Drive Up to the Gustav Line

THE FINAL PHASE of the Winter Line campaign opened on 5 January. Fifth Army was to complete its task of destroying German positions east of the Rapido and of forcing the enemy back into his principal defensive system at the mouth of the Liri Valley (Map No. 24, page 92). II Corps continued its effort along the axis of Highway No. 6 toward Cassino, its objectives the series of hills which barred the way to the Rapido-Liri plain. Protecting the flank of this drive, attacks would be made to clear Mount Majo and the hills surrounding it above Cervaro. Still further north, on 12 January, the French Expeditionary Corps would resume the offensive toward the upper Rapido Valley and the high ground north of Cassino. The right wing of British 10 Corps would advance in conformity with II Corps toward the Liri Valley.

In the period just before the new assault, German ground forces attempted no offensive efforts beyond the usual patrolling. The enemy was regrouping to meet the attack. His exhausted forces protecting the approaches of the Liri Valley needed bolstering to prevent a possible breakthrough into that key area, and the process involved reshuffling units in a way that produced a confused order of battle. Shifting southward from VI Corps' sector, the 44th Grenadier Division began to reinforce parts of the front held by the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division. Units of the 44th Division took over key positions all the way from Mount Majo to Mount Porchia; 29th Panzer Grenadier Division elements were interspersed over the same broad front.


Winter weather continued to hamper II Corps during the first days of January. Until 4 January, when the 1st Special Service Force made the preliminary move in the final offensive, infantry activity in the corps sector was limited to patrolling. The field artillery, too, had been restricted and its efforts were confined mainly to harassing and propaganda missions. On 1 January the entire II Corps artillery fired three rounds per gun on definite targets during the "New Year's Shoot." The Germans had prepared a similar celebration and returned the greeting but in smaller volume.

The bad weather also held air activity to a minimum, just as it had during most of December. When the clouds lifted, however, Allied bombers struck at Cervaro, San Vittore, Mount Trocchio, and other objectives along the front. On 2 January XII Air Support Command completed two bombing missions over Mount la Chiaia, and by 6 January it had flown 145 sorties over Mount la Chiaia and Mount Porchia.

Plans for the Opening Attack

Only a few miles now separated II Corps' front from the Rapido River, but the terrain still gave the enemy excellent opportunities for defensive action. As our advance debouched from the Mignano corridor, it faced three isolated, prominent hills, in a row almost south to north across the route toward Cassino. The smallest was Cedro Hill, five hundred feet high and to the south of the railway line. Between the railway and Highway No. 6 lay the much more impressive Mount Porchia, seven hundred feet above the level of the plain. A mile and a half still further northeast, rising behind the enemy strongpoint at San Vittore, Mount la Chiaia completed the row of hills and anchored it to the edge of the higher mountain mass. Beyond la Chiaia, the German defenses extended into these mountains and included the dominating peaks around Mount Majo.

The three hills barring Allied advance along Highway No. 6 offered the enemy good observation and cover for strong defensive positions. Behind them rose a last isolated ridge, Mount Trocchio, keystone of the German defenses forward of Cassino. One thousand feet above the valley floor, Trocchio dominated the row of lower hills to the east and made easier their defense. It was the final objective in II Corps' drive to reach the Rapido.


The weight of II Corps' opening attack was planned to hit north of Highway No. 6, breaking the enemy defenses where they anchored into the mountains. The Mount la Chiaia area was the focus of the main effort, a coordinated attack by the 135th and 168th Infantry Regiments. The 135th was to take San Vittore and start toward Mount la Chiaia; the 168th would then drive from Sammucro across the headwaters of San Vittore Creek and attack Hill 396. This hill ended a spur from the main mountains, almost connecting them with Mount la Chiaia. With the capture of Hill 396, Mount la Chiaia would be outflanked and could more easily be taken. Still higher in the mountains the 1st Special Service Force (reinforced) had the mission of clearing Mount Majo and its accompanying peaks. On the left flank of II Corps, Task Force A (6th Armored Infantry, reinforced, of the 1st Armored Division) aimed its blow at Mount

Photo: From the ruins of San Pietro

FROM THE RUINS OF SAN PIETRO could be seen the last hills
barring the way to Cassino. While troops on the right fought to outflank San Vittore
and Mount la Chiaia, others would drive toward Mount Porchia for a com-
bined assault on Mount Trocchio, the final position in the Rapido Plain.


