History of B Company, 120th Medical Battalion

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History of

COMPANY B
120th MEDICAL BATTALION

45th DIVISION

Published Jointly By
THE DAILY JOURNAL-CAPITAL
AND THE OSAGE PRINTERY
PAWHUSKA, OKLAHOMA 1946
With Permission of Pawhuska Journal-Capital Copywrite 2005

 

Dedication

Company B has traveled a long way upon the road to victory. Many hardships have been endured, individually and as a group. Regardless of how trying the times were, each man could always count upon the help and sympathy of his comrades. No group of men have ever been more devoted to each other and to their organization. Each man feels proud that he can say that he belongs to Company B, 120th Medical Battalion.
The trail has been rough and some fell along the way. Those men sacrificed their all in the performance of their duties. Their duty was to save lives and in saving lives gave up their own.
They died so that we, their comrades in battle and the people at home, might live in peace and happiness, according to our beliefs.
America is proud of those boys and we, their closest friends, will never forget them. They will live in our hearts forever. It is with all humility that we dedicate this Company History, which they, more than anyone else, helped to make.
TO
THEODARE FLEETWOOD
TROY A. SELPH
JOHN P. LINKER


Acknowledgements

This Company History is derived from the records of the Company file, taken meticulously by Captain Victor J. Mulaire, M.C. To him goes much of the credit for bringing this book into being. It was at his suggestion that it was written.

This history belongs to the Company. Everyone has contributed, in one way or another, by making suggestions and criticisms. No one can take sole credit. However), it is only fitting that the following men receive special mention:
Sgt. Bruce Fisher,
Pfc. Raymond Quinn
and
Pfc. Harold McCarthy
for their tireless typing.

Sgt. Isadore Steinberg for his proofreading.

To all the others who have contributed factual information we sincerely give our thanks.

AUTHORS

S/Sgt. Willard G. Crawford
and
Pfc. Albert Duseault

Citations and Awards

SILVER STAR
Capt. James S. Rhodes
T/5 Theodore S. Brunt
Pfc. A. G. Grain
SOLDIER'S MEDAL
Pfc. Ray D. Lenning
BRONZE STAR with Cluster
Pfc. Dan H. Breshears
Pfc. Clyde V. Green
Pfc. Adam F. Offenbecher
BRONZE STAR
Capt. Victor J. Mulaire
Capt. Robert L. Kendall S/Sgt. Aaron B. Moore
Sgt. Jesse L. Caldwell
Sgt. Louie W. Dickson
Sgt. Douglas McWhirt
Sgt, Ira C. Weems
T/5 Richard Self
T/5 Ebbie Snow
Pfc. Adolph Pradmore
Pfc. William J. Rubin
Pfc. Charles Rtisso
Pfc. Junior R. Spoon
Pfc. Albert Duseault

PURPLE HEART with Cluster
Pfc. Adolph L. Pradmore
PURPLE HEART
Sgt. Douglas F. McWhirt
T/5 Theodore S. Brunt
T/5 Doyle A. Deatherage
Pfc. Jim Bomsberger ;:
Pfc. Wrease Chastain
Pfc. Robert G. Chick
Pfc. Albert Duseault
Pfc. Orvil L. Landis
Pfc. Ray D. Lenning
Pfc. Rov Shockey
Pfc. Marvin O. Schmidt
Pfc. Junior R. Spoon
Pfc. Maurice L. White
Pfc. Charles Russo
Pfc. Carious Fowler
Pvt. Billie T, Hardwick
Pvt. Hiram p. Jones
Pvt. Harry Sokal
Pvt. Stephen J. Waltridge
PURPLE HEART, Posthumous
Pfc. Theodore Fleetwood
Pvt. John P. Linker
Pvt. Arthur T. Selph

The foregoing list is a glowing tribute to the valor, bravery, and devotion to duty of the men of Company B. As in all wars, undoubtedly there have been other acts of bravery and heroism which, because of the particular circumstances, have gone unnoticed and unmentioned. Many have spent long months at arduous and inglorious tasks enduring the hardships of battle.

As Commanding Officer of Company B, from D-day in Sicily to the historic day in Munich, I feel that every man. in the Company, regardless of thier position, can justifiably take great pride in the fact that he had contributed, in some way, in the evacuation of upwards of 15,000 comrades in need of medical assistance.

Innumerable lives have been saved and an untold amount of suffering alleviated. It is a record which fills me with great pride for the men of B Company. With heartfelt gratitude and sincerity may I say to you; You have served well your fellow soldiers and your country.

VICTOR J. MULAISE .
Capt. M.C.

Beginning of the Trail
Roster of Co. B Starting Overseas

OFFICERS

Victor J. Mulaire, Capt. M.C.
Don B. Durham, Capt. M.C.
(now commanding Co. A, 120th Med. Bn.)
John M. Thomas, Capt. M.C.
(Transferred to 45th Div. Clr. Co.)
Joseph V. Crecca, 1st Lt. M.C.
(Medical Reclassification)
Russell R. W. Layer, 2nd Lt. M.A.C.
(now commanding- 120th Med. Bn. H.Q. Detachment)

FIRST SERGEANT

Max E. Daniels

STAFF SERGEANTS
Willard G. Crawford
Raymond L. Everett
Felix R. Losarnio
Aaron B. Moore

SERGEANTS
Leonard J. Garside
Ray D. Lenning
Cecil F. Rodgers*
William J. Rubin
Jesse L. Caldwell

TECHNICIANS, 4th Grade
Fred Sanders
Lloyd E. Wheeler

CORPORALS
Charles A. Bertinotti*
John D. Cole*
Harold J. Harris
John B. Jones

TECHNICIANS, 5th Grade
Doyle A. Deatherage*
Robert M. Gardner*
John R. Linker*
Glenn D. Strickland*

