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88th Infantry Division Blue Devils

88th Infantry
Division


Blue Devils

1942 - 1945
88th Infantry Division
Blue Devils
World War II Research Website
88th Infantry Division Trust Period 1947-1954

88th Infantry
Dsivision

Trust Period

1947-1954
349th Infantry "Kraut Killers" Regiment - 88th Infantry Division
349th Infantry
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350th Infantry
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351st Infantry "Spear Head" Regiment - 88th Infantry Division
351st Infantry
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338th Field Artillery Battalion - 88th Infantry Division
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339th Field Artillery Battalion - 88th Infantry Division
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88TH
INFANTRY
DIVISION
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442nd Infantry Reg.
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88TH
INFANTRY
DIVISION
88th Infantry Division
"Blue Devils"

88TH
INFANTRY
DIVISION

Introduction

The 88th Infantry Division was the first organized Reserve Division to go overseas, and also the first to enter combat. During the time it was in combat, from March 4 1944 to May 2 1945, the Blue Devils suffered over four thousand battle casualties, of whom twelve hundred were killed in action.



Insignia
88th Infantry Division
"Cloverleaf"
Emblem

The insignia was evolved by two figures "8" at right angles, the result being a four-leaf clover, representing the four States from which the personnel of the division came. It is in blue for the infantry and machine gun battalions, in red for the artillery, and in black for the remainder of the division. Draftees were from Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota.


 
Statistics
Activated: 15 July 1942
  Overseas: 6 December 1943
  Campaigns: Rome-Arno
North Apennines
Po Valley
  Days of combat:
317
 
  Killed in Action:
2,137
 
  Wounded in Action:
8,248
 
  Missing in Action:
521
 
  Captured
379
 
 

Total Casualties

11,258
 
Source: The Blue Devils in Italy


Order of Battle

349th Infantry Regiment
350th Infantry Regiment
351st Infantry Regiment


337th Field Artillery Battalion (105mm)
338th Field Artillery Battalion (105mm)
339th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm)
913th Field Artillery Battalion (105mm)

88th Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
88th Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment
88th Infantry Division Military Police Platoon
88th Infantry Division Special Troops
88th Quartermaster Company
88th Signal Company
313th Engineer Combat Battalion
313th Medical Battalion
788th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company

442nd Infantry Regiment (Nisei) attached Aug 44 - Sep 44


Commanders
  Maj. Gen. John E. Sloan July 1942-September 1944
  Maj. Gen. Paul W. Kendall September 1944-July 1945
  Brig. Gen. James C. Fry July-November 1945
  Maj. Gen. B. E. Moore November 1945 to inactivation.
Inactivated: 24 October 1947 in Italy.


Blue Devils-88th Infantry Division-Major General John E.Sloan-Commanding General-July 1942-September 1944

Major General
John E. Sloan
Commanding General
July 1942 - September 1944


Blue Devils-88th Infantry Division-Major General Paul W. Kendall-Commanding General-September 1944-July 1945


Major General
Paul W. Kendall
Commanding General
September 1944 - July 1945
Blue Devils-88th Infantry Division-Brigadier General James C. Fry-Commanding General-July 1945
Blue Devils-88th Infantry Division-Major General Bryant E. Moore-Commanding General-November 1945

Brigadier General
James C. Fry
Commanding General
July 1945

Major General
Bryant E. Moore
Commanding General
November 1945


History of the
88th Infantry Division
"Blue Devils"

The 88th Infantry Division was activated at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma on 15 July 1942 under the command of Major General John E. Sloan. On that day, standing on the dusty, hot parade ground, on behalf of the fledgling Division, General Sloan accepted the challenge from the President of the 88th Division Veterans Association to, “take up the job we didn’t get done.”

In response, referring to the Great War veterans present, General Sloan assured onlookers that, “their faith will be sustained, their record maintained and the glory of the colors never will be sullied as long as one man of the 88th still lives.”

It was a solemn and demanding pledge, but one that the men of the 88th would keep through some of the hardest-fought battles of the Second World War.