Porchia; meanwhile, Cedro Hill would be attacked by elements of British 10 Corps.

Artillery, air, and armored support for II Corps was available on a large scale. The 6th Field Artillery Group of five battalions supported the 1st Special Service Force; the 34th Division artillery and Corps units supported the 168th Infantry; the 1st Armored Division artillery, three tank battalions, and one tank destroyer battalion supported Task Force A. XII Air Support Command was prepared to carry out offensive operations whenever the weather permitted.

Capture of the Mount Majo Hills

Beyond Sammucro and the Mignano Gap, the western edge of the mountain mass slants toward the Rapido River, with long rough slopes that reach down nearly to Highway No. 6 (Map No. 25, below). Possession of these slopes gave the Germans great advantage

MAP NO. 25

Map No. 25: II Corps Right Flank, 4-10 January 1944


in defending the Rapido Valley; their positions here covered the whole left flank and rear of the chain of outpost hills to the south. II Corps plans therefore included an effort to drive the enemy from the mountains flanking the axis of our advance toward Cassino. While the main battle took place on the lower slopes, above San Vittore and toward Cervaro, the 1st Special Service Force would operate high in the mountains. In its larger aspects, the maneuver planned for that unit was a wide end run north toward the dominating peaks around Mount Majo (Hill 1259) and then west on the ridges overlooking Cervaro. Success in this mission would add to the effect of the 34th Division's attack along the lower slopes toward Cervaro. The 1st Special Service Force was trained for mountain fighting, and its abilities would be fully tested. From footholds in the Sammucro heights it would have to cross several miles of mountain upland, over a maze of ridges held by the enemy. Supplies for this operation were carried by pack trains; by 11 January these were using nearly seven hundred mules.

On the night of 3/4 January the three regiments of the 1st Special Service Force had moved from their bivouac area near Ceppagna to assembly areas some three miles northwest in the mountains. Patrols of the 157th Infantry, 45th Division, in the zone which was being taken over by the French Expeditionary Corps, protected the right flank and made limited attacks to keep the enemy occupied. At 2120 that night, the 1st and 2d Regiments of the 1st Special Service Force pushed forward to capture the ridge running north from Hill 610 (Map No. 25, page 96). By 2000 on 4 January they had taken Hills 670, 724, and 775 against opposition consisting mainly of machine-gun and mortar fire. On their right the 3d Regiment drove enemy outposts from Hill 950 and Mount Arcalone. The 1st Special Service Force moved with such speed that the artillery forward observers, packing heavy radios through snow-covered gullies and up rocky slopes, had difficulty keeping pace. Activity on 5 January was limited to patrols on Mount Majo; these were met by mortar fire. Company E of the 142d Infantry moved up during the night of 5/6 January to the ground gained by the 1st and 2d Regiments.

On 6 January the 100th Battalion and the 3d Battalion of the 133d Infantry, 34th Division, were placed under Col. Frederick, commanding the 1st Special Service Force; and on the 7th the 36th Divi-


Photo: The 1st Special Service Force

THE 1st SPECIAL SERVICE FORCE moves swiftly through the mountains
west of Mount Majo. Lt. David Cuddy leads elements of the 3d Regiment.

sion Artillery was added to his command. These units combined with the 1st Special Service Force to form Task Force B, whose specific mission was to continue the flanking maneuver, establish a base near Hill 1109 to further the attack against Mount Trocchio, and protect the right flank of II Corps. The 142d Infantry, which had been posted on Sammucro, was detached from II Corps and returned to the 36th Division in reserve.

