19 Days from the Apennines to the Alps -- The story of the Po Valley Campaign
|Picture. The normal "Frontpost S|d" was printed and spread every three days. But there was also a Weekly Edition.|
The paper format of the Weekly Edition was much larger and that is the reason why it was spread by the Tactical Air Force (TAF) only.
Shown here is an article in the March 10, 1945 number, that was meant to imply to the German soldier that Hitler was no longer able to
command his troops and that Himmler took over the command.
The bell and opening rounds
It was 4:00 in the morning on the 14th of April, and in the small tent he used for a mess sat the Fifth Army Commander. With him sat his Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Don E. Carle-ton, and Brigadier General Thomas Darcy, commander of the XXII Tactical Air Force. The Chinese boy was serving black coffee; General Darcy's ear was glued to the telephone. As he listened he repeated what was coming to him from his air bases at Pisa, Florence, and Grosseto.
+ He says the clouds are banked up over the south slopes of the mountains and the fog is rolling in from the sea.;
General Truscott turned to the Chief of Staff.
+ Call Critt (General Crittenberger, commanding IV Corps) and tell him the planes are not yet able to get off and we may have to delay George's attack. I won't let him go without air support. ; (+ George ; was Major General Hays, 10th Mountain Division commander).
The hours ticked slowly by; many cups of coffee were consumed; the receiver remained glued to General Darcy's ear. + Florence blanketed with heavy fog, Pisa visibility one half mile, Grosseto broken clouds of fog rolling in from the west. ; On all fields sat row after row of fighter bombers, warmed up and armed, their pilots at the controls waiting for the order.
The attack was delayed to 8:00 a.m. It was 6:45 and the planes had not yet left the ground. 7:15, and it was set back another half hour to 8:30, when General Darcy's face broke into a grin: + 57th Fighter Group is in the air! ;
General Truscott said: + Get Critt. The show is on. We attack at 8:30. ;
The last great battle of the Fifth Army in Italy had begun.
Precisely at 8:30 wave after wave of bombers came over the mountains from the south. Men of the 10th Mountain looked up from their jump off position and got set; they too knew the show was on. Over to their right, on Highway 64, the veteran 1st Armored was ready. For 40 minutes the sky was filled with planes, while the Boche held his breath for the blow.
At 9:10 the artillery opened up, laying down an intense 35-minute barrage, driving the enemy into his dugouts, blasting his eardrums with the roar of the big guns, shattering his nerves with the knowledge of worse to come.
The Mountain Division took off at 9:35, two regiments abreast, while fighter bombers, guided by Rover Pete (ground controller) and Horsefly (Cub airplane controller), soared and swooped just ahead, bombing and strafing minutely selected targets. Dust and smoke on the ground merged to form an artificial twilight.
The enemy had been introduced to the 10th Mountain seven weeks earlier; he had known the other units for a long time, the 1st Armored and the 34th for a very long time. He knew what to expect, and was as well prepared as it was possible for him to be. He resisted inch by inch, and made the going tough for the Mountain Division, levying many casualties. But by midnight of the first day the division had secured its objective and was well on its way toward the Valley of the Po.
At 4:45 in the afternoon, its left flank now secure, the 1st Armored moved out toward the village of Suzzano and the 81st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, attacking at 5:50, had by 8:00 p.m. moved into the southern part of Vergato. For a long time the Germans had fiercely defended this road junction, and now fought back so tenaciously with small arms and mortars that Troop A was held up, and had to await the arrival of reinforcements.
To the left of the 10th Mountain, the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, the 371st Infantry and the 365th Infantry took up their supporting positions. The BEF, advancing toward the town of Montese, sent a battalion through a cemetery to the east of the village and ran into a brisk fire fight, but continued steadily forward until the place was taken, and with it the neighboring hamlets of Paravento and Cerreto.
All night our troops awaited the + inevitable ; counterattack, but this time it didn't come. Artillery and flares constituted the enemy's sole answer to the first day of the Fifth Army's final attack.
The opening effort had been successful, but it had confirmed the expectations of Field Marshal Alexander, General Clark and General Truscott, that the enemy would not be easily forced from his mountain strongholds. Our men that night knew they were in a fight.
|Picture. This interesting article is from the same Frontpost Weekly edition as show above.|
It tells us how a German soldier surrendered with the help of a propaganda leaflet.
In relation with this, be sure to look at the next picture also....
On the morning of 15 April the 1st Armored took Suzzano and continued the bitter struggle for the ruins of Vergato, while the 10th Mountain, still compelled to fight hard for every hill in its path, pressed slowly ahead along the ridges.
Just before noon on that bright, warm Sunday, peasants along Highway 65, relaxing outside their house doors after late mass, craned their necks and pointed. High overhead great, graceful silver shapes were moving majestically toward the line, the roar of their engines muting only to an ominous rumble as it reached the ground more than three miles below. The II Corps show was about to start.
All afternoon the air attack continued. Seven hundred and sixty-five Flying Fortresses and Liberators blasted targets on the main highways south of Bologna, following an elaborate system of ground markers to their destination and guided by a + flak line ; sent up to ten thousand feet by anti-aircraft artillery. Two hundred medium bombers attacked on Highway 64 a few miles south of Bologna, and 120 fighter bombers worked over Monte Sole from 4:30 p.m. to 7:45, when the light began to fail. Incendiaries, rockets and machine guns blackened the surface of the hill and drove the enemy deep into his rocky caves. + I wonder if they remember Rotterdam, ; remarked an 88th Division observer.
