MENU SELECTION:   RETURN TO  The Italian Campaign
Dated: Jan 19, 2005
Part 2

    34th 'Red Bull' Infantry Division

IRELAND • Beginning 
ALGIERS • Pretending 
< HILL 609  >
VOLTURNO • Spanning 

CASSINO • Storming 
ANZIO  •  Waiting 
CECINA • Scattering 
LEGHORN • Slugging 

Book II • 



GOTHIC LINE •  Considering
BELMONTE • Dragging
YEAR'S END • Defending 
NEW YEAR • Patrolling
BOLOGNA • Smashing 
HIGHWAY 9 • Slashing

Organization of Division - Units + Summary of Awards & CasualtiesCLICK TO GO
Glossary  - CLICK TO GO

Color Legend:
         Allied Units  (Only highlight units other than the 88th Division)
         German Units
         Bold (black)   Important dates, towns or leaders.
         {My comments}  in Blue Brackets.

          M.  - Monte or Mount.  M. Adone for Monte Adone.
          S.  - San or Saint.     S. Pietro for San Pietro.  
Command and Organization:
  The 34th Infantry Divisoin was part of the 5th Army while it was in Italy.  The divisions within the 5th Army were orgnaized into Corps.  During various times, the 5th Army consisted of the II Corps, IV Corps and/or VI Corps.