General Sloan drove the soldiers of the 88th hard, from activation throughout all of its pre-deployment training. Comprised overwhelmingly of draftees, after basic training for the Division’s recruits, small unit training was conducted at Camp Gruber. Next, the 88th participated in Third Army Louisiana Maneuvers #3 from mid-June 1943, and moved to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in late August before staging Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia in November. From the Hampton Roads Port of Embarcation, the 88th sailed for North Africa, arriving in Casablanca, French Morocco, on 15 December.

The Division next moved to Algeria just before the end of the year, and conducted intensive training for employment in Italy. Under the command of the Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Paul W. Kendall, an advance party departed for Italy on 26 December, and went into the line as observers on 4-5 January, attached to 3rd, 34th, and 36th Infantry Divisions, and the British 5th, 46th, and 56th Divisions. On 3 January 1944, a member of this advance echelon became the 88th’s first KIA when Sergeant William A. Streuli of Paterson, New Jersey (A forward observer in B/339th Field Artillery Battalion) was killed by fragments from a bomb dropped by a Luftwaffe aircraft in the 34th Infantry Division sector. Lieutenant Elwin Ricketts, Battery B Executive Officer, became the first WIA when he was wounded in the same attack.

The main body of the 88th was transported to Italy in early February 1944, arriving in the Naples area in increments as they were ferried across from Oran, Algeria. The first Division unit into the line was 2nd Battalion, 351st Infantry, which relieved elements of the Texas Division’s 141st Infantry Regiment near Cervaro on 27 February. Early the next day, firing in support of a French unit, the first artillery round fired in combat by an 88th DIVARTY unit was sent downrange by Battery C, 913th Field Artillery Battalion. Its target was a registration point at the Monte Cassino Abbey, the rubble of which was occupied by the Germans after the Allies bombed it, and not before.

The entire Division moved into the line on 4 March, and at 1000 hours on 5 March 1944 assumed responsibility for the sector previously occupied by the British 5th Division. At the same time, the 88th came under the control of the British X Corps, and deployed its three infantry regiments on line from the Mediterranean into the foothills to the east. Opposing the 88th in the strong fortified positions of the Gustav Line, were the German 71st and 94th Infantry Divisions.

The Blue Devil infantry spent the next two months occupying and improving defensive positions and patrolling, while DIVARTY fired harassing and interdiction missions at German positions and suspected and known lines of communication.

At 2300 on 11 May, American, British, British Commonwealth, French, and Polish guns began a massive barrage, behind which the entire Allied front in Italy began their last attack on the Gustav Line. Finally, the first US Army division comprised primarily of draftees would be tested in the crucible of a major operation.

In less than an hour, the 350th Infantry Regiment captured Mt. Damiano, key terrain overlooking the flank of the French units attacking on the Division’s right. In that action, Staff Sergeant Charles W. Shea of F/350th took charge of his platoon after the platoon leader was killed and the platoon sergeant was wounded, and led an assault which knocked the defenders out of their well-prepared positions. For his actions that day, Staff Sergeant Shea became the first Blue Devil to earn the Medal of Honor.

The rest of the Division also pushed hard and forced the stubborn foe off the Gustav Line. The 351st Infantry stormed into Santa Maria Infante and engaged in a particularly bitter battle with the German defenders there. After more than two days of vicious combat, the 351st seized Santa Maria, and any doubts that a well-trained “draftee division” could fight as well as Regular Army or National Guard units were dispelled.

As the 349th Infantry Regiment passed through the 351st and continued the attack to the north, the 88th’s operations took on aspects of a pursuit, one of the most challenging—and exhausting—missions possible for an infantry unit in mountains. Yet the elements of the Division doggedly pursued the withdrawing Germans, annihilating them where they chose to stand, and chasing them up and over the endless Italian hills. Through towns like Itri, Fondi, and Roccgorga, the Blue Devils drove on toward Rome, effectively destroying the German 94th Infantry Division in the process. So badly battered was the 94th that it had to be withdrawn to Germany for reconstitution, and did not return to combat until October.

Surging northward, elements of the 88th made contact with Allied units breaking out of the Anzio beachhead on 29 May, and were the first to enter the “Eternal City”—Rome— on 4 June.