Task Force B made its next move on the night of 6/7 January, starting from the positions won on Mount Arcalone. On the right, the 3d Regiment of the Special Service Force, followed by Company I of the 133d Infantry, struck over snow-covered terrain for Mount Majo and by 0520 had gained the peak. The enemy reacted strongly; a counterattack at 0800 by the 1st Battalion, 132d Grenadiers, was broken up. In the German attempt to recover the mountain, reserves were rushed up and for the next three days hurled at Majo in


attack after attack. These afforded the 93d Armored Field Artillery Battalion some of the best shooting in their experience. Firing nearly 8,500 rounds from 7 to 10 January, they inflicted heavy casualties on the 132d Grenadiers.

South of the Majo peak, the 1st Regiment aimed attack across flanking ridges toward Hill 1109, a prominent spur of the Majo mountains directly overlooking the village of Cervaro. By 0415 on 7 January our troops were on the slopes approaching Hill 1109, but counterattacks from three directions forced them to withdraw to the ridge just east of their objective. That night the 1st Regiment carried out a wide flanking maneuver to hit Hill 1109. Circling north to Mount Majo, now in our hands, the 1st Regiment attacked west on the spur of Hill 1270. From this higher ground they took Hill 1109 against little resistance; the enemy had pulled out the 2d Battalion of the 132d Grenadiers to reinforce the 1st which was making no headway in the counterattacks against Mount Majo. The initial

Photo: Ridges rise steeply toward Mount Majo

ial Service Force captured after a swift thrust along the enemy-held ridges
between Mount Sammucro and Mount Majo.


MAP NO. 26

Map No. 26: La Chiaia, 5-7 January 1944

objectives had been taken, and the 1st Special Service Force drew back fox a night's rest, while the 3d Battalion, 133d Infantry, occupied the captured heights.

The 168th Outflanks Mount la Chiaia

While Task Force B was winning the heights, the 168th Infantry had the task of driving the Germans from the middle and lower slopes of the mountains flanking the Rapido Valley (Map No. 24, page 92). It was a difficult assignment, for small creeks had carved the mountainsides into a series of ridges separated by narrow gullied valleys and lying at right angles to the axis of advance. One of these ridges, marked by several prominent knobs, extended almost to


Mount la Chiaia; possession of the ridge would threaten the enemy defenses on that hill from flank and rear. Hill 396, marking the end of the ridge, was the first main objective of the 168th in an attack coordinated with the attack of the 135th Infantry against Mount la Chiaia itself.

The assembly area for the attack was near Hill 687, a western spur of Sammucro (Map No. 26, page 100). Between there and the ridge to be conquered lay the difficult valley made by San Vittore Creek and its forking tributaries. The main creek ran in a gorge thirty to forty feet deep, with almost vertical sides. Patrols had reported no contact with enemy troops in this area, and the creek was set as the line of departure. The 3d Battalion, 168th Infantry, was to make the main effort. At 1820 on 4 January, Company I started toward the ravine to secure the line of departure and ran into an ambush. Enemy forces at the gorge allowed part of Company I to get through, then closed in, capturing two officers and sixty-seven men. Preparations for the attack were nevertheless carried through, including demonstrations further up San Vittore Creek in an attempt to deceive the enemy concerning the direction of the effort.

At 0550 on 5 January, Company I and Company K jumped off behind a rolling barrage fired by the 185th Field Artillery Battalion. They were pinned at the creek line by fire from a stone farmhouse bristling with machine guns. The situation improved during the afternoon when Company L and Company C, on the right flank, crossed the creek farther up in the mountains and reached Hill 425. This spur dominated the lower reaches of the creek and capture of it freed Companies I and K. The 3d Battalion was then able to secure the gorge. Pressing the advantage gained on the higher ground, the 1st Battalion moved beyond Hill 425 and threatened the northern end of the key ridge which was the 168th's objective.

The morning of 6 January saw no progress. Attacking at 0900 after a rolling barrage laid by the 175th and 185th Field Artillery Battalions, the 3d Battalion made little headway against well-directed machine-gun and mortar fire. On the higher flank, the 1st Battalion tried for hills 456 and 511, knobs on the 396 ridge, and was stopped five hundred yards short. The 3d Battalion, 132d Grenadiers, was holding grimly all the way along the ridge to the area where it merged into the mountain upland near Hill 820.