Each Regiment consisted of three battalions that commanded four companies.  The 1st Battalion consisted of Companies A, B, C, & D; the 2nd Battalion of Companies E, F, G, & H; and the 3rd Battalion of Companies I, K, L, & M(heavy weapons).  The Cannon Company was a light artillery unit that reported to the regiment.   At the end is infomation about the organization of the division, followed by a glossary of military terms---
                                   Organization of 34th.


~~~~~ Part 2 - Continued ~~~~~

CASSINO – Storming                                                                                             [1944]

    It will be convenient here to sketch briefly the German position which shortly was to become world renowned. To the west of M. Trocchio there opened up the broad Liri Valley along which Highway 6 and the railroad led ultimately to Rome. Running from north to south in front of the mouth of this valley ran the Rapido River which linked up with the Liri River nine kilometers south of Cassino. The town was built at the base of an imposing hill, covered with rocks and stunted shrubbery, through which twisted the narrow road leading to the famous Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino. The Rapido River had been turned in its course to flood the flatland on the east side of the town. Towering above Cassino there rose a series of craggy peaks - one in particular, Hill 593, dominating but not controlling the Abbey hill itself since a deep gorge separated the two heights. Further north the little villages of Cairo and Terelle huddled close to the hillsides connected by a steep and winding trail. Surmounting the whole picture rose the pinnacle on M. Cairo. An Italian army of ancient days had built a castle on a small sugar-loaf hill on the northwestern outskirts of Cassino from where fire could be placed on the entrances of the town. The modern Italian army had constructed barracks about five kilometers north of the castle along the Cassino-Atina road. The terrain was so suitable for prolonged resistance that the Italian War College had used it as an example of a well-chosen defense line. 

    Thick minefields and rows of barbed wire had been laid in the marshes and on the gently rising ground at the base of the mountains to prevent the passage of tanks or foot troops. A chain of bunker positions, stronger than any encountered before, had been built, some reinforced with concrete, some with railroad ties from the ruined station at Cassino, but all of them dug and blasted out from the rock of the Cassino hills. Not content with natural fortifications the enemy had installed portable steel pillboxes, half-buried in the ground, each containing a machine gun. Every man and every weapon had shelter from artillery fire. In support of their infantry positions, emplacements were prepared for self-propelled guns which could mount the trails on the northwest side of a hill without being observed by us, fire a few rounds, and disappear. A large concentration of gun positions had been constructed close to the hills behind Cassino and close to Highway 6 where they had good protection from our counter-battery fire. Enemy artillery was further reinforced by a number of Nebelwerfers whose eerie noise earned them the name of "screaming meemies".  {Nebelwerfers were a 6-shot rocket artillery piece that made a high-pitched scream, thus the name "Screaming Meamies".}

    To attempt an assault upon such a series of fortifications was a most hazardous undertaking, and originally it was decided to force the Rapido River and advance straight up the Liri Valley, bypassing Cassino and turning the Gustav Line. After a series of attempts by the 36th Infantry Division to cross the Rapido south of Cassino had been thrown back with much bloodshed, the 34th Division was ordered to cross the Rapido north of Cassino, to carry by storm the hills overlooking the town and breakthrough to Highway 6, isolating the town and the Abbey. Our attack began during the period of 24-25 January {1944}. Three days previously an Allied amphibious force had successfully established a beachhead at Anzio. 

    The 133rd Infantry, advancing with three Battalions abreast, approached the river north of the barracks and immediately ran into extensive minefields covered by elaborate interlocking machine-gun fire. The Regiment continued the agonizing job of forcing paths through the minefields in the marshy land and several times succeeded in getting elements across to the western bank. Each time the tremendous volume of enemy fire obliged them to withdraw, but the enemy in his resistance had betrayed a weak point in his line. On 26 January the 133rd Infantry gave place to the 168th Infantry who, with the 756th Tank Battalion in support, prepared an attempt to storm to the farther side. In the face of mines, barbed wire, and the most intense fire, the Regiment succeeded in established a bridgehead and in pushing to the base of the hills one or two kilometers further on. It was impossible, so soft was the ground, for the tanks to cross but four of them, bogged down, continued to fire in support of the infantry and greatly assisted them in their advance. Engineer troops worked like Trojans to prepare firm crossings, but these were not in operation until the afternoon of 29 January when the bulk of the Tank Battalion crossed in support of the infantry attack. Before midnight, two small hills had been attacked and taken, and the enemy dugouts and bunkers were mopped up. 

    The 133rd Infantry moved across in the left of the Division sector. During the next few days very successful infantry-tank operations cleared our right flank, occupied Cairo and captured over 250 prisoners, including an entire battalion headquarters. By this time the 168th Infantry had formed a definite salient into the German line. The enemy command grew anxious and brought in heavy reinforcements from the Adriatic coast consisting of the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division and the 1st Parachute Division. The 135th Infantry passed through the 168th Infantry and pushed on up the hill, trying to reach Highway 6 and isolate the Abbey. On 1 February the 133rd Infantry drove west from its positions toward Cassino clearing the barracks. The next morning the Regiment with tank support began the attack from the north on the town of Cassino itself, meeting very fierce resistance. The enemy had installed anti-tank guns at critical intersections, and had made of the stone-built houses strong points for his machine guns and riflemen. A diversionary attack by elements of the 133rd Infantry from the east was turned back. The enemy refused to be stampeded into a withdrawal. 

    Throughout this entire period, it must be borne in mind, every box of rations, every can of water, every round of ammunition which the infantry used had to be brought up across terrain which was under direct observation from hills still in enemy hands. The Germans, fully aware of this, laid down accurate and continuous fire upon all critical points and especially on the river crossings. Traffic control by the Division Military Police reduced congestion, but within a few days the stench of decaying mule carcasses, the litter of overturned vehicles, abandoned shell-cases and disabled tanks made a scene of modern war which will not be forgotten by any who saw it. On the mountains the battle remained stubborn and progress was slow. Casualties to both sides were very heavy, especially because the fanatical German paratroopers launched frenzied counter-attacks in an attempt to drive us back to the valley. Our ranks became thinner and the problems of evacuating casualties down the treacherous mountain trails and across the shell-swept approaches to the position were very serious. Volunteers came from the service and rear units of the Division to help out. 

