since the Allied troops after the amphibious landing at Salerno would probably be in no condition to organize an effective pursuit, a small force, the planners thought, should be ready to proceed at once to Rome, while the rest of the Allied troops consolidated and then moved north to attack in the Pisa area.[n3-11-9]

Within this optimistic frame of reference and encouraged by the willingness of the Italian Government to surrender, the Combined Chiefs of Staff on 27 August instructed General Eisenhower to draw plans for invading southern France. The operation was to take place at some unspecified time during or after the Italian campaign. Despite the uncertainty generated by the forthcoming invasion at Salerno, planners at all echelons banked on a rapid advance up the Italian peninsula and an amphibious operation against southern France mounted from northern Italy. By the spring of 1944, according to AFHQ planners, the Allied forces would certainly have forced the Germans back to the foothills of the Alps and to the Piave River. [n3-11-10]

[n3-11-8 Smith to Whiteley, 15 Aug 43, OPD Exec 3. Item 5]

[n3-11-9 AFHQ G-3 Paper. Opns in Italy After a Bridgehead Has Been Established in Naples Area. 21 Aug 43]

[n3-11-10 AFHQ G-3 Paper, Availability of Forces in Spring of 1941 After Occupation of Italy, 5 Sep 43]

Not so General Eisenhower. Just before the Salerno invasion, he informed the Combined Chiefs that the strength amassed by the Germans in Italy would probably force the Allies into a methodical advance up the Italian peninsula during the coming winter months.[n3-11-11] A week later during the critical phase of the battle at Salerno, he began to think that a painstaking advance through the mountains of southern Italy might be too difficult to be worthwhile. Meeting the Germans on other ground might bring quicker results at less cost. To him, long-range planning for the conquest of all of Italy was debatable.[n3-11-12] Yet at the end of the battle of the Salerno beachhead, a cheerful General Eisenhower informed General Marshall that the Germans might be too nervous to make a stand and fight a real battle south of Rome.[n3-11-13]

British intelligence officers agreed. The Germans appeared to have no intention of getting involved in a decisive battle in southern or central Italy and were pulling their ground and air units out, probably to the Pisa-Rimini area. The first stage of their retirement would probably be to a line through Casino in order to cover Rome and its lateral communications and to deny the Allies use of the airfields near Rome. But because their evacuation of Sardinia and Corsica had exposed their mainland flank, the Germans were likely to make a rapid withdrawal. Confined to comparatively few roads and railways that were vulnerable to air and sea attack and to Italian sabotage, facing the risk of having a famished Italian population riot and attack their supply dumps and columns, the Germans would probably move quickly to the north.[n3-11-14]

[n3-11-11 Eisenhower to CCS, 8 Sep 43, OPD Exec 3. Item 5]

[n3-11-12 Eisenhower to War Dept. 15 Sep 43. OPD Exec 3, Item 3 See also AFHQ G-3 Paper, Possible Opns in 19H, 17 Sep 43.]

[n3-11-13 Eisenhower to Marshall. 20 Sep 43, Mathews File,OCMH.]

Signs early in October supported the view that the Germans intended to withdraw to a Pisa-Rimini line. But now it appeared that they would pace their withdrawal to gain time to complete fortifications along their main defensive line in the north, stabilize internal security in the country, inflict losses on the Allies while conserving their own strength, and delay as long as possible an Allied approach to vital German areas, perhaps even the airfields around Rome. The Germans would probably employ the bulk of six to nine divisions then in southern Italy in the region west of the Apennines. They might hold temporarily south of Rome along a general line from Anzio to Pescara. But above Rome, the terrain nowhere afforded good defensive positions short of the Pisa-Rimini line.

In driving the Germans toward the Pisa-Rimini area, the Allied ground troops would enjoy certain advantages. They would have close air support from tactical air units soon to be based in southern Italy, Sardinia, and Corsica. Part of the Northwest African Coastal Air Force was to operate from bases in the Foggia area and in the heel to protect shipping and military installations; strategic air forces based in the same areas, and later near Rome, would be available not only for attacking targets in northern Italy and southeastern Germany but also for disrupting German reinforcement and supply movements.

[n3-11-14 Memo, German Intentions in Italy, 27 Sep 43, ABC 384, Post-HUSKY, Sec 2.]

With more than adequate naval support, the Allied ground forces would also be able to make amphibious flanking attacks on the east and west coasts of Italy. Where then should the Allied command make the main effort? If strong forces moved up the east coast, they could cross the Apennines at any of several lateral roads and get behind the German positions along the western part of the peninsula. Yet the road net on the east coast would limit the size of any enveloping force to two or three divisions, and numerous rivers and deep gorges would enable relatively light German forces to delay the maneuver long enough for the enemy west of the Apennines to escape. Although the ground of the western coastal plain allowed the commitment of considerable troops, including a certain amount of armor, attacks in that region were bound to be slow and laborious frontal efforts. Even so, the western portion of the Italian peninsula seemed better for a main effort beyond the line of the Volturno and Biferno Rivers, attained at the end of the Salerno invasion, and air bases near Rome appeared to be the next logical objective. While bases were opened for heavy bombers, the ground troops, after securing the nearby port of Civitavecchia, would maintain pressure on the Germans, forcing them back to the Pisa-Rimini line.

A strong attack would be necessary to breach this line, and the attack would be followed by a drive farther north. From there, the Allied command would be able either to undertake operations against southern France or to maintain a strong threat against southern France for an indefinite period. The forces on the east coast, meanwhile, would advance to protect and assist the forces in the west, heading toward the port of Ancona, an attractive objective.

What was ominous was the relative inferiority of Allied ground strength. Because some units were leaving the theater while others were arriving, total forces in Italy were expected to number the equivalent of 15 divisions by mid-October, 17 a month later, and only 16 by mid-December. In contrast the Germans, according to estimates, could bring 26 divisions into the fight. Regardless of where the major effort was made, the Allied command would have to rely on air superiority to offset not only German ground strength but also the enemy’s ability to choose the terrain on which to defend. Unfortunately, winter weather would· reduce the effect of Allied air supremacy.[n3-11-15]

General Eisenhower’s personal belief in the efficacy of waging a vigorous campaign during the fall and winter months to capture the Po Valley underwent a startling change about 7 October. Expectations that the Germans would fight only delaying actions in central Italy vanished, along with optimistic hopes of driving quickly into northern Italy. German divisions were coming from northern Italy to reinforce the troops fighting in the south below Rome. If the Germans had decided to stand fast, they had a good chance of barring the Allied forces from the Rome airfields.

[n3-11-15 AFHQ G-3 Paper, Advance to Pisa-Rimini Line, 2 Oct 43, ABC 384, Post-HVSKY, Sec 2.]

[n3-11-16 Eisenhower to Marshall, 2 Oct 43, and Eisenhower to CCS, 9 Oct 43, both in OPD Exec 3, Item 3]

General Alexander’s 15th Army Group, with eleven divisions, was preparing an all-out offensive, “but dearly,” General Eisenhower informed the CCS, “there will be very hard and bitter fighting before we can hope to reach Rome.” Was it possible and would it be better to cancel the offensive and keep the troops along the Volturno and Biferno Rivers?

Apart from the obvious renunciation of Rome and the airfields, Eisenhower thought not. The Volturno-Biferno line, in his opinion, provided insufficient depth in front of Naples and Foggia to contemplate even a temporary stabilization of forces there. The minimum acceptable position was a secure line well north of Rome. And this, it appeared, was going to be difficult to attain.[n3-11-16]

General Alexander could well understand what he believed to be the new German decision. As he judged the situation, the Germans had recovered from the gloom occasioned by the Italian surrender.

The country was quiet, the internal security problem seemed slight, and better knowledge of Allied strength showed the Germans that they held a numerical advantage in ground troops that was likely to continue. The terrain south of Rome was admirably suited for defensive warfare. Autumn and winter weather would hamper Allied offensive operations on the ground and ease the impact of Allied air superiority. Since November 1942, starting from El Alamein in Egypt, the Germans had been retreating, and Alexander could see why they might feel it was time to stop. Troop morale alone would justify the decision.

But there was now also a political reason. The Germans had rescued Mussolini from his Italian captors and had established under his nominal authority a republican fascist government. Giving this government as much territory as possible to administer under German supervision and retaining Rome as its capital would strengthen the semblance of Mussolini’s restored status.[n3-11-17]

Whatever the reasons that motivated the Germans, the Allied command was convinced by mid-October that operations beyond the Volturno and Bifemo Rivers would encounter progressively stronger resistance. Yet General Eisenhower believed, and his senior commanders agreed with him, that nothing would help OVERLORD, the projected cross-channel invasion in the spring of 1944, so much as the early establishment of Allied forces in the Po Valley. He asked the CCS to approve the allocation of additional resources to the theater to make possible small amphibious and airborne operations in the enemy rear that would hasten the Allied advance up the peninsula.

The planners in Washington were unmoved. The Germans, they estimated, could resist in strength at only three places: the Pisa-Rimini line, the Po River line, and the Alps.[n3-11-19] Expecting the Germans to offer relatively little opposition south of Rome, they saw no reason to increase the resources previously allotted to the Allied command for Italy.

The QUADRANT decisions of August and September thus remained in force, and with respect to the Mediterranean theater, changed no decisions made at the TRIDENT Conference in May. The theater command was to withdraw seven divisions and send them to England for the cross-Channel attack, and to replace these in part by French divisions as they became ready for action after being equipped and trained; the theater was to lose by transfer about 170 bombers by December and a considerable amount of troop-carrying aircraft, assault shipping, and landing craft.

[n3-11-17 See Alexander Despatch, p. 2900.]

[n3-11-19 Memo, Smith for JCS, 13 Oct 43, ABC 384,Post·HUSKY, Sec 2. 10 War Dept G-2 :M emo, 19 Oct 43, ABC 384, Post-HUSKY, Sec 2.]

The planners at the QUADRANT Conference had allocated to the four chief theaters of operations all available landing craft and all expected from production. The priorities established gave precedence, within the European theater, to build-up in England for OVERLORD. Definite schedules were established for movement, during the fall of 1943, of a major proportion of the Mediterranean landing craft to the United Kingdom.

The Pacific, with its vast water distances, was to absorb better than half of the craft coming from American production. In addition, some craft were scheduled to move to India for an amphibious operation in the Bay of Bengal. What was to be left in the Mediterranean theater was likely to be insufficient for more than a one-division lift. In short, the Mediterranean theater was to be restricted in its resources, and consequently so was the Allied build-up on the Italian mainland. The principal effort was to go to the cross-Channel attack. Whether the Allied forces, against increased German opposition, had enough troops, equipment, and supplies to drive north in Italy fast enough to make the campaign worthwhile was a moot question. But they were going to try.

The German Decision

Hitler’s early strategy in Italy was concerned with insuring the security of the German forces in southern Italy. Kesselring as to withdraw from Calabria, hold at Salerno and Naples long enough to safeguard the routes of retirement to the north, then make a well-organized movement to central Italy, and finally fall back to the Northern Apennines where his forces would come under Rommel’s Army Group B. When Kesselring’s forces came within close proximity of the army group boundary, roughly the Pisa-Ancona line, Hitler himself would make the command change. Since Kesselring was in no danger of having his forces trapped as a result of the Allied invasion and the Italian surrender, Hitler saw no reason to reinforce him. Kesselring asked for no additional troops. And Rommel offered none.

In compliance with Hitler’s policy, Kesselring ordered his Tenth Army commander, Vietinghoff, to “fall back upon the Rome area” through a succession of defensive lines, one of them the “B” Line, later called the Bernhard Line, which crossed the Italian peninsula at its narrowest place between Gaeta and Oriona. If Hitler changed his mind and decided to defend in southern Italy, the ground along the Bernhard Line would serve admirably for a protracted defensive effort. Kesselring therefore instructed Vietinghoff to withdraw slowly in order to gain time for fortifying this line.

Kesselring advocated defending Italy at least as far south as Rome, and his argument gained considerable point after the Italian Army ceased to be dangerous and the Allies failed to land near Rome. A prolonged defense in southern Italy would delay an Allied invasion of the Balkans, which he, along with OKW, believed was the Allied strategic goal. Defending south of Rome would keep Allied bombers farther from southern Germany and the Po Valley and give Germany the obvious political advantages of retaining Rome. Kesselring estimated that he could defend in southern Italy with II divisions, even if he kept 2 mobile divisions in reserve for action against amphibious landings on his flanks; Rommel, in contrast, would need 13 to 20 divisions to defend a line in the Northern Apennines. Two defensive stands, at the Bernhard Line and in the Northern Apennines, were better than one, particularly since an Allied breach of the Apennines line would immediately threaten the Po Valley. Finally, a strong defense south of Rome would enable the Germans to mount a counteroffensive if the Allies should withdraw units from that front to launch a Balkan invasion. The only advantage offered by a quick withdrawal to the Northern Apennines, in Kesselring’s opinion, was an immediate saving of three or four divisions, which could be sent at once to the Balkans.

Rommel, on the other hand, saw a defensive line in southern Italy as too easily outflanked by Allied amphibious operations, its supply lines too vulnerable to sabotage and Allied air attacks. Favoring a concentration of forces, he recommended withdrawal from southern Italy and a simultaneous retirement from Greece.

To Hitler, Rommel seemed pessimistic, even defeatist. Kesselring’s optimism, earlier a source of irritation to Hitler, began to count in his favor. Kesselring’s resourcefulness and his unexpected success in coping with the defecting Italians and with the two Allied armies in Italy raised his stock in Hitler’s eyes. On 17 September he instructed Kesselring to make a slow withdrawal to the north, holding at the Bernhard Line “for a longer period of time.”

A few days later Hitler suddenly became aware of the importance of Apulia, the Italian heel. If the Allied command regarded southern Italy as a springboard for the Balkans, the Germans ought to deny it, and particularly the Foggia airfields. When Foggia fell into Allied hands before Hitler could act, he began

to consider a counterattack, a maneuver that seemed particularly attractive if launched to coincide with the expected Allied invasion of the Balkans. This idea gave immediate relevance to Kesselring’s concept of conducting the campaign, not in the north of Italy but in the south.

To resolve the conflicting strategies personified by the two commanders, Hitler called Kesselring and Rommel to a conference on the last day of September and listened to their views. He was particularly interested in their assessments of the prospect of regaining the Foggia airfields. Rommel expressed doubt. Kesselring was positive and optimistic.

Hitler was still unable to make up his mind. On 4 October he came La a tentative decision. He notified Kesselring to defend the Bernhard Line in strength. While Kesselring built up the Bernhard Line, Rommel was to construct a line of fortifications in the Northern Apennines. Although Hitler was not entirely convinced that Kesselring could carry out his promise to keep the Allies away from the Northern Apennines for six La nine months. he ordered Rommel to send Kesselring two infantry divisions and some artillery. It was the movement of these troops that Allied intelligence noted around 7 October.

On 9 October Hitler referred to the “decisive importance” of defending the Bernhard Line, but he continued to vacillate between the opposing strategies urged by Rommel and Kesselring. The strategy he selected would determine who would wield the over-all command in Italy.

Uninvolved in the strategic decision, the Tenth Army was making a fighting withdrawal toward the Bernhard Line, which Vietinghoff announced was to be the place for “a decisive stand.” Placing an engineer officer, Generalmajor Hans Bessel. in charge of constructing the Bernhard field fortifications, Vietinghoff specified that he wanted command Posts underground and the main battle line located on the rear slopes of hills in order to escape the devastating effects of Allied artillery fire. Advance outposts were to occupy the crests and forward slopes of the hills, and fields of fire were to be “ruthlessly cleared.” [n3-11-22]

After the reinforcing divisions arrived from northern Italy, Vietinghoff had nine divisions under two corps headquarters, a respectable force with which to oppose the Allies. Although he would have little air support-OKW considered Italy a secondary theater and not worth the risk of heavy air losses-Vietinghoff would enjoy the advantages offered by the terrain. Unless Hitler changed his mind, the German withdrawal was to come to an end in the mountains south of Rome.

[n3-11-22 Tenth Army Order 6, 4 Oct 43, Steiger MS.]

Allied Problems

While Hitler was making his tentative decision to defend in southern Italy, the Allied command was grappling with a variety of matters related to the Italian campaign. A prospective drain on forces came from a request made of General Eisenhower by General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, the commander of the British Middle East theater, who had become involved in the Dodecanese Islands in the eastern Mediterranean. Garrisoned largely by Italian troops, the islands in the Dodecanese chain had seemed ripe for invasion after the Italian surrender and Wilson had seized Cos, Samos, and Leros with small forces. Rhodes now attracted Wilson because he believed that a strong Allied naval and air base established there might force the Germans to withdraw from Greece. Unfortunately, Wilson not only lacked the resources to take Rhodes but also, in his judgment, to retain, against menacing German movements, the three smaller islands he had already captured. He asked AFHQ for help.

Instructed by the Combined Chiefs to furnish whatever assistance he could, General Eisenhower conferred on 9 October with his senior commanders. They quickly decided that the available resources in the Mediterranean theater were insufficient, particularly in view of the indications of a stiffened German defense in Italy, to seize objectives in Italy and at the same time contribute toward operations in the Aegean area. General Wilson’s estimate proved to be correct. The Germans soon retook the islands he had seized, then strengthened their hold over the Dodecanese.[n3-11-23]

About the same time General Eisenhower and his principal subordinates were discussing possible ground action in the Balkans. Though convinced of the desirability of diversionary operations, they agreed that they had barely enough ground troops, base units, and assault shipping for the Italian campaign. The most they could do in the Balkans was to employ air and naval forces to help the guerrillas by furnishing them arms and ammunition to harass and contain the Germans.[n3-11-24]

Another problem that needed resolution was how Italy might contribute to the war. The Italian Fleet and Air Force had surrendered in accordance with the terms of the armistice, and the army had largely disbanded itself. The government, headed by Badoglio under the King, was established in the Brindisi area, but seemed apathetic, unable to unify the Italian people against Germany or to stimulate sabotage and passive resistance in the areas still under German occupation.[n3-11-25]

[n11-23 Eisenhower to CCS, 9 Oct 43, OPD Exec 3, Item 3. For fuller accounts, see Gral1d Strategy, vol.V, ch. II, and Matloff, Strategic Planing for Coalit. Warfare, 19-13-19-IX.]

[n3-11-24 See AFHQ Ltr to Air CinC Mediterranean, Action in the Balkans Subsequent to the Capture of South Italy, II Oct 43.]

[n3-11-25 Eisenhower to CCS, 10 Sep 43, OPD Exec 3, Item 5; AFHQ Msg 17t6, 14 Sep 43, Fifth Army G-2 Jnl; Eisenhower to War Dept, 16 Sep 43, OPD Exec 3, Item 3; Rpt on Activities of Special Opns Exec in Fifth Army Area, 9–27 Sep, dated 28 Sep 43, and 1st Ind, AG 336.2; Fifth Army Ltr, 2 Oct 43, AG 336.]

General Eisenhower believed that the participation of Italian troops in the ground campaign would be politically expedient and advantageous to the morale of the Italian people. But because Italian equipment was antiquated and supplies were lacking, and because AFHQ could equip and supply Italian units only at the expense of the Allied build-up on the Italian mainland, he decided to use only a token Italian combat force, a division at most. Much more valuable would be assistance in the form of service units-labor troops and military police to improve and guard Allied lines of communication and airfields and mechanics and repairmen for vehicles and other equipment.[n3-11-26]

When the Italian Government declared war against Germany on 13 October, Italy became an Allied cobelligerent, though not an ally. Army units capable of contributing to the war were rehabilitated, and service forces were reconstituted. A regiment of combat troops would soon join the Allied forces in their winter campaign.

The most important problem facing the Allies was the need to define the future course of the operations to be undertaken beyond Naples. The immediate objective was-by general understanding rather than by directive-the city of Rome. As early as July, Mr. Churchill had made evident his “very strong desire” for the capital. “Nothing less than Rome,” he had written, “could satisfy the requirements of this year’s campaign.” [n3-11-27] Behind the Salerno invasion, despite the immediate orientation on Naples, was the hope for Rome, a hope echoed by the AFHQ planning.[n3-11-28]

During the QUADRANT Conference in Quebec, the Allied leaders “appreciated that our progress in Italy is likely to be slow” but stressed “the importance of securing the Rome aerodromes.” [n3-11-29] In early September, before the Salerno invasion, Rome, according to one qualified observer, “was already looming large as an objective with General Clark and others,” while even General Marshall, who had reservations on the value of an Italian campaign, agreed that Rome ought to be seized as quickly as possible.

[n3-11-26 AFHQ G-3 Paper, Employment of Italian Forces, 3 Oct 43: Eisenhower Dispatch, pp. 217-28.]

[n3-11-27 Msg to Gen Jan Christian Smuts, 16 Jul 43, quoted in Winston S. Churchill, “The Second World War,” Closing the Ring (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1951), p. 36. See Matlofl, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944, ch. VI]

[n3-11-28 See Memo, Brigadier C. S. Sugden, AFHQ Acting G-3, for Gen Smith, Assault in Rome Area, 14 Aug 43, and AFHQ G-3 Memo, Assault in Rome Area, 14 Aug 43.]

[n3-11-29 Whiteley and Rooks to Smith, 23 Aug 43. OPD Exec 3, Item 5]

On 1 October General Eisenhower[n3-11-30] expressed the hope of being north of Rome in six or eight weeks; three days later he believed, and General Alexander agreed with him, that Allied troops would march into Rome within the month. Although General Eisenhower had thought of moving his headquarters from Algiers to Naples, he now decided to wait until he could “make the jump straight into Rome.” [n3-11-31] Hitler’s decision to defend Italy south of Rome and the movement of German troops from northern Italy to the south dissipated the optimism but did little to blur the focus. With eyes fixed on Rome as the next goal, the Allied command was “pushing hard to get the necessary force into Italy to bring about the major engagement as early in winter as possible.”

[n3-11-30 Truscott, Command Missions, p. 247: Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff . .. July 1, 1941 to June 30, 1943 … , p. 20.]

[n3-11-31 Eisenhower to Marshall, 4 Oct 43, OPD Exec 3, Item 3.]

Getting a large force into Italy was no easy matter. Logisticians who sought to advance the build-up in Italy had to jockey a variety of conflicting claims from commanders who clamored for additional combat units, for components needed to complete formations already in Italy, for tactical and strategic air forces, and for support troops. The need for combat troops competed with urgent requests for equipment and supplies, particularly Bailey bridges and bulldozers. The requirements for air and ground elements were not always compatible in the light of available shipping, and priorities changed constantly as logisticians and planners tried to remain flexible in meeting the demands of the campaign. [n3-11-33] The limited number of available landing craft and ships and the restricted capacities of Naples and the nearby minor ports imposed curtailments.

With logistical facilities overburdened, certain desirable movements became impractical. For example, the transfer of the British 10 Corps to the British Eighth Army presupposed the arrival in Italy of the U.S. II Corps headquarters and additional American divisions. The II Corps in Sicily was ready to move late in September but had no transportation. Consequently, the withdrawal of 10 Corps into reserve and its movement by degrees to the Eighth Army as General Montgomery could accept logistical responsibility for it, actions earlier planned to take place at the Volturno River, had to be deferred. [n3-11-34]

[n3-11-33 See Oct Msgs, 15th AGp, Master Cable File, VI.

[n3-11-34 Eisenhower to CCS, 18 Sep 43, OPD Exec 3, Item 3; 15th AGp Msgs, 1810, 16 Sep 43, and 2230, 29 Sep 43, Fifth Army G-2 Jnl; Msg, Fifth Army to Eighth Army, II Oct 43, and Msg, Alexander to Richardson, 13 Oct 43, both in 15th AGp Master Cable File, VI.]

The need for more landing craft was of particular concern to General Alexander -“to maintain rate of build-up, to allow flexibility in build up programme, for coastwise maintenance traffic, for further seaborne landings on either Coast” -and he repeatedly requested General Eisenhower to “press most strongly for retention all craft” in the theater.[n3-11-35] An immediate partial solution to the problem of building up the combat units would be to retain the 82nd Airborne Division in the theater instead of sending it to the United Kingdom as scheduled. But the opportunities for using airborne troops in Italy seemed to the planners to be too limited to warrant keeping the entire division. Only the 504th Parachute Infantry remained.[n3-11-36]

[n3-11-35 See, for example, Alexander to Eisenhower, 25 Sep 43, 15th :\Gp Master Cable File VI.]

[n3-11-36 Fifth Army to AFHQ, 14 Oct 43, and AFHQ to 15th AGp, 15 Oct 43, both in Master Cable File, VI.]

Finally, the command structure in Italy took permanent form in early October as General Alexander’s 15th Army Group headquarters released the Seventh Army headquarters in Sicily to AFHQ control, opened the army group command Post near Bari on the east coast of Italy, and took direct control of the ground operations and command of the Fifth and Eighth Armies. Separated by the Central Apennine mountain range, a barrier of summits more than 6,000 feet high that even early in October were tipped with snow, the two armies were compartmented. The achievements of one would have little effect on the other. Given the difficult terrain in Italy and the coming of winter, General Alexander defined the objective of the campaign about to get under way as “certain vital areas which contain groups of all-weather airfields, ports and centres of communications” bases from which to launch and support strong attacks. Specifically, he directed operations to take place in two phases, the armies to take two steps. The first, to make the Foggia airfields and the port of Naples secure by advancing to the Biferno and Volturno Rivers, was already in the process of being completed. The second was to be an advance to a general line well above Rome, a line from Civitavecchia, about fifty miles north of Rome on the west coast, to San Benedetto del Trente, about the same distance south of Ancona on the east coast.

[n11-37 Alexander Despatch, p. 2897; Alexander to Clark and Montgomery, 2330, 29 Sep 43, Fifth Army C-2 Jnl; Fifth Artillery History, Part II, pp. 75ff.]

Significantly. Alexander made no mention of Rome. Perhaps its importance was so all-pervading that the city as an objective was implicit in the campaign. More probably, he had issued his directive to the army commanders on the basis of the early intelligence estimates that had promised a quick advance into central and northern Italy. The new indications of a stiffening German attitude in southern Italy required no change in the Allied plans. The Allied forces in Italy were to drive northward, to Rome and beyond.

How long this would take, no one, of course, was prepared to say. Garibaldi’s campaign eighty-three years earlier offered certain parallels. Garibaldi had entered Naples unopposed on 7 September 1860, and then fought near Capua and Caserta, not far from the Volturno River. When he defeated the Bourbon troops, the entire Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, except for the towns of Capua and Gaeta, fell to him. It took him a month to capture Capua and cross the Volturno. On 21 November he was at Gaeta, where he besieged his enemy, Francis II. Not until 12 February of the next year did Garibaldi triumph. In 1943 and 1944, it would take the Allied forces somewhat longer to take Gaeta, to say nothing of Rome.

SOURCE: SALERNO TO CASSINO; by Martin Blumenson (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Italy; Winter Campaign-The Volturno Crossing (ISC-3-12)

World War Two: Italy; Beyond Salerno (ISC-2-10)

Korean War: Stalemate West of Masan-1950 (20)

 When enemy penetrations in the Pusan Perimeter at the bulge of the Naktong caused General Walker to withdraw the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade from Task Force Kean, he ordered the 25th Division to take up defensive positions on the army southern flank west of Masan. By 15 August the 25th Division had moved into these positions.

The terrain west of Masan dictated the choice of the positions. The mountain barrier west of Masan was the first readily defensible ground east of the Chinju pass. The two thousand-foot mountain ridges of Sobuksan and Pil-bong dominated the area and protected the Komam-ni (Saga)Haman-Chindong-ni road, the only means of north-south communication in the army zone west of Masan.

Northward from the Masan-Chinju highway to the Nam River there were a number of possible defensive positions. The best one was the Notch and adjacent high ground near Chungam-ni, which controlled the important road junction connecting the Masan road with the one over the Nam River to Uiryong. This position, however, had the disadvantage of including a 15-mile stretch of the Nam River to the point of its confluence with the Naktong, thus greatly lengthening the line. It was mandatory that the 25th Division right flank connect with the left flank of the 24th Division at the confluence of the Nam and the Naktong Rivers. Within this limitation, it was also necessary that the 25th Division line include and protect the Komam-ni road intersection where the Chindong-ni-Haman road met the Masan-Chinju highway.

The Southern Anchor of the Army Line

From Komam-ni a 2-mile-wide belt of rice paddy land extended north four miles to the Nam River. On the west of this paddy land a broken spur of P’il-bong, dominated by goo-foot-high Sibidang-san, dropped down to the Nam. Sibidang provided excellent observation, and artillery emplaced in the Komam-ni area could interdict the road junction at Chungam-ni. Colonel Fisher, therefore, selected the Sibidang-Komam-ni position for his 35th Infantry Regiment in the northern part of the 25th Division defense line. The 35th Regiment line extended from a point two miles west of Komam-ni to the Nam River and then turned east along that stream to its confluence with the Naktong. It was a long regimental line—about 26,000 yards.

The part of the line held by the 35th Infantry—covering as it did the main Masan-Chinju highway, the railroad, and the Nam River corridor, and forming the hinge with the 24th Division to the north—was potentially the most critical and important sector of the 25th Division front. Lieutenant Colonel Bernard G. Teeter’s 1st Battalion held the regimental left west of Komam-ni; Colonel Wilkins’ 2nd Battalion held the regimental right along the Nam River. Major Robert L. Woolfolk’s 3rd Battalion (1st Battalion, 29th Infantry) was in reserve on the road south of Chirwon from where it could move quickly to any part of the line.

South of the 35th Infantry, Colonel Champney’s 24th Infantry, known among the men in the regiment as the “Deuce-Four,” took up the middle part of the division front in the mountain area west of Haman. Below (south) the 24th Infantry and west of Chindong-ni, Colonel Throckmorton’s 5th Regimental ombat Team was on the division left. On division orders, Throckmorton at first held the ground above the Chindong-ni coastal road only as far as Fox Hill, or Yabansan.

General Kean soon decided, however, that the 5th Regimental Combat Team should close the gap northward between it and the 24th Infantry. When Throckmorton sent a ROK unit of 100 men under American officers to the higher slope of Sobuk-san, enemy troops already there drove them back. General Kean then ordered the 5th Regimental Combat Team to take this ground, but it was too late.[n20-2] 

The N.K. 6th Division Regroups West of Masan In front of the 25th Division, the N.K. 6th Division had now received orders from the North Korean command to take up defensive positions and to await reinforcements before continuing the attack.[n20-3] From north to south, the division had its 13th, 15th, and 14th Regiments on line in that order. The first replacements for the division arrived at Chinju on or about 12 August. Approximately 2,000 unarmed South Koreans conscripted in the Seoul area joined the division by 15 August. At Chinju, the 6th Division issued them grenades and told the recruits they would have to pick up weapons from killed and wounded on the battlefield and to use captured ones. A diarist in this group records that he arrived at Chinju on 13 August and was in combat for the first time on 19 August. Two days later he wrote in his diary, “I am much distressed by the pounding artillery and aerial attacks. We have no food and no water, we suffer a great deal. … I am on a hill close to Masan.”[n20-4]

[n20-2 Interv, author with Throckmorton, 20 Aug 52; Throckmorton, Notes for author, 17 Apr 53.]

[n20-3 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 100 (N.K. 6th Div), pp. 37-38.]

[n20-4 Ibid., p. 38; ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 2, Rpt 712, p. 31, Chon Kwan O; ATIS Supp Enemy Docs, Issue 2, p. 70, Diary of Yun Hung Ki, 25 Jul-21 Aug 50.]

Another group of 2,500 replacements conscripted in the Seoul area joined the 6th Division on or about 21 August, bringing the division strength to approximately 8,500 men. In the last week of August and the first week of September, 3,000 more recruits conscripted in southwest Korea joined the division. The 6th Division used this last body of recruits in labor details at first and only later employed them as combat troops.[n20-5] As a part of the enemy build-up in the south, another division now arrived there—the 7th Division. This division was activated on 3 July 1950; its troops included 2,000 recruits and the 7th Border Constabulary Brigade of 4,000 men.

An artillery regiment had joined this division at Kaesong near the end of July. In Seoul on 30 July, 2,000 more recruits conscripted from South Korea brought the 7th Division’s strength to 10,000. The division departed Seoul on 1 August, the men wading the neck-deep Han River while their vehicles and heavy weapons crossed on the ponton bridge, except for the division artillery which was left behind. The 7th Division marched south through Taejon, Chonju, and Namwon.

The 1st and 3rd Regiments arrived at Chinju on or about 15 August. Two days later some elements of the division reached Tongyong at the southern end of the peninsula, twenty-five air miles southwest of Masan. The 2nd Regiment arrived at Yosu on or about 15 August to garrison that port. The 7th Division, therefore, upon first arriving in southwest Korea occupied key ports to protect the 6th Division against possible landings in its rear.[n20-6]

[n20-5 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 100 (N.K. 6th Div), p. 38.]

[n20-6 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 99 (N.K. 7th Div), p. 34; ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 2, p. 94, Capt So Won Sok, 7th Div.]

The reinforced battalion that had driven the ROK police out of Tongyong did not hold it long. U.N. naval forces heavily shelled Tongyong on 19 August as three companies of ROK marines from Koje Island made an amphibious landing near the town. The ROK force then attacked the North Koreans and, supported by naval gun fire, drove them out. The enemy in this action at Tongyong lost about 350 men, or about half their reinforced battalion; the survivors withdrew to Chinju.[n20-7]

By 17 August, the reinforced North Koreans had closed on the 25th Division defensive line and had begun a series of probing attacks that were to continue throughout the month. What the N.K. 6th Division called “aggressive patrolling” soon became, in the U.S. 24th and 35th Infantry sectors, attacks of company and sometimes of battalion strength. Most of these attacks came in the high mountains west of Haman, in the Battle Mountain, Pil-bong, and Sobuk-san area. There the 6th Division seemed peculiarly sensitive where any terrain features afforded observation of its supply and concentration area in the deeply cut valley to the west.

[n20-7 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 99 (N.K. 7th Div), pp. 34-35; ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 2, p. 94, Capt So; GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 57, 20 Aug 50; New York Times, August 21, 1950.]

 Enemy Attacks at Komam-ni (Saga)

 It soon became apparent that the enemy 6th Division had shifted its axis of attack and that its main effort now would be in the northern part of the Chinju-Masan corridor just below the Nam River. General Kean had placed his strongest regiment, the 35th Infantry, in this area. Competent observers considered its commanding officer, Colonel Fisher, one of the ablest regimental commanders in Korea. Calm, somewhat retiring, ruddy faced, and possessed of a strong, compact body, this officer was a fine example of the professional soldier. He possessed an exact knowledge of the capabilities of the weapons used in an infantry regiment and was skilled in their use. He was a technician in the tactical employment of troops. Of quiet temperament, he did not court publicity. One of his fellow regimental commanders called him “the mainstay of the division.” [n20-8]

The 35th Infantry set to work to cover its front with trip flares, but they were in short supply and gradually it became impossible to replace those tripped by the enemy. As important to the front line companies as the flares were the 6o-mm. mortar illuminating shells. This ammunition had deteriorated to such a degree, however, that only about 20 percent of the supply issued to the regiment was effective. The 155-mm. howitzer illuminating shells were in short supply. Even when employed, the time lapse between a request for them and delivery by the big howitzers allowed some enemy infiltration before the threatened area was illuminated.[n20-9]

Lieutenant Colonel Arthur H. Logan’s 64th Field Artillery Battalion, with C Battery, 90th Field Artillery Battalion, attached, and Captain Harvey’s A Company, 89th Medium Tank Battalion, supported Colonel Fisher’s regiment. Three medium M4A3 tanks, from positions at Komam-ni, acted as artillery and placed interdiction fire on Chungam-ni. Six other medium M26 tanks in a similar manner placed interdiction fire on Uiryong across the Nam River.[n20-10]

[n20-8 Interv, author with Corley, 6 Nov 51; Interv, author with Throckmorton, 20 Aug 52; Interv, author with Brigadier General Arthur S. Champney, 22 Jul 51. Throckmorton and Champney agreed substantially with Corley’s opinion.]

[n20-9 1st Bn, 35th Inf WD, 14-31 Aug 50, Summ of Supply Problem.]

In the predawn hours of 17 August an enemy attack got under way against the 35th Infantry. North Korean artillery fire began falling on the 1st Battalion command post in Komam-ni at 0300, and an hour later enemy infantry attacked A Company, forcing two of its platoons from their positions, and overrunning a mortar position. After daylight, a counterattack by B Company regained the lost ground. This was the beginning of a 5-day battle by Colonel Teeter’s 1st Battalion along the southern spurs of Sibidang, two miles west of Komam-ni. The North Koreans endeavored there to turn the left flank of the 35th Regiment and split the 25th Division line. On the morning of 18 August, A Company again lost its position to enemy attack and again regained it by counterattack. Two companies of South Korean police arrived to reinforce the battalion right flank. Against the continuing North Korean attack, artillery supporting the 1st Battalion fired an average of 200 rounds an hour during the night of 19-20 August.[n20-11]

After three days and nights of this battle, C Company of the 35th Infantry and A Company of the 29th Infantry moved up astride the Komam-ni road during the morning of 20 August to bolster A and B Companies on Sibidang. While this reinforcement was in progress, Colonel Fisher from a forward observation post saw a large enemy concentration advancing to renew the attack. He directed artillery fire on this force and called in an air strike. Observers estimated that the artillery fire and the air strike killed about 350 enemy troops, half the attack group.[n20-12]  

[n20-10 35th Inf WD, 1-31 Aug 50; 89th Med Tank Bn WD, 16-17 Aug 50.]

[n20-11 35th Inf WD, 17-20 Aug 50; 1st Bn, 35th Inf WD, 19 Aug 50.]

The North Koreans made still another try in the same place. In the predawn hours of 22 August, enemy infantry started a very heavy attack against the 1st Battalion. Employing no artillery or mortar preparatory fires, the enemy force in the darkness cut the four-strand barbed wire and attacked at close quarters with small arms and grenades. This assault engaged three American companies and drove one of them from its position. After three hours of fighting A Company counterattacked at 0700 and regained its lost position. The next day, 23 August, the North Koreans, frustrated in this area, withdrew from contact in the 35th Infantry sector.[n20-13]

Battle Mountain  

At the same time that the North Koreans were trying to penetrate the 35th Infantry positions in the Sibidang-Komam-ni area, they sent strong patrols and probing attacks against the mountainous middle part of the 25th Division line. Since this part of the division line became a continuing problem in the defense of the Perimeter, more should be said about the terrain there and some of its critical features.

[n20-12 1st Bn, 35th Inf WD, 20 Aug 50; 25th Div WD, 20 Aug 50.]

[n20-13 35th Inf WD, 22 Aug 50; 25th Div WD, 23 Aug 50. ]

Old mine shafts and tunnels on the western slope of Sobuk-san provided the North Koreans in this area with ready-made underground bunkers, assembly points, and supply depots. As early as the first week of August, the North Koreans were in this mountain fastness and had never been driven out. It was the assembly area for their combat operations on the Masan front all during the month.

Even when American troops had held the Notch position beyond Chungam-ni, their combat patrols had never been able to penetrate along the mountain trail that branches off the Masan road and twists its way up the narrow mountain valley to the mining villages of Ogok and Tundok, at the western base of Battle Mountain and Pilbong, two peaks of Sobuk-san. The patrols always were either ambushed or driven back by enemy action. The North Koreans firmly protected all approaches to their Sobuksan stronghold. [n20-14]

When the 25th Division issued orders to its subordinate units to take up defensive positions west of Masan, the 2nd Battalion, 24th Infantry, was still trying to seize Obong-san, the mountain ridge just west of Battle Mountain and Pil-bong, and across a gorge like valley from them. At daybreak of 15 August, the 2nd Battalion broke contact with the enemy and withdrew to Battle Mountain and the ridge west of Haman. The 3rd Battalion of the 24th Infantry now came to the Haman area to help in the regimental defense of this sector.[n20-15]

[n20-14 Interv, author with Fisher, 5 Jan 52; 159th FA Bn WD, 12-15 Aug 50; 1st Bn, 24th Inf WD, 15 Aug 50.]