PRIVATES FIRST CLASS
Clayton Amos
Kenneth L. Anderson
Wilmer L. Bankston
Frank Bassham
Samuel H. Benge*
Jim Bomsberger*
Irwin Blaustein*
Orlin E. Brown
Audrey N, Caldwell
Bryan K. Compton
Louie W. Dickson
Theodore Fleetwood**
Carious Fowler*
Clell D. Jackson
Louis A. Kutzler*
Orvil L. Landis
Francis F. Long
Ralph A. Loyd*
Joe Marshall
Jack E. Marshall*
Jack D. McWhirt
William B. Parsons
Elmer D. Ragland
Charles Russo*
Marvin O. Schmidt
Richard E. Self
Ebbie A. Snow
George W. Snyder
Junior R. Spoon*
Vernon N. Stephens
Harles Walters
Maurice L. White*
George L. Wright
Jack Roebuck*
Theodore Keck*
John Williams
James T. Winslett

PRIVATES
William F. Blank
Theodore S. Brunt
Dan H. Breshears
Wrease Chastain
Robert G. Chick
Robert W. Donnely*
Harold R. Echard
Floyd E. Elmore
Carter C. Folz*
Joseph B. Germaine
Harold E. Halk
William A. Hampton
Billie T. Hardwick*
Hiram F. Jones*
John L. Kline*
John P. Linker**
Otis E. Locklin
Thomas A. McCann*
Harold J. McCarthy
Douglas F. McWhirt
Thurman B. McWhirt
John F. O'Brien
Adam F. Offenbecher
Raymond T. Quinn
Adolph L. Pradmore
James E. Ranahan*
Francis D. Roach
William F. Rigney
Eugene H. Schuldt*
William F. Shulenberger*
John A. Spagnuolo
Fred M. Spangler
Arthur L. Sparks*
Kenneth O. Spurgeon
Cecil L. Stephens*
Samuel D. Tonubbee
Arthur T. Selph**
John W. Turner
Douglas W. Walton
Raymond T. Weatherford
Ira C. Weems
Edward G. Wiktorski
Charles H. Wilson
*transferred from Company or discharged overseas.
**Died in Action.

CHAPTER I

Prelude to Battle

Somewhere in high military circles in Washington, an order was issued; and on Sept. 16, 1940. members of Co. B, 120th Med. Bn. reported to the armory in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. These National Guard volunteers were joining for a year's active duty in the U. S. Army, under the leadership of Captain Paul H. Hemphill.

No one foresaw Pearl Harbor and its subsequent events, so everybody felt pretty much as though it were just an extended trip in summer camp.

"Ill take my year now and get it over with," said most of the men. But Mars laughed up his sleeve.

After ten days of recruiting", equipping and issuing of uniforms. the Company went to Ft. Sill, Okla., for intensive training; it had been decided to train the men so that a well organized cadre could be formed out of them. Collecting Co. A was there also, but Co. C existed only on paper; so men were drawn from A and B Companies, and C Company was born. Jan. 20, 1941, brought a large shipment of reinforcements. The Company became a full strength unit for the first time in its history. Days of training in the beautiful Wichita Mountains followed each other. Hot, long marches through the hills and tricky night problems started the men on their new military careers. In spite of all, life wasn't too hard ; treachery at Pearl Harbor was almost a year away and there were numerous furloughs home.

March 7 of the same year, the Company, with the rest of the 45th Division, moved to Camp Barkeley. Texas, a newly erected camp which became known as the home of the 45th. By much hard work in their spare time, the men of the Division turned the rolling prairie land into an imposing military campus, with company streets lined with evergreen trees. Beautiful landscaping was not the only accomplishment. Under the command of Capt. Elton Lehew, who had assumed leadership of Co. B after Capt. Hemphill had been promoted to Major, the Company participated in maneuvers against the 36th Division. Then came the Louisiana Maneuvers, with the 45th as part of the 3rd Army commanded by General Krueger.

These were the largest peacetime mock war practices in U. S. history. The eyes of the world were fixed on the swamps and bayous of that state. Here men endured hardships that, in many cases, have surpassed actual combat conditions. Latrines and garbage pits were washed away by the incessant rains and floated into bivouac areas. Men woke up to find themselves almost-knee-deep in water. Pup-tents floated away. Mosquitoes and insects made life miserable, snakes made wandering dangerous. On top of all was the continuous rain and mud. It was under these circumstances that the Division proved its mettle and the men of Co. B their 'esprit de corps'. After eight weeks of hardships the outfit returned to Barkeley, where generous furloughs were handed out.

Life at Barkeley assumed its old garrison routine with Capt. Audrey N. Stowers as the new C.O. The Division now became a triangular division, the 158th Infantry Regt. being sent to the Panama Canal Zone. Suddenly rumors began to fly. The men were convinced that they were being shipped to a Port of Embarkation, and then immediately slated for overseas. Something must have changed somebody's mind, because in April of '42 the old 45th headed for Fort Devens, Mass., where they had a long stay. There Capt. Fred T. Perry became C.O. and the Company participated in amphibious maneuvers along the coast of Cape Cod. Here, among quaint cottages, the outfit frolicked and swam, some for the first time in ocean water. Training was rugged-with obstacle courses, marches and amphibious landings from assault boats. After fifteen days of such training, the Company returned to Devens for lectures, day and night marches, obstacle courses and problems. However, it was not all work, there were many week-end passes to Boston. Worcester and New York. Short furloughs home were given, and a liberal quota of daily passes took fellows to Whalon Park and Fitchburg. Devens was not at all a bad place to be stationed.

New England Autumn set in, the trees turned to gold, and rumors of moving began to spread throughout the Division. November of '42 found Co. B in Pine Camp, upstate New York. Here Capt. Victor J. Mulaire took command of the Company. In below-freezing weather the men marched and maneuvered. It was so cold that one of the cooks remarked that they had to stir boiling water constantly to keep it from freezing. Yes. it was cold and transportation out of camp was poor. It was without too many regrets that the Division left for Camp Pickett, Virginia. in Jan. of '43

The outfit arrived in Pickett in a rain storm, the ground was a sea of red mud. The men felt like the fish that had jumped from the frying pan into the fire. However, the weather changed for the better in a couple of weeks, and an intensive training schedule began. Hikes, obstacle courses and dry runs followed in rapid succession. Men, with full field packs and equipment, climbed up and down high wooden towers (Mock Ups) on rope nets. They jumped in and out of stationary assault boats by the hour, taking calisthenics in between these practices. To give everyone a last polish, maneuvers were planned; first amphibious and then mountain warfare. The 179th Infantry was made into a combat team, a self-contained unit with artillery, trucking, medical and engineer units. Company B became the collecting company for this combat team.