      By the end of 12 February a platoon had succeeded in reaching the outer walls of the Abbey, and capturing prisoners from a cave on Monastery Hill. It was impossible for the platoon to remain, however, and they withdrew. The Germans throughout the operation took full advantage of the fact that the Allies had undertaken not to fire at the Abbey in view of its importance to the world as a religious institution. The relative immunity which the enemy obtained for his observation can hardly be overestimated. 

     On 13 February the 135th Infantry in the face of withering fire assaulted and captured Hill 593 which overlooked the Abbey but which was separated from it by a deep gorge. The enemy reacted viciously. Five furious counter-attacks were sent in against our positions in less than twenty-four hours. Once our troops were forced to withdraw, but immediately they reformed and took the hill again. In conjunction with this operation other elements of the Regiment and of the 168th Infantry managed to reach the northern slopes of Monastery Hill itself, before they had to withdraw. Castle Hill, far below Hill 593, remained a constant threat to our troops, and made movement in daylight very hazardous. Several times large concentrations of artillery fire were laid down upon it, and attempts to storm it were made by the 133rd Infantry without success. 

     The latter Regiment had, during the entire time, been carrying on what was almost a separate battle in the cellars, the dining rooms, the kitchens of Cassino. So close was the contact that when the mortars and the machine pistols stopped momentarily at night, the troops in one room of a house could hear the Germans talking in another room. Nevertheless, by 12 February the key strong-point which the Germans had created in the jail was taken and one-half of the town was in our hands. Infantry attacks on each city block were assisted by tanks, who knocked holes in the walls of the houses through which the infantry could climb or throw grenades. Enemy mortars and self-propelled guns a few streets away kept up a heavy counter-fire.  Our field artillery and dive bombers attempted to smother them with massed fire but the piles of rubble only increased the protection for the Germans. The town and castle of Cassino crumbled into stinking ruins. 

    The 34th Division, when it had made its first assault on the Gustav Line, was already tired and under-strength from its brilliant series of advances which crushed-in the ring of delaying positions from S. Vittore to Cassino. By now, after three weeks of constant fire, repeated attacks and counter-attacks, often seemingly endless nights on the bare rock of the mountain with no protection against the furies of the rain, wind, and snow, after intolerable hardships, our troops had reached the limits of human endurance. Their numbers were so reduced that every time a man was carried off the hill by aide-men a gap was left in our lines. In spite of the most devoted support which our artillery and tanks could give to the infantry, very little useful help could reach the men in the foxholes whose chief weapons in this fighting were the hand grenade, the tommy gun, and the bayonet. {Tommy gun refers to the US .45 caliber Thompson sub-machine gun.}

  The 34th Division had made a serious dent in the Gustav Line. It was now time for fresh troops to take up the fight at the point our troops had reached. 

      On 14 February elements of the British 4th Indian Division took over positions held by the 135th and 168th Infantry Regiments on Hill 593 and on the other hills overlooking Cassino. Some of our men had stuck it out so long and had suffered so much that they had to be lifted bodily out of their holes. The sadly depleted Regiments went to S. Angelo d'Alife for rest. 

      The 133rd Infantry remained in the town of Cassino for a few more days grimly registering its gains of a room here, half a house there, still opposed by the toughest enemy resistance. They had the unforgettable experience of seeing the Abbey blotted out by hundreds of American bombers on the day after the 34th Division relinquished command of the sector. 

      The battle of Cassino was a failure. The Division had failed to take its objectives. The German paratroopers had succeeded in blocking the best efforts of our troops to advance. Yet for those who were there and who knew the difficulties of the assault, the tremendous strength of the German fortifications - to those men, Cassino was the outstanding achievement in the Division's history. 

      It is too early to even attempt a final judgment on what the 34th did. But it is a matter of record that the troops, who relieved us, in spite of the most rigorous air support, lost some of the ground, which our troops gave to them. It is a matter of record that successive attacks by troops several times as numerous as we also failed to capture the fortress. 

     It is history that when the Allied attack finally achieved its goal no less than five divisions were required to finish the task which the 34th had so gallantly begun and so nearly completed.

ANZIO – Waiting

     At S. Angelo d'Alife little could be done during the first few days out of the line except to rest and recover the strength which had been expended so freely on the Cassino hills. Within a few days the Division was directed to move to a new area at S. Giorgio near Benevento, where the Division first went into action in Italy. At this place some progress was made to fill the decimated ranks of the infantry since the 2nd Battalion, 133rd Infantry, released from its guard duty at Allied Force Headquarters, rejoined the Division, fresh and at full strength. 

     On 11 March the Division was ordered to prepare to move by sea to the Anzio Beachhead, by now a legendary place where hard-pressed Allied troops had just succeeded in holding off determined enemy counter-offensives. 

      The 34th was still understrength. A bare few days before embarkation, which began 17 March, large numbers of replacements were received, creating a problem for the three Regiments who were faced with the possibility of heavy action before efficient teamwork could be built up. Between 17 and 25 March, 2 LSTs made a journey each night from Naples to the tiny harbor of Anzio. The 168th Infantry, marching straight off the transports, closed in an assembly area in the right sector of the beachhead, and immediately began relief of elements of the 3rd Infantry Division. The 135th Infantry followed suit a few days later while the 133rd Infantry remained in Division reserve. 

     The beachhead at Anzio was a place unique in the experience of the 34th Division. A small piece of flat land measuring less that ten miles at its widest point and no more than eight miles deep, heavily cultivated and criss-crossed with canals and drainage ditches - these few square miles were so congested with troops and equipment that at times it seemed impossible to find a vacant place to dig a hole or pitch a pup tent. For this reason the bulk of the Division's transportation was left behind at Naples where it was used to bring up supplies from the ports and dumps to the forward areas of the southern front in preparation for the gigantic Spring offensive which was even then in an advanced stage of planning. 

