|A TYPICAL SOUVENIR ITALY 1944 / 1945|
The Story of the Powder River / Let'er Buck, 91st Inf Div, August 1917 - January 1945
The use of Pin-Ups on US official documents!
John brought home three different official documents from the US Army that show, for those times, very daring pictures. The first document is a so-called Shelrep, Mortrep form.
The form was meant for GI's to take with them to the front lines to report technical details on enemy fire.
The soldier could fill in things like the bearing of the suspected gun position and the time in-between seeing an enemy gun flash (from firing a shell or mortar) and the moment the shell hit the ground occupied by the American troops.
From this, the artillery counter-battery units could deduct the position of the enemy guns. Such information allowed the U. S. artillery to return fire quickly, efficiently and accurately.
As you can imagine, the average GI preferred to keep his head down during an enemy artillery barrage. He had little interest in watching the flight of the shell and estimating the direction that it came from. The average soldier would head for the nearest trench or air raid shelter, or get as low to the ground as possible and cover his head. He did all this at full gallop as the shells fell around him.
So, how does higher headquarters motive these troops to keep the forms and perhaps even fill them out at an opportune moment?
Their commanders, working hand-in-hand with artists, cartoonists and propaganda people developed a method to make those forms worth carrying. They added pin-up pictures of lovely semi-dressed and naked women to the documents. No healthy young man is going to throw away a perfectly good picture of a sexy half-naked woman. The officers at headquarters knew that as long as the girls were sexy, and the troops were young, those forms would be carried through Hell and high water. The fact that John kept his through all these years seems to prove that they were correct.
Another type of official document with pin-up girls are the map-update documents. I will come back to those in a later chapter. Be sure to read on! The pictures are very nice.
These official documents are NOT propaganda leaflets. But as they came from John TOGETHER with the propaganda leaflets, and because they were clearly handled TOGETHER with them, I had to include them here.
Another reason to include them here, of course, is that the pictures are nice to look at!
The preparation of allied leaflets in Italy
As I am already drifting from the 91st history booklet, I will, at this point, also tell a little more on the allied leaflets from the Italian front.
The leaflets can roughly be divided into two types:
-Newspaper type leaflets (like "Frontpost S|d", "Nachrichten aus der Heimat", "Luftpost" which are all miniature size newssheets).
-All other types of leaflets addressing the German soldiers on themes as "treatment of POW's", "safe-conducts" and the poor situation for the Nazis.
Since the African campaign, the preparation of all this propaganda material was done in close cooperation between US and British propaganda units. The US fifth army was fighting side by side with the British 8th army in Italy.
Much of what is known about the leaflet series is comming from archives and from inventorys of private collections. A fine job on listing these leaflets (as far as known) is done by Dr. Hans D|sel from Germany. He published two booklets with listings through the "Psywar Society" (Blatter Catalogues No. 19 and 21 ; ISBN 1 873253 05 2 and ISBN 1 873253 02 8). Only a very brief description on the preparation of the leaflets is given - there is not much information left. So if you go through the listings, you will note that a lot of leaflet codes do miss and are yet to be found by collectors or in archives.
Dr. Hans D|sel writes:
'Large collections in this field exist in Vienna (Dokumentationsarchiv des vsterreichischen Widerstandes) and in Munich (Monacensia archive). The latter consists of leaflets and the scrapbook of Klaus Mann, the son of the famous Nobel prize winner Thomass Mann, who was a PWD officer of the US 5th Army and produced most of these leaflets. He commited suicide after the war and his scrap-book and files were given to the Monacensia archive. The scrap-book prints an introduction on page 1 thus:
Dr. D|sel also concludes that Klaus Mann probably designed most leaflets for both armies.
But now, let's return to the 91st Infantry Division and the history described in The Story of the Powder River".
|Pictures. Allied leaflet telling the German soldiers that they are being told lies by their officers|
about the treatment they will get from Allied soldiers when taken POW.