[n20-15 2nd Bn, 24th Inf WD, 15 Aug 50; 25th Div WD, 15 Aug 50.]

This high ground west of Haman on which the 24th Infantry established its defensive line was part of the Sobuk-san mountain mass. Sobuk-san reaches its highest elevation, 2,400 feet, at Pil-bong (Hill 743), eight miles northwest of Chindong-ni and three miles southwest of Haman. From Pil-bong the crest of the ridge line drops and curves slightlynorthwestward, to rise again a mile away in the bald peak which became known as Battle Mountain (Hill 665). It also was variously known as Napalm Hill, Old Baldy, and Bloody Knob. Between Pil-bong and Battle Mountain the ridge line narrows to a rocky ledge which the troops called the Rocky Crags. Northward from Battle Mountain toward the Nam River, the ground drops sharply in two long spur ridges. Men who fought there called the eastern one Green Peak.[n29-16]

At the western base (enemy side) of Battle Mountain and Pil-bong lay Ogok and Tundok, one and a quarter air miles from the crest. A generally north-south mountain road-trail crossed a high saddle just north of these villages and climbed to the 1,100-foot level of the west slope, or about halfway to the top, of Battle Mountain. This road gave the North Koreans an advantage in mounting and supplying their attacks in this area. A trail system ran from Ogok and Tundok to the crests of Battle Mountain and Pil-bong. From the top of Battle Mountain an observer could look directly down into this enemy-held valley, upon its mining villages and numerous mine shafts. Conversely, from Battle Mountain the North Koreans could look down into the Haman valley eastward and keep the 24th Infantry command post, supply road, artillery positions, and approach trails under observation. Whichever side held the crest of Battle Mountain could see into the rear areas of the other. Both forces fully understood the advantages of holding the crest of Battle Mountain and each tried to do it in a 6-week-long battle.

[20-16 Interv, author with 1st Lieutenant Louis M. Daniels, 2 Sep 51 (CO I&R Plat, 24th Inf, and during the Aug 50 action was a Master Sergeant (Intel Sergeant) in the 1st Bn, 24th Inf); Interv, author with Corley, 4 Jan 52 (Corley in Aug 50 was CO, 3rd Bn, 24th Inf; in September of that year he became the regimental commander); AMS Map, Korea, 1:50,000.]

The approach to Battle Mountain and Pil-bong was much more difficult from the east, the American-held side, than from the west, the North Korean side. On the east side there was no road climbing halfway to the top; from the base of the mountain at the edge of the Haman valley the only way to make the ascent was by foot trail. Stout climbers required from 2 to 3 hours to reach the top of Pil-bong from the reservoir area, one and a half air miles eastward; they required from 3 to 4 hours to get on top of Battle Mountain from the valley floor.

The turnaround time for porter pack trains to Battle Mountain was 6 hours. Often a dispatch runner required 8 hours to go up Battle Mountain and come back down. In some places the trail was so steep that men climbed with the help of ropes stretched at the side of the trail. Enemy night patrols constantly cut telephone lines. The wire men had a difficult and dangerous job trying to maintain wire communication with units on the mountain.

Bringing dead and seriously wounded down from the top was an arduous task. It required a litter bearer team of six men to carry a wounded man on a stretcher down the mountain. In addition, a medical aide was needed to administer medical care during the trip if the man was critically wounded, and riflemen often accompanied the party to protect it from enemy snipers along the trail. A critically wounded man might, and sometimes did, die before he reached the bottom where surgical and further medical care could be administered. This possibility was one of the factors that lowered morale in the 24th Infantry units fighting on Battle Mountain. Many men were afraid that if they were wounded there they would die before reaching adequate medical care.[n20-17]

In arranging the artillery and mortar support for the 24th Infantry on Battle Mountain and Pil-bong, Colonel Champney placed the 4.2-inch mortars and the 159th Field Artillery Battalion in the valley south of Haman. On 19 August the artillery moved farther to the rear, except for C Battery, which remained in the creek bed north of Haman at Champney’s insistence. Champney in the meantime had ordered his engineers to improve a trail running from Haman northeast to the main Komam-ni-Masan road. He intended to use it for an evacuation road by the artillery, if that became necessary, and to improve the tactical and logistical road net of the regimental sector. This road became known as the Engineer Road.[n20-18]

When Colonel Champney on 15 August established his line there was a 4,000-yard gap in the Pil-bong area between the 24th Infantry and the 5th Infantry southward. The 24th Infantry had not performed well during the Task Force Kean action and this fact made a big gap adjacent to it a matter of serious concern. General Kean sent 432 ROK National Police to Champney the next day and the latter placed them in this gap.[n20-19]

[n20-17 Interv, author with Corley, 4 Jan 52; Interv, author with Daniels, 2 Sep 51; Interv, author with Champney, 22 Jul 51; 24th Inf WD, 1-31 Aug 50, Special Problems and Lessons. ]

[n20-18 Interv, author with Champney, 22 Jul 51; FA Bn WD, Aug 50, and sketch maps 5 and 6.]

The first attack against the mountain line of the 24th Infantry came on the morning of 18 August, when the enemy partly overran E Company on the northern spur of Battle Mountain and killed the company commander. During the day, Lieutenant Colonel Paul F. Roberts succeeded Lieutenant Colonel George R. Cole in command of the 2nd Battalion there. The next day, the enemy attacked C Company on Battle Mountain and routed it. Officers could collect only forty men to bring them back into position. Many ROK police on Pil-bong also ran away—only fifty-six of them remained in their defensive positions. American officers used threats and physical force to get others back into position. A gap of nearly a mile in the line north of Pil-bong existed in the 24th Infantry lines at the close of the day, and an unknown number of North Koreans were moving into it.[n20-20]

[n20-19 Colonel William O. Perry, EUSAK IG Rpt, 24th Inf Regt, 1950, testimony of Captain Alfred F. Thompson, Arty Line Off with 24th Inf, 24 Aug 50; 24th Inf WD, 15-16 Aug 50.]

[n20-20 1st Bn, 24th Inf WD, 19 Aug 50; 159th FA Bn WD, 19 Aug 50.]

On 20 August, all of C Company except the company commander and about twenty-five men abandoned their position on Battle Mountain. Upon reaching the bottom of the mountain those who had fled reported erroneously that the company commander had been killed and their position surrounded, then overrun by the enemy. On the basis of this misinformation, American artillery and mortars fired concentrations on C Company’s former position, and fighter-bombers, in thirty-eight sorties, attacked the crest of Battle Mountain, using napalm, fragmentation bombs, rockets, and strafing. This friendly action, based upon completely erroneous reports, forced the company commander and his remnant of twenty-five men off Battle Mountain after they had held it for nearly twenty hours. A platoon of E Company, except for eight or ten men, also left its position on the mountain under similar circumstances.

On the regimental left, a ROK patrol from K Company’s position on Sobuk-san had the luck to capture the commanding officer of the N.K.15thRegiment but, unfortunately, he was killed a few minutes later while trying to escape. The patrol removed important documents from his body. And on this day of general melee along Battle Mountain and Pil-bong, the North Koreans drove off the ROK police from the 24th Infantry’s left flank on Sobuk-san.[n20-21]

General Kean now alerted Colonel Throckmorton to prepare a force from the 5th Infantry to attack Sobuk-san. On the morning of 21 August, the 1st Battalion (less A Company), 5th Regimental Combat Team, attacked across the 24th Infantry boundary and secured Sobuksan against light resistance. That evening a strong force of North Koreans counterattacked and drove the 1st Battalion off the mountain. At noon the next day, the 1st Battalion again attacked the heights, and five hours later B Company seized the peak. General Kean now changed the boundary line between the 5th Regimental Combat Team and the 24th Infantry, giving the Sobuk-san peak to the former. During the night, the North Koreans launched counterattacks against the 1st Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team, and prevented it from consolidating its position. On the morning of 23 August, A Company tried to secure the high ground 1,000 yards southwest of Sobuk and link up with B Company, but was unable to do so. The enemy considered this particular terrain feature so. important that he continued to repulse all efforts to capture it, and kept A Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team, nearby, under almost daily attack. [n20-22]

[n20-21 24th Inf WD, 20 Aug 50; 3rd Bn, 24th Inf WD, 20 Aug 50; EUSAK IG Rpt, 24th Inf, testimony of Major Eugene J. Carson, Ex Off, 2nd Bn, 24th Inf, answer to question 141, 14 Sep 50; Ibid., statement of Captain Merwin J. Camp, 9 Sep 50.]

Northward from B Company’s position on Sobuk, the battle situation was similar. Enemy troops in the Rocky Crags, which extended from Sobuk-san toward Pil-bong, took cover during air strikes, and napalm, 500-pound bombs, and strafing had little effect. As soon as the planes departed they reoccupied their battle positions. Elements of the 24th Infantry were not able to extend southward and join with B Company of the 5th Regimental Combat Team.[n20-23]

[n20-22 Interv, author with Throckmorton, 20 Aug 52; Throckmorton, Notes and sketch maps, 17 Apr 53; 25th Div WD, 21-24 Aug 50: EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 21-22 Aug 50; Ibid., 23 Aug 50. ]

[n20-23 1st Bn, 24th Inf WD, 23 Aug 50; Corley, Notes for author, 27 Jul 53. The code name King 1 was given to this rocky ledge extending from Pil-bong south toward Sobuk-san. See 159th FA Bn WD, 19 Aug 50.]

Still farther northward along the mountain spine, in the Battle Mountain area, affairs were going badly for the 24th Infantry. After C Company lost Battle Mountain, air and artillery worked over its crest in preparation for an infantry attack planned to regain Old Baldy. The hot and sultry weather made climbing the steep slope grueling work, but L Company was on top by noon, 21 August. Enemy troops had left the crest under the punishing fire of air, artillery, and mortar. They in turn now placed mortar fire on the crest and prevented L Company from consolidating its position. This situation continued until midafternoon when an enemy platoon came out of zigzag trenches a short distance down the reverse slope of Old Baldy and surprised L Company. One enemy soldier even succeeded in dropping a grenade in a platoon leader’s foxhole. The other two platoons of the company, upon hearing firing, started to leave their positions and drift down the hill. The North Koreans swiftly reoccupied Old Baldy while officers tried to assemble L and I Companies on the eastern slope. Elements of E Company also left their position during the day.[n20-24]

American air, artillery, mortar, and tank fire now concentrated on Battle Mountain, and I and L Companies prepared to counterattack. This attack made slow progress and at midnight it halted to wait for daylight. Shortly after dawn, 22 August, I and L Companies resumed the attack. Lieutenant R. P. Stevens led L Company up the mountain, with I Company supplying a base of fire. Lieutenant Gerald N. Alexander testified that, with no enemy fire whatever, it took him an hour to get his men to move 200 yards. When they eventually reached their objective, three enemy grenades wounded six of them and at this his group ran off the hill. Alexander stopped them 100 yards down the slope and ordered them to go back up. None would go. Finally, he and a BAR man climbed back and found no defending enemy on the crest. His men slowly rejoined him. The remainder of the company reached the objective on Battle Mountain with a total loss of 17 casualties in three hours’ time. A few hours later, when a small enemy force worked around its right flank, the company withdrew back down the hill to I Company’s position.[n20-25]

[n20-24 Corley, notes for author, 27 Jul 53; Interv, author with Corley, 4 Jan 52; EUSAK IG Rpt, 24th Inf Regt, 1950, testimony of 2nd Lieutenant Gerald N. Alexander, L Co, 24th Inf, 2 Sep 50; Ibid., testimony of Major Horace E. Donaho, Ex Off, 2nd Bn, 24th Inf, 22 Aug 50; 24th Inf WD, 21 Aug 50; EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 21 Aug 50.]

Fighting continued on Battle Mountain the next day, 23 August, with ROK police units arriving to reinforce I and L Companies. The American and South Korean troops finally secured precarious possession of Old Baldy, mainly because of the excellent supporting fires of the 81-mm. and 4.2-inch mortars covering the enemy’s avenues of approach on the western slope. Before its relief on the mountain, L Company reported a foxhole strength of 17 men, yet, halfway down the slope, its strength had jumped to 48 men, and by the next morning it was more than 100. Colonel Corley, in command of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry, said, “Companies of my battalion dwindle to platoon size when engaged with the enemy. My chain of command stops at company level. If this unit is to continue to fight as a battalion it is recommended that the T/O of officers be doubled. One officer must lead and the other must drive.” The situation in the Haman area caused General Walker to alert the Marine brigade for possible movement to this part of the front.[n20-26]

[n20-25 Interv, author with Corley, 4 Jan 52; EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 22 Aug 50; Ibid., Summ, 22 Aug 50; EUSAK IG Rpt, 24th Inf Regt, 1950, testimony of Corley, 26 Aug 50, and testimony of Alexander, 2 Sep 50.]

On 25 and 26 August, C Company beat off a number of North Korean thrusts on Battle Mountain—all coming along one avenue of approach, the long finger ridge extending upward from the mines at Tundok. At one point in this series of actions, a flight of Air Force planes caught about 100 enemy soldiers in the open and immediately napalmed, bombed, and strafed them. There were few survivors. Task Force Baker, commanded by Colonel Cole, and comprising C Company, a platoon of E Company, 24th Infantry, and a ROK police company, defended Battle Mountain at this time. The special command was established because of the isolated Battle Mountain area and the extended regimental battle frontage. It buried many enemy dead killed within or in front of its positions during these two days. [n20-27]

The 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry, now relieved the 1st Battalion in the Battle Mountain-P’il-bong area, except for C Company which, as part of Task Force Baker, remained on Old Baldy. Corley’s battalion completed this relief by 1800, 27 August.[n20-28]

[n20-26 24th Inf WD, 24 Aug 50; Interv, author with Corley, 4 Jan 52; EUSAK IG Rpt, 24th Inf Regt, 1950. testimony of Alexander, 2 Sep 50, and testimony of Corley, 26 Aug 50. ]

[n20-27 1st Bn, 24th Inf WD, 26 Aug 50; 24th Inf WD, 26 Aug 50; 25th Div WD. 26 Aug 50. ]

[n22-28 3rd Bn, 24th Inf WD. 27 Aug 50; 25th Div WD, 27 Aug 50.]  

The North Korean attacks continued. On the 28th, an enemy company-sized attack struck between G and I Companies before dawn. That night, enemy mortar fire cell on C Company on Old Baldy, some of it obviously directed at the company command post. After midnight, an enemy force appeared in the rear area and captured the command post. Some men of C Company left their positions on Battle Mountain when the attack began at 0245, 29 August. The North Koreans swung their attack toward E Company and overran part of its positions. Airdrops after daylight kept C Company supplied with ammunition, and a curtain of artillery fire, sealing off approaches from the enemy’s main position, prevented any substantial reinforcement from arriving on the crest. All day artillery fire and air strikes pounded the North Koreans occupying E Company’s old positions. Then, in the evening, E Company counterattacked and reoccupied the lost ground.[n20-29 24th Inf WD, 29 Aug 50.]

An hour before midnight, North Koreans attacked C Company. Men on the left flank of the company position jumped from their holes and ran down the mountain yelling, “They have broken through!” The panic spread. Again the enemy had possession of Battle Mountain. Captain Lawrence M. Corcoran, the company commander, was left with only the seventeen men in his command post, which included several wounded.[n20-30] After daylight on the 30th, air strikes again came in on Battle Mountain, and artillery, mortar, and tank fire from the valley concentrated on the enemy-held peak. A wounded man came down off the mountain where, cut off, he had hidden for several hours. He reported that the main body of the North Koreans had withdrawn to the wooded ridges west of the peak for better cover, leaving only a small covering force on Old Baldy itself. At 1100, B Company, with the 3rd Battalion in support, attacked toward the heights and two hours later was on top. [n20-31]

[n20-30 Ibid.; 25th Div WD, 29 Aug 50; EUSAK IG Rpt, 24th Inf Div, 1950, testimony of Corcoran,1 Sep 50. Corcoran said fire discipline in his company was very poor, that his men would fire at targets out of range until they had exhausted their ammunition and at night would fire when there were no targets. He said that in his entire company he had twenty-five men he considered soldiers and that they carried the rest.]

Units of the 24th Infantry always captured Battle Mountain in the same way. Artillery, mortar, and tank fire raked the crest and air strikes employing napalm blanketed the scorched top. Then the infantry attacked from the hill beneath Old Baldy on the east slope, where supporting mortars set up a base of fire and kept the heights under a hail of steel until the infantry had arrived at a point just short of the crest. The mortar fire then lifted and the infantry moved rapidly up the last stretch to the top, usually to find it deserted by the enemy. [n20-32]

Battle Mountain changed hands so often during August that there is no agreement on the exact number of times. The intelligence sergeant of the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, said that according to his count the peak changed hands nineteen times.[n20-33] From 18 August to the end of the month, scarcely a night passed that the North Koreans did not attack Old Baldy. The peak often changed hands two or three times in a 24-hour period. The usual pattern was for the enemy to take it at night and the 24th Infantry to recapture it the next day. This type of fluctuating battle resulted in relatively high losses among artillery forward observers and their equipment. During the period of 15-31 August, seven forward observers and eight other members of the Observer and Liaison Section of the 159th Field Artillery Battalion, supporting the 24th Infantry, were casualties; and they lost 8 radios, 11 telephones, and 2 vehicles to enemy action.[n20-34]

[n20-31 24th Inf WD, 30 Aug 50; 25th Div WD, 30 Aug 50.]

[n20-32 Interv, author with Corley, 4 Jan 52. ]

[n20-33 Interv, author with Daniels, 2 Sep 51.]

[n20-34 159th FA Bn WD, 1-31 Aug 50.]

In its defense of that part of Sobuksan south of Battle Mountain and Pilbong, the 1st Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team, also had nearly continuous action in the last week of the month. Master Sergeant Melvin O. Handrich of C Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team, on 25 and 26 August distinguished himself as a heroic combat leader. From a forward position he directed artillery fire on an attacking enemy force and at one point personally kept part of the company from abandoning its positions. Although wounded, Sergeant Handrich returned to his forward position, to continue directing artillery fire, and there alone engaged North Koreans until he was killed. When the 5th Regimental Combat Team regained possession of his corner “of a foreign field” it counted more than seventy dead North Koreans in the vicinity.[n20-35]

The month of August ended with the fighting in the .mountains on the southern front, west of Masan, a stalemate. Neither side had secured a definite advantage. The 25th Division had held the central part of its line, at Battle Mountain and Sobuk-san, only with difficulty and with mounting concern for the future.

[n20-35 Department of the Army General Order 60, 2 August 1951, awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to Sergeant Handrich.]

SOURCE: South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu; BY: Colonel Roy E. Appleman (United States Army Center of Military History)

Korean War: The Taegu Front- August 1950 (19)

Holidays Around the World for April 20th: Opal Festival

Opal Festival

March-April, Easter weekend

The South Australian town of Coober Pedy is known for its opal mines, producing about 70 percent of the world’s opals. In the early 20th century, newcomers to the area—explorers, miners, construction workers, soldiers returning from World War I—built underground dugouts in which to live because of the harsh environment of the outback, with its excessive heat and minimal water supply. Thus, the town came to be called “kupa piti” or “white man in a hole” by the aboriginal people.

Celebrated over Easter weekend, Coober Pedy’s annual Opal Festival includes such competitive events as the mine rescue demonstration, stein holding competition, beer belly contest, tug-of-war, tossing the sausage, triathlons for men and women, games and races for children, football, and the multicultural dance and singing competition. While the fun begins on Thursday night with the festival cabaret, Saturday is the main day, kicking off with a morning street parade featuring a marching band, mining equipment, and floats and culminating in a fireworks display and a dance at night. Throughout the festival, the opal walk leads festivalgoers from shop to shop to view rare and beautiful specimens, and dugout tours are available. There are also displays of local handicrafts, along with food and drink tents, stage acts, aboriginal dancing, and music.

Coober Pedy Opal Festival
Hutchison St.
P.O. Box 425
Coober Pedy, SA 5723 Australia
61-8-8672-5298; fax: 61-8-8672-5699
WildPlanet-1995, p. 420


World War Two: Biak: Japanese Reinforce (AP-15)

Biak and Japanese Naval Plans: As the Biak operation began, both ALAMO Force and General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area, estimated that the principal Japanese reaction to the landing of the HURRICANE Task Force would be aerial in nature. Since it was believed that the Japanese were committed to a policy of conserving their remaining naval strength, it was considered improbable that they would risk major fleet elements to counterattack at Biak or reinforce this island in the face of Allied land-based aircraft which were either at fields within range of Biak or which were expected soon to be flying from strips captured there. Attempts by the Japanese to reinforce Biak by barge movements from more westerly bases were also considered improbable. Such movements would have to be made at the mercy of Allied Naval Force PT boats operating from Mios Woendi or Allied aircraft from the Biak fields. Finally, it was considered improbable that the enemy would choose to weaken his garrisons at Noemfoor Island and Manokwari by sending reinforcements from those bases to Biak.

[n15-1 ALAMO Force, G-2 Daily Rpt 164, 27 May 44, in ALAMO G-2 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 16 May-2 Jun 44; GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEI’s 800 and 802, 31 May and 2 Jun 44, respectively, in G-3 GHQ Jnls, 31 May and 2 Jun 44.]

These estimates of enemy intentions were incorrect. The determined defense by the Biak Detachment prevented the Allies from using the Biak airfields as soon as had been expected. Therefore, all aerial efforts to locate and destroy Japanese seaborne reinforcement movements had to be made from Wakde Island or Hollandia. Moreover, not only had the Japanese made ambitious plans to reinforce Biak, but they were also willing to risk important naval air and surface units to make sure that the reinforcements reached their destination.

Japanese Naval Planning, Early 1944

The 9 May withdrawal of Japan’s southeastern strategic main line of resistance to the line Sorong-Halmahera meant, in essence, that no reinforcements were to be sent to Biak and Manokwari, now relegated to the status of strategic outposts. But the landing of the HURRICANE Task Force on 27 May engendered a change in attitude at Imperial General Headquarters concerning the importance of Biak. Prior to this time, the defense of Biak had been principally a responsibility of the Japanese Army, but now the Navy Section, Imperial General Headquarters, began to take a decisive hand in the planning for operations in the western New Guinea area.[n15-2]

Allied carrier operations against the Palaus and Sarmi in early 1944, coupled with continued Allied advances along the New Guinea coast and the concomitant weakening of Japanese Army air strength in western New Guinea, prompted the Japanese Navy to reinvestigate Biak’s defensive potentialities. The Navy decided to strengthen its rather meager forces on Biak and, apparently early in April, sent airdrome construction units, a few antiaircraft troops, and some supply units to the island. In May the 19th Naval Guard Unit elements arrived there.[n15-3] One of the airfields on Biak apparently was to have been used solely by the Japanese Naval Air Service. Be that as it may, the Navy’s interest in Biak during April was insignificant compared with that aroused by the Allied landings on the island. The background of this interest lay as far distant in time as the disastrous defeats suffered by the Japanese Navy in mid-1942 and in plans formulated by Imperial General Headquarters during the fall of 1943 to develop bases in the western New Guinea eastern Indies area from which to launch a major counteroffensive in the middle of 1944.[n15-4]

[n15-2 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 111-13; Hist of Southern Area Army, pp. 61-64; Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 53-58. Upon the Allied landings in the Wakde-Sarmi area on 17 May, General Anami, commanding the 2nd Area Army, had renewed earlier pleas for strengthening the Biak-Manokwari line, but these pleas had fallen on deaf ears at Imperial GHQ.]

Having suffered heavy losses of ground troops, aircraft, and pilots, the Japanese Army was unable to assume its share of preparations for the counteroffensive. Moreover, continuous shipping losses and Allied air attacks against the prospective bases made it impossible for the Japanese to send enough army troops forward even to defend those bases properly, let alone develop them to support major counterattacks.

Ever since its heavy losses in the middle of 1942, the Japanese Navy had been endeavoring to rebuild its air and surface strength for a naval showdown in the Pacific. Despite continued serious losses from Allied air and submarine operations through early 1944, the Japanese Navy was induced by the series of Allied carrier attacks and advances in the first four months of 1944 to speed preparations for the showdown. On this potential battle, the Japanese Navy conferred the code name Operation A or, as it was more euphoniously known, the A-GO Operation.[n15-5]

[n15-3 Naval Opns in the Western New Guinea Area, pp. 2-3, 7-9; Incl 2, List of Corrections, to Ltr, Willoughby to Ward, 10 Mar 51. Although Biak had apparently been an army base practically from the time it was first occupied by the Japanese, the principal administrator for the Biak natives was a Japanese civilian naval employee. This was in accordance with agreements reached by the Japanese Army and Navy before the outbreak of war. ]

[n15-4 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 90-96; see also above, Ch. IV.]

[n15-5 Japanese Studies in WW II, 60, The A-GO Operation, 1944, pp. 1, 3-6, copy in OCMH files. The “GO” in this sense is roughly equivalent to “No.” in the English “Operation No. A.”]

[n15-6 Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 55-68; Interrog of Capt Mitsuo Fuchida [IJN] [Air Stf O, Hq Combined Flt], 10 Oct 45, in USSBS, Naval Analysis Div, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, I, 122-32; Interrog of Vice Adm Shigeru Fukudome [IJN] [CofS Combined Flt, etc.], 9-12 Dec 45, ibid., II, 500-30; Incl 2, List of Corrections, to Ltr, Willoughby to Ward, 10 Mar 51; Interrog of Captain Toshikazu Ohmae [IJN] [CofS 1st Task Force], 25 Nov 45, in USSBS, op. cit., II, 409-10. The 2nd Area Army and the Southwest Area Fleet hoped (or perhaps even expected) that A-GO would be undertaken in the Geelvink Bay area.]

The Japanese Navy initially planned to meet the U. S. Pacific Fleet for the A-GO Operation in the waters around the Palaus, but the possibility that the battle might have to be fought off the Marianas or near Geelvink Bay was not overlooked. Whatever the expected locale of the battle, the Allied invasions of Hollandia and Aitape on 22 April gave impetus to final preparations for A-GO. On 3 May the Navy Section of Imperial General Headquarters issued a warning order for all units of the Combined Fleet to start assembling for the A-GO Operation. For the battle, the Japanese Navy organized the bulk of the Combined Fleet’s striking power into a unit called the 1st Task Force, [n15-7] under Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa.

Admiral Ozawa’s force was divided into two major sections: the 2nd Fleet, containing the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers of the battle line, and the 3rd Fleet, which was a carrier striking force comprising nine carriers and their escorts, and based approximately 500 aircraft. Also scheduled to take an important part in the A-GO Operation was the land-based 1st Air Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Kakuji Kakuta.

The 1st Air Fleet, with an authorized strength of over 1,600 planes (the bulk of them land-based types), had been organized in Japan in mid-1943. Comprising initially the 61st and 62nd Air Flotillas, it was to have had at least a year’s training which, apparently, was to emphasize land-based operations in support of fleet action. Continued Allied advances in the Central and Southwest Pacific Areas, the loss of the Japanese Navy’s carrier-based air strength at Rabaul, and Allied carrier attacks against Truk prompted Imperial General Headquarters, in February 1944, to send the bulk of the 61st Air Flotilla (accompanied by Headquarters, 1st Air Fleet) to the Marianas. Some of the 61st’s aircraft were simultaneously deployed to the Carolines and Palaus, while the 62nd Air Flotilla, lacking sufficient training for combat, remained in Japan.[n15-8]

On 22 April, when the Allies landed at Hollandia and Aitape, the 1st Air Fleet was assigned the operational control of the 23rd Air Flotilla, then the only Japanese Naval Air Service unit based in New Guinea. Based since February 1942 variously at Kendari, in the Celebes, and at Davao, Mindanao, the 23rd’s headquarters moved to Sorong, at the northwest tip of the Vogelkop, in mid-April 1944. At that time the flotilla sent a number of its combat planes forward to Biak and Wakde.

Most of these planes were lost during the Allied carrier- and land-based air operations which prepared the way for the landings of the RECKLESS and PERSECUTION Task Forces. The 1st Air Fleet, when it took over operational control of the 23rd Air Flotilla, therefore sent to the latter unit fourteen land-based bombers. Earlier plans to send additional aircraft to the 23rd from the 61st Air Flotilla’s detachment in the Palaus had to be abandoned when the 61st lost over 100 planes during the U. S. Fifth Fleet carrier raids on the Palaus at the end of March. The 23rd Air Flotilla could undertake no major counterattacks against Hollandia and was unable to do anything to prevent the Allied advance to Wakde-Sarmi on 17 May.

Instead, trying to save its remaining strength, it withdrew most of its aircraft to Sorong, leaving only a few reconnaissance planes at Biak. Between the Allied landings at Hollandia and Biak, the flotilla devoted much of its time to maintaining air bases in the western New Guinea area in the expectation that more reinforcements would be sent to it from the 1st Air Fleet. But such additional strength was not immediately forthcoming. Instead, the 23rd Air Flotilla suffered still more losses from Allied aircraft based at Hollandia and Wakde. When the HURRICANE Task Force landed on Biak, the flotilla still had only twelve fighters and six medium bombers.[n15-9]

[n15-7 The characters of this name are also rendered into English as the 1st Striking Force, the 1st Task Fleet, and the 1st Mobile Fleet.

[n15-8 The A-GO Operation, pp. 3-7; Southeast Area Naval Opns, III, 2-9; Interrog of Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, 25 Nov 45, in USSBS, op. cit., II, 428-31. Initially under Imperial GHQ, the 61st Air Flotilla passed to the control of Combined Fleet on 15 Mar 44. It picked up a few experienced pilots and some additional planes upon arrival in the Marianas.]

The Japanese Decision to Reinforce Biak

Meanwhile, final preparations for the A-GO Operation had been going on apace.10 The 1st Task Force assembled on 16 May at Tawitawi, outermost island of the Sulu Archipelago, which extends southwest from Mindanao toward Borneo. Then, just after the Allied landings in the Wakde-Sarmi area, the 1st Air Fleet was ordered to begin final deployment for A-GO. The U.S. Fifth Fleet attack on Marcus Island, northeast of the Marianas, on 20 May, apparently convinced the Japanese Navy that a major Allied advance was about to take place in the Central Pacific, bringing the U. S. Fifth Fleet into waters where the 1st Task Force, supported by the 1st Air Fleet, would have some advantages. Whatever the case, on 20 May the 1st Task Force was alerted to be ready to sally forth from Tawitawi to execute A-GO at a moment’s notice.

During conferences at Imperial General Headquarters in late April and early May, the question of what steps might be taken in case the Allies advanced to Biak before they moved in the Central Pacific had been considered by the Japanese Navy. The Japanese were apparently convinced at this time that the next major Allied target in the Central Pacific would be the Marianas, the seizure of which the Japanese Navy believed would be an unparalleled calamity which would foreshadow the loss of the war. Moreover, the Japanese Navy realized full well that A-GO was going to be fought on a

shoestring, for it knew that available land-based air strength in the Marianas and Caroline’s was really inadequate for proper fleet support. If part of that already insufficient strength were redeployed to western New Guinea to protect Biak, the disparity between the striking power of the 1st Task Force and the surface vessel and carrier-based air strength available to the Allies would become even more decided than it was estimated to be.

The Japanese Navy therefore decided to send no more aircraft to western New Guinea other than the fourteen bombers which had been dispatched to the 23rd Air Flotilla late in April. It was planned, moreover, that there would be no naval reaction to an Allied landing on Biak beyond attacks which could be mounted from Sorong by the wholly inadequate 23rd Air Flotilla.

Thus, possibly gambling that the A-GO Operation would take place before an Allied attack on Biak, and obviously considering the Marianas more important than the western New Guinea area, the Japanese Navy reconciled itself to the probable loss of the bases in the Geelvink Bay area. But on 27 May there occurred the event which the Japanese Navy had possibly feared. The HURRICANE Task Force began pouring ashore at Biak at a time when Allied forces in the Central Pacific had made no move toward the Marianas. Suddenly the Japanese Navy had a change of heart and decided that the 1st Task Force would be at a marked disadvantage during A-GO if it had to cope with Allied aircraft using Biak fields.

[n15-9 Naval Opns in the Western New Guinea Area, pp. 4-8; The A-GO Operation, pp. 2-3; Interrog of Captain Hirouchi Komoto [IJN] [Opns O, Stf, 23rd Air Flotilla], 12 Nov 45, in USSBS, op. cit., II, 287-90.]

[n15-10 This subsection is based principally on: The A-GO Operation, pp. 13-16; Japanese Studies in WW II, 97, A-GO Operations Log (not to be confused with the A-GO Operation), pp. 1-6, copy in OCMH files; Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 123-26; Naval Opns in the Western New Guinea Area, pp. 9-14; Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 61-62; Interrog of Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, 25 Nov 45, in USSBS, op. cit., II, 428-31; Interrog of Captain Hirouchi Komoto, 12 Nov 45, ibid., II, 287-90; Interrog of Captain Momochio Shimanouchi [IJN], [Stf of 16th Cruiser Div], 26 Nov 45, ibid., II, 450-54; 2nd Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp. 60-61.]

To counter the Allied advance to Biak, the Japanese Navy decided upon two drastic steps. First, it dispatched from one third to one half (the figures vary according to source) of its available naval land-based air strength from the Central Pacific to reinforce the 23rd Air Flotilla in western New Guinea. On 28 May, 70 carrier-type fighters (50 of these were to stage in from Japan through the Philippines and were probably from the 62nd Air Flotilla), 4 reconnaissance bombers, and 16 medium bombers were ordered to western New Guinea. It also appears that another group of planes, comprising 48 fighters, 8 reconnaissance aircraft, and 20 bombers, was likewise ordered to move to western New Guinea and Halmahera from the Carolines on or about 31 May.

Thus, the Japanese Navy apparently planned to reinforce the 23rd Air Flotilla with 90 to 156 aircraft, the bulk of them fighter types. It is not known how many of these aircraft actually reached Sorong or other Vogelkop area bases, but it is known that most of the pilots, upon arrival in New Guinea, were immediately stricken with malaria or other tropical fevers and became liabilities rather than assets to the 23rd Air Flotilla. From the scale of the Japanese air effort against Biak, [n15-11] it would appear that few of the reinforcing planes were ever used in attacks on that island.

The Japanese Navy next decided that it was just as important to attempt to hold Biak as to stage air raids against the Allied forces on the island. The Biak Detachment was obviously not strong enough to prevent the Allies for long from occupying the entire island. Therefore, as the second step, the Japanese Navy, in agreement with the Army Section, Imperial General Headquarters, decided to transport to Biak the Army’s 2nd Amphibious Brigade. Moreover, the Navy was willing to risk major elements of the 1st Task Force to insure the brigade’s safe arrival on Biak. Orders to begin moving the 2nd Amphibious Brigade from the Philippines to Biak, an undertaking which the Japanese called Operation KON, [n15-12] were issued by Headquarters, Combined Fleet, on 30 or 31 May. At the same time it was decided to move three infantry companies of the 35th Division from Sorong to Biak, presumably by barge. Execution of these orders began immediately.

[n15-11 As derived from the enumeration and description of Japanese air attacks against Biak recorded in G-2 HTF, G-2 Hist of HTF, Vol. II, Part II, Per Rpts.]

[n15-12 The component parts of the Japanese ideograph “kon” are “water” and “army.” Thus the ideograph lent itself well as a code name for waterborne reinforcement movements. The actual meanings of the ideograph appear to have no pertinence to the nature of the operation.]

The KON Operation

The 2nd Amphibious Brigade, a relatively new unit of the Japanese Army, had been formed and trained for assault landings and transportation by small craft. Originally, it had been about 4,000 strong and comprised three infantry battalions, a 75-mm. mountain artillery battalion of twelve guns, a tank company, and attached engineer, signal, medical, and other service-type units.

The brigade had lost some of its infantry personnel and the entire tank unit as a result of Allied submarine action during the organization’s movement from Japan to the Philippines in April or May. Most of the brigade was finally moved from Manila to Zamboanga, while some of the unit was apparently sent to Davao. [n15-13]

The First KON Operation

The KON Force, as the ships detailed from the 1st Task Force for the purpose of reinforcing Biak came to be called, was divided into four sections.[n15-14] The largest and most important was the Transport Unit, consisting of 1 heavy cruiser, 1 light cruiser, and 3 destroyers. Next were the 1st Screening Unit, 2 heavy cruisers and 3 destroyers, and the 2nd Screening Unit, 1 old battleship and 2 destroyers. A Detached Unit [n15-15] contained two mine layers and an unknown number of submarine chasers, patrol craft, and landing craft or barges. The Transport Unit was to move 1,700 troops of the 2nd Amphibious Brigade to Biak, while the Detached Unit took 800 more men of the same organization to the island. It appears that the Transport Unit and the 1st and 2nd Screening Units were also to shell Allied positions on Biak and attack Allied transport ships and naval vessels found in Biak waters.

According to orders, KON Force was to reach Biak on 3 June. There is no indication that the Japanese expected the KON Operation to evolve into an A-GO Operation in the Geelvink Bay area. Japanese reconnaissance aircraft, even as KON Force sailed toward Biak, were keeping under surveillance U. S. Pacific Fleet units stationed in the Marshall Islands. Should the scouting planes report that large groups of the American vessels had left the Marshalls, the Japanese would immediately put into effect their plans for A-GO, In accordance with these plans, the 1st and 2nd Screening Units of KON Force would hurry to rejoin the 1st Task Force in Philippine waters.

[n15-13 ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpts 52, 54, and 56, 2, 16, and 30 Aug, respectively, copies in G-2 DofA files; Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 61-62; Naval Opns in the Western New Guinea Area, p. 10.]

[n15-14 In addition to the Allied sources cited below, this subsection is based upon the following Japanese sources: The A-GO Operation, pp. 15-16; A-GO Operations Log, pp. 5-9; Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 61-64; Naval Opns in the Western New Guinea Area, pp. 10-12; Interrog of Captain Momochio Shimanouchi, in USSBS, op. cit., II, 450-54; 2nd Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp. 61, 65-66.]

[n15-15 The names of these various components of KON Force vary with the source and translation.]

The KON Force’s Transport Unit left Tarakan, Borneo, on 30 May and arrived at Zamboanga, Mindanao, the next day. At Zamboanga, the unit’s cruisers and destroyers took aboard the 1,700 troops of the 2nd Amphibious Brigade and then moved on to reach Davao, Mindanao, on 1 June. The 1st and 2nd Screening Units departed the Tawitawi fleet anchorage on 30 May and assembled with the Transport Unit in Davao Gulf on 1 June. The three units left the gulf about midnight on 2 June, the 2nd Screening Unit following a course generally parallel to but some fifty miles east of the other two groups. To allow more time to embark troops and make final plans, there was a delay of one day in Davao Gulf, after which the ships of the three KON Force units were not expected to arrive off Biak until approximately 2200 hours on 4 June.

So far, various Allied intelligence agencies had kept fairly accurate track of Japanese ship movements in the Mindanao area by means of aerial reconnaissance and submarine reports. On 30 May the 1st and 2nd Screening Units had been sighted as they sailed east from Tawitawi. General MacArthur’s G-2 Section, interpreting this sighting, considered it probable that the Japanese ships were heading for Davao or the Palaus on supply or transport missions. At this time apparently little consideration was given to the possibility that the Japanese fleet units might have been sallying forth with offensive intent. The next day, 31 May, the ALAMO Force G-2 Section stated: “Enemy naval intervention at this stage of the [Biak] operations is impossible.” [n15-16]

On 1 June Allied air or submarine (the record is not clear) sightings accounted for twelve of the thirteen ships comprising the three KON Force units then assembled in Davao Gulf. But, despite the fact that the G-2 Section of General MacArthur’s headquarters had also received information from radio intercepts indicating that the Japanese were planning to send the 2nd Amphibious Brigade to Biak, that section was still disinclined to believe that the Japanese fleet movements presaged offensive intent. Instead, it was considered more probable that the combat vessels at Davao Gulf were merely preparing to take supplies or reinforcements to Halmahera or perhaps to northwestern New Guinea.[n15-17]

Early on the morning of 3 June, at a point just east of the Talaud Islands, between Mindanao and Morotai, a Seventh Fleet submarine sighted the Transport and 1st Screening Units and was in turn sighted by ships of the latter organization. Seventh Fleet PB4Y’s, operating from Wakde Island, kept the Japanese vessels under surveillance the rest of the day, reporting that the course and speed of the enemy ships could bring them into range of Biak during the evening of 4 June.[n15-18] Their discovery by Allied aircraft so far from Biak (about 650 nautical miles) apparently had not been anticipated by the Japanese, who later reported that they had not known Allied aircraft were capable of such long-range reconnaissance.[n15-19]

Nevertheless, the three KON Force elements steamed on toward Biak, probably hoping that friendly aircraft might drive off the Allied reconnaissance planes and also protect the sea approaches to Biak. In connection with KON Force’s advance, the Japanese had planned heavy air strikes against Biak which were to be carried out by the recently reinforced 23rd Air Flotilla and the few army aircraft which remained at bases within range of Biak.