Newport News, Va. : U.S. Army Signal Corps, Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, May 27, 1943.

Capt. W. Young, 0-291543, M.T.O., examining exhaust pipe on 6x6 truck for amphibious driving. This exhaust is used on vehicles which, after processing, are to be driven for short distances in the water. This vehicle accompanied the 45th Division when it sailed from H.R.P.E. early in June for service in Africa, Sicily and Italy.
C1:2/05/042 [Capt. W. Young, 0-291543] [picture] Library of Virginia

After water-proofing its vehicles and equipment, the Company boarded trains and went to Norfolk, where it loaded aboard troop transports. Then followed ten days of ship life in crowded holds, with a couple of days and nights spent in assaulting the coasts of Maryland. At the end of this period of training, the men returned to Pickett and got ready for the mountain maneuvers. The Combat Team took these in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
The men of Co. B had a hard workout, carrying simulated casualties up and down steep hills and marching with the infantry. After fifteen days of this type of training, the men again welcomed a return to Pickett where another month of training took place in the form of dry runs and infiltration courses.

Boat team 47 members of the 120th Medical Battalion and the 179th Infantry Regiment, Joseph Germain of B Company is secon from the right in the back row.

The day finally arrived when the outfit left for a staging area, Camp "Patrick Henry, Virginia. It stayed there 14 days, making final plans, clothing and equipment checks and final physical examination. Again they boarded trains and headed for the transports at Norfolk. June 4 everyone loaded aboard the ships, and June 8 the 45th Division sailed away.

That was a memorable morning. Dozens of ships of all types and sizes were anchored in the bay. As though from a single instinct, they all began to move aimlessly, forming a scene of confusion. Gradually a pattern began to form, each ship sidled into the sailing formation, smoke belched out of stacks, whistles screeched; the convoy was on its way.

After nearly three years of organizing, planning and training, the Division, with all of its attached units, was considered ready for the toughest test of all, actual combat. The ante was up and only blue chips could be used from now on. Much depended on how it made out because their battle training' was an experiment. If they did well, the program would continue; if not, many changes in technique would have to be made. Events proved the training a success. No one thought much about issues involved, however, as he looked upon the retreating shores of the U. S. No one knew when he would see that coast line again, and those so dear at home. Everything that made life worth living was backing farther and farther away into the setting sun. Soon just a pinpoint of land was visible to the eye, suddenly only the sun stood upon the horizon. A heavy weight sat on every heart, and many a man wiped a misty eye.


CHAPTER II

The Battle of Sicily

For most of the men in the Company the crossing- of the Atlantic and passing through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean was a novel adventure, filled with ship exercises, dry-run alerts and boredom.

Rumors circulated throughout the ships that enemy submarines had attempted an attack upon the convoy enroute, but were discovered and sunk. For all the men knew about it, they could not have told which day or night it had happened. As a whole, the trip overseas was uneventful, the entire zigzag crossing being made without sight of the expected Luftwaffe.

The 22nd of June saw the huge transports entering the harbor of Oran, North Africa ; with everyone crowding the rails to see the city which rises from the sea to crown the surrounding cliffs and hills. Men grabbed for the few available field glasses, and gazed longingly at the French mademoiselles strolling along the parkway. Many of the men were surprised at the modernity of the city; expecting to find it with more of the Oriental touch. Instead., modern buildings graced the skyline. Much to the disappointment of everyone, nobody was allowed ashore.

Many were pleasantly surprised a few days later, when thev were told that a practice landing operation was to be held before the real thing- took place. The code name given to this final dress rehearsal was "Operation Camberwell." Nearly everyone had a case of sea legs and was eager to go ashore and roam around a bit. June 27th found the Company landing in assault boats east of Oran, completing the dry run, and getting more exercise than they had bargained for, in the form of a fifteen-mile march to the division bivouac area. There followed five days of marches, problems and swimming in the Mediterranean. The 36th Division gave men of the 45th instructions in obstacle courses and combat problems. They had arrived in North Africa two months before, but as yet had seen no action. The Company celebrated July 4th by reboarding the ships, and two days later sailed for hostile shores. Within two or three days every man knew that Sicily was the destination.

"Sicily," Mussolini boasted, "is an Island Fortress ; woe to the would-be invaders." Events proved him very wrong, but the men "sweating out" D-day, H-hour in the sultry holds of those transports did not know that.

As a whole, feelings of fear, anxiety and nervousness were evident everywhere, but the men attempted to hide all of this by joking or busying themselves with last minute preparations. Everyone DID know that any landing on hostile shores involves casualties, and it was not a pleasant thought.

It was only one day beforehand that the men were informed that H-hour was to be 0234 on July 10th. Still aboard ship awaiting the turn to go down the landing nets, men of Company B watched SALVO after salvo of naval gunfire soften up the enemy installations, time arrived and a group, consisting' of 17 enlisted men and a medical officer from Company B, followed each of the three assault battalions ashore.

Peeps with trailers were the early priority vehicles and they were loaded to their maximum capacity. All other urgently need equipment had to go ashore the hard way: on the backs of the men. Practically everyone waded ashore with more than a comfortable load of equipment. Forty-five enlisted men, Captain Mulaire and the motor officer came ashore a few hours later along with the greater part of the Company's vehicles and remaining equipment.

The Regimental Combat Team landed six miles northwest of Scoglitti, meeting scattered opposition. There was some bombing and strafing on the beaches, but luckily no casualties resulted, The litter bearers, attached to the various battalions, evacuated to the beach. Casualties consisted mainly of Italian prisoners of war an American Paratroopers who had been dropped at 0100 hrs. that morning". By 1200 hrs. contact with the whole Regiment was established and progress inland was rapid. Just before midnight the Company was three miles north of Scoglitti, on the road to Vittoria.