That night, following a violent 30-minute artillery preparation which started at 10.30, the South Africans and the 88th attacked. Five and a half hours later, at 3:00 a.m. on Monday, the 91st and the 34th attacked, and were supported on the right by the Legnano Group. The entire Fifth Army was now hammering at the gateway to the Po. At last the Boche knew.
By daybreak on Monday the South Africans, long-time comrades of the American troops, had taken Monte Sole, a dominant peak to the east of Highway 64. The Germans put up a terrific fight for this critical position, but the Springboks, toughened by nearly six years of war, inspired by the thought of a victorious return to + the Old Transvaal ;, routed them out of their caves. Monte Sole was secure, but many a member of the division would never see Capetown again as a result of that night's heroic work.
Not far from Sole, to the west of Highway 65, were two hills from which, all through the winter, the Germans had observed our movements and directed their artillery fire. No Fifth Army infantryman will ever forget the names of Monterumici and Monte Adone. None will fail to remember the ghost town of Livergnano (+ Liver and Onions ;) just behind the line, held by our troops, but reduced to a mass of fantastic rubble by months of pounding by the Jerry artillery.
Monterumici and Monte Adone had become symbols to the American doughboy. He knew who was on those hills; he knew that up there were invisible grey-clad men with binoculars, counting his eye teeth. Rumici and Adone must fall before we could move far in the II Corps sector.
On 16 April the heavies, mediums and fighters returned to the attack, but this time the fighters showered their visiting cards on Adone. Next day Monterumici fell to the 88th, and the enemy line began to waver. Adone fell to the 91st on Wednesday the 18th, and the jubilant warriors of the 361st Infantry celebrated by raising the American flag on its fireblackened summit. Meanwhile the 363d Infantry of the 91Rt had taken Monte Arnigo and advanced up Highway 65 to Pianoro, or what the bombers had left of it, and + Liver and Onions ; was already a memory.
The men of the 88th and the 91st knew well enough what the taking of those hills meant. It meant surcease from the constant observation, the accurately directed artillery fire, which they and other divisions had suffered all winter. But it meant more than that; it meant that the strongest enemy positions covering Highway 65 had been wrested from him.
They collected their dead and wounded those two nights with a feeling that they had not fallen in vain. As on Monte Sole, the enemy had put everything he had into the defenses of these all-important positions, and the men of the Fifth, as they gazed down from the far slopes of those craggy hills, knew that they were at last looking at + the Promised Land. ;
Over in IV Corps the 10th Mountain had continued battling its way along the ridges against undiminished opposition. Losses were heavy but a carefully worked out replacement system kept the ranks up to strength here as in other divisions, with the Boche taking his last, vengeful toll of American lives. Monte Mosca was wrested from the enemy, and ten determined counterattacks beaten off.
The 1st Armored, clearing Vergato after a hard three-day battle, moved on along Highway 64, hurdling bomb craters left by our aerial preparation, by-passing enemy demolitions, struggling up the steep, rocky sides of Monte Pero and Monte Radicchio in the face of blistering fire, praying for room to maneuver its tanks.
The IV Corps spearhead had now passed most of the enemy mine fields and at the rate the enemy was using up his reserves it was evident that he was beginning to soften. With every hill he lost he was forced to defend less and less favorable ground; we were looking down his throat for a change.
Far to the left the 92d Division, with the 442d and the 473d Infantry regiments, continued to advance, with the enemy still as tough as at the beginning. In the flat coastal strip the Boche had substantial concentrations of artillery and self-propelled guns which, supported by big coast defense guns at La Spezia, hurled a murderous cross-fire against our advancing troops, both in the flat lands and in the immediately adjacent hills. In the Serchio Valley, enemy withdrawals on the 18th were followed up by the 370th.
On the 18th, too, the day Adone fell to the 91st, the 85th, which had been held in Army reserve, was attached to IV Corps and took over the 1s* Armored sector, the tankmen shifting to the left of the 10th Mountain. Next day the 88th, which had been on the right of the South Africans in the II Corps area, passed through to the left and both attacked down the Reno River Valley. The 91st moved over to the 88th's old sector and the 34th which, after some of the most bitter fighting since Cassino, had captured Gargognano Church Ridge and the Cevizzano Ridge, the controlling features of the Idice Valley on the right flank of II Corps, extended its left to close the gap. Thus the weight of the Fifth Army was shifted to the zone west of Highway 64 where the enemy was beginning to weaken.
|Picture. See previous picture. This could well be the leaflet the German soldier used to learn his "Ei ssvrrender" from.|
This is the reverse of a Safe Conduct Pass dropped over Germans. Note line three of the table.
The three columns are showing the written English term, the pronouncing for German natives, and the German language meaning.
By now the terrible weight of seven full assault divisions was converging on the city of Bologna, which constituted the apex of a giant triangle. From left to right were the 1st Armored, the 10th Mountain, the 85th, the 88th, the 6th South Africans, the 91st and the 34tlh. On the left of the 1st Armored the Brazilians, and on the right of the 34th the Italians, moved forward in a protective role, covering the flanks of the assault troops, and supporting the advance with their artillery.
To the east the British Eighth Army was forging ahead against extreme opposition, with innumerable canals and drainage ditches hampering its armor, and every dike and levee an enemy line of defense. The going became rougher and tougher; nevertheless on Highway 9, the broad, wellpaved autostrada which cuts diagonally from southeast to northwest through Bologna, the 2d Polish Corps was driving toward the city, and bets were even as to which army, and which division, would first enter the city.