443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in World War II

ITALIAN CAMPAIGN

WINTER LINE OPERATIONS / THE NAPLES FOGGIA CAMPAIGN

On 15 November, just as the 36th Division and the 443rd were moving into combat, a message to Lt. Col. Larson was received from the 38th Evacuation Hospital Red Cross paying tribute and expressing heartfelt appreciation to the 443rd band, which had entertained the patients that day.

Between 15 and 18 November the 36th Division relieved the 3rd Division in the Mignano-San Pietro area. It was the start of the rainy season and two weeks of almost constant rain turned the front into a muddy quagmire, mountain slopes into slippery trails, foxholes into water holes and dirt roads into axle-deep mud which slowed progress of both the infantry and 443rd platoons. The cold, soaking rain caused enormous discomfort to frontline troops. The 443rd requested overshoes from the 2626 Antiaircraft Brigade (its administrative unit). Although every man in the Brigade Headquarters (well behind the front lines) was equipped with overshoes, they couldn’t supply the 443rd gun crews! The Brigade offered Lt. Col. Larson a pair of overshoes for himself but he spurned the offer, saying that he wouldn’t accept or wear them until every man in his command had a pair. Larson then contacted the 36th Division G-4 and within a few days had all the overshoes needed to equip every man in the 443rd. By then the 443rd Forward Command Post had moved four miles northwest of Capua, across the Volturno River.

Even though enemy artillery could not match the volume and accuracy of American artillery, it was effective against the larger targets provided by the 443rd’s gun-track silhouettes in forward areas. During the final two weeks of November the 443rd’s casualties and vehicle damage were heavier than any suffered since early in the Tunisian Campaign. A break in the rain on 22 November brought out German aircraft to harass the 36th Division artillery. Platoons B-1, C-2 and D-3 engaged flights of enemy planes scoring hits on several. Delaying action by German forces more than matched those of Sicily. They were helped considerably by the cold, chilling rain. "Rome by Christmas" became a receding possibility. A strong, German defense in depth faced the 36th Division in its drive up Highway 6 toward Cassino and the long, northwest valley leading to Rome. Morale of men and life of vehicles took a beating.

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