OPERATIONS OF THE 142D INFANTRY
From lofty, blustery MOUNT SAMMUCRO, Hill 1205, in ITALY last New Year’s Day, the 142nd Infantry in the course of a year’s combat has toiled over many another height, pushed the enemy back hundreds of miles in ITALY and in FRANCE, and achieved an enviable record of notable successes. Very few of the men now present on the line have experienced all of this action, so tough has it been. But those who have had any part or who have recently joined the organization, may recall with pride what the 142d Infantry has done in ’44. Here follows a brief resume:
JANUARY — FEBRUARY
After nearly two months of harsh uphill battling for MOUNT MAGGIORE and MOUNT LUNGO in the miserable Italian winter, the Regiment was given a 10 day rest from the line in early January. Upon return it was first placed in reserve for the ill-fated RAPIDO River crossing operation South of CASSINO. A few days later when to the North a break in the French sector appeared, it was hustled around on a long all-night motor march through snowy mountain passes to exploit this opening. Here the threatening French salient was drawing as much artillery as the Germans on three sides could muster. In spite of it, however, our men shoved out in the dark of night across the RAPIDO Valley up into the barren hills near TERELLE where the SECOND Battalion succeeded in getting into the enemy’s defenses. Had there been more troops to follow straight through, the long deadlock that prevailed at CASSINO might have been avoided. But from here the Regiment was turned left to skirt the lower slopes of towering 5,000 foot MOUNT CAIRO to occupy a key point in the sector, MOUNT CATELLONE. The grim and costly battle for the CASSINO heights continued. On 11 February, the SECOND Battalion, reduced to less than half normal strength, attacked uphill through a blinding snowstorm to gain limited success in the direction of an old ABBEY. The next morning was that of the memorable “Great Barrage”—when for three hours the Germans rained a steady concentration of “screaming mimies” and artillery onto our positions. Then followed at daylight a determined attempt to recapture MOUNT CASTELLONE. This our FIRST Battalion gallantly withstood and decisively beat off. When the battle was over the Germans requested a truce to collect their dead, which was granted. Some 143 were carried down to them from the forward slopes of the FIRST Battalion’s positions. Finally, on 26 February the Regiment was withdrawn to a rest area.
MARCH – APRIL – MAY
A two and a half month break that saw Italian rain and mud gradually turn to crisp sunshine and powdery dust; more trips to NAPLES, CASERTA, POMPEII and SALERNO. VESUVIUS flared up with a colossal eruption. Training continued at four different bivouacs and was topped off with a rugged mountqin problem in the hills near AVELLINO. Many replacements were received.
MAY – JUNE
On the 12th the all-out Allied offensive opened. When early success on the South front was assured the 36th Division was shifted to the ANZIO beachhead. While in reserve as the breakout attack developed the Regiment became quite familiar with the beachhead terrain in marching to and fro. By the 30th, a new line had formed with the Germans holding strong points on VELLETRI and VALMONTONE. With only minimum notice, the 142nd Infantry performed on the night of 30-31 May, an amazing infiltration of the entire Regiment deep behind the German line up onto MOUNT ARTEMISIO, the main ridge North of VELLETRI. In a few days a series of hard punches carried across the remaining ALBAN hills and the ROME plain into the city outskirts. During the night of 4-5 June, the 142nd Infantry mounted up in an armored and motorized column and wound through the city streets, first such unit completely through, running into a strong enemy delaying force five miles beyond the city in the morning. After this was reduced the pace quickened. Two hundred enemy bicycle troops were swallowed up near LAKE BRACCIANO. The same day the Regiment motorized rolled twenty-five miles into CIVITAVECCHIA on the coast. From there the advance North along the costal road was maintained with steady pressure. A grueling five day fight and march from CAPALBIO to MANZIANO spoiled an enemy attempt to stop us there. North of GROSSETO, the Regiment cut across ridge lines and valleys, cleared heavy brush and fought scattered engagements to a point forty-five miles distant by the main road. There on the 26th June relief from the line was effected to allow preparation for the mission ahead.
A five-day stopover in the ROME area featured the motor ride back to familiar ground near PAESTUM where the SALERNO landings were made. Intensive amphibious training was carried on while plans and details for the big operation were worked out.