After the fall of Rome, the 88th was pulled out of the line to refit and prepare for subsequent operations. Those operations began on 5 July, when the Division relieved the 1st Armored Division in the vicinity of Pomerance.

As the British, British Commonwealth, and French colonial forces opened their drive to the Germans’ next line of defense, the Gothic Line above the River Arno, they attacked on the east of the 88th toward Firenze. At the same time, other US forces attacked toward Livorno on the west coast. Between these, the 88th was ordered to seize Volterra, an ancient Etruscan fortress town with a spectacular view of its approaches for miles around.

The Division attacked Volterra at 0500 on 8 July with the 349th and 350th Infantry Regiments abreast, with the 351st in reserve. Intending to envelop the objective from both sides, the attack successfully drove the defenders of the veteran 90th Panzer Grenadier Division from their choice terrain. Volterra was secure by 2200 hours.

While performing security duties on the Division’s left flank, the 351st Infantry Regiment unexpectedly ran into a hornet’s nest near Laiatico on 9 July. Here, the regiment encountered Grenadier Regiment 1060, an element of the recently-disbanded 92nd Infantry Division now attached to the 362nd Infantry Division, as well as other elements of the 90th Panzer Grenadiers. After being initially repulsed on 11 July, the regiment attacked again on the 12th with the 2nd and 3rd Battalions up and the 1st in reserve. The 3rd Battalion tore into the 1060th’s 1st Battalion, destroying it and killing the enemy battalion commander. By the early morning of 13 July, all regimental objectives were secure; for its part in the attack, the 3rd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment was later awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation.

By 25 July, the Fifth Army’s offensive power had been spent; the loss of VI Corps and its veteran 3rd, 36th, and 45th Infantry Divisions to the impending invasion of Southern France prevented it from continuing the drive further to the north. The removal of the French Expeditionary Corps for participation in the same operation also diminished Allied combat power in Italy. Above the Arno, the units of the Germans’ Army Group Southwest were finishing their preparations for defense of the Gothic Line, and the Allied forces of the US Fifth and British Eighth Armies were going to require every ounce of power they could muster to breach the heavily fortified line in the mountains that ran from the Ligurian coast in the east to the Adriatic in the west.

Perhaps the most significant change in the 88th’s history to that point occurred in August 1944, when Major General Sloan was transferred first to a hospital in Italy, then to the States for treatment of a recurring disease. General Sloan had built the division from activation through all of its training, and had led the 88th into combat. A tough and demanding trainer, his insistence on excellence had paid off in victory and saved lives…and proven that the US Army’s divisions made up primarily of conscripts—the largest category of units, just coming into the line in 1944—could be highly effective on the battlefield.

General Sloan was succeeded by the Division’s Assistant Commander, Brigadier General Paul W. Kendall. Kendall had served with the 88th through stateside training and had established a very visible presence throughout the Division’s combat to that point. His succession to Division command seemed only natural to the most of the Blue Devils, and while General Sloan would be missed, the turbulence inevitably created by the departure of any respected and experienced leader was certainly greatly attenuated by General Kendall’s assumption of command.

Allied forces in Italy attacked toward the Gothic Line on 10 September, and penetrated it in the central and Adriatic sectors, but the Germans remained ensconced in their mountain fortifications in the west, and it was up to the Blue Devils to drive them out in their zone. The Division’s history, The Blue Devils in Italy, sums up the Gothic Line assault this way....

Each veteran and survivor has his own personal tale of horror, his own nightmare of those forty-four days and nights which blended together in one long drawn-out hell. It has been said that ‘all the mornings were dark, all the days were just different colors of gray and all the nights were black.’ And all the time up in those mountains north of Florence was just borrowed time. The terrain was so rough the Germans figured that no troops in the world could get through the few heavily defended mountain passes. But the Blue Devils made it, through the passes or over the mountain tops. The weather was so bad that the Germans thought no foot soldiers or vehicles could possibly operate in the mud and slime. But the Blue Devils walked and rode through the worst of it. The defenses and concrete, mined emplacements were so formidable that the Germans estimated they were impregnable. But the Blue Devils stormed and shattered the biggest and the best of them.