The next day of fighting became fierce at Comisco Airport. However, the larger part of the casualties continued to be Italian prisoners and members of the 504th Paratrooper Regiment who had missed their dropping zone and were fired upon by our own troops.

The beginning of another day found the enemy still resisting fiercely all attempts to take Comiso. The 54th Medical Bn. contacted and began receiving casualties from Company B's collecting station. It was at this time that the men experienced their first close bombing when an enemy plane released its bombs in order to escape a Spitfire. One bomb landed only twenty-five yards from the Collecting Station that was just being set up.

Pvt. Jim Bomsberger became the Company's first casualty, with a minor arm wound. Flying shrapnel and strafing punctured several tires on nearby vehicles. In the midst of all this bad luck, heartening news arrived of the capture of Comiso Airport. The following day, evacuation was changed to the 120th Clearing Station, with casualties being light as the result of a fast moving front.

The rest of the vehicles, consisting mainly of ambulances, joined the Company on July 14th. Since there had been only two ambulances in the Company up to this time, these were especially welcomed. The front was receiving heavy mortar and artillery fire, and numerous casualties had to be evacuated. The following day the Combat Team reached the Divisional objective and made contact with the English forces. There followed a day of practically no activity, but on July 17th the Company moved sixty miles. The move was hurried and poorly organized, and as a result, Co. B passed alone through unreconnoitered territory. Regimental C.P. was finally contacted and a definite bivouac area was selected. Here the 180th Inf. took the lead, with the 179th Inf. in support.

The following afternoon the 179th Combat Team again took the lead in the assault on Caltanisetta, a provisional seat and an important Fascist center. Opposition was weak and the city had been heavily bombed and reeked with the odor of decaying flesh.

T-birds rest in the shade, as LTG Omar Bradley drives thru Caltanisetta, Sicily

Five American wounded soldiers were taken from the Red Cross hospital, where they had spent four days as prisoners of war. This hospital had only five doctors, and was poorly equipped and supplied. It contained one hundred civilian patients, most of whom had been injured by bombs. Captured enemy supplies were turned over to the hospital for its own use.

The next few days saw little activity, but near one of the Company's many bivouac areas, a child accidentally exploded an Italian hand-grenade, causing the whole family of six to be evacuated as casualties to the hospital at. Caltanisetta.

Up to this time, the rations had not been the best, but the men managed to supplement their diets with fresh fruits and vegetables from the Sicilian farms, so no one. felt deprived.
Whenever the Company moved, there was always the difficulty of obtaining a good location in which to set up. Other outfits were in competition for the best sites, so the Commanding Officer was always at wits end to get a good spot.

At Castelbuono the Regimental Combat Team captured about five hundred Italians and word came in that some three hundred Germans had escaped to the east; three battalions fanned out after them, but as usual the Germans managed to make their get-away while Italian soldiers were left behind to fight a delaying action.

The next six days consisted of cross-country marches for the infantry and long detours for the Company. The infantry suffered several casualties from land and anti-personnel mines. July 31st the Division began going into reserve and some of the units moved into bivouac along the coastal areas around Cefalu. The 179th was relieved August 1st by the 15th Infantry, but before the Company was releived, the Collecting Station was strafed by enemy aircraft. No damage resulted, and the only casualty was Lieutenant Crecca who stubbed his big toe in the mad dash for cover. The next day the whole Company went into a rest area near Cefalu, and to add spice to the relief, the men were paid in American currency.

Frances Langford

The following weeks were spent in playing baseball, swimming and property checks. The men washed and sewed their clothes, bought vino and provided their own entertainment. There were movies and shows nearly every evening, and many were fortunate enough to obtain passes to Palermo, the capital of Sicily. The highlights of the rest period were when Bop Hope and Frances Langford entertained the Division in the dust bowl; and when General Patton talked to the men of the outfit. Since all could not attend, Capt. Mulaire took eighteen enlisted men to hear the address of "Blood and Guts," who said he loved every bone in their heads.

The Sicilian campaign cost the United States fourteen hundred lives as well as many wounded. It cost countless amounts of blood sweat and tears; but not without its compensations. The first large coordinated operation, against a strongly fortified and anticipating foe, was carried out with complete success. The European Outpost was wrested from enemy hands; a piece of territory the size Massachusetts was conquered and at the Allies' disposal as a base of operations against the mainland. To the enslaved masses of E rope, it was proof of the United Nations' power and ability to r turn to the continent. To the 45th and men of Company B, it was proving ground.

To quote General Patton, "The men of the 45th Division, a new outfit to combat, conducted themselves like veterans, a tribute their battle training." Now the men were resting in a liberate Sicily, well pleased with the job they had done, and waiting' for the tomorrow that lay ahead with all its heartaches and pains.

(Courtesy of Mauldin)

 

CHAPTER III

Salerno: The Beaches Ran Red

Autumn was evident in-the Sicilian air, because an occasional rain squall darkened the bright sky of that land of almost perpetual sunshine.

"Rain," the natives said, "is an indication that summer is at an end, and fall, with its torrential downpours, is around the corner." The men found out in a couple of weeks what a rainy season in Southern Europe means, much to their disgust and discomfort.

The men listened wishfully to rumors that the Division was being sent home. Little did they know that in a few days they would bt on their way to one of the bloodiest battles in U. S. history up tc this time. However, the men of Company B were resting, and the first refreshing* sprinkles of the fall rains were welcome.

Around the first of September, plans for another amphibious operation were in the making. There were meetings of Company Commanders, and discussions by Regimental Combat Team Surgeons on the amount and type of equipment to take. It was finally agreed to use practically the same methods as in the Sicilian operation.

The actual operational plans were vague because the Regimental Combat Team was to be a floating Corps Reserve, and it might be called upon to land at any of the several beaches, wherever it should be needed most. That might mean in the vicinity of either Naples or Salerno. The first six days of September were spent, aside from preparations for the coming invasion, in regular camp routine.

