History of the Second World War Part 21: Operation by Barrie Pitt (Editor)

By Barrie Pitt (Editor)

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The division had been assigned the task of breaking through enemy defenses extending from the towering Matese range above Faicchio to the Cal ore River south of Telese. This series of hills was the enemy's last natural line of defense blocking the approach to the Volturno Valley, at the junction with the Calore where the Volturno River changes its course from nortll-soutll to east-west. Once the line was breached, the way would be open for General Middleton's troops to make contact with the 34th Division and then swing northwest through the upper valley of the Volturno.

Few of the enemy escaped. y hdd jorad the men to stay in their fox holl'S all day_ the highway. Enemy artillery concentrated on the two abandoned hills, and enemy tanks and self-propelled guns operating down the highway from Caiazzo kept the valley under fire. While reorganizing and bringing up machine guns and mortars to continue the advance, the 3d Battalion suffered severe casualties from this shelling. Anyone who exposed bimself drew fire, and the men often had literally to crawl forward, making use of every ditch and stone wall for cover.

Enemy tanks quickly learned that the area south of the highway was too hot for safety. They gradually pulled back to the north following the sunken dirt roads leading into the mountains. But they did not give up without a fight. At 1012 a British intelligence officer reported that an enemy radio message had been intercepted revealing that the 3d Panzer Battalion was ready to counterattack. Orders were immediately sent to the 75Ist Tank Battalion to get the tanks of Company A across the river. The waterproofed tanks and tank destroyers were to cross at daylight, but each time the bulldozer approached the river to break down the bank, it was driven back by enemy machine-gun and artillery fire.

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