Perhaps the most spectacular fighting of that raw, rainy autumn took place on three craggy mountain peaks in late September and early October. On 27 September, elements of the 350th Infantry Regiment linked up with Italian partisans and occupied Mt. Battaglia without opposition. However, over the next six days, the “Green Devils” of the German 1st Parachute Division attacked fiercely and without surcease in an effort to seize this key terrain. Their efforts were in vain, however, as the 350th committed everything it had, including headquarters clerks, and threw back every assault to retain the critical mountain top. Casualties were grave—50% of the regiment, with all but one company commander killed or wounded—and acts of extraordinary valor had been almost common. For its part in the brutal fighting on Mt. Battaglia, the 2nd Battalion, 350th Infantry was later awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation, and for his gallantry and intrepidity—at the cost of his life—Captain Robert Roeder, CO of Company G, was awarded the Medal of Honor.

While the 350th was grimly holding on to Mt. Battaglia, the 349th Infantry Regiment was attacking the village of Belvedere enroute to its objective, Mt. Grande. At Belvedere, it earned laurels of its own, if from a distinctly different source. Referring to the 349th’s assault, a German officer captured in the fighting there remarked to his captors that, “In nine years of service, I have fought in Poland, Russia, and Italy—never have I seen such spirit I would be the proudest man in the world if I could command a unit such as the one which took Belvedere.” Few comments could be more telling than a profound compliment from an opponent. Even as the “Kraut Killers” (349th) and “Battle Mountain” (350th) regiments were engaged in these ferocious and costly actions, the 351st Infantry Regiment was locked in its own ferocious struggle for Mt. Capello. As the author of The Blue Devils in Italy put it, “The battle for Capello…was a struggle between German soldiers who would not withdraw and American troops who would not be stopped.” The fighting raged for days, sometimes literally at bayonet point,until the 1st and 2nd Battalions secured the top of the mountain. For its part in the battle, the 2nd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment was later awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation.

Opposed by elements of the Luftwaffe’s elite 1st Parachute Division (the defenders of Monte Cassino earlier in the year), the 88th slugged forward through seemingly endless mountains toward the Po Plain. In the total of 44 days of rain, mud, terror, ferocity, and blood that was the campaign in the North Appenines for the Blue Devils, there were many tactical victories, but no ultimate operational success. Like the rest of the fighting elements of the Fifth Army, the Division’s soldiers were just too exhausted to push further. Company G, 351st came closest to breaking through, but was literally wiped out at Vedriano, on the very verge of the Po Valley southeast of Bologna, on 24 October.

The 88th went over to the defensive in late October and patrolled, improved positions, and rehabilitated its combat troops as best it could through the oncoming winter of 1944-45. The Division relieved the 85th Infantry Division in its sector on 22 November, and was in turn itself relieved for general rehabilitation on 13 January.

After a brief interval out of the line, the Blue Devils were again committed on 24 January in relief of the 91st Infantry Division near Loiano and Livergnano. After more patrolling and maintenance of defensive positions, the Division was pulled out of the line again for further rehabilitation, but also special training intended to prepare it for the impending spring offensive.

That offensive, which would finally defeat the Wehrmacht in Italy, commenced on April Fool’s Day with a supporting attack by the 92nd Infantry Division on the Ligurian coast in the west to draw German forces away from the point of the impending main effort.

Another supporting attack, in much greater strength, was launched by the British Eighth Army on the Adriatic coast on 9 April. Finally, with the German reserves being decisively committed to meet these attacks at the extreme ends of the line in Italy, on 14 April, Fifth Army jumped off in the main attack against the German center.

The 88th’s attack began at 2230 hours on 15 April, as its infantry regiments lunged toward Monterumici. In two days of fearsome fighting, the Blue Devils knocked the German defenders off the key ridge; they could not have known it at the time, but the German defense of Monterumici was the last well-organized resistance that the 88th would encounter.