From vast staging areas thousands of troops moved down from NAPLES heights to find their places in the waiting invasion fleet. No enemy plane interfered with smooth, leisurely sail to the coast of Southern FRANCE. The Morning of the 15th dawned with the thunder of naval guns and drone of heavy bombers, preparing the beach area. At 1104 the 142d boat teams were lowered away and sped to within assault distance of RED BEACH. When mechanical difficulties with specialized demolitions craft delayed the whole landing operation on RED BEACH, the waiting fleet was turned right to go in on GREEN BEACH, a small rocky strip over which the 141st Infantry and 143rd Infantry had already passed. The 142 landed astonishingly without even getting their feet wet. Hard marching and some fighting followed without a letup until the next night. On D plus 2, DRAGUIGNAN, inland beyond the beachhead assignment was entered. By the 21st the Regiment had rolled through ALPINE gorges nearly 200 miles from GREEN BEACH. Next was a turn West to the RHONE Valley to cut off the Germans attempting to escape North. From the 24-27th the Regiment in defensive positions along the RUBION creekbed near CLEON, threw back two strong German attempts to break out of their pocket. The last of the fleeing enemy were cut up farther to the North as the SECOND and THIRD Battalions struck at the flank of their columns in the RHONE flatland near LIVRON.
On the 2d the 142 was the first to enter the great city of LYON. Several days of easy 25-40 miles motorized advances continued until the DOUBS River was reached. It had to be bridged. Sharp fighting occurred across it as our path forged into a natural German retreat route to the BELFORT GAP. Over 650 prisoners were herded in during the first twenty-four hour period across the river. Advances began to be by foot march only; then more resistance was met and delaying road blocks increased. A two-day fight and a fast all-night march made possible the fall of LUXEUIL. Then it began to rain. Bitter woods-fighting East of LUXEUIL and on the approaches to REMIREMONT made that town hard-won. All three battalions were sore with fatigue when they pushed on across the MOSELLE to tackle the first of the VOSGES barriers. In steady rain and cold, in thick wilderness brush, and against fanatical resistance, under the most exhausting conditions, all three battalions fought tenaciously for a week to take objectives around TENDON. Here the drive up from the beaches, which had carried decisively to this point was for the time being brought to a halt.
On a series of thickly-wooded hills, the Regiment maintained defensive positions on a very broad front near TENDON and ST JEANNE from JUSSARUPT to LA FORGE. During this time brief rests were given each battalion in turn. Strength was built up. Aggressive patrolling was practiced on the line, several sharp clashes resulting. Enemy artillery was heavy on our positions.
Again the Regiment took the offensive, going into action a little to the North. From the 5th to the 11th the push down the narrow LES ROUGES EAUX River Valley, a narrow clearing with thick wilderness hills on either side, made steady progress despite continuous rain which at the last turned to snow. The FORET DOMINALE DU CHAMP was cleared and then our men emerged out onto the rolling plain near VIENVILLE and CORCIEUX. By the 15th the Germans were burning whole villages to our front as they adopted a futile “scorched earth” policy to lay waste all before their planned winter-line. But as the general Allied offensive developed along the entire Western Front, the enemy was forced to drop back more than intended. The 142 retired to a reserve and rest area on the 29th, only to be alerted on the 21st for a possible armored and motorized thrust to the RHINE lowland. The smashing events that followed are familiar to most of us. It was not an easy rolling ride. Hard fast marching and surprise flanking maneuvers threw the German defenders off balance, time and again. Passing through other elements of the Division at MANDRAY after dark of the 23rd, the FIRST Battalion pushed to BAN DE LAVELINE and WISEMBOURG. The THIRD Battalion struck both frontally and on the flank at ST MARIE to quickly clean up this important town near the crest of the VOSGES Mountains. A two-day battle forced the Germans to give at ST CROIX. The SECOND Battalion next entered LIEPVRE, then fought fiercely in the hills to the Northeast. Meanwhile, the THIRD Battalion, advancing quietly on the right seized historic KOENIGSBOURG CASTLE. The FIRST Battalion continued on up the valley on the left to take the last high ground at the mouth of the ST MARIE pass. From high KOENIGSBOURG, the THIRD Battalion descended to LINTZHEIM and CHATENOIS in the RHINE flatland.
Reaching out in the open plain, in coordination with other friendly units the THIRD Battalion attacked and seized its assigned portion of the city of SELESTAT, while the SECOND Battalion in frequent street fighting cleared ORSCHWILLER, ST HIPPOLYTE, THANNENKIRCH and BERGHIM. Extensive flooding in the valley along the ILL Rive became a serious obstacle to further advance East to the RHINE. The FIRST Battalion took over responsibility for the defense of SELESTAT after it was cleared. On the 12th the Germans surprisingly launched a strong attack on the North end of town in an attempt to retake SELESTAT and follow through to KOENISBOURG CASTLE. After an all-day battle, the enemy was stopped completely, being driven from his initial gains and with great loss to his attacking force. Nearly 350 were captured while other casualties in killed and wounded accounted for 600 of a probable 1,000-man force. Our FIRST Battalion casualties were extremely light in comparison. Defense in this sector continued until the Division was relieved and moved to the vicinity of STRASBURG.
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