The 91st Division moved into position during the night of 9 September. The 362nd Infantry relieved the 2nd Brigade of the 1st British Division near Vaglia and the 363rd Infantry, moving through the 3rd Brigade, closed just south of Bivigliano. The Division Artillery took positions in the vicinity of Pratolino, and by 1945 all pieces were registered.
The attack jumped off according to plan at 100530. Advancing steadily northward, the infantrymen met no resistance. In the afternoon, when the 2nd Battalion of the 363rd Infantry cut Highway 65, near Tagliaferra, they received artillery fire, and from then on both Regiments were subjected to harassing artillery and small arms fire from enemy positions north of the Sieve Rive. During the night, despite the extensive minefields along the banks and streambed of the river, troops of both Regiments wadded the river and took up secure positions on the north bank. Thus the first Division objective had been secured. The next morning, 11 September, the two Regiments continued the attack. Since the Germans had withdrawn from their outpost line upon contact, there was little resistance. Only the mountainous terrain and enemy minefields slowed the advance. At the end of the day the 362nd Infantry was just north of Gagliano, while the 363rd Infantry had occupied San Agata. The next morning the attack continued against steadily increasing resistance. The 363rd Infantry advancing toward Monticelli, and the 362nd moving on M. Calvi met small arms and mortar fire as well as harassing artillery fire. The main obstacle, however, was the mountainous terrain which grew steadily more difficult as the troops advanced toward the ridge line of the Apennines.
In the afternoon, 13 September, General Livesay ordered the 361st Infantry committed. The Regiment was to pass through forward elements of the 363rd Infantry on the left and to attack at 140600 in the center of the Division sector. On the right, the 363rd was ordered to secure Monticelli; on the left the 362nd was ordered to secure M. Calvi and then proceed to its next objectives, M. Poggio all Ombrellino and M. Gazzaro. Thus until the 363rd reverted to reserve, the 91st Division was to have nine Battalions on line: three on the left, one moving north near Highway 65, and two attacking M. Calvi; three in the center attacking Hills 844 and 856; and three on the right attacking Monticelli. The great drive on the main defenses of the Gothic Line was now begun.
Monticelli, the objective of the 363rd Infantry, was one of the most important positions in the Gothic Line. Overlooking Il Giogo Pass, it was the left bastion of the heavily fortified Il Giogo defense area and constituted the anchor for the rest of the Gothic Line in the Division sector. It is a rocky, broken ridge, with a cone-shaped peak 3,000 feet high, wooded three-fourths of the way up, but devoid of any cover and concealment for the last 600 feet of the slope. On its sides, pillboxes and dugouts had been built in such a way as to afford mutual protection for each other. These had been camouflaged very carefully so that they were invisible to the naked eye. A characteristic pillbox, large enough to accomodate five men was of concrete construction with a roof covered with three feet of logs and dirt. In the front was a slit six inches high and three feet long.
As further protection row after row of barbed wire, one foot high and 25 feet deep, had been placed at 100-yard intervals up to the top of the mountain. In two ravines, which led to the top of the mountain, the enemy had laid minefields. On the reverse slope of Monticelli elaborate dugouts had been constructed. These had been dug straight back into the mountain to a distance of seventy-five feet and were large enough to accommodate twenty men. On a hill 300 yards north of Monticelli a huge dugout was found which had been blasted out of solid rock. Shaped like a U and equipped with cooking and sleeping quarters, it was large enough to accommodate 50 men.
On 13 September the 1st and 3rd Battalions, 363rd Infantry began the slow torturous attack. Each pillbox had to be knocked out individually by artillery or by flanking assaults by the infantry with hand grenades. Frequently minefields or wire obstacles had to be breached before the pillbox itself could be reduced. It was slow, bloody, costly fighting. In the afternoon the 2nd Battalion attacked between the 1st and 3rd Battalions and pushed under cover of a smoke screen to within 600 yards of the crest of Monticelli. The next morning, however, they were subjected to a heavy counterattack and driven from their positions. After two days of slow progress the first break in the enemy defenses developed. Company B over-ran the enemy Main Line of Resistance and occupied the ridge line extending west from the peak of Monticelli. Although the Company was subjected to counterattack after counterattack and unrelenting artillery and mortar concentrations, the flank was never turned. After one Counterattack two enemy were found sleeping in Company B foxholes!