Once past Monterumici, the 88th was on its way across the Po and to the Alps. Verona fell on 25 April, followed by Vicenza three days later. German forces in Italy surrendered on 2 May, although it took until early the next day to notify all Blue Devil units of the capitulation. On 4 May, elements of the 349th Infantry Regiment linked up with units from the 103rd Infantry Division’s 409th Infantry Regiment coming down from Austria—where German forces had yet to surrender—in the Brenner Pass, marking the long-sought union of Allied forces attacking from Italy with those which had originally landed in France and fought their wary through the Reich.

The Blue Devil Division’s accomplishments in its 344 days in combat reflect the valor, commitment, and unwavering devotion to duty of its soldiers. Not on ly did the 88th earn high praise from the likes of General Mark Clark, Commanding General of Fifth Army and a widely-recognized hard taskmaster, but it was even grudgingly admired by experienced enemy senior officers. Generalmajor Karl-Lothar Schulz, Commanding General of the famed 1st Parachute Division and one of only 159 recipients of the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaf and Swords, told his interrogators, “the 88th Division is the best Division we have ever fought against.” A written estimate of enemy unit effectiveness prepared by German intelligence echoed Schulz’s sentiments. It rated the 88th, “a very good division with excellent fighting material.” It also noted that after VI Corps departed for France that the 88th was “the best US division in Italy,” with “very good leadership.”

In its 344 days of combat, the 88th Infantry Division lost 2,298 men killed in action (258 more died of wounds) and 9,225 men wounded. Although the cost was high, the Blue Devils—as the first of the “draftee divisions” to see combat—proved that well-trained, well-led American citizen-soldiers were equal or superior to anything the vaunted Wehrmacht could muster, under even the most arduous of circumstances. With the victory to which they contributed so much accomplished, their General Sloan’s pledge to keep faith with the Division’s veterans and to uphold the Division’s standards was fulfilled.



Distinguished Unit
Citations

2nd Battalion, 350th Infantry Regiment

2nd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment

3rd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment

Awarded in the name of the President of the United States (and later redesignated the “Presidential Unit Citation”), this award was created during WWII to recognize units for a collective display of extraordinary heroism. The degree of heroism required is the same as that which would warrant the award of the Distinguished Service Cross to an individual. The Distinguished Unit Emblem may be worn by all soldiers who were assigned, or permanently attached and present for duty as members of the unit in the action for which it was cited. Persons who join the unit later may wear the emblem while serving with the unit. The emblem is a blue ribbon set in a gold-colored metal frame of laurel leaves.

As evidence of the award, the unit displays a dark blue streamer, with the name of the action embroidered in white, with its colors or guidon.

The following 88th Infantry Division units were awarded Distinguished Unit Citations in recognition of their collective heroism in the actions listed.



The Distinguished Unit Citation for
2nd Battalion, 350th Infantry Regiment
Is authorized by War Department General Order 10, 1945

The 2nd Battalion, 350th Infantry Regiment is cited for outstanding performance of duty in action during the period 27 September to 3 October 1944 at Mt. Battaglia, Italy. The 2nd Battalion was assigned the mission of seizing and holding strategic Mt. Battaglia. For seven days, in the face of incessant and violent counterattacks by powerful enemy forces, which at times included elements of four divisions, this battalion clung tenaciously to its positions on the objective. Each attack was preceded by artillery and mortar barrages and climaxed by bitter fire fights, use of flamethrowers by the enemy, hand-to-hand combat, bayonet charges, and grenade duels. The gallant officers and men of this battalion repulsed each attack with a marked display of fighting ability and teamwork. Evacuation of the wounded was extremely difficult because of the inclement weather conditions, the nature of the terrain, and the fact that the enemy artillery firing from the front and both flanks, covered every route of approach to Mt. Battaglia with a hail of fire. Nevertheless, all casualties were promptly evacuated by teams of litter bearers who courageously transported the wounded for long distances through artillery barrages to a point in the rear where further evacuation could be carried on by ambulances. All supplies were brought to the battalion's positions by pack mules supplemented by carrying parties. On several occasions the ammunition supply became dangerously low, and when the men exhausted their hand grenades, they resorted to throwing rocks at the oncoming enemy. Though fighting under the most adverse battle conditions, the officers and men of this battalion displayed an indomitable spirit that refused to waver under the fiercest enemy attacks. The outstanding fighting ability and magnificent courage displayed by the 2nd Battalion, 350th Infantry Regiment are exemplary of the finest traditions of the Army of the United States.