Company B boarded the invasion crafts at Termini Immense as part of the Fifth Army Amphibious Forces. The Regiment loaded as three Battalion Landing Teams and one Regimental Headquarters group. There were three ambulances, one Medical officer and sixteen enlisted men with each Battalion. The Regimental group consisted of the Company Commander, one M.A.C. officer, thirty-three enlisted men and four vehicles.

The next day the convoy sailed for. as the Italians say. "bella Italia." The ships had just sailed out of the bay when the first air raid occurred. It lasted for about forty-five minutes but no damage resulted. The following day found the convoy well on its way, and also brought the welcome news that Italy had rendered an official surrender. The men greeted this news with cheering enthusiasm, for they felt that this would simplify the landing and do away with the necessity of bloodshed in Italy. Nothing could have been more misleading, for even as this news came through, the Germans were setting up defenses throughout Italy, including the very beaches upon which the landings were to take place.

The following morning, September 9, was D-day; H-hour was set for 0400. The Regimental Combat Team became a floating reserve for the Thirty-sixth Division, which was seeing its first combat. The Thirty-sixth had given the Forty-fifth Division instructions in Africa ,so now they were being given a chance to perform for their former pupils, v/ho had already fought a campaign. The Combat Team stayed off shore all that day and night, during which time the men sweated out several air attacks,, but again no known damage was inflicted upon the convoy.

Word came through that the troops on shore were meeting' stiff resistance, so it was decided to land the 179th before dawn of Sep-ttmber 10th. As the men were landing, enemy planes dropped bombs on the beach, causing fifteen casualties near men of Co. B, but luckily none of the members was hit. The wounded were sent to a transport off shore that was handling casualties. The Company later assembled near Paestum, with all personnel and vehicles accounted for.

The Combat Team went into action in a gap, between the American Sixth Corps and the British Tenth Corps, with the former being* on the right and the British on the left. The Regiment moved into position with one ambulance attached to each of the three Battalion Aid Stations and one to the Regimental Aid. There was a platoon from the 45th Div. Clearing Company with the Team, but it remained mobile, so casualties werc evacuated to the Thirty-sixth Division Clearing which was situated in the Temple of Neptune at Paestum.

The next day the Company Commander was on his way to the Regimental Command Post, when he was informed that the route was under artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire. It became impossible to maintain physical contact under such conditions, so for the following thirty-six hours, the radio was the only means of communication with the Battalion Air Stations.

During the day reports of man)- casualties awaiting evacuation kept coming ,n to the Collecting Station. The 157th Infantry had landed by this time and they were contacted in hopes of finding a route into the 179th sector. However, they were meeting" heavy opposition and the plan was given up. The Engineers tried to open a new route\, but this reconnaissance was unsatisfactory. Although The road to the Second Battalion was under constant fire, ambulances of the Company ran the gauntlet and evacuated 71 casualties from its aid station.

Enemy pressure became too heavy, so the Second Battalion withdrew and reformed its lines.
Under an artillery barrage and an armored attack, the road to the Regimental C.P. was opened. As soon as the road was opened, Capt. Mullaire went to establish physical contact with the Regiment. On the way he met Theodore Brunt who was Liaison Sgt. at Regiment. Brunt tried to lead out three ambulances loaded with critically wounded. While on that mission the leading ambulance, driven by Ebbie Snow and Adolph Pradmore, hit a mine. Brunt was instrumental in rerouting the ambulances to safety, although he had been injured himself. For this action, he later received the Silver Star Award. Pradmore also sustained minor injuries from the mine explosion. All means of transportation were used in the evacuation of the casualties from the various aid stations, even two and one-half ton trucks.

Due to extreme pressure from the enemy, the Combat Team was forced to withdraw, leaving the damaged ambulance in enemy territory.

The following day, fierce German counter attacks were repulsed, armor being used on the front alongside the infantry for the first time. After the counter attack failed, the enemy interdicted the whole Reg mental area with artillery fire. Late in the afternoon the air rumbled with the sounds of a tank battle. Into the middle of the fray, Adam Offenbecher and Douglas McWhirt drove their ambulance after a wounded tanker. The attacks and counter attacks necessitated a shifting of troops, causing the ambulances to lose contact with the respective battalion aid stations. However, before the end of the day, the situation was corrected and all casualties were evacuated to the Collecting Station, which had withdrawn a mile because of the proximity of the tank battle.

During the early morning of the next day, the Regiment dug into new defensive positions, and a different route of evacuation was recommended and used. The Collecting Station moved up again. On September 18th, patrols reported "No activity" in front of the 179th positions, so the lines were moved up to the high ground ahead between Battipaglea and Eboli. The Allied troops had at last broken out of the bloody Salerno Beach-head.

The next several days the Regiment encountered mostly road blocks, and casualties were few. However, the Collecting Station was jarred by having a bomb drop about two hundred yards away, but causing no casualties. Junior Spoon received a Purple Heart Award for a laceration of the nose, sustained back on the beachhead. Maleria kept breaking out and the rainy season came in with its incessant showers.

At the latter part of the month the 34th Division passed through the 45th, and the end of September found the men being paid with the new invasion currency.
The first nine days of October the Company moved gradually up the boot of Italy, until on the tenth day the Company was situated in a farm yard three miles southwest of Ponte. A short distance away was a battery of artillery.

The men were sitting around playing cards and taking life easy,we therefore they gave Only slight attention to the group of planes that were paSSing overhead. Too late came the warning!, "Here they come,". and the planes, possibly mistaking the Company's camouflaged set-up as part of the artillery's position, swooped down, scattering bombs and strafing the Company area. Several of the boys ran into an old building, which was knocked down by a bomb. Others took refuge behind hay stacks or any other place that offered protection. When the planes had passed and everyone came out of hiding, the job of digging out those that were buried, or partially buried in the debris of the knocked down building, began. Thirteen casualties resulted. Pfc. Arthur Selph received shell fragments through the chest wall and died of hemorrhage at the Clearing Co. Pfc. Theodore Fleetwood also died at the Clearing. The wounded were: Pvt. Roy Shockey, Sgt. Ray Lenning, Corp. Doyle Deatherage, Pfc. Maurice White, Pvt. Billie Hardwick, Pfc. Orval Landis, Pfc. Carious Fowler), Pvt. Wrease Chastain, Corp. Glenn Strickland, Pvt. Robert Chick, and Pfc. Marvin Schmidt. Sgt. Ray Lenning received burns from flaming gasoline while trying to remove an ambulance from a burning haystack. Sgt. Lenning later received the Soldiers Medal for his courageous action.