      At Anzio the 34th learned a new type of warfare. They learned that the enemy, from the hills overlooking the beachhead, could see everything that went on in our sector during the daylight. They learned to dig into the sides of the ditches and stream beds and to remain under cover during the day, coming out at night to stretch their legs and to keep watch against the ever-present possibility of a German attack. The infantry learned the routine of manning defensive positions, posting guards, making patrols, and being relieved. The artillery perfected the shattering technique of coordinated artillery fire in which the shells of hundreds of guns arrived on their target at the same instant. The Signal Company operated its scores of miles of telephone wires, learned to lay its lines away from the most likely objectives of German artillery fire, to dig in all their switchboards, and to provide for alternative channels of communication. The engineers learned the difficulty of laying barbed wire entanglements and minefields at night, under cover of infantry patrols. The entire Division shared the same life in damp and dismal holes, under a constant hammering from German artillery and aircraft. 

     When the Division arrived at the beachhead, the enemy had just failed in two concerted attempts to drive the Allies into the sea, and no one could be sure that they would not try a third time. On the front of the 34th Division, the enemy units consisted of the 362nd Infantry Division, a recently-formed organization who were not outstandingly good, but who maintained a high standard of alertness in their defense. After a time it became apparent that the Germans had abandoned the offensive, and the 34th conducted a series of well-coordinated raids to secure information on enemy units, on their tactics and their defensive positions. Never before had the agencies used to collect information about the Germans worked so well together. Aerial photographs, interpreted at headquarters only a few hours after they had been taken, were used to pinpoint enemy weapon positions. Prisoners taken by the infantry were carefully questioned for facts about enemy tactics, supply, and other matters. The artillery staffs built up a complete picture of the opposing gun lay-out, and after almost two months of hard work our knowledge of the enemy opposite us was complete and accurate almost to the last detail. During this period, also, our own troops had been relieved by turns, and as each unit passed into reserve, it went to a training school where veterans could pass on the benefit of their experience to the large numbers of fresh replacements. At no time did the Division delude itself with the idea that the current defensive phase was anything but temporary. No one, especially as the beachhead became more and more crowded with the steady influx of troops and supplies, had any desire to remain a sitting target for the Germans any longer than was necessary. All day and all night the German artillery shot harassing fires at our dumps, our forward positions, and our supply lines. It was difficult for them to miss - so congested was the area. At night their artillery program was stepped up to take advantage of the fact that the traffic on the roads increased since we could only move supplies at night. 

      On 11 May, when the main attack on the southern front jumped off, everyone on the beachhead was tense. All in the Division knew that if this drive succeeded the time when the beachhead would have a land link with the remainder of the Army was not far distant. The planning staffs had worked hard to prepare for the breakout from the beachhead. The troops had trained and rehearsed their part in detail. No longer were we to be on the defensive. Instead, if all went well, the Allied beachhead force would play a crucial part in the encirclement of the right wing of the German troops as they fell back up the boot of Italy in the face of the drive from the south.


    At 0630 hours on the morning of 23 May  the great sortie from the beachhead smashed into action. The mission of the 34th Division was to hold the perimeter and allow the assaulting elements of the 1st Armored Division on the left, the 3rd Infantry Division in the center, and the 1st Special Service Force on the right to pass through them and to pierce the German defense line. However, the 135th Infantry was attached to the 1st Armored Division for this operation, while the 133rd Infantry stood by to support the Special Service Force. Preceded by a fifteen-minute artillery preparation, fiercer than anything seen before, the Americans hit the unfortunate 362nd Infantry Division such a blow that it reeled back in confusion. Within a few hours the enemy's forward positions were over-run and hundreds of prisoners of war were on their way to our PW cages. On the left, the 135th Infantry with the Armored Division had made excellent progress and had crossed the railway embankment which formed a major feature of the German defense line. On the right, the 133rd Infantry rushed to the sector of the Special Service Force, whose initial attack to cut Highway 7 had been thrown back, and restored the situation by an assault in the face of severe opposition from infantry and tanks to cut the highway and the railway southeast of the key road junction of Cisterna. While resistance in this town continued for some time from the cellars and ruined buildings, the success of the breakout was evident. The 362nd Infantry Division within three days had been virtually annihilated as an organized fighting force. The 34th Infantry Division reformed and prepared to exploit this triumph.
{1st Special Service Force were a battalion of specially-trained rangers consisting of Americans and Canadians.}

    The 168th Infantry moved to the west, the 133rd Infantry, returning from its foray, moved up to the left of the 168th, and both Regiments formed up for a concerted push to the northwest. On 25 May the 135th Infantry, relieved of attachment to the Armored Division after a magnificent performance, moved into 34th Division reserve. At dawn on 26 May our troops made rapid progress which continued until late on 27 May when stiff enemy resistance was met along a line approximately 1000 yards short of the railroad between Lanuvio and Velletri. It had long been known that the Germans had prepared a strong defense line in this area. Bunkers and mortar positions had been dug into the north face of the railway embankment while machine gun and rifle emplacements were hastily completed by the retreating German troops as they occupied their defenses. Further, the village of Villa Crocetta had been turned into a fortress containing over a battalion of infantry, reinforced with tanks and self-propelled guns. 

     The Germans in the face of our fierce attack succeeded in maintaining their positions. We committed the 135th Infantry from reserve to the left flank of the Division. Even the 109th Engineer Battalion was sent into the line as infantry. Nothing was held back. Rome was the goal - all or nothing. Finally on 2 June, with the town of Velletri captured and his line in danger of encirclement, the enemy suddenly gave way. His units, patched-up remnants of the troops who had borne the shock of the breakout from the beachhead, had fought surprisingly well. The German High Command had used every effort to bolster them with replacements from the butchers, bakers, tinkers, and tailors of rear area units. 