Between 1645 and 1700 on 2 June, from eleven to fifteen Japanese planes bombed Allied positions on Biak, causing a few casualties and some light damage. Seven of these planes were shot down by shore-based antiaircraft weapons, while guns aboard Seventh Fleet ships lying off Bosnek accounted for at least one more. Later during the same night, a few more enemy planes dropped some bombs harmlessly on and near Owi Island. Still more approached Biak during the night, causing many red alerts but not dropping any bombs. The next night, that of 3-4 June, no Japanese planes attacked Biak, although an unknown number bombed Owi Island without causing any damage or casualties. Again, however, enemy aircraft flew many reconnaissance flights around Biak, causing an almost continuous red alert until the early morning hours of 4 June.[n15-20]

[n15-16 ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 43, 31 May 44, p. 10-d, copy in G-2 DofA files; GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEI 800, 31 May 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 31 May 44; Incl 2, List of Corrections, to Ltr, Willoughby to Ward. 10 Mar 51.]

[n15-17 GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEI’s 800 and 802, 31 May and 2 Jun 44, respectively, in G-3 GHQ Jnls, 31 May and 2 Jun 44; Rad, GHQ SWPA to ALAMO, G-13158, 1 Jun 44, in ALAMO Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 1-2 Jun 44.]

[n15-18 Rad, ALAMO to HTF, WF-612, 4 Jun 44, in ALAMO Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 3-4 Jun 44.]

[n15-19 This ignorance of the capabilities of Allied reconnaissance planes was professed after the war and seems to be tongue-in-cheek ex post facto reasoning, PB4Y’s had been flying such distances (a round trip of about 1400 miles from Wakde) for some time, both in the Southwest and Central Pacific Areas.]

The Japanese reconnaissance aircraft around Biak probably lost for the Japanese their best opportunity to reinforce and bombard the island. Already worried at being sighted by an Allied submarine and shadowed by PB4Y’s, the KON Force, late on 3 June, received reports from Japanese scouting planes that an impressive Allied naval force, including carriers, was lying off Biak. How such a report could have originated is unknown—the pilots must have mistaken destroyers for battleships and LST’s for carriers—for there were no Allied naval vessels larger than destroyers at Biak on 3 June. The Japanese now believed that the surprise value of KON had been lost and they began to fear attacks from carrier-based aircraft. Therefore, at approximately 2000 hours on the 3rd, the KON Operation was called off.

Meanwhile, Allied General Headquarters, acting on the basis of new secret intelligence, had re-evaluated the available information concerning sightings of Japanese combat vessels. On 3 June the theater headquarters warned ALAMO Force, Allied Naval Forces, and Allied Air Forces that there were strong indications that the Japanese were going to make attempts to land reinforcements on Biak during the night of 4-5 June or on nights immediately following. The same day the Allied Naval Forces formed a special task force comprising 1 heavy cruiser, 3 light cruisers, and 10 destroyers—most of the readily available combat strength of the Seventh Fleet and the Royal Australian Navy except for a few destroyers already at Biak providing support for ground operations.

The ships of the hastily assembled task force were to rendezvous off Hollandia and depart that station in time to arrive at Biak by 1915 on 4 June. The small fleet was to destroy or drive off an equal or inferior enemy force attempting to bring reinforcements to Biak. In case a Japanese force of superior strength came within range, the Allied groupment was to retire toward Hollandia, presumably under cover of Fifth Air Force planes from Wakde. In connection with these plans there was set up a north-south boundary near Biak to separate areas of naval and air responsibility. Naval or air elements were not to cross this boundary except in cases of emergency or when in hot pursuit of Japanese vessels.[n15-21]

[n15-20 G-2 HTF, Per Rpts 9-11, 4-7 Jun 44, in G-2 Hist of HTF, Vol. II, Part II, Per Rpts; Rad, ALAMO Rear Hq to GHQ SWPA, WF-420, 3 Jun 44, and Rad, 14th ALP to Advon5thAF, NO-64, 3 Jun 44, both in ALAMO Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 3-4 Jun 44.]

[n15-21 Rad, GHQ SWPA to AAF SWPA and ANF SWPA, CX-13203, 3 Jun 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 3 Jun 44; Rad, ALAMO Rear Hq to ALAMO Adv Hq, WF-551, 3 Jun 44, and Rad, ALAMO Rear Hq to HTF, WF-613, 3 Jun 44 (paraphrasing another radio from Com7thFlt to CTF’s 74 and 75), both in ALAMO Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 3-4 Jun 44.]

Long before the Allied task force reached Biak on 4 June, the Japanese had canceled the KON Operation. Had the enemy force continued toward Biak, it might well have found the waters around that island free of Allied vessels. Moreover, the small Allied task force, under orders to withdraw in case a superior enemy fleet showed up, would have been opposed by 1 battleship, 3 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, and 8 destroyers of the Japanese Navy. The Allied group would have had one more ship but would have been far outclassed in range and weight of fire power. The Allied force might have had some support of land-based air power from distant Wakde Island, but the boundaries between air and naval zones would have limited the use of this help and the planes could not, in any case, be expected to operate with maximum efficiency during the night hours when the naval engagement would have taken place. Be that as it may, the Japanese resolved the question of an Allied naval withdrawal from Biak by failing to press home their planned attack.

When the Japanese called off KON on 3 June, the Transport and the 1st and 2nd Screening Units were a little over 500 miles northwest of Biak and about 250 miles east-southeast of the Talaud Islands. At this point, the three forces were reorganized. The Transport Unit, accompanied by the three destroyers of the 1st Screening Unit, changed course for Sorong, while the 2nd Screening Unit and the two heavy cruisers of the 1st turned back toward Davao, which they probably reached late on 5 June. Of the ships moving to Sorong, the Fifth Air Force claimed to have sunk one destroyer and damaged at least two others. No substantiation of these contemporary claims is to be found in Japanese sources or later Allied reports. The Transport Unit and the 1st Screening Unit’s three destroyers arrived safely at Sorong during the evening of 4 June.[n15-22]

The Detached Unit, which had been moving toward Biak from Zamboanga on an independent course far to the west of the other three sections of KON Force, had also changed its direction during the night of 3-4 June, and reached Sorong sometime on the 4th. At Sorong the Transport Unit unloaded the 1,700 men of the 2nd Amphibious Brigade. The six destroyers of the Transport and 1st Screening Units then proceeded southwest to Ambon where they refueled. The Transport Unit’s one heavy cruiser and one light cruiser sought shelter in Kaboei Bay, Waigeo Island, about 60 miles northwest of Sorong. On 6 June the heavy cruiser Aoba was attacked there by fifteen B-24’s of the Fifth Air Force. First reports were that at least two hits were scored on the cruiser, but it was later learned that the ship suffered no damage. Instead, it was able to take part in a second KON Operation. [n15-23]

The Second KON Operation

After noting the Japanese invasion fleet scattering to the north and southwest on 4 June, the G-2 Section of ALAMO Force estimated that the Japanese had at least temporarily dropped all plans for reinforcing Biak. [n15-24 It was realized that the enemy could send troop-carrying barges to Biak if he chose to risk running the Allied air and naval blockade of that island, but further large-scale naval intervention was not expected. [n15-25] The G-2 Section was due for another surprise—the Japanese had no intention of giving up so readily.

[n15-22 Memo, AdvonSAF to ALAMO, sub: Ship Sightings, 4 Jun 44, in ALAMO Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 3-4 Jun 44; Incl 2, List of Corrections, to Ltr, Willoughby to Ward, 10 Mar 51.]

[n15-23 Rad, COIC GHQ SWPA to ALAMO, no number, 7 Jun 44, in ALAMO Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 7-8 Jun 44; ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 45, 14 Jun 44; Incl 2, List of Corrections, to Ltr, Willoughby to Ward, 10 Mar 51.]

[n15-24 In addition to the Allied sources cited, the following Japanese sources were used for this subsection: A-GO Operations Log, p. 10; Naval Opns in the Western New Guinea Area, pp. 12-13; Interrog of Captain Momochio Shimanouchi, in USSBS, op. cit., II, 450-54; 2nd Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp., 64, 70, 76-77.]

[n15-25 ALAMO Force, G-2 Daily Rpt 172, 6 Jun 44, in ALAMO G-2 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 3-16 Jun 44.]

The enemy had discovered, probably as a result of aerial reconnaissance early on 4 June, that the Allied naval force in the Biak area contained no carriers. Therefore, sometime on the 4th, Headquarters, Combined Fleet decided to make another effort to reinforce and bombard Biak. For the second attempt, KON Force units were again divided into four elements. The first was the Transport Unit, containing three destroyers which had been part of the first KON Operation Transport Unit. The second section was the Screening Unit, also comprising three destroyers. For the second KON operation there were two detached units—the 1st had one heavy and one light cruiser while the 2nd Detached Unit included the small craft and patrol boats which had put into Sorong at the end of the first KON.

The three destroyers of the Transport Unit were each to embark 200 infantrymen at Sorong. In addition, the destroyers of either or both the Transport and Screening Units were each to tow to Biak one landing barge crammed with troops, probably 30 to 50 men to a barge. It cannot be definitely ascertained to what organization the infantrymen of the second KON Operation belonged but it appears that the second KON Force planned to move the bulk of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 219th Infantry, 35th Division, from Sorong to Biak. Elements of both units were later identified on Biak.

On the morning of 7 June the Transport, Screening, and 1st Detached Units rendezvoused off Misoöl Island, about 100 miles southwest of Sorong. The Japanese now decided that only destroyers would be used for the reinforcement run to Biak. Leaving the two cruisers at Misoöl, the Transport and Screening Units proceeded to Sorong where they embarked troops and picked up their tows. The 1st Detached Unit moved to Ambon for fuel and supplies while the 2nd Detached Unit was ordered to be ready to sail toward Biak at a moment’s notice.

The Transport and Screening Units left Sorong about midnight on the 7th, following a northeasterly course parallel to the coast of the Vogelkop Peninsula. The course was to bring the ships about 25 miles off Kaap de Goede Hoop (Cape of Good Hope), which, lying about midway between Manokwari and Sorong, is the northernmost point of the Vogelkop. After dawn on the 8th, air cover was to have been provided by planes of the 23rd Air Flotilla. But the cape area was being patrolled by Allied aircraft on 8 June and, about 1330 the 23rd Air Flotilla cover of six planes was shot down or driven away by Fifth Air Force P-38’s.

Finding the air now free of enemy planes, American B-25’s dived to the attack, reporting the convoy as 2 light cruisers and 4 destroyers. Initially, it was claimed that 1 destroyer was sunk, 2 were left sinking, and the fourth was damaged. A few days later, destruction was reassessed as 4 destroyers sunk and 2 light cruisers chased to the northwest.[n15-26] These claims were exaggerated. One destroyer, the Harusame, was holed by a near miss and sank rapidly, the bulk of its crew being saved. Another destroyer was damaged by a bomb and took some water; two others were slightly damaged by strafing. Neither speed nor navigation was impeded for any of the three. The two light cruisers reported by the Allied planes were, of course, the other two destroyers. These two might have taken some evasive action by heading northwest for a short time, but as soon as the Harusame crew had been rescued and the Allied planes had disappeared, the convoy reformed and continued on toward Biak.[n15-27]

[n15-26 ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 45, 14 Jun 44, copy in G-2 DofA files; Rad, ALAMO Rear Hq to ALAMO Adv Hq, WF-1620, 8 Jun 44, in ALAMO Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 8-9 Jun 44; Rad, ALAMO Rear Hq to ALAMO Adv Hq, WF-2030, 10 Jun 44, in ALAMO Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 10-11 Jun 44.]

About 1800 on the 8th, the Transport and Screening Units received a report from a Japanese aircraft that an Allied naval force comprising 1 battleship, 4 cruisers, and 8 destroyers was moving west at high speed from an undesignated point east of Biak. This report was at least partially correct.

The Allied task force which had been formed on 3 June had again assembled on the 8th, having been alerted by reports of the air-sea battle off the Kaap de Goede Hoop. But the Japanese convoy commander apparently took this air reconnaissance report with at least one grain of salt—had not similar information received on 3 June proved inaccurate? The Transport and Screening Units steamed on, despite the fact that the Kaap de Goede Hoop action had put the force behind schedule.

At 2330 the two enemy groups were approximately forty miles off the north coast of Soepiori Island, ready to turn southeast toward Korim Bay, on the northeast side of Biak. Minutes later a destroyer in the van sighted the Allied task force heading northwest around Biak. The convoy commander quickly realized that he was badly outnumbered and decided that discretion was called for. The destroyers with tows cut the barges loose and joined in a general flight northwest toward the Mapia Islands, almost 200 miles distant, with Allied destroyers in pursuit. [n15-28]

Principally because the enemy had a long head start and was taking evasive action over miles of open sea, the Allied destroyers were unable to close with the Japanese ships. Moreover, the strength of the enemy force was unknown, and the Allied destroyers rapidly drew away from their cruiser support. Land-based air support was not available because of increasingly threatening weather, darkness, and the fact that previously assigned boundaries between aircraft zones and naval action could not readily be changed. Finally, at 0230 on the 9th, when the two opposing groups of destroyers were in the vicinity of the Mapia Islands, contact was broken and the Allied ships withdrew toward Biak.

The results of the engagement, during which only long-range destroyer fire had been exchanged, were inconclusive. A Japanese destroyer—one which had been hit on the 8th when the Harusame had been sunk—received more damage but again was able to continue on course without much loss of speed. In addition, Allied destroyers sank at least one of the barges which the Japanese destroyers had cut loose. Nevertheless, other barges of the group certainly managed to set reinforcements ashore, probably at Korim Bay, during the night.[n15-29]

[n15-27 The Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee [JANAC], Japanese Naval And Merchant Shipping Losses During World War II By All Causes (Washington, 1947), p. 12.]

[n15-28 Rad, COIC GHQ SWPA to G-2 ALAMO, WM-264, 10 Jun 44 and Rad, ALAMO Rear Hq to ALAMO Adv Hq, WF-1891, 10 Jun 44, both in ALAMO Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 9-10 Jun 44.]

[n15-29 Rad, ALAMO Rear Hq to ALAMO Adv Hq, WF-1891, 10 Jun 44, in ALAMO Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 9-10 Jun 44; ALAMO Force, G-2 Daily Rpt 178, 10 Jun 44, in ALAMO G-2 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 3-16 Jun 44.]

Japanese air cover at Biak for the second KON Operation had been practically non-existent. Early on the morning of 8 June a lone enemy plane dropped a few bombs near shipping anchored off Mios Woendi and on the HURRICANE Task Force’s amphibian tractor pool. No damage to equipment resulted from this raid and only one man was wounded. About 2030 on the 8th, one fighter and two bombers attacked searchlight positions on Owi Island without causing any damage or casualties. Other enemy planes approached within radar range of Biak during the early morning hours of 9 June, but did not attack the island.[n15-30]

During the melee in the Biak-Mapia area, the second KON Force’s Transport and Screening Units became separated, but even so, both steamed westward on divergent courses under cover of bad weather on the 9th. The Transport Unit’s destroyers proceeded to Sorong and there unloaded the 600 infantrymen so futilely carried toward Biak. The destroyers then rendezvoused with the cruisers of the 1st Detached Unit and the two groups sailed to Batjan Island, where they arrived on 10 June. The Screening Unit’s remaining two destroyers reached Batjan either late on the 9th or early on the 10th. Meanwhile, two heavy cruisers and two destroyers of the first KON Force had moved from Davao to Batjan and, during the movement, lost the destroyer Kazegumo to a Seventh Fleet submarine. The remaining three ships arrived at Batjan sometime on 9 June.

During these scurrying’s over vast stretches of the western Pacific, the small craft of the 2nd Detached Unit had perhaps been ordered to Biak. Whatever its original orders, the unit’s instructions were changed and the small craft apparently put back into Sorong on 10 June. There the 800 men of the 2nd Amphibious Brigade, who had been in transit from Zamboanga since 1 June, disembarked. [n15-31]

A final and unexplained movement occurred during the night of 9-10 June, when Allied aircraft reportedly sighted between three and five unidentified warships about 150 miles north of the Mapia Islands. When first sighted the vessels were heading southeast toward Biak, and a later report, which identified the ships as Japanese destroyers, placed them fifty miles southeast of the Mapia group, still heading toward Biak at high speed. Japanese sources make no mention of a destroyer force at the specified time or place. Allied naval vessels, based at Mios Woendi, searched in vain in waters north of Biak for the Japanese ships during the early morning hours of 10 June.[n15-32] The maneuvering may have been an unrecorded Japanese attempt to entice Allied surface forces away from Biak so that barges could slip reinforcements into Biak from the southwest. More likely, however, the sighting reports were inaccurate as to location and course.

Whatever the facts concerning the shipping sighted on the night of 9-10 June, the HURRICANE Task Force reported to ALAMO Force that the enemy warships were five destroyers which were moving reinforcements to Biak. It was partially on the basis of this report that General Fuller, on 13 June, requested ALAMO Force to send an additional infantry regiment to Biak. [n15-33]

[n15-30 G-2 HTF, Per Rpts 12-13, 8-9 Jun 44, in G-2 Hist of HTF, Vol. II, Part II, Per Rpts.

[n15-31 ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 56, 30 Aug 44, copy in G-2 DofA files.

[n15-32 Rad, ALAMO Rear Hq to ALAMO Adv Hq, WF-1891, 10 Jun 44, in ALAMO Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 9-10 Jun 44; ALAMO Force, G-2 Daily Rpt 178, 10 Jun 44, in ALAMO G-2 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 3-16 Jun 44; Rad 7thFlt Adv PT Base (Mios Woendi) to ALAMO, 10 Jun 44, in ALAMO Rear Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 10-12 Jun 44.]

[n15-33 Rad, HTF to ALAMO, TD-654, 13 Jun 44, in ALAMO G-2 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 3-16 Jun 44.]

The second KON Operation had cost the Japanese 2 destroyers sunk, 1 badly damaged, 2 lightly damaged, and at least 1 Barge-load of infantrymen lost. In return for these losses, the enemy managed to land perhaps 100 fresh troops on Biak from the barges towed by the destroyers of the second KON Force. Finally, the Japanese had tied up a small Allied Naval task force for some days and had prompted the HURRICANE Task Force to call for reinforcements—a fact which the enemy did not learn for some days. But, despite the obvious lack of success of two attempts to reinforce Biak, the Japanese were determined to try again.

The Third KON Operation

During the second KON Operation the Japanese had not neglected to keep track of U.S. Fifth Fleet movements. [n15-34] On 9 June Japanese aerial reconnaissance noted that strong American carrier task forces had departed from the Marshall Islands. The Japanese realized that this movement presaged a new amphibious attack or, at least, a heavy carrier strike by Allied fleet units. But the enemy was not yet sure where the blow would fall. Nonetheless, on the morning of 10 June all units of the Combined Fleet were alerted to make final preparations for the A-GO Operation. Some naval air units had at this time started from Central Pacific bases toward Halmahera, presumably to support the KON Operation or to give added strength to enemy air deployment in the western New Guinea area. Now, these movements were canceled and the air units which had already started changing their stations were called back to the Marianas, Palaus, and central Carolines. Either on the 10th or a few days later, other air organizations which had already arrived in western New Guinea to reinforce the 23rd Air Flotilla were also ordered to return to their Mariana and Caroline bases. But, pending arrival of more information concerning intentions of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, the Combined Fleet decided to go ahead with a third KON Operation. In fact, plans for a third attempt had been initiated even as the destroyers of the second KON Force had been fleeing toward Batjan Island.

On the morning of 10 June the Combined Fleet issued orders organizing the third KON Force. Again there were to be four elements. The first was designated the Attack Unit and contained 2 battleships—the Yamato and Musashi, then the most powerful battleships in the Japanese or any other navy—2 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, and 3 destroyers. A 1st Transport Unit comprised 1 heavy cruiser, 1 light cruiser, and 4 destroyers, while a 2nd Transport Unit included the small craft which had carried the 800 men of the 2nd Amphibious Brigade to Sorong. A Supply Unit was made up of two destroyer-escorts and two small cargo-transport ships.

[n15-34 This subsection is based principally on: A-GO Operations Log, pp. 10-11, 14-15; The A-GO Operation, pp. 17-18, 30; Naval Opns in the Western New Guinea Area, pp. 14-15; Hist of 2nd Area Army, p. 64; Interrog of Captain Momochio Shimanouchi, in USSBS, op. cit., II, 450-54; Interrog of Captain Hirouchi Komoto, ibid., II, 287-90; “Impressions and Battle Lessons (Air) in the ‘A’ Operations,” in USSBS, The Campaigns in the Pacific War (Washington, 1946), App. 81, pp. 260-70; CINCPACCINCPOA, Bulletin 146-45, 10 Jun 45, Names of Japanese Naval Vessels, copy in OCMH files; Incl 2, List of Corrections, to Ltr, Willoughby to Ward, 10 Mar 51.]

Available sources provide somewhat incomplete and contradictory information on Japanese plans for the employment of the powerful task force assembled for the third KON. Apparently, the first priority was to move reinforcements to Biak regardless of cost to ships or men. The second priority was for the Attack Unit to destroy Allied warships and merchant vessels found in Biak waters and to deliver a heavy bombardment against the HURRICANE Task Force’s shore positions. Some enemy sources indicate that the 1st and 2nd Transport Units were to take the 2nd Amphibious Brigade from Sorong to Biak, but only if an excellent opportunity to do so were presented.

The KON Force commander decided to gather his forces for the third KON Operation at Batjan Island. Most of the ships of the Attach Unit left the Tawitawi fleet anchorage on 10 June and arrived at Batjan on the 11th, rendezvousing there with the vessels of the second KON Force and with the first KON Force’s cruisers and destroyers.

By morning of the 12th all elements of the third KON Force had assembled and were making final preparations for the third attempt to reinforce and bombard Biak. But on 11 June carrier-based planes of the U. S. Fifth Fleet began heavy strikes against Japanese installations on the Mariana Islands. These attacks continued on the 12th. Apparently the Japanese were not sure at first what these raids portended, and they merely delayed the sailing of the third KON Force until more information concerning American intentions could be obtained.

On the 13th, however, evidently satisfied that a full-scale invasion of the Marianas was about to take place, the Combined Fleet decided that the time had come to assemble all available forces for the A-GO Operation. The 1st Task Force had started northeastward from Tawitawi on the 12th. Now, on the 13th, the bulk of the third KON Force vessels left Batjan Island and headed northeast at full speed toward the Palaus to rendezvous with the 1st Task Force. The third and final threat to Allied naval and ground forces at Biak was over.

Reinforcements by Barge during KON

In attempting to follow the various phases of the KON Operation, it is all but impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff. On the surface it appears that the enemy’s major ambition was to reinforce Biak by means of large-scale naval intervention. But—although Japanese records give no inkling of this—the movements of the three KON Forces may also have been designed to confuse Allied naval units at Biak and draw them north of the island while barges slipped reinforcements into Biak from the southwest without naval protection. Whatever the facts of possible Japanese deception measures may be, suffice it to say that the 2nd Area Army dispatched other reinforcements to Biak by barge while Allied and Japanese naval vessels were maneuvering north and northwest of the island.

On 30 or 31 May, as the first KON Force was being organized, approximately 375 men of the 2nd Battalion, 221st Infantry, 35th Division, were loaded on barges at Manokwari and sent off toward Biak. The provisional groupment, known as the Ozawa Force, apparently contained the 6th and 7th Companies, the 2nd Machine Gun Company, 2nd Battalion headquarters, and possibly a detachment of the 221st Infantry’s signal section. Probably making an overnight run from Manokwari, the Ozawa Force reached Noemfoor Island on 1 June,[n15-35] but from Noemfoor on, the unit’s movements are harder to trace.

[n15-35 ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 46, 21 Jun 44, copy in G-2 DofA files; G-2 MTF, Per Rpt 45, 12 Jul 44, in G-2 Hist HTF, Vol. II, Part II, Per Rpts; Rad, HTF to ALAMO Adv Hq, TD-851, 19 Jun 44, in ALAMO Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 18-19 Jun]

Apparently, part of the Ozawa Force (comprising the 6th Company, two light artillery weapons, and Captain Ozawa’s headquarters) reached Korim Bay, Biak, on the night of 3-4 June and then proceeded southwest overland to reach the West Caves area on the 9th. Some troops were lost on the way to Biak and other barges may have turned back to Noemfoor. The rest of the Ozawa Force seems to have left Noemfoor about 10 June, reaching Korim Bay on the 12th. Other elements of the 2nd Battalion, 221st Infantry, including the bulk of the 5th Company, apparently left Manokwari for Biak on or about 7 June, and some men of this echelon may have reached Biak. It is impossible to ascertain how many men of the 2nd Battalion, 221st Infantry, finally arrived on Biak, but it appears that the total did not exceed 400.[n15-36]

Either the 2nd or 3rd Battalions of the 219th Infantry, originally at Sorong, had been involved in the second KON Force’s destroyer run and barge tow to Biak during 7-9 June. On the night of the 8th perhaps 100 men of one of these battalions had managed to reach shore at Biak when the destroyers had cut loose their tows and fled toward the Mapia Islands. The remaining elements of the 219th Infantry, aboard the destroyers, returned to Sorong on the 9th. On the same day most of the 2nd Battalion (which may or may not have been involved in the destroyer run) was loaded on barges at Sorong and sent to Biak via Noemfoor Island. It is not known when the Nishihara Force, as the unit organized for the barge run was designated, reached Noemfoor, but it must have been about 12 June. One company apparently left for Biak the next day, while the rest of the force seems to have waited until the 16th. In any case, the Nishihara Force began reaching the fighting area north of Mokmer Drome on 23 June. [n15-37]

The 5th and 9th Companies of the 222nd Infantry, Colonel Kuzume’s own regiment, had not been on Biak when the HURRICANE Task Force began landing on 27 May. The 5th Company, garrisoning Noemfoor since early April, was ordered to Biak about 30 May, while the 9th Company, which was either at Noemfoor or Sorong, was apparently alerted for the move to Biak about the same time. How the two units moved to Biak is not certain, but it seems most probable that the 5th Company sailed from Noemfoor with the Ozawa Force. At any rate, it arrived in the West Caves area on the 10th of June, having lost some men in transit. The 9th Company probably moved with the Nishihara Force to Noemfoor (if it had been at Sorong) and left the island aboard three large barges on or about 20 June. One of these barges, carrying about thirty men and all the heavy weapons and supplies of the company, was sunk by a Seventh Fleet PT boat not far from Noemfoor. The other two apparently put back to Noemfoor to try again a few days later, the remnants of the company reaching Biak about 25 June, possibly in company with part of the Nishihara Force. [n15-38]

Thus, over a period of about one month, the Japanese managed to reinforce the Biak Detachment with approximately 1,200 men—about 225 troops of the 222nd Infantry, some 400-odd of the 221st Infantry, and probably a little over 500 of the 219th Infantry. Considering their naval, air, personnel, and supply losses during the KON Operation and the barge runs, and also considering the fact that the reinforcements were too few and too late to affect the outcome of operations on Biak, the Japanese attempt was hardly worth the effort.

Results of the KON Operation: Facts and Speculation

It is difficult to assess the effect the Japanese Navy’s attempts to hold, reinforce, or attack Biak may have had on subsequent naval operations throughout the Pacific, especially during the A-GO Operation, which was known on the Allied side as The Battle of the Philippine Sea and which occurred off the Marianas in mid-June. It is known that Combined Fleet plans for A-GO had placed a great deal of dependence upon the support of naval land-based aircraft. Units of the 1st Air Fleet, based in the Marianas, Carolines, and Palaus, had been expected to effect reconnaissance ahead of the 1st Task Force and attack Allied shipping, aircraft, and combat vessels as the 1st Task Force sallied forth to battle against the U.S. Fifth Fleet. [n15-39]

But when the Allies landed on Biak, one third to one half of the 1st Air Fleet’s planes had been sent to western New Guinea to support KON. Other elements of the 1st Air Fleet were evidently dispatched from Central Pacific bases toward Halmahera and western New Guinea on or about 10 June. Of the first group, at least half the pilots were lost as the result of malaria or action in support of KON. Most of the remaining pilots were lost to Allied air action or bad weather as they tried to get back to Central Pacific bases after 13 June, when the Japanese started A-GO. The pilots and planes which had started redeployment southwestward about 10 June were similarly lost or were caught out of position.

Bad weather had prevented the Japanese from sending additional air reinforcements from Japan to the Marianas, and U. S. Fifth Fleet strikes against those islands beginning on 11 June accounted for most of the remaining planes of the 1st Air Fleet. According to Japanese figures, only 20 percent of the 1st Air Fleet strength originally deployed in the Central Pacific was available for A-GO, the rest having been lost during operations in western New Guinea, caught out of position as a result of untimely redeployments in support of KON, or destroyed by U. S. Fifth Fleet carrier raids before the 1st Task Force could get in position for its own attack. Indeed, the latter’s deployment for A-GO had possibly been delayed as a result of preoccupation with KON.

What the outcome of A-GO might have been had not so much of the 1st Air Fleet’s land-based strength been redeployed for KON can only be conjectured. It is possible that A-GO might have been much less disastrous for the 1st Task Force; the U. S. Fifth Fleet might have suffered severe losses; it might have been next to impossible to supply the Allied forces of the Central Pacific ashore on the Marianas; and Allied operations throughout the Pacific might have been delayed. Whatever the facts, Japanese sources almost uniformly lament redeploying so much of the 1st Air Fleet’s strength southwestward to support the KON Operation.

[n15-39 Interrog of Captain Fuchida, in USSBS, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, II, 428-31; “Impressions and Battle Lessons (Air) in the ‘A’ Operations,” in USSBS, The Campaigns of the Pacific War, App. 81, pp. 260-70; The A-GO Operation, p. 26.]

[n15-44; Hist of 2nd Area Army, p. 64; 2nd Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), p. 64. The Ozawa Force was probably led by Captain Kyukri Ozawa.]

The Central Pacific’s invasion of the Marianas, with the concomitant withdrawal of the KON Force for A-GO, could hardly have occurred at a more auspicious moment for the Allied forces of the Southwest Pacific. While the Allied Air Forces were prepared for the eventuality that Japanese fleet units might reach Biak, air operations might well have been curtailed by range and weather factors, as, indeed, they had been during the second KON Operation. In any case, the Allied Air Forces would have had a tough job driving the KON Force away from Biak, especially if the 1st Air Fleet’s strength in the western New Guinea area had been built up as planned. Had the powerful task force which the Japanese assembled for the third KON attempt reached Biak, it probably could have overwhelmed any naval force the Allied Naval Forces could have mustered there. Even had the third KON Force not landed any troops at Biak, its fire power might have made untenable the HURRICANE Task Force’s coastal positions and its hold on Mokmer Drome.

Had the Allied vessels at Biak been sunk or driven off, supplying Biak would have been a major problem until the Japanese fleet units were forced to retire and the Allied ships were replaced. Although the total force the Japanese hoped to land on Biak—probably some 5,000 men, all told—could not have driven the HURRICANE Task Force into the sea, such reinforcements would have rendered the Allied unit’s task infinitely more difficult and inevitably would have necessitated its reinforcement, perhaps by as much as an entire infantry division.

In June 1944, the Allied Forces of the Southwest Pacific Area probably had little idea how potentially dangerous the situation was at Biak, and it remained for postwar Japanese reports to reveal how narrowly greater losses and strategic delays were averted. Without doubt, success for the Japanese during KON would have seriously delayed the pace of Allied operations in the Southwest Pacific Area, if not throughout the Pacific. The “if” connection between KON and A-GO is obvious—the success of either would have been a devilish blow. The close relation between the two operations is a striking illustration of the mutual interdependence of the Allied Southwest and Central Pacific Areas.

Effects of KON at Biak

Insofar as Japanese ground forces in the Southwest Pacific were concerned, the cancellation of KON and the departure of KON Force vessels to the Central Pacific battle area left the 2nd Area Army in an unenviable position. General Anami had pinned his strategic hopes on reinforcing Biak, but now the best means of so doing had been taken away. On orders from higher headquarters, he had to concentrate the 2nd Amphibious Brigade at Sorong, but he determined to send the rest of the 35th Division to Biak. Apparently this was to be accomplished by barges, aided by such escort vessels as might be left to the Southwestern Fleet.

Since it was becoming increasingly dangerous for barges to move beyond Sorong, General Anami finally decided to await the outcome of the A-GO Operation before sending any more elements of the 35th Division to Biak, although he continued to move parts of the division from Sorong to Manokwari. When the Japanese Navy was defeated in A-GO, General Anami realized he would have no further opportunity to send large bodies of troops to Biak. He therefore ordered the 35th Division to remain at Manokwari. Hoping for the longest possible delay of Allied operations at Biak or subsequent advances, he instructed the Biak Detachment not to commit suicide in fruitless banzai attacks, but rather to prolong the action by protracted defense and, in the end, by guerrilla warfare. The last significant attempts to reinforce Biak were the movements of the Nishihara Force and the 9th Company, 222nd Infantry, late in June.

On Biak Colonel Kuzume committed the reinforcements which reached the island piecemeal to operations along the low ridge north of Mokmer Drome. At least one company of the 221st Infantry was in position there on 10 June and the rest of the Ozawa Force, initially held in reserve at the West Caves, was sent into defenses along the low ridge by the 13th. The 5th Company, 222nd Infantry, also moved into the line in the same area on the 10th, and 100 men of the 219th Infantry were in the vicinity of the West Caves by the same date. Late in the month, the Nishihara Force and the remnants of the 9th Company, 222nd Infantry, were slipped in the line near the West Caves.4

[n15-40 Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 64-67; 2nd Army Opns at Sarmi and Biak (Rev), pp. 73, 75, 80; see also above, subsection entitled “Reinforcements by Barge During KON”; ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 54, 16 Aug 44, copy in G-2 DofA files. ]

Most American analyses of Japanese operations on Biak condemn Colonel Kuzume for misuse of his reinforcements, stating that he should have concentrated them for a counterattack. But whether, in fact, the Biak Detachment commander could have used his additional strength in other than defensive activities is problematical. The reinforcements arrived on Biak in small increments, none over 400 men strong. The total was not more than 1,200 troops, most of whom brought ashore only light infantry weapons. Moreover, Colonel Kuzume undoubtedly knew something of the difficulties attending the KON Operation. He had no assurance that strong reinforcements would reach him, nor did he know when they might arrive. Therefore, as fresh troops landed on Biak, Colonel Kuzume put them into the line north of Mokmer Drome, where he apparently thought they would do the most good. Under continuous artillery bombardment and infantry attack, the Biak Detachment’s forces along the low ridge were suffering great losses. The Japanese commander’s primary mission was to prevent the Allies from employing the Biak airfields—a mission which he could accomplish from positions along the low ridge—and he used his reinforcements to aid him in this task.

Although the Japanese were unable to send sufficient reinforcements to Biak to affect the ultimate outcome of operations there, enough fresh troops did reach the island to delay Allied employment of the Biak airstrips; to prompt General Fuller to ask for reinforcements on 13 June; and, at least indirectly, to have something to do with changes in the Allied command at Biak. Under the new command—General Eichelberger in control of the HURRICANE Task Force and General Doe in command of the 41st Infantry Division—the attack was continued.

Source: Approach to the Philippines: BY; Lieutenant Colonel Robert Ross Smith (Ret.) (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Biak: Frustration at Mokmer Drome (AP-14)

Korean War: The Taegu Front- August 1950 (19)

 General Walker’s primary objective in August was to retain a foothold in Korea. From this he intended to launch an attack later when his forces were of sufficient strength. Walker kept saying to his key staff officers and to his principal commanders substantially the following: “You keep your mind on the fact that we will win this thing by attacking. Never let an opportunity to attack pass. I want the capability and opportunity to pass to the offensive. Until that time comes I want all commanders to attack—to raid—to capture prisoners and thus keep the enemy off balance. If that is done, more and more opportunities to hurt the enemy will arise and our troops will be better prepared to pass to a general offensive when things are ripe.” 

General Walker wanted the foothold in Korea to include the rail route from Pusan north through Miryang to Taegu, eastward to Kyongju, and back to Pusan. This would make possible the logistical support necessary for a breakout offensive later. To retain this circumferential communication net, General Walker had to combine a fine sense of timing with a judicious use of the small reserves he was able to assemble at any given time. He had to know just when to move his limited reserves and where. They had to be at the right place and not too late. A study of the defensive fighting of the Pusan Perimeter by Eighth Army and the ROK Army will reveal that Walker proved himself a master in it.

[n19-2 Ltr, Major General John A. Dabney to author, 18 Dec 53 (Dabney was Eighth Army G-3 during the summer and fall of 1950); Landrum, Comments on author’s ltr to him of 1 Sep 53; Interv, author with Stebbins, 4 Dec 53.]

The difficulty of forming a small reserve was one of the principal problems that confronted the Eighth Army staff during August and September 1950. It was a daily concern to the Eighth Army commander. Colonel Landrum, Eighth Army’s chief of staff during August, considered it one of his most important daily tasks to find any unit that could be “tagged” as an army reserve. This search included both Eighth Army and ROK troops. It was considered a certainty that any troops so designated would be committed somewhere on the Perimeter within twenty-four to forty-eight hours. One of General Walker’s daily greetings to his chief of staff was, “Landrum, how many reserves have you dug up for me today?”

General Walker left most of the headquarters work to his staff. He spent the greater part of each day on visits to his combat units. It fell to Colonel Landrum to keep him fully informed of what had happened around the Perimeter front during his absence from headquarters. Landrum did this every day when Walker returned to Taegu. In addition to keeping in close touch with the army G-2, G-3, and G-3, Air, Colonel Landrum made it a practice to telephone each major combat unit sometime between 2200 and midnight each night and talk with the unit commander or the chief of staff about the situation on that part of the front. This provided fresh information and reflected the state of mind of the various commanders at that moment. On the basis of these nightly telephone calls, General Walker often planned his trips the next day. He went where he felt a serious situation was or might be developing.

The central, or Taegu, front was to present its full measure of problems involving the use of limited reserves hastily assembled from another part of the perimeter. It was a sector where the Eighth Army commander needed to make a reasonably correct appraisal of the situation day by day. For here several corridors of approach southward converged on the valley of the Naktong, and the enemy forces advancing down these corridors were assembling in relatively great strength in close supporting distance of each other. The enemy frontal pressure against Taegu developed concurrently with that on both flanks already described.

The North Koreans Cross the Naktong for the Attack on Taegu  

The enemy forces assembled in an arc around Taegu, from south to north, were the N.K. 10th, 3rd, 15th, 13th, and 1st Divisions, and elements of the 105th Armored Division. They reached from Tuksong-dong on the south northward around Waegwan to Kunwi. This concentration north and west of Taegu indicated that the North Koreans expected to use the natural corridor of the Naktong valley from Sangju to Taegu as a principal axis of attack in the next phase of their drive south.

Across the Naktong opposite the five North Korean divisions, in early August, were, from south to north, the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division and the ROK 1st and 6th Divisions of the ROK II Corps. The boundary between the 1st Cavalry Division and the ROK 1st Division lay about two miles north of Waegwan and ten air miles northwest of Taegu. The 10th Division and part of the 3rd Division were opposite the 1st Cavalry Division. Opposite the ROK 1st and 6th Divisions were part of the 3rd, and the 15th, 13th, and 1st Divisions, together with supporting units of the 105th Armored Division.