As a result of the bombing, the Company moved forward six miles into an open field, and did not camouflage. The next day clearing set up by it without any attempt at concealment. Again enemy planes came over, bombed and strafed nearby artillery positions but observed the red crosses and did not bother any of the medical setups.

On October 18th the 45th went into a rest area for the remainder of the month. Co. B bivouacked near Castlevenere. While the Company was here the men picked up a little Italian boy as a mascot. He came to the Station sick with malaria. The men took care of him ;;nd nursed him back to normal health, and adopted the little fellow. They even had a G.I. uniform made for him, and "Mario" took on (he appearance of a midget soldier. At the end of the rest period he was sent home, reluctant to go, but well and strong.
The word r.ame on October 2°-th to move the Station into an assembly area near Piedmonte, for the Regiment was going back into action. Here, a young Italian unofficially joined the Company. Alberto Gambute, former soldier of the Italian Army, was helpful in the kitchen and in keeping the "pizans" away.

When barracks bags were picked up the next day, the men knew that it would not be long before they would be committed to action. As usual, the men were paid on the last day of the month, and the Combat Team took up defensive positions along the Volturno River, west of Ailano.
From their positions the men could see the ragged mountain peaks above Venafro. The hills towered dark and somber, like evil birds of prey. The murky Volturno flowed placidly, unaware of the men and guns bristling on each side of it, and of the misery and sorrow that lurked in the mountains before Cassino on the road to Rome.


"Thats our Mountain Team"
(Courtesy of Mauldin)


"The litter bearers should be enrolled among the unsung heroes of the war," said one of the highest ranking Allied officers of World War II. In the picture four litter bearers bring a casualty down off the mountains of
Italy.



CHAPTER IV

The Winter Line

As Company B moved through the mountain approaches to the Volturno, the men looked anxiously for a view of the famous river. At last the winding stream came into view and with it the forbidding mountains above Venafro.

The first of November the Company was situated near San Angelo, not far from Venafro. The day was filled with air activity. The next day was unusual only because it was the first time the gas casualty chest was used. Some of the Division White Phosphorus shells had accidentally exploded, burning ten men.

The Station set-up was passed by the Clearing Company, which located itself ahead. Because the Artillery had taken all the positions which afforded good cover, only an ambulance loading post could be established far enough forward to maintain efficient evacuation. Then too, the direct route was under almost constant enemy artillery fire, so by switching to the use of the 180th Infantry's route, evacuation was carried on smoothly.

At the end of the first week of November another forward ambulance loading post was established, and one litter squad was sent to each of the three Battalion Aid Stations. Later in the day a medical officer and one station group took a minimum amount of equipment and established a forward aid station at the loading post. The remainder of the Company moved in alongside the Clearing, because they occupied the only available and suitable spot at the time. When the Clearing moved, because of enemy artillery fire), the Company moved with it. A few days later, due to the nearness of a battery of huge guns that had just moved in to support the Division, the Company was forced to move again.

During all this time Captain Mulaire and Captain Durham were trying to find a good location for a station and the Company. The Station moved from one place to another, while the remainder of the Company continued to bivouac near the Clearing. Every place the Station set up came under enemy artillery fire and the moves were frequent. Finally the Station set up in old monastery which offered excellent protection. It was built in 1820 and had the thick solid walls of that period. Later the rest of the company moved in there also, for the building was larg'e enough to accommodate them all.

Here, amidst quaint surroundings, the men of the Company made their home for the next few weeks. The men went to work with a will, gave the place a much needed cleaning and succeeded to make themselves comfortable. On the tenth of November, Captain Mulaire had gone to the hospital for a minor operation and Captain Durham acted as Commanding Officer. The latter part of the month, Captain Mulaire returned to assume command again.

The enemy had a lot of artillery and did not spare it, consequently casualties were fairly heavy most of the time. The ambulances were driven over winding roads above steep precipices in the middle of pitch black nights. Pvt. Hiram Jones and Douglas McWhirt were wounded, and their ambulance was knocked out temporarily by shell fire while they were at an aid station at Traverecce. The following day another ambulance was disabled in the same manner and in the same area.

The first three weeks of December, the 179th stayed on the line, making little progress because of the mountainous terrain and enemy prepared fortifications. As a result of the stalemate,, the Company remained at the Monastery. The holiday season rolled around and the Station Section decorated their station room, even to setting up a Christmas tree. Patients often voiced their pleasure at the gala surroundings. For them it was a little reminder of home in the midst of mud, filth, cold and fear.

Christmas Eve was celebrated by a High Mass held in the Monastery Chapel. The Vice-Abbot officiated, with the assistance of Chaplain Carney. Christmas morning the men received presents from under the tree. Most of these turned out to be practical jokes, but everyone had a lot of fun and were reminded just a little of the Christmas mornings they had known a few years back. Captain Mulaire gave a short informal talk that touched the heart of every man, and recalled to them the hardships and sorrows that they had endured together.

Soon, however, the feeling of sorrow was forgotten, for there had been preparations made to have a big container of eggnog for this day, and the men always seemed to manage for a liberal amount of native wine. In spite of the ever present dangers, this was as joyous a Christmas as could be hoped for under such circumstances.

Pfc. Ira C. Weems lost his ambulance temporarily when it was hit by enemy fire at Pozzilli, where lie was servicing the Regimental Aid Station. Captain John W. Thomas Jr. was assigned to special duty from B Company to C Company. Five-day passes were given to the rest camp at Naples. Here the men got new clothes, took showers, enjoyed top entertainment, and saw the sights.
During the month, there were many calls for litter bearers. Ambulances could not always reach the aid stations, so the casualties had to be carried down steep mountain trails. Long, laborious litter hauls left the litter bearers weak and exhausted after one or two trips. The Company was below strength and it was sometimes impossible to fulfill all the calls from the aid stations as fast as they came in.