That night a renewed attack broke the enemy defenses at the


Photo: Smoke laid by A-36's on the ridge above San Vittore

SMOKE LAID BY A-36'S on the ridge above San Vittore on 6 January
screens the 135th Infantry's attack on the village from enemy artillery observers.

lower end of the ridge. During the afternoon the 2d Battalion moved up to the gorge and passed through the 3d Battalion. At 2230, Company E spearheaded the effort under orders to capture Hill 396 at all costs. In the bitter, close-in fighting with grenades and small arms, thirteen riflemen of Company E were killed; thirty-three dead Germans were later counted on the hill. The enemy fell back before daylight, only to bring down heavy mortar and artillery fire on the knob. The 2d Battalion had consolidated its position well, and three furious counterattacks before 0600 were unsuccessful. Many men of the 2d Battalion had distinguished themselves in the fighting for Hill 396. Sgt. Rafael T. Hernandez of Company E disposed his squad to counter a flanking movement, then alone went forward and


destroyed a machine gun and its crew. 1st Sgt. John A. Hayes, Jr., going forward on Company G's right, corrected the fire of his platoon so accurately that a counterattack was broken up. During the last enemy attempt to recapture Hill 396, S/Sgt. Fred Trotter's platoon of Company E ran short of ammunition. Trotter left his trench and recovered ten bandoleers from the battlefield. Shot in the leg, he crawled thirty yards back to the trench. Sgt. Trotter was killed by machine-gun fire when he raised himself to throw the ammunition to his men, but with the recovered ammunition his platoon helped break up the final counterattack.

During 7 January, the 168th extended its hold on the ridge above Hill 396. In stopping the 1st Battalion's attack against the higher knobs, the enemy had profited by excellent observation from Hill 820, overlooking the valley across which our troops had to advance. The 1st Battalion postponed further efforts at the ridge while Company C assaulted this flanking height. One platoon was on Hill 820 by noon, and at 1815 the position was secure. This success settled the issue of the fight for the ridge below; the enemy withdrew that night from the knob at Hill 456. The next morning the knob at 511 was occupied without difficulty, and patrols reported the ground to the west clear of enemy as far as Il Gallo Hill.

The 168th had done more than take just another ridge. Its victory at Hill 396 contributed to unhinging the whole enemy defensive system at the junction of his positions in the mountains with those barring the plain. On 7 January Mount la Chiaia fell to the 135th Infantry, marking the complete success of the 36th Division's coordinated attack.

San Vittore and Mount la Chiaia

The village of San Vittore, with its closely packed stone houses and narrow streets, had been converted into a main enemy strongpoint, lying near the base of Mount la Chiaia and guarding the approaches against a frontal attack. The 135th Infantry planned to use the 3d Battalion against this position while the 1st Battalion, crossing San Vittore Creek further north, assaulted the northeast shoulder of the hill itself.

Once again a village stronghold had to be taken. The 3d Battalion planned a night assault by Company K, starting at 2330 on 4


January, without the customary artillery preparation. Two platoons of Company K led off. The 2d Platoon attempted to come in from the south but, after making slight progress, was stopped by machinegun fire. The 1st Platoon, attacking from the northeast, captured several houses before dawn, then spent the day in house-to-house fighting with hand grenades. Snipers fired on our troops from the stone houses; some buildings were booby-trapped. By nightfall of 5 January one-half the town had been captured. Capt. Emil Skalicky then sent the 3d Platoon of Company K to aid the assault on the north while Company I attacked from the southwest. Another day was required to clean out the enemy. By 1700 on 6 January the last of the bitter street fighting had ended, and 170 prisoners from the 44th Grenadier Division had been captured. Our own casualties were very light for such an operation.