Like the 24th Infantry Division just south of it, the 1st Cavalry Division had a long front. From south to north, the 7th, 8th, and 5th Cavalry Regiments were on line in that order. The two battalions of the 8th Cavalry Regiment west of Taegu each had a front of about 10,000 yards. The 5th Cavalry Regiment at Waegwan had a front of 14,000 yards.In order to provide artillery fire support for such great frontages, the artillery firing batteries were placed about 7,000 yards behind the front lines and about 6,000 to 7,000 yards apart. Each battery laid its guns on two different deflections. By shifting trails it was possible to mass the battery fire. In some instances, two batteries could mass their fire, but an entire artillery battalion could not do so because of the great flank distance within a regimental sector. The artillery tried to achieve volume of fire by rapidity of firing. In one instance, ten 105-mm. howitzers fired 120 rounds in seventy seconds, an average of one round every six seconds for each gun.

In the north, the N.K. 1st Division between 6 and 8 August crossed the Naktong River between Hamchang and Sangju in the zone of the ROK 6th Division. On 6 August, American planes observed ten barges engaged in ferrying troops across the river. The enemy division, although reinforced by 2,500 green replacement troops—partly at Hamchang and partly after crossing the river—was still only at half-strength.

Many of the replacements did not have weapons and were used in rear areas in miscellaneous duties. This division, upon attacking toward Kunwi, met stub born resistance from the ROK 6th Division

and did not reach that town, twenty-five air miles due north of Taegu, until about 17 August. In battle there with the ROK 6th Division, it suffered further losses before it was able to advance south to the Tabu-dong area and the approaches to Taegu.

South of the N.K. 1st Division, the 13th Division had started crossing the Naktong during the night of 4-5 August. On the 5th the main part of its 21st Regiment crossed at Naktong-ni, forty air miles northwest of Taegu on the Sangju road. After the crossing was discovered, some of the enemy soldiers came under aerial strafing attacks while they were still in the water and ROK artillery and mortar fire was directed at the crossing site. On the south bank the regiment came under continuing aerial and artillery fire, but with unknown casualties. That night the 19th Regiment crossed the river in the path of the 21st, the men holding their weapons over their heads and wading in neck deep water. They left behind their heavy weapons and vehicles. Then the following night, 6-7 August, the third regiment of the division, the 23rd, together with two battalions of artillery, crossed below Naktong-ni on rafts. These crossings of the N.K. 13th Division were in the zone of the ROK 1st Division, but were several miles from that division’s prepared positions.

ROK troops attacked the 13th Division immediately after it crossed, forcing it into the mountains. There, the N.K. 13th Division, its elements uniting on the east side, launched a concerted night attack, broke the ROK defenses, and began an advance that carried it twenty miles southeast of Naktong-ni on the main road to Taegu. A week after crossing the Naktong, the 13th Division and the 1st Division were converging on the Tabu-dong area, about fifteen miles due north of Taegu. There lay the critical terrain for the northern defense of the city.

[n19-10 1st Cav Div WD, 5 Aug 50; GHQ FEC Sitrep, 6 Aug 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 105 (N.K. 13th Div), pp. 61-62.

[n19-11 ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 2, Rpt 777, p. 177, 1st Lt Han Pyong Chol, 45th Regt, 15th Div; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 105 (N.K. 13th Div), p. 63.]

The N.K. 15th Division, next of the enemy divisions in line southward, received approximately 1,500 replacements at Kumchon on 5 August, which brought its strength to about 6,500 men. The next day its 45th Regiment marched northeast toward the Naktong. The regiment passed through Sonsan on 7 August and crossed the river southeast of that town. United Nations planes strafed part of it in the crossing. Once across the river, the regiment headed into the mountains, encountering no opposition at first. The other two regiments, the 48th and 50th, departed Kumchon later and began crossing the Naktong between Indong and Waegwan before dawn of 8 August. The men waded the river in four feet of water at two ferry sites, four and six miles north of Waegwan. Tanks and vehicles crossed on an underwater bridge at the upper ferry site. The major initial crossing occurred at the upper ferry site six miles from Waegwan where an estimated two battalions and at least two tanks had crossed by 0810. The North Koreans supported this crossing by direct tank fire from the west side of the river. The Air Force estimated seven tanks were in firing position there. These tanks evidently succeeded in crossing the river during the day. The N.K. 15th Division seized Hills 201 and 346 on the east side of the river at the crossing site, before advancing eastward into the mountains toward Tabu-dong, seven air miles distant.[n19-12]

Considering these enemy crossings the most serious threat yet to appear against Taegu, Eighth Army made plans to support the ROK Army with American troops in the event of an enemy penetration. The Air Force, in the meantime, discovered the underwater bridge six miles north of Waegwan and dropped 1,000-pound bombs on it with undetermined results.[n19-13]

[n19-12 EUSAK WD and G-3 Jnl, 8 Aug 50; EUSAK PIR 27, 8 Aug 50; EUSAK Summ, 1-31 Aug 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 3 (N.K.15th Div), pp. 42-43; ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 2, Rpt 777, p. 177. Lieutenant Han.]

[n19-13 EUSAK WD, 8 Aug 50, G-3 Jnl and Informal Checkslip, Daily Rpt from Plans Sec, G-3 Jnl; New York Herald Tribune, August 12, 1950.]

The ROK 1st Division the next day reported it had regained the high ground at the crossing sites. The enemy force, however, had not been destroyed or driven back across the river. It had simply moved on eastward deeper into the mountains. Between 12 and 16 August the three regiments of the N.K. 15th Division united on the east side of the Naktong in the vicinity of Yuhaksan, a towering 2,800-foot peak, five miles east of the crossing site and three miles northwest of Tabu-dong. The N.K. 13th Division was already locked in combat on Yuhak-san with the ROK 1st Division.[n19-14]

Opposite, and south of, Waegwan, two enemy divisions stood ready to cross the Naktong in a co-ordinated attack with the divisions to the north. The first of these, the N.K. 3rd Division, was concentrated in the vicinity of Songju, four miles southwest of Waegwan. Ten miles below the 3rd, the N.K.10th Division was concentrated in the Koryong area. Both these divisions were opposite the 1st Cavalry Division.

[n19-14 EUSAK POR 85, 10 Aug 50; GHQ FEC Sitrep, 9 Aug 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 3 (N.K. 15th Div), p. 43; ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 2, p. 177, Lt Han. Geographical locations given in this portion of the text have been determined by correlating place names on the AMS Map, Korea, scale 1:50,000, with map co-ordinate readings in U.S. Army records and place names given in prisoner of war interrogations.]

The 7th Regiment of the 3rd Division started crossing the Naktong about 0300 9 August at a ferry site near the village of Noch’on, two miles south of the Waegwan bridge. The river at this point had a firm sandy bottom and a depth of five feet. The troops waded across holding their weapons above the water.

Discovering the crossing, elements of the 5th Cavalry Regiment directed automatic weapons fire against the enemy force and called in pre-registered artillery fire on the crossing site. Although the enemy regiment suffered some casualties, the bulk of it reached the east bank safely and moved inland into the hills.[n19-15] One of the soldiers wrote in his diary of the crossing: Gradually advanced toward the river. Enemy shelling is fierce. Arrived at the shores of the river. The terrible enemy has sent up flares. The Naktong River is flowing quietly and evenly. Entered the river. After advancing 200 meters, shooting began with the firing of an enemy flare. The noise is ringing in my ears. Have already crossed the river. Occupied a hill. A new day is already breaking.[n19-16]

Half an hour after the 7th Regiment had crossed, the 8th and 9th Regiments started crossing the river south of it. By this time, the 5th Cavalry Regiment and all its supporting mortars and artillery were fully alerted. Flares and star shells brightly illuminated these two North Korean regiments in midstream. American fire from all supporting weapons, with the artillery playing the dominant role, decimated the enemy troops and turned them back to the west side. Only a small number reached the east side. There, either they were captured or they hid until the next night when they re-crossed the river.[n19-17]

[n19-15 EUSAK WD, 9 Aug 50; EUSAK, Aug 50 Summ; 1st Cav Div WD, G-2 Monthly Narr Rpt, Aug 50; 61st FA Bn WD, 9 Aug 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 3rd Div), p. 33.]

[n19-16 ATIS Supp Enemy Docs, Issue 2, pp. 66-67, diary from 21 Jul to 10 Aug 50 of Choe Song Hwan, entry for 9 Aug (diary captured 12 Aug).]

[n19-17 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 3rd Div), pp. 33-34; EUSAK WD, 12 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 494, Kang Don Su.]

Triangulation Hill

 At daylight, 9 August, General Gay at 1st Cavalry Division headquarters in Taegu learned of the enemy crossing in his division sector south of Waegwan. As first reports were vague, he decided to withhold action until he learned more about the situation. A report informed him that 1st Lieutenant Harry A. Buckley, Acting S-2, 5th Cavalry Regiment, had personal knowledge of the enemy crossing. General Gay sent for the lieutenant and, while awaiting his arrival, placed the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, in reserve on one-hour alert.

Upon reporting to General Gay at the division headquarters, Lieutenant Buckley stated: Just prior to daylight this morning, I, with a small group of men from the I&R Platoon, was on reconnaissance. Approximately 45 minutes prior to daylight, I observed enemy forces moving up the ridge line just northwest of Hill 268. The enemy were moving at a dog trot in groups of four. Every fourth man carried an automatic weapon, either a light machine gun or a burp gun. I watched them until they had all disappeared into the brush on Hill 268. In my opinion, and I counted them carefully, the enemy was in strength of a reinforced battalion, approximately 750 men. General, I am not a very excitable person and I know what I saw, when I saw it, where I was when I saw it, and where the enemy was going. [n19-18 Gay, Ltr and comments, 24 Aug 53.]

A few minutes later, General Walker arrived at the division headquarters. He asked General Gay what his plans were. The latter replied that at least an enemy battalion had crossed the Naktong and was on Hill 268, that another enemy regiment was at that moment trying to cross the river under heavy fire from the 5th Cavalry Regiment, and that as soon as he was sure of his ground he was going to attack the enemy on Hill 268 and drive them back across the river. Walker commented, “Fine, be sure you are right before you move because this enemy battalion might be a feint and the real attack could well be coming farther to the left.19 Events were later to prove this possibility correct.

At 0930, 9 August, General Gay ordered Lieutenant Colonel Peter D. Clainos, commanding the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, to eliminate the enemy penetration. The battalion moved at once from its bivouac area just outside of Taegu, accompanied by five tanks of A Company, 71st Heavy Tank Battalion. This motorized force proceeded to the foot of Hill 268, also known as Triangulation Hill, three miles southeast of Waegwan and ten air miles northwest of Taegu. The 61st Field Artillery Battalion meanwhile heavily shelled the hill. The hill was doubly important because of its proximity to lines of communication. The main Korean north-south highway from time immemorial, and the main double-track Pusan-Seoul-Harbin, Manchuria, railroad skirted its base.[n19-20 ]

At noon the artillery fired a preparation on Hill 268, and the 1st Battalion then attacked it under orders to continue on southwest to Hill 154. Hill 268 was covered with thick brush about four feet high and some trees eight to ten feet high. The day was very hot. Many 1st Battalion soldiers collapsed from heat exhaustion during the attack, which was not well co-ordinated with artillery fire. The enemy repulsed the attack.[n19-21 ]

The next morning, 10 August, air strikes and artillery preparations blasted Hill 268. According to prisoners, these fires caused extremely heavy losses and created chaos in the enemy regiment. During the morning, the assistant division commander, the chief of staff, the G-2, and several military police were ambushed and nearly all wounded on the Waegwan road at Hill 268. That afternoon, General Gay and his aide stopped near Hill 268 to talk with the 1st Battalion executive officer and a small group of men. An enemy mortar shell made a direct hit on the group, killing or wounding everyone there except Gay and his aide. Gay ordered five tanks to proceed along the Waegwan road until they could fire from the northwest into the reverse slope of the enemy-held hill. This tank fire caught the enemy soldiers there as they were seeking refuge from the artillery fire.

[n19-20 1st Cav Div WD, Summ, Aug 50; EUSAK WD. 9 Aug 50; 7th Cav Regt WD, 9-10 Aug 50; Engagement of 1st Bn; 61st FA Bn WD, 9 Aug 50; Interv, 1st Lieutenant Fred L. Mitchell with Clainos, 16 Aug 50, copy in OCMH files.]

[n19-21 Gay, Ltr and comments, 24 Aug 53; Interv, Mitchell with Lieutenant Edward G. Deacy, 3rd Plat, B Co, 7th Cav, Aug 50; Interv, Mossman with Lieutenant Eugene E. Fells, CO B Co, 7th Cav, 24 Aug 50.]

Trapped between the two fires they started to vacate their positions. An infantry attack then reached the top of the hill without trouble and the battle was over by 1600. American artillery and mortar fire now shifted westward and cut off the enemy retreat. One time-on-target mission of white phosphorus fired by the 61st Field Artillery Battalion at this time caught a large number of enemy soldiers in a village where American ground troops later found 200 enemy dead. That evening the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, reverted to division reserve, and elements of the 5th Cavalry finished mopping up on Hill 268 and vicinity.[n19-22]

When Hill 268 was examined carefully on 13 August, the enemy dead, equipment, and documents found there indicated that the 7th Regiment of the N.K. 3rd Division had been largely destroyed. The 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, counted between 300 and 400 enemy dead in the battle area. The battalion itself suffered 14 men killed, and 48 wounded in the 2-day battle.[n19-23] Prisoners taken in the final action which cleared Hill 268 agreed substantially that about 1,000 men of the 7th Regiment had crossed the Naktong to Hill 268, and that about 700 of them became casualties. The prisoners also agreed that artillery and mortars had inflicted most of the crippling casualties on the regiment. After crossing to the east side of the Naktong, the enemy regiment had received no food or ammunition supply. An estimated 300 survivors recrossed the river to the west side the night of 10-11 August.[n19-24]

The N.K. 3rd Division’s attempted crossing of the Naktong south of Waegwan had ended in catastrophe. When the survivors of the 7th Regiment rejoined the division on or about 12 August, the once mighty 3rd Division was reduced to a disorganized unit of some 2,500 men. The North Korean Army placed the division in reserve to be rebuilt by replacements.[n19-25] This division, which had been the first to enter Seoul at the beginning of the war, fought the battle of Chochiwon , crossed the Kum River before Taejon and defeated the 19th Infantry there, joined subsequently with the 4th Division in the capture of Taejon, and drove the 1st Cavalry Division from Yongdong, was now temporarily out of the fight for Taegu.

[n19-22 Gay, Ltr and comments, 24 Aug 53; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 3rd Div), p. 34; 1st Cav Div WD, 10 Aug 50.]

[n19-23 61st FA Bn WD, 10 Aug 50; 1st Cav Div WD, 10 Aug 50; 5th Cav Regt WD, 13 Aug 50.]

[n19-24 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 3rd Div), p. 34; EUSAK WD, 12 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 505, Lee Sung Won; 1st Cav Div WD, G-2 Rpt, Aug 50, Interrog Rpt 0052, Sergeant Kim Yon Hu, and Rpt 0050, Yung Tei Kwan.]

 The Enemy 10th Division’s Crossing at Yongp’o

The North Korean plan for the attack against Taegu from the west and southwest had called for the N.K.10th Division to make a co-ordinated attack with the N.K. 3rd Division. The 10th Division so far had not been in combat. It had started from Sukchon for the front by rail about 25 July. At Chonan it left the trains and continued southward on foot, passing through Taejon and arriving at the Naktong opposite Waegwan on or about 8 August. There it received its combat orders two days later. Its mission was to cross the Naktong River in the vicinity of Tuksongdong, penetrate east, and cut the Taegu-Pusan main supply road. The division assembled in the Koryong area the next day, 11 August. There it was astride the main highway running northeast to Taegu over a partially destroyed Naktong bridge.[n19-26]

[n19-25 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 10th Div.)

[n19-26 Ibid., Issue 104 (N.K.10th Div), pp. 44-45.]

Eighth Army purposely had not completely destroyed this bridge; it was passable for foot soldiers but not for vehicles. In its partially destroyed condition it provided something of a trap if used by an enemy crossing force, because the bridge and its approaches channeled any enemy movement over it and were completely covered by preregistered mortar and artillery fire. To this was to be added the fire of infantry weapons located in good defensive positions on the hills near the river.

Two regiments of the N.K. 10th Division, the 29th on the south and the 25th on the north, were to make the assault crossing with the 27th Regiment in reserve. The commander of the 25th Regiment issued an order on the eve of the crossing, stating that the objective was to “destroy the enemy in Taegu City in coordination with the 3rd Infantry Division.” [n19-27]

The 2nd Battalion, 29th Regiment, was the first unit of the division to cross the river. Its troops waded unopposed to the east side, during the night of 11-12 August, at three ferry sites 3 to 5 miles due west of Hyongpung. This battalion climbed Hill 265, a northern spur of Hill 409, 2 miles southwest of Hyongpung, and set up machine gun positions. The other two battalions then crossed and occupied Hill 409. About twenty to thirty men of the 1st Battalion reportedly drowned in the 5-foot-deep swift current in this crossing. It will be recalled that this enemy force in the Hill 409 area ambushed an I&R patrol from the 21st Infantry Regiment of the 24th Division, on the morning of 12 August, when it moved north along the river road trying to establish contact with the 7th Cavalry Regiment during the battle of the Naktong Bulge.[n19-28]

[n19-27 Ibid., p. 46, reproduces this captured order.]

On the north flank, the 25th Regiment started crossing the Naktong about 0300, 12 August, in the vicinity of the partially blown highway bridge at Tuksong-dong, on the Koryong-Taegu road. The 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, covered this crossing site fourteen miles southwest of Taegu. By daylight, an enemy force of 300 to 400 men had penetrated to Wichon-dong. There, H Company, 7th Cavalry Regiment, engaged it in close combat. In a grenade and automatic weapons attack, the North Koreans overran the advance positions of the company, the mortar observation post, and the heavy machine gun positions.

The initial enemy objective seemed to be to gain possession of the high ground east of Yongpo in order to provide protection for the main crossing that was to follow. By 0900, however, the 2nd Battalion, with the powerful help of the 77th Field Artillery Battalion and of air strikes, drove the enemy troops back through Yongp’o toward the bridge and dispersed them.[n19-29]

It could not be assumed that this failure would end the efforts of the N.K. 10th Division west of Taegu. In the three days from 10 to 12 August the Naktong River had dropped three feet and was only shoulder-deep at many places. The opportunity for large-scale enemy crossings was at hand.[n19-30]

[n19-28 21st Inf Regt WD, 12 Aug 50; Ibid., Unit Rpt 42, an. 1; 1st Cav Div WD, G-2 Narr, Aug 50; EUSAK WD, 14 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 551, Lee Yong Il, 1st Cav Div WD, G-2 Interrog Rpt 0038, Aug 50, Lee Yong Il; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 104 (N.K. 10th Div), pp. 47-48.]

[n19-29 7th Cav Regt WD, 12 Aug 50; 1st Cav Div WD, 12 Aug 50.]

[n19-30 5th Cav Regt WD, 12 Aug 50.]

A more determined enemy crossing of the Naktong in the vicinity of the blown bridge between Tuksong-dong and Yongp’o began about dawn, 14 August. Men in the outposts of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, at 0520 heard voices in the pea patches and rice paddies to their front. By 0620, an estimated 500 enemy soldiers had penetrated as far as Yongpo. Fifteen minutes later, close combat was in progress in the 2nd Battalion positions near Wichondong, a mile east of the crossing site.

When word of the enemy crossing reached the 1st Cavalry Division command post before daylight, General Gay alerted his division reserve, Colonel Clainos’ 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, to move on an hour’s notice. More North Koreans crossed the river in the hours after daylight, and at 0800 General Gay ordered Colonel Clainos’ battalion, already loaded into trucks, to move to the Yongp’o area to support the 2nd Battalion.

Enemy artillery and tank fire from the west side of the river was supporting the crossing. At midmorning, large additional enemy forces just west of the river at Tuksong-dong and Panjang apparently were about ready to attempt a crossing in support of the units already heavily engaged on the east side. Some enemy troops were crossing in barges near the bridge. Air strikes bombed the North Koreans on the west side and artillery then took them under heavy fire. The 77th Field Artillery Battalion fired approximately 1,860 rounds into the enemy concentration. In delivering this heavy, rapid fire it damaged its gun tubes.[n19-32]

In this attack the deepest North Korean penetration reached Samuni-dong, about a mile and a half beyond the blown bridge. There the combined fire of all infantry weapons, mortars, and artillery drove the enemy back toward the river. By noon, large groups of North Koreans were trying to re-cross the river to the west side. Forward observers adjusted artillery and mortar fire on the retreating enemy, causing heavy casualties. By dusk, the 7th Cavalry had eliminated the enemy bridgehead at Yongpo. In this battle, as in the one fought two days before, the 2nd Battalion distinguished itself. This was the same battalion that only three weeks earlier had performed in a highly unsatisfactory manner east of Yongdong.

[n19-32Ibid.; Gay, Ltr and comments, 24 Aug 53; Interv, author with Harris, 30 Apr 54.]

In this river-crossing battle, the only major one to take place along the Naktong actually at a crossing site, the 25th and 27th Regiments of the N.K. 10th Division suffered crippling losses. The 7th Cavalry Regiment estimated that of 1,700 enemy who had succeeded in crossing the river, 1,500 were killed. Two days after the battle, H Company reported it had buried 267 enemy dead behind its lines, while those in the rice paddies to its front were not counted. In front of its position, G Company counted 150 enemy dead. In contrast, G Company lost only 2 men killed and 3 wounded during the battle. One of its members, Private First Class. Robert D. Robertson, a machine gunner, twice had bullets pierce his helmet in the half-inch space above his scalp and tear through several letters and photographs he carried there, but leave him unhurt.[n19-33]

Among the enemy dead were found the bodies of two colonels. Found, also, were many enemy documents. One of these documents, dated 13 August, said in part: Kim Il Sung has directed that the war be carried out so that its final victory can be realized by 15 August, fifth anniversary of the liberation of Korea. . . .Our victory lies before our eyes. Young soldiers! You are fortunate in that you are able to participate in the battle for our final victory. Young soldiers, the capture of Taegu lies in the crossing of the Naktong River . . . The eyes of 30,000,000 people are fixed on the Naktong River crossing operation . . .Pledge of all fighting men: We pledge with our life, no matter what hardships and sacrifice lies before us, to bear it and put forth our full effort to conclude the crossing of the Naktong River. Young Men! Let us protect our glorious pride by completely annihilating the enemy!! [n19-34]

These words may have stirred the young soldiers of the N.K. 10th Division but their promise was not fulfilled. Instead, the Naktong valley and surrounding hills were to hold countless North Korean graves. In its first combat mission, the crossing of the Naktong on 12-14 August, the 10th Division, according to prisoners, suffered 2,500 casualties, some units losing as much as 50 percent of their troops.[n19-35]

[n19-33 7th Cav Regt WD, 14, 16 Aug 50; 1st Cav Div WD, 14 Aug 50.]

[n19-34 1st Cav Div WD, G-2 Rpt, Aug 50, Batch 68, Trans 10034, 19 Aug 50; Gay, Ltr and comments, 24 Aug 53.]

[n19-35 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 104 (N.K. 10th Div), p. 48.]

Hill 303 at Waegwan

 Almost simultaneously with the major enemy crossing effort in the southern part of the 1st Cavalry Division sector at Tuksong-dong and Yongpo, another was taking place northward above Waegwan near the boundary between the division and the ROK 1st Division. The northernmost unit of the 1st Cavalry Division was G Company of the 5th Cavalry Regiment. It held Hill 303, the right-flank anchor of the U.S. Eighth Army.

Hill 303 is an elongated oval more than two miles long on a northeast-southwest axis with an extreme elevation of about 1,000 feet. It is the first hill mass north of Waegwan. Its southern slope comes down to the edge of the town; its crest, a little more than a mile to the northeast, towers nearly 950 feet above the river. It gives observation of Waegwan, the road net running out of the town, the railroad and highway bridges across the river at that point, and of long stretches of the river valley to the north and to the south. Its western slope terminates at the east bank of the Naktong. From Waegwan a road ran north and south along the east bank of the Naktong, another northeast through the mountains toward Tabu-dong, and still another southeast toward Taegu. Hill 303 was a critical terrain feature in control of the main Pusan-Seoul railroad and highway crossing of the Naktong, as well as of Waegwan itself.

For several days intelligence sources had reported heavy enemy concentrations across the Naktong opposite the ROK 1st Division. In the first hours of 14 August, an enemy regiment crossed the Naktong six miles north of Waegwan into the ROK 1st Division sector, over the second underwater bridge there. Shortly after midnight, ROK forces on the high ground just north of the U.S.-ROK Army boundary were under attack. After daylight an air strike partially destroyed the underwater bridge. The North Korean attack spread south and by noon enemy small arms fire fell on G Company, 5th Cavalry Regiment, on Hill 303. This crossing differed from earlier ones near the same place in that the enemy force instead of moving east into the mountains turned south and headed for Waegwan.[n19-36]

Before dawn, 15 August, G Company men on Hill 303 could make out about fifty enemy troops accompanied by two tanks moving boldly south along the river road at the base of the hill. They also saw another column moving to their rear and soon heard it engage F Company with small arms fire. In order to escape the enemy encirclement, F Company withdrew southward. By 0830, North Koreans had completely surrounded G Company and a supporting platoon of H Company mortar-men on Hill 303. A relief column, composed of B Company, 5th Cavalry, and a platoon of tanks tried to reach G Company, but enemy fire drove it back.[n19-37]

[n19-36 2n Bn, 5th Cav Regt WD, 14 Aug 50; 5th Cav Regt WD, 14 Aug 50; EUSAK WD, Aug 50 Summ; Ibid., G-2 PIR 33, 14 Aug 50.]

[n19-37 5th Cav Regt WD, 15 Aug 50; 1st Cav Div WD, 15 Aug 50.]

Again on 16 August, B Company and the tanks tried unsuccessfully to drive the enemy, now estimated to be a battalion of about 700 men, from Hill 303. The 61st Field Artillery Battalion and three howitzers of B Battery, 82nd Field Artillery Battalion, fired on the enemy-held hill during the day. Waegwan was a no man’s land. For the most part, the town was deserted. Colonel Marcel B. Crombez, the regimental commander, relieved the 2nd Battalion commander because he had lost control of his units and did not know where they were. A new commander prepared to resume the attack. During the night, G Company succeeded in escaping from Hill 303.[n19-38]

Before dawn of the 17th, troops from both the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 5th Cavalry Regiment, supported by A Company, 7oth Tank Battalion, attacked Hill 303, but heavy enemy mortar fire stopped them at the edge of Waegwan. During the morning, heavy artillery preparations pounded the enemy positions on Hill 303, the 61st Field Artillery Battalion alone firing 1,159 rounds. The 5th Cavalry at 1130 asked the division for assistance and learned that the Air Force would deliver a strike on the hill at 1400.[n19-39]

[n19-38 2nd Bn, 5th Cav Regt WD, 16-17 Aug 50; Interv, author with Brig Gen Marcel B. Crombez, 28 Jun 55.

[n19-39 2nd Bn, 5th Cav Regt WD, 17 Aug 50; 61st FA Bn WD, 17 Aug 50.]

The air strike came in as scheduled, the planes dropping napalm and bombs, firing rockets, and strafing. The strike was on target and, together with an artillery preparation, was dramatically successful. After the strike, the infantry at 1530 attacked up the hill unopposed and secured it by 1630. The combined strength of E and F Companies on top of the hill was about sixty men. The artillery preparations and the air strike killed and wounded an estimated 500 enemy troops on Hill 303. Approximately 200 enemy bodies littered the hill. Survivors had fled in complete rout after the air strike.[n19-40]

Tragedy on Hill 303

In regaining Hill 303 on 17 August the 5th Cavalry Regiment came upon a pitiful scene—the bodies of twenty-six mortar-men of H Company, hands tied in back, sprayed with burp gun bullets. First knowledge of the tragedy came in the afternoon when scouts brought in a man from Hill 303, Private Roy Manring of the Heavy Mortar Platoon, who had been wounded in both legs and one arm by burp gun slugs. Manring had crawled down the hill until he saw scouts of the attacking force. After he told his story, some men of the I&R Platoon of the 5th Cavalry Regiment under Lieutenant Paul Kelly went forward, following Manring’s directions, to the scene of the tragedy. One of those present has described what they saw: The boys lay packed tightly, shoulder to shoulder, lying on their sides, curled like babies sleeping in the sun. Their feet, bloodied and bare, from walking on the rocks, stuck out stiffly . . . All had hands tied behind their backs, some with cord, others with regular issue army communication wire. Only a few of the hands were clenched.[n19-41]

The rest of the I&R Platoon circled the hill and captured two North Korean soldiers. They proved to be members of the group that had captured and held the mortar-men prisoners. From them and a third captured later, as well as five survivors among the mortar-men, have come the following details of what happened to the ill-fated group on Hill 303.[n19-42]

[n19-40 5th Cav Regt WD, 17 Aug 50; 1st Cav Div WD, 17 Aug 50; 2nd Bn, 5th Cav Regt WD, 19 Aug 50. The North Korean communiqué for 17 August, monitored in London, claimed the complete “liberation” of Waegwan on that date. See New York Times, August 18, 1950.]

[41 Charles and Eugene Jones, The Face of War, pp. 45-49. At least one of the Jones brothers accompanied the I&R Platoon on this mission. See also 5th Cav Regt WD, 17 Aug 50; 1st Cav Div WD, 17 Aug 50.]

[n19-42 JAG, Korean War Crimes, Case Nr 16, 17 Jul 53]

Before dawn on Tuesday morning, 15 August, the mortar platoon became aware of enemy activity near Hill 303. The platoon leader telephoned the Commanding Officer, G Company, 5th Cavalry, who informed him that a platoon of some sixty ROK’s would come to reinforce the mortar platoon. About breakfast time the men heard tank motors and saw two enemy tanks followed by 200 or more enemy soldiers on the road below them. A little later a group of Koreans appeared on the slope. A patrol going to meet the climbing Koreans called out and received in reply a blast of automatic weapons fire. The mortar platoon leader, in spite of this, believed they were friendly. The watching Americans were not convinced that they were enemy soldiers until the red stars became visible on their caps. They were then close upon the Americans. The North Koreans came right up to the foxholes without either side firing a shot. Some pushed burp guns into the sides of the mortar-men with one hand and held out the other as though to shake hands. One of the enemy soldiers remarked later that “the American soldiers looked dazed.” [n19-43]

The 4th Company, 2nd Battalion, 206th Mechanized Infantry Regiment of the 105th Armored Division, apparently were the captors, although some members of Headquarters Company of the 45-mm. Artillery Battalion, 105th Armored Division, were present. The North Koreans marched the prisoners down the hill after taking their weapons and valuables. In an orchard they tied the prisoners’ hands behind their backs, took some of their clothing, and removed their shoes. They told the Americans they would send them to the Seoul prisoner of war camp if they behaved well.

[n19-43 Ibid., Statement of Chong Myong Tok, PW 216. The other North Korean captured with Chong on 17 August was Kim Kwon Taek, PW 217. Heo Chang Keun was the third prisoner who had personal knowledge of this incident. It is not clear how many men were captured in the mortar platoon. The 5th Cav Regt WD, 17 Aug 50, said 41; one of the survivors said there were 43; one of the captured North Koreans said about 40; and another said about 45. For contemporary press reports of interviews with survivors see New York Herald Tribune, August 18, 1950, quoting Corporal James M. Rudd; New York Times, August 18, 1950, account by Harold Faber based on interview with Roy Manring; Life Magazine, September 4, 1950, p. 36, based on interview with Corporal Roy L. Day, Jr.; and Newsweek, August 28, 1950, p. 25, for personal accounts.]

Apparently the original captors did not retain possession of the prisoners throughout the next two days. There is some evidence that a company of the N.K. 3rd Division guarded them after capture. It appears that the enemy force that crossed the Naktong above Waegwan on the 14th and turned south to Hill 303 and Waegwan was part of the 3rd Division and supporting elements of the 105th Armored Division. In any event, the first night the North Koreans gave their prisoners water, fruit, and cigarettes. They intended to move them across the Naktong that night, but American fire prevented it. During the night two of the Americans loosened the shoe laces binding their wrists. This caused a commotion. At least one of the survivors thought that a North Korean officer shot one of his men who threatened to shoot the men who had tried to free their hands.

The next day, 16 August, the prisoners were moved around a great deal with their guards. One of the mortar-men, Corporal Roy L. Day, Jr., spoke Japanese and could converse with some of the North Koreans. That afternoon he overheard a North Korean lieutenant say that they would kill the prisoners if American soldiers came too close. That night guards took away five of the Americans; the others did not know what became of them.

On the morning of 17 August, the guards exchanged fire with U.S. soldiers. Toward noon the North Korean unit holding the Americans placed them in a gulley with a few guards. Then came the intense American artillery preparations and the air strike on the hill. At this time a North Korean officer said that American soldiers were closing in on them, that they could not continue to hold the prisoners, and that they must be shot. The officer gave the order and, according to one of those who participated, the entire company of fifty men fired into the kneeling Americans as they rested in the gulley. Some of the survivors said, however, that a group of 14 to 20 enemy soldiers ran up when 2 of their guards yelled a signal and fired into them with burp guns. Before all the enemy soldiers left the area, some of them came back to the ravine and shot again those who were groaning. Corporal James M. Rudd escaped death from the blazing burp guns when the man at his side fell dead on top of him. Rudd, hit three times in the legs and arms, burrowed under the bodies of his fallen comrades for more protection. Four others escaped in a similar way. Two of them in making their way down the hill later were fired upon, but fortunately not hit, by 5th Cavalry soldiers attacking up the hill, before they could establish their identity.[n19-44]

That night additional atrocities occurred near Hill 303. Near Waegwan, enemy antitank fire hit and knocked out two tanks of the 70th Tank Battalion. The next day, 18 August, American troops found the bodies of six members of the tank crews showing indications that they had been captured and executed.[n19-45]

[n19-44 JAG, Korean War Crimes, Case Nr 16, 17 Jul 53, citing 1st Cav Div ltr, 23 Aug 50; War Diaries of 5th Cav Regt and lst Cav Div. These and published accounts by survivors are the principal sources for the above account. Also see 2nd Log Comd Activities Rpt, JA Sec, Sep 50.

[n19-45 EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, 0945, 18 Aug 50.]

These incidents on Hill 303 and vicinity caused General MacArthur on 20 August to broadcast an announcement to the North Korean Army and address a leaflet to the Commander-in-chief Armed Forces of North Korea, denouncing the atrocities. The Air Force dropped the leaflets over North Korea in large numbers. General MacArthur closed his message by saying: Inertia on your part and on the part of your senior field commanders in the discharge of this grave and universally recognized command responsibility may only be construed as a condonation and encouragement of such outrage, for which if not promptly corrected I shall hold you and your commanders criminally accountable under the rules and precedents of war.” [n19-46]

There is no evidence that the North Korean High Command sanctioned the shooting of prisoners during this phase of the war. What took place on Hill 303 and elsewhere in the first months of the war appears to have been perpetrated by uncontrolled small units, by vindictive individuals, or because of unfavorable and increasingly desperate situations confronting the captors. On 28 July 1950, General Lee Yong Ho, commanding the N.K. 3rd Division, transmitted an order pertaining to the treatment of prisoners of war, signed by Kim Chaek, Commander-in-chief, and Kang Kon, Commanding General Staff, Advanced General Headquarters of the North Korean Army, which stated:

  1. The unnecessary killing of enemy personnel when they could be taken as POW shall be strictly prohibited as of now. Those who surrender will be taken as POW, and all efforts will be made to destroy the enemy in thought and politically.
  2. Treatment of POW shall be according to the regulations issued by the Supreme Hq, as attached herein, pertaining to the regulation and order of PW camps.
  3. This directive will be explained to and understood by all military personnel immediately, and staff members of the Cultural Section will be responsible for seeing that this is carried out.[n19-47]

Another document captured in September shows that the North Korean Army was aware of the conduct of some of its soldiers and was somewhat concerned about it. An order issued by the Cultural Section of the N.K. 2nd Division, 16 August 1950, said in part, “Some of us are still slaughtering enemy troops that come to surrender. Therefore, the responsibility of teaching the soldiers to take prisoners of war and to treat them kindly rests on the Political Section of each unit.” [n19-48]

[n19-46 Ibid., 22 Aug 50, has full text of MacArthur’s message; see also New York Times, August 21, 1950.]

[n19-47 ATIS Enemy Docs, Issue 4, p. 2 (captured by U.S. 8th Cav Regt, 6 Sep 50). 48 Ibid., Issue 9, p. 102 (captured 12 Sep 50 near Changnyong, apparently by U.S. 2nd Div).]

Carpet Bombing Opposite Waegwan In the stretch of mountain country northeast of Waegwan and Hill 303, the ROK 1st Division daily absorbed North Korean attacks during the middle of August. Enemy pressure against this ROK division never ceased for long. Under the strong leadership of Major General Paik Sun Yup, this division fought a valiant and bloody defense of the mountain approaches to Taegu. American artillery fire from the 1st Cavalry Division sector supported the division in part of its sector. The ROK 13th Regiment still held some positions along the river, while the 11th and 12th Regiments engaged the enemy in the high mountain masses of Suam-san and Yuhak-san, west and northwest of Tabudong and 4 to 6 miles east of the Naktong River. The North Koreans kept in repair their underwater bridge across the Naktong 6 miles north of Waegwan in front of Hills 201 and 346. Even direct hits on this bridge by 155-mm. howitzers did not seem to damage it seriously.[n19-49]

The enemy penetration at the middle of August in the ROK 13th Regiment sector and along the boundary in the 5th Cavalry sector at Waegwan and Hill 303, together with increasingly heavy pressure against the main force of the ROK 1st Division in the Tabu-dong area, began to jeopardize the safety of Taegu. On 16 August, 750 Korean police were stationed on the outskirts of the city as an added precaution. Refugees had swollen Taegu’s normal population of 300,000 to 700,000. A crisis seemed to be developing among the people on 18 August when early in the morning seven rounds of enemy artillery shells landed in Taegu. The shells, falling near the railroad station, damaged the roundhouse, destroyed one yard engine, killed one Korean civilian, and wounded eight others. The Korean Provincial Government during the day ordered the evacuation of Taegu, and President Syngman Rhee moved his capital to Pusan.[n19-50]

This action by the South Korean authorities created a most dangerous situation. Swarms of panicked Koreans began to pour out on the roads leading from the city, threatening to stop all military traffic. At the same time, the evacuation of the city by the native population tended to undermine the morale of the troops defending it. Strong action by the Co-ordinator for Protection of Lines of Communication, Eighth Army, halted the evacuation. Twice more the enemy gun shelled Taegu, the third and last time on Sunday night, 20 August. At this time, six battalions of Korean police moved to important rail and highway tunnels within the Pusan Perimeter to reinforce their security.[n19-51]

[n19-49 1st Cav Div WD, 21-24 Aug 50; 1st Cav Div Arty WD, 22 Aug 50; GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 60, 23 Aug 50.]

[n19-50 EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 16 Aug 50; Ibid., entry 3, 18 Aug, Med Stf Sec Rpt;Ibid., G-3 Sec Rpt, entry 2; Ibid., Aug 50 Summ, p. 52; New York Times, August 18, 1950; New York Herald Tribune, August 18, 1950.]

[n19-51 EUSAK WD, Aug 50 Summ, p. 52; 1st Cav Div Arty WD, 21 Aug 50; New York Herald Tribune, August 18, 1950; New York Times, August 16 and 21, 1950. Seoul City Sue began to make propaganda broadcasts at this time. Members of the 588th Military Police Company first heard her about 10 August.]

