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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.
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.
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
Pfc. Harold McCarthy
for their tireless typing.
Isadore Steinberg for his proofreading.
all the others who have contributed factual information we sincerely give our
Willard G. Crawford
Pfc. Albert Duseault
Citations and Awards
Capt. James S. Rhodes
T/5 Theodore S. Brunt
Pfc. A. G. Grain
Pfc. Ray D. Lenning
BRONZE STAR with Cluster
Pfc. Dan H. Breshears
Pfc. Clyde V. Green
Pfc. Adam F. Offenbecher
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
HEART with Cluster|
Pfc. Adolph L. Pradmore
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
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.
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.
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
J. MULAISE .
of the Trail
Kenneth L. Anderson
Wilmer L. Bankston
Samuel H. Benge*
Orlin E. Brown
Audrey N, Caldwell
Bryan K. Compton
Louie W. Dickson
Clell D. Jackson
Louis A. Kutzler*
Orvil L. Landis
Francis F. Long
Ralph A. Loyd*
Jack E. Marshall*
Jack D. McWhirt
William B. Parsons
Elmer D. Ragland
Marvin O. Schmidt
Richard E. Self
Ebbie A. Snow
George W. Snyder
Junior R. Spoon*
Vernon N. Stephens
Maurice L. White*
George L. Wright
James T. Winslett
William F. Blank
Theodore S. Brunt
Dan H. Breshears
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
from Company or discharged overseas.|
**Died in Action.
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.
one foresaw Pearl Harbor and its subsequent events, so everybody felt pretty much
as though it were just an extended trip in summer camp.
take my year now and get it over with," said most of the men. But Mars laughed
up his sleeve.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
T-birds rest in the shade, as LTG Omar Bradley drives thru Caltanisetta, Sicily
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
was evident in-the Sicilian air, because an occasional rain squall darkened the
bright sky of that land of almost perpetual sunshine.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
to extreme pressure from the enemy, the Combat Team was forced to withdraw, leaving
the damaged ambulance in enemy territory.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
first few days of February, until about the 11th, the Regiment remained in reserve.
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.
mission was to throw .the beach-head forces into the sea. Hitler's order was to
accomplish this within three days.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Durham left for Company A, April 22nd. Captain Kendall came to the Company from
that unit. S/Sgt. Douglas took over the Station Section.
last three days of the month the 179th returned to its old sector on the line,
and the Station opened at its old location.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Robert Gardner, aside from his cooking duties, found an old sewing machine and
put his civilian tailoring- trade to a very good advantage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.