The 1st Battalion met with equally stiff resistance in its attack on the hill behind San Vittore. During the night of 4/5 January it moved to the gulch of San Vittore Creek north of the village. Seven hundred yards further up the creek, the 3d Battalion of the 168th was waiting for the jump-off toward Hill 396. At 0630 the 125th Field Artillery Battalion opened a rolling barrage, firing 1,634 rounds in ninety minutes. Despite this support the 1st Battalion was stopped on the line of departure by enemy fire from well-protected positions in ravines and rock pillboxes. Machine guns were causing trouble from emplacements in -the stone houses of the hamlet of Santa Giusta; the 1st Battalion withdrew to allow for finer adjustment of artillery fire on these positions. On 6 January the battalion tried and failed again to cross the creek line. The 2d Battalion, which had been in reserve, took over the attack and succeeded in making a rapid thrust across the face of the hill. On 7 January, with San Vittore and Hill 396 lost, enemy resistance faded and Mount la Chiaia was occupied by the 135th. The 3d Battalion moved promptly west from San Vittore and drove the enemy from Hill 224 and Cicerelli Hill, low knobs between Mount la Chiaia and Highway No. 6. A German troop concentration west of Mount la Chiaia was dispersed at noon by sixteen A-36's and an equal number of P-40's. As a result of the combined efforts of the air force and the infantry, the remnants of the 134th Grenadiers withdrew westward in confusion. Bypassed enemy groups were mopped up and minefields cleared, especially from the San Vittore area. On the trail from Santa Giusta


MAP NO. 27

Map No. 27: Mount Porchia, 4-8 January 1944

our men encountered a new type of German weapon, a concrete mine with plastic fuse, which could not be located by detectors.

Mount Porchia and Cedro Hill

On the left wing, II Corps' offensive involved taking Mount Porchia, just south of Highway No. 6 (Map No. 27, page 105). Task Force A was given the assignment of attacking this isolated hill. One mile southwest, the smaller companion height, Cedro Hill, lay in 10 Corps' zone and would be difficult for the enemy to hold after the fall of Mount Porchia.

The 1st Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry, moved on the afternoon of 4 January to secure its line of departure. The battalion encoun-


tered difficulty in clearing two small rises on either side of Highway No. 6, just north of the end of Mount Lungo, which were vigorously defended by the 5th Company, 134th Grenadiers. Losing his positions by 1930, the enemy counterattacked. Heavy mortar fire met the 2d Battalion as it tried to move west astride the railroad. Until noon of 5 January, the Germans fought hard to stop the drive short of their main defenses. Mauled severely by fire of our artillery, tanks, and tank destroyers, they were forced to withdraw toward prepared positions on Mount Porchia.

At 1515, after an artillery preparation of thirty minutes, the 3d Battalion of the 6th Armored Infantry led an attack that reached the north-south road in front of Mount Porchia. At dawn of 6 January the 1st and 3d Battalions were ready to resume the effort toward their objective; the 2d Battalion came into the center of the line to join the assault, which began at 0700. Little progress was made during the morning, though tanks attached to Task Force A finally reduced the machine-gun nests in stone houses and pill boxes. Early in the afternoon, after another artillery preparation which included smoke to cover the north flank of the zone, parts of Companies A and B reached the crest on the north end of Mount Porchia. The combat strength of the 1st Battalion had been reduced to 150 men. At 1800 the 48th Engineer Combat Battalion (attached to Task Force A) was committed to the attack as infantry, with companies attached to each of the battalions of the 6th Armored Infantry. An enemy counterattack was launched at 2210 from the northwest by three infantry companies of the Hermann Goering Panzer Division which had been rushed from reserve positions, six miles west of Cassino, to help defend Mount Porchia. The Germans reached positions behind American units on Porchia and caused considerable confusion, but the reinforced 6th Armored Infantry held its gains.

Despite the enemy efforts, the entire hill fell on 7 January. During the morning the Germans continued to resist from positions near the summit and the southwest edge, but all three battalions of the 6th Armored Infantry succeeded in fighting their way to the crest all along the hill by noon. At 1500 the enemy counterattacked and was beaten off; strong artillery support helped the 6th Armored Infantry hold Mount Porchia. After one more effort to take the hill that night the Germans withdrew.


South of this battle, the 46 Division of the British 10 Corps had been fighting for Cedro Hill against the same type of enemy resistance. During the night of 4/5 January the 138 Brigade established a bridgehead across the Peccia River against strong opposition by the 104th Panzer Grenadier Regiment; but, with Mount Porchia still uncaptured and their supporting tanks unable to cross the river, the British troops fell back to the east bank at dusk. The 139 Brigade took over the assault and reached Cedro Hill by daylight on 8 January, but enemy mortar fire pushed it back. After the fall of Mount Porchia, the Germans evidently judged their positions on Cedro untenable; that night they abandoned this last of their outpost hills in front of Mount Trocchio.