Just as the enemy attack on Waegwan and Hill 303 began, mounting concern for the safety of Taegu—and reports of continued enemy concentrations across the river opposite the ROK 1st and the U.S. 1st Cavalry Divisions in the Waegwan area—led to an extraordinary bombing mission. On 14 August, General MacArthur summoned to his Tokyo office General Stratemeyer, commanding general of the Far East Air Forces, and told him he wanted a carpet bombing of the North Korean concentrations threatening the Pusan Perimeter.[n19-52] General Stratemeyer talked with Major General Emmett (Rosie) O’Donnell, Jr., commanding general of the Far East Bomber Command, who said a relatively good job of bombing could be done on a 3-by-5 mile area. General MacArthur’s headquarters selected a 27-square-mile rectangular area 3½ miles east to west by 7½ miles north to south on the west side of the Naktong River opposite the ROK 1st Division. The southeast corner of this rectangle was just north of Waegwan. Intelligence estimates placed the greatest concentrations of enemy troops in this area, some estimates being as high as four enemy divisions and several armored regiments, totaling approximately 40,000 men.[n19-53]

General Gay, commanding the 1st Cavalry Division, repeatedly requested that the bombing include the area northeast of Waegwan, between the Naktong River and the Waegwan-Tabu-dong road. This request was denied because of fear that bombing there might cause casualties among the 1st Cavalry and ROK 1st Division troops, even though General Gay pointed out that terrain features sharply defined the area he recommended. General Gay also offered to have 1st Cavalry Division L-19 planes lead the bombers to this target. FEAF ordered a five-group mission of B-29’s from Japan and Okinawa for 16 August. Since there was no indication of enemy groupings in the target area, the bomber command divided it into twelve equal squares with an aiming point in the center of each square. One squadron of B-29’s was to attack each square.

[n19-52 Colonel Ethelred L. Sykes’ diary. Sykes was on General Stratemeyer’s staff in Tokyo in the summer of 1950.

[n19-53 “Air War in Korea, II,” Air University Quarterly Review, IV, No. 3 (Spring, 1951), 60; EUSAK WD, Aug 50 Summ.]

At 1158, 16 August, the first of the 98 B-29’s of the 19th, 22nd, 92nd, 98th, and 307th Bomber Groups arrived over the target area; the last cleared it at 1224. The bombers from 10,000 feet dropped approximately 960 tons of 500and 1,000-pound general purpose bombs. The bomber crews reported only that the bombs were on target. General O’Donnell was in the air over the target area for more than two hours, but he saw no sign of enemy activity below.[n19-55]

General Walker reported to General MacArthur the next day that the damage done to the enemy by the “carpet bombing of 16 August could not be evaluated.” Because of smoke and dust, observation, he said, was difficult from the air and the impact area was too far to the west to be observed by U.S. and ROK ground troops. Ground patrols sent out to investigate the bombed area never reached it. One 1st Cavalry Division patrol did not even get across the river, and enemy fire stopped another just after it crossed. The U.N. Command could not show by specific, concrete evidence that this massive bombing attack had killed a single North Korean soldier.[n19-56] Information obtained later from prisoners made clear that the enemy divisions the Far East Command thought to be still west of the Naktong had, in fact, already crossed to the east side and were not in the bombed area. The only benefit that seemingly resulted from the bombing was a sharp decrease in the amount of enemy artillery fire that, for a period after the bombing, fell in the 1st Cavalry and ROK 1st Division sectors.

[n19-55 “Air War in Korea,” op. cit.; EUSAK WD, 17 Aug 50, G-3 Sec, 171115 Aug 50; GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 53, 16 Aug 50; New York Times, August 16, 1950, R. J. H. Johnston dispatch.]

Generals Walker, Partridge, and O’Donnell reportedly opposed future massive carpet bombing attacks against enemy tactical troops unless there was precise information on an enemy concentration and the situation should be extremely critical. The personal intercession of General Stratemeyer with General MacArthur caused the cancellation of a second pattern bombing of an area east of the Naktong scheduled for 19 August. [n19-57]

[n19-56 EUSAK WD, 17 Aug 50, G-3 Sec, Msg 171115; 1st Cav Div WD, 16 Aug 50; 5th Cav Regt WD, 16 Aug 50; New York Times, August 17, 1950; New York Herald Tribune, August 17, 1950.]

Bowling Alley—The Sangju-Taegu Corridor  

The 27th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Division had just completed its mission of clearing the North Koreans from the southern part of the Naktong Bulge area in the 24th Division sector when the enemy pressure north of Taegu caused new alarm in Eighth Army headquarters. Acting on the threat from this quarter, Eighth Army on 14 August relieved the regiment from attachment to the 24th Division and the next day ordered it northward to Kyongsan in army reserve. Upon arrival at Kyongsan on 16 August, Colonel Michaelis received orders to reconnoiter routes east, north, northwest, and west of Kyongsan and be prepared on army orders to counter any enemy thrusts from these directions. During the day, two enemy tanks came through the ROK 1st Division lines twelve miles north of Taegu at Tabu-dong, but ROK 3.5-inch bazooka teams knocked out both of them.[n19-58]

At noon the next day, 17 August, Eighth Army ordered the 27th Infantry to move its headquarters and a reinforced battalion “without delay” to a point across the Kumho River three miles north of Taegu on the Tabu-dong-Sangju road “to secure Taegu from enemy penetration” from that direction. ROK sources reported that a North Korean regiment, led by six tanks, had entered the little village of Kumhwa, two miles north of Tabu-dong. The 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry; a platoon of the Heavy Mortar Company; and the 8th Field Artillery Battalion, less B Battery, moved north of Taegu at noon. Later in the day this force moved two miles farther north to Chilgok where the ROK 1st Division command post was located. By dark, the entire 27th Regiment was north of Taegu on the Tabu-dong road, reinforced by C Company, 73rd Tank Battalion. Alarm spread in Taegu where artillery fire to the north could be heard. Eighth Army ordered the 37th Field Artillery Battalion, less A Battery, to move from the Kyongju-Pohang-dong area, where a heavy battle had been in progress for days, for attachment to the 27th Infantry Regiment in order to reinforce the fires of the 8th Field Artillery Battalion above Taegu. It arrived there the next day.[n19-59] To the south at this same time the critical battle at Obong-ni Ridge and Cloverleaf Hill was still undecided.

In its part of the Perimeter battle, the N.K. 13th Division had broken through into the Tabu-dong corridor and had started driving on Taegu. This division had battled the ROK 11th and 12th Regiments in the high Yuhak-san area for a week before it broke through to the corridor on 17 August. A regimental commander of the division said later it suffered 1,500 casualties in achieving that victory. On 18 August the 13th Division was concentrated mostly west of the road just north of Tabu-dong.[n19-60] To the west of the 13th, the N.K. 15th Division also was now deployed on Yuhak-san. It, too, had begun battling the ROK 1st Division, but thus far only in minor engagements. At this critical point, the North Korean High Command ordered the 15th Division to move from its position northwest of Tabudong eastward to the Yongchon front, where the N.K. 8th Division had failed to advance toward the Taegu lateral corridor.

[n19-58 27th Inf WD, 15-16 Aug 50; GHQ FEC Sitrep, 14 Aug 50; EUSAK WD, Opn Directive, 16 Aug 50; Ibid., G-3 Sec, 16 Aug 50; Ibid., Aug 50 Summ, p. 47.]

[n19-59 1st Bn, 27th Inf WD, 17 Aug 50, 27th Inf WD, 17 Aug 50; EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, Msg 171210 Aug 50; Ibid., G-3 Sec, 17 Aug 50; 37th FA Bn WD, 17 18 Aug 50; New York Times, August 18, 1950, Parrott dispatch from Eighth Army Hq.]

[n19-60 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 105 (N.K. 13th Div), p. 64; ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 2, Rpt 771, p. 160, Lt Col Chong Pong Uk, CO, Arty Regt, N.K. 13th Div (Col Chong surrendered on 22 Aug 50). Other Interrog rpts on Colonel Chong are to be found in Issue 3, Rpt 733, p. 78 and Rpt 831, p. 66, and EUSAK WD, 24 Aug 50, G-2 Sec, Interrog Rpt 771; EUSAK WD, 5 Sep 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 895, Major Kim Song Jun, S-3,19thRegt, N. K.13th Div. and later CO of the regt; ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 3, Rpt 895, Major Kim.]

The 15th left the Yuhak-san area on or about 20 August. Meanwhile, the N.K. 1st Division on the left, or east, of the 13th advanced to the Kunwi area, twenty-five miles north of Taegu. The North Korean command now ordered it to proceed to the Tabu-dong area and come up abreast of the 13th Division for the attack on Taegu down the Tabudong corridor.

At this juncture, the North Koreans received their only large tank reinforcements during the Pusan Perimeter fighting. On or about 15 August, the 105th Armored Division received 21 new T34 tanks and 200 troop replacements, which it distributed to the divisions attacking Taegu. The tank regiment with the N.K. 13th Division reportedly had 14 tanks.[n19-61]

This was the enemy situation, with the 13th Division astride the Sangju-Taegu road just above Tabu-dong and only thirteen miles from Taegu, when Eighth Army on 18 August ordered the 27th Infantry Regiment to attack north along the road. At the same time, two regiments of the ROK 1st Division were to attack along high ground on either side of the road. The plan called for a limited objective attack to restore the ROK 1st Division lines in the vicinity of Sokchok, a village four miles north of Tabu-dong. The line of departure was just north of Tabu-dong. Pershing M26 tanks of C Company, 73rd Tank Battalion, and two batteries of the 37th Field Artillery Battalion were to support the 27th Infantry.[n19-62]

[n19-61 ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 9 (N.K. Forces), Rpt 1468, pp. 158-74, Sr Col Lee Hak Ku, CofS N.K. 13th Div, formerly G-3 N.K. II Corps; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 3 (N.K.15thDiv), p.43, Issue 3 (N.K. 1st Div), p. 34, and Issue 4 (105th Armord Div), p. 39, Interrog of Col Chong; ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 2, Rpt 777, p. 177, Lieutenant Han.]

As the trucks rolled northward from Tabu-dong and approached the line of departure, the men inside could see the North Koreans and ROK’s fighting on the high hills overlooking the road. The infantry dismounted and deployed, Colonel Check’s 1st Battalion on the left of the road and Colonel Murch’s 2nd Battalion on the right of it. With tanks leading on the road, the two battalions crossed the line of departure at 1300. The tanks opened fire against the mountain escarpments, and the rumble of their cannonade echoed through the narrow valley. The infantry on either side of the road swept the lower hills, the tanks on the road pacing their advance to the infantry’s. An enemy outpost line in the valley withdrew and there was almost no opposition during the first hour. This enemy outpost line proved to be about two and a half miles in front of the main positions. The 27th Infantry had reached a point about two miles north of Tabu-dong when Colonel Michaelis received a message stating that neither of the ROK regiments on the high ground flanking the valley road had been able to advance. He was ordered to halt and form a perimeter defense with both battalions astride the road.[n19-63]

[n19-62 EUSAK WD, Br for CG, 18 Aug 50; Ibid., G-3 Stf Sec Rpt, 18 Aug 50, entry 2; 27th Inf WD, 18 Aug 50; GHQ FEC Sitrep, 18 Aug 50.]

[n19-63 1st Bn, 27th Inf WD, 18 Aug 50; Ltr, Check to author, 29 Sep 53.]

The two battalions of the 27th Infantry went into a perimeter defense just north of the little mud-thatched village of Soi-ri. The 1st Battalion, on the left of the road, took a position with C Company on high ground somewhat in advance of any other infantry unit, and with A Company on a ridge behind it.

On their right, B Company, somewhat in advance of A Company, carried the line across the stream and the narrow valley to the road. There the 2nd Battalion took up the defense line with E Company on the road and east of it and F Company on its right, while G Company held a ridge behind F Company.

Thus, the two battalions presented a four-company front, with one company holding a refused flank position on either side. A platoon of tanks took positions on the front line, two tanks on the road and two in the stream bed; four more tanks were back of the line in reserve. The artillery went into firing positions back of the infantry. Six bazooka teams took up positions in front of the infantry positions along the road and in the stream bed.64 The ROK 1st Division held the high ground on either side of the 27th Infantry positions.

[n19-64 2nd Bn, 27th Inf WD, Aug 50, sketch map of Soi-ri position, 18-25 Aug; Ltr, Check to author, 29 Sep 53, and attached sketch map of 27th Inf position; Interv, author with Check, 6 Feb 53.]

In front of the 27th Infantry position, the poplar-lined Taegu-Sangju road ran northward on a level course in the narrow mountain valley. A stream on the west closely paralleled it. The road was nearly straight on a north-south axis through the 27th Infantry position and for some distance northward. Then it veered slightly westward. This stretch of the road later became known as the “Bowling Alley.”

A little more than a mile in front of the 27th Infantry position the road forked at a small cluster of houses called Chonpyong-dong; the left hand prong was the main Sangju road, the right-hand one the road to Kunwi. At the road fork, the Sangju road bends northwestward in a long curve. The village of Sinjumak lay on this curve a short distance north of the fork. Hills protected it against direct fire from the 27th Infantry position. It was there, apparently, that the enemy tanks remained hidden during the daytime.

Rising abruptly from the valley on the west side was the Yuhak-san mountain mass which swept up to a height of 2,700 feet. On the east, a similar mountain mass rose to a height of 2,400 feet, culminating two and a half miles southward in towering Ka-san, more than 2,900 feet high at its walled summit. This high ground looks down southward into the Taegu bowl and gives observation of the surrounding country.

The Kunwi and Sangju roads from the northeast and northwest entered at Chonpyong-dong the natural and easy corridor between Yuhak-san and Ka-san leading into the Taegu basin. The battles of the Bowling Alley took place just south of this road junction.

The first of seven successive enemy night attacks struck against the 27th Infantry defense perimeter shortly after dark that night, 18 August. Enemy mortars and artillery fired a heavy preparation for the attack. Two enemy tanks and a self-propelled gun moved out of the village of Sinjumak two miles in front of the 27th Infantry lines. Infantry followed them, some in trucks and others on foot. The lead tank moved slowly and without firing, apparently observing, while the second one and the self-propelled gun fired repeatedly into F Company’s position. The tank machine gun fire seemed indiscriminate, as if the enemy did not know the exact location of the American positions. As the tanks drew near, a 3.5-inch bazooka team from F Company destroyed the second one in line. Bazooka teams also hit the lead tank twice but the rockets failed to explode. The crew, however, abandoned the tank. Fire from the 8th Field Artillery Battalion knocked out the self-propelled gun, destroyed two trucks, and killed or wounded an estimated hundred. Lieutenant Lewis Millett, an artillery forward observer, and later a Medal of Honor winner after he transferred to the infantry, directed this artillery fire on the enemy with a T34 tank within fifty yards of his foxhole. Three more enemy tanks had come down the road, but now they switched on their running lights, turned around, and went back north. Half an hour after midnight the entire action was over and all was quiet. Enemy troops made a second effort, much weaker than the first, about two hours later but artillery and mortar fire dispersed them.[n19-65]

[n19-65 2nd Bn, 27th Inf WD, Aug 50 Summ of Activities, 18 Aug; 1st Bn, 27th Inf WD, 18 Aug 50; 27th Inf WD, 18-19 Aug 50; New York Herald Tribune, August 21, 1950, Bigart dispatch, 20 August; Check, MS review comments, 6 Dec 57.]

Certain characteristics were common to all the night battles in the Bowling Alley. The North Koreans used a system of flares to signal various actions and to co-ordinate them. It became quickly apparent to the defending Americans that green flares were used to signal an attack on a given area. So the 27th Infantry obtained its own green flares and then, after the enemy attack had begun, fired them over its main defensive positions. This confused the attacking North Koreans and often drew them to the points of greatest strength where they suffered heavy casualties. The use of mines in front of the defensive positions in the narrow valley became a nightly feature of the battles. The mines would stop the tanks and the infantry would try to remove them. At such times flares illuminated the scene and preregistered artillery and mortar fire came down on the immobilized enemy with fatal results.

On the morning of 19 August, the ROK 11th and 13th Regiments launched counterattacks along the ridges with some gains. General Walker ordered another reserve unit, a battalion of the ROK 10th Regiment, to the Taegu front to close a gap that had developed between the ROK 1st and 6th Divisions. In the afternoon he ordered still another unit, the U.S. 23rd Infantry, to move up and establish a defense perimeter around the 8th and 37th Field Artillery Battalions eight miles north of Taegu. The 3rd Battalion took up a defensive position around the artillery while the 2nd Battalion occupied a defensive position astride the road behind the 27th Infantry. The next day the two battalions exchanged places.[n19-66]

Sunday, 20 August, was a day of relative quiet on the Taegu front. Even so, United States aircraft attacked North Korean positions there repeatedly during the day. The planes began their strafing runs so close in front of the American infantry that their machine gun fire dotted the identification panels, and expended .50-caliber cartridges fell into friendly foxholes. General Walker visited the Taegu front during the day, and later made the statement that enemy fire had decreased and that Taegu “certainly is saved.” [n19-67] By contrast, that night was not quiet. At 1700, a barrage of enemy 120-mm. mortar shells fell in the Heavy Weapons Company area. A bright moon silhouetted enemy tanks against the dark flanking mountains as they rumbled down the narrow, green valley, leading another attack. Artillery and mortar fire fell among them and the advancing enemy infantry. Waiting Americans held their small arms and machine gun fire until the North Koreans were within 150-200 yards’ range. The combined fire of all weapons repulsed this attack.

[n19-66 27th Inf WD, 19 Aug 50; 23rd Inf WD, Aug 50 67 1st Bn, 27th Inf WD, 20 Aug 50; EUSAK G-3 Narr Summ, p. 7; EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 19 Aug Jnl, 200955 Aug 50; New York Herald Tribune, 50; ROK Army Hq, MS review comments, Jul 58. August 21, 1950.]

The next morning, 21 August, a patrol of two platoons of infantry and three tanks went up the road toward the enemy positions. White flags had appeared in front of the American line, and rumors received from natives alleged that many North Koreans wanted to surrender. The patrol’s mission was to investigate this situation and to form an estimate of enemy losses. The patrol advanced about a mile, engaging small enemy groups and receiving some artillery fire. On its way it completed the destruction with thermite grenades of five enemy tanks disabled in the night action. The patrol also found 1×37-mm. antitank gun, 2 self-propelled guns, and 1 120-mm. mortar among the destroyed enemy equipment, and saw numerous enemy dead. At the point of farthest advance, the patrol found and destroyed an abandoned enemy tank in a village schoolhouse courtyard.[n19-68]

That evening at dusk the 27th Infantry placed an antitank mine field, antipersonnel mines, and trip flares across the road and stream bed 150 yards in front of the infantry line. A second belt of mines, laid on top of the ground, was placed about 100 yards in front of the buried mine field.

[n19-68 27th Inf WD, 21 Aug 50; 1st Bn, 27th Inf WD, 21 Aug 50; Ltr, Check to author, 29 Sep 53; New York Herald Tribune, August 22, 1950, Bigart dispatch, 21 August.]

Later that evening, 21 August, the North Koreans shelled the general area of the 27th Infantry positions until just before midnight. Then the NK.13th Division launched a major attack against the ROK units on the high ground and the Americans in the valley. Nine tanks and several SP guns supported the enemy troops in the valley. Because it was on higher ground and more advanced than any other American unit, C Company on the left of the road usually was the first to detect an approaching attack. That evening the C Company commander telephoned that he could hear tanks out front. When the artillery fired an illuminating shell he was able to count nineteen vehicles in the attacking column on the road. The tanks and self-propelled guns, firing rapidly, approached the American positions. Most of their shells landed in the rear areas. Enemy infantry moved forward on both sides of the road. Simultaneously, other units attacked the ROK’s on the high ridges flanking the valley.

American artillery and mortar fire bombarded the enemy, trying to separate the tanks from the infantry. Machine gun fire opened on the N.K. infantry only after they had entered the mine field and were at close range. The Pershing tanks in the front line held their fire until the enemy tanks came very close. One of the American tanks knocked out the lead enemy tank at a range of 125 yards. A 3.5-inch bazooka team from F Company knocked out a SP gun, the third vehicle in column. The trapped second tank was disabled by bazooka fire and abandoned by its crew.

Artillery and 90-mm. tank fire destroyed seven more enemy tanks, three more SP guns, and several trucks and personnel carriers. This night battle lasted about five hours. The fire from both sides was intense. On the American side, a partial tabulation shows that in support of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry, B Battery, 8th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. howitzers), fired 1,661 rounds, the 4.2inch mortar platoon fired 902 rounds, the 81-mm. mortar platoon fired 1,200 rounds, and F Company itself fired 385 60-mm. mortar rounds. The enemy column was destroyed. Patrols after daylight counted enemy dead in front of the perimeter position, and on that basis, they estimated the North Koreans had suffered 1,300 casualties in the night battle. Eleven prisoners captured by the patrol said the action had decimated their units and that only about one-fourth of their number remained.[n19-69]

The men of F Company, 27th Infantry apparently coined the name Bowling Alley during the night battle of 21-22 August. The enemy T34 tanks fired armor-piercing shells straight up the road toward the American positions, hoping to knock out the American tanks. The balls of fire hurtling through the night and the reverberations of the gun reports appeared to the men witnessing and listening to the wild scene like bowling balls streaking down an alley toward targets at the other end.[n19-70]

During the night battle, enemy forces infiltrated along the high ridge line around the east flank of the 27th Infantry and appeared the next day about noon 6 miles in the rear of that regiment and only 9 miles from Taegu. This enemy force was the 1st Regiment of the N.K. 1st Division which had just arrived from the Kunwi area to join in the battle for Taegu. It brought the main supply road of the 27th Infantry under small arms fire along a 5-mile stretch, beginning at a point 9 miles above Taegu and extending northward.[n19-71]

[n19-69 2nd Bn, 27th Inf WD, Activities Rpt, 21 Aug, and Summ of Activities, 21-22 Aug 50; Ltr, Check to author, 29 Sep 53; Interv, author with Check, 6 Feb 53; ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 3, Rpt 895, Major Kim Song Jun, CO 19th Regt, 13th Div, 21 Aug 50; EUSAK WD, 5 Sep 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 895. The North Korean division commander blamed the 19th Regiment for incompetence and failure to correlate its action with the rest of the division in this battle.]

[n19-70 2nd Bn, 27th Inf WD, Summ of Activities, 22 Aug 50.]

About this time, Colonel Michaelis sent an urgent message to Eighth Army saying that the ROK troops on his left had given way and that “those people are not fighting.” Prisoners told him, he said, that about 1,000 North Koreans were on his west flank. He asked for an air strike.[n19-72] It must not go unnoticed that all the time the 27th Infantry and supporting units were fighting along the road, the ROK 1st Division was fighting in the mountains on either side. Had these ROK troops been driven from this high ground, the perimeter position of the 27th Infantry Regiment would have been untenable. Several times the ROK troops came off the mountains in daytime looking for food in the valley and a bath in the stream. But then, supported by the American artillery, they always climbed back up the heights and reoccupied the high ground. The ROK 1st Division must receive a generous share of the credit for holding the front north of Taegu at this time.

[n19-71 EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 22 Aug 50; 23rd Inf WD, Aug 50 Summ, 22 Aug; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 3 (N.K. 1st Div), p. 34.

[n19-72 EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, Msg at 1320, 22 Aug 50.]

General Paik bitterly resented Colonel Michaelis’ charge that his men were not fighting. He said he would like to hold the valley position with all the tank and artillery support given the 27th Regiment while that regiment went up on the hills and fought the night battles with small arms. The Eighth Army G-3 staff investigated Colonel Michaelis’ charge that the ROK troops had left their positions. KMAG officers visited all the ROK 1st Division units. The Assistant G-3 went to the ROK front personally to inquire into the situation. All reports agreed that the ROK units were where General Paik said they were.[n19-73]

The afternoon of 22 August, Lieutenant Colonel James W. Edwards’ 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry, guarding the support artillery behind the 27th Infantry, came under attack by the N.K. 1st Division troops that had passed around the forward positions. The regimental commander, Colonel Paul L. Freeman, Jr., reported to Eighth Army at 1640 that the enemy had shelled the rear battery of the 37th Field Artillery Battalion, that enemy riflemen were between the 27th and 23rd Regiments on the road, and that other enemy groups had passed around the east side of his forward battalion. An intense barrage began falling on the headquarters area of the 8th Field Artillery Battalion at 1605, and 25 minutes later two direct hits on the fire direction center utterly destroyed it, killing four officers and two noncommissioned officers. The individual batteries quickly took over control of the battalion fires and continued to support the infantry, while battalion headquarters displaced under fire.[n19-74]

[n19-73 Interv, author with Brig Gen William C. Bullock, 2 Dec 53 (Bullock was Asst G-3. Eighth Army, at the time; Gay, Comments, 24 Aug 53; Ltr, Check to author, 29 Sep 53.]

[n19-74 Ltr, Check to author, 29 Sep 53; 22 Aug 50; 8th FA Bn WD, 1-31 Aug 50; 23rd Inf WD, Aug 50 Narr Summ in, p. 7. ]

Air Force, Navy, and Australian planes delivered strikes on the enemy-held ridge east of the road and on the valley beyond. These strikes included one by B-26’s employing 44,000 pounds of bombs. That night, General Walker released control of the 23rd Infantry, less the 1st Battalion, to the 1st Cavalry Division with orders for it to clear the enemy from the road and the commanding ground overlooking the main supply road.[n19-75 ]

A bit of drama of a kind unusual in the Korean War occurred north of Tabudong on the 22nd. About 1000, Lieutenant Colonel Chong Pong Uk, commanding the artillery regiment supporting the N.K. 13th Division, walked up alone to a ROK 1st Division position three miles north of Tabu-dong. In one hand he carried a white flag; over his shoulder hung a leather map case. The commanding general of the 13th Division had reprimanded him, he said, for his failure to shell Tabu-dong. Believing that terrain obstacles made it impossible for his artillery fire to reach Tabu-dong and smarting under the reprimand, Chong had deserted.

Colonel Chong, the highest ranking prisoner thus far in the war, gave precise information on the location of his artillery. According to him, there were still seven operable 122-mm. howitzers and thirteen 76-mm. guns emplaced and camouflaged in an orchard four and a half miles north of Tabu-dong, in a little valley on the north side of Yuhak-san. Upon receiving this information, Eighth Army immediately prepared to destroy the enemy weapons. Fighter-bombers attacked the orchard site with napalm, and U.S. artillery took the location under fire.[n19-76]

[n19-75 EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 22 Aug 50; 27th Inf WD, 22 Aug 50; 23rd Inf WD, Aug 50 Narr Summ.]

During the night of 22-23 August, the enemy made his usual attack against the 27th Infantry, but not in great force, and was easily repulsed. Just before noon on the 23rd, however, a violent action occurred some distance behind the front line when about 100 enemy soldiers, undetected, succeeded in reaching the positions of K Company, 27th Infantry and of the 1st Platoon, C Company, 65th Engineer Combat Battalion. They overran part of these positions before being driven off with fifty killed.[n19-77]Meanwhile, as ordered by General Walker, the 2nd Battalion, 23 Infantry, after repelling several enemy night attacks, counterattacked at dawn, 23 August, and seized the high ground overlooking the road at the artillery positions. At the same time the 3rd Battalion started an all-day attack that swept a 3mile stretch of high ground east of the road. This action largely cleared the enemy from the area behind and on the flanks of the 27th Infantry. At 1335 in the afternoon, Colonel Michael is reported from the Bowling Alley to Eighth Army that the N.K. 13th Division had blown the road to his front, had mined it, and was withdrawing.[n19-78]

[n19-76 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 106 (N.K. Arty), p. 55; ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 2, Rpt 771, Colonel Chong; New York Times, August 24, 1950, dispatch from Taegu, 22 August.]

[n19-77 EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 23 Aug 50; 3rd Bn, 27th Inf WD, 23 Aug 50; 65th Engr C Bn WD, 23 Aug 50. ]

[n19-78 23rd Inf WD, Aug 50 Narr Summ; EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 23 Aug 50; Ibid., Aug 50 Summ, p. 67.]

The next day, 24 August, the 23rd Infantry continued clearing the rear areas and by night it estimated that there were not more than 200 of the enemy behind the forward positions. The Bowling Alley front was quiet on the 24th except for an unfortunate accident. An Eighth Army tank recovery team came up to retrieve a T34 tank that had stopped just in front of the forward American mine field. As the retriever began to pull the T34 forward, an American mine unseen and pushed along in some loose dirt underneath the tank, exploded, badly damaging the tank and wounding twelve men standing nearby.[n19-79]

Shortly after midnight of 24 August the North Koreans launched what had by now become their regular nightly attack down the Bowling Alley. This attack was in an estimated two-company strength supported by a few tanks. The 27th Infantry broke up this fruitless attempt and two more enemy tanks were destroyed by the supporting artillery fire. This was the last night the 27th Infantry Regiment spent in the Bowling Alley. The confirmed enemy loss from 18 to 25 August included 13 T34 tanks, 5 self-propelled guns, and 23 vehicles.[n19-80]

With the enemy turned back north of Taegu, General Walker on 24 August issued orders for the 27th Infantry to leave the Bowling Alley and return to the 25th Division in the Masan area. The ROK 1st Division was to assume responsibility for the Bowling Alley, but the U.S. 23rd Regiment was to remain north of Taegu in its support. ROK relief of the 27th Infantry began at 1800, 25 August, and continued throughout the night until completed at 0345, 26 August. On 30 August the regiment received orders to move from near Taegu to Masan, and it started at 0800 the next morning, personnel going by train, vehicles by road. The Wolfhound Regiment completed the move by 2030 that night, 31 August.[n19-81]And a very fortunate move it proved to be, for it arrived in the nick of time, as a later chapter will show.

[n19-79 2nd Bn, 27th Inf WD, Summ of Activities, 24 Aug 50; Ltr, Check to author, 29 Sep 53.]

[n19-80 27th Inf WD, 24-25 Aug 50; 1st Bn, 27th Inf WD, 25 Aug 50; New York Herald Tribune, August 26, 1950.]

As if to signalize the successful defense of the northern approach to Taegu in this week of fighting, a 20-year-old master sergeant of the ROK 1st Division executed a dangerous and colorful exploit. Master Sergeant Pea Sung Sub led a 9-man patrol 6,000 yards behind the North Korean lines to the N.K. 13th Division command post. There his patrol killed several enemy soldiers and captured three prisoners whom they brought back with no loss to themselves. General Paik gave the daring sergeant 50,000 won ($25.00) for his exploit.

[n19-81 EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 24-25 Aug 50; 27th Inf WD, 25-26 and 30 Aug 50. The S-3, 2nd Battalion, was killed by enemy fire just as the regiment started to leave the line in the Bowling Alley. A ROK battalion commander in the relieving force was also killed about this time. 2nd Bn, 27th Inf WR, 25 Aug 50; Ltr, Check to author, 29 Sep 53. ]

Colonel Murch’s 2nd Battalion and Colonel Check’s 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, had gained something of a reputation for themselves in the Bowling Alley north of Taegu. The defense in depth behind their front line by the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 23rd Infantry, had frustrated all enemy efforts to gain control of the gateway to Taegu. The supporting tanks and the artillery had performed magnificently. During the daytime, Air Force attacks had inflicted destruction and disorganization on the enemy. And on the mountain ridges walling in the Bowling Alley, the ROK 1st Division had done its full share in fighting off the enemy thrust. Survivors of the 1st Regiment, N.K. 1st Division, joined the rest of that division in the mountains east of the Taegu-Sangju road near the walled summit of Ka-san. Prisoners reported that the 1st Regiment was down to about 400 men and had lost all its 120-mm. mortars, 76-mm. howitzers, and antitank guns as a result of its action on the east flank of the N.K. 13thDivision at the Bowling Alley.

[n19-83 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 3 (N.K. 1st Div), pp. 34-35; EUSAK WD, 28 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 819, Chu Chae Song; Ibid., 31 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 856, Yom In Bok. ]

SOURCE: South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu; BY: Colonel Roy E. Appleman (United States Army Center of Military History)

Korean War: Stalemate West of Masan-1950 (20)

Korean War: Battle for the Eastern Corridor to Pusan 1950 (18)

World War Two: Italy; Beyond Salerno (ISC-2-10)

Problems and Plans: With the Fifth Army in firm possession of lodgment, Operation AVALANCHE moved into its second phase: the capture of Naples. Once captured and transformed into a logistical base, Naples would have to be made secure. This the Fifth Army would do by advancing twenty-five miles beyond Naples to the Volturno River, which was far enough beyond the city to provide protection against hostile attack, infiltration, artillery fire, and raids.! Before the invasion, Allied planners had given some thought to the idea of capturing Naples by driving across the Italian peninsula from the heel, a maneuver the road net would have facilitated. But now the Fifth and Eighth Armies, co-ordinated by the 15th Army Group, would move up the boot of Italy abreast, their first objectives, respectively, Naples and the airfields around Foggia.

As early as 17 September, when General Alexander suspected the impending German withdrawal from the Salerno beachhead, he passed along some thoughts to guide his subordinate commanders on future operations. His ideas differed from those advanced by Allied planners a month before the invasion.

Then, the Allies had expected the Germans to hold tenaciously to Naples and Foggia. But now Alexander guessed that they would be unable to retain Naples for long because of their need to withdraw to the north to shorten their lines of communication. Nor would they, he estimated, be able to preserve control over Foggia because of their lack of strength in Apulia. Thus, General Clark and General Montgomery could start immediately toward their objectives, even though a pause would probably occur somewhere in the process to allow bringing up additional supplies and troops necessary to complete the advances.

While Fifth Army was bringing the battle of Salerno to a close, Eighth Army was consolidating its forces along the eastern shore of the peninsula. When the 1st British Airborne Division, ashore at Taranto on 9 September and beyond Bari two days later, made contact on its left with the 1st Canadian Division coming up from Calabria, the meeting represented the first step in bringing together the SLAPSTICK and BAYTOWN troops. The 5 Corps headquarters came ashore at Taranto on 18 September and made ready to receive at Bari both the 78th British Division, expected from Sicily in the next few days, and the 8th Indian Division, due to arrive from Egypt in the next few weeks. By 19 September, the 13 Corps had the 1st Canadian and 5th Divisions moving into the Auletta and Potenza areas and coming abreast of the Fifth U.S. Army.

Although only about 8,000 men of the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) opposed Eighth Army on the approaches to Foggia, Montgomery was unable to advance rapidly. The distance of his units from the Calabrian ports of Reggio and Crotone caused him serious logistical problems, and the tasks of switching his logistical base from Calabria to the Adriatic ports and of regrouping his forces required time.

General Montgomery organized his immediate operations into two parts. He would capture the Foggia airfields, then cover them by seizing ground about forty miles beyond-the hills north and west of the Foggia plain and the lateral Vinchiaturo-Termoli road running along the Biferno River. These operations would get under way in the last days of September. The Germans, for their part, were reexamining their original strategy of delaying the Allies in southern and central Italy until they could construct a strong defensive line in the Northern Apennines.

In consonance with the original concept, Kesselring, on the day after the Salerno landings, had drawn on a map a series of successive lines across the Italian peninsula suitable as delaying positions. A few days later, having mastered his temporary difficulties with the Italians around Rome, he began to consider the possibility of going over to the defensive altogether somewhere south of Rome. One of the lines he had drawn was through Mignano, about fifty miles north of Naples and ninety miles south of Rome; this line, sometimes called the Reinhard Line, more often referred to as the Bernhard Line, offered excellent ground for defensive works. A dozen miles north of Mignano, the terrain around Cassino, to be known as the Gustav Line, provided an even better prospect for prolonged defense. If Tenth Army could gain enough time for Kesselring to construct fortifications along these lines, Kesselring might be able to halt the Allies far below the Northern Apennine position. Fighting the Allied forces below Rome had certain obvious strategic and tactical advantages. In addition, it would preserve the integrity and independence of Kesselring’s command, for otherwise his forces would go under Rommel. The final decision on whether to defend below Rome rested, of course. with Hitler. Until he made his decision, the original plan of withdrawal remained in effect. Instructing Vietinghoff to retire slowly to the Volturno River, Kesselring directed him to hold there until at least 15 October in order to allow time to construct defensive positions on the next line farther to the north.

Withdrawing to any defensive line across the entire Italian mainland meant that Vietinghoff had to bring the 1st (Fallschirmjäger) Parachute Division north to align it with the troops on the west coast. Since OKW refused to release troops from northern Italy to reinforce the paratroopers in the Foggia area, he instructed Heidrich, the division commander, to fight a nominal delaying action as he withdrew. The first good line on which to anchor a withdrawal even temporarily was the Biferno River, just north of Foggia.

More ticklish was the job of withdrawing from close contact with the Allied divisions in the Salerno beachhead. Not only did Vietinghoff have to break off operations without exposing himself to immediate pursuit, but in accordance with Kesselring’s order he had to withdraw very slowly. At the same time, he had to extend his front across the Italian mainland to link up with the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division. Vietinghoff settled the conduct of these operations on 17 September. Estimating that the dispersal of the Eighth Army had left Montgomery incapable of exerting strong pressure for several days, he decided to retain the bulk of his strength on the right (west) opposite the Fifth Army. These right flank forces, holding the Sorrento peninsula as pivot for a wheeling withdrawal, would enable him to evacuate the large supply dumps in and around Naples and to destroy the harbor and supply installations useful to the Allies.

As Vietinghoff planned to deploy his units under the XIV Panzer Corps to the west and the LXXVI Panzer Corps to the east, the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division began to disengage on 17 September for withdrawal northeast and north behind strong rear guards. The 26th Panzer Division broke contact with the Allies two days later and fell back to the north from the Battipaglia area, also leaving strong rear guard forces. By the end of September, these two divisions, along with the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division, would be under the LXXVI Panzer Corps in the eastern part of the Italian peninsula.

The task of defending the pivot area devolved upon the XIV Panzer Corps, more specifically on the Hermann Gӧring Division, which controlled units of the 3rd and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions and two battalions of the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division. Vietinghoff transferred

the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division to the western portion of the Volturno line, not only to start constructing defensive positions but also to guard against Allied amphibious operations along the coast. He assembled the 16th Panzer Division, whose units were mixed with all the other divisions in the Salerno area, and sent it to the Volturno to prepare defenses in the difficult hill terrain near Capua.

For the conduct of operations between the Salerno beachhead and the Volturno River, Vietinghoff designated intermediate defensive lines and dates to denote the minimum time they were to be held by rear guard forces. Since the major task was to begin building field fortifications along the Volturno, he ordered that the Allied advance be delayed by a methodical destruction of all the lines of communication leading to the river. Kesselring was more than specific on the destruction he wanted. He directed Tenth Army to evacuate all rolling stock, trucks, buses, automobiles, and cables, and to dismantle and evacuate the war industry installations, including those manufacturing tools, typewriters, and accounting machines. The troops were to spare historic buildings, museums, churches, monasteries, and hospitals.

They were to demolish railroad sections, power plants, bridges, switch points, and water lines; to mine bridge approaches and roads; to destroy all transportation and communications facilities that could not be moved-harbor installations, docks and moles, radio and meteorological stations-water supplies and reservoirs, food supplies and storage centers, canning plants, breweries, and distilleries. Kesselring promised to send some demolition experts to help in the destruction, but if there were not enough to do the entire job, the army was to do the best it could.

The German intention to withdraw was apparent to Fifth Army intelligence officers, who noted the enemy “entrenching north of River Volturno and west of Capua.” The Allies expected the Germans to withdraw by pivoting on Salerno; to hold firm in the areas north of Salerno and Vietri; and to be well dug in near Nocera in order to block the road to Avellino and Foggia. Although strong opposition had been anticipated on the direct approaches to Naples, air reconnaissance reports indicated extremely heavy traffic going north into the interior. Of the different courses the enemy might adopt, it seemed most likely that he would choose to delay the Allied advance by what was termed “offensive-defensive tactics” at various locations. The pattern of motor movements, the German dislike of giving up ground, and a critical need for troops in other areas, which made reinforcement of southern Italy seem impractical, bolstered the Allied estimate.