The Distinguished Unit Citation for
2nd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment
Is authorized by War Department General Order 43, 1946

The 2nd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment is cited for outstanding performance of duty in action during the period 27 September to 1 October 1944, near mt. Capello, Itlay. The battalion was assigned the mission of wresting the strategically important Mt. Capello from a determined and numerically superior German force. In the face of a withering hail of fire from all types of weapons, the 2nd Battalion launched its attack down the barren, forward slopes of Mt.Guasteto, Italy, eliminating a strong reverse slope German position in four violent assaults characterized by bitter fire fights and vicious hand-to-hand grenade duels. Although outnumbered, the soldiers of this organization maintained their captured position, despite ruthless enemy counterattacks preceded by intense artillery and mortar barrages. Although suffering from severe losses and confronted by fanatical enemy resistance, the courageous officers and men of the 2nd Battalion again resumed a full scale offensive and, advancing by infiltration, neutralizing resistance by furious hand-to-hand fighting within the German positions, gained a foothold on the barren slopes of Mt. Capello. Setting a commendable example of coolness and efficiency in the face of great danger, the 2nd Battalion fought grimly, tenaciously maintaining its foothold, despite the murderous enemy fire and wave after wave of fresh enemy assault troops. In a notable display of combat skill, teamwork, and determination, the men of the 2nd Battalion, because of a shortage of ammunition, resorted to using captured German machine guns and grenades to meet the enemy onslaughts. Utilizing personnel from battalion headquarters as riflemen, because of its heavily depleted effective strength, the battalion, in a final all-out assault, drove the enemy from Mt. Capello, retaining this strategic terrain feature, despite final desperate enemy counterattacks. The timely capture of this key enemy position frustrated violent enemy efforts to hold terrain of vital importance. A dangerous enemy penetration between the 351st Infantry Regiment and another hard-pressed infantry regiment on the right was averted by the heroic determination, self-sacrifice, and unfailing devotion to duty of the officers and men of the 2nd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment. The valorous performance of the 2nd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment, reflects great credit on the personnel of the regiment and upon the armed forces of the United States.

Lieutenant General John Lee, Commanding General of US Army Forces in the Mediterranean Theater, fastens the Distinguished Unit Citation Streamer to the colors of the 2nd Battalion 351st Infantry Regiment.

Lieutenant General John Lee, Commanding General of US Army Forces in the Mediterranean Theater, fastens the Distinguished Unit Citation Streamer to the colors of the 2nd Battalion 351st Infantry Regiment.



The Distinguished Unit Citation for

3rd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment
Is authorized by War Department General Order 6, 1945

The 3rd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment, is cited for outstanding performance of duty in action during the period 9 to 13 Jnly 1944 in the vicinity of Laiatico, Italy. During the attack on strongly fortified German positions in the vicinity of Laiatico, the 3rd Battalion occupied an advanced position devoid of cover and with both flanks exposed, and for three days withstood heavy enemy artillery and mortar bombardments as well as three vicious enemy counterattacks supported by tanks. Displaying courage, skill, and determined fighting spirit, the battalion frustrated all enemy efforts to defend the town and surrounding strategic positions. On the fourth day, the battalion launched a night attack and penetrated the German stronghold from the flanks and rear. Aggressively exploiting its breakthrough, the battalion seized a German regimental command post after a savage hand-to-hand struggle in the darkness and cut the main escape route from the Laiatico hill mass. As a result of the 3rd Battalion's prodigious efforts, 425 prisoners were taken, 250 Germans were killed or wounded, and a large quantity of enemy weapons were captured which were promptly employed with telling effect against the battered German forces. The timely capture of this key enemy defensive position compelled the Germans to abandon a carefully prepared, strongly defended line and opened the route of advance to the Arno River. The fearlessness, heroic determinations and aggressive lighting spirit of the officers and men of the 3rd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment, resulted in a performance which brings honor to the armed forces of the United States.

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