The next day while the 1st Battalion held the left flank and the 2nd Battalion maneuvered to reduce pillboxes that had held up its advance, the 3rd battalion launched an attack on the peak. Despite every effort the intense mortar and machine gun fire stopped the attack, and it finally bogged down. On the morning of 17 September General Livesay, on the ground, laid the plans and personally supervised the preparations for the final assault. Every resource was marshaled for the effort. With every Battalion exerting maximum pressure on the enemy, the 2nd Battalion, with Company K, made an all-out assault on the peak. By 1330 Company K had advanced over a mile and had come to within 300 yards of the crest. At 1400 a rolling barrage in which 272 rounds of 105 mm were fired by the 347th Field Artillery in 25 minutes moved up the south-western slope of the mountain with the infantrymen following as close as 50 yards behind it. At 1448 word was received that the company commander of Company K, Captain William B. Fulton, his radio operator, and six enlisted men had reached the top of Monticelli.
Immediately the enemy laid an intense artillery and mortar concentration on the position and began to organize a counterattack of 200 to 300 men at a point 400 yards to the north. The company commander directed artillery fire on the area, and 461 rounds were fired in 45 minutes to break up the attack before it could get under way. Meanwhile the small band was reinforced, and at 172240 Col. Magill reported that "the situation is well in hand." During the night two Batteries of the 347th Field Artillery laid a ring of steel around Monticelli firing 4,000 rounds, a volley every three minutes. There was no counterattack; by morning, 18 September, Monticelli was occupied in strength.
Monticelli had been won by the courage and sacrifice of the 363rd Infantry and the superb support of the 347th Field Artillery and its associated units. The artillery pounded constantly at enemy positions. In one area where artillery fire had been directed for four days, 150 dead were later counted. One of the targets fired during the all-night barrage, 17-18 September, proved to be a Battalion Command Post 30 feet wide dug 100 yards into the side of the mountain. The next day 33 prisoners were taken from the cave, dazed and shaken by the pounding they had received. The artillery had run the enemy into their holes, and the infantry had dug them out, and Monticelli fell.
|Pictures. Allied leaflet asking the German when they last saw "The F|hrer".|
Trying to worrying them on Hitler, implying he might be death.
"Congratulations upon the capture of Monticelli. The successful accomplishment of this tough assignment is fitting tribute to the dogged determination and courage of the 91st.
Desiring to exploit the capture of Monticelli as rapidly as possible, General Keyes ordered that the 363rd Infantry push on to the Santerno River immediately. Patrols were sent out the afternoon of 18 September and 190530 the 3rd Battalion attacked in force. Around Casanova the enemy put up a stubborn resistance to protect their withdrawal. During the night 20-21 September the enemy withdrew across the Santerno in this sector and the 2nd Battalion, which had relieved the 3rd Battalion, advanced rapidly. They organized the area up to the river and sent strong patrols across the river to maintain contact with the enemy.
The 361st Infantry, in the center of the Divisional sector, on the left of the 363rd Infantry, attacked north from Montepoli at 140545. The sector assigned to the 361st is a bowl, surrounded on three sides by a mountain range shaped roughly like a horse-shoe. At the right point lies Monticelli; at the left point lies M. Calvi. The floor of the bowl is not flat, but is cut by a ridge running north and south which rises to Hills 844 and 856. The enemy literally looked down the Regiment's throat whichever way it turned, and from their prepared positions the enemy was able to place terrific machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire upon the infantrymen advancing northward.