   By the morning of 3 June the enemy was in full retreat. The 100th Infantry Battalion made a very determined attack to clear a road block on Highway 7 which led to Rome. A motorized task force with infantry, tanks, tank destroyers, engineers, field artillery, and reconnaissance troops, was constituted and ordered to press on north with all speed to seize crossings of the Tiber River southwest of Rome. The Germans had honored their undertaking, to consider Rome an open city, but all the Tiber River bridges between Rome and the sea were destroyed. Our Engineers worked fast to make crossings, and within a day the entire Division had passed to the northern bank. The Germans conducted their retreat very skillfully. They lost no time in evacuating their heavy equipment, which by day and night marches, fell back, protected by a screen of motorized infantry, self-propelled guns, and engineers. In spite of the terrific toll taken by our air forces in their bombing and strafing attacks along the highways, the Germans were able to evacuate much of their materiel, and seriously impeded our advance by means of their well-executed demolitions and roadblocks. 

   The 1st Armored Division and the 34th Division were given the mission of an all-out pursuit of the enemy north and northwest of Rome. During this time the 135th Infantry was re-attached to the 1st Armored Division, and was pursuing the Germans north of Rome to the Viterbo airfields. The 34th Division, advancing day and night at top speed, relieving the lead battalion from time to time so as to maintain the freshness of the troops and the vigor of the pursuit, reached the town of Civitavecchia during the morning of 7 June. 

    During this advance the work of the service troops was absolutely outstanding.   The 34th Signal Company, whose unobtrusive efficiency had almost come to be taken for granted, now excelled all its efforts by tirelessly linking the Division units by telephone and by maintaining radio contact. During the operation a few hours prior to capturing Civitavecchia the Division advanced forty-one miles, and telephone communication was continuously maintained between the Division headquarters and Corps headquarters far to the rear, as well as to the leading elements of the Division. To maintain the speed of the pursuit only those vehicles that were necessary for the job could be permitted to move on the roads. The 34th Military Police were given the task of controlling traffic to this end, and they rose to the occasion. The Quartermaster Company, hauling rations and gasoline from dumps far to the rear, enabled all troops to push on with the confidence that their supplies would always be maintained. 

   With the capture of the port of Civitavecchia there was every indication that the German rearguards were rapidly being overtaken, for just south of the town our troops were pressed to a ridge just in time to see an important bridge along Highway 1 being blown up by the Germans. 

   The chase was nearing a climax. The 133rd Infantry passed through the 168th Infantry, who had taken the port, and moved to a line of hills a few hundred yards south of the town of Tarquinia. Here the Germans had decided to attempt a stand for the first time since they relinquished their hold on Lanuvio. The troops they had chosen for this job consisted of the 40th Jaeger Regiment from the 20th German Air Force Field Division*.  This formation had been brought down from Denmark, passing the Normandy invasion front which had been opened only a few days before, and was rushed to Italy in an attempt to help prevent the much disorganized German Armies from being overrun. The engagement with this fresh Regiment was joined shortly after noon on 7 June. The day was warm, visibility was excellent. Our troops looking down from one ridge could see the Germans fully in the open busily digging foxholes and machine gun positions. The enemy, apparently not expecting such a vigorous chase, had not placed a strong screen of outposts to the south of their proposed line. They were wide-open. In one terrific punch the 133rd Infantry completely smashed the entire German Regiment. Within a few hours the enemy had been scattered and were retreating northward in great confusion. Prisoners from practically every company in the Regiment had been taken, and the way north was once more open. However, during the night of 8-9 June, the 361st RCT, part of the newly-arrived 91st Infantry Division, relieved the 133rd Infantry and continued the advance under the command of the 36th Infantry Division. {* officially known as the 20th Luftwaffe Field Division, this unit was made up of air force soldiers used as infantry.}

     The 34th Infantry Division reassembled in the vicinity of Civitavecchia and, when pressing supply needs necessitated our evacuation of the port, the Division moved on 12 June to the vicinity of Tarquinia for rest and training.

CECINA – Scattering

The Division spent two enjoyable weeks out of the line. The weather was fine and bivouac areas were selected on the sides of gently sloping hills overlooking the Mediterranean coast and the busy airfields and docks which, thanks to the rapidity of our troops' advance, were already in operation. For once, fatigue was not the most critical factor in influencing the withdrawal of the 34th from the line. A certain number of replacements had to be assimilated to replace losses incurred at Lanuvio, but even more important was the job of closing together all the units which, during the hectic days of the chase, had become scattered. The 135th Infantry was relieved of its attachment to the 1st Armored Division and rejoined the 34th in the Tarquinia area. 

    A very important change in the composition of the Division took place at this time. So successful had been the experimental attachment of a unit of Japanese-Americans to a first-class fighting formation that the War Department had decided to attach an entire Regimental Combat Team of Nisei to the 34th Division, thus increasing its organic strength to four full combat teams. The 442nd Regiment, together with artillery, medical troops, and engineers, began the shaking-down process which always come whenever one joins a new unit. The 100th Infantry Battalion, by now battle-wise combat troops, though retaining their separate identity, were assigned to the 442nd Infantry {the 442 Regimental Combat Team consisted of 3 battalions; the 100th Battalion became the first battalion of companies A-D and the remaining 2 battalions were made up of 442nd Regiment}

   On 24 June the Division began the long dusty movements by truck from Tarquinia to the front, which by then had moved many miles to the north - so far north indeed, that it was a hard job to find an assembly area close enough to the front to make a relief possible before the pursuing troops had gone too far forward again. 

     On 26 June the 133rd Infantry and 442nd Infantry, the latter in their first combat assignment, passed through elements of the 36th Infantry Division just north of Piombino, and almost at once ran into an enemy delaying line which was based on the line of hills running from Suvereto to the sea. The 442nd Infantry was committed to attack Suvereto from the south. In a brilliantly executed move the 100th Infantry Battalion, by-passing the town to the east, overran an enemy battalion command post, captured a great deal of German equipment, and captured and killed a large number of enemy troops. In recognition of this outstanding performance the 100th Infantry Battalion was awarded a unit citation by the War Department.   {A bit of trivia: Piombino is where we get the chemical name and symbol for Lead.}

    While this action of the 100th Battalion was being supported by the rest of the 442nd Combat Team, who moved methodically through the hills to clear Belvedere, the 133rd Infantry's advance along Highway 1, parallel to the coast, approached gradually nearer to the defile at S. Vincenzo where the road and railway run almost along the seashore. Due to the high bluffs which push out from the main mountain mass on the right of the highway, any movement which seeks to leave the road is contained within a very narrow space. The enemy took advantage of his chance and deployed a force just south of S. Vincenzo which required our troops a whole day to clear. The Division's right flank during this time was being protected by the 168th Infantry who found the going extremely difficult due to the virtual absence of roads in its mountainous sector. 