Hoping for an opportunity to seize Naples quickly-for example, should the enemy front collapse suddenly, or the Allies make a decisive breakthrough General Clark had held a regimental task force of the 36th Division in readiness for a swift thrust on the right flank to Benevento, thirty miles north of Salerno. This giant step was designed to outflank Naples and cut the communications east of the city while avoiding a fight through the narrow, readily defended passes of the Sorrento ridge. But almost from the first it became all too apparent that the Fifth Army drive north from Salerno was destined to be slow.

General Clark called a conference of major commanders and key staff officers on 18 September to discuss future plans. All were soon agreed that the few available roads dictated in large measure what Fifth Army could do. The 10 Corps would have to fight through the two major mountain passes to the Naples plain, where General McCreery might commit armor to capture Naples and drive north to the Volturno. The VI Corps would have to make a flanking movement through the mountains on the right, use the two roads in its zone to cut the east-west highway, Route 7, from Naples through Avellino to Teora, and keep contact with Eighth Army on the right.

This was what General Clark ordered. Placing the 82nd Airborne and 36th Divisions in army reserve, the 36th prepared for commitment, if necessary, against Naples, he instructed the 10 Corps to make the main effort to secure the Vietri-Nocera and Salerno-San Severino passes and push on to the plain for a drive on Naples, while the VI Corps plunged into the interior with two divisions to seize the Ave Uino-Montemarano-Teora line. General Alexander imposed one restriction: Fifth Army was to keep its right flank in close touch with the Eighth Army. The rate of the British army advance would thus determine in part the speed of American progress.

The Flanking March

The new VI Corps operation started on 20 September, when General Middleton’s 45th Division on the right, already through Eboli , moved toward Oliveto, ten miles away, and General Truscott’s 3rd Division began to move through Battipaglia toward Acerno, a dozen miles distant. On that day Major General John P. Lucas took command of the VI Corps. He had commanded the 3rd Division at Fort Lewis, Washington, had been a War Department observer in North Africa early in 1943, and had commanded III Corps at fort McPherson, Georgia. In May 1943, sent by General Marshall to North Africa again , this time to help General Eisenhower keep in touch with the com bat troops, General Lucas became in Eisenhower’s words, his “American Deputy.” Characterized by Marshall as having “military stature, prestige, and experience,” Lucas in early September replaced General Bradley as commander of II Corps in Sicily. From there he went to the Salerno beachhead.

General Lucas was a firm believer in making maximum use of artillery to speed his advance and reduce American casualties. But artillery could not solve his problems north of Salerno. The German delaying forces proved elusive in the mountainous terrain of the VI Corps zone, ground penetrated only by secondary roads with steep grades, innumerable switchbacks, and bridges difficult to bypass. Although resistance was not always strong or stubborn, the German delaying action was exceptionally well organized. Machine guns and small artillery emplacements were cleverly concealed, and units in the rear and on higher ground protected them by small arms fire. To advance, American infantry had to work slowly up the slopes and outflank the rear guard detachments.

By then the Germans had usually broken contact and withdrawn to the next prepared delaying position. The 3rd and 40th Divisions on 21 September ran into opposition that held up their advance guards for a day. A destroyed bridge covered by riflemen and machine gunners stationed on the opposite side of a gorge stopped the 3rd Division just south of Acerno. and it took cross-country marches through the mountains for the leading regiment to disperse the enemy and occupy the town. Similarly, before the advance regiment of the 15th Division could take Oliveto, it had to outflank positions defending the town and mount an organized assault.

Relying heavily on demolitions to delay the Americans, the Germans destroyed more than twenty-five bridges between Paestum and Oliveto. To repair the bridges or construct bypasses was time consuming, even with the invaluable Bailey bridge-“a knock-down steel bridge Which is put together like a boy’s E rector Set and is then pushed out across the span to be bridged.” Any hope for a rapid advance soon faded, although the engineers, on whom a great part of the burden of the advance fell, performed epic feats. “There was no weapon more valuable than the engineer bulldozer,” 2nd Lieutenant Ernest Childers, though he had fractured his instep, led eight men up a hill near Oliveto toward two German machine gun positions; while his men covered his advance, he crawled to one and destroyed it with a grenade, then crawled to the other, where he threw rocks until the gunners raised their heads. whereupon he killed them with rifle fire. Corporal James D. Slaton, lead scout of an infantry squad. eliminated three machine gun positions with bayonet, rifle fire. and a grenade. There by making it possible for two assault platoons to advance to objectives near Oliveto. Both Childers and Slaton were awarded the “Medal of Honor.” General Truscott later wrote, “no soldiers more effective than the engineerswho moved us forward.”

The American mechanized forces for the most part fought the terrain rather than the enemy. The high, steep banks along the narrow roads prevented proper deployment of vehicles; canals, irrigation ditches, and streams hindered movement; thick foliage impeded visibility; and debris from shelled buildings blocked the narrow streets in the villages. As a result, the artillery, tank destroyers, and tanks were often a liability rather than an asset.

Battle became a matter of infantry maneuver by small units operating with a minimum of support. The normal method of advance was by regiment, along a road, with a small advance party on foot accompanied by a few vehicles transporting weapons, ammunition, and communications. The troops brushed aside light resistance. When halted by larger forces, usually defending at an obstruction, for example a demolished bridge, the regiment kept one battalion on the axis of advance to maintain contact and protect the deployment of artillery, while the other battalions took to the hills to outflank the enemy position.

When the enemy was dispersed and the site was clear of small arms fire, engineers removed any other obstacles and built a bypass or repaired the bridge. The advance then began again, generally with another regiment taking the lead.

It was difficult for some to understand why progress was so slow. Air force commanders, for example, were impatient because they wanted to establish air units on the fields in the Naples area. General Clark also showed impatience, for he looked to VI Corps to outflank Naples and loosen the German hold on the port area. “Absolutely essential,” he told General Lucas on 24 September, “that they [Middleton and Truscott] continue full speed ahead in order to influence decisively our attack on Naples.” Not much could be done. The same problems hampered progress beyond Ceerno and Oliveto on the roads, respectively, to Montemarano and Teora. The terrain channeled mechanized movements to the few narrow roads. Bridging material became critically short. The delaying actions of only a few German detachments slowed the advance out of all proportion to the number of German troops actually involved. The additional requirement imposed on the 45th Division, to keep contact on the right with the Eighth Army, also retarded the advance by making necessary extensive patrolling on the flank.

Keeping supplies flowing to the front became a nightmare. For example, in advancing beyond Acerno, the 3rd Division had two regiments in column, the leading one attacking along the road, while the men of the third regiment moved on foot across trackless mountains. To keep the third regiment supplied with food and ammunition, General Truscott had his engineers cut a trail for pack animals, no mean achievement. Fortunately, the division had formed a provisional pack train in Sicily and had brought its mules and drivers to the mainland.

When it was apparent that mules would be necessary to insure supply movements, General Clark began to look into the possibility of obtaining pack animals for the other Fifth Army divisions, which required a minimum of 1,000 animals. Only a few were available [rom local sources and from Sicily and North Africa. As divisions scoured the countryside for enough animals to organize pack train units of 300 to 500 beasts per division, corps and army headquarters requested overseas shipments from the United States. Equipment and feed for the animals were additional requirements hard to come by. Within a month, however, even though the Germans had slaughtered mules they could not take with them, each Fifth Army division had acquired a collection of nondescript beasts of burden, as well as gear of all descriptions-shoes, nails, halters, and saddles. Soldiers who knew how to take care of the animals became precious assets.

From the vantage point of the corps headquarters, General Lucas thought operations were going well-so well that he looked forward to fighting in more open country where he could use tanks. He found the dust on the roads a “terrible problem,” but probably, he philosophized, no worse than rain and mud.

Part of the 34th Division was becoming available for commitment between the 3rd and 45th Divisions, but Lucas was unable to see how he could possibly employ additional troops-how could he supply two divisions over one available road?

General Lucas’ outlook suddenly changed on 26 September-“everything has gone to hell,” he wrote in his diary. The road in front of the 3rd Division was blocked by three destroyed bridges, one go feet long, one 85 feet long, the third 125 feet long. Yet here too Lucas could see the silver lining-at least the infantry would get some rest while engineers repaired the damage.

General Clark visited General Lucas on the morning of 26 September to tell him he wanted Avellino. About twenty miles north of Salerno and twenty-five miles east of Naples, Avellino was on the main Foggia-Naples road. Seizure of Avellino, which Lucas called “the key to the situation,” would threaten to outflank the German defenders of Naples.

Since the 3rd Division would have to fight across roadless mountains to get to Avellino, Lucas tried to get part of the 34th Division forward. If the 133rd Infantry, which was ashore in its entirety, could reach the front that night, perhaps it could get within immediate striking distance of Avellino. And that, as Lucas understood the situation, would take the pressure off the British who were attacking through the Sorrento ridge and “seem rather badly stuck.”

The 34th Division commander, General Ryder, had lunch with General Lucas on the 26th and they discussed the complicated arrangements required to move the 133rd Infantry forward. The regiment, using only blackout lights, would have to travel over a narrow mountain road on a dark night, through thick dust, while supply trucks were using the same road to go in the opposite direction; it would then have to pass through the 45th Division. If the 133rd Infantry could reach Montemarano, the regiment could drive west along the main road toward Avellino and not only help the 3rd Division but also begin to threaten Naples from the east. What made the attempt particularly worthwhile was the fact that the 3rd and 45th Divisions had that day temporarily lost contact with the withdrawing Germans.

On the night of the 26th, despite a heavy rain that washed out several of the mountain bridges engineers had so laboriously constructed and also carried dirt and rocks down the mountains and across the roads in many places, the 133rd Infantry moved in seventy 2-1/2-ton trucks to an assembly area not far from Montemarano. One of the units in the regiment was the 100th Infantry Battalion, composed originally of Japanese Americans from Hawaii; it had replaced the 2nd Battalion of the 133rd Infantry, which remained in Algiers as AFHQ security guard.

While the regiment prepared on 27 September for commitment, the 45th and 3rd Divisions inched painfully forward over difficult ground to get into position for a converging attack on Avellino. To help the engineers, who were nearing exhaustion, General Lucas dispatched corps engineers to the division area. And to insure a flow of supply to the combat troops because he feared that more rain might wash out more bridges, he moved supply dumps well forward, far closer to the front than normal. On the immediate approaches to Avellino, the VI Corps re-established contact with the Germans on 28 September. The 3rd Division and 133rd Infantry prepared to assault the German defenses blocking entrance into the town. But when “it rained like hell all night,” the plans went awry. The roads became impassable. “Am running this thing on a shoestring,” General Lucas wrote in his diary, “and a thin little shoestring at that.”

When on 29 September General Alexander removed the restriction that had held the advance of the Fifth Army right flank to the progress of Montgomery’s Eighth Army, he gave General Clark another objective. “You should get Benevento early,” the army group commander directed. This objective, about fifteen miles north of Avellino, changed General Lucas’ plans. Sending the 3rd Division alone against Avellino, Lucas ordered the 133rd Infantry to cut the Avellino-Benevento highway and sent the 45th Division directly against Benevento itself.

While the 133rd Infantry and the 45th Division drove generally north, the 3rd Division on 30 September took Avellino, then turned westward toward 10 Corps. Truscott’s troops had just come through sixty miles of mountainous terrain and the men were tired, “but there can be no stopping to rest now.” German opposition was extremely light, sometimes nonexistent, evidence that the Germans were again retiring. Their hold on Naples had been loosened. and before they could dig in on new defenses, they had to be driven to the Volturno River.

The Main Effort

The main effort against Naples was carried by the British 10 Corps, which made a 2-day shift of forces to the left to mark the transition from the battle of the Salerno beachhead to the drive on Naples. By moving the 46th Division to Vietri and the 56th Division to Salerno, General McCreery relinquished the Battipaglia-Eboli area to the VI Corps and permitted the Americans to come abreast and start their flanking march through the mountains. He also placed his infantry divisions in position to attack through the two major passes of the Sorrento hill mass-the Vietri-Nocera and Salerno-San Severino roads. Once the infantry divisions were through the Sorrento barrier and on the Naples plain, he hoped to pass the 7th Armoured Division through the 46th at Nocera for the final strike toward NapIes. The U.S. Rangers on the left were to assist.

General McCreery had looked for a quick way of getting through the high ground of the Sorrento peninsula when the Germans retired from the Battipaglia area on 18 September and air reconnaissance showed definite German movement to the north. He thought he might be able to send the Rangers through a third and smaller pass, the Maiori-Pagani road through the Chiunzi pass. If the Rangers could secure Pagani, a suburb of Nocera, and could hold dominating ground nearby. they might open the Vietri pass for the 46th Division. With this in mind, McCreery attached to Darby’s command a mobile regimental force, the 2nd Armoured Brigade, which was to debouch on the plain of Naples for operations in conjunction with the troops emerging from the Nocera defile.

The Rangers had been considerably reinforced even before the attachment of the armored brigade. To the three Ranger battalions had been added a battalion of the 143rd Infantry, a battalion (less a company) of the 325th Glider Infantry, and tank, tank destroyer, artillery, and 4.2-inch mortar elements. On 20 September General Clark further attached to Darby’s command the rest of the glider regiment, a battalion (less a company) of the 504th Parachute Infantry, and additional artillery and signal troops. Darby thus had about 8,500 troops under his command.

Even with these reinforcements, Colonel Darby could only hold the ground he had already seized. Operating from positions over 4,000 feet high, where a good part of the command could do little more than carry rations and ammunition for the others, the Rangers were thinly spread over a large area on the precipitous slopes high above the Gulf of Salerno. Darby’s troops were less than three miles from Castellammare on the Gulf of Naples-on the northern shore of the Sorrento peninsula-but plans to attack and capture this port were shelved because of German strength.

Abandoning his hope for a quick penetration through the Chiunzi pass, General McCreery relied instead on power. The 46th Division would make the main effort on the Vietri-Nocera axis while the 56th Division launched a subsidiary attack along the Salerno-San Severino road and the reinforced Rangers engaged the Germans in the Nocera-Scafati area and reconnoitered river crossings near Scafati. The 7th Armoured Division was to pass through the 46th Division at Nocera and capture high ground near Pagani, earlier designated as a Ranger objective. When Clark talked to McCreery about continuing his advance to the Volturno even as he drove to Naples, he suggested that the Rangers, after helping to seize Naples, could police the city until relieved by the 82nd Airborne Division. which would then be responsible for restoring and maintaining order.

The 10 Corps attack jumped off at first light, 23 September. What happened in one pass had little effect on the action in the others. Only a few miles interposed between lines of departure and emergence onto the plain of Naples, but in the narrow defiles. flanked by steep hillsides. the Germans defended stubbornly. The 56th Division made hardly any progress. The 10th Division with very heavy artillery support. gained less than a mile. The Rangers moved forward very little.

After several days of attack, it became obvious that the 10 Corps would need reinforcement, and General Clark began to move units of the 82nd Airborne Division by truck and by landing craft to the Sorrento peninsula. Except for Company G, 325th Glider Infantry, which was occupying the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples, the units of General Ridgway’s division in Italy were assembled on 26 September. Ridgway took control of the Rangers and all units attached to them; his forces totaled about 13,000 troops-including 600 Rangers, 1,700 men of the 23rd Armoured Brigade, and supporting personnel. He placed the forces in the eastern part of his division zone under Colonel Darby, the forces in the western part under Colonel James M. Gavin, who commanded the 505th Parachute Infantry. Ridgway’s first report indicated “no substantial contact” with the enemy.

With the mission of helping the 46th Division by seizing dominating ground in the Egidio-Sala area to permit the 23rd Armoured Brigade to debouch on the plain, Ridgway planned to attack on 27 September at dusk, This would give his troops all night to secure a bridgehead across a small mountain stream between Sala and Egidio, prepare bridges and fords, and get am on the plain around Pagani before daylight. If the attack started to move and needed additional impetus, a regiment of the 36th Division. which was being readied by General O’Daniel, was prepared to land at Torre Annunziata, a dozen miles south of Naples.

The amphibious hook proved unnecessary. Vietinghoff, who had established his first line across the Italian mainland, was pulling back to it according to schedule. On the night of 27 September, the 82nd Airborne Division jumped off, making its main effort through the Chiunzi pass. The troops met only light opposition and reached the Maples plain by morning. Their progress helped the 46th Division move three miles, Although the 46th was still several miles short of Nocera, the terrain was such that McCreery could commit the 7th Armoured Division through the infantry. With British tanks then approaching Nocera and American infantry of the VI Corps at this point threatening Vellino, the Germans fell back from San Severino and permitted the 56th Division to advance north from Salerno. On 28 September, the 23rd Armoured Brigade came through the Chiumi pass and made contact with the advance units of the armored division.

General McCreery directed the 7th Armoured Division to drive west and secure bridgeheads across the Sarno River at Scafati. Once across the river, the main body of the armored division, as to skirt Mount Vesuvius on the east and north and drive to the Volturno at Capua while the other elements and the 23rd Armoured Brigade took the coastal road to Naples. If the Germans had left Naples, the smaller force was to skirt the city on the east and drive north along the coast to the Volturno, leaving the occupation of Naples to the 82nd Airborne Division.

Opposition was scattered, but the westward drive toward Scafati and the Sarno River across the Naples plain, which was covered with fruit trees and had many villages, posed its problems. Confined to a single road, the 7th Armoured Division was extended over fifty-five miles. Unable to deploy satisfactorily, the tankers found it difficult to clear the villages and the thickly wooded country. When foliage covered tank turrets, the tankers became virtually blind. Concerned about traffic congestion, particularly at bridges. McCreery warned his commanders to keep their troops well in hand.

Early on 20 September the 7th Armoured Division seized the bridge at Scafati intact, although the other bridges across the Sarno had been destroyed. That day heavy rain and demolitions rather than active enemy opposition held back the armor. In order to bring up the tail of some 7,000 vehicles still in the Salerno area, the division constructed three bridges across the river. The roads, in the words of one report, became “literally packed” with traffic as the corps moved beyond the restricting barrier of the Sorrento hill mass. That evening patrols of the 23rd Armoured Brigade and American paratroopers swept past the ruins of Pompeii and entered Torre Annunziata.

General McCreery had planned to protect his right flank by holding back the 56th Division, once it was through the San Severino pass. But when the VI Corps took Avellino on 20 September and thereby cut the Salerno-Avellino highway, McCreery dispatched the entire division to the north.

A German rear guard held up the advance along the coastal road to Naples on the evening of 20 September but not for long. On the following clay, as opposition melted away, British troops went through the eastern outskirts of Naples and continued up the coastal road to the Volturno. The 82nd Airborne Division moved into Naples on 1 October, followed next day by the Rangers.

After meeting the U.S. 3rd Division on 2 October, the 56th Division swung northwest and together with the 7th Armoured Division, against decreasing resistance, marched through Caserta toward the Volturno River in the Capua area. Tanks and vehicles moved in closely packed columns. Three days later patrols were at the Volturno, and by 7 October the 10 Corps had closed to the river in strength.

By then the VI Corps was also at the Volturno. The 3rd Division had moved through Cancello and Maddaloni and patrols arrived at the river above Capua by 6 October. The 45th Division on 2 October had captured Benevento, which was by then no more than a mass of rubble smelling of the bodies buried under the masonry. Crossing the damaged but usable Benevento bridge that had been seized by the 133rd Infantry, the 45th moved during the next few days toward the river. The 36th Division, having arrived in Italy in entirety, marched to Montesarchio in the rear of the 3rd Division; Lucas hoped to keep its presence hidden for the moment from the Germans.

By the end of the first week of October, the Fifth Army stood at the Volturno, with Naples and its satellite ports captured, the airfields of Capodichino and Pomigliano in hand. Holding a firm base “for further offensive operations,” General Clark hoped to get across the Volturno at once and continue into the next phase of the Italian campaign. When he talked with General Lucas on 3 October about future operations, he expected the 10 Corps to be pulled out soon for assignment to the Eighth Army, while the U.S. II Corps headquarters came from Sicily to operate in the coastal area. Clark decided that the VI Corps would remain in the mountainous interior of Italy: “You know how to fight in the mountains,” he told Lucas. Maybe he did, Lucas observed, but he had had all of it he wanted already.


Like Garibaldi, the Allies had needed three weeks to get to Naples; one more week and they were at the Volturno, bringing Operation AVALANCHE to an end. The cost of establishing a beachhead at Salerno, which had taken eleven days, of capturing Naples, which had required ten more days, and of advancing to the Volturno was more than 12,000 British and American casualties, of whom approximately 2,000 were killed, 7,000 wounded, and 3,500 missing.

The prize of the operation, the city of Naples, was utterly destroyed. Allied bombing had flattened industrial Naples into a mass of rubble and twisted girders. More systematically, the Germans, too, had taken their toll. They had destroyed or removed all transportation facilities, blasted communications installations, knocked out water and power systems, and broken open sewer mains. They had demolished bridges, mined buildings, fired stockpiles of coal, burned hotels and university buildings, looted the city, ripped lip the port railroads, and choked the harbor with sunken ships and the wreckage of port installations.

It would be no easy task to establish a military base in a shattered city inhabited by hungry, unemployed people. German artillery continued to shell Naples for several days after its capture; half the population of 800,000 had fled into the countryside and those remaining had had little food for nearly ten days. The Allies would need three months to restore city life to conditions approaching normal, somewhat less time to set up a military base.

The task of restoration belonged to the Fifth Army Base Section, which was re-designated at the end of October as the Peninsular Base Section. A logistical command formed to support Fifth Army operations, the base section moved into Naples on 2 October and functioned as an advance communications zone. Although the headquarters had somewhat fewer than 600 men, it eventually directed the administration and operations of more than 33,000 assigned and attached personnel.

AFHQ had provided shipments of food for the civilian population, but in order to get the ships unloaded and the supplies distributed, the city and port had first to be cleaned up. Two engineer regiments, the 540th and 343rd, assisted by Italian laborers, cleared the streets of obstructions at more than two hundred separate locations, mended breaks in the sewers at some fifty places, and repaired the Napoleonic aqueduct, the major source of water for the city. In mid-October three Italian submarines put in and anchored at Naples to give power for pumping water in an ingenious scheme that used a trolley substation as another part of the improvised system.

In the midst of the work, a delayed fuze bomb exploded in the post office around noon, 7 October, killing and injuring about 35 soldiers and an equal number of civilians. Four days later an exploding bomb or mine in an Italian Army barracks occupied by members of the 82nd Airborne Division killed 18 men and injured 50. Beginning on 21 October, a series of German air raids struck the city. Although the air attacks were neither frequent nor particularly severe, they inflicted casualties on both troops and civilians.

By far the largest task was rehabilitating the port, which had sustained the worst destruction. Thirty major wrecks were visible in the Naples harbor, but beneath the surface the hulls of more than a hundred scuttled and sunken ships ranging in size from small harbor craft to large ocean-going liners blocked the wharfs-destroyers, tankers, tugs, sloops, corvettes, trawlers, floating cranes, tank barges. Most of the vessels had been reduced to junk before sinking. On top of them the Germans had piled lighters, cranes, locomotives, trucks, loads of ammunition, oxygen bottles, and small arms. Of seventy-three electric cranes at dockside, only one remained standing and that was badly damaged. Charges exploded under the pier cranes had blown them into the harbor and smashed the quay walls. The piers and wharves had been turned into a mass of twisted steel and debris. Harbor warehouses, grain elevators, office buildings, and railroad facilities had been dynamited into piles of ruin. Huge mountains of coal were burning.

It took three days just to extinguish the fires burning in the piles of coal. Meanwhile, Army engineers cleared passages from the city to the piers, bulldozing alleys to gain access to the port. They repaired railroads and opened truck routes. With dynamite, bulldozer, crane, and shovel, they filled craters, hacked roads through debris, cleared docks, and leveled buildings for storage space. On the fifth day of work, the first engine ran from the railroad yard along the main line of the port to Pier A.

During the same period of time, American and British naval groups were dragging mines and wreckage from the waterways and cleaning the piers to make them accessible from the ocean side. Divers, hampered by thick fuel oil covering the water, floating wreckage, and submerged cranes, worked on the underwater obstacles, while naval salvage crews removed the smaller sunken craft in order to open passageways to berthing spaces for ships waiting outside the harbor to be discharged. Larger vessels that had been scuttled adjacent to piers were left in place, and the piers were extended across the wrecks with steel and wooden bridging to provide eventual berthing for 26 Liberty ships, 0 coasters, and 11 LST’s.

While rehabilitation and restoration continued, a fleet of DUKW’s brought supplies from transports anchored offshore. As early as 3 October, landing craft were docking at berths scattered throughout the port. On 1 October a Liberty ship pulled bow-to against a pier and unloaded front hatches, then backed out, turned, and came in stern first to complete unloading. Not long afterward, berths for Liberty ships, 6 for coasters, and 8 holding berths were opened.

Two weeks after the capture of Naples, the Allies were unloading 3,500 tons of cargo daily at the port, not quite half of the average 8,000 tons discharged per day before the war. By the end of October, with about 600 DUKW’s being used in port operations, Naples was receiving 7,000 tons daily. All American and some British supplies were coming into Naples, while additional items for 10 Corps were being unloaded at the satellite ports of Salerno, Torre Annunziata, and Castellammare. Discharging operations across the Salerno beaches were also providing cargo tonnages. Between 9 September and 1 October, more than 190,000 troops came ashore, around 30,000 vehicles were landed, and about 120,000 tons of supplies were unloaded by an average daily employment of 60 LCT’s, 30 LCM’s, and 150 DUKW’S. This success was achieved despite a violent, 2-day wind and rain storm starting during the night of 27 September, which stopped all unloading. During the storm all the LCI’s and LCVP’s in use, a total of 56, plus 21 LGT’s, 3 LST’s, and a merchant ship were driven ashore; 1 British LST’s, seeking shelter in un-cleared offshore waters were badly damaged by mines; and all of the double pontoon bridge unloading ramps were swamped.

Despite the remarkable and somewhat surprising tonnages un loaded over the beaches, in the satellite pons, and in the restored harbor of Naples, supply levels in the army dumps diminished. Ships at Naples, for example, were bursting with rations, but on 6 October the Fifth Army had only four days’ supply. Millions of cigarettes were awaiting discharge, but troops received only an occasional issue of tobacco. By 12 October, gasoline levels had Sunk to three days’ supply on hand. This condition came about because of the difficulty of transporting supplies to the forward areas. Demolitions at bridges and culverts, an inadequate road network.

and the limited use fullness of the railroads clogged the roads with traffic and overworked the limited number of trucks ashore. Repairing the railroad from Naples to Caserta took longer than anticipated, and not until mid-November was the line opened for traffic along the entire road. The Germans had also destroyed at Naples the petroleum storage tanks that had a capacity of 1 million barrels. They had ripped lip pipelines and turned unloading machinery into a mass of scrap iron. Thus, it was the end of October, after storage tanks capable of holding 100,000 barrels had been repaired, before tankers could unload directly into the storage facilities. Only then could work start on a pipeline from the port to the front.

By the end of October the Peninsular Base Section had rehabilitated the facilities in the Naples area to the extent that Fifth Army could anticipate with confidence firm logistical support for further operations.


On the other side of the Italian peninsula, Eighth Army had sent advance elements, with almost no enemy contact, to Foggia. which the Germans had abandoned on 27 September. By 1 October British troops were occupying Foggia and the nearby airfields.

To clear the Germans from the hills north and west of the Foggia plain and to reach the lateral Vinchiatnro-Termoli road near the Biferno River, General Montgomery sent 10 Corps beyond Foggia on a 2-division drive, the 78th Division moving on the coastal road to Termoli. the 1st Canadian Division striking inland through the mountains along the road to Vinchiattlro. The 5 Corps followed, protecting the west flank and the rear.

Since the 1st Parachute Division had withdrawn to the Birerno River. Where the paratroopers dug in, elements of the 78th Division had no trouble until they approached the river and reached the outskirts of Tennoli. There they met serious resistance. Launching a quick amphibious strike to secure the small port of Termoli, General Montgomery dispatched Commando forces, which were ferried by LCI (L) ‘s from Sicily, to the town. The Commandos gained surprise by landing during the night of 2 October and soon captured and cleared Termoli. However, their hold on the beachhead remained somewhat precarious until a brigade of the 78th Division came by water to Termoli on the following night.

The capture of Termoli invalidated the Biferno defensive line, and the enemy reaction was swift. The 16th Panzer Division rushed from the west coast, arrived at Termoli on 4 October, and counterattacked on the 4th, 5th, and 6th, striking not only the Termoli beachhead defenders but also the main British forces coming up the coastal road.

Flood waters of the river interfered with British bridging operations and prevented tanks and heavy supporting weapons from making firm contact with the beachhead. But on 7 October, when an additional brigade of the 78th Division was transported to Termoli by sea, the Germans disengaged and fell back to positions covering the Trigno River, the next natural line of defense. Logistical difficulties prevented an immediate British pursuit.

Meanwhile, after hard fighting in the mountains, the Canadians took Vinchiaturo. A paucity of supplies, particularly of gasoline. prevented further progress. Because the two divisions had advanced on divergent lines, General Montgomery reorganized his front on 9 October.

The 5 Corps took over the coastal area and assumed control not only of the 78th Division but also of the 8th Indian Division, which was assembling in the rear. The 13 Corps operated inland with the 1st Canadian Division and the 5th Division in column. The 2nd New Zealand Division, due to arrive in Taranto by mid-October, Montgomery decided to hold initially in army reserve.

By 11 October, with Eighth Army at Termoli and Vinchiaturo, the Foggia airfields were secure. As the air forces made ready to base heavy bombers on the fields for attacks against targets in Austria, southern Germany. and the Balkans, the invasion of southern Italy came to an end. With the Fifth Army standing at the Volturno River and the Eighth Army able to move beyond the Biferno toward the Trigno River, the Allies were on the Italian mainland to stay. The question of how far to go up the Italian peninsula was unclear debate.

SOURCE: SALERNO TO CASSINO; by Martin Blumenson (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Italy; Winter Campaign; The Strategy (ISC-3-11)

World War Two: Italy; Salerno; End of the Battle (ISC-2-9)

World War Two: Biak: Frustration at Mokmer Drome (AP-14)

Reinforcements for the 186th Infantry – Japanese Reactions to the Westward Advance: During its advance west from the surveyed drome, the 186th Infantry had met little opposition after 2 June. While it is inconceivable that the Biak Detachment had not anticipated the possibility of an American flanking maneuver through the inland plateau, there are many possible explanations for the failure of the Japanese to oppose this movement strongly after the initial battle at the surveyed drome. Colonel Kuzume and General Numata had reason to believe that the Americans might make an amphibious attack at Mokmer Drome.

Small craft of engineer and artillery units attached to the HURRICANE Task Force continuously patrolled along the coast west of Bosnek to Sorido, and Seventh Fleet fire support vessels kept up harassing fires on all known and suspected enemy installations in the airfield area. Therefore, the Biak Detachment kept the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, and most of the armed service personnel immobilized on the low ridge and terraces north of Mokmer Drome and at the West Caves. Colonel Kuzume’s principal responsibility was the defense of the airfields. While the best defense is usually a good offense and while it is often more sensible to defend an area from a distance, the Biak Detachment had strength neither to launch a large-scale offensive nor to defend every approach to the airfields. The attacks against the 162nd Infantry on 28 and 29 May had resulted in the loss of most of the Biak Detachment’s armor and had cost the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, many casualties, including its commander. Colonel Kuzume could ill afford any more such Pyrrhic victories.

The 1st Battalion, 222nd Infantry, had made no serious attempt to stop the 186th Infantry’s progress westward because the inland plateau was nearly indefensible and because the battalion would have been decimated in battle with the superior strength of the reinforced American regiment. The 1st Battalion was withdrawn from the surveyed drome area on 2 June, initially in preparation for counterattack against the Bosnek beachhead. While no such counteroffensive was mounted, the withdrawal of the 1st Battalion at least had the advantage of keeping the unit intact.

Upon the arrival of the 186th Infantry at Mokmer Drome, the 1st Battalion, 222nd Infantry, began moving back to the West Caves area, after a long march through the jungle and rising ground north of the inland plateau. Colonel Kuzume and Headquarters, Biak Detachment, reached the West Caves during the night of 9-10 June, and the 1st Battalion began closing in the same area the next day. On the evening of 9 June, General Numata transferred the control of further operations on Biak to Colonel Kuzume. The general left next day for Korim Bay, whence he was evacuated by seaplane and returned to the 2nd Area Army’s command post at Manado, in the Celebes.

Colonel Kuzume knew that as long as he could hold the low ridge and terrace north of Mokmer Drome, he could prevent the HURRICANE Task Force from repairing and using that field or Borokoe and Sorido Dromes. To conduct his defense he had under his control north of Mokmer Drome by the evening of 10 June the remaining elements of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 222nd Infantry, totalling about 1,200 men; most of his armed service troops; the bulk of the 19th Naval Guard Unit; and most of the field and antiaircraft artillery pieces, mortars, and automatic weapons still serviceable. Some naval troops and a 222nd Infantry mortar unit manned the East Caves positions, while the 3rd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, remained isolated at the Ibdi Pocket. Even without the Ibdi Pocket and East Caves groups, the Biak Detachment was well disposed to conduct a stubborn defense of the airfields, as the HURRICANE Task Force was soon to learn.

The Decision to Reinforce the: 186th Infantry

On the morning of 8 June the 186th Infantry consolidated its positions around Mokmer Drome and cleared a number of small caves on a coral shelf located along the water line.2 At 0830 the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, started to move east to rejoin its parent regiment. The battalion had marched scarcely 800 yards east of Mokmer Drome when it was pinned down by Japanese automatic weapons and mortar fire from the East Caves. Finally, the 81-mm. mortars of Company D, 186th Infantry, from emplacements near Sboeria, stopped enough of the Japanese fire to permit the 2nd Battalion to push on. Company G, 186th Infantry, was sent northeast from Mokmer Drome to find the source of the Japanese fire and to protect the left of the 162nd Infantry’s Battalion. The latter dug in for the night only a few yards east of the point where it had first halted, while the 186th Infantry’s company set up defenses on the main ridge north of the East Caves.

Japanese mortar fire fell into the area held by the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, intermittently throughout the night. Many minor casualties occurred until, toward morning, the battalion’s 81-mm. mortars succeeded in silencing most of the enemy weapons. Japanese from the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, harassed the battalion rear all night, and small parties made abortive attacks from the north. All these Japanese groups were beaten back with mortar, machine gun, and rifle fire, and during the scattered firing the new commander of the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, was killed.

[n14-3 Company H, 162nd Infantry (the heavy machine guns and 81-mm. mortars), had not gone over Young Man’s Trail with the 2nd Battalion on 2 June but had rejoined the battalion on the inland plateau]

On the west flank the 3rd Battalion, 186th Infantry, also had some trouble during the night. Shortly after dark, Japanese mortar fire began falling on the elements of the battalion dug in north of the coastal road, and later this fire shifted to the battalion positions south of the road. By either accident or design, a number of native dogs, running around and barking outside the battalion perimeter, helped the Japanese locate the unit’s lines and, about 2100, as the enemy mortar fire moved eastward, troops of the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, attacked from the west and northwest. A few Japanese managed to infiltrate the battalion’s outposts and several American soldiers were bayoneted before the battalion’s 60-mm. mortars, together with machine gun and rifle fire, broke up the Japanese attack.

The Japanese continued to harass the perimeter until 0530. Japanese losses were 42 counted dead, while the 3rd Battalion, 186th Infantry, lost 8 killed and 20 wounded. Total casualties for the 186th Infantry and attached units during the night were 13 men killed and 38 wounded.

On the morning of 9 June Company B, 186th Infantry, was sent from the beachhead to a point on the low ridge directly north of the center of Mokmer Drome to clear that ridge westward 1,200 yards and secure the point at which a motor road ran northwestward over the ridge. It soon became evident that the company was trying to bite off more than it could chew. Hardly had the leading platoon arrived atop the low ridge than it was pinned down by Japanese machine gun fire and then almost surrounded by Japanese infantry.

When Japanese patrols threatened the rear of the company, all elements were withdrawn 400 yards south to set up a new base, from which patrols moved along the foot of the ridge in an attempt to determine the extent of the enemy’s defenses. Results were inconclusive, and at dusk the unit moved back to the beachhead. It could report only that the low ridge was strongly held. Meanwhile, another company patrolled northeast to the point at which the regiment had crossed the main ridge, and established contact there with units of the 163rd Infantry, which had pushed over the inland plateau behind the 186th. Tank-infantry patrols were sent west along the beach from Sboeria. A few bunkers and some small ammunition dumps were destroyed, but few Japanese troops were seen and there was no opposition. On the east flank, Japanese fire from the East Caves again kept the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, immobilized. Patrolling by elements of the 162nd, 163rd, and 186th Infantry Regiments in the East Caves area was productive of little information concerning the location of the principal Japanese positions.

[NOTE: on or about 5 June, after it had marched overland from Ibdi, through Opiaref, and west along the inland road the original commander of the Japanese unit had been killed in action on the coast at the end of May.]

On 10 June the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, sent two companies to the point on the low ridge where Company B had been halted the previous afternoon. Despite artillery support, the two units could make little progress and were themselves pinned down about 1030. Japanese rifle and mortar fire was silenced by the 1st Battalion’s 60-mm. mortars, but the Japanese continued to pour machine gun fire from a number of bunkers and pillboxes which proved impervious to bazooka and 75-mm. tank fire. The units withdrew while more artillery fire was placed along the low ridge. On the east flank, enemy fire from the East Caves had died down, and the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was able to move on eastward. But before that battalion had gone very far, and before the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, could mount another attack against the low ridge, Headquarters, HURRICANE Task Force, had evolved a new plan of operations. During the period 7-10 June little progress had been made in securing the Mokmer Drome area, and aviation engineers, brought forward by water from Bosnek on the 9th and 10th, had so far been unable to work on the strip because it was still exposed to Japanese fire from the low ridge and terrace north of the field. General Fuller had therefore decided to throw two infantry regiments against the enemy defenses north of the field. For this purpose the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was returned to regimental control, and the remainder of the 162nd Infantry started westward from the Parai area toward Mokmer Drome.

The 162nd Infantry Moves to Mokmer Drome

While the 186th Infantry had been driving to the airfield over the inland plateau, the 162nd Infantry, less the 2nd Battalion, and with Company A, 186th Infantry, attached, had been attempting to move westward in a co-ordinated drive along the coastal road. This attempt had not proved successful, for Japanese opposition at the Ibdi Pocket and the Parai Defile kept the 162nd Infantry tied up.

On 7 June, when the 186th Infantry reached Mokmer Drome, it became a matter of urgency to open an overland line of communications to the airfield area. The 186th Infantry could be supplied overwater with some difficulty, but overland movement was faster and more efficient. Therefore General Fuller initially decided to outflank the enemy’s positions in the Parai Defile by a drive from west to east along the cliffs above the road through the defile. For this purpose two companies of the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, were to be transported overwater from Ibdi to the Parai Jetty, whence they were to drive east in conjunction with a westward push by the rest of the battalion.

On 7 June the proposed landing area at Parai Jetty (but not the jetty itself) was subjected to artillery and naval preparation fires. Three LVT (A)’s and eighteen LVT’s picked up Companies I and K (reinforced) at the 3rd Battalion position. They moved far out in the stream to avoid enemy mortar or artillery fire and, at 1315, started moving inshore toward the jetty. The first wave was delayed when two LVT’s stuck on the reef fronting Parai, and the first amphibian tractors did not reach the beach until 1420.

Fifteen minutes later, both the reinforced companies were ashore. As soon as the two companies landed they came under fire from Japanese weapons in the East Caves and along the ridge between that position and the Parai Defile. They then called for reinforcements. The Cannon Company arrived at the jetty about 1610 and six tanks of the 603rd Tank Company reached the area about 1730. Patrols were then sent into the Parai Defile, meeting opposition which steadily increased as they moved eastward.

