ENGAGING THE ENEMY

When we rode through the streets of Rome, Italy on June 4, 1944 just hours before daybreak, we briefly stopped at the outskirts of the city along the Tiber River. As the early sun began to rise, thousands of the Italian citizens of Rome happily surrounded our tanks with joy of laughter and glee, they gave their congratulations to us for their freedom from the German enemy; they offered the tank crews many bottles of vino. This was a short-lived scene of enjoyment for us, as we received orders to pursue the retreating enemy. We made slow progress against the Germans, mainly because our equipment and armored vehicles were in need of an overhaul service. We disengaged from the enemy twenty (20) miles north of Rome, to take care of the tanks and give a short deserved rest to the crewmembers. Within a week we were ready to once again make contact with the Germans, only to find the enemy stopped retreating. Their line of defense in these Italian mountains gave them a secure edge against any frontal attacks. The Germans were skillful combat war soldiers and they extolled a heavy price on our advancing Americans.

I sensed this was going to be a long war for me --- the removal from our 5th Army of 3 to 4 divisions, lessened our troop strength. The American High Command had plans for these divisions to invade Southern France in August. This was not a morale booster for us troops left in Italy, as we had to face a formidable foe in the mountains and with inclement weather. In this type of slugfest against the enemy we gained ground slowly, and with a heavy price of causalities.

An explanation, our Tank Destroyer Battalion would be attached to a Division on the front line for two (2) or three (3) weeks whenever that Division was relieved from the combat zone by another Division, we automatically remained with the incoming unit. Tank Destroyer Battalions were independent, not officially belonging to a Division. We were classified as a "Bastard Outfit". Infantry regiments requested our support to knockout enemy pillboxes, machine gun emplacements, etc. It is not as easy as it sounds. An enemy machine gun nest can lure a tank into the open, only to be blasted by a hidden enemy artillery force. The experience of combat, qualifies a soldier in the interest of self-survival, to be alert and battle-wise to the tricks and lures of the enemy. As the attack progressed and the need for the guns of the Battalion developed, the line companies were quickly transferred from one Infantry Regiment to the next, to hammer at stubborn points, blast out machine gun nests, and neutralize anything that might hold up the Infantry advance.

By the 2nd of July, C. Company had reached Bada, Italy and established a roadblock. On the 10th of July, we entered the town of Castiglioncello, against enemy opposition. The 9th and 51st British AA Regiments moved into support in that vicinity, a day or two later and together the units advanced against strong enemy patrols and heavy mortar fire through Quereinella and Mt. Nero entering Leghorn from the south at dawn on the 19th. Meanwhile the firing companies in their direct support roles were moving forward steadily and on the 18th of July, Company C supporting the 363rd Infantry Regiment entered Livorno (Leghorn) with the Infantry ridding on the destroyers. The 23rd of July found the Battalion transferring back to the 88th Division and moving into positions southeast of Pisa, Italy.

In Italy, 1944 Memoir Index Days of Fear and Doubt