There was a second difficulty which hampered, to a certain extent, all the Regiments of the Division but especially the 361st Infantry. This was the problem of supply. On the left and right, roads were available at least part of the way for the transportation of supplies, but in the 361st Infantry sector the only road of any size running north from San Agata stops at Casal. By ceaseless effort the Engineers rapidly extended a trail to Coppo adequate for quarter ton trucks which ran from Casal to Vallappero. This was unquestionably one of the most difficult assignments the Engineers completed during the month. The trail was so rocky that it was impossible to scrape the road out of the mountainside and so steep on the outside that it was equally impossible to bank it up to a passable width. Yet by blasting and chipping the rock wall and base, Company A, using all three of its platoons in succession working night and day succeeded in widening the trail into a road passable to peeps.
It was dangerous, especially in the dark when the drivers could not even see the tracing tape and had to be led along the road by a convoy officer, but it was usable up to Coppo. From Coppo there were only mule trains. For days every drop of medicine and every round of ammunition and every bit of food was carried forward from Coppo on mules. The trail was so narrow and dangerous that it was necessary to set up traffic control points along the way so that the litter bearers bringing out the wounded could pass the mule trains bringing up the supplies.
There were, however, excellent reasons for attacking at this point. Within the Division sector it was possible to attack here or at Futa Pass. Futa was the most heavily defended position in the Gothic Line and had the further advantage of being very easily supplied down Highway 65. The section of the Gothic Line in the sector against which the 361st attacked, although very heavily fortified, was not prepared in depth and was very difficult to supply. When the 361st Infantry broke through the Main Line of Resistance in their sector, they found that the enemy failed to solve their supply problem. Most of the prisoners captured had had no food for three or four days and their ammunition supply was very low. Thus, although the sector presented great difficulties for the Regiment in the attack, it presented equal difficulties for defense. The wisdom of the commitment of the Regiment in this sector was borne out by the subsequent success of its drive.
At 140545 the 361st Regiment jumped off and was almost immediately subjected to fire from every side, especially from Pgio Roncolombello, Apparita, and M. Calvi, under attack by the 362nd Infantry. Despite this, good gains were made until the main enemy lines were reached late in the afternoon. It was clear from the first days fighting that extensive use of mortars and machine guns would be necessary if any marked advances were to be made, and when General Livesay visited the Regimental Command Post late in the day, he ordered Col. Broedlow, to Fire all the ammunition you can haul.
The next three days the advance was slowed by barbed wire entanglements, pillboxes, dug in positions, and heavy fire of all sorts. At one point the 3rd Battalion reported that in front of it were 2 banks of wire, each 15-20 feet deep with a space of 20 feet between each, which was undoubtedly heavily mined. Even 105mm artillery shells could not breach the obstacle. This could only be done by hand, always in the face of terrific fire from well-prepared positions. On one occasion an Engineer was disarming mines while the infantrymen protected him by keeping the pillbox ahead buttoned up. As the Engineer, prone on the ground, squirmed from mine to mine, an infantryman called to him to keep his head down. When he protested that his forehead was already touching the ground, the infantryman ordered him to turn his head over to the side so that he could maintain his protective fire!
After three days of bitter fighting, pillbox after pillbox had been captured, minefield after minefield had been breached, and barbed wire entanglements had been blown up by artillery shelling and bangalore torpedoes. Savage, bloody counterattacks had been beaten off, and the constant pounding began to tell on the enemy. The same development was observed along the entire Division front. Terrific artillery and mortar concentrations and the constant drive of the infantry had taken their toll. Replacements for the enemy were brought up as early as 13 September, but they were adequate neither in numbers or in combat training. Further, putting these replacements in line was no small task. One prisoner reported that his group had been attacked by American bombers on the way to the line and had suffered heavy casualties. Many men lost their weapons on the march to the MLR because they were too exhausted to carry them.
By 19 September the disorganization mounted; captives flowed through the prisoner of war cage. Of the 896 prisoners taken between 9 September and 30 September, 502 were captured in the four-day period, 18-21 September. Although much hard fighting lay ahead, the enemy had begun to crack under the strain, and the tempo of advance picked up.