MAP NO. 28

Map No. 28: Cervaro, 10-13 January 1944


The Final Advance: Cervaro and Mount Trocchio

By 8 January, the Germans had lost their best positions for defending the approaches to the Liri Valley and their Gustav Line. The la Chiaia-Porchia-Cedro hill barrier had fallen; further north, II Corps had secured the higher mountain ground above Cervaro. Nevertheless, possibilities for a last line of forward defense were offered by Mount Trocchio and the rough hills at the edge of the mountains near Cervaro. There was every indication that the enemy would continue his stubborn delaying tactics and that II Corps would have to fight all the way to the Rapido River.

Attack orders for the final drive were issued by II Corps on 9 January, with Mount Trocchio as the main objective and the 34th Division still carrying the main weight of the assault (Map No. 28, page 107). That division planned to strike first at the Cervaro area, clear the enemy from his last foothold on the adjacent mountain slopes, and thus uncover the north flank of Trocchio. The 168th Infantry would attack toward Cervaro from the ridges to the cast. From its vantage ground higher in the mountain, Task Force B would continue westward and clear out the last mountain spurs north of the village. On the left flank, the 135th Infantry was to threaten Cervaro from the south, by an advance from la Chiaia.

Due to start on 10 January, this coordinated attack required three days to carry through against obstinate resistance.

The 168th planned to use two battalions, the 2d attacking from the Il Gallo spur (Hill 497), the 1st from the next small ridge to the northwest, Hill 552. The 1st Battalion had to fight a sharp engagement to secure its jump-off position. On 9 January, Hill 552 having been reported clear of enemy, Company C started down to occupy it from Hill 820. The Germans had returned to 552, and Company C was forced to make a night assault. Two platoons attacked the spur from the south, another platoon came in from the east across a deep gorge, and the Cannon Company of the 168th gave decisive fire support from the right flank. 1st Lt. James G. Nielson, commanding Company C, had reconnoitered the German positions and was able to direct fire that ranged in fifty yards to the right of the attacking troops and completely neutralized the enemy's fortifications. The assault carried through, taking thirty prisoners and killing twenty Germans. By dawn Company C had Hill 552,


but further difficulties arose to delay the 1st Battalion's attack, scheduled for noon. Enemy fire opened unexpectedly from the right flank; higher up the mountainside, some bypassed German positions on Hills 661 and 860 were in a good situation to command the approaches to 552 from the east. It took Company A most of the day to mop up these small nests, killing twenty Germans in the process. This nuisance resistance on its flank prevented the 1st Battalion from moving past Hill 552 toward Cervaro in support of the 2d Battalion of the 168th. Attacking alone, in columns of companies, the 2d Battalion got to within a half mile of Cervaro and dug in for the night.

By morning of 11 January the 168th Infantry was in position for direct assault on Cervaro. Like San Pietro and San Vittore, this little mountain town had been reduced to a mass of rubble and shattered walls, but the wrecked stone houses and cellars gave excellent protection for the enemy, who had organized firing positions to cover all the approaches. The 2d Battalion, 71st Panzer Grenadier Regiment, held this sector, reinforced on the night of 10/11 January by elements of the Hermann Goering Panzer Division.

Before the attack of 11 January our planes bombed and strafed Cervaro, after which artillery took over and covered the area with a heavy barrage. At 1230 the 3d Battalion, 168th Infantry, started a push west from 552 to seize the ridges a half mile north of Cervaro, thus covering the right flank of the main effort and threatening the enemy's rear. Elements of the 1st Battalion were moving west from Hill 552, following the advance of the 3d. When the 2d Battalion jumped off at 1300, driving straight for the town, Mount Trocchio, had been smoked and tanks were in position to give supporting fire from south of the town. The battalion attacked in column of companies under continuous artillery, mortar, and small-arms fire. They reached the corner of Cervaro at dark, while the 3d Battalion gained the slopes overlooking Cervaro from the north as far as Hill 302. During that night the 2d Battalion worked around the northern edges of the village and by dawn was on a small hill at the northwest corner. The Air Observation Post in communication with the 175th and 185th Field Artillery Battalions directed effective fire on enemy troops and vehicles in Cervaro. At 1100 the 2d Battalion launched a final assault from the north and captured the village after two hours' fighting in the ruins. On the northern flank, the 3d Battalion met opposition when it tried to advance further