A concerted drive could not be organized before dark, and plans had to be made to continue the attack on the morrow. Meanwhile, General Fuller had evolved his plan to move all the 162nd Infantry to the Mokmer Drome area. By this time it had become evident that the 1st Battalion had isolated the principal remaining enemy strong points in the Ibdi Pocket and the task force commander had decided to leave only one company as a holding force in that area to prevent the Japanese from cutting the coastal road. The remainder of the 1st and 3rd Battalions were to move to Parai and push west toward Mokmer Drome to establish contact with the 186th Infantry and the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry.

At 0900 on 8 June, Companies C, I, and K, supported by tanks, began moving west from Parai into the ground where the Japanese had counterattacked the 162nd Infantry on 28 and 29 May. Company C advanced along the coastal road, while Companies I and K pushed up the low cliff at the coast from Parai to Mokmer village and attacked along the terrace above Company C. By noon, when they stopped to lunch and rest, the three companies were within 500 yards of Mokmer village and in the coconut grove through which the Japanese had launched the 29 May tank attack. At 1330, just after the advance companies had resumed their attack, they were pinned down by heavy mortar fire from the East Caves. Another infantry company was requested, and Company B moved forward to the right of the units on the terrace.

There were indications that the enemy was preparing a counterattack similar to the one he had launched in the same area ten days earlier, but such an offensive did not develop.

Meanwhile, it had been discovered that the Japanese had mined the main road west from Parai. Tank progress was slowed as the mines (most of them actually 6-inch naval shells) were removed or the vehicles guided around them. As the tanks approached Mokmer village, they came under mortar and automatic weapons fire from the East Caves. Since these weapons were masked by trees, the tanks were unable to deliver counterbattery fire against the enemy positions and were finally forced to seek cover. Continuing mortar and small arms fire made the forward units of the 162nd Infantry seek shelter also and they dug in for the night along a curving perimeter which began on the beach 500 yards east of Mokmer and stretched northeastward some 800 yards almost to the base of the main ridge. A gap of about 1,800 yards remained between these forward companies and the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, west of Mokmer.

On the morning of 9 June the 1st and 3rd Battalions again began pushing westward. Despite heavy concentrations by the regiment’s 81-mm. mortars, the 4.2-inch mortars of Company D, 641st Tank Destroyer Battalion, and the 105-mm. howitzers of the 205th Field Artillery Battalion, Japanese fire from the East Caves steadily increased. The infantry could move forward only in small groups and were forced to seek cover behind every slight rise in the ground. At 1330 Company C established patrol contact with the 2nd Battalion at a point 500 yards west of Mokmer village, and at 1700 the 2nd Battalion reverted to regimental control after a week’s operations under the 186th Infantry. More than 1,000 yards still separated the main body of the 2nd Battalion from the 1st, which dug in for the night at Mokmer village. The 3rd Battalion, in reserve during the day, had not moved far beyond its bivouac of the previous night.

On 10 June Company L and rear detachments of the 3rd Battalion were moved forward by small craft to Parai. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions then began moving west along the coastal road to Mokmer Drome while the 1st Battalion was left at Parai with the mission of defending that area and clearing the remaining enemy from the Parai Defile. West from Mokmer village the coastal road was still subjected to heavy interdictory fire from the Japanese in the East Caves. Therefore, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions had to move along the beach under the protection of a low coral shelf. The march was accomplished in column of files and most of the troops waded through the edge of the surf, which was waist deep much of the way. The movement therefore progressed very slowly, and it was not until 1600 that the two battalions reached an assembly area at the eastern end of Mokmer Drome. The next day there began a new offensive which was aimed at clearing the Japanese from the ridges and terraces north and west of the airfield.

Operations North of Mokmer Drome: The Plan of Attack

The new attack to secure the Mokmer Drome area was to start at 0930 on 11 June with two regiments abreast, the 162nd Infantry on the right, or north. The line of departure began on the beach at Menobaboe, whence it ran north-northeast through the western end of Mokmer Drome and over the low ridge. The boundary between regiments paralleled the coast and lay about 400 yards north of Mokmer Drome’s main runway. The first objective was a first phase line lying about 1,350 yards beyond the western end of the runway. A second phase line was roughly 1,000 yards farther west and included Borokoe village, on the beach some 2,300 yards west of Menobaboe. The inland end of the second phase line lay about 2,000 yards north of the coast. Occupation of the third phase line would bring the two attacking regiments into line with the eastern end of Borokoe Drome.

The 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was responsible for clearing the low ridge. The 1st Battalions of both regiments were to remain in reserve. Details of artillery support are not clear but it appears that at least initially the 121st Field Artillery Battalion was to give close support to the 186th Infantry while the 205th, from positions near Ibdi, was to support both regiments. The 205th’s fire would be directed from a floating observation post in an LCV furnished by the 542nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment. The 947th Field Artillery Battalion was also assigned general support missions.

While the attacks in the Mokmer Drome area were under way, the 3rd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, would continue patrolling west and south along the main ridge. One company of that battalion and Company G, 186th Infantry, were to maintain pressure on the East Caves from the north and west. The 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry, was to patrol north, east, and west from the surveyed drome on the inland plateau behind Bosnek, while the 2nd Battalion cleared remaining Japanese from the Ibdi Pocket. Support for the operations of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 163rd Infantry, was the responsibility of the 146th Field Artillery Battalion, emplaced near Bosnek. The 3rd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, was apparently to be supported by those artillery units supporting the attacks in the Mokmer Drome area.

Meeting Resistance on the Low Ridge At 0830 on 11 June the two assault battalions of the 186th Infantry began moving out of their bivouacs up to the line of departure, which they reached by 0915. The 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, started moving forward from the eastern end of Mokmer Drome toward the line of departure about the same time that the 186th Infantry got underway. The 162nd Infantry met stiff resistance before it could get to the line of departure, and the 186th Infantry’s attack was therefore halted until the 162nd Infantry could move its two leading battalions up to the line. The principal Japanese forces along the low ridge were the 1st Battalion, 222nd Infantry, now reduced to about 120 effectives; a company or two of the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry; elements of various engineer units, fighting as infantry; and some field and antiaircraft artillery weapons and crews. All in all, there were probably some 600-700 Japanese along the ridge.

The 162nd Infantry, employing close mortar support and steady rifle fire from the leading troops, appeared to be breaking through the resistance to its front about 1330, and the 186th Infantry was thereupon ordered to renew its attack. Accordingly, at 1345, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 186th Infantry, pushed across the line of departure. The 3rd Battalion, moving along the coastal road, encountered no enemy opposition and closed along the first phase line in its zone at 1530. The 2nd Battalion met little Japanese resistance on its front but was intermittently forced to seek cover from enemy fire which came from the low ridge on the battalion’s right. The unit therefore did not reach the first phase line until 1620.

The two 186th Infantry battalions dug in for the night about 600 yards apart, both on the east side of a trail marking the first phase line. The terrain there was solid coral with only a thin layer of topsoil covering it. In such ground three hours was the minimum time a man needed to prepare a satisfactory slit trench, and darkness arrived before all the units could dig in. Colonel Newman therefore recommended that on subsequent days forward movement cease at 1500 so that time would be available to prepare night defenses and to undertake essential evening reconnaissance. This recommendation was approved by Headquarters, HURRICANE Task Force.

For the night of 11-12 June, the headquarters of the 186th Infantry, the 1st Battalion, and an advanced command post of the HURRICANE Task Force dug in at Sboeria village, on the beach south of Mokmer Drome. Company G, 186th Infantry, came down off the ridges near the East Caves during the day and set up its bivouac at Sboeria. At the same location were the Cannon and Service Companies, 186th Infantry, and the 863rd Engineer Aviation Battalion, which was responsible for repairing Mokmer Drome.

In the 162nd Infantry’s zone of responsibility, the day’s action had been marked by stubborn Japanese resistance. The 3rd Battalion, trying to gain the top of the low ridge and to move west along that ridge to the line of departure, was halted and forced to seek cover almost the moment it started to move. Even with support from the 947th Field Artillery Battalion, it was midafternoon before the battalion’s attack really got under way. Then the unit found that the terrain along the top and southern slope of the low ridge was rough and covered by dense rain forest and thick scrub growth. Visibility and maneuver room were severely limited, and the Japanese defenders made excellent use of every advantage the terrain offered.

The 2nd Battalion had been halted about 600 yards short of the line of departure to await the outcome of the 3rd’s efforts, but about 1245 was ordered to push on. The 2nd Battalion reached the line of departure about 1320 and moved on to the first phase line, drawing abreast of the 2nd Battalion, 186th Infantry, at 1720. The 3rd Battalion fought doggedly forward during the afternoon, discovering an ever increasing number of Japanese pillboxes, bunkers, and hasty automatic weapons and rifle emplacements of all kinds. Dusk found the unit still some 100 yards short of the line of departure and about 1,300 yards east of the 2nd Battalion. The 1st Battalion, taking no part in the action during the day, moved forward to Mokmer Drome from Parai.

For 12 June, Colonel Haney planned to put his 2nd and 3rd Battalions on the low ridge, while the 1st took over the 3rd’s positions near the line of departure and patrolled west, north, and east. During the afternoon of the 11th, the 162nd Infantry had learned from Javanese slave laborers who had come into the lines that the Japanese headquarters installations were located in large caves approximately 1,000 yards northwest of the 3rd Battalion’s lines. This, apparently, was the first information obtained by the HURRICANE Task Force concerning the enemy’s West Caves stronghold. The significance of the information was not yet realized, but the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was ordered to patrol north on the 12th to attempt to confirm the Javanese reports.

In order to permit the 162nd Infantry to place more troops on the ridge, the 186th Infantry was instructed to assume responsibility for an additional 300 yards on its right flank. On the 12th that regiment was to advance as far as the second phase line, maintaining close contact with the 162nd Infantry. The latter was also expected to reach the second phase line, but no advance beyond that line was to be undertaken until Headquarters, HURRICANE Task Force, so ordered.

On the morning of the 12th, the 186th Infantry had already started moving toward the second phase line when, at 0830, it received orders to halt until the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, could reach the first phase line. Although no Japanese were to be found in the 186th Infantry’s sector, an advance by that regiment without concurrent progress by the 162nd Infantry would leave a large and dangerous gap in the lines. Through such a gap the enemy could move to outflank and cut off the 162nd Infantry. But the 162nd Infantry was able to make little progress during the day. As a result, the 186th Infantry remained on the first phase line and limited its operations to patrolling.

The 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, had started moving both toward the low ridge and westward about 0830, but it also had been halted until the 3rd Battalion could fight its way up to the first phase line. The 3rd Battalion sent Company L north of the ridge to outflank troublesome Japanese positions while the rest of the battalion continued a frontal assault. But Japanese resistance was even stronger than it had been the previous afternoon, and the battalion was again unable to make any progress. At 0940 it pulled back some 300 yards southeast of its previous night’s bivouac to allow Company M’s 81-mm. mortars to lay a concentration on enemy bunkers and foxholes at the point where the line of departure crossed the low ridge.

At 1035 the advance was resumed with Company I on the ridge, Company L on the terrace north of I, and Company K along the ridge slopes south of I. Company K moved forward 200 yards by 1100, having encountered little opposition, and then halted to wait for the other two companies to draw up. Company I, meanwhile, had found that the mortar fire had been effective but that new Japanese positions were located west of the mortar impact area. From 1100 to 1130 the company fought its way through these second defenses, but no sooner had it broken through when a third set of positions was discovered 50 yards farther west along the ridge. It was also learned that a fourth strong point was located beyond the third. Company L, north of the ridge, met few Japanese and by 1230 had passed through some minor opposition to a position north of but opposite Company K. Company L then cautiously probed southwestward and southward to locate the flanks and rear of the positions in front of Company I.

Meanwhile, Company L, 163rd Infantry, had established an observation post on Hill 320, a high point on the main ridge about 1,500 yards northwest of the lines of the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry. At 1530 this observation post reported that Japanese were occupying a number of antiaircraft gun positions along the low ridge west of the 162nd Infantry unit. Fearing immediate enemy artillery fire, the 162nd Infantry withdrew all its troops from the low ridge into defilade positions.

After American artillery had fired a short concentration on the suspected enemy gun emplacements, the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, returned to the low ridge. By nightfall Company L was dug in on the ridge about 300 yards west of the line of departure, and Company I was almost 100 yards to the east. In order to prevent the Japanese from reoccupying their defensive position near the line of departure—positions which had been so laboriously cleaned out during the day—two platoons of Company K moved into the vacated enemy defenses. The rest of Company K, together with 3rd Battalion headquarters and Company M, remained south of the ridge about 400 yards east of the line of departure.

During the late afternoon the 2nd Battalion had sent a number of patrols north from its position on the first phase line to the low ridge, and Company F set up night defenses on the ridge at the point where the first phase line crossed. A gap of almost 900 yards, in which were many strong Japanese defenses, separated Company F from Company L. For the next day, plans were made for the 162nd Infantry to close this gap while the 186th Infantry remained in position along the first phase line.

The 162nd Infantry resumed its attack about 0730 on 13 June when Company L started pushing east and west along the low ridge in an attempt to establish contact with both the 2nd Battalion and Company I.

Contact was made with the latter unit about 1300, after a small Japanese pocket had been cleaned out. Company K, meanwhile, had been forced to mop up a few enemy stragglers near the line of departure and had sent one platoon westward to help Company I. Late in the morning, the 1st Battalion moved on to the low ridge east of the 3rd in order to protect the regiment’s right and rear and relieve 3rd Battalion troops from that duty. Though this realignment freed 3rd Battalion units for a new drive westward, by the end of the day little progress had been made in closing the 900-yard gap between that battalion and the 2nd. Not only had the 3rd Battalion been unable to move westward, but 2nd Battalion units had also been unable to make any progress eastward.

During the 13th, the 186th Infantry had limited its activities to patrolling while it again awaited the outcome of the 162nd’s attack. The regiment had also provided local security for engineers who were working hard to repair Mokmer Drome. The engineers had begun steady work about 1030 hours on 12 June, and by evening of that day they expected to get the strip into shape for fighter aircraft before noon on the 13th. But work on the latter day was thrice interrupted by Japanese artillery or mortar fire, most of which originated along the ridge between the lines of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 162nd Infantry. Despite these interruptions, about 2,300 feet of the eastern end of the airfield had been repaired sufficiently for use by fighter planes by evening of 13 June. More of the strip had been cleared, filled in, and prepared for final grading by the same time. The first plane to land on the field was an artillery liaison aircraft, which came down about 1000 hours on the 13th. Because of Japanese harassing fire, the airstrip still could not safely be used by larger planes.

To the Rim of the West Caves

General Doe, assistant commander of the 41st Division, had inspected the forward combat area during the afternoon of 13 June. After his trip he advised the task force commander that the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was becoming worn out and had already lost much of its effectiveness. To relieve the 3rd Battalion, General Doe recommended sweeping changes in the attack plan which had been in effect since 10 June.

He proposed that the 1st Battalions of the 162nd and 186th Infantry Regiments move around the right flank of the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, to the terrace above the low ridge. Reports from friendly natives indicated that the Japanese were guarding a water hole—the last one remaining in the area—near a Japanese encampment about midway between the positions of Company L, 162nd Infantry, on the low ridge, and those of Company L, 163rd Infantry, on Hill 320 to the north. Although the HURRICANE Task Force had not yet located the West Caves, the reported existence of the water hole and other miscellaneous bits of information prompted General Doe to believe that a major enemy strong point existed near the Japanese encampment. He felt that if the new two-battalion attack succeeded in eliminating this strong point, the remaining enemy positions along the low ridge would be untenable and the Japanese might retire. Then the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, would not have to continue its attacks and, indeed, would be pinched out by the new advance and could revert to a reserve role.

The 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was to move north over a trail which would take it through the rear of the 3rd Battalion. When the 1st Battalion had reached a point on the terrace about 500 yards north of the low ridge, it was to turn and attack to the west and southwest. The 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, was to follow a trail leading north from the eastern end of Mokmer Drome and, making a wider envelopment, was to follow an azimuth taking it east of the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry. Then it was to draw up on the right of the latter, ready to attack westward.

For the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, operations on 14 June began about 0600 when Company B, at the base of the low ridge about 800 yards east of the 3rd Battalion’s lines, was attacked by about fifteen Japanese infantrymen. Within ten minutes nine Japanese were killed, but patrolling and reorganizing after the attack delayed the battalion’s movement to the line of departure for the new attack. Following the infantry assault, the Japanese began to throw antiaircraft, small arms, and mortar fire into the American unit’s positions, keeping it pinned down on the southern slopes of the low ridge until 1100. The battalion was further delayed when American artillery fire was placed on Japanese troops seen maneuvering on the terrace north of the 3rd Battalion. Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, had also been delayed. The 162nd Infantry unit had to wait for the 186th’s battalion to come into line before the attack westward could begin.

With Company C leading, the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, had started its advance at 0800, crossing the low ridge at a point about 500 yards east of the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry. Then it moved northeast over the terrace along a rough trail leading toward the main ridge-crossing employed by the 186th Infantry on 7 June. First contact with the enemy came at 0930, when Company C killed two Japanese on the trail about 800 yards north of the low ridge. The march continued until 1030 when, as the units began to turn westward, Company C was pinned down by fire from rising ground 100 yards east of the trail. Company A patrols undertook to stop this fire, but it was two hours before the advance could be continued.

Only 400 more yards had been gained by 1300 when the advance was again held up by a small group of Japanese dug in across the trail. But this opposition was broken through within half an hour, and by 1430 Company C had moved another 800 yards west and was in line with Company B, 162nd Infantry, 300 yards to the south. Both 1st Battalions now resumed the advance abreast.

The 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, continued to meet opposition on its right and front during the afternoon, and did not establish physical contact with the 186th Infantry’s battalion until 1735. The 162nd Infantry unit then dug in northeast of the West Caves and about 250 yards north of Company L, on the low ridge. The battalion’s perimeter was about 400 yards short of its objective for the day, as was that of the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, now located on a slight rise 50-75 yards to the right rear of the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry. Patrols sent out before dark brought back proof that the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was on the periphery of the West Caves, now recognized by the HURRICANE Task Force as a major Japanese strong point. The task force G-2 Section estimated that the West Caves held about 1,000 Japanese, including naval and army headquarters.

Colonel Kuzume, realizing full well the value of the West Caves position as a base for counterattacks, was determined to hold that area. At 1930 on the 14th, he sent available elements of the Biak Detachment against the two forward American battalions in an attempt to drive them southward and eastward away from the caves. A combined infantry-tank attack drove Company B of the 162nd Infantry out of its semi-isolated position at the northwestern end of the 1st Battalion’s perimeter. The company withdrew in an orderly fashion into the battalion lines. The Japanese now turned their attention to the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry. Small Japanese groups, moving along a road which entered the battalion’s perimeter from the west, harassed the unit all night. No attacks were pressed home, but the Japanese maneuvers were interpreted as presaging a more determined counterattack on the morrow.

At 0730 on the 15th the expected counterattack began, just in time to disrupt plans for the 1st Battalions of the 162nd and 186th Infantry Regiments to continue advances north and west. Three Japanese tanks started south down a road running below the western slope of Hill 320. Two tanks, each accompanied by an infantry platoon, swung onto an east-west road north of the West Caves and into the positions of the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry. The tanks opened fire with their 37-mm. guns from a range of 250 yards, but before they could move closer were driven off by .50-caliber machine guns of the 1st Battalion’s Antitank Platoon. The third tank and more infantrymen charged the lines of Company B, 162nd Infantry, then attempting to close the gap between the two harassed battalions.

In the ensuing melee, Company B suffered heavy casualties, for it had no weapons with which it could easily drive off the tank and stop its 37-mm. and machine gun fire. However, when the accompanying infantrymen were scattered by Company B’s fire, the tank maneuvered out of range. At 1400 the same day, two more tanks advanced toward the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry. The tanks again moved along the east-west road north of the caves but did not press home their attack. Apparently, no Japanese infantry accompanied these tanks.

During the day three Japanese tanks were knocked out—two by bazookas of Company C, 186th Infantry, and the other by a combination of .50-caliber and small arms fire. The 121st Field Artillery Battalion, while it had hit no tanks, had proved a real aid during the battle. It prevented Japanese infantrymen from forming for the attack and neutralized a number of enemy machine guns by firing 600 rounds into the area northwest of the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry.

In the time intervals between the various enemy attacks only local advances could be made, but the two forward battalions managed to establish one continuous line. Patrolling south was forestalled during the morning when artillery and automatic weapons fire was placed on enemy positions between the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 162nd Infantry, on the low ridge. When this fire was finished, the day’s plans were changed. The 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was ordered to move south onto the low ridge west of the3rd Battalion. Once on the ridge, the 1st Battalion was to do an about-face and extend its left to the 2nd Battalion’s lines. The 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, was to protect the rear of the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, during the latter’s displacement southward.

The new plan proved impossible of execution. Fighting in the area between the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 162nd Infantry, on the low ridge continued unabated all afternoon. Steady fire from friendly artillery and mortars, combined with Japanese automatic weapons and mortar fire from positions between the West caves and the low ridge, kept the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, pinned down much of the time and slowed its movement southward. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions continued to try to close the gap and managed to overrun or destroy a number of enemy defensive positions. They were unable to entirely clear the area, however, and by nightfall the gap was still some 500 yards wide and was apparently occupied by a strong enemy force which was well dug in.

The 15th of June, on which date forces of the Central Pacific Area landed in the Mariana Islands, had come and gone, and still no planes of the Allied Air Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, had been able to support the Central Pacific’s operations from an airfield on Biak Island. The 863rd Engineer Aviation Battalion, which had managed to repair about 2,300 feet of Mokmer Drome by evening of 13 June, had been forced to stop work on the morning of the 14th, when Japanese fire on the strip became so intense that the engineers could not stay on the field and Allied planes could not use it. The 15th had ended on a note of frustration in the Mokmer Drome area. The Japanese still held part of the low ridge, and from their positions there and on the terrace to the north, could continue to prevent the Allies from using the Biak fields.

Allied Command at Biak: Air and Naval Base Development to Mid-June

Almost from the outset of the Biak operation, delays in seizing and repairing the Biak Island airfields had worried Generals MacArthur and Krueger. After the initial reverse suffered by the 162nd Infantry, the tactical situation on Biak had made it appear to General Krueger that it might be some time before the HURRICANE Task Force would capture Mokmer Drome. Therefore, on 30 May, he instructed General Fuller to investigate the possibility of quickly constructing a fighter strip at the surveyed drome area on the inland plateau north of Bosnek. The task force completed an engineer reconnaissance of the surveyed drome the next day. General Fuller decided that an airfield could not be completed there in less than three weeks. He considered it undesirable to assign any of his few engineer units to such extended work at the surveyed drome, for he still expected that Mokmer Drome could be seized and repaired much sooner.

The attention of air force planners then turned to the Paidado Islands, off the southeast corner of Biak. Allied Naval Forces had already planned and secured approval from General MacArthur’s headquarters to establish a PT and seaplane base in a reef-fringed lagoon on the eastern side of Mios Woendi Island, which lies about twelve miles east- southeast of Bosnek. On 28 May ALAMO Force instructed the HURRICANE Task Force to secure not only Mios Woendi but also the entire Paidado group.

Reconnaissance was made of Mios Woendi, Aoeki, and Owi Islands in the Paidado group by naval and engineer personnel of the HURRICANE Task Force on 1 June. The next day Company A, 163rd Infantry, secured Owi and Mios Woendi, and a more detailed engineer reconnaissance of Aoeki and Owi was made a few days later. Aoeki proved unsuitable for an airfield, but Owi was found to be an excellent site. Beginning on 3 June, engineers, together with antiaircraft and radar units, were taken to Owi. Heavy artillery (155-mm. guns) was also set up on the island to support operations on Biak.

The 860th and 864th Engineer Aviation Battalions started constructing a strip on Owi on 9 June but it was not until the 17th that enough of the field was completed to allow some P-38’s, blocked by a front of bad weather from reaching their base on Wakde Island after a strike on Sorong, to land at Owi. On 21 June two P-38 squadrons of the 8th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force, started arriving at Owi to remain for future operations. Meanwhile, naval construction battalions (CB’s) had cleared the land and beach at Mios Woendi in time for Seventh Fleet PT boats to begin operating from that base on 8 June.

The Owi Island strip was not ready in time to support Central Pacific operations and, despite expectations to the contrary, neither was any other field at Biak. The Wakde Island airfield had to bear a larger share of such support than had been planned. Moreover, the delay in making ready the fields on Biak threatened the speed of subsequent operations within the Southwest Pacific. The HURRICANE Task Force had failed in its principal mission—rapid seizure and repair of airfields from which the Allied Air Forces could support the Mariana operation and further advances along the New Guinea axis.

Changes in Command

General Krueger had been dissatisfied with operations on Biak ever since the 162nd Infantry had been forced to withdraw from the Mokmer village area on 29 May. At first he was dissatisfied because he believed that the 162nd Infantry’s advance had been imprudently conducted without adequate reconnaissance. Later, he had expected that the reinforcement of the HURRICANE Task Force by the 163rd Regimental Combat Team would have permitted General Fuller to resume the offensive with renewed vigor and rapidly to seize the airfields. Events did not so transpire. On 5 June, five days after the two battalions of the 163rd Infantry had reached Biak, General MacArthur indicated that he, too, was concerned over the continued delay in securing the Biak airfields.

The theater commander asked General Krueger if he thought operations on Biak were being pushed with determination, and he requested General Krueger’s views on the situation.

As a result of these queries, General Krueger was again prompted to inform General Fuller that progress on Biak was disturbingly slow and to instruct the task force commander to make new efforts to seize the airfields quickly. At the same time, the ALAMO Force commander told General MacArthur that he had for some time felt that operations on Biak were not going well and that consideration had even been given to putting in a new commander. However, said General Krueger, he had been dissuaded by his observers on Biak, who had told him that replacement of the task force commander would be unwarranted. The terrain and stubborn Japanese defense had slowed the attack, General Krueger went on, and he had therefore decided to await more complete information before taking any further action.

On 6 June General Krueger received somewhat disturbing reports from new observers whom he had sent to Biak. These officers indicated that there had been some lack of determination in the execution of HURRICANE Task Force plans, especially at the battalion and company level. The troops striving to clear the Ibdi Pocket and the Parai Defile were reported to be “herd-bound.” The observers’ reports also indicated that reconnaissance had been ineffective; and that little definite information had been obtained concerning the Japanese strength and dispositions. Finally, the observers stated, General Fuller was not making full use of his assistant division commander (General Doe) and, moreover, so few members of the task force staff had visited the front lines that General Fuller could not possibly have obtained complete and accurate information concerning the fighting.

Despite these unfavorable reports General Krueger, probably influenced by the fact that the 186th Infantry had established a foothold on Mokmer Drome on 7 June, again decided to take no action for a few days. But by 10 June he had received new information telling of the strong resistance the Japanese were maintaining along the low ridge north of Mokmer Drome. Three days of fighting had failed to eliminate this resistance, and General Krueger again urged upon General Fuller the importance of rapid rehabilitation of the Biak airfields, impossible as long as the Japanese held their positions on the low ridge. Then, on 13 June, General Fuller, on the grounds that the HURRICANE Task Force troops were suffering from fatigue and that he suspected the Japanese had landed sizable reinforcements on the island, requested ALAMO Force to send a fresh infantry regiment to Biak.

While at this time General Krueger placed little credence on the reports of enemy reinforcements, he decided to approve the HURRICANE Task Force’s request for additional strength. Accordingly, on 13 June, he alerted the 34th Infantry, 24th Division, then at Hollandia, for shipment to Biak, where it was to arrive on 18 June.

By this time General Krueger had come to the conclusion that General Fuller was overburdened by his dual function of task force and division commander. He had thus far deferred taking any action, hoping that the airdromes would soon become available.

But by 14 June it had become obvious that this hope would not materialize. Moreover, General Krueger was himself under pressure from General MacArthur, who had indicated to the ALAMO Force commander that the delays on Biak were seriously interfering with the execution of strategic plans and who had already publicly announced that victory had been achieved on Biak. Finally, on 14 June, General Krueger decided to relieve General Fuller of the command of the HURRICANE Task Force, apparently with the idea that General Fuller would remain on Biak to devote his full time and attention to the operations of the 41st Division. General Krueger took this step, he asserted, because of slowness of operations on Biak and the failure to secure the Biak airdromes at an early date. Lieutenant General Robert L. Eichelberger, commanding general of the U. S. I Corps (and of the RECKLESS Task Force, at Hollandia) was ordered to Biak to assume command of the HURRICANE Task Force.

General Eichelberger arrived at Biak late on the morning of 15 June and at 1230 assumed command of the HURRICANE Task Force.24 It was an angry and unhappy General Fuller who greeted General Eichelberger at Bosnek. The division commander felt that General Krueger had been unjustifiably critical of the operations on Biak, and he believed that his relief as task force commander indicated that his services had proved unsatisfactory to his superiors. General Fuller had already requested in a letter to General Krueger that he be relieved of the division command as well as that of the task force and he asked for reassignment outside the Southwest Pacific Area.

General Eichelberger was in an embarrassing position, for he had been a classmate of General Fuller at West Point, and the two had been life-long friends. Believing that the division commander still had a good chance to receive a corps command, he tried to persuade General Fuller to change his mind. But General Fuller was adamant, and followed his letter with a radio asking for quick action on his relief from the division command.

This tied General Eichelberger’s hands and left General Krueger no choice but to approve General Fuller’s request—step he was extremely reluctant to take—and forward it to General Headquarters, where it was also approved by General MacArthur. General Fuller left Biak on 18 June, and, after departing from the Southwest Pacific Area, became Deputy Chief of Staff at the headquarters of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Southeast Asia Command. At General Eichelberger’s suggestion, command of the 41st Division on Biak passed to General Doe.

Upon leaving Biak, General Fuller addressed the following letter to his former command: To the Officers and Men of the Forty-first Infantry Division.

  1. I am being relieved of command for my failure to achieve the results demanded by higher authority. This is in no way a reflection upon you or your work in this operation. I, and I alone, am to blame for this failure.
  2. I have commanded the Forty-First Division for better or worse for over two years and one-half. During that period I have learned to respect you, to admire you, and to love you, individually and collectively. You are the finest body of men that it has been my privilege to be associated with in thirty nine years of service.
  3. I part with you with many pangs of heart. I wish all of you the best of luck and God Bless You, for I love you all.

Whether General Fuller’s relief as commander of the HURRICANE Task Force was entirely justifiable is a question which cannot be answered categorically. At the time of his relief, the task force had seized Mokmer Drome. Patrols sent westward to Borokoe and Sorido Dromes had found no enemy at those two fields, and General Fuller knew they could be occupied with ease. But he had not sent more troops beyond Mokmer Drome because he believed it more important to secure an overland line of communications to that field and to clear the low ridge so that repair work could continue and at least one strip could be put in service.

By 14 June it was only a question of time before the West Caves area and the low ridge would be secured. Indeed, General Eichelberger, who took three and one-half days to acquaint himself with the situation at Biak, drew up new attack plans according to which the 162nd and 186th Infantry Regiments were to be employed in the same area and in much the same manner as General Fuller had been using them. General Eichelberger realized, as had General Fuller, that Borokoe and Sorido Dromes would be no safer than Mokmer Drome as long as the Japanese held the low ridge and West Caves positions. But, in the last analysis, the mission of the HURRICANE Task Force, quick seizure and rehabilitation of the Biak fields, had not been accomplished by 15 June. No airfield in the Biak area was yet available for use by the Allied Air Forces.

There can be no doubt that the two forward regiments were becoming fatigued—they had been in continuous combat for eighteen days in an enervating climate—but it is doubtful that this fatigue was the only trouble. There is some evidence that there was a lack of aggressiveness at the battalion and company levels of the command, and there are definite indications that General Fuller may not have put as much pressure on his regimental commanders as he might have. One regimental commander later stated: I was never informed that there had been a deadline set for the capture of the Biak Airfields, nor that there was any pressure being applied on General Fuller from higher headquarters. I only learned of this after his relief. As far as I knew the operation was proceeding with fairly satisfactory speed. Had I known of the need for speed in supporting the Marianas attack I might have acted differently on several occasions.

One of the reasons that the HURRICANE Task Force had had such difficulty in securing the Mokmer Drome area was that fresh Japanese troops had been arriving on Biak since 27 May and had been thrown into the action at the airfields. General Fuller, on the basis of aerial reconnaissance reports and intelligence received from ALAMO Force, had for some time suspected that Japanese reinforcements were reaching Biak. This suspicion, coupled with the growing fatigue of 41st Division troops on the island, had, on 13 June, prompted the HURRICANE Task Force commander to request ALAMO Force for an additional American regimental combat team. General Fuller’s suspicions concerning Japanese reinforcements were correct. Unknown to the HURRICANE Task Force, the Japanese had developed and partially executed ambitious plans for the reinforcement of Biak.

Source: Approach to the Philippines: BY; Lieutenant Colonel Robert Ross Smith (Ret.) (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Biak: Japanese Reinforce (AP-15)

World War Two: Biak: West to Mokmer Drome (AP-13)

World War Two: Italy; Salerno; End of the Battle (ISC-2-9)

The Crisis Resolved: Early on 15 September, Vietinghoff described to Kesselring, who was visiting the Tenth Army headquarters, how he still hoped to destroy the Allied beachhead: the 26th Panzer Division would attack northwestward from Battipaglia to Salerno while the Hermann Gӧring Division attacked from the vicinity of Vietri south to Salerno; the juncture of the divisions would mark the first step toward annihilation of the Allied troops.

After approving the plan, Kesselring remarked that the LXXVI Panzer Corps seemed to be exhibiting a tendency to revert to positional warfare. “This must not happen,” he said. If attacks on the level ground of the Salerno plain were impractical because of Allied naval fire and air bombardment, perhaps the corps could attack in the hills around Albanella or even farther south. Vietinghoff was embarrassed. His engineers had carried out extensive demolitions in the Albanella area for defensive purposes and this made offensive operations virtually impossible.

Immediately afterward, Vietinghoff conferred with Herr on the possible chance that the LXX V I Panzer Corps could nevertheless attack near Albanella. Could the parachute regiment en route from Apulia be used? Herr thought not. He was discouraged. Troop and supply movements during daylight hours, he pointed out, were becoming more difficult because of Allied air operations. And the Allied naval fire made Herr doubt that he could ever reach the coast. The strong pressure that the Germans continued to exert during much of 15 September diminished by the end of the day to the point where the VI Corps G-3 could describe the action as “minor contacts and engagements.” That evening General Clark congratulated his troops: “… our beachhead is secure…. and we are here to stay.” In North Africa, General Eisenhower had decided that morning to send a regiment of the 34th Division to Salerno, but had changed his mind that afternoon upon the encouraging news from the beachhead. There was some talk of sending all or part of the division to Bari or Brindisi on the Italian east coast to work with the British Eighth Army, but his final decision was to move the entire division to the Fifth Army beaches, as originally scheduled.

So much better was the Allied situation on the evening of 15 September that the Americans took the initiative, though cautiously. To re-establish contact with the Germans who had pulled back from the juncture of the Sele and Calore Rivers, a battalion of the 179th Infantry entered the corridor and moved forward several miles with ease. The advance eliminated a good part of the German salient between the rivers, straightened the line, and made the Fifth Army command post more secure.

It was not long before Allied commanders began to suspect an impending German retirement from the battlefield. As reconnaissance pilots reported finding no German troops massed around the beachhead perimeter in offensive strength or formation, intelligence officers estimated that the Germans might be ready to withdraw in response to both the growing Allied build-up in the beachhead and the implicit threat posed in the south by the British Eighth Army.

Was it, then, time to think of recapturing Altavilla? When Colonel Forsythe, the commander of the southern sector in the 36th Division area, reported an absence of German activity along his outpost line on the morning of 16 September, General Walker suggested to General Dawley that VI Corps go over to the offense. Walker proposed to attack Altavilla that evening with the two battalions of the 504th Parachute Infantry, supported by a company of tank destroyers. When Dawley agreed, Walker directed Colonel Tucker, commander of the parachute regiment, to jump off from the vicinity of Albanella and seize the dominating hills in the Altavilla area, Hill 424 in particular.

While the paratroopers made their preparations, which included a difficult cross-country movement to an assembly area, the Germans on 16 September were launching what was to be their last major effort against the beachhead. Vietinghoff modified his plan, and early that morning the 26th Panzer Division attacked from Battipaglia northwest toward Salerno, while the 16th Panzer Division gave aid by driving southwest from Battipaglia. Both efforts were soon contained, the first by the 56th Division, which though close to exhaustion fought valiantly with the assistance of contingents of the 7th Armoured Division, the second by the 45th Division, which was hardly aware that it was turning back a German effort. When the Hermann Gӧring Division finally attacked in the Vietri area that afternoon with parts of the 3rd and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions in support, it too made little progress against the 46th Division, which was now bolstered by armored elements.

Late that afternoon Vietinghoff came to the conclusion that he could no longer hope to destroy the Allied beachhead. Word from the rear guards of the 26th Panzer Division that the advance guards of the British Eighth Army had at last made contact with roadblocks near Lagonegro, fifty miles south of Paestum, confirmed his judgment. The delaying units had repulsed early British probes, but they could not hold back the British army indefinitely. Vietinghoff ordered the rear guards to withdraw, thus opening the way to a British advance in force. Next Vietinghoff sent a message to Kesselring requesting permission to break off the battle at the beachhead. “The fact,” he reported, “that the attacks (which had been prepared fully and carried out with spirit, especially by the XIV [Panzer] Corps) were unable to reach their objective owing to the fire from naval guns and low-flying aircraft, as well as the slow but steady approach of the Eighth Army” made it essential that he occupy good defensive positions before the British troops came north in strength. Vietinghoff recommended a general withdrawal starting no later than the night of 18 September.

Before giving his approval, Kesselring asked Vietinghoff to send a staff officer to OB SUED to explain the situation in detail. The briefing by a Tenth Army staff officer on 17 September coincided with continuing deterioration of the German situation. On the heights around Salerno XIV Panzer Corps made little progress. Around Altavilla LXXVI Panzer CmjJs had to go over to the defense. The change at Altavilla resulted from the attack by the 504th Parachute Infantry, which started during the night of 16 September on a somewhat dubious note. The Germans had noticed the movement of the Americans and had brought intensive and accurate artillery fire down on the regimental avenues of approach. Small units temporarily lost touch with one another, and Colonel Tucker was driven from his observation post. But against dogged German resistance, the men continued to climb the slopes toward Altavilla. Soon after Tucker established his command post just below Altavilla on the following morning, German troops surrounded his command group.

Throughout much of 17 September the situation at Altavilla remained confused and obscure not only to the American and German troops who were fighting for the high ground but also to the headquarters on both sides that were trying to decide whether to commit additional forces.[n2-9-9] On the American side, Colonel Tucker’s messages were alternately optimistic and pessimistic according to the turn of events and Generals Ridgway and ·Walker discussed the predicament of the paratroopers. General Ridgway had just been appointed deputy commander of VI Corps, in part a reflection of General Clark’s growing dissatisfaction with General Dawley, in part a practical matter designed to give Ridgway a “home” on the beachhead. With his division headquarters still in Sicily, Ridgway as assistant corps commander could exercise some measure of control over his units committed under the command of other headquarters. After Ridgway and Walker talked of using a battalion or more of the 180th Infantry to reinforce the paratroopers, they decided instead to move the 3rd Battalion of the 504th to Albanella as a backup force and to have artillery and naval guns shell the Altavilla area heavily. Naval guns alone placed 350 rounds in the village that day.

[N2-9-9] An excellent description of the details of the combat may be found in Tregaskis, Invasion Diary, pp. 113ff. Colonel Reuben H. Tucker, Major Robert B. Acheson, and Major Don B. Dunham were later awarded the DSC, Major Dunham posthumously]

On the German side, the rear guard regiment of the 26th Panzer Division that had withdrawn from Calabria during the previous night arrived near Eboli; about the same time the regiment of the 1st Parachute Division dispatched from Apulia was arriving at the beachhead.