In the sector of the 361st Infantry this was especially true. By 180650 Companies A and G were reported on Hill 856 and at 180811, Company E reported on Hill 844. The capture of Hill 844 was especially important, for it had been the most strongly fortified and most stubbornly defended hill facing the Regiment. Its loss unhinged the enemy positions in the sector and forced the Germans to retreat. Early in the afternoon as the Regiment pressed forward, the disorganization of the enemy became more and more apparent, as they took hasty positions for a brief stand and then ran back to others. Before the day was over, Hill 805 had been taken.
The next day the attack continued under a tremendous rolling barrage. In rapid succession Hills 992, 1022 and 1027 fell. Since the 363rd Infantry had secured the Division right flank, the 361st Infantry swept northwest along the ridge line of the Apennines. Resistance was light as the enemy fled, but the terrain was extremely broken and was made more difficult by rain. The 3rd Battalion occupied positions from Segalari east to Hill 705, with Company B immediately east of the road junction at Futa Pass covering it with machine guns. Thus the Regiment stabilized its lines overlooking the Santerno River.
While the 363rd Infantry was battaling for Monticelli on the left and 361st Infantry fought for Hill 844 and 856 , the 362nd Infantry was advancing up Highway 65 toward M. Calvi and Futa Pass. As in the other two sectors, the fighting was very bitter and the advance painfully slow, 13-15 September. With unwearying courage the Regiment fought its way from pillbox to pillbox, through barbed wire and minefields, always through areas in which the enemy had excellent observation and prepared fields of fire. On 14 September the 2nd Battalion occupied M. Calvi but could not exploit its position because of the terrific mortar concentrations, which fell from Hills 821 and 840. Nor could the Battalion advance rapidly to Hill 840, for although the forward slope of M. Calvi is a gentle incline, the reverse slope drops abruptly to the foot of Hill 840, at some points as much as 500 feet in 200 yards. Not only was it almost impossible terrain for the infantry to cross, but artillery fire is masked in many areas. Thus even high angle fire was unable to reach the mole-like Germans dug in below.
|Picture. Allied leaflet T30 (frontpage) in German saying : "Victims look at you".|
It shows a Hitleryouth boy-soldier surrendering.
The original translation of this page has a note by the translator saying:
' "Victims look at you" is a variation of a very popular German book title
"Tiere sehen dich an" (Animals look at you)'.
Below is also the complete translation of the back of this leaflet (A German Youth).
Shortly after noon 15 September, the 1st Battalion attacked north to Morcoiano according to a plan which involved nine TOTs being delivered by the massed artillery in 15 minutes. Progress of this attack was slow but steady. Morcoiano was heavily defended, but on 18 September, the town fell and the Battalion pressed on. The next morning under a nearly perfect rolling barrage fired by the 346th Field Artillery, the assault on Poggio began. The artillery fire did not smash the fortifications, but it forced the defenders to seek cover and button up completely. Then when the fire moved past a given point, before the enemy could jump out of holes to man their weapons, the infantry, just a scant 300 yards behind the barrage, was upon them. Two hundred prisoners were taken. In this way the attack literally walked through a strong point that would ordinarily have been a scene of bloody and prolonged fighting.
On the same day, 19 September, the 2nd Battalion, attacking from the southeast, captured both Hill 821 and Hill 840. Advancing rapidly to keep contact with the enemy, now driven from his Main Line of Resistance, the Battalion occupied M. Alto during the night of 19-20 September.
Although the collapse of the enemy lines in the 362nd sector was not so spectacular as it was in the 361st sector, Hill 896 was captured the next day, and by the morning of 21 September Company A had reached the Santerno and had set up machine guns trained on Futa Pass.