Because of the difficult terrain it was decided to use mules as a means of evacuation, so two mules were issued to each Collecting Company. Pvt. Fred M. Spangler was appointed mule skinner for B Company. The stubborn mules offered "Pete" several exciting experiences. The animals had to be broken-in to carry wounded, as their rough gait made it impossible to haul seriously wounded, and being so high from the ground, left the patient exposed to the severe weather and flying shell fragments. As a result of all these objections, mules were never actually used by the Company.

The Regiment was relieved the first part of January by the French Forces of General Juin and all of the Combat team went into bivouac near Calvisi, except Company B. They stayed behind to service the 7th Regiment of the 3rd Algerian Division until this unit could bring up its own medical installations. This was for only a few days, and on January 7th the Company joined the rest of the Combat Team at Calvisi.

While in rest, the men went after their former mascot, Mario, and brought him to the camp for the duration of their s'tay here. The men saw stage shows and movies, and daily passes to the surrounding towns were given. Sgts. Jesse Caldwell and Leonard Garside left for six days to take special mountain training. In a Battalion ceremony, Theodore Brunt received the Silver Star Award for his gallantry at the Salerno Beach-head.

Good Conduct Awards were presented by Lt. Col. Lawson at a Company formation to many of the men. Captain Mulaire went on detached service to Headquarters Detachment and Captain Durham took command of the Company.

As in all rest periods, the men frolicked and enjoyed themselves. Rumors floated thick and fast. The men felt light-hearted because the relief from the tortures of the Winter Line was great. They felt that regardless of what their future missions held, they could not be half as bad as what they already had gone through. Fortunately for them, they could not foresee what lay ahead: a little patch of land pitted with hell.



CHAPTER V

Hell's Half Acre


In the middle of January the weather grew warmer, and the men absorbed a little bit of sunshine into their chilled bones. Unfortunately, they were not allowed to enjoy it very long, for during the night of the 20th the Company moved into a staging area at Pozzuoli. On the outskirts of Naples, the Company assembled and prepared for the Anzio amphibious operation, in an extinct volcano, which immediately became known as the Fog Bowl. Here, in the King's former hunting reserve, last minute preparations were completed before embarking for what was to become the world's most shelled and bombed beach-head.

The morning of January 24th the regimental Combat Team landed behind the Third Division at the docks of Anzio. On the docks, First Sgt. Max E. Daniels held roll call over the competition of bursting shells of "Anzio Pete." It was the fastest calling of the roll in the Company's history.

The Company had been divided into two sections ; the first group under Daniels, bivouacked three miles from Nettuno the first night. The next morning. Captain Durham came ashore with the other group. The Company stayed in this assembly area for four days. When the Regiment was first committed to action on the right flank, the Company moved with it and set up outside the village of Acciavilla. The Station operated two miles east of it in a couple of houses. There were a few casualties due to strafing and late-bursting Anti-Aircraft shells. Capt. Mulaire returned to the company at this time and resumed his responsibilities as Commanding Officer. The last of the month), the Regiment was relieved by the 39th Engineers and went into reserve. The Station returned to the rest of the Company situated near the village and evacuated for the Engineers.

The first few days of February, until about the 11th, the Regiment remained in reserve.

Then all hell broke loose. The Germans had brought several divisions from Northern Italy, and after a terrific artillery barrage, threw everything they could muster, into a fierce counter-attack that lasted from the 16th to the 18th.

Their mission was to throw .the beach-head forces into the sea. Hitler's order was to accomplish this within three days.

They failed. And with terrific losses, but the Allied troops paid the price as well, in killed and wounded. It took artillery, tanks and mortars on the front line to stop the yelling, charging Nazis. Everything was on the line, for there was no place to withdraw.

The Company, in the meantime, was set up at Campo Cemento. The Forward Station operated in three different places within a radius of one kilometer. Because of a slight withdrawal, the first route of evacuation became part of "No Man's Land." The Station moved on the axis of the newly reconnoitered road, but it had been there only two hours when the enemy concentrated a terrific barrage upon this area. As soon as it ceased there was another move; this time to one of the busiest corners of the entire beach-head. By this time, it became evident that there was no safe place to be found, so the men just dug their holes a little deeper and stayed put.

On the last day of the counter-attack, Pfc. Russo and Pvt. Kline lost their ambulance when it became stuck in a bomb crater. TheJ were forced to leave it where it was because of artillery and small arms fire. Later attempts to retrieve it were abandoned for the same reasons.

Casualties among company aid men were heavy, and medical replacements were slow in coming, so Pvts. Rogers, McCann, Schuldt, Hardwick and Fowler were sent to the 157th Infantry Medical Detachment as reinforcements.

Human beings are the most adaptable creatures in the world They proved this at Anzio. where they dug into the ground and covered their holes with roofs for protection against anti-personnel bombs. These shelters, for the next three and a half months, became their homes. Vehicles and tents were dug in to protect them against flying shell fragments. During this time the men became so accustomed to this type of living that they were almost reluctant to leave when the time came to do so.

Company B's kitchen "dug in" on Anzio, where everything that went through the trying days of that beachhead was "dug in" or perished. The boys, left to right: James Winslett, a visitor; Fred Spangler, Joe Germain, John R. Linker, Edward Witorski and John Spagmiolo.

 

First biscuits baked on Anzio. They were an occasion. Cooks, left to right: Robert Gardner. Joe Germain, Edward Witorski, Mess Sergeant Willard Crawford, all of whom became the company's popular guys with the biscuits.

 

As in the previous month, the Company remained in the same location. The Station was three kilometers away at Tre Cancelli Poor roads made evacuation very difficult, and on dark nights, the assistant drivers had to walk ahead of their vehicles to guide the drivers. Most of the roads were just improvised trails. Nearly ever nightly the roads were either bombed, strafed or shelled. In spite o all dangers and difficulties, the ambulance section evacuated al casualties quickly and efficiently.