    The fighting in the next few days was of a very localized nature. Lateral communications were difficult and the Regiments, after being assigned the directions in which they were to make their attacks, completed their missions more or less upon their own initiative. Castagneto was cleared by the 133rd Infantry after an advance along the highway and thorough the hills to the right of it, causing the enemy very severe losses. The 442nd Infantry reached the Bolgheri River while the 168th Infantry cleared Monteverdi, during which an enemy group of battalion strength was hacked to pieces by the massed fire of all arms. 

    On 29 June the 135th Infantry passed through the 442nd Infantry and the Division maintained a steady northward advance along a twenty-kilometer front. After several sharp clashes the Cecina River was reached on 30 June. At this time the 168th Infantry on the right found the going through exceptionally difficult terrain too slow for effective pursuit to be carried out. Accordingly, the troops were moved in trucks around the rear of the Division and re-entered the line preparatory to advancing north across the Cecina River to seize the town of Riparbella. The Cecina River was not a formidable barrier, consisting of a shallow stream running in a wide bed with many scattered banks of shale. A valuable enemy field order taken off a German prisoner disclosed that the enemy had retired to the north of the Cecina River and was going to delay our crossing for as long as possible. The German units consisted of the 16th SS Reconnaissance Battalion on the coast, while further inland was deployed the 19th German Airforce Field Division which had under its control a number of Turkoman troops from the 162nd Infantry Division. The enemy command had become so alarmed at the way in which their units were being scattered and confused by our thrust, that they had instituted a system of straggler patrols in their rear areas to seize any unfortunate German who did not seem to be doing anything, placed him, with others in the same situation, into small groups who were then committed to action. 

   The crossing of the Cecina River was made along a front of almost twenty kilometers, and everywhere succeeded except in the extreme coastal zone where the SS troops defending the town of Cecina put up a most stubborn resistance. The 133rd Infantry, in cooperation with the 135th Infantry on its right, made a pincers attack upon the enemy, who were decisively beaten. This was one of the sharpest actions in the history of the 133rd Infantry and also one of the most successful, for the enemy left many dead and prisoners and much equipment in our hands. 

    The country through which the advance now had to move was very difficult. A series of jagged mountains separated by deep gorges and covered with forests and underbrush made communications very difficult and the supply of food and ammunition a matter of great exertion. The 135th Infantry, pinching out the 133rd Infantry, was now the left flank of the Division, while the 442nd Infantry held the center, leaving the 168th Infantry on the right. 

     By 3 July a steady progress had resulted in the capture of Riparbella on the right while elements of the 135th Infantry entered Rosignano during the early evening. In this village the Germans put up a very stubborn resistance. The terrain in the area was such that it was not possible to flank the town since any attempt to do so would have exposed the encircling unit to fire from the town itself. There was nothing for it but to engage once again in the bitter house to house fighting with which the Division had become all-too-familiar during its earlier days in Italy. 

    On the coast little possibility existed for speed since the road at this point ran along a ledge hewn out of the mountainside where it fell in a steep slope down to the sea. All that could be done was to block Highway 1 to prevent enemy units from harassing our left flank. The 168th Infantry on the right was, during this time, surrounding and annihilating whole companies who allowed themselves to become cut off during the defense of isolated hilltops.

LEGHORN – Slugging

      By 6 July, Rosignano was cleared leaving so many enemy dead that the town was quarantined to prevent epidemics, and the 168th Infantry had closed in on Castellina, a little town in the mountains about ten kilometers further north up the twisting, narrow road from Riparbella. To the west of this town the 442nd Infantry had occupied a ridgeline covering the lateral trail connecting Rosignano with Castellina. The obstinate fighting of these past few days had seen the enemy extend the front of the 16th SS Division gradually to the east, committing the 35th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment at the side of the 16th SS Reconnaissance Battalion, defenders of Cecina. To the east of the SS troops the 19th German Airforce Field Division was in a bad way, So much so that the enemy command rushed the crack 26th Panzer Grenadier Division from the central Italian front to oppose the 34th Division and to prevent a break-through by us, which would immediately menace the port of Leghorn and greatly simplify our advance to the Arno River valley. On our side, too, we had received reinforcements since the 363rd Regimental Combat Team, of the 91st Infantry Division, together with tanks and tank destroyers, had been sent in on the right flank of the Division as a task force known as Brigade Ramey, after its commander. Thus the 34th Division at this time had command of no less than five Regimental Combat Teams plus other attached troops, and the Division sector was as much as thirty kilometers wide. 

      During the morning of 7 July the Division received a temporary setback on its extreme right flank where the newly arrived troops of the 26th Panzer Grenadier Division counter-attacked elements of the 363rd Infantry and drove them from a hill. On the same afternoon the 133rd Infantry, from reserve, closed up behind the 168th Infantry, preparatory to relieving this Regiment and entering the line of the left of the 363rd Infantry. Our intention was to make our main drive in the right Division sector and to push forward as hard as possible due north to seize the dominating ground overlooking the Arno Valley, and by-pass the town of Leghorn since it would be relatively easy for the Germans to defend this port in the extremely rugged country to the south of it. 

      During 8 July the advance continued against weakening opposition in our right sector although the 135th and 442nd Infantry Regiments on the left met isolated enemy strongholds which required considerable time to reduce. The next few days were tough and strenuous and took the form of an out-and-out slugging match between two stubborn enemy divisions and the 34th. Our troops experienced almost as much trouble in overcoming the difficulties of poor communication as they did from direct German opposition. The roads, never in very good shape, were not designed for the heavy traffic we were obliged to put over them and, furthermore, the German engineers had demolished every bridge and culvert, had caused land-slides at points where the trails ran along shelves cut into sides of hills, and had blown craters in the road at awkward hairpin bends. Much toil and much time was involved in clearing the way for our supplies to move to the forward elements. 