Vietinghoff might have used these troops to help hold Altavilla. Kesselring had just given his reluctant consent to break off the battle, asking only that Vietinghoff make a last attack with the paratroopers. If this final effort failed to dislodge the beachhead forces, Vietinghoff was to pivot his Tenth Army and withdraw to a temporary line across the Italian peninsula from Salerno to Foggia, the first of a series of defensive lines to be worked out by Kesselring’s headquarters, OB SUED. Kesselring cautioned Vietinghoff to pay particular attention to his right flank around Salerno and Amalfi in order to insure the success of the withdrawal, for he wanted the first defensive line to be held at least until the end of the month.

Since withdrawal was now Vietinghoff’s principal mission, he decided, despite Kesselring’s request, to commit no additional troops at Altavilla. Instead of attacking, the Germans began withdrawing. By late afternoon, as Allied reconnaissance pilots were reporting heavy traffic moving north, the American ground troops at Altavilla became aware of the withdrawal. Although the men of the 504th Parachute Infantry waited until the following day in order to enter the village unopposed, the resistance in the VI Corps sector obviously diminished. When General Eisenhower visited the beachhead on the afternoon of 17 September, he had reason to be cheerful. The battle seemed won.

In the 10 Corps area General McCreery began to feel easier about the 56th Division on the right but was “still anxious” about some of the “very tired” battalions of the 46th Division around Salerno and Vietri, where the German opposition continued strong. Expecting a German attack to cover the withdrawal and wishing to keep the 7th Armoured Division fresh for the subsequent advance to Naples, McCreery asked for the 180th Infantry, the regiment of the 45th Division Clark was keeping in army reserve. Even as he asked, however, he admitted it would be awkward to move the regiment over the poor and congested roads in the beachhead. Actually, he used part of his armored division to relieve troops in the Battipaglia sector, informed Clark that an attack by the 45th Division to clear the tobacco factory would be of inestimable help in cleaning up the Battipaglia area, and alerted Colonel Darby to be ready to buttress the Vietri defenses.

[n2-9-11 Memo. Lieutenant Colonel G. V. Britton. Rpt on Visit to 10 Corps. 17 Sep 43, and Msg. McCreery to Darby. 17 Sep 43, both in Fifth Army G-2 Jnl.]

Despite General McCreery’s concern, the Germans launched no covering attack. When they pulled back from the British right flank on 18 September, British armor entered Battipaglia without opposition.

As Allied intelligence reported a general German withdrawal, General Dawley looked toward pursuit. He instructed General Walker to advance in the Altavilla area during the night of 18 September and General Middleton to clear the Sele·Calore corridor. Awaiting nightfall turned out to be unnecessary. With little contact on the ground American troops pushed beyond Altavilla and Persano on the afternoon of 18 September without incident. When darkness came, the Americans at Ponte Sele were no longer in touch with the enemy.

Elsewhere on 18 September, the 3rd Division started to come ashore and move to an assembly area north of the Sele River. The 82nd Airborne Division headquarters air-landed at Paestum. A liaison party from the British 5th Division, part of General Montgomery’s Eighth Army, arrived at the 36th Division command post to arrange a meeting at Vallo, some twenty miles south of Paestum, between Eighth and Fifth Army staff officers. That evening an LCI transported a company of the 325th Glider Infantry to the island of Ischia, just outside the Bay of Naples, and the troops went ashore without trouble. As supplies and equipment came across the Salerno beaches in ever-increasing amounts, Clark and Dawley began to plan an advance to the north.

[n2-9-12 Msg. Hewitt to Clark. 2151. 18 Sep 43. Fifth Army G-2 Jnl; Msgs, Larkin to Eisenhower. 18. 19 Sep 43. and Alexander to Clark. 18 Sep 43. both in 15th AGp Master Cable File, VI; Dawley Directive,]

On the same day, 18 September, Vietinghoff was praising his troops. Claiming to have taken 5,000 prisoners and to have inflicted a large number of casualties on the Allies, Vietinghoff declared: “Success has been ours. Once again German soldiers have proved their superiority over the enemy.” In agreement with this observation and satisfied with the successful defense, Hitler promoted Vietinghoff to generaloberst and placed him in temporary command of Army Group B in northern Italy to replace Rommel, who was hospitalized with appendicitis. Hube, returning to Italy from leave, assumed temporary command of the Tenth Army.

Of the Fifth Army units on the front, only Darby’s Rangers on the Sorrento peninsula and the 46th Division north of Salerno remained on the defensive on 19 September. The 56th Division extended its lines into the interior to eliminate German artillery fire on the Montecorvino airfield, and American units entered Eboli and out-posted Highway 19 as far as Serre without finding Germans. On the following day, service troops of the XII Air Support Command began to rehabilitate the Montecorvino airfield and set up refueling facilities.

Several planes landed that day for gasoline, precursors of the planes eventually to be based at the field. As the roads in the beachhead, particularly the coastal highway between Paestum and Battipaglia, became jammed with traffic, the vehicles moving bumper to bumper, the 10 Corps took possession of all its initial Invasion objectives and the VI Corps, handing over control of beach operations and base dumps to army, started a new operation. The battle of Salerno, and with it the first phase of the invasion, had come to an end.

The Eighth Army Role

In the Eighth Army area, advance elements of General Montgomery’s troops reached Potenza. fifty miles east of Salerno, and cut the lateral highway between Salerno and Bari late on 20 September. At Auletta. twenty miles east of Eboli, American reconnaissance units met British contingents coming up the road from Castrovillari and Lagonegro toward Serre. These events. which might have been heralded with the blowing of trumpets several days earlier when the forces in the beachhead were in distress, now came as anticlimax. It was good, of course. to have the Eighth Army close by, but for Fifth Army the arrival of Eighth Army had no particular significance.

The troops at Salerno had fought it out alone. and they had won. The slow movement of Eighth Army from Calabria was disappointing to many Allied commanders who had hoped that General Montgomery would advance rapidly to Salerno and reduce the German threat to the beachhead.

Because the Germans had given way in Calabria without fighting. leaving only mines and demolitions in their wake, Clark, for one, believed that Montgomery could have done more to help the Fifth Army. He later described the progress of Eighth Army as “a slow advance toward Salerno, despite Alexander’s almost daily efforts to prod it into greater speed.”

From the beginning of Operation AVALANCHE, General Clark had counted on Eighth Army to help the Fifth. BAYTOWN is proceeding with little or no resistance from the Italians,” he remarked in his diary on 6 September, three days before the Fifth Army landings, “and presumably they are ready to help us.” A day later he noted that Montgomery was making good progress against opposition “varying from light to none at all.” The demolitions holding up Montgomery, Clark was told, were not as serious as had been anticipated. Late on 9 September, D-day of the Salerno landings, when Clark learned that two German divisions were reported coming toward Salerno from the south, he saw the movement as ominous, but believed that it would “help bring the Eighth Army north.”

On 10 September, one of General Montgomery’s aides brought a penciled note to General Clark. “I send herewith Captain Chavasce, my A.D.C.,” Montgomery wrote, “to bring you my greetings and best wishes for future successes. Will you give him all details as to your present situation, to bring back to me. Good luck to you.” Whether the favorable prospects of that clay’s developments prompted General Clark to return an optimistic message is not recorded. But two days later, when the Germans threatened the beachhead, Clark turned to Alexander. “I hope that Eighth Army,” he wrote, “will attack with all possible vigor in order to contain 26th and 29th Panzer Divisions to maximum.” A message arriving at the Fifth Army headquarters on 13 September, when the army was fighting for its life at the height of the German attack, created some resentment. The 15th Army Group, in passing along guidance on press censorship problems, established a policy to “play up Eighth Army and particularly Taranto advances. Fifth Army having tough time. Likely continue till Eighth Army can relieve pressure by nearness.”

During a conference at Fifth Army headquarters on the morning of 15 September, before the commander and his staff realized that the crisis was in fact past, a message from General Alexander announced that he was placing all the facilities of Eighth Army at the disposal of the Fifth. There was no comment at the conference beyond the observation that the nearest British troops were then approximately sixty miles south of the beachhead.

On that day, General Montgomery’s aide brought another letter to the beachhead. “It looks as if you may be having not too good a time,” Montgomery wrote General Clark, “and I do hope that all will go well with you.” Declaring that he hoped to have the 5th Division in the Sapri-Lagonegro area, about fifty miles south of Paestum, in two days, with the 1st Canadian Division echeloned behind, Montgomery also informed Clark that he had directed the 5th Division to send detachments out beyond Sapri. “We are on the way to lend a hand.”Please accept my deep appreciation,” Clark replied, “for assistance your Eighth Army has provided Fifth Army by your skillful and rapid advance.” He added: “Situation here well in hand.”

Actually, though Clark was not altogether confident about the security of the beachhead until the following day, he had to let Montgomery know that the Fifth Army had won without help. Yet he also had to keep in mind Eisenhower’s order that the Americans were to get along with the British. And as Clark informed Eisenhower, his relations with the British were excellent. The fact that Montgomery’s reputation and prestige far overshadowed his own made Clark swallow his resentment, and three days later, after he had won his first real battle as an army commander, he wrote Montgomery once more: “Again I want to tell you of our deep appreciation for the skillful and expeditious manner by which you moved your Eighth Army to the north …. we feel it a great privilege to operate alongside of your army.”

To write this note, Clark had to overlook the annoying periodic emanations from Alexander’s public information office. According to at least one BBC broadcast, which had its origin in an army group press release, Montgomery’s army was dashing up the Italian boot to rescue the Fifth Army, which was preparing to evacuate the beachhead. The correction issued a few days later failed to dissipate entirely the incorrect impression. “South flank Fifth Army no full dress withdrawal yet,” this curious message read. “BBC overdid it in bulletins Saturday.”

On 20 September a letter from General Montgomery alerted General Clark to look for British troops in the Potenza-Auletta area that evening, but General Walker, whom Clark had asked to fly over the area in a Cub plane, could find no signs of the British.

When the usual censorship guidance cable arrived from 15th Army Group headquarters on 22 September and expressed again the policy, “play up Eighth Army, mention Americans,” General Clark gave way to irritation. He had expected some support from Eighth Army and some glory for his Fifth, but instead, it seemed as if Fifth Army would have to go on fighting alone.

Yet when Montgomery visited Clark two days later, he found a warm welcome. “The Fifth Army,” Clark told Montgomery, “is just a young Army trying hard to get along, while the Eighth Army is a battle-tried veteran. We would appreciate your teaching us some of your tricks.” The words had the desired effect. Montgomery beamed, and, in Clark’s words, the ice was broken.

A month later, when General Clark felt that he had won his spurs, he received another annoying censorship guidance message to play up the British. This time he was angry enough to protest the guidance and turn down the Eighth Army commander, who wanted to visit him. He wrote Montgomery a courteous note to express his regret that he saw “no great urgency for a personal meeting.”

“Some would like to think-I did at the time-,” Montgomery’s chief of staff. Major General Francis de Guingand, wrote several years later, “that we helped. If not saved, the situation at Salerno. But now I doubt whether we influenced matters to any great extent. General Clark had everything under control before Eighth Army appeared on the scene.” General Alexander saw the battle at Salerno as won before the British Eighth Army arrived. In considering the question whether Montgomery might have provided direct assistance to Clark, he concluded that the Eighth Army, given its logistical problems, could have moved no faster.

The fact was that the mere presence of the Eighth Army in Italy weighed heavily on the Germans. No matter how slowly the army moved, the British would eventually reach the Salerno area. Because Hitler was unwilling to expend more troops to reinforce the units fighting at Salerno and because those committed could not dislodge Fifth Army from the beachhead, the Germans had to give way. With Eighth Army giving them a good excuse to do so, they implemented their original strategy of withdrawing from southern Italy. General Montgomery thus exerted an influence on the German decision to withdraw even though his troops took no direct part in the battle at the beachhead.

Could the Eighth Army have done more? Despite Montgomery’s problems distance, difficult terrain, poor roads, inadequate equipment, and insufficient supplies-and despite his need to push northeastward from the toe to link up with British troops in Apulia while at the same time moving north toward the Fifth Army, could the Eighth Army have reached the Salerno area more quickly?

An unequivocal answer is impossible. It was no mean achievement for the British 5th Division to advance over 200 miles of extremely rough ground and manage to send a patrol ahead to make contact with American troops on the evening of 16 September, thirteen days after the crossing from Messina.

Some indication of the kind of opposition the 5th Division faced can be discerned in the experiences of the public relations officer of the Eighth Army and three British war correspondents. At 1030, 13 September, with several drivers in two reconnaissance cars and a jeep, this party set out from Nicastro, not far from Catanzaro and about 150 miles south of Paestum, with the intention of driving overland to the Fifth Army. Taking to Diamante, 65 miles south of Paestum, where they passed the leading reconnaissance unit of Eighth Army. Twenty-five miles beyond Diamante, at Praia, they met several Italian soldiers. The Italians were friendly. They said they had seen no British vehicles along the road ahead of the party; they knew of no Germans in the area as far north as the Salerno beachhead; and they were sure Italian troops had cleared all the mines along the coastal road. Continuing to drive another 25 miles, the men then spent the night near Sapri. When a destroyed bridge across a river blocked their progress, civilians guided them to a ford.

After the chief of police at Vallo gave them gasoline and a guide, they spent a second night in a nearby village. On the following morning, at 1030, 15 September, forty-eight hours after leaving Eighth Army, without having encountered a single German, the public relations officer and his party met an American scout car about seven miles south of Ogliastro. From there a lieutenant of the 111th Engineer Battalion in charge of a reconnaissance group shepherded the British through channels to the VI Corps headquarters.

By this time, British patrols in front of the army were moving beyond Diamante to a point about 40 miles south of Paestum. Not until the following evening, 16 September, thirty-six hours after the British newspapermen had reached the Fifth Army, did the first patrol of the 5th Division, probably a platoon, make contact with the 36th Division right flank-and this at a point 35 miles south of Paestum. Not until three days later, on 19 September, did a British reconnaissance patrol in some strength, probably a company, reach Rocca d’ Aspide and establish more meaningful contact with the Americans. By then, the head of General Montgomery’s main column had reached Scalea, about 75 miles south of Paestum.

The movement of small groups of men lightly armed is, of course, quite different from the advance of an army, or even a battalion. Yet the absence of Germans in the area between Eighth and Fifth Armies, and the difficult time Fifth Army was having on 13 and 14 September indicate that a greater effort to get at least some Eighth Army troops to the beachhead might have been made. A token force, a battalion of infantry, even a company, arriving at the beachhead on 14 September would have given the troops battling with their backs to the sea a tremendous lift in morale.

If the rough country and other adverse conditions had, in fact, made a quicker advance impossible, thereby nullifying much of the intent of the landing in Calabria, then there was fault in delaying for several days, at General Montgomery’s insistence, the crossing of the Strait of Messina. Had he not held stubbornly to his desire for a full-scale amphibious operation, despite General Eisenhower’s declaration that the crossing could be made in rowboats, an observation later borne out by the lack of opposition, the Eighth Army could have entered the Italian mainland several days sooner. Not only would this have made more shipping available to the Fifth Army, it would also have enabled General Montgomery, assuming the same rate of overland advance, to get some units to the Salerno battlefield several days earlier.

Perhaps the ultimate comment was made by the enemy. As early as 10 September the Germans noted the pattern that characterized General Montgomery’s advance. “The withdrawal of our troops from Calabria continues according to plan,” they reported. “The enemy is not crowding after us.”

The Germans failed to dislodge the Fifth Army primarily because their strategic planning projected a withdrawal from southern Italy regardless of the outcome at the beachhead. The Germans would have liked to repel the invasion for political as well as military reasons, and a total victory would no doubt have changed the strategic plans, but resistance at the Salerno beachhead was postulated on assuring withdrawal. Thus, the Germans denied themselves the advantage of committing additional strength, for example from northern Italy, that might have moved the balance.

Hitler, Kesselring, and Vietinghoff were all satisfied with the results of the operations, which they regarded as a German triumph. They had denied the Allies quick access to Naples. They had inflicted severe losses on the Allied troops. Avoiding the dangers implicit in the simultaneous occurrences of the Italian surrender announcement and the Allied invasion, they had extricated their forces from southern Italy.

By preventing the Allies from breaking out of the beachhead, a feat the Germans accomplished despite shortages of fuel and lengthy lines of communication, they had prohibited the Allies from fully exploiting the Italian surrender. That the Germans were able to disarm the Italian forces and take control of Italy north of Salerno reflected in large measure the promptness and vigor of the German resistance around Salerno. German troops would now be able to pivot on the mountains northwest of Salerno and create a continuous front across Italy from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Adriatic. “The Germans may claim with some justification,” General Alexander admitted, “to have won if not a victory at least an important success over all.”

They might have gained more. “I still can’t understand,” General Clark wrote several years later, “why such an able general as Kesselring … used his plentiful armor . . . in piecemeal fashion at critical stages of the battle.” The inexperience of the troops who guarded the beaches and the long front they manned prevented the 16th Panzer Division from launching anything more than dispersed thrusts by small groups-ten or fifteen tanks supported by a platoon or a company, in rare instances a battalion, of infantry. These small counterattacks precluded decisive success.

The Italian surrender had had its effect on the Salerno landings. General Clark later felt that the armistice had actually hindered the Allied troops corning ashore, for Italians on the beaches would not have resisted as effectively as did the Germanys. On the other hand, some Italians would undoubtedly have manned the coastal defenses and the Germans might have had time to mass the 16th Panzer Division for an effective counterattack.

Yet the surrender, followed by the dissolution of Italian military forces, had been advantageous for the Germans. They were able to deal with Italian “traitors” in a way impossible to treat Italian “allies.” Having previously fought on Italian soil ostensibly to help the Italians defend their homeland, they were now freed of the necessity of catering to their former allies. They could act decisively and expect the swift execution of their orders. And according to Kesselring’s chief of staff, they were liberated “from the nightmare necessity of using their weapons against their former allies.”

Fighting with limited forces for a limited objective, the Germans suffered fewer losses during the battle of the beachhead than the Allies. The Hermann Gӧring Division sustained 1,000 casualties, the 16th Panzer Grenadier Division approximately 1,300. The 29th Panzer Grenadier Division probably incurred similar losses, while the 26th Panzer Division, controlling only one regiment and in action only two days, could not have been greatly affected. Altogether, casualties probably totaled about 3,500 men. In contrast, the American losses totaled about 3,500 men, British casualties somewhere around 5,500.[n2-9-42]

The Allies were vulnerable to heavy losses, according to the commander of the 16th Panzer Division, Sickenius, not only because they were on the offensive but also because of what he considered to be the poor combat value of the British and American troops. The Allied soldier, Sickenius believed, lacked aggressiveness and was afraid of combat at close quarters, Although he knew how to make skillful use of terrain features and would usually try to penetrate German lines by infiltration, he normally depended on extensive artillery preparations, which precluded daring thrusts.

If Sickenius’ observation was true, it might be explained by a concern on the part of the Allied soldiers for their security. The knowledge of how few follow-up troops were available to bolster the first units ashore made the Americans, despite the paucity of opposition in the VI Corps zone, less than aggressive during the first days on the beachhead. The critical period of the invasion had occurred on the fourth and fifth days, when the troops ashore were tired, when they held as long a front as could be expected of them, and when the enemy had deduced their plan and was concentrating strength against the beachhead, That was when more ships on the horizon were necessary, when more men, more artillery, more supplies in follow-up convoys were required.

[n2-9-42 Fifth Army History, Part I, pp, 97-98; 9th Machine Records Unit. Fifth Army American Battle Casualties, 10 Jun 45, OCMH, American losses were approximately 500 killed, 1,800 wounded, 1,200 missing.]

The presence of the 82nd Airborne Division in Sicily and its readiness for commitment had been the fortunate result of the cancellation of its mission to seize the airfields around Rome; the use of the 82nd to reinforce the beachhead by drops behind friendly lines was a brilliant expedient. The value of the reinforcement stemmed less from the actual number of troops than from its psychological lift to the commanders and men in the beachhead who were beginning to feel uneasy; they had no way of knowing that the worst had passed. The two battalions of the 504th Parachute Infantry, nevertheless, provided valuable security to the beachhead perimeter, and their pressure around Altavilla on 17 September had hastened the German withdrawal.

How bad was the worst hour? Given the small size of the beachhead, which made almost every part vulnerable to enemy observation and fire, deeper penetrations in the areas where the Germanys mounted their strongest attacks-Salerno, Battipaglia, the Sele-Calore corridor, and Altavilla might well have proved fatal to the Fifth Army. That the Germans were unable to crack the Allied defenses is a tribute to troops who demonstrated their ability to take punishment.

With the support of artillery, tanks, tank destroyers, naval gunfire, and air attacks, they held the defensive line established during the critical night of 13 September against German pressure for five days.[n2-9-45] Some participants felt that the Fifth Army had come close to defeat. Yet others depreciated the extent of the German threat. One qualified observer stated categorically that the enemy attacks never seriously endangered the beachhead. General Walker himself later asserted that he never doubted the ability of his troops to hold. The small size of the beachhead made supply operations easier. The Allied forces lacked enough transportation facilities, particularly Quartermaster truck units, and therefore the short hauling distances were a boon. In control of logistics, the VI Corps headquarters established supply dumps about one mile inland and along the main roads to enable the divisions to draw their supplies directly from them. On 25 September, with more trucks ashore, truck heads were established and the Fifth Army took charge of unloading supplies over the beaches, moving them to the dumps, and transporting them forward to the di visions.

[N2-9- 45 Between 9 and 17 September, the 151st Field Artillery Battalion expended 10,500 rounds, over 2,500 shells more than the total fired by the battalion during the entire Tunisia Campaign. 151st FA Bn AAR, Sep 43. See also 645th and 601st Tank Destroyer Bn AAR’s, Sep 43. and 751st Tank Bn History, 1943. Engineers performing as infantrymen]

Naval gunfire played an obvious role in the battle of the beachhead, but some observers had serious reservations as to its usefulness. “The moral effect is, of course, terrific,” one officer noted, “as the shell is large and the muzzle velocity astonishing.” Though naval gunfire gave great psychological support to the Allied troops and adversely affected the Germans, the relatively flat trajectory of the shells limited their effectiveness in close support because of the larger safety distance required between shell-burst and friendly troop locations. And except in the case of masonry buildings, the usefulness of naval shells against ground targets was questionable. The fire was particularly satisfying when directed against towns because any fire direction center could hit a town every time, and the flying debris and dust, which proved the accuracy of the flight of the missile, gave observers and spotters a feeling of accomplishment and pride. Unfortunately, the resulting destruction, which brought misery and loss to noncombatants, usually had little effect on enemy military personnel, who were usually well dug in away from the obvious targets.

[NOTE: Units were from the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment; the 2nd Battalion, 337th Engineer General Service Regiment; The111th and 120th Engineer Combat Battalions; and the 36th Engineer Combat Regiment. Engr History, Fifth Army,]

The destroyed village of Altavilla, shelled by artillery and naval guns and bombed by planes, appalled General Walker. “I doubt very much,” he wrote in his diary, “if this bombardment of a village full of helpless civilian families, many of whom were killed or injured, contributed any real help in capturing the dominating ground in that vicinity.”

When he visited Battipaglia, he was greatly depressed at the complete destruction of this old town by our Navy and Air Force. Not a single building was intact. The town will have to be rebuilt, it cannot be repaired. One could smell the odor of dead bodies, not vet recovered from the rubble. Such destruction of towns and civilians is brutal and quite unnecessary and does not assist in furthering the tactical program… Italian people stood about looking at their destroyed homes in bewilderment. In the midst of their destruction and grief they tried to be cheerful.

American and British planners had, before the invasion, discussed and studied the possibility of using planes to spot naval gunfire, that is, to observe and direct the shells on target. They concluded that the technique was impractical.

In areas where enemy fighter aircraft were active, naval planes would be too vulnerable. To give naval spotting planes fighter protection was hardly worthwhile-fighters were unsuitable for prolonged escort missions at low altitudes, they had more important missions, and over Salerno they would be far from their land bases, But the attractiveness of getting accurate naval shelling on distant ground targets outside the range of artillery prompted the Americans to try. The plane judged best for the task was the P-51, but there was not enough time before the invasion to train naval observation pilots to fly this aircraft. Consequently, the pilots of an Army Air Forces squadron earmarked for tactical reconnaissance received some training in how to use the communications and codes involved in directing American naval gunfire. Two flights of two P-51’s each came over the assault area to spot for the naval gunners between 0800 and 1000 on D-day, but the planes could remain in the target area only thirty minutes.

A pilot needed this amount of time to become oriented. By the time he obtained some impression of the ground situation, he had to fly back to Sicily, Not until 16 September did P-51 pilots first successfully spot naval gunfire; by then the battle for the beachhead was about over and few opportunities remained for further application of the technique.

The difficulty of ground observation during the early days of the invasion had limited the ability of observers to adjust artillery fire at medium and long ranges, and the Fifth Army artillery officer consequently arranged with the 111th Reconnaissance Squadron to have P-51 pilots work with the 155-mm. howitzers of the 6th Field Artillery Regiment.

Two planes were to operate together, one pilot to observe and direct, the other to guard against the approach of enemy aircraft. This method was first used successfully on 18 September. Still later in the month, after reconnaissance aircraft were based in the Salerno area, P-51 artillery spotting missions became more frequent, yet they were never regularly used, even though the P-51 planes were better than either Cub planes or forward ground observers for directing artillery at extreme ranges with a reasonable degree of accuracy. During the next eight months of the Italian campaign, Allied planners would discuss whether they might secure special equipment and give special training to improve the P-51 method of artillery spotting. The reluctance of air commanders to divert planes from what they considered their more important missions inhibited planning to this end.

Two of these more important missions, providing fighter cover and close air support to the ground troops, together constituted, according to General Eisenhower, a serious problem of the invasion. Since a fighter plane based in Sicily needed about thirty minutes to reach the Salerno area, and since a fighter pilot engaging an enemy plane over the beachhead had to jettison his long-range gasoline tanks, thereby reducing his effective operational capability from thirty to ten minutes, the burden of meeting enemy aircraft attacking in quick successive waves fell on the naval fighters. Even though Sea fires operating from naval carriers flew more than 700 sorties during the first four days of the invasion to supplement the more than 20,400 sorties by aircraft based in Sicily, and even though naval and land-based planes prevented effective German air reconnaissance-Tenth Army complained on 13 September that no air reports had been received for more than twenty-four hours-they failed to stop the bombers.

Bombing the Allied anchorage in the Gulf of Salerno nightly and raiding the beachhead three or four times every day with low-flying fighter-bombers, the Germans, despite relatively few operational planes and comparatively antiquated equipment, flew more missions against targets in a given area than at any time since their attacks against Malta in 1942.

The construction of improvised landing fields in the beachhead, begun soon after the landings, did little to solve the problem of providing effective land-based fighter cover. A strip opened near Paestum on 13 September received two Army Air Forces reconnaissance planes, which remained only briefly. A second strip was opened near the Sele River two days later to receive twelve planes (half the aircraft strength of the 111th Reconnaissance Squadron), and a third strip was ready in the 10 Corps area to take eight RAF planes the same day.

All three were used only for emergency landings. Except for the twenty-six naval aircraft based near Paestum, no land-based planes landed in the beachhead until 16 September, and those were fighter-bombers rather than fighter-interceptors. The deficiency in Allied air cover permitted German planes to damage, by means of radio-controlled bombs, the British battleship HMS Warspite and cruiser HMS Uganda and the American cruiser USS Savannah in the Gulf of Salerno. In addition to the Liberty ship USS Bushrod Washington destroyed on 14 September, the Liberty ship USS James Marshall was seriously damaged on the following day by a rocket bomb. Other losses were sustained among lesser vessels in the gulf.

In giving close support to the ground forces, tactical air force planes flew more than 9,000 sorties during the first nine days of the invasion. Over 5,000 of these occurred on three days, 14, 15, and 16 September. During this period, more than 1,000 tons of bombs were dropped daily on an area within a radius of fifteen miles from Salerno, Battipaglia and Eboli receiving the bulk of the loads. All these flights originated in Sicily and North Africa, except for a squadron of fighter-bombers, which started to operate from the Paestum airfield on 16 September.

On that day alone, this squadron flew 46 missions and 301 sorties for reconnaissance and bombardment-bombing road intersections, railroad tracks and stations, towns, enemy vehicles, and suspected strongpoints-before returning to Sicily before nightfall. Air commanders were reluctant to base aircraft in the beach head chiefly because the improvised airfields could not be used in bad weather. Not until pierced steel planks could be requisitioned from North Africa late in September to make possible all-weather fields would substantial numbers of planes be based in the area.

During the critical days at the beachhead, strategic bombers added their tonnages to the bombings even though Air Marshal Tedder disliked diverting them from their normal long-range missions. What concerned Tedder and other air commanders was not only the scale of the air effort at the beachhead, which exceeded planners’ estimates and seriously taxed crews and equipment, but also the violation of the precepts of air doctrine, which stipulated that air bombardment should be used only against those targets beyond the range of artillery. Not until late in the campaign, after the turn of the year, would Allied commanders gain the benefits of using air power, both strategic and tactical, together with artillery, and only then would the ground troops obtain what is now considered normal close air support.


Some Allied problems at the beachhead derived from the command. Like all successful commanders of coalition forces, General Clark exercised his authority over General McCreery and the British 10 Corps with discretion and tact. He tended to supervise and inspect rather than to direct, even though the operations on the 10 Corps front were the more critical. He gave his major attention to VI Corps and General Dawley. What complicated his position in American quarters was that his senior American subordinates, Generals Dawley, Walker, and Middleton, were older than Clark and had seniority in the Regular Army.

Sensitive of his prerogatives and understandably anxious to make good in this, his first command of combat operations in World War II, General Clark placed between himself and his American subordinates a distance that was perhaps more than the normal reserve consciously adopted for command purposes. He rarely, if ever, requested advice from his subordinate commanders or talked things over with them. His habit was to stride into command posts, receive reports, and issue instructions. While this may have conformed to the stereotype model of how a commander should act, it seemed to some to be an overdrawn portrait, and those who may have expected him to seek their guidance were disappointed that he did not.

When General Alexander visited the beachhead, he was impressed by General Clark’s calmness. Clark, he judged, was steady. General Eisenhower came to the beachhead a week after D-day and although he thought Clark not so good as Bradley at winning the confidence of everyone around him, including the British, and not so good as Patton in refusing to see anything but victory, he found Clark, as he said, “carrying Weight.”

In contrast to the Fifth Army commander, General Dawley relied to a much larger extent on his division commanders. He had great confidence in Walker and Middleton, both of whom had commanded troops in combat during World War I, and he welcomed their suggestions. But as Clark devoted increasing attention to VI Corps affairs and in the process indicated dissatisfaction with Dawley’s exercise of control, Dawley became harassed and nervous.

Always concerned about the lack of reserves, Clark was disturbed by Dawley’s seeming indifference to the threat to the corps’ left flank. It was Clark who instructed Dawley to lighten his forces on the right in order to strengthen those on the left, and it was Dawley who later suffered because his troop dispositions resembled a hodgepodge of units.

[n2-9-5959 At 0600, 11 September, the units on the VI Corps front were deployed from left to right as follows: 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry; 3rd Battalion, 36th Engineers; 2nd Battalion, 179th Infantry; 3rd Battalion, 179th Infantry; 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry; 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry; 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry; the 142nd Infantry; 2nd Battalion, 141st Infantry; 1st Battalion, 39th Engineers; Company A, 751st Tank Battalion; 504th Parachute Infantry; 505th Parachute Infantry. VI Corps C-3 Sitrep, 0600, 18 Sep 43.]

On 20 September, after the battle of the beachhead had come to an end, General Clark relieved General Dawley from command of the VI Corps. The reasons since given for the relief have been various.

According to General Clark’s recollections after the war, General Dawley had been an impressive commander during training; he had caught the attention of Generals Marshall and McNair, and Clark himself had thought him vigorous and aggressive. General Eisenhower, who was skeptical about Dawley’s ability, asked Clark more than once whether Dawley would measure up, and Clark assured him that the corps commander was doing a good job in North Africa. Shortly before the Salerno invasion Clark saw the first sign that gave him pause and made him doubt Dawley’s capacity: Dawley told Clark that the V1 Corps might not be able to carry out its mission. As General Dawley remembered the incident, he had, during a planning conference, quoted Brigadier General Fox Conner, General John J. Pershing’s G-3, as having once said, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew and chew damn little.”

Under the stress of the battle at the beachhead Dawley appeared to Clark to grow increasingly nervous and shaky, and seemed unable to take decisive action.” One night, Dawley reported his situation to Clark over the telephone. “Well, Mike,” Clark said, “what are you doing about it?” ”I’m praying,” Dawley said. “That’s OK,” Clark said, “but you better do something else besides.” Clark reached his decision to relieve the corps commander with difficulty, for he and Dawley had both been protégés of General McNair. and Clark felt uncomfortable about recommending the relief of a man who was in some respects his senior.

During General Alexander’s visit to the beachhead, the army group commander received the impression that General Dawley was not meeting the required standard of performance. Dawley’s briefing of the situation confirmed Alexander’s feeling, for, unlike McCreery, who seemed to Alexander to have his corps under control and to know what he was doing, Dawley was nervous; his voice shook, and his hands trembled. To Eisenhower, Alexander recommended that Dawley be relieved but suggested that Eisenhower see for himself first.

General Alexander’s American deputy, General Lemnitzer, who had accompanied the army group commander to the beachhead, later remembered that “General Clark was worried, especially about the VI Corps set-up.” In Lemnitzer’s presence, Clark informed Alexander that he had personally had to place some infantry battalions in the line because Dawley seemed unable to handle the matter. At the VI Corps command post, when Alexander asked Dawley what his future plans were, the response was embarrassing. “Obviously under great strain,” Lemnitzer recalled, “with his hands shaking like a leaf, General Dawley made a pitiful effort to explain the disposition of his troops and what he planned to do.” The explanation confirmed the impression that Alexander and Lemnitzer had sensed around the corps headquarters-the staff lacked confidence in the corps commander’s ability.

Not long afterward General Lemnitzer saw General Eisenhower in Algiers. When Eisenhower asked about the beachhead, Lemnitzer told him of Clark’s difficulty with the VI Corps. Eisenhower exploded. “Well, why doesn’t he relieve Dawley?” Lemnitzer supported Alexander’s recommendation that Eisenhower visit the beachhead to judge for himself.

During his visit, Eisenhower concurred in what by then was a unanimous opinion among the senior commanders. Eisenhower assured Clark he would arrange for someone to replace the corps commander. There is evidence that Dawley’s relief had been decided several days earlier, before Eisenhower’s visit.

The relief came as a surprise to General Walker, who had worked closely with the corps commander and who had heard Clark express no disappointment over Dawley’s conduct of operations. As he looked back after the war, Walker thought that two incidents might have contributed to the decision. When Eisenhower, Clark, Dawley, and Admiral Hewitt visited his 36th Division command post and received a briefing from Walker, the division commander had the feeling that Eisenhower was paying little attention to his words. At the end of Walker’s presentation, Eisenhower turned to Dawley and said, “How did you ever get your troops into such a mess?” Instead of explaining that there was no mess at all, Dawley replied in a manner that gave Eisenhower no inkling of the pains Dawley and Walker had taken to insure proper tactical control and co-ordination. Walker was about to add his explanation when Eisenhower changed the subject. Another time, when Walker accompanied Dawley, Clark, and Ridgway to Albanella, the generals drove in two jeeps, Walker riding with Ridgway. For their return trip, Clark asked Walker to ride with him and Dawley. On the way, Clark and Dawley engaged in what soon became an unfriendly discussion over a trivial matter. When Dawley intimated his disapproval of certain measures taken by Eisenhower and Clark, the army commander became ominously silent. General Marshall was also surprised to learn of Dawley’s relief, but he backed Eisenhower and Clark even before he had full knowledge of the facts.

When Dawley returned to the United States, he visited the Army Chief of Staff and explained what had happened. General Marshall had the impression that Dawley should have been relieved even sooner. There is something to be said in General Dawley’s defense. The VI Corps commander had not expected to assume command of operations ashore until after the beachhead was securely established. Clark had told Dawley before the landings to stay aboard ship and not to take command until D plus 2 or thereabouts, since Clark thought that the single American division in the assault was already overloaded with commanders. Furthermore, the 36th Division carried three days’ supplies, and the end of that 3-day period, Walker and Dawley estimated, would be the logical moment for the corps to take command of the operation. Thus, Dawley was not entirely prepared when ordered on D-day to take command-his staff was scattered and his headquarters and communications were scheduled for a later unloading. Trying to make do with what he had. he used the 36th Division facilities and strained them. “Neither Dawley nor Walker were very happy about the situation,” General Truscott later wrote, “and both attributed much of the early confusion to the disorganization of Command.” Finally, lacking an organized and fully staffed headquarters, General Dawley found it difficult to delegate authority to subordinates and equally difficult to get enough rest himself.

The inevitable confusion of the beachhead, the intermingling of units and the consequent lack of neat dispositions on a situation map. Dawley’s failure to impress visiting officers of high rank, his fatigue after several days and nights of strenuous activity and little sleep-these raised doubts in the minds of his superiors. On 16 September, Clark informed Eisenhower that Dawley “should not be continued in his present job. He appears to go to pieces in the emergencies.” On 17 September, when Clark appointed Ridgway deputy corps commander, Dawley’s relief was as good as accomplished, and three days later a replacement arrived from Sicily to take over.


Despite deficiencies and misfortunes, the Fifth Army had secured lodgment on the Italian mainland by 20 September and began to marshal its strength for the concluding episode of AVALANCHE, the capture of Naples. By that date, British units were occupying the east coast of southern Italy-several British naval officers had entered Brindisi on 16 September and found it empty of German troops-and were increasing their strength in that area. While General Montgomery sought to concentrate his widely dispersed forces for an attack to Foggia to secure the airfield complex there, General Clark prepared to drive to Naples to secure the port.

Additional gains of the three-pronged invasion of southern Italy were Sardinia and Corsica, which the Germans abandoned. The 90th Panzer Grenadier Division began to leave Sardinia on 11 September, moving to Corsica first. This movement was completed by the morning of 18 September. Italian troops on Sardinia did little to impede the German forces, but Corsican patriots, armed with submachine guns and aided by a small Allied contingent, both dropped to them from Allied planes. harassed the Germans.

Concerned even before the German evacuation that the Corsican irregulars would be too weak to cope with the Germans, General Giraud, commander of the French troops in North Africa, pressed General Eisenhower to dispatch French units to the island. Eisenhower favored encouraging the local resistance forces in Corsica by sending French troops, but he had no vessels to transport them. The requirements of the battle of the beachhead were overriding.

He nevertheless approved establishing an improvised ferry service. On 11 September, a French submarine sailed from Algiers for Corsica with 100 French soldiers aboard. Two days later two French destroyers, the Le Terrible and the Le Fantastique, loaded several hundred men, somewhere between 500 and 800 according to estimates, and about 50 tons of supplies and sailed for Ajaccio, principal port of Corsica. Two French cruisers, the Jeane d’Arc and the Montcalm, recalled from duty in the Atlantic, two Corsican schooners pressed into service, and later two Italian cruisers formed a fleet that, for the next two weeks, nightly ferried men to the island. The underground fighters and the French troops failed to halt the German movement to the mainland, which was completed on 1 October.

Two small British ships had entered the harbor of Cagliari on 18 September, bringing General Eisenhower’s representative, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and a small staff to assume Allied control over Sardinia. General Eisenhower placed Corsica under the control of French military authorities and later sent a small liaison staff to represent him at the office of the military governor appointed by General Giraud.

Sardinia and Corsica, by virtue of their strategic location, represented a great prize won at slight cost. Allied possession of the islands made the Mediterranean still more secure for shipping. More important, the airfields, particularly those on Corsica, would bring Allied bombers close to enemy targets along the southern approaches to the Continent, especially those in southern France and northern Italy.

SOURCE: SALERNO TO CASSINO; by Martin Blumenson (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Italy; Beyond Salerno (ISC-2-10)

World War Two: Italy: Salerno-Beachhead; The Crisis (ISC-2-8)