34th Infantry Division, WW II
War Ends Germans Surrender in Italy
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The following is taken from the official narrative history of the 133rd Infantry Regiment, May 1945.
2 May 1945 Arborio (J6271, Map Italy Road, 1:200,000, Sheet 4). This day the German armies surrendered in Italy. It marked the period of a long, long trail which stretches far back into Africa, some 2500 miles and 30 months ago. During that time there have been mountains, deserts, rolling flat land, scorching heat, bitter cold, snow, ice, and sleet to plague the men in in the unit as well as long, drawn out fanatical enemy resistance.
Several thousands of our buddies who once wore the patch of the "Red Bull" are sleeping their eternal sleep in cemeteries stretching from Oran to the Swiss and French borders. These men are not present to give thanks with us that the long trail in Italy has drawn to its end. However, their deeds and contributions to the cause of our arm will never be forgotten by those of us who came through to this point.
In addition, there are those who were so unfortunate enough as to fall by the wayside seriously wounded and are now sitting on the sidelines. Though not present with us today, those of our buddies who have spent hellish months as prisoners of the enemy have more than earned their share of thanks that the people of the liberated nations bestowed upon the victorious Allied Forces.
To these we offer our whole-hearted thanks for their heroic performances and the sacrifices they made in the cause of Democracy and freedom for mankind. Kef-el-Amar, Sbeitla, Hajeb-el-Aioun, Fondouk, Hill 609, Eddekhila, Tunis, Bizerte, Raf Raf, Amphibious training at Arzew, Battle Inoculation (after a six-month campaign) near Slissen, the soft, cool sands and cork-oak near Ain-el-Turck, waterproofing vehicles and loading for a combat amphibious landing, if necessary, in the Gulf of Salerno.
As we sailed past the cliffs and casino at Canastel and left the Oran Harbor behind, we knew that the African chapter of our Odyssey had ended. Then came Salerno, landing on the beaches in assault boats, two or three days in a mosquito infested bivouac and then back to the, by now, old business of chasing Krauts. Few of us at that time realized how long, grueling, and bloody the chase was to be. Up through the rough, rugged, sometimes almost precipitous terrain of Italy's boot to our first real contact with the enemy near Benevento, on out across the Calore River and up to the notorious Volturno which has become both a legend and a nightmare to the men of the Regiment.
Across the Volturno a second time and out on to the famous "Pool Table" near San Angelo D'Alife, where the Regiment suffered heavy casualties from a combination of a fierce enemy counter-attack and from shells from our own artillery and tank destroyers falling short and landing among the troops. Superb leadership on the part of the officers of the battalions quickly restored the situation and the mission was accomplished. San Angelo D'Alife, the hills before the now widely cussed Volturno River, across the river for a third time and up into the cold mountains again and head on into the enemy's Gustav Line defenses.
Cassino, a three weeks that are still a nightmare to those of us who remember them. Then an all too short rest and another boat trip. As we sailed out of Naples harbor, aboard an LCI [Landing Crafty Infantry], bound for the Anzio Beachhead, we knew that another phase had passed and that soon we would be pushing again. Anzio - flat-land, perfect enemy observation, no one daring to move during daylight hours; Lenuvio, the Alban Hills, and then Rome, the eternal city. Just a glimpse of the most storied places in the world and off on a wild foot race after the broken and retreating elements of the enemy armies.
Civitavecchia, Tarquinia, San Vincinza, Cecina, mountains again and then the Arno River and the famous leaning tower of Pisa across the river. Back again north of Florence and into the hall of the well-prepared Gothic Line defenses. On and on and finally grinding to a halt on Mount Belmonte, the farthest point of penetration by any Fifth Army unit in the fall offensive about 10 miles south of the promised land of the Po Valley. Here came a long winter of active defense and as spring came on, the tension in the air bespoke all too well of the coming attack.
After the jump-off, came Bologna, Modena, Reggio, Parma, and patrols to the river. Then came storied Mantova, the gateway to the Brenner Pass and swiftly on westward to Brescia, Bergamo, Milano, Gallarate (J946872, Map Italy, 1/50,000, Sheet 44 I), and on to our present location Avigniana (H820330, Map Italy, 1/100,000, Sheet 55), just west of Turin. Today marks the end of a slashing, hard driving campaign which lasted only sixteen days and destroyed the will to resist of two powerful enemy armies. Today, the men wearing the "Red Bull" can look back proudly on a longer period of time of actual contact with the enemy than any other division.
The source for this information is the regimental monthly operations report, "History - 133rd Infantry - 34th Infantry Division: From 1 May 1945 to 31 May 1945". Thanks to Jerry Gorden, then-Director of the the Iowa Gold Star Museum, Camp Dodge, Iowa, for access to their files.
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