     On 12 July the 363rd Infantry came under control of its parent Division which had taken over a sector on the right of the 34th, so that on 14 July our drive was resumed with the main effort on the east and all four Regiments committed in the line. In our desire to put a maximum punch behind our right-hand Regiments a certain weakness had been accepted on the left, but this was considerably offset by the fire of anti-aircraft guns whose commander volunteered his services in support of our attack. In the face of many local counter-attacks our progress was necessarily slow, and in order to try to prevent undue fatigue on the assaulting elements frequent relief of the battalions in the line were made. 

    By 17 July our troops had emerged into less hilly country and it was possible to used more armored vehicles, in support of the infantry and for flank protection. We were now within striking distance of Leghorn. Higher headquarters directed us to exert all our efforts for the capture of this place rather than pursue our original intention of first seizing control of the Arno Valley. Accordingly, the Division sent every available support to the attack of the 135th Infantry, who were slugging it out with SS troops in stubborn fighting among the hills southeast of the objective. During the night 18-19 July the 363rd Infantry was again attached to the Division and it was to this Regiment that went the honor of being the first American troops to enter the city. They did so after a rapid infantry-tank thrust, arriving at the northeastern outskirts of Leghorn during the early morning hours of 19 July. The 135th Infantry, with a determined spurt, arrived in the southeastern suburbs shortly afterward. 

     In order to safeguard the prize of this great seaport it was essential to drive back German elements south of the Arno River and to prevent enemy raiding parties from trying to penetrate to the city. Strong patrols were at once pushed forward to the river line, but very few enemy were encountered and it was evident that the Germans had withdrawn the bulk of their force to the northern bank, leaving only outposts and patrols within the big loops which the Arno made in the flat land east of Pisa. 

    The 34th Division temporarily set up defensive positions along the southern bank and kept close watch on the enemy posts opposite them, including the city of Pisa itself, where enemy weapons could frequently be seen shooting at us. We were unable to take adequate retaliatory action for fear of destroying some of the priceless treasures of this ancient town. 

    At this time it was not known whether our halt would be short, so plans and reconnaissance were made to cross the Arno in the event we were ordered to do so. After a few days of patrolling, the 34th Division was relieved while our infantry went back to the resort town of Castiglioncello and other villages south of Leghorn for a period of rest. Certain advisers were left behind for a short time until the new men had settled in. The artillery rejoined the Division a little later when it was seen that their fire power for the repulse of a possible enemy attack south of the river was no longer needed. 

    During the static period just prior to the Division's relief, Major General Charles W. Ryder, who had led the 34th since Ireland, left the Division for a higher command in another theater. He was succeeded on 21 July by Major General Charles L. Bolte. Under General Bolte's direction the 34th proceeded to train for future operations and to enjoy the experience of several weeks on end out of the fighting line, during which it could enjoy the facilities offered by the Mediterranean resort coast in summer. 

    The war in Italy paused. With the invasion of Southern France many of the units, which had fought alongside the Division left for new battlefields. The 34th remained in Italy, waiting until it should be called up to take part in the assault of the strongest German positions yet encountered - the Gothic Line along the Apennines.


    Without question the fighting for Leghorn was a tough proposition, and the complete victory achieved by the Division against Nazi SS Troops was a fitting end to another phase of the campaign. For such had been the rapidity of the Allied advance from the Garigliano, from the Anzio beachhead, past Rome, past Civitavecchia, Cecina, and now Leghorn, to the southern fringes of Pisa, that our supply lines were over-strained and our troops tired. The Arno River, winding down the lovely plain of Tuscany, marked as definitely as a line on a staff map, a suitable point at which to break off active fighting for a spell, to make new plans, to bring up supplies, and to train for future operations. The Division was relieved by an Anti-Aircraft {Artillery} Brigade, and went for a summer vacation along the Mediterranean sea-shore south of Leghorn. This was unexpected good fortune, and the tired troops took full advantage of it. For a full week at the outset they overhauled their equipment, put on clean clothes, went swimming, or just lay around letting the Mediterranean sunshine put back into them some of the energy which they had so generously expended in the rough wooded hills between the Cecina River and the Arno. 

     Soon it became necessary to think of grimmer events to come and to digest and profit from the lessons and mistakes which had come to light during the recent slugging. Heavy casualties and the large number of replacements who had only recently joined their units meant that the standard of teamwork between the infantry, the artillery, and armored forces was inevitably lower than usual. The men just did not know each other. So co-ordination and team-play were especially stressed during working time, and for this we were very lucky to have attached to us even during the training period the 757th (Medium) Tank Battalion which was to enter combat with the Division in the near future. By dint of hard training, careful planning, and willing spirit the weeks passed in profitable achievement and a high-degree of self-confidence was obtained throughout the command. After the day's work was done, there was always the resort coast of the Mediterranean, the ample facilities of the Red Cross, and the fabulous beauties of Rome, of Siena, and of Florence. 

       Nor did the Division's fame go unnoticed by the exalted. Mr. Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain, inspected a representative detachment drawn from the major units of the 34th on 19 August and said in part, 

        "The 34th United States Infantry Division has the record of the longest
           period of action of any American troops in this war and participated 
          in Africa, Salerno, Cassino Heights, Anzio beachhead and glorious 
         capture of Rome and movement north thereof. We are now at a 
         phase of this campaign where our enemy can be and will be given a 
         thorough thrashing. The combined efforts of the Fifth and Eighth 
         Armies in assaulting the common enemy has resulted in a greater 
         friendship, more binding than ever before for the United Nations. The 
         former glorious achievements of the Fifth Army and the Eighth Army 
         must be continued and we will have further glorious adventures. The 
        campaign, with the action of Allied troops in Normandy and Southern
        France, will administer a thorough thrashing to Hitler. We must 
        destroy them so that no other man or nation will again impose such 
        oppression upon the nations for hundreds of years. I pay tribute to
       officers and men of the 34th United States Infantry Division for their 
        glorious contribution in this great effort."