Since most of the forward areas were under direct enemy observation in daytime, litter bearers from the Company were use to carry casualties from the battalion air stations to ambulance load ing posts. Here the ambulances were dug in deeply. The litter bear ers sweated out many a shelling in carrying out the wounded.

March 20th, the Company received 15 replacements, bringing th unit up to strength. Four days later, S/Sgt. Losornio was the firs to go home on rotation from the Company. The last of the montl he was followed by Pfc. Bombsberger.

April rolled around without any changes in the method of evacuation, or location of the Company. Casualties were due mostly to artillery and bombing. By now, the enemy knew of every installation on the Beach-head, and no area was safe from shelling. Every day and night, the whole area was given a going over by enemy planes and artillery. Not far from the Company, Ernie Pyle missed death by a hair, when a bomb hit the house he was in but failed to explode. The Corps Surgeon was killed by enemy artillery fire, and evacuation hospitals, as well as the port engineers,, caught their share of the shelling and casualties. No one was safe on Anzio, not even the ships off-shore which were shelled also. During one of these frequent shelling, Pvt. John P. Linker received fatal abdominal wounds while at the forward station. He later died at a beachhead evacuation hospital.

Rotation of Medical Officers brought Captain Jacob Schnitman to the Company. He stayed until the middle of the month, when the Regiment was relieved by the Seventh Regiment of the Third Division. The Company went into rest in its same area, orienting new personnel and repairing equipment. These new replacements were being gradually exchanged for old company aid men, who were very appreciative of this method of rewarding their long and devoted service.

Captain Durham left for Company A, April 22nd. Captain Kendall came to the Company from that unit. S/Sgt. Douglas took over the Station Section.

The last three days of the month the 179th returned to its old sector on the line, and the Station opened at its old location.

At the beginning of May, the Regiment remained in defensive positions and casualties were few, considering the continuous shelling], bombing and patrolling. The Company stayed in its old position and engaged in, apart from its evacuation missions, what became known as "Beach-head Routine." This consisted of policing, washing clothes and equipment, repairs to vehicles and becoming used to life underground. There were several thousand civilians living in the Allies' occupied zone, and to make life more bearable for them and to give the troops more freedom of movement, it was decided by high authorities to evacuate them by ship back to Naples.

Life on Anzio, while dangerous and filled with hardships, was very colorful. The men made the best of the situation, and adapted themselves to this life quickly. Soon there were baseball games, soft-ball matches, horse races and many other forms of entertainment. Music lovers got together, and with what few instruments they possessed, plus those their own ingenuity provided, gave forth with much entertainment.

The men of the Company segregated themselves into groups, forming small settlements of underground homes wherever the most protection was afforded. Perhaps the most unique of these groups was "P---- Alley." Here the men dug comfortable holes into the banks on each side of a short road that offered defilade. St-Sgt. Willard Crawford, being senior Non-Com., acted as mayor of this group, and he and Cpl. Bruce Fisher served as community photographers.

Pvt. William Hampton set up a shoe repair shop and did a thriving business sewing high tops on the regular G.I. shoes, making them into combat boots.

Cpl. Robert Gardner, aside from his cooking duties, found an old sewing machine and put his civilian tailoring- trade to a very good advantage.

Cpl. William Parsons and Pvt. Charles Cornish kept the men's heads well trimmed, and on the sly, there was even a "still" with which the men "ran off their own spirits and made beer. All this, with the addition of the Company's dug-in recreation tent, which contained a radio, reading material and games, helped to make life on Anzio bearable.

Lt. Stanley August joined the Company and stayed for 17 days before he was transferred to the 180th Inf. Medical Detachment. Lt. Thaddeus Krajewski, M.A.C.. was assigned to the Company to get practical experience in the functions of a Collecting Company.

After three days of barrages by the massed guns of the Beachhead forces), the great May offensive began on the 24th of that month. In the initial phase, the 179th remained in position. The next day the British took over this sector, and the Regiment went into Division reserve. The Forward Station set up at Campo Morto, where it was shelled. Luckily no casualties resulted.

The 26th of May, the 179th was committed to the line and the Station moved up midwaj' between the battalion aid stations and the Clearing Company, a total run of 20 miles. Because of congested roads the Station moved forward again, this time six miles. This made it easier for the ambulance drivers from the battalion aid stations, but time was lost in the drive to the Clearing Company. Casualties were numerous, the roads heavily shelled, and there was much night strafing.

June the first, the Company handled the largest number of casualties in its entire history (before or after). Two hundred and eighty-eight casualties, in that single day, passed through the Station. For the rest of the battle, the Regiment became a supporting force again. June 5th saw the fall of Rome, and the next day men cheered as the news of the invasion of Normandy reached them. The following dayj, the Company crossed the Tiber river. Nearly everyone was disappointed at its smallness in width. To think that Mussolini had considered it a feat on his part to swim across it was a laugh, because there was hardly a man who had not considered swimming the forty miles that lay between Anzio and the safety of Naples.

After the crossing- of the Tiber, the Company, with the other Collecting" Companies of the Battalion, assembled around the -Clearing Company in an open field near Rome. Here the men had a week of well deserved rest, and passes to the city were given to everyone who wanted to go. Most of the men of the Company visited the Church of St. Peters at the Vatican, and saw many of the historical sights in the Eternal City. The balcony from which Mussolini made his addresses was viewed unimpressed. Rome was conquered from the South, an operation never before accomplished in that city's long history. In view of the long hard fighting behind them, the men could appreciate, but not stand in awe of, the ancient monuments and buildings.

The fighting in Italy was hard, fought in all kinds of terrain and weather. The campaign was long and unfinished, but the men were in rest and preparing for a big "blow-out." Some even talked of invading the shores of the good old Homeland. However, it wasn't in the cards to return home; another hostile shore awaited their coming. Another land cried for liberation. The shores of Southern France beckoned.


 

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