west, but reached Hill 210 at the end of the afternoon of 12 January. Cervaro had been taken, but there was no collapse of enemy resistance. Whether to cover a withdrawal or to attempt a counterattack, elements of the 1st Battalion, 2d Hermann Goering Panzer Grenadier Regiment, came up that night on the road from Cassino, only to stumble into a costly meeting engagement with the 2d and 3d Battalions a few hundred yards west of Cervaro. A battalion volley of artillery fire on the gorge near Le Pastinelle helped to stop the enemy. The next morning, 13 January, the 168th reached the slopes overlooking Le Pastinelle and the Rapido plain. The regiment was only a mile from Mount Trocchio and in position to threaten it from the northeast.

The 168th Infantry had been helped in its success at Cervaro by supporting attacks both to the north and south. Task Force B had kept pace in the mountain area, attacking west from Hill 1109 and covering the 168th's right flank. In two days' fighting the 100th Battalion and the 1st Battalion of the 133d Infantry gained Mount Capraro on 12 January and began to push the Germans down the last mountain slopes north of the Cassino-Cervaro, road. When Task Force B was broken up on 13 January, its mission completed, the 133d Regimental Combat Team stayed in line on the right flank of the advance threatening Mount Trocchio.

South of Cervaro, the 135th had been aiding the 168th's fight by making a limited attack from Mount la Chiaia toward Le Pastinelle, thus threatening an encirclement of the Cervaro strongpoint. The 2d Battalion of the 135th, making this effort, found a center of enemy resistance at Point 189, where a company of the 2d Hermann Goering Regiment had converted some stone houses into pillboxes. Although Company G of the 135th captured a part of the position on 10 January, the enemy held on tenaciously for three days, preventing a penetration behind his defenses at Cervaro. Finally, on 13 January when the 168th was advancing north and west of Cervaro, the 2d Battalion of the 135th carried the 189 strongpoint.

Always, in fighting out from the Mignano Gap toward Cassino


Photo: A patrol enters Cervaro

A PATROL ENTERS CERVARO on 12 January. Sgt. Charles Russell covers
Sgt. Barney Wright as they search for snipers. Two men of this patrol were
killed by snipers a few minutes later (top).

THE GROUND WON BY II CORPS in the Winter Line Drive. Picture
(bottom) was taken from above Cassino after the fall of the city.

Photo: The ground won by II Corps


and the Liri Valley, II Corps had seen Mount Trocchio looming ahead of them as the last and most formidable obstacle. Now, by 14 January, our troops had driven the Germans from all their intermediate defenses and were facing Trocchio itself, main objective of the attack that began on 10 January. To capture the enemy's last stronghold in front of the Rapido River, II Corps prepared a blow in great force for 15 January. The 34th Division would direct its main effort against the northern flank of Trocchio, with the 168th Infantry striking through Le Pastinelle on the axis of the Cervaro-Cassino road. Two battalions of the 135th Infantry had Mount Trocchio itself as their assignment. On the left flank, two battalions of the 141st Infantry, 36th Division, which had relieved the 6th Armored Infantry, would take the southwest corner of the hill.

But the enemy for once was ready to yield ground without a fight. Evidently considering Mount Trocchio a hopeless position when its north flank was uncovered, he had withdrawn his main forces across the Rapido. II Corps' attack on 15 January encountered no resistance other than harassing artillery fire; three hours after the start, advance elements were neutralizing booby traps on the crest of Trocchio.

North of II Corps, the French Expeditionary Corps had been equally successful in the mountains, carrying through the work begun by VI Corps. The high peaks had been taken as far north as Mount Acquafondata, and the French advance carried on 16 January to Sant' Elia.


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