- From the book "In my father's foxholes and footsteps"
- The arrival in Italy and the transfer to the Apennines
- The attack on Mt Belvedere
- The defence of Mt Belvedere
- Il Malandrone, Cimon della Piella and Pietracolora
- The conquest of Castel d'Aiano and Mt della Spe
- The Spring Offensive
- Tolè towards Monte Pastore
- The conquest and crossing Savigno
- Fly down into the Po Valley
- Crossing the Po river
- The end of the war in Italy
- Return back to America and to the family
- All Pages
It was either on the 2nd or 3rd ofMarch, I think it was the 2nd,when we started the second offensive. The second offensive was the primary destination and the most important mission of the division. While on Mt. Belvedere we were on reserve, this time we were selected to be the first ones to attack. The objective was to free up the surrounding areas on the other side of Belvedere to Malandrone and Cimon della Piella between Mt. Terminale, Iola di Montese area right up toPietracolora. That whole area became the front line after the summit Mt. Belvedere was occupied by our troops. And once again our Battalion was selected to be the first to jump off. The 85th Regiment was to the left of us; the 86th to our right while in the center the 87th would clear the area. There was a small road on the right side of Mt. Belvedere, in a small valley, if you could call it that. They told us that Malandrone was a “little gulch”, where at the bottom ran a little river. Realistically it was more like a gulch with a small torrent. The bridge over the gulch had been destroyed and the tanks weren’t able to go across. The engineers were trying to rebuild the bridge but the Germans kept bringing it down with artillery fire. That night we stopped there.
The Brazilians were also there; I remember that night, they must have been really happy because they were making all kinds of noise. I thought these guys are sure not well trained. It was as though they were there going from one party to another party, Clanging, all kinds of noise. The Germans would surely hear this outfit sooner or later. We, on the other hand, were very quiet. It was eerie because it was dusk and getting dark and I could see the outline of all the artillery that we had. Oh my, just look at this! Everything was ready for the battle. The plan for battle was for the 3rd Battalion to seize position and then the other two Battalions were to go through us and attack. But for one reason or another it didn’t work that way. They delayed the attack for three days. And in those days we took a beating, a real beating. The German artillery shot continuously at us each day for the next three days. The shooting was really intense and we lost quite a few men there. I feel sorry for those who had to go out to patrol the front or send messages. Some of us were forced to abandon our foxholes in order to avoid direct artillery hits and mortar shells that flew over us. It was hell for the men of the 3rd Battalion, a real and true hell. I don’t know how many fellows were killed or wounded.
That area was made up of hills and mountains, some low hills and other were slightly higher. If you knew how Italy was back then, the homes were made out of rock and gypsum…they were like small fortresses. The Germans usually placed themselves behind or inside these houses and when we would attack we would be confronted with heavy defense fire. We’d ask for artillery support but sometimes it was useless. We would have to go out there with machine guns, rifles, take the people out or get rid of them, kill them. So anyway, there we were, held back due to the defense fire from the enemy.
We set up our machine guns and mortars under a small ridge on the right side of Malandrone. Prior to setting up our sergeant told us “You and Fred better separate because something could happen and my two gunners will be gone”. That was the right decision. Fred was the senior gunner because he had been in the service longer than me. I had met him at Fort Ord. In Fred’s foxhole there was another gunner who was a Polack. He was a very nice fellow and became the one who loaded the shells into the mortar. The Germans started shelling us, one of the mortars landed really close by and the both of them folded up. Fred was killed and the other one, Pinkie, was badly wounded. The Sergeant of the mortar crew was also wounded. Later on, I found out that Pinkie was sent to the hospital and he didn’t come back until the war was over. So I became sergeant, in name only, I didn’t have any stripes or anything like that; I just led the squad until the end of the war. A few yards from me there was a house, how many yards could that have been? 15, surely less than 20 yards. Let’s say 10, 15 yards. The German artillery continued to fire. If any piece of shelling were to hit you or come close to you it would kill or seriously wound you. A piece of shrapnel comes with a lot of force behind it. Another fellow nearby was also hit. I remember that only because of the pictures I have, otherwise, I would have probably forgotten all about him. Later on a tank finally moved up towards the blockhouse started firing and eliminated it. And so having the upper hand we moved from Malandrone towards east because there were some areas to the right side that hadn’t yet been cleared. The 85th Regiment was to our right side and we were supposed to seize one mountain, directly in front of us, … Cimon della Piella and after that, other mountains…the names of which I don’t remember.