~~~~~ Continued on Next Page ~~~~~


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               Air OP - Airborne observer for artillery, see OP
               Art. or Arty. - Artillery
               Bn, Btn - Battalion, 3 Battalions in an Infantry Regiment, consisting of 4 companies each.
                           - Support units assigned to a division were usually battalion size.
               Barrage - a concentration of artillery fire power
               biv. area - Bivouac area or a rest camp
               CP - Command Post, a building or tent where command staff ran the battle
               Co - Company.  A infantry rifle company consisted of 187 men. 12 companies in a Regiment.
               Cubs- light observation aircraft used as airborne artillery observers.
               GRS - Grave Registration Servce.   Private Brown was in this unit that retrieved and buried the dead.
               flak - An anti-aircraft weapon that fired a shell that exploded in air.
               KP - Kitchen Patrol
               K - Rations - Pre-packaged meals
               KIA - Killed In Action
               Krauts - American slang for German soldier
               Non-Coms - Non-commissioned officers or sergeants
               PX - Post Exchange, a store on an army base
               OP - Observation Post - position from where forward observer identified targets
               SP - Self-propelled artillery.
               Ser. Co. - Service Company, a support unit of a Regiment

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Reference Material:
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Other unit histories located on my website:

  85th "Custer" Division  and associated 310th Combat Engineer Battalion

   88th "Blue Devil" Division91st "Powder River" Division  &  1st Armored Division

   36th "Texas" Division &    45th "Thunderbird Division  &  442nd Regimental Combat Team

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For more on US 5th Army and the German X & XIV Armies, go to  Allied Units & Organizations.