In the meantime the 3rd Battalion, 362nd Infantry, which had been operating almost alone, with the closest unit more than 1000 yards away, was battling north along Highway 65. Despite a warning by General Livesay that it was not to try to win the war by itself it was trying to do exactly that. On the morning of 16 September the Battalion had come against a spectacular Anti-tank ditch over a mile long over hill and valley and covered by interlocking fields of machine gun fire. Covering the highway was 88mm Tiger tank gun and turret mounted in a concrete emplacement, as well as other concrete pillboxes and dugouts commanding the approaches to the Pass.
For two consecutive days the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion, directed the 346th Field Artillery in a steady pounding of San Lucia. The Tiger tank gun was knocked out and two 105mm SP guns were destroyed. Every time the enemy attempted to move, the artillery hit him. On 20 September under a rolling barrage the Battalion attacked along the ridges, surprised the enemy, overran his positions, and captured Hill 689. The next day in a pincer movement they seized San Lucia and, under artillery fire, which was seldom more than 300 yards ahead of the front-line troops, they took Hill 901. That night they outposted in Futa Pass in preparation for the final all-out assault against Hill 952, which commanded the vaunted Futa Pass defense system.
The next day, 21 September, the Battalion inched its way relentlessly up the hill against every type of fire the enemy could pour on it. Yet by nightfall it outposted positions on the summit. This was the culmination of the Division's 12-day battle to crack the Gothic Line. With the fall of Futa Pass, the door, which had been unlocked at Monticelli and swung open by the drives of the 363rd and 361st Infantries, literally fell off its hinge. The Gothic Line had been smashed.
|Picture. Allied leaflet T30 (reverse page) explaining the picture of the Hitleryouth boy (see previous picture).|
In cracking the Gothic Line the Division had fought as a team. Each separate branch of the Army contributed nobly to the accomplishment of the Division's task. The 316th Medical Battalion, its equipment and staff strained by handling thousands of casualties did magnificent work. Litter bearers carried patients over narrow slippery mountain paths, through minefields and barbed wire entanglements and over stream beds. Yet without thought for themselves, the medical men worked to treat the wounded and to evacuate them from the battlefields.
For the 316th Engineer Battalion the drive from the Sieve River to the Santerno River was a continuous nightmare. The road net in the Division sector was poor, and damaged by shelling, demolitions, and rain, what roads there were became almost useless. They built roads where no roads were meant to go; they filled or by-passed giant craters; they built bridges and rebuilt them when rain-swollen streams washed them away. By their untiring efforts ammunition, medical supplies and food reached the front-line troops.
Much of the credit for breaching the Gothic Line goes to the Division Artillery, composed of the 916, 346, 347, and 348 Field Artilley Battalions augmented by the power of II Corps artillery. For preparations fired during the campaign the Division controlled 168 guns. During the period from 11 September to 22 September, inclusive, 94,379 rounds were fired, and during 3 single twenty-four hour period, 15 September, 14,321 rounds were fired. Again and again prisoners were captured, dazed and stunned by the artillery barrage to which they had been subjected. The heavy artillery fire held the enemy helpless in their emplacements, unable to ward off death or capture by infantrymen with grenades and automatic weapon who swiftly followed up the concentrations. The extensive use of rolling barrages, especially by the 362nd infantry, is a noteworthy application of this technique of advance and an indication of its success in the campaign.
The 91st Division was a single, coordinated fighting unit. It was the Division which captured Monticelli and M. Calvi, and fought bitterly for Hills 840 and 844. It was the Division that advanced through rain and fog over steep and rocky terrain along the ridge line of the Apennines to the Santerno River. It was the whole Division which refused to be a holding force, but swept northward along Highway 65 and captured Futa Pass. Great credit is due to the mule pack groups who went where motors could not go; to the 791st Ordnance Company, the 91st Quartermaster Company, the 91st Signal Company, the 91st Reconnaissance Troop, who never faltered and refused to conceive of failure. Each man in the Division had acted as if he had "wanted to win the war all by himself," and the tales of heroism and gallantry are legion. In twelve days it had reduced to nothing a year's work of thousands of impressed laborers and had decimated the best troops Hitler could put into the line against it.
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Propaganda leaflets of the second World War
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